Tag Archives: the B-52s

Secret Society in Smaller Lies

17 Oct , 2011,
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Tony Bergeron, drummer for Secret Society in Smaller Lies

Secret Society in Smaller Lies is a group that comes from Houma, LA. They played their first gig in January 2010.  Secret Society in Smaller Lies is a diverse group of friends and unorthodox musicians who all share an obsession in making music.

Drummer, Tony Bergeron says that the members of Secret Society in Smaller Lies let things come to them naturally at practice and they see where things go from there. He says that Secret Society in Smaller Lies is not concerned being a part of any scene or genre, because that is where he feels many artists begin to lack sincerity and authenticity. “All that frame of  mind does,” he says, “is regurgitate ditto copy bands.”

Secret Society in Smaller Lies lp cover

Secret Society in Smaller Lies–band members

Secret Society in Smaller Lies is Marc Miller on guitar and vocals, Cory Bergeron on bass, Joe Harp on vocals and synthesizer, Christian Yates on guitar, and Tony Bergeron on drums. Tony Bergeron says that SSiSL tries to utilize everyone’s best attributes.

Marc Miller and Tony Bergeron are cousins who starting playing together in a garage when they were around 11 or 12 years old. “We’ve always thrown around ideas and been in projects together. I’ve ran into Joe over the years at parties and we’ve always had really cool discussions about early electronic music.”

When a mutual friend suggested that Tony and Marc join him on a recording session, they were impressed with the sound he brought to the table.

“I was introduced to Christian in late ’99, when I moved to Houston for a short time with a friend from Houma,” Tony says. “At the time we were very much into Gang of Four and the Minutemen. When we’d jam it came off like cracked out jazz punk or something.”

Secret Society in Smaller Lies–all around the South…and California

Secret Society in Smaller Lies has performed in Lousiana, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Alabama,Texas, and California.  A sampling of artists that Secret Society in SmallerSecret Societyband I Lies has played with include Columboid, Bombon, Savage Republic, Saccharine Trust, Wes Hartley and the Traveling Trees, Carnage Asada, Freda Rente and the X Chemical.

Secret Society in Smaller Lies has music on Youtube, Myspace, Facebook, and downloadable stuff on Reverbnation. They are currently in the process of recording an EP at the moment. Tony says that releasing the ep and getting a dependable van for touring are the band’s immediate goals. Tony has been setting aside cash for the tour van, from his day gig at the tire shop he works at. “So, it’ll be a few more weeks for us to knock that out” he laughs.

Secret Society in Smaller Lies–Learning Punk Rock as a kid

Tony told me that when he first started playing drums as a kid in late 1986, his uncleSecter Society II and older cousin would hand mix tapes to him, as a way to introduce him to newer music. Tony says that as early as 7 or 8 years old, he was hearing bands like the Replacements and Suicidal Tendencies, Minor Threat and the Circle Jerks.

He told me that every time he would go to the mall to buy
tapes he would have either an uncle or cousin guiding his options. “It was a cool time for me. One minute I’d be listening to hard edged stuff from the Dead Kennedys and the next to PIL, the Dead Milkmen, the Cult, the Smiths, and so many others. It was great having older cats show me all these diverse bands.” He says that he felt very fortunate to have the guidance that he did.

Secter Societyband II

Tony Bergeron says that today, he is still listening mainly to the older stuff. “The Screamers, Black Sabbath, the B-52s, the Minutemen, Saccharine Trust, MC5, James Brown, Sebadoh, Hawkwind, PIL, Mission of Burma…I could go on for days man,” he laughs again.  “Right now i have WIRE’s ‘Pink Flag” in my bedroom cd player.”

As I sometimes do, I asked Tony Bergeron if an alien landed on Earth and only knew Earth music from radio broadcasts, how he would describe the music of Secret Society in Smaller Lies. He responded that the band is somewhat a mixture of Black Sabbath, the Cure, and the Talking Heads. Hmmm…Interesting. I think I like it.




Secret Society in Smaller Lies.


Wall of Voodoo

7 Aug , 2011,
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one comments

Wall of Voodoo

Wall of Voodoo 2 band photoEven as a kid, I knew Wall of Voodoo. I remember in the late 1970s and very early ’80s, seeing Wall of Voodoo on SNL and hearing them on the hip radio stations in Southern California. Those guys were a little strange to me. I liked them. Mexican Radio was the first song I heard by Wall of Voodoo, and it’s the only song of theirs that I remember off of the top of my head. I had just started listening to KROQ–Modern Roq of the ’80s!–and my world, at least musically, was expanding at a furious rate. I was discovering New Wave and so much of what that realm encompassed.

