Saturday, January 11, 2020

The Quick - Mondo Deco Expanded Edition

I have, of course, been aware of the Quick and their influence on the early LA punk/new wave/power pop scene, but, other than a song or two here'n'there, I had never heard their full album. This Xmas gift (thanks Mel!) finally rectifies that and I have learned 2 major lessons - the Quick were huge Sparks fans (Sparks guitarist Earle Mankey even produced them!) and LA fave Celebrity Skin based almost their entire act on this band (not a bad thing in any way - I loved Celebrity Skin and am, if anything, more impressed by them with this revelation!), and Redd Kross' and The Dickies' power pop hits are highly influenced by them, as well, and both have covered the Quick, as did CS, of course.

Hooking up with Kim Fowley turned out to be both a blessing and a curse (as was often the case with Fowley) - he got them a record deal with Mercury (as he did with the Runaways) but when they dared to ignore his demands in the studio, he promptly ignored them, concentrated on the Runaways, and let them flounder, leaving the record to essentially go nowhere.

Now, whether or not early-to-mid 70's masses would appreciate their Sparks-like quirkiness is up for speculation (although I think, if anything, these cats might be more commercial than Sparks, but that's kinda hard to say), but it is a shame that this record was buried for so long. This CD release has the Mondo Deco album as well as the Mercury Demos (many of the same songs but a couple of surprises) and an unreleased outtake of their song "Anybody".

The album features a very Sparks-like take on the Beatles' "It Won't Be Long" (with a touch of the "William Tell Overture" just for kicks), followed by a self-admitted variation on the 1877 piano waltz "Chopsticks" (who knew they were so classically oriented?) titled "No No Girl" (a little "nah-nah-nah-nah-nah" on the guitar), they also admit to the Kimono My House influences in "Playtime", "Hillary" (a shame that Clinton didn't use this during her campaign) has more of the quirky rhythm section starts'n'stops with plenty of melodies'n'harmonies riding over the top of it all, and the supremely catchy "Anybody" (damn, who covered this one? I don't remember) with its super-live, ringing, trash-can-ish, driving drums and simple, sing-along chorus backed with power chorded guitars galore and a wildly noisy ending.

"Hi-Lo" is a piano-dominated semi-ballad, a bit reminiscent of Sparks version of "Do Re Mi", to me, at least! Interesting production, though, with some backwards tracking and harmonic interplay, which leads into their take on "Rag Doll", of all things, with more production tricks and a nod to Nazareth, oddly enough, with Brian May-like guitar work and nice rhythmic backings. With "Last In Line" they get a bit abrasive in their chord progressions while still maintaining the poppy edge, while their "My Purgatory Years" is the record's "anthem" - practically a teenage opera - their mix of the Who, the Move and Sparks. But, "Don't You Want It" is really more memorable and was their show-stopper, complete with incongruous props, which was turned against them by Starz fans at the Santa Monica Civic, per the liner notes!

The Mercury demos has somewhat different takes on "No No Girl" (a bit rawer with a edgier middle break), the non-LP "Teacher's Pet", which they say the fans liked more than they did, but I'm with the fans on this one - this is a great tune and a self described mix of the Nice and the Who! "Hi-Lo", "Hillary", "Rag Doll", "My Purgatory Years", "It Won't Be Long" all follow and then they channel Marlene Dietrich for the great non-LP number "Heaven on Earth" and then an amazing snippet of "Born Free" (!!) before one more run through of "Don't You Want It" and "Anybody".

The group consisted of Billy Bizeau on keys (the last to join but pretty damn indispensable, if you ask me), Steven Hufsteter on guitar, Danny Wilde vocals, Ian Ainsworth bass and Danny Benair drums, many of whom who continue to make a name for themselves in the LA scene in one form or another. A truly fantastic, relatively unsung (despite the cover versions) piece of Hollywood History. Get this!