concert memoirs pt. 15 - souxsie & the banshees, let's active, the church, the cramps & the screaming blue messiahs

Souxsie & the Banshees
5/25/86 Orpheum Theatre w/John Ticket Price: $13.75

Here was one of the rare shows not taken in at First Avenue. John and I had come to prefer shows at First Avenue or, to a lesser extent, the Cabooze. It was easier to get a good view of the act and not have to put up with the assigned seating nonsense. And, of course, the ticket prices were lower. But, Auntie Souxsie was worth shelling out the $13.75 for the balcony seats at the Orpheum.

So, we the folks (John and I included) in the cheap seats were all doing our best to dance in our confined seating area, when Auntie Souxsie got a little upset. She didn’t appreciate the apparent sedentary nature of the audience. She said something along the lines of, “I hope your wheelchairs are comfortable.”

“Oooo, Auntie wants us to dance! Well, look up here! We’re rockin’ the balcony!”

Let’s Active
7/6/86 First Avenue w/John Ticket Price: $4.00

Ok. We must have liked this band, because this was the second time we’d seen them. I still can’t remember a thing about the show.

The Church w/A Few
7/9/86 First Avenue w/John Ticket Price: $7.50

This was our second time seeing The Church. We really liked these guys. Their early shows were pretty damn good. They were tight. They had good balance in their sets, which was something they lost in their later shows. These shows they had the right mix of mid-tempo ethereal songs to excellent fast paced rockers. Their later shows were too dominated by the slower, moodier tunes. But I’ll relate more on that later on in this series.

One thing I really liked about Marty Wilson-Piper (one of the band's two guitarists) was he had his rock star thing going all the time. The rock star hair, the jumping around, winking at the gals and give them the up-nod. He must have had a lot of “Backstage Betties” in those days. The rogue.

The Cramps w/The Screaming Blue Messiahs
7/22/86 First Avenue w/John Ticket Price: $7.50

The title of this segment ought to give you a clue as to my take on this show...

This was a special Club Degenerate concert night featuring The Cramps. So, yeah, The Cramps were The Cramps were The Cramps. Punkabilly, whiskey drinking, leather, Lux Interior’s ass hanging out of his pants, etc., etc., etc.

They were entertaining enough, but the truly transcendent act was the opener. I’m not exaggerating (ok, maybe a little)... The Screaming Blue Messiahs blew The Cramps right off the stage! This is one of those shows that stands out as a true gem. If you weren’t there you really missed something.

This was one of the very best shows I have ever seen. A three piece band that absolutely kicked ass. They were so amazing. I knew, at most, one of their songs (‘Wild Blue Yonder’) before seeing them play. That didn’t matter, because despite my ignorance of their material, I was blown away.

The rhythm section was fantastic. They kept the songs together while lead guitarist/vocalist Bill Carter attacked his guitar. He even dropped it to the stage and danced on it at one point. And when he played it, he was incredible. He had a rather unique finger-picking style. The sound those guys made! You should have been there.

Because they were the opening act and most of the people there were more interested in seeing The Cramps, there was plenty of room at the front of the stage. John and I and a growing number of folks were down front and were being greatly entertained by this fairly unknown band. I say unknown because a fellow approached me and asked, enthusiastically, “Who are these guys?!”

My mind went blank. I couldn’t remember, at first. I told him I didn’t know and we went back to basking in the glory of these musical masters. Then I recalled the Club Degenerate night from the week before when, at the end of the night, Kevin Cole reminded us that the next week would feature The Cramps and The Screaming Blue Messiahs.

I went over to that fellow and told him who they were. He shouted, “These guys are f@#&ing great!”

Indeed they were. You should have been there.

Now two things about The Screaming Blue Messiahs...

First is something admittedly a bit silly. Bill Carter is almost a dead ringer of the 80’s era pro wrestler, Baron von Raschke. Look at the photos below. Bill is on the left. What do you think?

Second, this band should have made it bigger than they did. They released three full length albums (‘Gun Shy’, ‘Bikini Red’ & ‘Totally Religious’) over a five year period (1984 - 89) and then they were done. They vanished.

I find it a little sad that if they are remembered at all it will likely be for their one “hit”, ‘I Wanna be a Flintstone’. It’s very good song, but, let’s face it, despite the fantastic sound it’s essentially a novelty song.

Oh, well. At least I was there.

1 comment:

  1. You're quite right - they got remembered for "I wanna be Flintstone". What a shame. I had just the same experience watching them in the mid-eighties in London, they absolutely blew me away. I've never seen or heard anybody make such an unholy, funky racket before or since and I've certainly never seen anybody play a guitar like Bill Carter. Ever. I still don't think I've got over it yet.
    Have a listen to them live and see for yourself: http://nuzzprowlinwolf.blogspot.com/2008/06/screaming-blue-messiahs-live-mean.html