keith streng - The I-94 Bar
Face of the Screaming Werewolf – The Fleshtones (Yep Roc)
The Fleshtones always were always out of step with the rest of the pack . Rarely acknowledged in the same breath as the rest of the Class of CBGB partly because they didn’t pander to tastemakers and partly because they arrived from out of town and were slightly late, they were as guilty as any of their peers for washing up on the barren shores of over-indulgence at the expense of mainstream success. So it is that they’ve remained in their own universe for decades now. But they still deliver.
The Fleshtones really do exist on their own terms. They live for the road. They make great records with a touch of eccentricity. They’ve always soaked up classic influences (British invasion, blueswailin’ R&B, garage rock, soul and more) like a sponge to spit them back out like they invented them. There are other bands doing the same thing but few so it so well, or deliver a show.
The Fleshtones joined by Miriam Linna (and Dave Champion at right of stage) . Photo: LePetitRusse
The “Wheel of Talent” was spinning in northern Ontario, Canada, baby. Oh yeah!
I very rarely open the newsletters and catalogs I get from various labels and bands but for some reason I was drawn to this month’s from Norton Records.
What do I see but that the mighty Fleshtones are playing two hours from home. And Sudbury hometown girl, Miriam Linna (head honcho at Norton Records, ex-Cramps drummer and solo artist in her own right), was going to be joining them. On stage. So, yeah, I had to go.
Meet Keith Streng, Ken Fox, Peter Zaremba and Bill Milhizer. Jacopo Benessi photo.
Here’s another plea for justice and a call for long overdue respect. Add another name to the list of bands whose “failure” (such a harsh word when applied without context) to break into the mainstream is not just unfathomable but criminal. Ladies and gentlemen, I speak of The Fleshtones, stars of stage and screen and bearers of a vibrant new record, “The Band Drinks For Free”, on Yep Roc.
The Official Biography lists it as Album Number 21 (including live releases) and says the band is in its 40th year, but let’s dispense with the figures and deal only in facts. The first one is: If you’re not listening to The Fleshtones, you’re a loser. The second is: It’s never too late to shed your loser status.
The Fleshtones emerged from a basement in New York City’s Queens borough and onto a stage at CBGB in 1976. Largely written out of histories of the Lower East Side scene despite being fixtures at places like CBs, Max’s Kansas City, The Pyramid, Danceteria and Club 57, they went through a trailer-load of trials and tribulations (labels going broke, line-ups in flux, drugs and drink) to “almost make it” in spectacular style.