The place was named Phranks N Steins. We were too young to ever attend the rock shows Rick Champion soon started featuring there. Heck, we didn’t even know where the place was. Somewhere out on West End? But the legend is that this event kick started a post 1978 Nashville rock and roll revolution. This is where this survey of Nashville’s rock and roll past begins.
Wally Bangs – I called up good friend and once local Middle Tennesse resident Dr. DD Blank and asked him to come up with a list of 20 great Nashville music artists of the last 27 years. I was to do the same. I would then combine the lists with commentary from both of us. That gave us way more than 20 on the list though it is far from including every great local rock and roll act from this time frame. Whether you’re from Nash Vegas or not let us know what you think we’ve missed. Enjoy.
Nashville20+ Part One of a four part series
DD: Jason and the Nashville Scorchers - What a great band that had a string of great releases and in many ways heralded this alternative country movement 15 years before it really became popular. They were the best country band to ROCK the city in ages. No countrypolitan sound from them.
Wally: Jason and the Nashville Scorchers - Live they were incendiary, even when they were borrowing equipment to play at a Cat’s Records Last Chance Dance where they became the darlings of the Nashville Art Posse. Their first EP’s and full length Lost and Found justified the hype and while I can forgive them for dropping Nashville from their name, I could never forgive Still Standing, their Tom Werman over produced 2nd full-length release. My best memory of them was seeing their show in 1986 at Vanderbilt’s Rites of Spring. There were drunks everywhere, even climbing the trees and the country punk was so ferocious that day, the music would even outlast the hangovers. One of the big parts of their success was Jack Emerson’s faith in them. Go here to read the story about Praxis Recordings and the tribute to Jack who passed away in 2003.
BEST YEARS: 1982-1986
Wally: The Dusters - I had never heard a note of their music when they hit the stage at one of the last great free Summer Lights concerts and immediately disliked their image. It seemed like they were going for the Scorchers country punk look. Then they started to play their roadhouse blues and I forgot about their image. We were all “Red, Hot, and Ready to Roll” that summer. They were Reptile Records finest recording artists. Ken McMahan, the guitarist extraordinaire almost disappeared in Cookeville, but last I heard he’s back in Nashville so go see him if you get the chance.
DD: The Dusters - Who can forget that Summer Lights performance when their playing literally burned up the monitors? “Red Hot and Ready to Roll” indeed. Brought energy to the blues in a way not dissimilar from what Jason &The Nashville Scorchers did for country.
BEST YEARS: 1986-1988
DD: Practical Stylists - They seemed to dismiss the “mod” moniker. However, it fit. They were a power pop band with the same influences as the Jam and were probably equally influenced by the Jam. Sounds good to me and it still does sound good every time I pull out their singles.
Wally: Practical Stylists - This trio looked good in their suits and played “New Wave” guitar rock when few were trying their luck with that style. I’ve got that same single on Pyramid records. “General Beat” is pretty nifty. I wish they would have played at my high school. Here’s what Nashville Intelligence Report’s Andy Anderson had to say about them back in the day –
General Beat / My Bed-- Superb, sensational, excellent, amazing, breath-taking, energetic, danceable, riveting -- I could get out my thesaurus and go on and on. Nashville's premier pop band has done it again. "General Beat" is a great rave-up that shows off this band's considerable talents. Scott's voice is in fine form as his bass and Jim's drumming propel the band onward and upward; David's guitar comes through loud and clear to punctuate the melody. The flip, "My Bed", is a bit more deliberate and studied, but maintains the energy we've come to expect from the band. Snappy packaging and a fab pic of the guys make this a must have. If there was any justice in the music business, Practical Stylists would already be signed to a major label and this single would be climbing the charts, but for now I guess they'll have to content themselves with the praises of their many fans until the record company executives realize they've got the next big thing right here under their noses. Let's hope that's not too long. ~~ Andy Anderson, Nashville Intelligence Report, September, 1983.
Wally: Forever Ungratical Corinaric Technikalation - Or simply F.U.C.T. They were Nashville’s hardest working hardcore punk band in the late 80’s and early 90’s. If they weren’t playing, their singer was out handing flyers to upcoming shows. Ramones, Bad Brains, Danzig, Fugazi, Helmet, Melvins, sheesh I saw the dude at every one of these shows. I’ve probably still got some F.U.C.T. handbills in a dresser drawer somewhere. Musically, it was crude teenage crap, but I loved the song where the singer screamed, “Quaff!” at the top of his lungs. They were at the top of the heap of a fertile Nashville hardcore scene.
DD: Forever Ungratical Corinaric Technikalation - I took my 12-year-old brother to a 91 Rock all night benefit at the Cannery back in the late 80's. This hardcore band played early on in the night, probably since their core audience wasn't much older than my brother. However, I remember him standing there in amazement. Tom
had never seen anything like it, but he was drawn to it. The best part of this story is how when he went to school the next week he wore the commemorative t-shirt tucked in tight so that his teachers wouldn't see the name of the band on the back and send him home.
BEST YEARS: early 90’s
BEST YEARS: 1982-1983
DD: Questionnaires - I bought their major label debut and was disappointed. No “Boomtown” and no Smyrna ode “Slug City.” However, it did have a cover of the Flaming Groovies “Teenage Head.” They were a cool band with cooler demos. Every interview with Tom Littlefield revved me up for a week. He must have been a great rock and roller.
Wally: Questionnaires - Their major label releases are overproduced and pathetic. Some good tunes get buried in the usual failed attempts at the hit parade. If anybody has in possession a copy of “Slug City” send it my way. Tom Littlefield turned me onto the Flamin’ Groovies. That’s enough.
BEST YEARS: pre major label 1985-1986
Wally: Dave Cloud - The Springwater dive’s favorite son, Dave Cloud, is said to be an uplifting shock to the system on a good night or a bad drunken pornographic poet the next. He’s like a magic eight ball; you never know what you’ll get. He’s a demented genius who came into his own about eight years ago and he’s accumulated a cult following since. He’s put some CD’s that are well worth purchasing.
DD: Dave Cloud - I have never heard or seen this Springwater mainstay, so I
really probably shouldn't be telling you about him. Yet, Jack front man Andrew once told me that this guy put on the most amazing experience that he as ever
seen. Everyone at the Nashville Scene says that he is a city treasure. Who am I to argue?
BEST YEARS: 1999-present
Wally: Cloverbottom - One the original wave of Nashville “punk” bands whose legend stretched to the late 80’s. I never got to see them play live (the shows are rumored to have been wild affairs) and barely heard a few tunes over the static airwaves. I do have a cut by them called “Battery” on a Praxis 45 ep titled Never In Nashville. The song is pretty traditional hard rock that’s off kilter just enough to pass for punk. “Are you a Duracell?” They helped pave the way for Nashville’s indie scene and for that alone they deserve props.
DD: Cloverbottom - The granddaddy of them all. I only ever heard of these guys. I wish that I had seen them. They helped create a positive rock attitude in Nashville. You have to love a band that is named after a local Nashville asylum.
BEST YEARS: 1980?
Next part to probably appear next week.
This post was originally placed at the White Animals messageboard over two years ago. It has been revised.