In the great Don Letts film Punk Attitude, Henry Rollins said it best; in its simplest form, punk music was all about saying “Fu*k This.” Some writers will argue that the roots of punk rebellion can be traced back to the 1950’s with artist such as Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. While that argument defines the basic concepts of rock and roll rebellion, it underestimates the core ideals of punk. Rock music has always been viewed as a threat to the establishment, by the establishment. However, the real roots of punk and its extraordinary in your face, screw you image, were given birth in the sounds and performances of bands from the late 1960’s like the The Stooges, MC5 and The Velvet Underground. The arrival of the New York Dolls in the early 70s along with The Dictators in 1974 and a singer named Wayne County, intensified the art form and served as an inspirational bridge to the breakout of the punk scene in 1976, and the Sex Pistols debut album in 1977. It’s a story that far eclipses the scope of an individual article, but it’s the stories of the bands themselves that we will be attempting to chronicle in our new series on the punk scene.
Punk music was often defined by the dress, the make-up, the hair, the attitude, and of course, the distorted three chord song arrangements. But for those who understood the true idealism of punk recognized that the genre was very focused on lyrics, whether you understood them or not. If there was one artist that truly understood the power of the lyric, it was New York’s own Jimi LaLumia. In the late 1970’s Jimi LaLumia released a brilliant single entitled “Death To Disco.” A couple of years later LaLumia would release with his band The Psychotic Frogs, an EP titled very appropriately Typically Tasteless.
The first time I saw Jimi LaLumia was when he was working in the Sam Goody Record Store in New York’s Smith Haven Mall. While I was staring at the cover of Led Zeppelin’s Presence album and trying to figure out what the hell I was looking at, I felt an actual presence looming from behind me. I turned around and saw a very tall guy with a huge head of hair flopping around in all directions, heading straight towards me. He was wearing shaded glasses and an extremely colorful dress shirt that screamed something radically loud. He introduced himself as Jimi and asked what kind of music I was into. He handed me a Ramones album stating that this was a band I should check out. I returned to the store a few days later and was surprised when Jimi LaLumia asked me what I thought of the band. LaLumia probably dealt with thousands of record buyers a week, yet he remembered everything about our conversation the week before. And I wasn’t the only one. Many of my friends would have great conversations with LaLumia about music.
Working on the floor and in management at one of New York’s biggest retail record chains must have led to a deep understanding of the music business from all angles. In an interview with the Punk Globe, Jimi LaLumia described his experiences at Sam Goody as developing him into a “multi-threat -person.” The record buying experience of the 1970s’ was for many, as enjoyable as the records themselves. Working the floors daily while engaging in conversation with record buyers is going to install a very deep understanding of the mindset of the rock and roll fan. And it was in that mindset that a growing commonality of a shared hatred of disco began to emerge.
Death to Disco
Disco was a phenomenon that hit so fast and spread across the nation in a craze that merged music and dance into a brainless exercise in escape. In the shadows of Vietnam and Watergate, Disco provided an outlet for those who chose to ignore the rock and roll artistic statements of the era. While many artists and fans had bathed themselves in anti-war and anti-government rhetoric, there was a huge segment of the population that were extremely happy to settle for a ride on the “disco stick.” Looking back, there really was no harm in that except for the fact that the disco music began to heavily dominate the airwaves and ostensibly posed a threat to rock music on popular radio. Rock fans felt severely threatened by its popularity and even more so by the basic lyrical content of the music.
During the time period when the disco craze was impregnating the nation quite literally, Jimi LaLumia became inspired by an article in Punk magazine that argued for a quick death to disco. LaLumia began creating Death To Disco bumper stickers and buttons and handing them out in front of various stores and clubs including the legendary Max’s Kansas City in New York City. Eventually, Jimi LaLumia would record a single entitled “Death To Disco (Disco Sucks),” that would go on to sell rather quickly, ten thousand copies. While many artists may have laid claims that they started the anti-disco movement, it was Jimi Lalumia that really deserves the credit for creating the Death To Disco crusade. I was there, I saw it happen, I heard LaLumia do it. And yes, it was before Twisted Sister jumped on the bandwagon.
The song “Death To Disco,” was brilliant in so many ways. You could hear the anger in LaLumia’s voice towards the genre. As hardcore rock fans, we intensely hated Disco. LaLumia understood that hate and capitalized on it brilliantly. After the success of the “Death To Disco,” track, Jimi LaLumia went into the studio and recorded an EP entitled Typically Tasteless.
