Dick Dodd, the Standells singer and drummer whose magnificently defiant, sneering vocals continue to echo around the world, succumbed to cancer Friday night at age 68. Dodd's was one of Los Angeles rock & roll's most definitive, profoundly influential voices and the raw, psychic power he injected into every song rank him alongside such contemporary provocateurs as Sky Saxon and Arthur Lee.
Born in Hermosa Beach, Dodd was one of the original Mickey Mouse Club mousketeers–he bought his first snare drum from Annette Funicello, but got a pink slip at age 11. He next signed on as one of singer Giselle Mackenzie's “Curfew Kids,” performing on her NBC variety TV show and on stages in Vegas, Tahoe and Reno.
Dodd may have been a successful child actor but he was no square; by 17, he was already a veteran rock & roller, drumming with surf bands the Bel Airs (that's Dodd keeping the beat on “Mr. Moto”) and Eddie & the Showmen until he left the OC surf scene for darkest Hollywood, where he worked as, among others things, singer Jackie DeShannon's drummer.
“I was doing all the demo sessions with Glen Campbell, James Burton, and the Wrecking Crew,” Dodd told us in April, during the last interview he gave. “It was amazing — the first guys I ever saw with long hair were Jack Nitzsche, Sonny Bono and Phil Spector. I backed up Sonny and Cher when they were Caesar and Cleo, and doing all this studio stuff and making good money, but I wanted to be in a band.”
“Jackie heard that the Standells were losing their drummer, so I auditioned for them and they just handed me five suits: 'We wear the black ones on Monday the blue ones on Wednesday.' That was it.”
The group had a sit-down gig at PJs (later the Starwood) and Dodd, at DeShannon's urging, began taking more and more lead vocals. He quickly shifted the crowd's focus onto the drum riser, as he transmogrified the Standells from a standard issue go-go dance band to a far more intense, modern rock beast.
“I had this bad 'tude,” Dodd said. “I was 19, punkin' around, surfing, and just fed up with suits and the people who wore them.”
Best known for the greasy, horny 1966 hit “Dirty Water,” Dodd's evocative snarl was a revelatory call to cultural arms, one that owed little to either the flower power or Mersey Beat movements. Exemplified by the Standells' unconventional, much-covered track “Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White,” Dodd proposed a nuanced revolution, one fueled by equal measures of lysergic abandon and an unusual youthful pragmatism.
But it all fizzled; in 1968 he split the Standells for a DOA solo career and would later re-emerge only sporadically, despite the fact that his recordings laid a significant part of the foundation upon which the subsequent punk rock and garage revival outbreaks raged. Sometimes the Standells took him back, other times he'd gig with his Dodd Squad band. He was happy and ready to rock right up until his recent stage four cancer diagnoses. As he put it, “The music is everything.”
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