No Respect?

In 1991, the Missiles were the coolest lame band in Houston. Seven years later, the irony still lingers.

"Their reviews of our stuff would be tepid, real noncommittal," Sanders says. "They saw us as a suburban mainstream rock band, which is what we were. We were a rock band, and we weren't afraid to be a rock band. We were riding an opposite wave."

All said and done, it was a stroke of marketing genius -- albeit a remedial one. In an effort to promote their upcoming CD in the cheapest way possible, the Missiles relieved Sam's Club of a good portion of its Atomic Fireball stock, stuffing a single jawbreaker into an envelope without a return address, and mailing the packages out to various newspapers around the region. A week later, they sent envelopes containing a handful of Fireballs to the same people, again with no return address and no explanation; the next week, it was a dozen of the fiery candies in each package, along with a press bio and a copy of the band's new disc, Atomic Fireball.

It's tough to know whether the strategy actually worked, as it would be overshadowed by an even keener publicity stunt: Atomic Fireball's second track, "I Can't Get No Respect from the Public News," was at once a witty, caustic attack on P.N. and a proud admission of the band's irredeemable outsider status. "I like to write what I feel," snarls Sanders over a numbingly repetitive mock-metal guitar assault. "But when I play for money, that's another deal."

The group also made a video to go with the tune. It shows each of the members supposedly dumping their excrement (actually Baby Ruth bars) into a shopping bag marked "New Clear Waste," depositing the devious little gift on the front stoop of P.N.'s Montrose offices and setting it ablaze. The song is not the band's best; nor are the accompanying visuals. (That honor goes to the defiantly '80s power ballad "Women Say" and its clever video, which apes a host of creaky MTV cliches, including the 360-degree panning technique from the Simple Minds' "Don't You Forget About Me.") But the Missiles were able to capitalize on the attention they received from "I Can't Get No Respect..." and the stunts surrounding it, prolonging the band's life span while expanding its reach.

"We toured the East Coast three times, and the West Coast four times," Sanders says. "It was like: If we can fool these people long enough into giving us free beer, then we're just going to keep doing it."

Through it all, the Missiles never once devalued their middle-class white-boy roots; in fact, they celebrated them shamelessly. And in the end, they knew it would all come down to money, or a lack thereof. Even though they had a lot of well-connected folks helping them, the Missiles were never able to rally the outside support needed to continue their upward trajectory. Labels weren't interested, the road was taking its toll, so it seemed prudent to break up at a time when they still had enough fans to mourn the loss.

"A lot of people still liked us," Jones says. "We didn't want to wear out our welcome."

One of Sanders's favorite Missiles one-liners was the teasing hypothetical question: "I didn't go to college for this?" He used to pose it to the audience when it looked as if a gig had gone to hell.

At the moment, Sanders's days as a full-time front guy are over: He's the divorced father of two and the bassist in country crooner Jesse Dayton's backup band. The other Missiles are all married and play music part time -- Jones and Myers with the local band Big Swifty, Randall with an Austin outfit called the Chiggers. And yet, with their impending reunion appearance and the Public News now gone, the Missiles can safely say they've outlasted their supposed nemesis -- sort of.

"For me, I don't need the money," says Jones, trying to downplay the cash-flow issue. "I was the Missiles' biggest fan before I joined. I just want to get out there and play the songs again."

And hope there will be someone around to listen.

The Missiles perform Friday, September 25, at the Fabulous Satellite Lounge, 3616 Washington Avenue. Doors open at 8 p.m. Cover is $5. Horseshoe opens. For info, call 869-

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