"I didn't wanna be here, y'know, I coulda been baskin' in the sun in Florida. This is just a hobby for me, NUTHIN! -- Y'HEAR? ... A HOBBY!!!"
Thusly begins the greatest rock n' roll record of all time. And wouldja credit it -- that's what these notes are accompanying. Is your luck in? or what? So yeah -- I said the greatest rock n' roll record of ALL time. "... but what about ....?" nuthin' this here's THE NUMERO UNO and that ol' Manitoba war cry has a tendency to stick with a person. THE DICTATORS GO GIRL CRAZY was conceived by a bunch of guys who didn't want to change the world, they just wanted to make every day a Saturday, in the spirit of Friday night.
THE DICTATORS GO GIRL CRAZY was recorded in 1974 and took 8 months to come out. Despite a generally positive buzz, EPIC Records had already decided to consign the group to their transfer list. The damage had already been done tho'. The word was out and for every half assed swipe ala Dave Marsh -- "THE DICTATORS MAY BE CRAZY, but not half so berserk as the person who handed them their record contract" -- there were a half dozen foamin' at the mouth raves. The world, would -- uh -- never be the same...
TDGGC's opening title is titled THE NEXT BIG THING, a tune which would change this guy's existence 100%. 20 or so seconds into the bout and yours truly was on a mission. Despite claims that GC was some kind of novelty disc -- hear for yourself, this was a heckuva lot more -- the songs were like quality teenarama movie scripts. They didn't suffer at all from coming on like cinematic sitcom episodes, in fact that twist set them apart from everything before or since. If there really is such a blighter as pure punk rock, then this is most surely it. The garbage that fueled the big media/fashion hype of the late '70's here in the UK was at best, wide of the mark. New York led the field, The Dictators (and subsequently The Ramones) tapped full into a spirit that seemed to have all but disappeared from rock'n'roll's centre stage. Remember, this was 2 years before The Pistols. England took the lead from America, no question about it. Sure, I'll admit that there was something going down but it was a whole lotta nuthin' compared to this.
HANDSOME DICK MANITOBA was the group's secret weapon. A mascot with the awe-inducing appearance of a Champeen-ship Wrestler, who stepped out of the wings to take the sporadic lead -- ahem-- "vocal." The Dic's management demanded that The Handsome One become a permanent fixture and the rest, as they say, is history. The Dictators distillation of Primo Who licks and Beach Boys harmonies. All of this was filtered through a bionic Rivieras' type swing. It was fast, loud and snotty, Rock n' Roll as opposed to rock. Comprende?, this fact shocked the infirm of mind. Critics' heads had been turned into Cottage Cheese by the big Seventies doldrums, to say they weren't ready is understatementamundo!
THE DICTATORS GO GIRL CRAZY consists of nine songs, seven of which have become legend. T'was here that 'CALIFORNIA SUN' was committed to vinyl some 3 years before Joey and Co. laid waste to it. 'WEEKEND' is a heartstopping hymn to the guys favourite time of the week and then there's 'TWO TUB MAN'! Let's just say that Coca Cola for breakfast has since become mandatory. The Dictators declared rock'n'roll a sport.
This unique attitude coupled with a healthy dose of humour was totally inspirational and retains that quality to this day. Producers Sandy Pearlman and Murray Krugman had indeed pulled a dirty great chestnut outta the fire, who'da guessed it'd be sporting teeth? Bang the old needle down and believe. The WHITE CASTLE burger joint the team was snapped in for the inner bag went on to appear in SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER and has since been demolished. Just thought I'd slip that little trivia point in.
