Dictators: No Bronx Cheers Here!

By Paul Goldberg
Oct-Nov 1978

Throughout the years, the Bronx cheer was the borough equivalent of the universal raspberry, a strange noise made with the tongue, while thumbing your nose at the victim. Being from the Bronx myself, and residing there for twenty-six years before being born again in North Hollywood, my Bronx cheer is different. I take it for its literal meaning and use it to salute my fellow Bronxites and good friends, the Dictators and their third album, Bloodbrothers.

Bloodbrothers is the album Dictators fans have been waiting for. It has combined the humor and great music of Go Girl Crazy with the accessibility of Manifest Destiny, with eight new songs that are absolutely devastating. Beginning with "Faster and Louder" (actually the title is from a Sic F*cks song with a completely different lyric) and ending with the only cover on the album, the Flamin' Groovies "Slow Death," the Dictators never stop the intensity of the music. Translation: No ballads.

"Faster and Louder" offers Bruce Springsteen counting off 1-2-3-4 preceeeeding the final verse. Springsteen is a great friend of the group and they are great fans of his, so it was only logical with him recording in the next studio to appear on the album. "Baby Let's Twist" features some great Adny Shernoff lines: "She's got red lips, red lips/She's got blood on her fingertips/But they ain't the kind you wanna kiss." The "Baby Let's Twist" chorus is pure pop for now people and heartening as well since I have been calling for a return to the Twist for the past year in an attempt to stem the tide of the alien pogo. "No Tomorrow" and "Minnesota Strip" are both great rockers in the usual Dictators style, the later being Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway East coast style, with the riff copped from a 'Tators unreleased classic, "For Pete's Sake," originally a tribute to Shernoff's hero, Pete Townshend.

Upon hearing "Stay" for the first time, this seemed to be the obvious choice for the single release from the album. As great a song as it is, the second side opens with the planned 45, and "I Stand Tall" is the finest song the Dictators have ever done. It is about the group's European tour, which included an ugly, frightening experience in Germany and made the group aware of how great America really is in comparison to the countries overseas. I have listened to the song over and over and still get chills everytime I hear it. With pounding drums and bass setting the tone, the chorus is shouted out in unrelenting fashion. "I stand tall/I stand proud of what I am." This is encompassed by only-in-America dreams such as "I get a thrill when I flick on my TV/Faithful every night/I'm so proud to say/I was born and raised/Here where the streets are paved/Here in the USA," with the addition of "Lots of pizza, ice cold Cokes/Johnny Carson telling jokes/And lots and lots of American good good girls." This song is truly anthemic and is the logical extension of "Two Tub Man," the latter a more individual tribute and the former more of a group statement and concept. I can envision crowds rising and singing the chorus as H.D. Manitoba implores at the finish of the song. "I Stand Tall" is an absolute classic.

Following "I Stand Tall" is "Borneo Jimmy," a tribute to their spiritual leader and mentor, and if you're a fan of the group you'll know who it is. "What It Is" was co-written by Shernoff and Top Ten and it's the 'Tators Negro song. Just go to New York for a day and you won't fail to hear the phrase. You could call this track the Dictators go funk crazy. The album finale is "Slow Death," a brilliant cover of the Flamin' Groovies song and if memory serves me right, the first time any Groovies song has been covered. As good as it is on the album, when done live it is a punch in the gut song and the perfect ending to a perfect album.

I've gone on at great length about the album due to it being the best music to come out in 1978, at least in my opinion. Top Ten and Ross the Boss have never sounded better and the Boss seems to have finally achieved the technical perfection that was occasionally not in evidence on the previous works. Richie Teeter continues to be the backbone of the group with his consummate drumming and I believe the "whatever happened to Stu-Boy King" question will never be brought up again. The amicable dismissal of Mark Mendoza from the group has freed Shernoff from keyboards, putting him back on bass where he belongs. This was the best and most important decision the band has made since the debut album. The album is more guitar-oriented and this allows for the gruff vocals of Handsome Dick Manitoba, singing lead on all nine songs. Although no surprise to me, he can really sing. No more jokes or smirks when he vocalizes. He is a lead singer at last.

The proudest part of the album is the title and cover. The title comes from Richard Price's novel of the same name. Price lived across the street from me in a housing project called Parkside, where his first novel, The Wanderers, was set. The covershot of the album is taken on the basketball court of Parkside, where Manitoba, Top Ten and I played, Sometimes against each other, before we knew each other. It is good to see the old neighborhood again. The last time I played Top Ten, it was he and Richie Glazier against Gary Pallens and me. Gary and I won 25-23. Just call me if you want a rematch, T.T. You got my number.

As a final note, if anyone is interested, the Dictators now have a fan club. For details write to DFFD, (Dictators Forever, Forever Dictators) at PO Box 572, Canal Street Station, New York, NY 10013. Eve and Jan will be happy to tell you about it.