Wall of Voodoo–one of my early New Wave experiences

The years 1979 and 1980 blended together to me, musically. By that time, disco and the Bee Gees were pretty much done, and I was just beginning to hear a different music. I was going on 12. Pop radio just wasn’t interesting to me. I was out-growing what I was being spoon-fed by some of the traditional, commercial radio stations, and I wanted to hear something different.

b-52s yellow album

The B-52s’ Rock Lobster was a song that turned my world upside-down the first fewtimes I heard it on the radio. So was Dance This Mess Around and Planet Claire. I’m sure I’ll have plenty more to say about Rock Lobster and the B-52s soon. I remember when Devo’s Gates of Steel was released after their first two singles, Freedom of Choice and Whip it! As damned silly as I recognized New Wave was, there was something about it that I liked. There were some other good Devo yellow albumsongs and artists that got my attention in my early-adolescence. One artist–one band in particular–I have been thinking of for the past few days is Stan Ridgway and “his” Wall of Voodoo. Wall of Voodoo was one of the sillier bands to come out of that time, and that was okay with me. Music was changing for me. I still held my parents’ Beatles, Stones, and Dylan LP collections in the highest regard, and I felt that I had so much more to learn.

Wall of Voodoo was a concept by Stan Ridgway. Ridgway had started a film-score business in Hollywood. Acme Soundtracks was right across the street from the Masque, one of Hollywood’s early punk clubs. He had  been making tapes–with overdubbed, synthesized drums and keyboards. and vocals–in the studio with a friend one day. Ridgway was fooling around, layering sounds, feeling pretty good about himself, when he compared his multiple-drum tracks and Farifsa organ-rich recordings to Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound. The friend laughed and commented that they sounded more like a Wall of Voodoo. That was it. Wall of Voodoo. The original line-up for Wall of Voodoo was Stan Ridgway, Marc Moreland on guitar, Bruce Moreland on bass, Chas T. Gray on keyboard, and Joe Nanini on drums.

Stan Ridgway–Wall of Voodoo’s First EP

Wall of Voodoo released a self-titled EP in 1980 which featured a unique, synthesizer-driven New Wave version of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”, which didn’t entirely suck. The second half of “Ring of Fire” features a dissonant guitar and synthesizer solo covering the theme to the 1966 film, Our Man Flint, and was interesting for a young Johnny Cash fan to hear.

Wall of Voodoo–Dark Continent

Wall of Voodoo cover

In 1981, Wall of Voodoo released their first full-length album, Dark Continent. Bruce Moreland left the band–for the first time–soon after this, and Chas Gray performed on both bass and keyboard during this time. The band recorded their biggest-selling album, Call of the West in 1982. That same year, Wall of Voodoo opened for the Residents on part of the cult band’s first tour, “the Mole Show”, in Pasadena CA in early summer. The track “Mexican Radio” was their only Top 100 hit in the USA and the video for the song got some good exposure on the newly created MTV. Bill Noland was added as a keyboardist soon after the release of this album.

According to Stan Ridgway, the situation around Wall of Voodoo was becoming increasingly chaotic due to a lot of drug use and out-of-control behavior by the the band members. And, there was the sketchy behavior of the band’s managementand record label, who were jerking the band around over money.

Wall of Voodoo–Play the US Festival…then Disband

Wall of voodo 2Wall of Voodoo appeared at the largest show they had ever done–possibly the largest show in Southern California since Cal Jam II a few years before–the second US Festival–on May 28, 1983, immediately following the US Festival, Ridgway, Nanini, and Noland all left the band, and Stan Ridgway soon went on to a successful solo career, appearing as guest vocalist on a track on the Rumble Fish score and releasing his first solo album in 1986.

Ridgway’s Wall of Voodoo music could fairly be described as a cross between early synthesizer pop and the soundtacks to old,  Spaghetti-western films. Creating this distinctive yet strange sound were unusual percussive instrumentation–including many kitchen cooking utensils–some twangy guitar, and Ridgway’s unique vocal stylings.

Stan Ridgway–30 Years Later, What Does He Care?

