Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Weekly BOMP!: The Voxx Rebellion


By now it’s an old story: It’s 1979, the last few spurts of punk drizzle into either the testosterone jockstrap of hardcore, or the twinky commercialism of “new wave.” And to make matters worse, not even the Real Kids can save power pop. Underground R’n’R looks to the past again for inspiration & direction, to what is still a largely bypassed trip, it looks to 60s punk.

Greg Shaw temporarily folded both Bomp Magazine and the BOMP! label in 1979. He then launched the Voxx imprint to “offer a home to bands working in a purist '60s garage/punk/psych tradition.” At least that’s the story (never mind that Bomp continued releasing classics like Stiv Bators’ "Disconnected" and the Taxi Boys mini-LP). So you can credit Voxx for getting the drop on 80s garage revivalism. At first business was slow, with only a few bands answering the call. Still, the label probably reached its zenith with its first few releases, namely two by San Diego’s Crawdaddys, their 1979 LP “Crawdaddy Express,” a veritable slab of ’64 time-traveled to the Year of the Voxx, and their 1980 EP “5 x 4.” Mike Stax, also of the Tell-Tale Hearts, and editor/publisher of Ugly Things magazine, in a short piece on Voxx included in the book Bomp: Saving the World One Record at a Time, tells of hearing these records on John Peel’s show as a lad, then writing a fan letter to Crawdaddys leader Ron Silva. Silva replied by inviting Stax to come to San Diego from England to play bass for his band. Stax hopped the next plane and the rest is garage revival history. Here’s a couple of cuts from “5 x 4”.

Mono Man

If the Crawdaddys took the purist’s approach, Voxx stalwarts DMZ, fronted by Jeff “Mono Man” Connolly, who would go on to lead one of the greatest of 80s garage bands the Lyres, hammered out a crazed hybrid sound, at times made of equal parts Sonics, Stooges, and 13th Floor Elevators. Shaw helped DMZ get signed to Sire records for their eponymous debut, which kicks ass despite a few flaws like closely mic’d, clicky drums, but which flopped on the sales. Shortly after Sire dropped them, Voxx released some truer sounding DMZ tracks, originally recorded in 1977, on the “Relics” LP. Here’s “Do Not Enter” plus their version of the Standells’ “Barracuda.”

Paula Pierce & the rest of the Pandoras

Low-budget recording and packaging was a major part of the Voxx ethos, and Shaw booked cheap studio time at a place called Silvery Moon, in Los Angeles, the city which, with the Cavern Club as its live showcase, functioned as the scene’s ground zero. Unfortunately, it being the 80s and all, the studio featured modern equipment more suited to recording Hollywood hair metal than 60s punk. One of the cuter bands on Voxx, the Pandoras, who came out swinging on their debut LP “It’s About Time,” from 1984, got the Silvery Moon treatment. Then, as if too much of the studio’s effects rubbed off on them, the Pandoras evolved from 60s punk purists to a hair metal band themselves. By ’89 they looked and sounded more like Poison. Leader Paula Pierce died suddenly from some type of brainurism in 1991, aged 31. Here’s their version of the Invictas “Do the Hump,” plus one Paula Pierce original, both from “It’s About Time.” Don’t they sound like nice girls?

So, yes, today’s post offers but a small sampling from the Voxx roster. There were lots more bands, like The Gravedigger V, The Tell-Tale Hearts, The Miracle Workers, The Eyes of Mind, and The Things, to name a few. Also excluded from this post are the great & influential Battle of the Garages comps, just because I don’t own any, and the Acid Visions comp, which, actually, I do have, so maybe down the line I’ll add a couple of tracks from that as an update to this post.


The RedBoy said...

I always liked the Pandoras. Kinda like a cross between the Fleshtones & the Bangles.

Bob Pomeroy said...

Yeah, & throw in the Seeds on some of the more fuzzed out numbers. I saw them once, about the time that record came out, at a Mabuhay Gardens all-ages show in SF. I was just a sprout. My first exposure to this stuff.