The Fleshtones are an American garage rock band from Queens, New York formed in 1976.
The Fleshtones were formed in 1976 in Whitestone, New York by Keith Streng (born September 18, 1955, New York, New York) and Jan Marek Pakulski (b. August 23, 1956, Lewiston, Maine), two roommates who discovered that a previous tenant had left behind some instruments in the basement of the house they were renting. Streng, on guitar, and Pakulski, on bass, were soon joined by neighborhood friends Peter Zaremba (b. September 16, 1954, Queens, New York) on harmonica, keyboards, and vocals, and Lenny Calderon (b. 1958, New York) on drums.
The Fleshtones debuted at CBGB on May 19, 1976. Starting in 1978, the group was often joined onstage, as well as on record, by Action Combo, brothers Gordon (alto sax and harmonica) and Brian (tenor sax) Spaeth. Gordon Spaeth (b. September 21, 1951--d. March 8, 2005) became an official band member in 1983.
In the late 1970s, The Fleshtones earned a local following and played often in Manhattan at CBGB and Max's Kansas City. Later, they found a favorite venue at Club 57 on St. Mark's Place. The Fleshtones were the first band to be booked or to play at several famous venues, including Irving Plaza and Danceteria in Manhattan, Maxwell's in Hoboken, New Jersey, and the original 9:30 Club in Washington D.C..
The Fleshtones shared a rehearsal space with The Cramps on the Bowery in 1977. The following year, The Fleshtones signed with Marty Thau's Red Star Records (the label's roster included Suicide and Boston's beloved The Real Kids, among others artists), and recorded their first album. In addition, filmmaker/artist M. Henry Jones and the band produced Soul City, a performance-animation video composed of hand-painted cutouts that is a historic representation of the band and Jones' unique art form. It was during the recording of this first album that the band invited engineer Mitchell Ames to join them on guitar following an impromptu guitar moment and some vocalization in the studio. The new sound of a second guitar coincided with a notable burst in popularity in New York City and some new songs that included "Girl From Baltimore," and ultimately launched The Fleshtones into an I.R.S. Records deal. The band's' first single, "American Beat" was originally recorded during the Red Star sessions, but was not released until re-recorded in 1984 as part of the soundtrack of the Tom Hanks' movie Bachelor Party.
In 1980, with the Red Star Records album not released (but later issued on cassette on ROIR, and subsequently on CD and vinyl), the Fleshtones were signed by Miles Copeland III at I.R.S. Records (R.E.M., The Go-Go's) where they would work with producers Richard Mazda and Richard Gottehrer. It was at this time that the band replaced Calderon with drummer Bill Milhizer (born September 21, 1948, Troy, New York), and appeared in the British Punk/New Wave concert film Urgh! A Music War, and released its first EP Up-Front. Four albums on I.R.S. followed: Roman Gods (1982), Hexbreaker!! (1983), and the live Speed Connection and Speed Connection II (1985). In 1982, they appeared on Dick Clark's American Bandstand TV show.
Despite having a large cult following, the band never achieved commercial success: Roman Gods debuted at No. 174 on Billboard's album chart, the highest position that a Fleshtones album has attained.
Zaremba was the host of I.R.S. Records Presents The Cutting Edge on MTV from 1984 to 1987. The I.R.S. Records-produced show featured up and coming underground artists. The program was short-lived (airing in a late night time slot didn't help accumulate a wide audience) but the format later revived as 120 Minutes. Zaremba's MC talents surfaced again in the late 1990s at New York City's "Cavestomp" Garage Rock festivals.
In the mid-1980s, The Fleshtones regularly played at the Pyramid Club on Avenue A in the East Village, and were instrumental in helping to start Wigstock, the drag queen festival that became a New York City staple.
In the late 1980s, The Fleshtones were without major-label support, though they continued to tour America and Europe steadily, including shows opening for Chuck Berry and James Brown. In 1987, The Fleshtones made an appearance on the final episode of Andy Warhol's Andy Warhol's Fifteen Minutes, an MTV program, during which they backed up famed English stage actor Ian McKellen as he recited William Shakespeare's Twentieth Sonnet.
The Fleshtones recorded the title track to the 1987 camp-horror film I Was a Teenage Zombie that same year. They released the albums Fleshtones vs. Reality (studio) in 1987 and Soul Madrid (live) in 1989. I.R.S. Records released a best-of compilation, Living Legends, in 1989.
