Dr. Sadistic and the Silverking Crybabies – “Pyramid Punk” (1980) and “Maroon Balls” (1981)

Daddy, where are my balls?
— “Prepubescent Punk”

Sometimes you find the records.  Sometimes the records find you, catching your eye for reasons unknown and eventually going home with you.  Which is precisely how I got pulled into the orbit of Dr. Sadistic and the Silverking Crybabies.  Their two releases were displayed on the wall of Bend, Oregon’s Ranch Records during our recent visit, and the absurdity of the band’s name all but forced me to check my phone and see what I could find out.  Which, at the time, wasn’t much (though later I found a great history by one of the Silverking Crybabies HERE)… but it was enough to not only buy both records, but to also break one of my cardinal rules, “Don’t Buy Old Sealed Records Because They’re Always Warped”.  Fortunately my rule breaking paid off, as the self-published Pyramid Punk is in a sturdy jacket that never got messed up by the dreaded shrinkwrap shrink.

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Dr. Sadistic and the Silverking Crybabies formed as a revolt against not only disco but also crappy punk.  The result is Pyramid Punk, a quasi Rocky Horror Picture Show kind of concept album about a kid with some extra chromosomes named Jerome who is accidentally castrated by a drunk Dr. Sadistic, an unfortunate event that sets his life on a trajectory of teenage binge drinking, discovering punk, herpes, being held hostage in a bondage condo in Aspen, Colorado, then escaping and living in a dumpster… before being kicked out of the dumpster too.  All the while railing against everyone from his fellow punks to Aspen’s wealthy.  Gucci-Pucci asshole / Small dogs / Big cars / Face lift / No scars!  Stylistically it’s punk attitude to be sure, but musically almost more like show tunes, a blend of light rock, doo-wop, new wave, funk, and glam.  There’s nothing hard or fast here, but that doesn’t matter, because the whole thing is one big middle finger at anyone and everyone.

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The crew continued Jerome’s story a year later with Maroon Balls, Jerome having apparently survived the events of Pyramid Punk despite the album ending with him being beaten to a pulp (“Beat Me to a Pulp”) and the playing of “Taps” to close out the record.  The emphasis, however, shifts to Dr. Sadistic himself, as he travels to Aspen and becomes the frontman for the Crybabies.  From there it gets racy, irreverent, ridiculous, and everything in between (as well as on top of and underneath).  Musically the Crybabies play in a style similar to that on Pyramid Punk, a blending of various genres and this time even adding in a dose of polka (“The ‘Won’t You Please Go Back to New Jersey…’ Polka”), all of it played quite well even if the whole thing is tongue-in-cheek.

Will I ever play these Dr. Sadistic albums again?  Well… I don’t know.  Maybe.  Maybe not. Their absurdism is tempered by decent playing, so while both records would almost qualify as novelties, they’re awfully good ones.  But regardless, I’m glad they found me.

Whodini – “Open Sesame” (1987)

My best guess is that my first exposure to hip hop was via the video for Run-DMC’s “Walk This Way” in 1986.  Up until that time I lived in a hip-hop-free universe.  I seem to recall liking the video, but it was another year or two until I actually started to explore the genre, only looking from that point forward, failing to ever go back to the genre’s roots.  To be fair, that kind of retro research wasn’t so easy to do in the pre-internet era, especially given hip hop’s complete lack of positive media coverage.  If I’d been in New York City or Los Angeles I’d probably have had at least some exposure to the earlier artists.  But in Seattle?  No.

A few weeks back we watched the documentary Conny Plank – The Potential of Noise (recommended).  It traced the story of German producer Conny Plank, and it was during a section of that film that we first heard of the hip hop trio Whodini, who Plank produced in the early 1980s.  Since then we’ve picked up a CD copy of their Greatest Hits, and a few days ago added this vinyl copy of 1987s Open Sesame.

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While Whodini’s earlier material was more dance and, dare I say, disco influenced, Open Sesame opens with the hard-rock-riffing “Rock You Again (Again & Again)”, Whodini clearly having registering Run-DMC’s success in blending rap and rock, choosing as their base samples of Mountain’s “Long Red”.  While that song definitely rocked, it lacked recognition of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” – even rock fans couldn’t easily place it.  Besides which the rock-rap partnership wasn’t the wave of the future (though Public Enemy and Anthrax certainly worked well together), instead it was the emergence of gangsta rap.  Unfortunately for Whodini they found the genre moving away from their dance-friendly sound, the sound that defined the rest of Open Sesame (“Cash Money” does offer some social commentary).  But I’ll tell you this – I love this stuff.  It’s upbeat.  And it’s fun.

“The Sound of Hollywood Copulation” (1984)

soundofhollywoodThis is a solid mid-80s hardcore comp.  Quite a few of these bands were from California, but other west coast entries include Sado Nation (Portland) and the Mentors (Seattle), plus Government Issue is from DC, so it feels like it’s more about the Hollywood punk scene than it is local bands per se.

