Monday, November 16, 2015

Your Ever Loving Punks_The Standells

You Don't Dig This Long Hair, Get Yourself A Crew-Cut Baby

Though touted as the “Godfathers of 60s punk” The Standells lineage stretches well beyond the “garage rock” era. For starters, though The Standells helped launch a thousand garage bands, they weren't a “garage band” at all. By the time “Dirty Water” hit the charts and made them the standard bearers for U.S. 60s punks, The Standells had put in work and were in fact, accomplished professional musicians who knew their way around a studio. The band clearly went through two phases during their prime, the pre-Dirty Water period and the post Dirty Water, 60s punk period. Almost overnight, The Standells went from being a talented plug 'n' play rock & roll combo to snarly trend setting raconteurs. Though in truth, their punk persona was as fake as the hippies & beatniks on “Far Out Munsters”

Larry Tamblyn, co-founder of the band is the younger brother of actor Russ Tamblyn. Russ had worked in movies since 1948, he was nominated for an Academy Award in 1957 for his work in “Peyton Place” He's the father of actress Amber Tamblyn and is still active, having appeared in relatively recent movies, “Drive” and “Django Unchained” Larry had been active in music since 1958, having released a string of doo wop singles on Faro and Linda records. In 1962 he formed The Standels along with Tony Valentino (Emilio Bellissimo, who had arrived in the US from Italy in 1958) bass player Jody Rich and drummer Benny King (aka Hernandez) Larry came up with the name “Standels” as a tongue in cheek take on the long hours spent standing around waiting for auditions at record companies.

The band's first break was a residency at The Oasis Club in Honolulu... not a bad way to kick start a career. Except Jody Rich turned out to be a total prick. After three months in Hawaii, they returned to L.A. and ditched Rich (King had already quit) Bass player Gary Lane and drummer Gary Leeds came on board for the band's first recording effort “Shake” Though it garnered some airplay on KFWB, it wasn't officially released until 1964 (as the b-side to “Peppermint Beatle”) Somewhere along the way, another “L” is added to their name. They release their debut single “You'll Be Mine Someday/ Girl in My Heart” for Linda Records as Larry Tamblyn & The Standells. Over the years, “Girl in My Heart” evolved into a Low Rider favorite and can be found on several Chicano Oldies compilations.

As 1964 rolled around, Gary Leeds left the band to play with Johnny Rivers and PJ Proby (with whom he toured the UK) Upon his return to the states, he met up with Scott Engel and John (Maus) Walker in Los Angeles, convincing them that their fledgling musical collaboration would go over well in England. In February '65, now called The Walker Brothers (Leeds and Engel adopted the Walker surname) they left for the UK and as the idiom goes: the rest is history. The Walker Brothers scored two #1 hits in England (Make it Easy on Yourself and The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore) Scott Walker, noted for his baritone voice, would crossover from schlock pop ballads to avant-garde music. A UK citizen since 1970, Scott continues to push the envelope, much to the dismay of his old fans. 

Dick Dodd who replaced Gary Leeds was not only a drummer, but he brought an entirely new vocal dynamic to the band. Born in Hermosa Beach, Ca. Dick's father (who was in the Army) had abandoned the family shortly after he was born. His mother Florinda Murillo supported her son working as a store clerk. Growing up, Dickie was looked after by his Mexican born grandmother. He grew up bilingual and learned to play the accordion and tap dance at any early age. By the time he joined The Standells, Dodd was a show biz veteran having pulled a three year stint as one of the original Mouseketeers on The Mickey Mouse Club. He also landed a gig on The Gisele McKenzie Show during its one year run on NBC television and had a bit part in the movie, Bye Bye Birdie w/ Ann Margaret.

Dick was also a member of pioneering surf bands The Bel-Airs (best known for the hit single, Mr. Moto, which they had already recorded when Dodd joined) and Eddie & The Showmen (w/ Eddie Bertrand) He joined The Standells for their debut at PJ's in Hollywood and the subsequent release of their first album “In Person at PJ's” From which Liberty Records would draw a number of singles. “I'll Go Crazy” an excellent James Brown cover flopped, while the moderate success of “Help Yourself” (a Jimmy Reed cover released as the a-side in the UK) helped established Dick Dodd as The Standells lead singer, supplanting Larry Tambyln, who had handled all the leads prior to that. “So Fine” a Johnny Otis song was also plucked from the album, but it stalled well short of the Top 100.

