America’s Most Wanton

Aug 28, 2002 at 12:00 am

The story of the Sillies is a long, tangled yarn stretching all the way back to Easter ’77 when the Motor City’s newest entry into punk rock debuted on a bill with the MC5 and the Ron Asheton/Mike Davis incarnation of Destroy All Monsters. The trajectory since then is best followed in an exhaustive history posted on the Scooch Pooch Web site. Suffice to say that founder Ben Waugh — along with such colorfully monickered characters as Perry Noyd, Tommy Kilowatt, Vince Volatile, Michael Profane, Katy Hait and Dean Denizen — did his (un)level best to carry the punk torch proudly. In the process he toured with Johnny Thunders’ Heartbreakers and shared gigs with the Damned, Dead Boys, Cramps and many others. He also booked combos in the late ’70s at the now-legendary Bookies and put on a stage show that was uncompromising enough at the time to be described by the Detroit News as “appalling yet spellbinding, revolting yet stimulating … an X-rated ‘Gong Show’ for the young and desperate.”

Yet precious little in the way of recorded artifacts by the Sillies ever surfaced: just a 1979 single, “No Big Deal,” the track “Real Live Love” for the ’81 compilation Detroit On A Platter; and “Break Loose” for Bomp! Records’ Motor City’s Burnin’ CD comp from a few years ago. America’s Most Wanton handily rectifies that with one blowtorch blast. Be forewarned that some of the dozen tracks here suffer from sub-bootleg recording quality, but the adrenaline levels remain undiminished by such sonic formalities as fidelity. Of the many highlights: the aforementioned 45 from ’79 is classic glam-slam punk, equal parts Mott The Hoople, T. Rex and Iggy. “Heavy Breathing” has Dead Boys snot dripping down onto Blue Öyster Cult boogie, while “Lesbo Love” transmogrifies “Jailhouse Rock” into a jazzy, swaggering ode to transgressive amour (as explained thusly: “You can beat your meat on the toilet seat … ’cos you won’t find a girl — lesbian love’s takin’ over the world!”). “Real Live Love” is an amazing, if uncharacteristic, slab of brooding, droning psychedelia that could pass for a Nuggets outtake. And a shit-hot new composition, “Punk Rock Girl,” sounds like it chugged ’n’ throbbed straight outta the Stooges’ Raw Power sessions, featuring guests Wayne Kramer and Dennis Thompson on hand to neatly tie together the generational threads. Of additional note: the enhanced CD contains video footage of the Sillies performing “I’m Saving Myself For Angela Cartwright” live at the State Theatre. Sigh. They just don’t title songs like they used to.

Apparently per tradition, Waugh has assembled a new touring version of the Sillies to celebrate his CD’s release; the Sillies have reunited several times over the years. According to a quip posted on the Web site, however, “no one knows what the future holds for the band Detroit music insiders said ‘wouldn’t last six months.’” So there you have it, gentle readers — a slice of local history, unfolding (and maybe folding) before your peepers once again.

E-mail Fred Mills at [email protected].