Included among the first wave of LA's punk rockers, the label "techno-punk" was applied to the band by the Los Angeles Times in 1978. The Screamers are widely cited as the pioneers of a genre now known as "synthpunk," and might also be classified as art punk. The Screamers were notable for their unusual instrumentation, featuring electric piano and synthesizer, while omitting guitars. Additional musicians, including violinists and a female vocalist, were occasionally incorporated into their performances.
The group featured a highly developed theatrical presentation that centered around a manic lead vocalist, Tomata du Plenty, whose stage persona one early commentator described as "a psychotic Mickey Rooney."
Though they developed a substantial following and generated considerable press coverage, the Screamers never released a record. In the Don Letts-directed documentary Punk: Attitude (2005) singer Jello Biafra of Dead Kennedys cited the Screamers as a key influence on his group, and as one of the great unrecorded groups in rock history, sentiment echoed by Brendan Mullen, who ran the punk club The Masque.
In early 1977, after legal threats from the Tupperware trademark owners, Gear and du Plenty changed their band's name to the Screamers. At about the same time, the two migrated to Los Angeles, leaving the other band members behind. In LA, they added David Brown (who largely shaped their characteristic drums-synthesizer-electric piano sound) and drummer K. K. Barrett. Brown soon left to found the seminal punk label Dangerhouse Records; he was replaced by Paul Roessler.
The Screamers created a visual presence in the press before they ever played live. Studio photos of the band—their hair greased into spikes, Tomata's rubbery face contorted by turns into a demonic grin or a mask of anguish—began to appear in magazines even before a full band had been assembled. Artist Gary Panter's logo for the band, a stylized cartoon of a screaming head with spiked hair, became one of the most recognizable images to emerge from punk rock.
From 1977 through 1979, the Screamers became a sensation in Los Angeles rock clubs, selling out multiple-night engagements at the Whisky a Go Go. They were the first band without a recording contract ever permitted to headline at the prestigious Roxy on Sunset Boulevard. Their performances highlighted extreme psychological states, and their lyrics veered between jocular engagement with pop culture ("I'm Going Steady With Twiggy") and quasi-fascist commands to the citizens of the future ("Punish or Be Damned," "In a Better World, Everybody Must Be Made to Feel Important"). The music combined pop melodies, droning synthesizer, propulsive drumming, and vocals that were literally screamed.
Describing a July, 1979, performance, music critic Robert Hilburn of the Los Angeles Times focused on "Du Plenty's extraordinary power on stage." According to Hilburn, "Du Plenty's hair was greased to stand straight up, giving him the look of a man who had just stuck his finger into an electric socket. His performance reflected the nervous, relentless anxiety of someone whose troubles are even deeper... By the end of the 40-minute set, du Plenty has gone through the same disintegration of the human will that we associate with such books as 1984. Eventually, the tuxedo jacket, shirt and tie are ripped off, leaving him symbolically naked in his attempt to maintain some dignity and individuality. As if suddenly put in another man's body, he asks in horror: 'Who am I?'
Remarkably, the Screamers made no records. (Several bootleg recordings have since appeared, comprised of rehearsals or live recordings.) At one point, the group determined they would release their debut album only in video form (this was a very unusual appraoach at the time, before MTV existed), and they devoted time and resources to constructing a small movie studio. Despite some fitful efforts in the early 80s, the band had effectively dissolved before their video plans were realized. Roessler joined L.A.'s other "synthpunk" band, Nervous Gender. The other band members pursued non-musical careers, though Barrett reunited with Roessler to perform several Screamers songs in 2000, in tribute to Tomata du Plenty, who had recently died in San Francisco.
Football: FREDDIE AND THE SCREAMERS; EURO 2004 GROUP 5, QUALIFIER: GERMANY V SCOTLAND, WESTFALEN 7.45 Bobic: Scots Will Crumble without the Tartan Army That Won Hampden Point
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