Underground punk legends haven’t toured since 1991
Often known as the greatest band that nobody ever knew, The Acid Cats, fronted by guitarist Spike Dugan, have resurfaced and will kick off their 25-city tour in Rockford, Sunday, Feb. 18, at the Irish Rose Saloon.
Those who recall the punk craze of the 1970s and 80s remember bands such as Velvet Underground, Sex Pistols, The Vibrators and the Ramones. However, The Acid Cats, which were heavily influenced by what was going on at punk clubs like CBGB and The Whisky a GoGo, exited the scene before, according to some, they even appeared on it.
The band began in 1977 when Dugan and drummer J.R. Stenchy Clam began recording three-chord songs and circulated the tapes among friends at parties. From there, they recruited bassist Don Not That Kind of Kid Bionxx and hit the road, opening for anyone who would let them share the stage.
According to Dugan, who hasnt made a public appearance since 1991, the trio’s early days in New York were anything but glamorous.
”We had a bunch of different jobs just to pay the rent on the apartment we shared above a pet store,” he said. ”I learned how to groom cats during the day, Stench sold his artwork at nursing homes, and Don taught music to members of the police department. All of our music money went to buy gas for our van.”
In 1980, their first album, recorded in a condemned wing of a hospital, sold more than 30,000 copies, but failed to attract record label attention. Simply titled Dope, it included the popular singles ”Recycled Corn” and “My Half-Sister, My Sweetheart.”
1984s Sharpen Your Spoons! Were breaking out tonight found its way to Los Angeles producer Ham Jammer, who claimed to be a writer for Cheech and Chong. With Jammers help, The Acid Cats signed a development contract with now-defunct Long Records and were required to re-mix all 11 tracks for the Sharpen project. A court battle ensued shortly after.
Upon the records release, it was discovered Ham Jammer had no prior affiliation with Cheech and Chong, and posed next to cardboard cut-outs of the comedy duo for photographs to make the relationship appear legitimate.
Despite his misrepresentation, Jammer sued for songwriting royalties, claiming he penned the material for Sharpen Your Spoons!. The producer surprisingly won the case after the bands attorney failed to appear in court on its behalf.
Throughout the rest of the 80s, The Acid Cats released dozens of underground recordings, earned thousands of new followers, and in 1987 appeared to have finally made it. Under the impression they were opening for an international headliner at an outdoor festival, the band found itself playing for a crowd that was actually waiting in line to see a Broadway play.
Minutes into the first song, officials cut power and forced Dugan, Bionxx and Clam off the property. Bad directions led them to the wrong location, as their timeslot came and went just miles down the street.
Even as mishaps and blunders continued to hamper the bands commercial success, The Acid Cats were able to deliver dozens of acclaimed independent albums, such as Crumb Bumbs from Planet Yeast and Full Servix Garage.
During a break in Michigans Upper Peninsula in 1991, Dugan and company were invited to appear on a talk radio show to promote upcoming tour dates. To their surprise, they were met with a whirlwind of insults.
The show’s host referred to The Acid Cats as ”regurgitators of everything music teachers want our kids not to learn,” resulting in 15 canceled shows and the band’s demise.
In 1992, Stenchy Clam received a 10-year prison sentence for attempting to pass skunk pelts off as exotic furs. Bionxx became a potato farmer, and Spike Dugan disappeared and was presumed dead until last month when he made a late-night phone call to a former girlfriend.
Stenchy Clam, who has relatives in Winnebago County, says the bands new CD, Psychedelic Rollerblade Ride, has sold about 8,000 copies in the Pacific Northwest and is more than a comeback effort.
Clam said: ”The CD has 10 new tunes. Theyre new to fans, but we wrote most of them years ago but never recorded them. And it makes sense for us to take whats been on the shelf and dust it off.”
To Bionxx, playing Rockford is a chance to fulfill a childhood dream. The bassist has been a Cheap Trick fan since the late 70s.
“I used to skip school to go home and listen to Cheap Trick records when my parents were at work, ” Bionxx said. ”I wanted to be Rick, Bun E., Robin and Tom all in one. And I think the scene, especially Rockford, owes much of what it is to Cheap Trick.”
From Rockford, The Acid Cats will make stops in Chicago, Detroit, Boston and Washington, D.C., before ending the tour in Texas.
The JH Trio will take the stage at 8:30 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 18. The Acid Cats will start at 9:45 p.m. Cost is $3. The Irish Rose is at 519 E. State St. in Rockford. The club can be reached at 964-0480 and found online at www.irishrosesaloon.net. Information about Spike Dugan and The Acid Cats is at www.myspace.com/spikedugan.
From the Feb. 14-20, 2007, issue