Home / Interviews / 20 Questions / Blackboard Jungle’s Britt Pennella talks the Sunset Strip glory days, fist fights & a little smack!

Blackboard Jungle’s Britt Pennella talks the Sunset Strip glory days, fist fights & a little smack!

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Blackboard Jungle hangin’ on the streets of Hollywood California

STILL GOING STRONG AFTER ALL THESE YEARS

Blackboard Jungle is back for their annual Hollywood reunion at the Roxy, and bassist Britt reminisces about the good ol’ days

By Gerry Gittelson

Metal Sludge Editor at Large



HOLLYWOOD — Blackboard Jungle is packing clubs on the Sunset Strip again. Not every other weekend or so like the band did in their prime in the early 1990s but once a year for the annual Blackboard Jungle reunion, and the 11th celebration is June 1 at the Roxy with Glamour Punks, Swingin’ Thing, God Zoo and Wicked Jester – all underground successes back in the day that never quite found the brass ring.

With a great singer named Kenny Price, a rock-star-in-the-making guitarist in Dave Zink, an enterprising bassist in founder Britt in addition to drummer Joel Patterson, Blackboard Jungle climbed to the top of the heap in Hollywood but never signed a major record deal.

Shame really, because millions of people missed out on some compelling music, but that’s an old story of course. What’s fresh is the band’s seasonal reappearance, and in a Metal Sludge exclusive, Britt was only too happy to share about what’s it’s like, what happened, and what it’s like now.

 

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SLUDGE: Hey Britt, still playing the Roxy but getting paid better now, right?

BRITT: Oh yeah, 100 percent.

SLUDGE: It’s good to hear your voice again. I think back, and Blackboard Jungle never it big like some of the others. You’ve had a lot years to mull this over. Any thoughts?

BRITT: We were different than the hair-metal bands. We had more of an alternative feel. I just feel like when you look at Guns N’ Roses, it’s a rough industry. At the end of the day, I think long-term we’ve done a lot better than a lot of those bands from back then that did get a record deal, bands like Kik Tracee and Animal Bag and whoever. We’ve done better than them without a record a deal, all those bands like Sister Whiskey. I could go on and on. I heard at one point back then that Riki Rachtman wouldn’t play some band’s video because the guy was wearing a Blackboard Jungle shirt in the video, so he wouldn’t play the video.

SLUDGE: That’s bizarre.

BRITT: Yeah, he didn’t let Taime wear one, he never embraced us. Now he is cool, though.

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CC DeVille, Britt Pennella, Bret Michaels & Kenny Price

SLUDGE: So let’s go back. I think I met Blackboard Jungle, the whole band, for the first or second time at the old Rock n Roll Denny’s on Sunset, late at night or early in the morning. You were sitting with Kim Fowley, your new manager, and he was proclaiming you would be the biggest band in the world.

BRITT: Yeah, Kim was one of the first. He pretty much formed us and named us. He was our mastermind. He said we would be a gigantic band, but it went all wrong with him. With Kim Fowley, we had like every record label at our first SOUND CHECK. Then he threatened the life of one of the guys at Atlantic Records if he didn’t sign us, and that was not good.

SLUDGE: And there was the off-shoot band, Bad Blood with Jeff Blood.



BRITT:
Jeff Blood, they were our roommates. Bad blood, they had Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, and we only had Brent Muscat from Faster Pussycat, and it was a rivalry because they rehearsed across the hall. It’s amazing we weren’t able to go further because we were semi-nice guys, and we weren’t on heroin.

SLUDGE: Me and you had already known each other a little bit, right? With Filthy Ritz. You played a G-Spot Jam, right?



BRITT:
Yeah, Filthy Ritz was my first band. Andy McCoy from Hanoi Hocks came in and just picked the band apart. We thought we were Led Zeppelin, and Andy was talking about getting this deal and that deal and this check for publishing so he could make house payments, and we’re just sitting down with him, and he wanted us to do heroin with him. I remember the night Guns N’ Roses played the Cathouse, he was on heroin drooling right in front of us. I was like, no way dude.

We were the same way as Guns N’ Roses. They were just these hicks from Indiana, and I went to see the Quireboys at the Roxy, and you remember Carol from Headline?


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SLUDGE: Yeah, she was hot. With those little white shorts she used to wear, she turned me on. She worked with Mitch Stevens, who was Pretty Boy Floyd’s manager.




BRITT:
Yeah, that’s her.

SLUDGE: Lesli Sanders used to like her, too.

BRITT: Yeah, I think so. So when I had no band, she had all these tickets for Pretty Boy Floyd, and I would take ‘em and stand outside the Roxy out front and sell the tickets. I made so much money selling tickets that I never had to work.

SLUDGE: You would make enough?

BRITT: Yeah, she wasn’t giving them to me to scalp them. I would steal a whole stack.

SLUDGE: Interesting. Better not tell Kristy Majors. You know how he is.

BRITT: Yeah, a lot of memories. I remember Andy McCoy once laughed at me, so I attacked him at the Roxy. He was like the patron saint of Hollywood, and I threw him over the bar onto a table.



SLUDGE: Why?

BRITT: Cause he walked in, and nobody had the balls to beat him up, so I did.

SLUDGE: Then what happened?

BRITT: I got thrown out, so I scalped more tickets. (laughs) I don’t know.



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SLUDGE: I love this stuff. I can picture it all. Back to Blackboard Jungle. So what happened?

BRITT: It was all good. We played the Teaszer, did a few things, then Brent Muscat, like God Save the Queen, he decided he wanted to produce us, and he really, really helped us. We started to get pretty big, and he took us on the road with Faster Pussycat. We pretty much did the whole “Whipped” tour.

