Saturday, April 10, 2010

Flash Metal Suicide: Four Horsemen

Everything they did, really.

"It's a long way to the top if you wanna rock'n'roll..." - AC/DC 
"Nothing came easy, nothing came free, nothing came at all - until it came after me..." - Alice Cooper
I ain't gonna burn in hell-I cased the joint-I know it well..." - Rolling Stones
"We don't talk about love-We only want to get drunk..."  -Manic Street Preachers
"I don't know what's ahead-We don't talk of the dead..." - Billy Idol
"It's cold and it's raining, can't hurt me at all, as long as I can do what I want..." - Hanoi Rocks
"I used to reach for the stars but now I'm reformed..." - Only Ones 


His eminence, Thee Consummate & Often Alarming, SLEAZEGRINDER, is typically the only real diehard rock'n'roll motherfucker still bothering to frequently rave about the FOUR HORSEMEN. Many of our more tasteful rawk amigos still fondly embrace bands like Junkyard, Sea Hags, Cinderella, and Guns 'N' Roses, but few seem to recall the unassailably great rock'n'roll dynamos that were the immortal FOUR HORSEMEN, so I figured it was about
time for me to throw my lizardskin cowboy hat into the conversation. From 1988, the year I was supposed to graduate, when foxy suburbanite, Mickey McCrackin, sent a stretch limo to pick me and my dangerous guitarplayer up In the nasty part of town, to attend the ceremonies at the highschool I was chased out of, where I sat in the bleachers in-between the girl Who's Uncle had just expelled me from the downtown highschool, and the blonde, artistic, beauty who I've been besotten with from a young and tender age, present to give a card of Congratulations to the geek she ditched me for while I was in detention hall...'til 1992, the year I moved to the Yucca ghetto in the blackheart of Hollywood, the FOUR HORSEMEN were the greatest, low-down, kickass, gutter stompin', from the heart, badass, raunchy kingsnakes in the whole world.

Along with, maybe, the Cult, Guns 'N' Roses, Circus Of Power, Danzig, Dogs D'Amour, the Hangmen, Mother Love Bone, and the Love Reaction, the Whoresmen were probably the very best of the eighties Flash Metal Sleaze Kings. By Far. They mighta been "put together", Monkees-style, by KID CHAOS from the Love Reaction & Metal Guru, Rick Rubin's vicarious liver moneybags, but the monster rock excesses they delivered were indisputably
summa the finest bloody knuckled, southern rock influenced, British-bluesey, streetpunk I ever heard. All their brilliant songs just BLED recidivist hard-knocks ghetto life/urban fuckup authenticity. When yer down to yer last two dollar foodstamp and a broken menthol and can't decide how to spend it. The FOUR HORSEMEN were sorta like gangsta-rap for down'n' out, dirty whiteboy barbarians, lost in the city, with no place left to run. Every primadonna college poseur has their token Jewel/Beck I slept in my car story, but the Horsemen were for the crowd that were always sleepin in the back of YOUR car, cos they did not have their own.

FRANKIE C. STARR was the quintessential sleaze rock singer, equal parts W.Axl and Ronnie Van Zandt. A career criminal-in the words of all his closest friends, a mechanic, and a part-time spandexed hairband warbler,
previously a member of Alien, STARR lucked into the gig after whupping someone's arse in the parking lot of the Rainbow Bar & Grill. He had a killer set of pipes and totally smoked all them Dangerous Toys-Little
Caesar-Black Crowes-Sweet F.A.-Great White, putzy wanna-be bloozemen from the Sunset Strip glory days. Haggis had quit the CULT after helping make "Electric" to form his own hand-picked, Def-American financed, super rock bastards, and boy, did they ever succeed at the rock part. Haggis was an impeccably elegant English rake in the Ratboy, Gunfire Dance, and Thee
Hypnotics tradition ("A mercenary bastard", according to Zodiac Mindwarp, in Sleazegrinder's int) who always had an eagle's eye for the perfect hat,
the perfect coat, the most immaculately tailored leather trousers, but most importantly, for the always hard to find, best singer and drummer.

