To continue with the 40th anniversary celebration of ‘Bloodbrothers,’ here’s a piece we ran a while back about my first time seeing the Dictators, which was 40 years ago today.
My First Time With the Dictators
(And They Were Not Gentle With Me)
Here’s HDM on 10/20/78, again sporting his Mr. Potato-Head shirt. Let’s hope it hit the laundry pile between 9/19 and 10/20.
September 19, 1978. A summer of scouring the Phoenix concert listings finally yielded the Holy Grail: The almighty Dictators were going to be making their debut at the Paradise on Sept. 19. Darest I go? I had chickened out earlier in the year, when the band made its Boston debut with a couple of stealth gigs at the Rat, but those were on Mondays and Tuesdays, which were no-gos for a working slob such as myself. No excuses this time — it was a Friday, and I was THERE!!
The Paradise at the time was still brand-spanking new, and had the cachet of being Boston’s premier new music venue. What a bummer to get inside, and find out that A. Dancing was not only discouraged but could get you tossed, and 2. The tables and chairs were actually nailed to the floor, so if you didn’t get a chair facing the stage, then you were in for an evening of neck-strain. It didn’t matter to me. These were the Dictators. I would have endured standing on my head if that’s what it took to see them.
After an OK opening set by Thundertrain, who were one part Dolls mixed with two parts Aerosmith, the boys hit the boards to thunderous applause and ripped into “What It Is.” My immediate thoughts were “THAT’S Manitoba?!? He’s so skinny and short!” and “How come Scott is louder than Ross?”
HDM wasted no time before he was dissing Boston fans and sports teams, proclaiming NYC’s superiority to Bostin in every category. Thank God the gig wasn’t two weeks later, after the Bucky Bleepin’ Dent debacle at Fenway, or else we would have never heard the end of it.
Manitoba also displayed excellent sartorial taste, as he sported a homemade T-shirt with a caricature of his head atop Mr. Potato-Head’s body. That was a shirt that they really should have marketed. Another missed opportunity.
September 2018 is a monthlong celebration of the 40th anniversary of the ‘Bloodbrothers’ tour. After the huge misstep that was ‘Manifest Destiny,’ aka ‘The Dictators Get Housebroken,’ ‘Bloodbrothers’ was seen as a fresh and enthusiastic, stripped-down display of both the band and their sound. It took three tries, but it finally looked like it was best foot forward with this chance at grabbing the brass ring.
There was a five-week delay between the album’s release on June 25 and the beginning of the tour on August 2, presumably to allow for reviews to roll in to build the press kit. While it’s now common opinion that BB was the best album of the original three, it really wasn’t received all that well at the time. Reviews, while generally positive, weren’t glowing. There were disses about “one-dimensional sound” and “still not musical enough” and a whole lot of faint praise: “at least it’s better than MD.”
It was an ominous sign that Asylum’s enthusiasm in the band seemed to drop off between MD and BB. The promo ads for BB were few and far between, and the label didn’t even bother to prepare a “push” 45, where MD got three. A promo edit of “I Stand Tall” was prepared, but was never pressed, and I never once heard it on the radio. The album cut got a smidgeon of airplay, as did “Baby, Let’s Twist.”
Behind the Aragon in Chicago
It seems inconceivable that “Stay with Me,” the most enduring track of the album, and indeed one of the highest profile songs the band ever had, was almost completely ignored at the time of the LP’s release.
With hindsight being 20/20, it seems a shame that the album was recorded so quickly in April that there wasn’t time to include “New York, New York,” which was already in the live set by early June. Imagine how much stronger the album would have been with NYNY replacing one of the weaker tracks from Side 2. You pick which one.
There’s been a highly entertaining argument going on between the idealists and realists over the Dictators NYC’s first-ever performance of the full “Go Girl Crazy” album, which took place on Dec. 28 at Berlin in NYC.
The Idealists: That album was iconic, and such a personal thing for the original members that only those who made it should be the one who get to commemorate it. Anything less is bad karma. Unless the GGC lineup finds a way to suspend their purse-swinging long enough to play a celebratory gig, I shan’t be attending.
The Realists: Really, Dude? Are you new here? THIS is where you draw the karma line? These guys weren’t even done making this LP before they started their 40 Year Hissy Fit. I agree that this album deserves a gig that’s higher profile than a Wednesday night on short notice in a club approximately the size of my laundry hamper, but you honestly think the GGC lineup is going to make nice-nice long enough to play? The Brewers will win the World Series before that happens. I’ll tell you what–you stay home and polish your monocle. Me, I wanna hear them tackle “Back To Africa!”