Following a cameo appearance on the MGM motion picture “Get Yourself A College Girl” The Standells signed with Vee Jay Records. This led to recording sessions at Gold Star Studios. Produced and arranged by Sonny Bono “Don't Say Goodbye” and “The Boy Next Door” (with Cher on backing vocals) feature Sonny's low budget take on Phil Spector's Wall of Sound. “The Boy Next Door” stalled at #102 on US charts. The Standells then recorded “Zebra in the Kitchen” for the MGM movie of the same name starring Jay North (Dennis the Menace) It's a turgid turd of a song which MGM insisted on releasing as the a-side, relegating the vastly superior “Someday You'll Cry” to the b-side. To the amazement of no one, “Zebra in the Kitchen” tanked spectacularly.

To The Standells credit, some of the movies and television shows they appeared on would have been career killers for most other bands. These guys however were proficient at turning lemons into weak watered down lemonade. As evidenced by their appearance on The Munsters television show (Far Out Munsters) Shamelessly milking Beatlemania for all it was worth, The Standells rollick through “Do the Ringo” and a revved up version of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” in less time than it takes to heat up a TV dinner in the microwave (3:30 minutes) Al Lewis hams it up by blowing a cloud of smoke out of his ears and Zalman King, schlock erotica director (Red Shoes Diary) plays a bearded beatnik with an uncanny resemblance to Ringo Starr. “Life's a gass.... Life's a wild Fellini movie”

Riding a crest of failed singles, cameos in shitty movies and just four months prior to recording the 60s punk classic “Dirty Water” The Standells, still sporting their lame, faux fab four matching suits and growing their hair out following their residency at P.J.s (which had a strict no long hair dress code) made an appearance on Bing Crosby's short lived sitcom “The Bing Crosby Show” (there would be no second season, Bing, though basically playing himself quickly lost interest) The episode “Bugged By The Love Bugs” is 60s television sitcom drivel at its worst, complete with man servant (ala Uncle Charlie from My Three Sons) and a subversively subservient wife seemingly hopped up on happy pills. (Beverly Garland) in contrast to Crosby's menacing psychotic in a fedora schtick.

Cavorting as the “Love Bugs” The Standells start out doing the running man while showered in shrieks from a gaggle of teenage girls (The Break Song) Bing steps in, cracks wise to his daughter's vacant eyed BFF “Are you promoting this mob?” Later that evening, The Standells serenade Bing and his clan with an impromptu set that includes “The Break Song” segueing into “Someday You'll Cry” and after a quick interlude, finish up with “Come Here” During a break, Bing orders his man servant to prepare a round of root beer for the group and something a little stronger for the senior citizens. A studio version of “Come Here” was never recorded, which is truly a shame for it features some of Larry's best vocal work. As mentioned before, “Someday You'll Cry” was the b-side to “Zebra in the Kitchen”

“Who's giving a party?... it looks like I'm hosting a riot!” exclaims Crosby as a mob of aggressive teenage girls bum rush the proceedings. The premise of the show has Crosby playing the part of a college professor who also happens to have a background in the music biz.... which of course leads to the crowd imploring Bing to join The Standells for a song. Bing obliges, only because “it might just be the thing to drive them out” Der Binger and the boys than proceed to deliver a bad ass version of that old Leiber & Stoller warhorse “Kansas City” No denying Crosby's singing prowess as he firmly puts his trademark vocal mannerisms and zombie like dance moves to effective use. The Standells would follow up their Crosby experience with an appearance on the hip medical drama, Ben Casey.

The Standells were about to take a musical left turn, thanks to an unexpected source. Ed Cobb, a freelance producer and songwriter had written a song “Dirty Water” inspired by an attempted mugging that occurred while he was in Boston. Having shopped around for the right band to record his opus, he chose The Standells, offering to become their manager and producer as an extra added bonus. A member of the hugely successful vocal quartet, The Four Preps. Ed Cobb used his business connections to land The Standells a record deal with Tower Records (a subsidiary of Capitol, not the music store) “Dirty Water” was released as a single in Nov. '65 and quickly stalled on the US charts. Dick Dodd who didn't like the song and was unhappy with their new musical direction, quit the band.

