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Monday, July 25, 2005

The Greatest American Rock and Roll Band?

According to USA Today entertainment reporter Whitney Matheson and her e-mail survey, the greatest rock band of all time in America is (drumroll) Pearl Jam? (kazoo noise)

Nothing against the Seattle-based band fronted by Eddie Vedder and named after the most improbable entry into the Welch's product lineup (let's not go beyond that, shall we), but an e-mail survey is one of the most statistically invalid forms of sampling there is. The only real metaphor I can think of to describe such a survey's worth would be, oh, comparing it to an "entertainment reporter."

Of course Ms. Matheson and her legions of twenty-something readers (which admittedly is at least a couple of dozen more than our readership...with some creative rounding) are wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong! In fact, just to give you the fullest measure of how wrong they are, let me repeat myself with emphasis.

WRONG! WRONG! WRONG! WRONG WRONG!!! I hope I'm clear on that.

The reason they're wrong is because the greatest American rock band of all time isn't Pearl Jam. It's not the Beach Boys, or Aerosmith, or Journey, or the Doors. It's not even the legendary Grunge Pirates of Omaha. As any true aficianado of rock music knows, the greatest band of all time are the remarkable Rabid Prawns, of Kissimmee, Florida.

Rabid Prawns, or, as they're known to their fans, Zimpdendorfen Von Trottenschpackle, were formed in 1969 by an out of work toothpick repairman named Gill Thunder. Tired of the standard hippie, psychedelic, beach, hot-rod, underground pastiche of rock, Gill decided to take rock and roll where it had never been before, and in all fairness had probably never wished to go.

Gill gathered around him a unique collection of musicians: Dave "Flipper"Winkle, the electric guitarist who refused to use standard, or for that matter, any tunings and created a sound that Eddie Van Halen once described as "like a beached lungfish amplified a million times;" Genghis Trout, percussionist, whose variety of gamelans, toms, gongs, and xylophones generated an eerie rythmic dissonance to accompany all the other dissonance; Punkin' Ludtefisk, mistress of the bass flute, who reputedly could make a noise so low it set off richter scales in Bangkok.

On top of all this, Gill was the front man, lead singer and the one and only master of the one instrument that could bring together such an eclectic and ludicrous combo...the electric bagpipes.

Legend has it that during one concert, at Ireland's Slane Castle, Gill ripped a solo so outrageously loud and penetrating, that it split Van Morrison's skull in two. Small aircraft could not travel within 25 miles of a Rabid Prawns concert because of the sonic vibrations caused by the majestic pipes, amplified through a Marshall stack running at just over 100,000 watts.

Fans weren't awed just by the remarkably violent sound though, for Gill Thunder was an astonishing lyricist as well. Just sample some of the poetry, the beauty, of this man's verse. (For the proper perspective, this should be sung standing next to a jet aircraft engine, a Space Shuttle launch, or a George Galloway speech - DOUI does not bear any responsibility for those who attempt such a feat however as all three, especially that last one, can kill you stone dead.)

Stone Dead (Excerpt)

lyrics by Gill Thunder

It was an early November morn when I saw you lying in the road
I almost hit you with my Mustang and squashed you flat as a toad
Baby, baby, baby, baby, ba-bee can't you see, can't you see?
Of course you can't, you're stone dead, and you smell like DDT.

Bob Dylan wept like a baby the first time he read those lyrics. Elton John put a gun to his head and was ready to pull the trigger after reading those lyrics (fortunately he was talked out of it by comedian Soupy Sales.) Paul McCartney and John Lennon stopped fighting and actually both threw a cherry pie in Yoko Ono's face after reading just the first two lines of that song. William Shakespeare gave up writing sonnets forever after reading those lyrics, or would have had he not been dead for 350 years.

Rabid Prawns only ever released 3 albums:

We're Rabid Prawns - Which contains the ballad Stone Dead (see above), the neo-Skiffle lament My Toast is on Fire, and the energetic teen anthem Pus.

We're Still Rabid Prawns - Notable for the greatest love song of all time (according to NFL Legend Joe Namath's manicurist), Squids on the Loose.

Heaven Help Us, We Remain Rabid Prawns - Their final and greatest album containing the peace anthem I'm Smashing Your Brains in as Fast as I Can!, the transcendental You're Rubbish, and their greatest Top 40 hit Nudity - I Like It! (with a spoon solo by F. Lee Bailey.)

With so much creative energy, as well as violent impulses, the band was destined to burn out after just a few years. After the release of Heaven Help Us... in 1972, they each went their seperate ways to different correctional institutions. Dave was paroled in 1987 for good behavior and became a ginzu knife salesman, which was a serious violation of his parole, after which he was reincarcerated for another 12 years. Genghis got out in 1989 and joined the Peace Corps and is currently in Tanzania helping farmers to learn the proper ways to fix the carburetor on a '79 Malibu Classic. Punkin' changed her named to Olivia Newton-John after breaking out of Leavenworth and moved to Australia, where she hit it big until she was rearrested (for making Xanadu) and sentenced to death. The sentence was commuted by President Bill Clinton on the condition that she make a valuable contribution to society and pay a visit to the Lincoln bedroom every fortnight.

Gill Thunder? The most tragic tale of all the Rabid Prawns came to a close in Couer D'Alene, Idaho in 1991, when Gill was savaged by a pack of prarie dogs while on a work release job as a windshield-wiper salesman. All that was left of him when the little vermin bastards were finished was a femur, two sticks of Doublemint gum, and a neckalce with the word "Finkle" engraved on the chain. He was only 42. He died Prairie Dog food, but while he lived, he and his loony bandmates made not only great music...they made history.


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