This writer was unable to attend the show due to the threat of icy roads, but all my field reports were that the night was a total blast for all involved. Keith Ablow did a fine job pinch-hitting for Dean. Crystal Durant (HDM: “She’s great, she’s beautiful, and she hasn’t spent 1/10th the money Cher has on plastic surgery”) guested on “I Got You Babe” and knocked it out of the park. And yes, “Back To Africa,” which ended with the band shouting “we made it!” was worth the 41-year wait. Let’s hope the band sticks with this concept of doing the full LP for 2017 shows.
Photo by DFFD123
The Dictators NYC at the Parlor in Newport, R.I., on Sept. 17. Had I known there would be Spookyworld lighting, I would have dug my zombie makeup out a month early. #nofilter
This thing of ours ain’t always pretty or easy. Sometimes, like a pitcher who finds out in his first inning that half his stuff isn’t working, a band has to simply soldier on and find a way to make the magic happen.
This was the terrain the Dictators NYC found themselves in in their recent w/e in MA and RI. Indifferent or incompetent sound men, borrowed equipment, and a singer whose voice was working on zero days’ rest added up to a thin hand.
Friday’s gig was at Once, a swanky new place in Somerville, MA, in front of a boisterous crowd that HDM immediately cozied up to by telling us that we all s*cked for being Red Sox fans. We love you too, Big Guy. I hope those cleat marks on the Yankees’ necks wash off with a little soap.
While a ton of fun for everyone who wasn’t on stage, you could see that the guys were a little frustrated by the technical difficulties. This proved to be a foreshadowing of things to come the next night.
Photo courtesy of Sandra Billig
We at The DFFD Blog are standing a little taller today: Last night (Nov. 18), our very own Dictators NYC were among the first rock bands to play Paris following the horrific attacks of last Friday. We are bursting with pride at their display of defiance and just general rock awesomeness in the face of ongoing terrorist threats. Not only did the band not cancel the gig, they scrambled to find a new location for the performance after their original venue canceled them. If that’s not badassery, then what the hell is?!
These guys from a town that knows a little something about terrorism restored a bit of normalcy to a devastated city — and were justly rewarded with the gratitude and hugs of the 150 or so fans in attendance at La Mécanique Ondulatoire. A memory never to be forgotten for all present — and a beautiful gesture respected around the entire rock’n’roll universe.
Much thanks to Sandra Billig for the photo of the boys rocking out in Paris last night. And check out some super-rad drawings of the guys playing the show at Blog’n’kor.
We say it all the time (because we’re superfans) but never have we meant this more: D.F.F.D.!!!!
Except for the weather, the scenery, and the girls, there are hardly any reasons to be jealous of life on the West Coast. The Dictators NYC’s current tour is one of the rare exceptions. By all accounts, they are thrilling both diehards and newbies alike, and with the added bonus of JP stepping up front as a guest vocalist for the opening band, there’s only one place I’d like to be tonight!
— Salvi C.
Today marks the 40th anniversary of the very first Dictators gig in New York City. Our boys invaded the Coventry on March 13, 15 and 16 of 1974.
The Coventry was the only club in NYC that allowed original bands a place to play and grow. It was located on Queens Blvd in Sunnyside, Queens, and was a big place with a 700-person capacity. Kiss spent their embryonic years there, and Joey Ramone hung out there in his pre-Ramone days. The current occupants at the club’s old address are a Bliss Drugs (provide your own joke here) and a Chase bank.
— Salvi C.
This date in 1985 marked the debut of the Bel-Aires, opening for the Ramones at NYC’s Irving Plaza in 1985. Not to be confused with the car, the brand of cigarettes, or the 3 or 4 other bands with the same name, these Bel-Aires were a short-lived Andy Shernoff project, born at the very height of the roots-rock heyday of the mid ’80s, when it was nigh-on impossible to swing a dead cat in any major city without hitting a four-piece covering Woody Guthrie and singing songs about the Swampland.
The band consisted of Andy Shernoff on rhythm guitar and most of the vocals, Paul Skelton on lead guitar, Andy Bale on bass, and JP “Thunderbolt” Patterson on drums and the balance of the lead vocals. Paul Skelton was “the twangmaster of the Telecaster” in the Cornell Hurd Band for 22 years after moving to Austin. Andy Bale was a longtime member of the Sic F*cks, and later married Snooky.