Dickie was replaced by the Forrest Gump of 60s rock.... Canadian drummer & vocalist, Dewey Martin. Best known for being fired from practically every band he played with, Martin was coming off a run with Sir Raleigh & The Coupons in the Pacific Northwest when he got the call from Cobb. Dewey was more of a band-aid solution than a permanent replacement and once “Dirty Water” broke into the Top 40, Dick Dodd decided he loved the song and rejoined the band. Dewey Martin was dismissed, though as a consolation he got to record a single “I Don't Want to Cry” for Tower Records. Dewey moved on to The Modern Folk Quartet and The Dillards before joining Buffalo Springfield. He later milked his association with Buffalo Springfield by forming The New Buffalo Springfield..... twice.

“Dirty Water” finally peaked at #11 in the US in July '66, Liberty Records exploited the band's new found success by reissuing their first album as “Live And Out of Sight” The Standells second Tower single (also written by Ed Cobb) “Good Guys Don't Wear White” crawled its way up the charts, topping out at #43. The Standells album “Dirty Water” peaked at #52. While on tour opening for The Rolling Stones, bass player Gary Lane quits the band in Florida, he's replaced by Dave Burke. A second album is rushed out by Tower “Why Pick on Me- Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White” it fails to chart... perhaps the title was too damn long. Not to be deterred, Tower pushes out yet another album “Hot Ones” made up entirely of cover songs... it quickly drops out of sight.

The Standells were in danger of becoming the 60s punk version of The Ventures. They did have one thing in their favor, the honeys loved Dickie. The SoCal gals would come out in droves, shrieking enthusiastically at his every move. Channeling his inner punk, Dick Dodd also gave a snarling voice to disaffected young punks facing an uncertain future as the Vietnam War escalated into an inevitable quagmire. The “punk” thing was all posturing of course, The Standells were safe as mother's milk. “Riot on Sunset Strip” wasn't a call to arms, it was a marketing scheme. An attempt to exploit a series of clashes between LAPD and young people, not over the Vietnam War, but over enforcement of a 10pm curfew. All of which inspired Stephen Stills to write “For What It's Worth”

1967 saw a new bass player come on board, John Fleck (Fleckenstein) an original member of Love. Ed Cobb was still feeding the group songs, though none amounted to much after “Good Guys Don't Wear White” Rapidly sliding towards irrelevancy, the band needed a little controversy to stir the pot. They found it with “Try It” written by Joey Levine and Marc Bellack for bubblegum punk peddlers, Super K Productions (Jerry Kasenetz & Jeffrey Katz) The Ohio Express covered the song a year later with Dale Powers on lead vocals.  (I prefer The Morfomen's version myself) If you're at all familiar with 60s radio in the US, then you're well aware of just how influential “The Radio Maverick” Gordon McLendon's stations were to the hit making process. “By the way you look I can tell you want some action” Try It's mildly suggestive lyrics rubbed Gordon McLendon the wrong way.

McLendon, a powerful Texas radio mogul owned a number of Top 40 radio stations across the country (KLIF-Dallas, KNUS-Dallas, KOST-Los Angeles, KEEL-Shreveport, WAKY- Louisville, KABL-Oakland, KILT-Houston KTSA-San Antonio and KELP-El Paso) “The Old Scotsman” is credited with tweaking Todd Storz's Top Forty radio format to near perfection. For one reason or another, Gordo took umbrage with the sexual innuendo and double entendres that he somehow imagined were implied in lines like: “I'll serve a feverish pitch that's headed straight for your heart” Already a regional hit on the West Coast “Try It” was banned from all McLendon's stations. “You look excited and you figure that it's just a bluff, Huh?.. Hey don't you dare walk away”

Ed Cobb worked this to The Standells advantage slapping a big old “Banned” sticker on the album cover. He then set up a debate between the band and McLendon on Art Linklater's House Party. By most accounts The Standells held their own against McLendon, who was heckled during the proceedings by some of the younger audience members. McLendon issued an open letter to the music industry: “Frankly, we are tired. We want to be fair. But our success, after all, is often dependent on your success as record producers, but conversely, your success is predicated on radio airplay of your product. Clean things up before some unnecessary regulatory action is taken” Old Scotch & Gin's veiled threats had their intended effect as program directors pulled “Try It” from rotation.

