Posted by: Amy – Aug 04, 2015
Legendary clown princes of punk, The Dickies, have been making music since 1977. Stan Lee, the band's guitarist, told RVA Mag about how the San Fernando Valley punk scene came to be in the 70's, despite some people regarding it as “irreverent noise”.
“At the time it started up, there were only about a hundred of us. Then, that turned into bands. I just saw The Weirdos and The Damned and The Ramones and thought it was pretty exciting stuff,” Lee said.
“It was something that happened, probably won't happen again, and hasn't happened since then. I mean, it was a special time in music.”
Lee spoke to how growing up in the Valley influenced the band.
“It was all swimming pools and movie stars. We weren't singing about that.”
So, what to sing about? Lee discussed the appeal of cover songs to The Dickies early in their career. The band has covered songs from Black Sabbath's “Paranoid” to “Silent Night”.
“They were songs that were already written that we didn't have to write. They were mostly songs we liked when we were 13,” Lee said.
In late 70's England and Europe, The Dickies had a huge following that Lee cited as unexplainable.
“The sixteen-year-olds had The Clash and The Sex Pistols and their little brothers seemed to glom onto us. When we first played [overseas], there were a lot of twelve-year-olds.” Lee said.
“I did a record signing at a HVM Record Store and bunch of kids cut school, broke the window, and there were cops holding them back. It was fucking crazy. They called it 'Dickie Mania' in the press. We were just overwhelmed. We were just five dudes from the Valley. We were on Top of the Pops and all of a sudden we're like rock stars.”
The Dickies have provided theme songs to the cult classic films Killer Klowns from Outer Space and Spirit of '76.
“It was just one of those formulas that worked. You would have thought it would have spawned more movie work for us,” Lee joked.
“I remember walking into an office and playing the riff [to “Killer Klowns from Outerspace”] on this little guitar I had, wearing a pig nose, and they said you've got the gig,” Lee said.
The band's sense of humor won't be lost anybody who attends GWAR-B-Q this year. Lee stated that Dickies vocalist Leonard Graves Phillips will have “a bag of tricks”, including Stuart, the penis puppet, and maybe even more props since the band used to have a prop for every song.
“It's all nonsense to me. I play guitar,” Lee said.
Thirty-eight years later, The Dickies are still passionate about delivering non-phoned in, fun, fast, and catchy punk rock to the masses.
“It's still fun to do. Still fun to pump a crowd.”
Don't miss The Dickies at the 6th Annual GWAR-B-Q on Saturday, August 15th. Check out RVA Mag's interview with GWAR drummer Brad Roberts on this year's festival here.
Words by Mike Engle