Lisa Kekaula: Many years ago a friend of mine said of my record collection, “you have a little of everything and all of Fishbone.” I hadn’t realized it until he said that but he was pretty spot on. It was a collection that I had been building in earnest ever since I first heard Fishbone’s self-titled EP in 1985. It became a creative guiding light and a thumbs up to do music the way I see it first and foremost.
Most of the kids in my circle had already seen Fishbone play live in L.A. or Orange County several times before they played close enough for me to make it to a show. In the meantime they released their first EP and I wasted no time bringing a copy home and putting it on. From the beginning of the frenzied vocal harmonies of the school yard taunt “Ugly”, to it’s equally manic ender “Lying Ass Bitch”, there was no let up.
Angelo Moore was like Cab Calloway fronting Parliament Funkadelic on crack. “Another Generation” featured swinging double lead vocals a la Sam and Dave. It came off as barely controlled chaos and it…was…TIGHT! I was blown away by how specifically these songs spoke to me and my life so far at that point. And they were maybe a year older than me! This sounds like a nostalgic ’80s look back but it ain’t that. Sure, I know I was young, but even now, when I listen to these songs, I am still so much in awe of what these young men had the nerve to do. Nothing I had ever heard on the radio or had seen on television came close to showing this much confidence or this much bravado.
Every song came from somewhere else and was a pure call in the way it spoke to me. Rude boy ska was everywhere at the time and this was that… but different. Prince was funky but so were they. They reflected that exposure to white teenage west coast suburban culture along with funk and r&b that I could totally relate to. That was my world since my family had relocated from 48th and Normandy in Los Angeles to the suburbs of Sunnymead, Edgemont and March AFB, part of unincorporated Riverside.
A song like “Modern Industry” was the sound track of my life even before I heard it. It was dance before Dance to me. I found those songs fortifying. It was a new vernacular because of culture blending partly from mandated busing but also from the momentum of underground music. What they did was definitive and just so rich, broad and fun. It’s a short sample but a huge bite of what they embody. They did something without a name that was able to fit into so much of the music scene because they just kicked ass.
“Party At Ground Zero” was like listening to the Temptations if they wore creepers and went to school in Encino. The harmonies blow my mind because those harmonies are not just sung they are also played on horns. I have never stopped seeing them visually anytime I hear that song still! “VTTLOFFDGF” remains a song that is so metal-heavy and bottom-funky at the same time being completely chaotic. These songs and this perspective was unlike anything I had ever been exposed to and left a major impression on me.
That record made me love who I was and where I was as a young teen (which really isn’t the norm for teens). My deep connection to this music from these men from LA and the suburban So Cal exposure lit a flame in me enough to think maybe I would give singing a chance if I could do it the way I like not how they did it but because they did it.
The Bellrays Dig Fishbone: The Bellrays’ single “Ball of Confusion” is out now.
Editor’s note: The disclaimer below refers to advertising posts and does not apply to this or any other editorial stories. LA Weekly editorial does not and will not sell content.
Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.