Drummer Stu Boy King had already gone by the time this wax hit the stores. The band's inability to support the album's release gigwise put them even further up the Swanee. Richie Teeter was drafted in as replacement and despite being the guy for the job, things had pretty much reached the crisis stage. On September 9th 1975 The Dictators played their final show at the Ms. All Bare America Pageant where they were literally booed offstage. From there, Scott and Ross went off to form a band with Helen Wheels, Adny continued to write and Richard (H.D.) Blum went back to live with his folks. The Dictators began to function as a unit again at the start of '76. Andy continued to supply material but didn't operate as a member. Enter Mark "The Animal" Mendoza, an evil lookin' side of a house who played even tougher than he looked.
The notorious Manitoba/Wayne County incident went down in March '76 and resulted in The Dictators being blacklisted by County's management who were responsible for booking acts into Max's Kansas City. There were also attempts to apply pressure to other club owners not to book the 'Tators. It was the staff of PUNK magazine who managed to convince Maggie (of Maggies Bar) to put them on in a new club called Zeppz. The place was filled past capacity and the bush telegraph went nuts. All of the venues had to bow to customer demand. Things began to look up and Adny was more or less blackmailed into rejoining. He was a little at odds with the more metal direction but decided to give it his best shot.
From there The Dictators toured with Blue Oyster Cult, Kiss, AC/DC and ZZ Top to name but a few. Despite the sound, the material didn't connect with The metalheads. The band signed to Asylum Records and a second album, MANIFEST DESTINY was let off the leash in 1977. Great as it was to have another Dictators record, something wasn't quite right. The songs were fine but the sound was too constructed. The production was heartless which meant the effect simply wasn't direct enough. The vital signs were intact though. Some 'fans' found the record uncomfortable but the reviews were generally positive. MANIFEST's poppier moments captured a Hollies-ish ambience, practically AOR give or take the odd twist.
Asylum UK attempted to punt the record as 'New Wave' and were partially successful. The band was mismatched with The Stranglers for a European tour. Despite the headliners not being fit to lick the 'tators sneakers. The band's version of 'SEARCH AND DESTROY' even made the lower reaches of the UK charts. In retrospect, having undertaken that set of dates THE DICTATORS garnered the impetus to react against the guidance that'd huckled them down the wrong path. Meanwhile Epic had reacted to the groundswell of interest in the band and GGC was released in Europe for the first time. Instead of recognising that The Dic's possessed a natural, original attitude, attempts to piggyback them with Brit Punk Rock almost certainly did more harm than good. It may even have cost them their much deserved platinum status that so many of their ex-tourmates would later achieve.
1978 saw the release of BLOODBROTHERS, named after a Richard Price novel. The title reflected the original gang persona of the group. Mark the Animal went off to join Twisted Sister when he became uncomfortable with the decision to pursue a purer rock n' roll based trail. This meant that Adny could switch back from keyboards to bass. A much tougher sound than its predecessor, BLOODBROTHERS was recorded pretty much live apart from a few guitar overdubs. It also boasted a guest appearance by one Bruce Springsteen who delivered the count in to 'FASTER AND LOUDER.'
BLOODBROTHERS was a hearty return to form. Reinforcing the teen spirit, tongues firmly in cheeks and heart punch intact. The 'tators' management' was steering the band up a few blind alleys. Constricting morale but they couldn't extinguish the flame that fired these guys. DICTATORS FOREVER, FOREVER DICTATORS was the battlecry. They backed their gang credo right to the bitter end, it wasn't for lack of effort that the band didn't connect on a mass level. Myself, I reckon that the DICTATORS were just a tad too real for crossover consumption. Asylum didn't pick up the option on the deal and they were dropped. THE DICTATORS had the urge but Joe Public didn't pay. All the more sad because the group chemistry had fermented into the ultimate brew, SHERNOFF/MANITOBA/KEMPNER/TEETER and ROSS THE BOSS. Catch this sucker head on and believe.
