Early Stray Cats, raw and dang good

Dasein

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In a way I think we as a culture were not ready or appreciative enough for what the Stray Cats brought. We focused on the post punk rockabilly element and the oddity of their performances and staging instead of how bloody good they were. It was a case where image overshadowed just an amazing roots rock band - we saw gimmick and contrivance instead of authenticity -- yet the authenticity was there.
 

Dasein

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4,384
.... A funny story

My first concert was VanHalen's 1984 tour (May 1st) and as some of you might know, back in those days VH were kind of known for having no-name backup bands in different cities. We the band that opened the Vancouver show was some unknown band of dubious origin (to this day I have no idea who they were) but for a bunch of rabid VH fans it started out bad as soon as the upright bass was brought out. These poor bastards just got brutalized with stuff being tossed at them and jeers and all manner of abuse. I felt bad for them... THey left the stage like the helicopters left the Saigon embassy.

Anyway -- I (at 14) was there with my Dad, and my buddy was there with his brothers and his parents up in the nose bleeds ---- apparently when the stand up bass was brought out his little brother got excited because he thought it was the Stray Cats and started yelling "Stray Cats - Stray Cats" until some big VH fan leaned over and said "Shut the F-up kid, it aint the Stray Cats".

Anyway -- who didn't learn the licks to Stray Cat Strut back then? That was an awesome song.
 

27sauce

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35,863
In a way I think we as a culture were not ready or appreciative enough for what the Stray Cats brought. We focused on the post punk rockabilly element and the oddity of their performances and staging instead of how bloody good they were. It was a case where image overshadowed just an amazing roots rock band - we saw gimmick and contrivance instead of authenticity -- yet the authenticity was there.
Yup


Pete Anderson once told me that before Dwight Yoakam had any label interest from Nashville that rock labels like IRS were offering them deals as nostalgia/alternative/novelty act. They held out for a "real" deal, to in his words, "not end up like the Stray Cats".
 

Dasein

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4,384
Yup


Pete Anderson once told me that before Dwight Yoakam had any label interest from Nashville that rock labels like IRS were offering them deals as nostalgia/alternative/novelty act. They held out for a "real" deal, to in his words, "not end up like the Stray Cats".
That's the word I was looking for - Novelty act -- and that's exactly what they were received as. I actually blame some of that on the first two singles themselves (arguably their strongest work too) which were self referential either as a genre pieces or all the "Cat" references but I don't remember if they were "sold" as a novelty act or that's just the category we put them in. What is it about roots rock that immediately says novelty? Why does it all have to be clownish?
 

dhdfoster

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To be fair, a lot of the cartoonish-ness was probably to get noticed, which worked, but it did hurt them in the end, IMO.
 

AndreasG

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I have a dvd of the Stary Cats live in France, around 1980/81. Damn great show. Setzer played his blonde Bassman head through a 2x12 Vox cab, or mabe used just the speakers of an AC30
Awsome!
 

Frank Prince

Silver Supporting Member
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3,642
Ya know, the haircuts and stage moves and Cat references and model looks and all that certainly drew attention, but it was immediately apparent that there was way more than that. The vocals and guitar playing were totally different for that time and crushingly good out of the gate for any time period. Smokin' stuff!
 

Gallus

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1,258
but I don't remember if they were "sold" as a novelty act or that's just the category we put them in.
Might have been just the category you put them in.... the genre is cartoonish by nature, but I don't recall any sense the Stray Cats were a novelty act as such.
 

Gallus

Member
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1,258
Pete Anderson once told me that before Dwight Yoakam had any label interest from Nashville that rock labels like IRS were offering them deals as nostalgia/alternative/novelty act. They held out for a "real" deal, to in his words, "not end up like the Stray Cats".
I'm struggling a bit to understand what PA might've meant by that. The Stray Cats seemed have a pretty bloody good career.... and Dwight always lent pretty hard on the nostalgia angle....
 

27sauce

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35,863
I'm struggling a bit to understand what PA might've meant by that. The Stray Cats seemed have a pretty bloody good career.... and Dwight always lent pretty hard on the nostalgia angle....
I think the idea was of they went that route(pop, nostalgia) that they would have put out one or two albums and gone the way of the fad, like the stray cats.

On the other hand, going the country/major label route they stood more of a chance of long career. They had the first 3 and a half albums written by the time they got signed, so longevity was the goal. They didn't peak until the 5th album. Stray cats only went downhill. 30 years almost 30 million albums sold...they stray cats had a great career for a bit, and they sold a ton, but about a third of DY.
 

Dasein

Member
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4,384
Might have been just the category you put them in.... the genre is cartoonish by nature, but I don't recall any sense the Stray Cats were a novelty act as such.
They were definitely a genre/novelty act - that's how they were sold and how they were received. It hurt them hard because they essentially died in the water after their brief but busy two year run in the sunlight and Brian struggled for years to break back in trying to shed his novelty label... And to be fair he never quite transcended it. Fantastic player for sure.
 

Gallus

Member
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1,258
I think the idea was of they went that route(pop, nostalgia) that they would have put out one or two albums and gone the way of the fad, like the stray cats.

On the other hand, going the country/major label route they stood more of a chance of long career. They had the first 3 and a half albums written by the time they got signed, so longevity was the goal. 30 years almost 30 million albums sold...they stray cats had a great career for a bit, and they sold a ton, but about a third of DY.
Yeah, that makes sense. Stray Cats moved to England specifically to catch catch a wave, so to speak, so were always a risk of falling away as fashion moved on.

Dwight gave himself a wider palette to work with as well.
 

Dasein

Member
Messages
4,384
I think the idea was of they went that route(pop, nostalgia) that they would have put out one or two albums and gone the way of the fad, like the stray cats.

On the other hand, going the country/major label route they stood more of a chance of long career. They had the first 3 and a half albums written by the time they got signed, so longevity was the goal. They didn't peak until the 5th album. Stray cats only went downhill. 30 years almost 30 million albums sold...they stray cats had a great career for a bit, and they sold a ton, but about a third of DY.
Yup - gone after two years. Introduced and sold as "a thing". And "things" do not a career make.
 

Gas-man

Unrepentant Massaganist
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18,627
That's the word I was looking for - Novelty act -- and that's exactly what they were received as. I actually blame some of that on the first two singles themselves (arguably their strongest work too) which were self referential either as a genre pieces or all the "Cat" references but I don't remember if they were "sold" as a novelty act or that's just the category we put them in. What is it about roots rock that immediately says novelty? Why does it all have to be clownish?
No one is to blame but the band and their management.

Because of their look and sound. They looked clownish with the tats and brylcream and general subculture weirdness.

They were straight outta 1956 and that is goofy and a novelty to most people (even in 1981).
 




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