This probably my favorite of all the various hardcore comps I’ve listened to over the years. Songs from this period were fast, but you could still follow along and understand most of the lyrics.  Sure the Mentors inject a dose of their typical sloppiness, but so be it.  Only available on vinyl, it appears there was a 2015 re-release that’s more affordable than an original pressing ($20 versus $40-50 for a nice 1984 version).  A good primer for someone looking to start exploring the 1980s LA hardcore scene.

Singapore Sling – “Killer Classics” (2019)

There’s a certain nihilism to Singapore Sling.  It’s not the nihilism that burns hot and causes one to lash out at the world, but more one of resignation, the sense of a unceasing buzz in your mind that you can’t shake, a slow death by a thousand cuts, the adding of the tiniest weights onto your chest done so slowly that you can’t even sense the change but that over time makes it harder and harder to breathe.  Hell, it’s right there in the song titles.  Killer Classics gives us “Nothing Matters But Rock ‘N’ Roll”.  Prior to that we got “Nothing’s Theme” and “Nothing And Nowhere” on an album called Kill Kill Kill (Songs About Nothing), and “Nuthin’s Real” on The Tower of Fornicity.  And the list goes on.  “The Nothing Inside”; “Nothin’ Ain’t Bad”; and a possible candidate simply called “Noth”.  That’s a whole lot of nothing.  If there are three overarching themes to Singapore Sling’s music they are:

  • Nothing
  • Death (including killing and various forms of destruction)
  • Rock ‘N’ Roll

My perception is that in this trinity Nothing and Death are the elements out there in the world, the weights being put on top of you, the inevitable outcome to life.  Rock ‘N’ Roll, however, is the salvation.  It’s the one thing that cracks the wall of nihilism, the one thing that makes life worth living.  I’m probably extrapolating a bit on the Rock ‘N’ Roll part, but bear with me.  “Nothing Matters But Rock ‘N’ Roll”, we’re told on the latest album, which is a step in the right direction from when the Slingers opined back in 2004 that Life Is Killing My Rock ‘N’ Roll (which included a song of the same name).  The feeling I get when I listen to Singapore Sling is that of driving at night, the windows rolled down and the air coming up from the road still radiating heat from the day’s scorching sun, racing to escape that constant buzz of Nothing and Death chasing you in the rear view mirror, trying to outrace fate.  And, of course, blasting Singapore Sling’s psych soundtrack to it all on the car stereo.

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Right from the opening riff of “Suicide Twist” (Death again!) it was clear what Singapore Sling has in store for us on Killer Classics (more Death).  They’ve honed their brand of shoegazey-psych to a sharp edge and they use it with the precision of surgeons, cutting away the pretense and bloat of what rock has become and skinning it down to its most basic and rawest elements.  The drum beats are the relentless pressure of life, the fuzz of the guitars the unceasing pressure trying to overwhelm you, the bass following your heartbeat as it rises and falls as you struggle to maintain your sanity, and the vocals are the voice inside your head, the one that sometimes tells you that you can do it, but at other times calls for the sweet release of death.

Record Shopping Bend, Oregon Style

Oregon is less than a three hour drive from our house (♠), but once you get off the I-5 corridor it gets dicey – there aren’t a lot of straight routes into the state’s interior.  So when we were invited to our friend The Bossiest’s (♥) wedding in lovely Bend, Oregon, we had a choice to make – drive or fly.  By car it’s 6+ hours.  By plane?  40 minutes.  Plus driving to the airport (almost an hour) and getting to the airport early (two hours)… Decisions, decisions.  But we had enough points for some free tickets and a rental car so figured we’d luxuriate in the tiny Embraer E175 jet (“we don’t serve alcohol on this flight, sir”) and go in style.  I also made sure to pack our bigger hard case suitcase, because Bend has a record store that I wanted to check out, and I’d need a sturdy bag to get my treasures home safely. (♦)

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Ranch Records
117 NW Oregon Ave

Right in the heart of historic downtown Bend, Oregon, and right next door to what is literally an old school arcade complete with bubble hockey, lies Ranch Records, a surprisingly spacious and well-stocked store for little old Bend.  On the plus side Ranch had a nice selection of new vinyl.  On the not-quite-as-plus side the used selection was pretty limited.  But…. I found some tremendous stuff on the wall, some punk business I’ve never seen before.

During our first visit I picked a couple of dollar bin gems, super-clean copies of Steve Martin’s A Wild and Crazy Guy and Barry Manilow Live.  I also found a pair of obscure nuggets, the self-released records by whack-job punks Dr. Sadistic and the Silverking Crybabies (Pyramid Punk and Maroon Balls, and if you must know the copy of Pyramid Punk was still sealed).  After a sleepless night filled with regret for the things I left behind at Ranch, I returned the next day for Judas Priest’s Hero, Hero and an OG pressing of Poison Idea’s Kings of Punk.  No a bad haul if I do say so myself.

So if you find yourself in bend, definitely drink some beer at one of the seemingly hundreds of brew pubs, then stroll on down to Ranch Records and wrap your day up with a stop at the arcade to beat those pesky Ruskies at hockey…

(♠) At least it is when I’m driving…

(♥) Not her real name, but it is her real nickname

(♦) Actually two, but we only made it to one