I haven’t played in that many bands but my favorite by far was Fun No Fun. We’re having a reunion (minus Nicky which is minus a lot) on July 22nd in Northampton, MA. John Rennau is turning 60 on that date, as I turned 60 a few weeks ago. We were in kindergarten together.
But we weren’t in bands together until our mid-20s, mostly because Johnny Er was living in Colorado from ’74-79. After The Sinatras collapsed in 1980, Nicky and I kept playing together and Johnny Er eventually joined us. One night at the rehearsal studio we ran into Andy Towns, who was auditioning girl singers for his songs. The girls were gone but Andy stayed and we played some Slumlords tunes and just rocked them to bits. I said to Andy “We should start a band.” He nodded eagerly. Thus were The Femme Fatales born. Not my name, too generic and blah I said, but Andy insisted, saying it’s not generic to the public. The idea was to do Andy’s songs – he had about 50 – with three girl singers up front and a roaring rocknroll train behind them. I still think it’s a great idea and to this day it has never really been done. As fate would have it, this song came up on my Pandora tonight and it’s pretty close to what we sounded like. I like to think we snarled more but I like it.
The main reason it didn’t work was that the girls couldn’t hear themselves over the band. The girls were trying to, I don’t know, sing, and we were really loud. The volume problem then is not a problem now, by the way, what with better tech. Anyway, they did fine in practice but onstage at CB’s they fell apart. For all the great sound system at that club, the stage monitors sucked. Sally, Helen and Janice couldn’t hear themselves and they lost the harmonies. There is a tape of that show off the board, really good audio, and it just breaks my heart – the band is so on and the singing is so off it was painful at times. We got an encore out of politeness, and closed by doing Chinese Rocks without the girls, who were off screaming at each other. It’s killer. And that was the end of that band – although we had a gig 3 days later at the Left Bank in Mount Vernon. We did that gig as a foursome, alternating the vocals between me and Andy with Johnny Er helping. There was a tape of that show too and it was a great set. I was all for plunging ahead.
But Johnny Er wanted to play guitar, not bass. At that time I was just married, a baby on the way, fed up with the whole band bullshit thing, and in no mood to start all over. I did still love playing, as I do to this day, but as a life there was just no good reason to endure what had to be endured, and inflict it on my wife and child, with a very possible pile of shit at the end of the rainbow. The music I wanted to play turned out to be cult-popular at best. That’s a sad fact but it’s a fact.
John met a songwriting guitar player named Cindy Pack and they formed the Desolation Angels, to which John brought some fine rocking melodies. They made a good 45 which I don’t have digitally, but here is a live at CBGB version of the A-Side “Shangri-La” from John’s next band Reverba, with my boy ripping out some electric 12-string.
(to be continued)