Pulled from the archives of dimland.com and rewritten for your pleasure is another bit of self-indulgence. I hope you don’t mind.
In my younger days, I had the time, inclination, and some disposable income for going to concerts. I started a little later than many of my peers, but I did see a fair amount of some pretty decent rock ‘n’ roll shows. My concert-going days may have started when I was in my later teens and that first show was nothing to write home about (Kansas in the summer of 1982), but once I was in my 20s and had discovered the excellent Minneapolis venue of First Avenue & 7th Street Entry the quantity and quality of shows soared.
My passion became music of the underground scene: Punk, Post-Punk, New Wave, No Wave, and the like. Popular music of the day was something to be sneered at, ridiculed. I was way too cool for that pablum being lapped up by the masses. And First Avenue was the perfect place to catch the music that mattered.
Beginning in the mid 80s at First Avenue, Tuesday nights were called Club Degenerate. The creation of DJ Kevin Cole, Club Degenerate featured the best prerecorded alternative music the mid to late 80s and earlier had to offer. And whatever else Cole wanted to play. My friend John and I were there every week to skank, pogo, and slam dance to the music so few people would ever know. There’s a blog in me dedicated to Club Degenerate on its own, but I’ll save that for another time.
I want to tell you about one of the best shows I’ve ever seen at First Avenue or anywhere else. And it came as a total surprise.
On occasion, Club Degenerate would set aside the prerecorded tunes for a special concert appearance. And on July 22, 1986, it was a special Club Degenerate concert night featuring The Cramps.
So, yeah, The Cramps were The Cramps were The Cramps. Punkabilly, whiskey drinking, leather, Lux Interior’s ass hanging out of his pants, etc., etc., etc. They were entertaining enough, but the truly revelatory act was the opener. It’s a rare thing to be so impressed with an opening band. Especially one you’ve barely or never heard of.
I’m not exaggerating (ok, maybe a little)… That opening act blew The Cramps right off the stage! This is one of those shows that stands out as a true gem in my memory. If you weren’t there you really missed something.
They were a three piece band that absolutely kicked ass. They were so amazing. I knew, at most, one of their songs before seeing them play. That didn’t matter, because despite my ignorance of their material, they were so good I was enraptured.
The rhythm section was fantastic. They kept the songs together while the lead guitarist/vocalist attacked his guitar. He even dropped it to the stage and danced on it at one point. And when he played it in his unique finger-picking style, he was incredible. The sound those guys made! You should have been there!
Because they were the opening act and most of the people there were more interested in seeing The Cramps, there was plenty of room at the front of the stage. John and I and a growing number of folks were down front and were being greatly entertained by this fairly unknown band. I say unknown because a fellow approached me and asked, enthusiastically, “Who are these guys?!”
My mind went blank. I couldn’t remember, at first. I told him I didn’t know and we went back to basking in the glory of these musical masters. Then I recalled the Club Degenerate night from the week before when, at the end of the night, Kevin Cole reminded us that the next week would feature The Cramps and The Screaming Blue Messiahs.
I went over to that fellow and told him who they were. He shouted, “These guys are f@#&ing great!”
Indeed they were. They were so good (I forget where I read this) that the roadies for The Cramps would attempt to sabotage the Messiahs‘ sets. They had been booked to support The Cramps on a nine city stretch (Minneapolis was the first of these) and it soon became evident the Messiahs were upstaging the headliner. Well, they couldn’t have that!
Man! You should have been there!
The Messiahs should have made it bigger than they did. They released three full length albums (Gun Shy, Bikini Red, and Totally Religious) over a five year period (1984 – 89) and then they were done. Vanished.
It is a little sad that if they are remembered at all it will likely be for their one “hit”, I Wanna be a Flintstone. It’s very good song, but, let’s face it, despite the fantastic sound, lyrically, it’s essentially a novelty song. But the best novelty song ever!
I’ll paraphrase Blade Runner: “The light that burns twice as bright lasts half as long.” The Screaming Blue Messiahs had “burned so very, very brightly.”
That show was their only appearance in the Twin Cities.
And I was there!