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Saturday, 10 December 2011

~Winter Wassailing~#20: 'Silent Night' by The Dickies

Despite being one of the first Punk bands (formed in 1977) to emerge from the L.A. Punk scene, San Fernando Valley's The Dickies have never really achieved the kudos that many lesser, and certainly much less talented bands have attained. A large part of this probably is down to the fact the band are often seen as cartoonish and a bit of a joke. Something I'm here to hopefully reverse!
For me, The Dickies were always exceptional musicians. Just listening to the musicianship on their recordings; the drumming, the guitars, the Farfisa style keyboards, the incredible speed at which they played (and played well), and their remarkable ability to stop/start on a sixpence belied their much negated reputation.
Also, I think, what worked against them was their geek-chic look, with its shiny plastic jackets and wraparound plastic shades, and the fact that all their records came on coloured vinyl, which added to the contrived New Wave image the band seemed lumbered with, something that more earnest Punks and the NME seemed to take umbrage with.
The Dickies are best remembered among the Punk fraternity for their 1000mph cover versions of Rock Music's sacred cows; everything from Black Sabbath's 'Paranoid' to Simon & Garfunkel's 'The Sound Of Silence' to The Moody Blues' 'Nights In White Satin' were covered at blistering, helium-voiced, velocity. This was both a blessing and a curse for the band, as it was the cover versions that gave them their hits, but they also detracted from their own compositions. And some of those, like 'Fan Mail' were rather superb slices of ironic Punk energy.

In Britain, at least, The Dickies are probably most well known for their speedfreak cover of the theme to 'The Banana Splits' TV show which gained them their highest positioned chart hit in the UK (No 7), and which was the only song I danced to (or rather pogoed to) at our school disco that year.
The song has had fresh life breathed into it by it's inclusion in one of the best scenes from the recent movie 'Kick-Ass':

And, as this is a Christmas Blog, it's only right that I should feature their Festive favourite, their cover of the traditional song 'Silent Night' (pressed on white vinyl for those who wish to know), which was released in December 1978 and actually charted in Britain a whole six months before the Banana Splits single. As usual, the playing is immense and the counter-melodic second guitar is something of a joy:

The B-side to the single was the already mentioned cover of the 'Sound Of Silence'; I'm guessing a 'silence' theme was at play here:

After 1980, the hits pretty much dried up on both sides of the pond but the band continued onwards, regularly being featured in the U.S's 'Maximum Rock'n'Roll' magazine (which took a pretty serious look at the American Punk scene), and were still playing in the early 2000s, albeit with a radically altered line-up, the band having suffered a rather tragic spate of deaths (drug related and suicide).

A fine band then, and one, like The Monkees, who deserve a bit more credit than they are usually given. And, as if it was all planned, here they are covering The Monkees!

See, not thrown together at all!!


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