The Standells were all but finished. Ed Cobb turned his focus from the band to advancing Dick Dodd's solo career. He gathered some studio musicians and recorded “Guilty” for a movie soundtrack with Dick on vocals, telling Larry that “these guys sound more like The Standells than The Standells do” “Animal Girl” the final single for Tower bombed (the song featured guitar legend, Richie Podolor on sitar) Dick Dodd left shortly after that. The band cut its ties with Ed Cobb and brought in Bill Daffern to replace Dodd. John Fleck parted ways with them soon after. With shows pending, The Standells hired Lowell George (Little Feat) Though a SoCal native and his previous band, Factory, had followed a similar career trajectory as The Standells, George was not a good fit.

George would later describe his experience with The Standells “I replaced Dickie Dodds, he quit because he couldn't stand it and I finally quit because I couldn't stand it either” He held his band mates in contempt, constantly reminding them how he had studied sitar with Ravi Shankar. He guffawed at their practice of packing hair dryers for every show. Dick Dodd had been the band's sex symbol... George, already on the pudgy side, didn't fit the bill. Dick's legion of bee hived honeys hated Lowell, blaming him for Dick's departure from the band “They were rough gals, real mean... some of them carried razor blades” he recalled. Lowell George was only with the band for two months, no recordings or photographs exist from this time period.

Larry Tambyln recalls that the turning point in the band's already shaky relationship with Lowell George came while traveling to a SoCal show. As he was prone to do, Lowell was driving his VW bus rather erratically. He took a sharp turn causing Larry to lean against George's sitar, the tumbaa snapped right off. Lowell was livid even though Larry apologized profusely. “I think that began our adversarial relationship” said Larry. During a show at Pierce College in Canoga Park, Lowell sat down on stage in his bare feet while he played the sitar and sang. “It was quite a departure from the group's sound” Larry smirked. Lowell had worn out his welcome. Disgusted, he packed up his broken sitar and went on to join Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention before forming Little Feat w/ Bill Payne in 1969.

Dick Dodd didn't fare much better in his attempt to establish himself as a solo artist. His first solo single “Fanny” was forgettable, the second “Little Sister” released on Tower, did nothing. His solo album “The First Evolution of Dick Dodd” produced by Ed Cobb and released on Tower Records, flew well under the radar. A radical departure from The Standells sound, it veered off into a vortex of conflicting musical styles, none of which were in mode at the time. Dick dropped out of music for a spell and then resurfaced with a band called Joshua, which released an album “Willie and The Hand Jive” in 1975 (produced by Ed Cobb) Eventually he went to work for a construction equipment company and became a limo driver. Dick Dodd passed away from cancer in Nov. of 2013.

The Standells drifted apart in early 1969. Larry Tamblyn and Bill Daffern put together Chakras (with Tony Valentino as their manager) they recorded a single for Reprise Records then broke up. Tamblyn and Valentino then reformed The Standells w/ Bill Daffern, Tim Smyser and Paul Downing. This version stuck together until 1970. The Standells never really went away. Starting in 1982 they worked the “oldies” circuit, culminating with an appearance in Boston prior to Game Two of the World Series in 2004. “Dirty Water” has become an anthem of sorts for Boston pro sports teams and The Standells get treated as royalty in Beantown. Nowadays, Larry Tamblyn can be found patrolling the trolls on the internet, correcting and informing fans on all matters concerning the band. 

Your Ever Loving Punks_The Standells

The Girl In My Heart
So Fine
I'll Go Crazy
Help Yourself (American Bandstand, intro by Dick Clark)
Someday You'll Cry (studio version)
The Peppermint Beatle
Don't Say Goodbye
The Boy Next Door
Do The Ringo (Far Out Munsters)
I Wanna Hold Your Hand (Far Out Munsters)
Someday You'll Cry (Bing Crosby Show)
Come Here (Bing Crosby Show)
Kansas City w/ Bing Crosby (Bing Crosby Show)
Dirty Water (live television version)
Hey Joe
My Little Red Book
Black Hearted Woman
Girl and the Moon
Did You Ever Have That Feeling
Ninety Nine & a Half