“I’ll poke you with my pitchfork, I’ll light your insides out” - Highway 69
Listen, I’ll be honest – 1994 wasn’t one of my better years. In fact, just about the only thing I even remember about it is Foreskin 500. And even my memories of them are kinda fucked up and hazy. Sure, from the quiet comfort of my office a decade and change later, it has become clear that they really did exist – unlike many of the numbing aftershocks of that year - but it all seemed kinda iffy back then. When you are coming unglued, Foreskin 500 is pretty much exactly what would come crawling into your mind’s eye. They were Satanic panic electro-sex rockers smeared in greasepaint and their own filthy fluids. They sang songs about ass-fucking and about digging shallow graves, and they sounded like broken motorcycles and TV’s programmed by the devil. They breathed fire and promised redemption down a hard, ugly road of perversion and insanity. If I was lucky, they were just a rock’n’roll band. If I wasn’t, then they were stone cold madness, coming to drown me in a sea of blood and whiskey. Either way, we were going down the same road.
Foreskin 500’s roots stretched back to the late 80s, when one Diggie Diamond, a teenage dirtbag and semi-pro provocateur from Boulder, Colorado, formed the Letches, a self-described “lounge band from hell” with some like-minded local freaks. They wore outlandish outfits, they threw raw meat at the crowd and each other, they sang songs about Traci Lords and Mr Rogers, they made an unholy racket, and they amused themselves almost as much as they panicked their bewildered audiences. Somewhere along the line, beatbox wizard and sonic sculptor Mark the 3 Kord Scissor King entered the picture, and the Letches morphed into Foreskin 500. I’m not sure how it happened. Nobody is, really. Anyway, in 1993, F500 released their first album, Mustache Ride, which mixed bare-bones drum machine beats with rock guitars and sex-maniac lyrics to create a sort of novelty-industrial-pop sound. King Candy Cane, Brassiere Attack, that kinda thing. Live, they carried on in The Letches’ tradition, with face-paint and fire, shock and schlock, and built a following of freaks, noise-niks, and naked people. They were like a new mutant strain of narcotic power-flower in the grey, weed-strewn sound-garden of the grunge-hippy ‘alternative nation’, a horny, druggy, slavering sleazebeast among the sensitive flannel kittens. Cock rockers with drum machines. War-painted throwbacks armed with weapons from the future. Sensing a wild new sensation, Basura records, a subsidiary of indie-major Priority (once home to Foreigner) signed ‘em and rushed them into the studio. Less then a year later, they emerged with the instant flash metal classic, Manpussy. Yeah, that’s right, MANPUSSY.
Manpussy was preceded by its first (and only) single, Highway 69, presented to the world via a music video pretty much only ever shown at 3 in the morning. In the video, Diggie’s wearing devil horns and Kabuki make-up, looking like a slinky, sleazy cross between King Diamond and Jesse the Body Ventura. His voice was like every bad guy in every cheap-jack Hanna Barbara superhero cartoon from the 60s. He was dancing on the table in some dive bar, possibly in hell. I forget if the rest of the band was there, or if there even was a band. It was fucking crazy. And the song? Highway 69 was quite unlike anything you or I had ever heard before. Sure, it was a little like the industro-junk shop carnival ride of Foetus, and a little like the electric-head murder metal of White Zombie and the destructo-biker God riff-fascism of Zodiac Mindwarp. It had the same kinda evil sex-beat as Drug Free America, the same gut-bucket shock rock intensity as Gwar, and the same vibe of cold-sweat fire cult madness as Crash Worship. Except…except it was all those things at once, and a hundred more. Foreskin 500, quite possibly by accident, had somehow stumbled upon thee sound, that nagging, un-scratchable itch in the back of your brain that wonders what it would sound like if you just burned your whole life down in a cleansing inferno. For the 4 minutes and 18 seconds worth of Highway 69, Foreskin 500 were the definitive voice of rock and roll – sleazy, self-aggrandizing, a little crazy, and completely unreasonable. This was kinda sound you want to adopt as a lifestyle. Especially if you weren’t planning on living all that long.
The rest of the record walked that same crooked path. What Manpussy represented was a welcome, and much needed, return to the pure, shameless debauchery of the 80s. Nirvana and Hole and Jane’s Addiction and the Chile Peppers and that whole major label “Alternative Rock” hoodwink had set deep into the culture. Lollapalooza was big. Kids were smart, and sensitive, and ‘politically correct’. It was something fucking else, man. Foreskin 500, by stark contrast, only wanted sex and drugs and fire. Which, after all, is what rock and rollers are supposed to want. Foreskin themselves had no idea they writing a manifesto for the New Barbarian. They didn’t even know they were making a flash metal record – they were, after all, an industrial prank-rock band. Still, in spite of itself, Manpussy is one of the dirtiest, sleaziest, most low-down rock’n’roll records of the decade, period. Everything about this record just stinks of degeneracy. There is no moral centre to the songs on Manpussy, which is perfect, because in 1994, there was so much moral centre, you could choke on it.
In a sane world, the razzle dazzle, sex-on-wheels rock’n’roll juggernaut of Manpussy should have chewed a nasty, ragged hole right through the musical suckscape of 1994, but it did not. Foreskin toured the album, mostly on bills with local punk bands, mostly to indifferent, and sometimes hostile, teenage punk rock crowds. I saw them on this tour at the now defunct and much-lamented Rat here in Boston. Like I said before, I don’t remember too much about ’94,but one thing I will never forget is Foreskin’s drum riser. It looked like the grill of an 18 wheeler, with glaring lights and smoke and terror. I thought the drummer was gonna drive his fuckin’ kit right off the stage and flatten us all. And there were tiki torches and there was smoke and sex and searing, industro-devil fuckmusic. Believe me when I tell you, brothers and sisters, Foreskin 500 brought the rock on that tour.
But, apparently, the world was not ready for their rock. So they stopped playing it. A year later, they released a single, a beatbox-heavy cover of Boston’s arena rocker More than a Feeling, and recorded a new album, the almost straight disco Starbent But Superfreaked. Promo copies of the album went out in 1996, but the label dropped the band, and the record, before it was officially released. The band went their separate ways, and little was heard from the once-and-future cock rock kingpins until just a couple years ago, when Diggie Diamond emerged on the scene in New York City, fronting the crazed electro-disco sex robot band, The International Male. Which makes so much sense, really.
These days, it’s easy to play up polymorphous perversity, or to mix up cock rock and disco. Just ask the Electric Six. But ten years ago, it took pioneers. It took Foreskin 500. They did not hang around long enough to crack rock’n’roll open and spill its guts all over the floor, but they could have, and one listen to the still vital Manpussy, and you’ll see what I mean. Foreskin took everything good about sleaze metal - that’d be the sleaze – and turned it into evil dance music for crazy girls, and freaks, and all the disenfranchised negative creeps that were left out of the loop by the faux-bohemian alterna-kids.
A forgotten classic, this one. Take a ride down Highway 69. You might never come back.
Next week: Wiped Out