“It ain’t easy bein’ sleazy, it ain’t pretty stayin’ up all night” - Sermonette
Are you guys hip to Neil Hamburger? He’s what you’d call an ‘anti-comic’. The joke is that he’s not funny. He’s a disheveled, bitter, suicidal alcoholic who stumbles onto the stage in a wrinkled polyester suit, drenched in flop-sweat, and barks out mean-spirited non-jokes about Courtney Love dying on the toilet. Half the audience is on the gag, the rest heckle and demand their money back. He tells them to go fuck themselves, and hacks up some phlegm for five minutes. It’s pretty great, really.
How about NY Loose? Remember them? Probably the finest glam-punk band of the 1990’s, led by the impossibly glamorous Brigitte West, NY Loose took the exact same influences as all the hipper flash metal bands – NY Dolls, Stooges, Pistols, T Rex, CBGB’s circa ‘78 – and created a sound that was hard as nails but generously slathered in chewy pop hooks. They made a big initial splash and then died young and pretty, but luckily left a couple classic records behind them. NY Loose were also pretty great.
So here’s the thing. Smashed Gladys should’ve been the original NY Loose. The elements were all there: they had a hard rocking glamour puss upfront, an affection for punk and glam and hooky pop songs, hell, they were even in New York. Instead, they were Neil Hamburger. The only difference is, Neil is a character created by comedian Gregg Turkington. Smashed Gladys was for real. And I’m pretty sure they weren’t even in on their own joke.
Smashed Gladys was the brainchild of Canadian punk rocker Sally Cato. She got her start in rock’n’roll during the twilight of the 70s punk scene, fronting long-lost Toronto snot-rockers The Concords. Smashed Gladys formed in 1984, around the same time that Sally appeared in the Motley Crue’s completely fucking ridiculous Too Young To Fall In Love video, i.e. the one where they do Kung Fu and Tommy eats rice.
You know how it goes in rock’n’roll, you gotta know somebody, and now Sally did, which led to chronic career-ender Gene Simmons getting his gross grubby mitts on Smashed Gladys’s first demo, who shopped it for them, eventually landing them on Heavy Metal America, the Yankee wing of UK’s Heavy Metal Records, home of many perpetual also-rans and go-nowheres (Leatherwolf, Reckless, White Sister, Sabu, Witch, Antix – holy smokes, pick a winner already). HMA released Smashed Gladys’s self-titled debut in 1985. It featured the original version of their non-hit 17 Going On Crazy and, perhaps more importantly, a cover of T Rex’s Metal Guru. More importantly because Bolan is a crucially hip reference point for an 80s metal band, and hinted that maybe these dudes knew what was up. But of course they totally mangled it.
Didn’t matter, though. Things were going alright. Smashed Gladys were in the mix during New York’s sleaze-metal renaissance, strutting around in the same circles as Circus of Power, Warrior Soul, The Throbs, Princess Pang, and Cycle Sluts from Hell. Ace Frehley was a fan and would join ‘em on stage to jam on Rip It Up or Cold Gin at the Cat Club.
They all adopted thick Brooklyn accents, even the Canadians.
And a couple years later, they got caught up in the major label feeding frenzy fueled by the success of Crue, Quiet Riot, Ratt, Poison, and the rest of the usual suspects. Seriously, all you needed back in 1988 was pointy boots and spandex pants and you’d find yourself inking a self-immolating six-figure deal with Elektra Records. Which is exactly where Smashed Gladys ended up.
The inglorious result was 1988’s Social Intercourse, one of the most unintentionally hilarious bombs of the era. Everything about this album is so over the top you can hardly believe its real. Like the cover, for example. It’s a painting of a micro-waisted Sally having sex with a cowboy hatted skeleton, their bodies forming a peace sign. I mean, Jesus fucking Christ, man. Musically, they traded in punk and glam for heavy metal bludgeon, piling 37 guitar tracks into every song, an AC/DC pummeling buried under mounds of Kiss-esque flash metal pyrotechnics. I mean they went from no-bullshit to all-bullshit pretty quick on this one. And the songs were so overtly sexual they bordered on adolescent – Hard To Swallow, Lick Into Shape, Legs Up, Cast of Nasties, etc. The absolute nadir/apex is closer Sermonette, Smashed Gladys’s statement of intent. Over a squall of motorcycle-wreck guitar riffs, Cato growls and howls like Blackie Lawless’s tougher younger sister through some of the most ludicrous lyrics of the era:
“Wham bam, here I am, I tell you honey I get all I can
Not for the cash, not for the fame, getting some ass is the name of the game
We did it, we did it, we did it, to get laid!”
And then they all yell “To get laid!” over and over.
Phew. It’s all pretty exhausting. Incidentally, Ozzy did background vocals on Cast of Nasties. It didn’t help. They re-made 17 Going On Crazy for this one, too. That also didn’t help. They broke up a year later. The end. It’s ok, though. The guitarist joined Mike Monroe’s band, and Sally started a design company and made a killing on something or other. I don’t think any of ‘em are too concerned about the legacy of Smashed Gladys, and maybe we shouldn’t be either. But here’s the thing – every hardcore sleaze-beast had a copy of this record in 1988, and we all wanted to love it. On paper, it’s got everything you could possibly want in a flash metal album, and as I mentioned, with just a slight tweak towards cool, it would’ve nestled snugly in the pantheon of the legendarily hip. But they blew it by dumbing things so far down that no one could take them seriously. I am reasonably sure they were acting on Gene Simmons’ advice on this one. It reeks of one of his hack jobs. There’s your cautionary tale, right there. If Gene Simmons likes your band, break up. It’s only gonna lead to heartaches and godawful flash metal records.
Next week: Hooked on metal!