Frankie truly was one in a million. He was like David Allen Coe with a Jason McMaster/Axl Rose high-end screech and a Motorhead's road crew attitude.  A fun lovin' guy livin' out Kid Rock's wildest dreams--back when that dweeb still had his Kid N Play haircut. The FOUR HORSEMEN made videoes starring Kate Hudson as an eighties gothic dominatrix, back when HER current beau, the junkie brat from Baby Shambles, was still in nappies. Guitar players ALL think they're natural-born front-men nowadays, but you don't see nobody nowhere who had a tenth of what Frankie C. Starr had no more. Or drummer DIMWIT.

They were the untouchables.

Drummer DIMWIT (ne' Ken Montgomery) was a Canadian psychiatric ward orderly who looked like the Yeti, and had previously played in D.O.A. and the Skulls. He was the hardest-hitting, tightest, toughest drum mongrel,
this side of, well, actually, his own brother, Chuck Biscuits (Danzig, Social Distortion, Fear, Black Flag, etc.) Frankie died after spending three years in a coma after a hit and run incident on his motorcycle. He
was only goin' 25 mph. Dim's dead, too-people are real cryptic about whatever circumstances surrounded his drug overdose. It seems like half the scuzzy super heroes I've ever written about, or loved over the years, are
either long gone, or continuing to come to seemy ends. The Horsemen, Claude, Stiv, Razzle, Nikki Sudden, Thunders, the Ramones, Ant from Gunfire Dance, Hunter Thompson. Everyone I thought was cool is six feet underground. The world's profoundly diminished by their departure, and what makes me most uncomfortable is that there doesn't seem like there's gonna be anyone else comin' along anytime soon with the style, swagger, guts, soul, and bona fide good songs to fill in the gaping breach they've left behind. The reason you gotta own everything available by the FOUR HORSEMEN is because they really only made one album (like the Sex Pistols-and G'N'R, come to think of it) and their rarely seen videoes; available commercially for the first time, on this "Left For Dead" DVD, are among the very best made in that era. Or ever, really.

It's dirty, it's a pity, and time ain't exactly on our side, Inc.

In spite of their multiple appearances on Headbanger's Ball, some positive articles in Kerrang!, and various tours with Love/Hate, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and the Black Crowes, the FOUR HORSEMEN never really got nowhere, which is real crazy, because they were absolute genuine article, woke up on the crackhouse floor this morning thunderkings. With Hit Songs! Ian Astbury even sang beckground vocals and played tambourine on "Nobody Said It was Easy". I always say you can tell how badass somebody is sometimes by who's willing to actually show up to play a support-role, like when Bowie played piano in the shadows for Iggy Pop on that tour, or when Tex Diablo Perkins sang backing vocals for Nick Cave's "Let Love In".

If you don't own their debut l.p., you can hardly lay claim to being a whole hog Flash Metal Enthusiast. Mine's on cassette. I take it with me when I got to git. Sometimes, I keep it in the inside pocket of my silver leather jacket, just in case. When I ain't got a dime, and I still need to get a pack of deathsticks and a forty to numb the pain, Frankie C. still understands. I never got to hear the Haggis solo record, but he's got such a quirky speaking voice, I'd be intrigued, he's a brilliant songwriter, even if I've gathered it's a bit mushy from that Sleaze/Zodiac interview. Where are Dave Lizmi and Ben Pape these daze? C'mon boys, I'm lookin' for a band! We here at the SLEAZEGRINDER CRYSTAL-SHEEN CATHEDRAL & BRIMSTONE BARBQ PIT would love to hear more music from any FORMER HORSEMEN. I particularly would appreciate it if someone would be willing to donate a FOUR WHORESMEN t-shirt to the Pep Squad c/o Sleazegrinder World H.Q. Bands, please send yer ole pal Pepsi music and pins and stickers and t-shirts c/o Sleaze, cos I lost all my shit in the last move and I've got nothin' cool to wear. I'm still alive and well.


