Fleshtone, Assemble! Fleshtones, Baby, Hit it!

The great loves of your life define you. What you are exists in reaction to them, is defined by them. God. America. People, friends, spouses, children, parents — ideals, art, books, what have you. And somehow they all hang together even if you are the only person on the earth who embodies that particular configuration.

Rock’n’roll –You either get it, or you don’t. I used to think that if someone didn’t get it, that was a moral failing. That is the attitude of an adolescent who gets it. Of the people who have contributed to this blog I know that me, Mitch, Captain Mojo and Carl Ortona get it, for example. But I can still be pals with the rest of ’em. I just cannot have certain conversations with them and make myself understood. This love affair with Miss Rock’n’Roll is more or less ardent, and those of us smitten by her all have our memories of great moments with her, and some foolish escapades, and some regrettable behavior.

The most ardent of her devotees? I will tell you, without question or cavil, without doubt: It is the Fleshtones. They have been at it for more than 30 years. They put on the best live show I have ever seen. They invented Super Rock. Their hearts are in the right place. They make you dance, they make you laugh, they make you sing along. They are survivors, they are relentless, they are visionaries who have clung to their vision like the knights of old growing grey on a ceaseless quest. If you already know and love the Fleshtones, you are already smiling. If you don’t, I can only say, go see them when they come through town. Their records and their videos cannot capture their greatness, as good as they are (There are some here). You have to be in the room.

I just finished a biography of the band, called Sweat: The Story of the Fleshtones, America’s Garage Band. I would have given this book 873 stars, but they only let me give it five. Me? I live to read. I lust for the book that I cannot bear to put down. That is what I like, that is what I look for. This is one of those books. A love letter, a labor of love, and a gripping read about people who have brought nothing but happiness to thousands of people for a long, long time. It helps to already have spent some time living in total intoxication of the Fleshtones, of course, but it is a brilliant book no matter what.

8 thoughts on “Fleshtone, Assemble! Fleshtones, Baby, Hit it!”

  1. They must not be big eaters if they’re living on the proceeds of their musical ventures. Great band, but I had no idea they were still around.

  2. i was smiling because i can remember how much happiness they have brought … one show at a time. and they always deliver as the best … can’t wait for the gig in NYC with the Sonics. just had to add something to this thread. is it wrong to wonder about something that makes you happy everytime you think about them … (a la George Costanza). freedom takes many forms; god bless them.


  3. Lex,

    ‘Pretty skinny for a bunch of old guys’ is exactly right. The guitarist is like a human blade, all skin, bones and angles. And, ‘the best live act I’ve ever seen’. No kidding.

    I saw them a few years ago on the recommendation of a very, very knowledgeable music fan[atic], who described them in your very words. They came to the Ottawa Blues Fest, I got liquored up, and saw them do their thing on a small stage well away from the main action.

    I’d never seen anything like it. Total commitment, endless energy, and man, they had that place hopping and moshing and making general mayhem like no band I’d ever seen. When the guitarist plunged into the crowd and drew us all down into a deep crouch and had us hulk around, arms spread wide, grunting and moaning, I was in heaven.

    I was absolutely drawn into what they were doing, and now, whenever I hear the name “Fleshtones”, I say simply, “Best live band I’ve ever seen.”

    ‘Cause they just plain are.

  4. Patrick, that sounds about right. I remember seeing them at the Cubby Bear in 1985 (I think). They did the thing where the singer is saying “take it down, man. Take it way down …” They had the whole crowd crouching on the floor, silent, Peter Zaremba had put aside his microphone and was “singing” in a stage whisper, and you could hear the glasses clinking behind the bar. This from a packed crowd that had been roaring its lungs out three minutes previously. They had the crown in the palm of their hands. They have this kind of thing down to a science.

  5. Heh, that’s right, Lex. I was the only one grunting and moaning, actually. The rest of the crowd was silent. As for “hulking around”, I think that was me too.

    Remember, I was “all liquored up”. Yeah, that’s it.

  6. Runs in the family: My youngest brother was getting married and they had this utterly wiener wedding band playing wiener wedding band stuff. The bride, groom, best man, maid of honor, etc. got fed up and started moshing to “You Are the Sunshine of My Life.” The band got the hint.

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