WILLIE LOCO ALEXANDER & THE BOOM BOOM BAND Meanwhile...Back in the States LP 1978
Mass. Av. / Modern lovers / You looked so pretty when / Pass the tabasco / Melinda / Hitchhicking / R. A. Baby / Sky queen / Bring your friend / For old times sake.
Produced by Graig Leon.
W. Alexander & The Boom Boom Band : W. Alexander : vocals, keyboards & percussion / S. Grossman : Fender bass / B. Loosigian : electric & accoustic guitars / D. McLean : drums & percussion.
This album should have been listed in the VH1 book Casualties of Rock, the phenomenal sound and fury of Willie Alexander & the Boom Boom Band condensed and distilled into a homogenized and compressed postcard that hardly represented what the band was all about. In the first place, crediting bassist S. Grossman, guitarist B. Loosigian, and drummer D. McLean with co-authoring "Mass. Ave.," the solo underground hit single that relaunched Willie Alexander's career, is downright blasphemy. Yes, the Boom Boom Band was a rock & roll treasure on the level of the Rolling Stones, a powerful, self-contained unit that could shake the rafters with their distinct and unbelievable sound, but they weren't around when Alexander stepped out of the Velvet Underground with the Lost bassist W. Powers and recorded "'Cause I'm Taking You to Bed" at the Orson Welles Recording Studio (a studio under the famous theater in Harvard Square, Cambridge). That vintage recording completely blows away the remake, slyly entitled "For Old Time's Sake" to get by the MCA censors. You read that right, "Rhythm Asshole Baby" became "R.A. Baby" for the almighty gods at the record label, while "Gourmet Baby," a song about cunnilingus, was transformed into "Pass the Tabasco" -- and you can only imagine the frustration for an artist of integrity like Alexander, who was told to sing "I want to kiss you but you give me the hives" (the original lyrics were "I want to eat you but you give me the hives"). Not only were the lyrics censored, the sound was hollowed out, and producer Craig Leon got the band to play by the numbers. Here is the best example of genius being stripped and tortured. The bandmates seemingly went along with this fiasco, implying that Alexander was too "loco" to be given to the public in his raw form. Well, guess what, boys? You got all your fame from Willie "Loco" Alexander being just that. Imagine telling Mick Jagger to sit still and clean up his lyrics?
Alexander and the boys imploded, walking away from a third MCA release, and both factions cut demos with producer Leon on their own -- Alexander recording four eerie and brilliant tracks that have never seen the light of day, but which head him in the direction of what he would put out on RCA in Europe for "Solo Loco", vindication that he could get signed without the band that he rocked Boston with. The Boom Boom Band cut three sides with the late Matthew McKenzie of Reddy Teddy with Leon, but the tapes stayed on the shelf. What did find its way out of this maze was a blistering version of their live standard, "Dirty Eddie." Frustrated by the restrictions of MCA, the band tore into that filthy song about golden showers and Alexander released it independently so the world could see what the group was really all about. The flip side of the 45 was an even dirtier, if you can imagine that: "She Wanted Me" (aka "Nazi Nola," for scenester Nola Rezzo) is a song about anal intercourse. Alexander took the Velvet Underground one step further -- that band he was in was named after an S&M book, but Alexander's songs were usually about his own sexual escapades and depravity, real underground stuff that you won't find on "Meanwhile...Back in the States". The tragedy of it all is that his music was commercially viable, chock-full of hooks and solid riffs, but not transferred to vinyl the way it should have been. Stephan Lovelace's earlier production of "You Looked So Pretty When" was Phil Spector meets Jimmy Miller, classic Stones by way of the Ronettes. Here Leon plays Dr. Frankenstein and does a Ray Conniff version of a hard rock classic. Now if that isn't enough to make the fans faint and the band implode, well, "Hitchhiking" and "Mass. Ave.," two songs that needed no censorship, still fail to make the grade, giving Alexander the good sense to go hitchhiking on "Mass Ave." rather than put up with any more of this. The two MCA releases were issued in Britain under the title "Pass the Tabasco", and despite this frightening essay on record industry misconduct, are worth picking up to get a glimpse of a couple of rock & roll albums that could have redefined '80s rock and the so-called new wave. Joe Viglione-Allmusic
Cd covers by MAX !