The Typically Tasteless EP was recorded at Kingdom Sound Studios in Syosset, New York. The sessions took place during the month of December in the winter of 1978. The album was produced by Jim Nipo Antonucci and the recording sessions were engineered by John Devlin. The band The Psychotic Frogs consisted of Jimi LaLumia on vocals, Peter Scarlata on bass, Tommy Raccanelli on guitar, and Ricky “The Duke” Staal on drums.
The Typically Tasteless EP opened with the track, “Mangle Me.” So much of the punk scene was infiltrated with sloppy playing and distortion. However, within seconds of listening to the opening track, it became quite clear that these were really good musicians. The Jimi LaLumia penned “Mangle Me,” opened with a classic guitar and bass line riff that seemed more a tribute to the iconic guitar licks of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath than the distorted strumming of punk. Raccanelli and Scarletta were in perfect tune and time with each other. Both bassist and guitarist locked in motion with Stall’s drumming that settled into a kick ass classic rock groove. It was clean, yet dirty, rocking, yet pissed. However, it was when the sound of Jimi Lalumia’s vocals kicked in that it all went dark and delicious.
“Get off on the taste of my blood”
Jimi LaLumia and The Psychotic Frogs were a fascinating group. On one hand, you had a trio of musicians that were playing hard tight rock grooves balanced against the self-described maniacal vocals of Jimi LaLumia. It worked perfectly! It was a unique sound that captured the essence of the punk scene in all its pissed off glory; yet there was a fresh spark of originality that separated the band from other groups of the time. It was the big balls lyrics of LaLumia that made the group so special.
Long before celebrities like Howard Stern were labeled as shocking, Jimi LaLumia was writing lyrics like “You’ll Never Walk Again,” that were darker, more twisted, and perhaps more honest than any other entertainer has ever dared to shout. We will leave the reader to make up their mind on this one in the same way LaLumia wrote, “Our telethon song, enough said! “on the record’s liner notes.
On the Typically Tasteless EP, the liner notes mentioned that the songs “Mangle Me,” and “You’ll Never Walk Again,” were labeled as suitable for airplay. However, once the EP was flipped over, the entire suitable for airplay concept might as well just have been thrown into the waters of Lake Ronkonkoma. Jimi LaLumia and band opened the second side of the EP with one of the most original covers of a Beatles song ever released. It took big sized bollocks to issue the version of “Eleanor Rigby,” that Jimi LaLumia recorded at the time. The Beatles have always been considered sacred by so many, but the punk scene was all about turning the world inside out. We played that track every day, turned it up loud, and got into so much trouble for doing so.When I was 16, I played it on my high school’s in-house radio station to piss of the jocks hanging out in the commons. I wound up spending a day in detention, but it was so worth it. It was the ultimate punk rebellion piece.
The Typically Tasteless EP closed with a cover of Jayne County’s “Fu*ked By The Devil.” Another track that would cause some heavy FCC fines if it were played on terrestrial radio. However, the inclusion of Jayne County’s “Fu*ked By The Devil,” paid tribute to an artist who had been described in Jimi Lalumia’s own words as being “the musical act who had given him the courage to form the Psychotic Frogs.” Jimi LaLumia has often written about the importance of Jayne County. The artist formerly known as Wayne County was an important pioneer in the punk scene. Our favorite Jimi LaLumia quote about Wayne County was published in an article Jimi LaLumia wrote for the Punk Globe in which LaLumia compared Wayne County to David Bowie by writing,” Wayne County was the most outrageous and challenging character rock and roll had ever seen, making Bowie look like John Denver in comparison.”
If the music on the Typically Tasteless record didn’t shock the John Denver out of you, then the cover art would. It was a cover most teens made sure not to leave on the living room coffee table. The EP’s back cover art displayed two nuns kissing passionately in a very provocative pose. However, it was the third nun peering through a hole in the bench towards the nuns, that made the scene even more interesting. One might ask if the artwork for the Typically Tasteless back cover was a depiction of the Catholic Church’s history of hiding scandalous behavior? Was it just meant to be simply shocking? In the end, our guess is it was Jimi Lalumia’s way of looking at certain hypocrisies and saying, “Fu*k This!”
Long Island has had its share of developing musical artists that have had a significant impact in classic rock history. Billy Joel, Pat Benatar, Joan Jett, Blue Oyster Cult to name a few have released countless albums and scored major radio hits. As a music journalist, record store manager, record store owner, and artist, Jimi LaLumia has left a body of work that has significantly contributed to rock and roll history. One cannot writes the history of the New York music scene without mentioning the name Jimi LaLumia.