5 April 2013
Just occasionally, I’d like to drift back in time in order to share some of my earlier pieces. Here’s my first published review, from back when I was still trying to skate along the cutting edge of the latest sounds:
Lights down, a crowd whistle and BAM! The Rockats rip into their opening song, bopping the beat with a slash of guitars and the drummer’s stick slaps tight beneath the vocal warble. It’s Rockabilly Time. From the bar comes a crowd eruption of collective dance mania. No urging needed. “I’m an easygoing guy,” sings Dibbs, “but I’ve always gotta have my way.”
The band is a lunatic fringe gone mad on pastels and pompadours, wearing scuffed suede shoes of varying hue, pants pegged tight at the ankle and billowing full to the waistband pleats (wrapped tight on the gut in skinny belts and braces). Rabbits’ feet and belt chains. String ties and western scarves. Outlaw striders, rough riders and hair piled six inches above the brow. (Have you heard the news? There’s good rockin’ tonight!)
No time to breathe. The Rockats kick out another gear and drown us in a riptide surge of rockabilly guitar while they stamp out a chorus that tells us we need “a whole lotta ‘room to rock.'”) No chance. Not in Duffy’s cramped confines. But the crowd makes its own room, bumping and bouncing off each other like robot dodge-ems caught in a 220 volt current.
Onstage, chaos threatens. The high-waved grease plume is flapping on the singer’s forehead. Smutty (the bassman) has stripped off several layers of vestments and rides his stand-up bass like a bitch in heat: climbs it, totters, jumps down and rolls beneath, dancing with the wooden bulk in a parodied jitterbug.
Behind him, guitarist Tim is standing on the drumkit: Black boots, white belt, black shirt, white braces, black hair, white face. He flings himself at the dance-crazed crowd like a madman loosed. No time to lose, no holds to bar.
“This one’s about animals,” says Dibbs, so cool and blond. He grins hard while bouncing tentacles of wiggling limbs jive madly stage front. This band concedes nothing to time. No museum piece purists here, this stuff bites: “Don’t treat me like a dog . . . love this kat.”
Then we get Smutty’s “All Through the Nite” and it’s over. Fierce cheering brings them back for three encore songs. Still that full-bore, cliffwalking, all-but-out-of-control surge of sight and sounds: Cockney singer jiving and twisting beneath his lines, guitars a double burn, songs flung past like empyy beer cans from a speeding car. They cap it with “Around and Around.” “The joint was a-rockin’,” sure enough . . . and then they’re gone.
First published in Sweet Potato (now City Pages), July 1981.