Stan Ridgway probably has plenty to think about these days. He has a lot going on. Ridgway has had a pretty good career since his Wall of Voodoo days.  He probably doesn’t care that there is a guy out there who still thinks about and finds himselfband photo Wall of Voodoo4 singing what is possibly his favorite line ever– “I wish I was in Tiajuana, eating BBQed iguana…”. But, I gotta tell you, Wall of Voodoo was one of those bands who helped turn everything around for me as I made my way through puberty, saying goodbye to the ’70s and wondering what the 1980s would be about. Stan Ridgway and the Wall of Voodoo  helped bring me into New Wave.



Wall of Voodoo


Wazmo Nariz

5 Aug , 2011,
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Wazmo Nariz–Checking out the Checkout Girls

Wazmo Nariz. So, I was out on the land this morning, doing my morning rituals and chores, as this weird song danced around in my mind. Does anyone remember a guy named Wazmo Nariz? He had a few singles in the late ’70s and early ’80s, I guess, but the one I seem to recall best was Checking Out the Check-Out Girls.


In so many ways, Checking Out the Check-Out Girls has to be one of the Top Ten Goofiest Songs ever. In many ways, it is definitive of certain aspect of late 1970s and early’80s New Wave.  In the brave new world of New Wave in the early 1980s, Wazmo Nariz’s music was right up there with the best of them.

Wazmo Nariz–early New Wave in America

I was pretty young when New Wave was breaking into America. With all of the English New Wave bands around at the time, many of my favorite atists were American. Devo, for example was from Ohio; the B-52s, hailed from Georgia. Wazmo Noriz was from the Chicago area. There were other American and English New Wave artists of course, but these bands kind of defined at least part of my experience, growing up in Orange County in the late 1970s.

Wazmo Check out girl

Eccentric New Wave pioneer Wazmo Nariz was born Larry Grennan, and holds a few unique distinctions in late 20th century American music. First, he and his “Wazband” were one of the first two Chicago punk/New Wave acts signed to a major label–Wazmo Nariz and Skafish were both signed by Miles Copeland to the IRS label, which was still in its infancy. Wazmo Nariz is also the only Chicago punk/New Wave artist to have a single released on England’s prestigious Stiff records label, and the the only Chicago punk/New Wave artist to be mentioned in Incredibly Strange Music, vol II–released by Re/Search Publications, in 1994. In that work, record collector Candi Strecker defines the Wazmo mystique as: “…weird, even though he looked very normal. On {his first} album, he’s wearing a polyester salesman’s suit and sports a blowdried hairstyle, but his gimmick was that he always wore two neckties–fat polyester ones at that…” She also noted that Nariz’s voice has operatic qualities that one would not expect to find in modern popular music.

Nariz wore a skinny-tie before skinny-ties were in.  Nariz was playing New Wave in America before New Wave truly existed. Wazmo Nariz and his Wazband are undeniably talented and strikingly weird, even by early 1980s standards.

Wazmo Nariz–signed to–and dropped from–I.R.S.

After hearing the follow-up ep on Fiction, Miles Copeland signed Wazmo to IRS where the band wazmo2recorded “Things Aren’t Right”, a record rife with sexual innuendo, local Chicago references, and Wazmo’s trademark histrionic vocals. Although the single from that album “Checking Out the Check-out Girls” was a modest hit–receiving club play at both O’Banion’s and New York’s Mudd Club–IRS dropped Wazmo after the album was released. He released a second album on Big Records, “Tell Me How to Live” in 1981. He toned down the weirdness level for this album slightly, but without commercial success.

Wazmo Nariz and Stan Ridgeway

Since disbanding the Wazband, Wazmo has been a frequent sideman on Stan Ridgway’s albums, as has Wazband keyboardist Jeff Boynton. Wazband’s drummer, Bruce Zelesnick later became an official member of Ridgway’s band.

The thing about Wazmo Nariz is that this Chicago combo served up some really weird, and truly bizarre music that stick in your head. Hmm…the jury is still out on whether or not this is a good thing.  You will really have to want to listen to the aptly-titled, Things Aren’t Right to enjoy and to get the jokes. After signing to I.R.S., this inaugural LP was described as reminiscent of Bryan Ferry being trapped in a bouncy world of Oingo Boingo.

 Wazmo Nariz–Too weird to be Mainstream, not weird enough to be Avant Garde

Wazmo and his band–guitarist Jeff Hill, bassist James E McGreevey III, keyboardist Jeff Boynton and drummer Bruce Zelesnik–were really too weird to be mainstream but not strange enough to truly be avant-garde. Their sound was highly melodic and their songs could even be described as “catchy.” Most of the band’s music revolved around a theme of quirky sex, delivered in Wazmo’s trademark strange, hiccupy tremelo.