SLUDGE: How could you afford it?

BRITT: We went in a van, selling t-shirts, enough to do it. We would sell like 200 t-shirts. We didn’t have some stripper girl to invest like everyone else.

SLUDGE: What did you learn out there?



BRITT:
I don’t remember. (laughs) The tour manager, he just loaded us in a van, in Florida, and on the first day he told us it was going to be the best time of our lives, and he was dead on. We became a real band, out there on the road with no record deal, going places, playing a few places. We were smart enough to realize there was no time to wait for that gigantic tour bus – but if we had one, it would have been great!

SLUDGE: Did anyone shop the band for deal? Where you close?

BRITT: Yeah, but someone would always come back, and say we need more songs or to do this or do that, and then we’ll sign you. We kind of fell victim but I would have liked to be a huge band like some of my friends. We did do a Japanese record deal, and we went to Japan. In Germany, they signed us to promote a cigarette company, weird stuff like that. We were like the Forest Gump of rock bands. We were always there but it didn’t really happen, know what I mean?

SLUDGE: Did you get depressed?

BRITT: I think we got bummed out, sitting around, planning our tour plans around when our phone bill would arrive. We turned to different manager.s Marshall Berle met with us. We thought all this stuff was going to happen, and when it didn’t we shouldn’t have been depressed. We should have enjoyed it more.

SLUDGE: I guess today you have cult-hero status.

BRITT: Yeah, that’s what I would say. You do get bummed out when everyone else is getting signed, though. When I first moved to Los Angeles, one week CBS was signing Johnny Crash, then the next week they were signing Love/Hate. I was like, wow, people here really do get record deals. It was magical. Pretty Boy Floyd got signed, and I was there. Five years earlier, in New Jersey, I didn’t think rock stars even had real phone numbers.



SLUDGE: At some point you decided to move to L.A.

BRITT: Yeah, I left the day after graduation night from high school. My parents were going to be moving anyway, to San Francisco, and I just kind of disappeared, kind of slipped through the cracks. It was me and Jamie Scrap (now in Glamour Punks). We started calling people. I remember standing in front of Gazzarri’s looking at a huge wall painting of Brunette and thinking, “How am I gonna compete with THAT?”


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Only in Hollywood can you pass this out to thousands of people.

SLUDGE: I don’t remember you being a heavy drinker at all.

BRITT: Oh no. Back then, I didn’t party at all. That all came in time, and that all went away in time.

SLUDGE: Though I do remember your guitar player, Dave Zink. I remember that night at this big party at LP Sounds in the Valley, Gary Patterson’s old studio. Duff McKagen was there, and anyway, Dave Zinc was going to attack some guy with a screwdriver. I talked him out of it!

BRITT: Yeah, that was typical.

SLUDGE: Why was he mad that night?

BRITT: Who knows? Probably because all the girls Dave dated back then were young strippers and sluts, and you know how they are, so I’m sure it was over some chick. He’s all talk because he’s too tall and skinny, he couldn’t fight, just all talk. I remember at FM Station one night, he was fucking the girl backup singer for the Mimes, having sex with her on his amp right in front of everyone. It was a very weird time, living in this house where one morning Dave is sitting there playing his guitar, and Steve Jones (from the Sex Pistols) walks by, having just finished banging his girlfriend or something. We were young. The women, that was all just a process of being in Hollywood. You know, Gerry. You wrote about it in Hollywood Rocks.

SLUDGE: I did?

BRITT: Yeah, the press was really important back then. It was huge. In those days we would go across the country, and you would still see the L.A. newspapers with Rock City News and Hollywood Rocks. It was amazing. Anyone who ever wrote us a letter, we always wrote everyone back. We were nice guys. We were invited everywhere. We weren’t elitist at all.

SLUDGE: You’re playing with Glamour Punks again at the reunion show. Didn’t you have a feud with them back in the day?

BRITT: Oh yeah. I threw Dizzy on his head one night because he was with one of my girlfriends. It was that way with everyone, that love/hate thing. We were roommates at the time, too. But walking into a house or an apartment building and pulling a fire alarm, that’s just, I don’t know. I used to hang out with Mandy, and we’ve seen a lot of people die. He knew how to keep it together. He was like the Marilyn Manson of the strip. If Mandy would do something, then everyone would do it. …. I actually tried to be Bret Michaels, but it was a bad attempt. I’m bad at doing glam. I kind of fall into the middle.


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SLUDGE: You’re still doing music these days?

BRITT: Yeah, I’m in a band called MK4 >HERE<, and I teach music in school, and I DJ on cruises. Teaching kids is pretty rewarding. Sometimes as a teacher, I listen to my 15-year-old and tell the kids, let’s order pizza like “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” and we’ll sit and do our work outside and eat together. I really did it, too.



SLUDGE: Did the kids appreciate it?

BRITT: Oh, they lost their minds. They love me. I helped the guy at the school newspaper do a Smashing Pumpkins interview. I let them listen to rap.

SLUDGE: What about you in high school? Did you fit in?

BRITT: No, I didn’t fit in because I just cared about music. I read rock magazines. I would skip school to make a long walk to go buy rock magazines. I skipped my school prom to go see Guns N’ Roses at L’Amour in New York City after discovering the band in Metal Edge. They just blew me a way that night. I had never seen anything like it. It was so incredible. My life changed that night. Axl dove into the crowd. I was like wow. I was obsessed with Motley Crue, too. I would walk four miles to the 7-11 to buy Circus and Hit Parader.

Nothing else mattered. I have memories of Steeler and Keel. I thought Rik Fox was cool of all things. Then I got to Hollywood, and he was such a prick when I think back to the way he treated me. I was just a 19-year-old kid. I would tell him to fuck off now. 


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