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LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL
Blackboard Jungle and friends return Saturday for the annual reunion show, and a capacity crowd is expected at the Roxy in California
By Gerry Gittelson
Metal Sludge Editor at Large
HOLLYWOOD — It’s that time of year in Hollywood, the annual Blackboard Jungle reunion with friends, featuring a group of bands that all were probably good enough to sell a million records but never got that break.
So Blackboard Jungle, Swingin’ Thing, Glamour Punks, God Zoo and this time around a wild-card pick called Wicked Jester perform Saturday at the Roxy on the Sunset Strip, returning to the very streets where a generation ago they were princes but not quite kings.
And all the old groupies, the former lunch-box crowd, they eat it up. The reunion shows, always spearheaded by Blackboard Jungle (see Britt feature HERE), started at the Viper Room the first few years, but these days it’s such an extravaganza that there are too many bodies to fit into such a small club. Thus the move to the Roxy, still most prestigious club on the Sunset Strip (and yes, I’m counting House of Blues).
“I think this is our second or third one, and I’m really looking forward to it,” said God Zoo guitarist Lil’ Dee, who also used to play for glam legends Queeny Blast Pop. “It’s always a great lineup, and it doesn’t matter if you play early or late, everyone is there to see all the bands.”
Lil’ Dee works at a law firm these days, but he is still a great guitar player, and among the God Zoo originals is singer Tommy Vargas, who was brilliant in his own right; God Zoo once put out a red cassette demo tape featuring songs like “90210,” and the girls – and a few boys, now that I think back — absolutely adored them.
Swingin’ Thing joined the party two years ago. The fivesome probably had the most potential of anyone back in the day – I always thought Swingin’ Thing, Big Bang Babies and Queeny all had the it-factor pre-Nirvana – and Swingin’ Thing guitarist Sunny Phillips believes some things never change.
The boys have real lives now so they can’t do it every night, but once a year they can show these amateurs who dare to wear makeup in 2013 exactly what’s up — both on stage and afterwards.
“It’s going to be a fun gig. I didn’t get home till 7 a.m. the next morning last time,” Phillips said. “Oh man, it was awesome. It was just fun to hang out again and to play the songs again and do the whole set. We’re playing the same songs this time as last year but we’re adding a ballad.”
The girls are older. They’re not young and subtle – and sometimes underage — like they used to be, but then again they’ve learned some tricks through the years.
“They’ve all aged very well,” said Phillips, always the diplomatic one.
HERE IS AN OFFICIAL SLUDGE CAPSULE LOOK AT EACH BAND, AND TO SAVE THE EGOS, WE’LL DO SO IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER:
BLACKBOARD JUNGLE – Once managed by impresario Kim Fowley, Blackboard Jungle burst onto the scene back in the day with a hearty combination of great attitudes, a massive street buzz and a string of excellent songs. The band had a break or two, at one point touring for a whole summer with Faster Pussycat, and like the old cliché, this is true: They were big in Japan.
GLAMOUR PUNKS – Led by flashy vocalist Mandy, Glamour Punks was unique. They weren’t like the others, didn’t follow the usual channels (for most of their rise, they did not even circulate demo tapes), and they were REALLY wild and crazy after the show. That’s when the real fun began, and it didn’t even have to be their own show. Glamour Punks had a knack for getting noticed, and that’s a quality you can’t buy even for a million bucks.
Read Metal Sludge’s 20 Questions with Glamour Punks singer Mandie right HERE.
GOD ZOO – Arriving from Queeny Blast Pop, Lil’ Dee granted God Zoo instant credibility, and by the time they played their first show – a soaring success – everyone in Hollywood knew their name, even if record-company execs were not whipping out their checkbook. Oh, and one more thing: Best not mess with the lead singer, Tommy Vargas, a vicious street-fighter. I remember him kicking the shit out of a couple of huge Whisky bouncers – at the same time.
SWINGIN’ THING – Twenty-five years ago, ty were gods. Even the guys in Warrant loved Swingin’ Thing, an irresistible blend of super-catchy songs turbo-fueled by lipstick and hairspray. If you liked Pretty Boy Floyd and Warrant – and there are a lot of us out there – then you loved Swingin’ Thing. God it would have been fun to see them headline the Forum like they well should have. We’ll settle for 45 minutes Saturday of some great nostalgia glam.
Read Metal Sludge’s feature article with Swingin’ Thing members Sunny & Chris right HERE
WICKED JESTER – The band was not as popular as the others, but Wicked Jester gave it their best shot. The group always had a great image. On Saturday at the Roxy, they get a chance to show they can play with the best, too, and that’s not going to be easy, but we’re rooting for them.
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