Wazmo Nariz–Tele-tele-telephone

Wazmo Nariz scored a minor local hit in 1978 with an independent single, “Tele-tele-waz band1 telephone” that was picked up and reissued in the U.K. by the then fledgling Stiff Records. In 1979, they followed up with an EP which caught the ear of Miles Copeland who signed them to his Illegal Records/I.R.S. label where they released their debut LP Things Aren’t Right and single “Checking Out The Checkout Girls” which managed to get some airplay in their native Chicago. Wazmo Nariz had some other singles, I recall, but none of them were as interesting to me as Checkin’ Out the Check Out Girls.

Wasmo Nariz.  He is a little weird.

If you like your 80’s pop off-kilter and and a little strange, chances are you’ll like Things Aren’t Right, which sets the standard for standing apart from everything else.

So, I woke up this morning with this weird song in my head. This song is just too out there and too weird for me not to write up today. Wazmo Nariz.



Joe Jackson–Is She Really Going Out with Him?

7 Jun , 2011,
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Joe Jackson–Is She Really Going Out with Him?
Joe Jackson1

From the 1979 Look Sharp 10″ ep release,  Joe Jackson’s “Is She Really Going Out with Him?” is one of a handful of 1970s new wave–along with Blondie’s “Heart of Glass”, the B-52s’ “Rock Lobster”, and Devo’s “Freedom of Choice”–that I have never forgotten.

I always like it when a bass line catches my attention.  It doesn’t have to be flashy or complicated to get my ear, it just has to be interesting.  I really like the bass part to “Is She Really Going Out with Him?”  Sort of like McCartney, whoever is playing bass  for Joe Jackson on Look Sharp! seems to know exactly what notes to play, what notes not to play–and exactly when to play them.

I’ve never been impressed by flashy bass playing.  Technically, these artists generally know what they’re doing, nevertheless, even guys like Les Claypool of Primus kind of bore me.  Even though Claypool gets some amazing tones and rhythms from his instrument, and is technically a far superior musician in many ways, than I could ever hope to be, his music never really interested me much.

The bass part on “Is She Really Going Out with Him?” is subtle, understated and beautiful.  I really like the way the bass line supports the song and provides a melodic counter-foundation for the keyboard and guitars.

Joe Jackson–earlier projects

joe jackson look sharp2Joe Jackson’s first band was called Edward Bear . The band was later renamed Edwin Bear and later Arms and Legs, but dissolved in 1976 after two unsuccessful singles.

Although he was still known as David Jackson while in Arms & Legs, it was around this time that Jackson picked up the nickname “Joe”, based on his perceived resemblance to the puppet character  Joe 90.  I don’t know who or what the hell Joe 90 is either.  He then spent some time on the cabaret circuit to make money to record his own demos.

In 1978, a record producer heard his tape, and got him signed to A&M Records.   The album Look Sharp! was recorded straight away, and was released in 1979, quickly followed by I’m the Man–also 1979–and Beat Crazy in 1980.

Joe Jackson–Happy Birthday, Miles!  You’ve lived longer than many of your heroes

I think that it was my twenty-eighth birthday in 1996 that my buddy, George gave me a copy of Look Sharp! in a mylar bag with ajoe 3 bottle cap, a couple pieces of string, some black and red licorice and a couple of tic-tacs duct-taped to it.  “Happy birthday,” he said, thrusting the record in my hands.  “You made it.  You are now officially no longer eligible to join the 27 Club. Congratulations!”

I looked at the cover in amazement.  How many times do I remember hearing “Is She Really Going Out with Him?” on the radio, and wishing I had a cassette tape handy to record it?  I don’t know why, but I never thought that I’d own a copy of Joe Jackson’s Look Sharp! on ten inch vinyl.  It still had the lapel pin on the cover and everything.

Thanks, George!  When the book is written, you will go down as one of the good guys.

I saw my copy of Look Sharp! last week.  It is still in a safe place, still in the mylar bag, still with the bottle cap, pieces of string and licorice and the crusty old tic-tacs firmly attached with 17 year old duct tape.

I love this record.  Look Sharp! reminds me of being a kid in Orange County, before the folks moved us to Cathey’s Valley when I was 12.

Joe Jackson.