April 11, 2009
Senior 1970s LA New Wave Correspondent Brian Griset
The Dickies: Not Just for Your Middle Aged Uncle
When I was a youngin’, an explosion of underground, counter-culture youth bands erupted in Los Angeles, circa 1976 - 1979. Seemingly from out of nowhere, L.A. became the national epicenter for arrogant, anti-industry, full of attitude punk rock bands like X, the Germs, the Dickies, the Weirdos, the Plugs and the Flesh Eaters. It was the birth of a scene that captured the attention of both the international media and young aspiring rockers worldwide. It was totally rad: L.A. New Wave!
The Dickies were among the first punk bands to emerge from Los Angeles. However, instead of the angst and anger of some of UK or New York punk rock, the Dickies were goofy and outlandish. They were the first California punk band to appear on network television, and the first California punk band to be signed to a major record label. A Dickies show was sure to include chaos, pandemonium, bad taste, and slam dancing and then there’s the music…
The Dickies' punk rock is campy and humorous. They even had a top ten hit in the UK called “the Banana Splits (Tra La La Song)" in 1979. Much of their lyrics concern Southern California culture, rife with references and in-jokes; songs like "Waterslide," "I'm A Cholo," "Manny, Moe, and Jack," and "(I'm Stuck in a Pagoda with) Tricia Toyota." They are also known for recording several fast-paced punk covers of classic rock songs, including the Moody Blues' "Nights in White Satin," Black Sabbath's "Paranoid," and Barry McGuire's "Eve of Destruction."
Over thirty years later, what had started out as a joke cover band, the Dickies, are still together touring. Last night, I was at a packed house amongst fifty and sixty year-old punks and other youngins, probably not even alive in the 70’s, to experience the band 2009 style.
Drug problems slowed the Dickies down considerably in the 1980s. One of the original members committed suicide after becoming despondent following a romantic break-up in 1981. Left behind and still going strong are Stan Lee on guitar and the zany Leonard Graves Phillips singing. Phillips is a true entertainer. He wears masks for the big crowd pleasing “Gigantor” and ”You Drive Me Ape, You Big Gorilla”, wears a massive penis muppets, a blowup doll and snorkel gear for the song "Waterslide." Amongst the wackiness and the slam dancing, it’s just plain fun. It was definitely rad!
See, The Dickies 1979