From there the guys went their separate ways. ADNY and SCOTT attempted to form a combo called THE RHYTHM DUKES. They took out an ad in KICKS magazine that went "Cool Cats Lookin' For A Kitty" in a bid to enlist the services of a female singer but The Dukes were fated not to find their duchess and that was that. MANITOBA recorded a two song demo as LONESOME DICK which included a version of AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL complete with KISS ALIVE type crowd noise. I tell ya, the rabble have never been so roused. Clarence Clemons of the E Street Band dropped by to add some sax to "TOO MUCH FUN." ROSS ended up in Manowar via Shakin' Street, a French band with one great LP on Epic that was plundered by THE HITMEN for their TORA TORA TORA DTK set. Richie Teeter's VHF were cool too but came to nowt. He has a voice to match his tub skills and ALMOST joined TWISTED SISTER. Scott Kempner's Night Train mutated into THE DEL LORDS who are just about due for mega-recognition. Like any minute...
Despite all this, THE DICTATORS STORY is far from over. These guys had forged a bond that no mere public indifference could put asunder and many a reunion show has taken place since the split. One of these was released by NY based cassette label ROIR under the masthead of "FUCK 'EM IF THEY CAN'T TAKE A JOKE" which sells consistently to this day. During all this Adny began to break in a band called THE BELAIRES who gigged around the East Coast before fizzling out.
On January 21st 1986, THE DICTATORS played The Ritz in New York and brought the fucking house down. The joint was jumping and the 'TATORS summoned an almost superhuman electricity for one final roll of the thunder. Mark The Animal dropped by, ripe from a Twisted Sister show uptown at Radio City. Everything just seemed to fall into place and from the majestic opening crash into "MASTER RACE ROCK" THE DICTATORS delivered beyond all possible anticipation. This was the ultimate Saturday, and there's a video to prove it.
So now, even tho' the band is long gone the legend just grows and grows. It'll take more than a gasoline shortage to stop it too. These guys took rock'n'roll into the wrestling ring and gave it a right royal seeing to. So called Punks deemed THE DICTATORS too metal while the Metal Meatheads whinged that the band was too Punky. In essence, THE DICTATORS were beyond such paltry pigeonholing -- Those of us gathered here know that full well. It's time the message went overground. Despite the fact that bear a big fat grudge against the world for its failure to make THE DICTATORS bigger than AC/DC, there is one last chance coming up for you to redeem yo'self. Y'know, like testify.
Messrs MANITOBA and SHERNOFF are toting a combo called WILD KINGDOM. Ross The Boss has quit Manowaargh and formed a group called The Pack but has also pitched in on the W.K. record due any minute, maybe even by the time you clock this on 415/Columbia. Manitoba is built for speed these days and sports a facial growth that gives him a satanic dignity. This squad is the last word in Teen Metal Speedcore. Faster and Louder than anybody -- I don't care who you bring on daddy ... Get the drift? Awesome. Pure and Simple. Y'can almost taste the horsepower. The band originals are one thing but WK pepper their set with a few DICTATORS chasers just to make the flavour complete. Completists should be aware of the fact that Sweden's one and only NOMADS unearthed the unreleased 'Tators classic 16 FOREVER and furthermore that there's a band in Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK sporting that moniker and hammering out some prime cut anthems including the mighty STAY WITH ME All of this is grist to the DICTATORS mill. Andy has a couple of songs on THE RAMONES 'BRAIN DRAIN' record as a prelude to the Sure Enough Tunes to be sported on the WILD KINGDOM debut. Can't Effin' wait...
However, I digress -- this here chunk of wax isn't something that a person oughtta theorise over or try to construct some phoney dissertation about. These prime punk ribs simply make up the finest rock'n'roll record that I've ever had the pleasure to bear the scars of. And probably will always be. THE DICTATORS GO GIRL CRAZY is wall to wall gung ho great. Accept no substitute.
The Next Big Thing
March 2000 - It's funny going over this. When Bruce Milne picked this up for reissue practically no-one cared about The Dictators. This release was instrumental in spreading the gospel and could well have been pivotal in the status the band has now. Against all odds the band is better now than it ever was. The legend is intact and the next chapter is being written as you ponder this.