As usual, I arrived too late to witness much of the Motorcycle Boy/Four Horsemen/Ultras rock renaissance as seen by a lucky few at English Acid, etc. By the time a flame-haired stripper drove me into the general decay of L'oreal Land, it was pretty much over. The purple haired Zeros, Miniskirt Mob, Bentback Tulips, and Celebrity Skin were all that was left. I THOUGHT it was gonna continue to rock for awhile longer - I ran into Gary Sunshine my second day out there, he said CIRCUS OF POWER had all moved to El Lay, Tower Records had a big billboard for Faster Pussycat's "Whipped" painted on the side of the building, the Cocanut Teaszer hosted these sick, cattle call matinees constantly for the hairband fourthstringers - Rebel Rebel, Dawg Mafia, Queeney Blast Pop, Willow the Wisp, Astro-Punks, all that. It was last call for glam metal, N.W.A. and Alice In Chains were what the girls were listening to. All them slickass lame-o corporate rock hacks who tried to ransack all the Hanoi/Motley/Guns N Roses fallout money had really ruined rock for all of us, even me, your sleaze rock poster-child, I was retreating back to my teenage sixties psychedelic roots, cos I just could not suffer another fookin' Slaughter, Blue Murder, Bullet Boys, or Firehouse. The thing is, if you rolled all them awful Bon Jovi, Poison, Whitesnake, Warrant bands up together, they still never ROCKED even HALF as hard as the Four Horsemen.

Just witness their video for "Rockin' Is Ma Business" filmed by former David Lee Roth sidekick, Pete Angeles, out here on the very same streets on which I've starved - Hollywood Blvd., and the Venice Beach boardwalk. Songs like "Tired Wings", and "Nobody Said It Was Easy" were written and sung from a firsthand place of depth and soul that can't be faked by Mama's Boys in K-Mart AC/DC t-shirts. You had to have been there and suffered through it to know. Hard-times razor riffage with super catchy radio hooks. This is what Aerosmith lost the ability to sound like. Why weren't the FOUR HORSEMEN commercial giants? You never even read nothin' about why they brokeup.

Anyone with a cursory knowledge of these hardrockin' hellions already knows that Frank's repeated trips to the clanger kept delaying the recording and release of the album, but I can't recall ever hearing much about the circumstances of their breakup.

Haggis probably held most of the publishing, he was the songwriting genius and smirking businessman with the industry acumen. Regular readers of the Sleazegrinder Chronicles probably recall that in addition to Zodiac and the Cult, Haggis was even in GNR for five and a half minutes, while longhaired bassist, Ben Pape, was in Dork Grohl's pre-Nirvana band, Scream. They had Rubin's money behind 'em, just like Thee Hypnotics by the time that Chris Robinson produced 'em, so why didn't they get nowhere? It just makes no sense at all. After their dissolution, Frankie C. Starr formed another group with various members of Rough Cutt and Ozzy Osbourne's band called BONE ANGEL. Interestingly, the guitar hero of Frank's post-Horsemen group was none other than that other "mercenary bastard", JOHNNY 5 -guitar wanker-for-hire made famous first by that last decent David Lee Roth Band, and then, as Marilyn Manson's pursed-lipped token shredder. Supposedly, there are some unreleased demos of BONE ANGEL floatin' round out there, recorded before Frankie's motorcycle bang-up, and we can only appeal to the consciences of his old cohorts that they'll endeavor to share that stuff with the rest of Frankie's Freak Society because the sad truth is that for all the yakkin' we nostalgia-grinders do about Haggis and Co., there's just not enough HORSEMEN documented arcana, or fan memorabilia available out there in the E-BAY wilderness. There was a fan-site for a minute, but it flickered, and was gone. They only recorded sixteen songs, total. They came, they saw, they conquered, but nobody cares, nobody remembers, 'sides us last few, jaded old holdouts who just ain't impressed with Nashville Pussy, the Darkness, Towers Of London, or the Upper Crust. If the Backyard Babies, God Bless 'Em, or Hardcore Superstar, or Diamond Dogs ever moved me even half as much as Ben, Haggis, Frankie, Dave, and Dimwit you might be here reading an entirely different jag. Bands like the FOUR HORSEMEN are few and far between. Their "Left For Dead" DVD is one of the most important artifacts you'll likely ever read about in these esoteric testimonies. The band commentary feature is funnier than the NY DOLLS' Bob Gruen vid. My old band, the Original Suffering Bastards, while as notorious in some circles, were pale shadows of the Horsemen when it came to songs, in spite of whatever you mighta heard from Flipside Magazine's Designated Dale. I don't ever wanna bother joining another band again, unless they have the remote potential to build on the noble and true FOUR HORSEMEN tradition.


