No decade churned out more memorable traffic-themed one-hit wonders than the '80s. Gary Numan's "Cars," Kane Gang's "Motortown" and Elmo and Patsy's "Grandma Got Ran Over by a Reindeer" all spring immediately to mind. Perhaps that's why the Texas Department of Transportation enlisted Houston-based '80s dance cover band the Lost Boys to do the soundtrack for its recent Buckle Up campaign. The video for the Lost Boys' only original song ever, "Edge of Danger," is included as part of a 30-minute Buckle Up PSA on seat-belt safety, intended to target Hispanic males ages 18 to 35, who statistically show the lowest compliance with seat-belt laws (partially because Mexico has no such regulations). That's all fine and dandy. But the question that strikes us here at Wack is, why was a cover band chosen over thousands of Texas bands who play original music?
"I went looking for some known names in Texas," says J. Kendal Johnson, producer of the Buckle Up show that aired on KHOU recently. "Los Lonely Boys were very interested, but they didn't have the time. Same deal with Terri Hendrix and Lloyd Maines," he says, "Then I thought, well, we can at least talk to this crazy '80s band I had heard about."
Johnson met with the group, and within a week, lead guitarist Michael Hubberd and keyboardist Andrew Richardson had written the song "Edge of Danger," which sports a Santana-meets-Pat Benatar vibe. Latin- flavored percussion and guitar riffs churn away as a female Lost Boy sings a song about love (who says they're compromising their sound to appeal to the demographic?). Beginning with the inspired couplet "Every time you call me and take me for a spin / I feel like I don't know if I will make it back again," the imagery that romanticizes going fast brings in the chorus "'Cos I feel like I am living on the edge of danger (You Better Buckle Up) / I feel like I'm dancing on the road to danger (I Better Buckle Up)."
Not a bad effort from a band whose entire live repertoire consists of songs they didn't write. The "Edge of Danger" video even fits the standard mold for '80s videos, replete with slicked-back, gelled hair and keyboards. As the band members cavort against blurry car interiors, the song comes to a screeching halt with the sounds of crunching cars. (These sounds were copped from another portion of the PSA, where the producers dropped cars from two and six stories high to show how devastating the impact would be for those not buckled up.)
"It's very MTV, not your typical PSA kind of thing," says Hubberd. "They wanted something that would be cool and that would appeal to the younger folks and get their attention, so hopefully they will get something out of the message." If the lawbreaking Hispanics in defensive driving are subjected to this video and song even once, we at Wack are sure they'll become safety-belt proponents on a par with Ralph "Unsafe at Any Speed" Nader.
All hail X, the band that has somehow remained un-embarrassing as it ages, a most difficult task for punk rockers. Just look to their contemporaries the Germs to witness how sad punk rock has become. Despite the 1980 death of singer Darby Crash, the remaining members of the band want their glory back and are reuniting using pretty-boy actor Shane West (who is playing Crash in a biopic) as a fill-in for the late vocalist. For reuniting in a manner that might shame INXS, we deliver a most stinging fatwa to the surviving members of the Germs.
The Germs were always the Doors of punk rock, with Crash its Jim Morrison: charismatic, but also a self-obsessed terminal junkie who brutally used those he hoodwinked, burning them with cigarettes and ruling their lives. If Crash had been ugly, then you wouldn't know the words to "Lexicon Devil," but Crash proved for the punks (as Morrison proved for the hippies) that they could be as beauty-obsessed as the teenyboppers they mocked.
Fatwa! For continuing this foul cult, for inspiring yet another generation of teens to stencil Germs logos on their jackets, by inviting a cast member of ER to join the pantheon of punk, you have earned the wrath of rock! In the rock afterlife, may Darby Crash be your overseer.
It is written. -- The Ayatollah of Rock
CUT A BROTHER SOME SLACK
Glenn Danzig is a legend. He's fronted two and a half great bands, he's cranked out at least six albums that are true classics of hardcore and/or metal, he tried (unsuccessfully, alas) to bring Swedish demons Marduk on tour with him a few years ago, and he's playing at Verizon this week. The metal community owes him much, but talking to legends is boring. Pretty much every interview with Danzig is boring. He takes himself way too seriously, he treats most interviewers with disdain, and he smells like MET-Rx and BenGay -- even over the phone.
Glenn's older brother Gary, however, is a riot. Affable and with no pretensions whatsoever about his place in the world, Gary is good people. And if you call him at home in Lodi, New Jersey, and ask about his li'l brother, you'll get a gold mine of dirt that only an older brother can provide. Wack asked him to field a few questions from die-hard Danzig fans, and Gary happily obliged.
Wack: According to All Music Guide (www.allmusic.com), Glenn's gonna be 50 in June. Isn't that a little old to still be croonin' "Killer Wolf"?
Gary Danzig: Listen, jerkwad, I'm older'n Glenn by three years, an' I still sing "Killer Wolf" when I'm on the prowl. He can sing whatever the fuck he wants. Most guys in Lodi our age are wearin' sweatsuits and washin' our cars two times a day. Glenn wears black leather, takes it to the fuckin' people and then takes it to the goddamn bank. I'm troo wichyoo, asshole. Next question. Asshole.
Wack: Does Glenn still own that comic-book company? Isn't that kind of a nerd thing to do?
Danzig: Ahh, whadda you know? You live in the flyover, you dick. Glenn's comics [Verotik comics, for adults only] are fulla demons, and naked broads and blood and all sorts of freaky shit. They're frickin' awesome! Bill Gates is a nerd with all them computers -- Glenn'd rip off his head and pinch a loaf in his mouth, 'cause that's what you do to nerds! Next question.
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Wack: Does Glenn think he's Wolverine?
Danzig: Are you frickin' kiddin' me? Wolverine -- goddamn Wolverine is a fraud! I seen him playin' that Australian fruit on Broadway last year. Glenn's for real! Them's real muscles! Me, I'm built like a sofa with pit stains, but Glenn stays in great shape. I haven't been able to beat him up since we was kids. I owned him for 11 years, and then he kicked my ass. My left ball still hurts when it rains. Next question.
Wack: How come Danzig isn't going to Tuba City, Arizona, on this tour?
Danzig: You little shit. [Hangs up] -- Paul Friswold