“We used to kick up our heels and cut loose/but now I feel like I’m runnin’ from a noose” - Cool You and Me
If the aliens ever landed and I was in the arguably envious position of explaining to our new tentacled overlords what rock’n’roll is, what it sounds like, and what it’s useful for, I would not show them Elvis videos or Gimme Shelter or take them to see a seven-hour Bruce Springsteen concert or a KISS convention. I would play them Get Some by Motorcycle Boy, from their debut (and only) 1990 album, Popsicle. Everything that rock’n’roll ever aspired to be is encapsulated in the four gorgeously decadent minutes of that song. They would understand instantly. And then they’d jet right outta here on a wild, intergalactic search for kicks. But before we discuss that, let me explain who we’re dealing with here.
The Sunset Strip was still doing brisk flash metal business in ‘88 when one Francois blew into town in his sharkskin suit and impeccably blown-out hair. Francois had already spent nearly a decade in the punk trenches of Spokane, Washington and the grunge-drenched mudwaters of Seattle and was ready to bring a little class and old-world glamour to the hopeless spandex hair-wars raging through Hollywood.
Surveying the landscape in two-inch rattlesnake heels, he quickly hooked up with chick-magnet drummer Kenny Toye and a skinny Swiss mister known affectionately as Mister Ratboy (because he looked like a rat, naturally), who just happened to be the hippest Johnny Thunders rip-off artist in a town where everybody dressed like Johnny but nobody ever played his records.
I mean, that was the thing with Motorcycle Boy, nobody had to explain what was up to these dudes, they already knew. They liked the Stones and the Dolls and they were fashionably skinny and elegantly besotted and they dressed like Satanic dandies, and if you had to open for ‘em, it just made you want to give up. That’s why they ended up recording for punk labels and gigging in underground rock’n’roll circles with other dark-glam heavies like the Hangmen, Coma-Tones, and the Ultras.
Imagine being in Pretty Boy Floyd when Motorcycle Boy show up. Suddenly you’re just some painted-up clown in pleather peddling third-rate Kiss riffs. There was just no two ways about it, man. Motorcycle Boy were the coolest band in town. Hands down. Here’s how cool they were: Alice Cooper wanted them for his backing band, so he asked them to audition. They showed up – late and drunk – and didn’t bother learning any of his songs. Too much trouble. They didn’t get the gig, but that Coop’s loss, not theirs.
Their first record was a seven inch, Feel It/One Punch, released on Flipside records in ‘89. Flipside was a west coast punk mag that essentially hated glam, at least in its then-current hair-centric incarnation, so the fact they they released it all is a wonder. It’s one of the most crucial releases of the era because it drags glitter rock back to its early 70s roots and thoroughly stomps it into a bloody, punk-inspired mess. The Ramones loved the New York Dolls, but they were too ugly and goofy to dress like them. Motorcycle Boy were the ‘74 Ramones with cool hair and stylish Italian threads.
Word got around and they signed to Triple X records, the early home of Jane’s Addiction and Social Distortion, among others. When it came time to make their debut album, there was really only one guy who could possibly produce it: NY Dolls guitar-slinger Sylvain Sylvain. So that’s what he did. The result was 1990’s Popsicle, a scrappy, rubber-legged collection of jukebox-ready glam-slammers so far head of its time that every post-glam supergroup in LA, from Beautiful Creatures to Sixx AM, is still ripping it off. And doing a terrible fucking job at it.
And really, here’s the best part: they never made another one. Imagine if Guns quit after the perfection that is Appetite for Destruction and never besmirched their legend with that Use Your Illusion bullshit. How great would that be? I’d have a Guns tattoo emblazoned across my chest right now if it weren’t for Get In the Ring. I mean, in basically every song on Popsicle, Motorcycle Boy tell you they’re a fucking mess and probably won’t last the weekend. And they really didn’t. Ratboy got fired and moved to New York. Francois kept Motorcycle Boy going, sort of, but never bothered making another record. They figured they’d done it, man. The rest was up to you. I love that.
Anyway, getting back to Get Some. Halfway through, Francois says, “I got a rat’s nest for hair, I’m gonna get some.” I mean, does that not say it all? Is that not what we all got into rock’n’roll for in the first place? Game over, man. Game over. If the aliens can’t figure it out from there, they don’t even deserve to enslave us with gamma rays.
**Next week: Oh wow, it’s WOW! **