I will do my best to avoid rambling explanation, sidebars and sub-referencing but when it comes to the topic of Rock Music in Baltimore I find myself rolling experience after experience around my brain and out of my mouth(or in this case, fingers) that I manage to bore myself.
At the risk of sounding silly, I can honestly say that I was born of rock-n-roll. My father played in a band called the Melody Heirs. Their music sounded like an early 60’s stripper soundtrack, which in fact, it often was. My Mom and Dad met while she was working as a waitress in a bar that her relatives owned and my Father’s band was playing there. My Dad’s band actually cut a .45 that got played on local radio and anyone who followed my blog on myspace a while back already knows much of that story. I write this to illustrate that I might be a little more in tune with music in Baltimore than the average hon.
There I go…boring myself! I have to stay on point. My thesis is that there has been a Baltimore sound during different eras and I could go through a laundry list of bands to validate my point and to show off my acumen but that would be even more counter-productive. The era that I am talking about would be the years of 1988 through 1992…maybe ’93. There were some diabolically good bands during these years(warning: here comes a list)Liquor Bike, Cloaca, Womyn of Destruction, Lake Trout, The Almighty Senators and of course, the criminally talented, MonkeySpank. I was fortunate to meet and hang with members of the band before I ever heard them play a note, but once I saw them perform I was blown away by how heavy, funky, metally, punky they were. Their music reflected everything musical they had grown up with and more. It was as if Motown’s Funk Brothers found Black Sabbath in a field when they were babies and raised them as their own; occasionally allowing the Dead Kennedys and Junior Samples to babysit.
MonkeySpank’s line up consisted of Brian Rice on Vocals and guitar, Bill Corsello, Kendall King and Allison(Splendora) Futeral on drums/percussion with Kevin Keelty and my main man, Dave (Skree)Kahle on bass. Look at the separation of labor-3 drummers and 2 dudes slappin’ the bass. I offer this as evidence of the Baltimore Sound. Hell there was only one guitar! It was very tribal and a MonkeySpank show was off the charts. Loud and sweaty! The Almighty Senators, who are indeed still around, had a very heavy, funky vibe too and if you were lucky enough to see these bands play together at Hammerjacks, you probably still haven’t recovered.
I don’t know all the particulars of MonkeySpank’s breakup but they called it quits after 2 albums, “Daemons Flew Out of My Mouth” and “Blue Mud”. There were rumors that some of the big record companies had courted ‘Spank but I’ve never gotten verification of that. I do remember seeing Brian not too long after the breakup and I found myself delivering that bad news to my friends who, like me, felt that it was only a matter of time before the world saw Baltimore for the musical hotbed that it is…was..whatever. I often think back to that time and imagine that the record companies’ A&R people were sitting around flipping a coin yelling, “Heads-Seattle/Tails-Baltimore. They heard a noisy SubPop band called Nirvana and started writing checks to all the other bands in the Pacific Northwest to make sure that if there was another band up there half as good as Nirvana they would be ready to pounce. No one was as good as Nirvana, but I think that MonkeySpank’s first record is better than “Bleach”.
So the Baltimore Sound was funky and fun, really bottom heavy and overall hard to describe. You would have to hear it to get it but I feel that it could have been huge and MonkeySpank would have lead the charge. They suffer, like so many artists of coming to power in the years after MTV became the primary source for “new” music and the rise of the internet. The height of their notoriety came as incidental music for a scene in Baltimore’s beloved TV series on NBC, “Homicide, Life on the Streets”. A search for MonkeySpank on the web doesn’t yield much but ‘Spanks, Brian Rice started a myspace page for the band a few years ago and he has uploaded their music onto that page. I will try to attach a link to it but I was having trouble wrangling it earlier. If you do go the myspace page, you gotta listen to “Dr Omar” and totally groove on the superpowered trumpets
on that track laid down by the Slow Death Horns.
I’ve left too much out and I’ve said too much already, but I will leave it here.