Meanwhile, me and the sentimental sentinels, and various Counts Of The Netherworld, are stockin' up on rations, Tripicoco, Yahoo, 'shine, flare guns, cassette tapes, 70's OUI, and CREEM, and MOJO, tiki torches, and other vital supplies here in the tower of song, waiting patiently for the next ones to arrive, and liberate us from all this vapid, formulaic, dogshit mediocre product rock, and genre slaves with no emotion, so beloved by our so-called former peers. It's been a tough decade and a half for the final
few blessed, dumb, purist ruffians and myself, and we'd be lost without the consecrated grooves of the early Cult, Mother Love Bone, Circus Of Power, and the Four Horsemen.

Major media war-machine brainwashing, fear-mongering, the advertising culture, and devoted worship of the dollar god are the only reasons I can figure for why people support all the worst bullshit in the world and shun, and ignore the rare, wild, soulful talents. What kinda fratboy prefers Hagar to Roth? Bush to Chomsky? Adams to Westerberg? Whitesnake and Dokken and Anthrax and Warrant to the FOUR HORSEMEN? No flashpots or balloon drops needed. They had Char-AZZ-MA! Why can't the true stars ever get anything released commercially, or promoted properly? There's ten jillion suckass pop/punk bands, but nobody's willing to lose money releasing music that matters deeply to an impoverished minority. So all we'll get's more Nephew Rock. That means somebody's fat show-biz uncle's footin' the bills. Emo goes math-metal. Emo goes goth. Emo goes glam. Emo goes black metal. Emo goe  country. The muppets of punk-Fraggle Rock. Corpsepainted Neil Sedakas in therapy.

Where are all the outlaw singers? Outlawed, banished, gone underground.

FRANKIE C. STARR & DIMWIT We salute you, brothers.

Dave, Haggis, and Ben, send us more rock, keep us up to date. Cheers to all
my faithful poet stars and forgotten rebels.


- Pepsi Sheen


Ry Crooder said...

Great post! Mostly the world at large doesn't like the real thing. Most people are so used to the simulated flavour of something, where it's almost like they get something like an artificial orange flavour. Remember that terrible McDonalds orange drink? Do they even carry that shit anymore?

Anyways, there was nothing orange about it. But people had an acquired taste for it, because it's mass marketed to the youth and it's a system where wrong becomes right. Right gets phased out, because it's no longer the popular choice or consensus, because the facsimile becomes cheaper and more effective to promote.

I think the line "rocking is my is good.....if business is good, then why am I broke?" sort of sums it up!

Ry Crooder said...

...i'd also thought of something for the first time last week, about why vanilla, as a flavour, is so popular. It's been one of the most enduring flavours in the history of food, yet there's nothing particularly great about it. It's something that I think that most people can settle on....the widest variety of people. Vanilla, as music, becomes way easier to's a bit of something to everyone, even if it's not alot of anything to anyone.

DGW said...

A great record, on which I once posted a much less detailed write-up (albeit with a Sleazegrinder reference thrown in for further info!).

sirlordford said...

Great piece. Don't forget Alabama Thunder Pussy's version of Rockin'.
Dave Lizmi is still out and about in Maryland and has plenty of good stories.

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