In late 1986, Pakulski left the Fleshtones. He was replaced by Robert Burke Warren, who left the band in 1988. Fred Smith of Television and Andy Shernoff of The Dictators were interim bass players in the studio and on tour until 1990.
Ken Fox (born February 16, 1961, Toronto, Canada) joined the Fleshtones on bass in July 1990. Fox had formed Raving Mojos in Toronto and also played with Joan Osborne and in Jason & the Scorchers. Since Fox joined, the Fleshtones lineup has remained stable.
In 1992 the Fleshtones signed with Ichiban Records, where they stayed until the label's demise, releasing the albums Powerstance (1992), Beautiful Light (1994), Laboratory of Sound (1995), and More Than Skin Deep (1998).
The Fleshtones were one of the last bands to play at Windows on the World atop the World Trade Center; they played a show there five weeks before the 9/11 attacks, and in 2002 played at a Night of Remembrance and Hope festival at CBGB.
In December 2003 The Fleshtones played at a CBGB 30th Anniversary show along with The Dictators, and in August 2004 played Little Steven's Underground Garage Festival at Randalls Island in New York City with 39 other bands, including The New York Dolls, Iggy Pop, The Strokes, and Bo Diddley.
In the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s, in addition to self-producing in Paul Johnson's Compactor basement studio in Brooklyn, New York, The Fleshtones worked with musician-producers Dave Faulkner, Peter Buck, Steve Albini, Rick Miller, Jim Diamond, Lenny Kaye, and Ivan Julian.
In 2003, The Fleshtones signed with Yep Roc Records, which has released the albums Do You Swing? (2003), Beachhead (2005), Take A Good Look (2008), Stocking Stuffer (2008), Brooklyn Sound Solution (2011), and Wheel Of Talent (2014), as well as the EP Quatro X Quatro (2012).
Book, Tribute, Feature Documentary, and Reissues:
In 2007, Continuum Books (now Bloomsbury) published Sweat: The Story of The Fleshtones, America's Garage Band, an authorized biography by Joe Bonomo. Camion Blanc released a French-language edition, The Fleshtones: Histoire d'un Groupe Garage Américain, in 2012.,
Vindicated! A Tribute to The Fleshtones was released in 2007 on vinyl by Larsen Records (France) and on CD by Dirty Water Records (UK). The album features 23 international bands (including Hoodoo Gurus, the Nomads with Handsome Dick Manitoba, the Slickee Boys, the Woggles, Snax, the Swingin' Neckbreakers, Richard Mazda, the Subway Surfers, the Insomniacs, and others) covering songs spanning the Fleshtones' career.,
A feature documentary directed by Geoffray Barbier, Pardon Us For Living, But The Graveyard Is Full, was released from Cold Cuts Productions in 2009.,
In 2010, the Australian label Raven released a CD compilation of the Fleshtones' I.R.S. Records material entitled It's "Super-Rock" Time!: The IRS Years 1980-85 and a Hexbreaker! / Speed Connection CD. Raven plans future re-releases of the Fleshtones' catalog.,
Keith Streng -- guitar & vocals,
Peter Zaremba -- lead vocals, harmonica & organ,
Bill Milhizer -- drums & vocals (1980-present),
Ken Fox -- bass & vocals (1990-present),
Jan Marek Pakulski -- bass, vocals (1976-79, 1979-86),
Lenny Calderon -- drums, vocals (1976-79),
Danny Gilbert -- guitar (1976),
Gordon Spaeth -- sax, harmonica, organ, vocals (1978-88),
Mitchell Ames -- guitar (1979),
Walter Scezney -- bass (1979),
Robert Burke Warren -- bass, vocals (1986-88),
Clem Burke - drums (1979),
Fred Smith -- bass, vocals (1988-89),
Andy Shernoff -- bass, vocals (1989-90),
Brian Spaeth -- sax (1978-81),
Gregory D Grinnell -- trumpet (1986),
Ken Fradley -- trumpet (1988),
Mark McGowan -- trumpet (1988-90),
Steve Greenfield -- sax (1988-92),
Joe Loposky -- trumpet (1990-94),
Markus Arike -- sax (1992-94)
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