So get yourself outside the door
And find yourself another whore
You shit, you spineless shit
As put downs go, I like that an awful lot, not too sophisticated, direct. Welcome to Thee Headcoatees The Sisters of Suave, a 1999 compilation of singles As and Bs on the ever-wonderful Damaged Goods label. You want songs about Santa Claus, Davey Crockett, several impeccably cool covers, a song whose lyrics make even me blush, women dressed as nuns and two novelty martial arts songs (one great, one not^)? then you’ve come to just the right place sunshine!
Thee Headcoatees were (they split in ’99) Ludella Black, Holly Golightly, Kyra LaRubia and Bongo Debbie, now I’m a little unclear as to whether they played on the LP as they are listed only as vocals on the sleeve, whereas the band are listed as Billy Childish, Bruce Brand and Johnny Johnson (Thee Headcoats) – I know the ladies can play, but did they? anyway as you can see the sinister Svengali-type figure of Billy Childish lurks in the background, which is all very understandable when you know your history.
You could spend your lifetime and your children’s children’s inheritance cataloguing and buying even a quarter of Billy Childish’s 100+ LP releases over the last 36 years, I’m currently hovering around the 10 LPs, 7 singles and one lithograph mark and want more. How to describe this poet, renowned painter and guitarist? beyond the scope of this piece I’m afraid. Basically I’ll plump for the fact that Billy Childish lives mostly, but not solely, in a foxhole on the border of early 1976 British punk and the maximum R&B of the Who and the earlier primitivism of garage rockers like The Sonics*. It makes perfect sense when you think of it because it is precisely that rough-arsed R&B that the early punks sped-up and thrashed and fleshed out for their sound in general; think Sex Pistols ‘Substitute’ and ‘Don’t Gimme No Lip Child’, amongst a golden host of others.
Around about this time his band were Thee Headcoats, Thee Headcoatees (previously The Delmonas) were their mates who’d do a few songs on stage then graduated to supporting them. LPs followed, as did all manner of singles released on different labels in different territories, as well as on good old Damaged Goods. Which is where The Sisters of Suave comes in, with its wonderful Sound of Music-with-Airline-guitars cover.
I’ll spare you a full track-by-track but opener ‘Davey Crockett’ rocks my world like no other, built on a chassis that’s 50/50 between ‘Farmer John’ and ‘Louie Louie’ and stealing the Ramones chant of ‘Gabba Gabba Hey!’, it’s precisely the sort of silligeniusness that makes me grin from ear to ear. So good in fact that they copy it almost exactly two tracks later as ‘Santa Claus’ as the intro makes plain,
(Billy as Santa): Ho Ho Ho, hello little girl, what would you like for Christmas?
(Little Girl): Can I have a copy of Davey Crockett by Thee Headcoatees please?
(Santa): Hmm, let me have a look in my sack. Well I’m afraid I’ve only got a copy of Santa Claus, the brand-new 45 on Damaged Goods.
(Girl, crying): But I want a copy of Davey Crockett!
(Santa): Well little girl, it sounds exactly the same!
The particular genius here is that it does, albeit with a few risqué references to Santa’s sack. As far as I’m concerned that’s enough to catapult them to the head of the Very Smart Indeed queue.
Amongst all the fun and games and some really rocking covers (Ca Plane Pour Moi, I Gotta Move, Swallow My Pride), I like it when they turn nasty. ‘Ballad of the Insolent Pup’ and ‘Spineless Little Shit’ (originally A and B side together) are pure bile, the former with its great drum sound and none-more-fuzzed guitar is wonderful beyond all reckoning, the latter’s tale of sexual double-dealing less arty musically. I’m also very fond of the pure bluesy ‘Evil Thing’, featuring great distorted punky harmonica – I kid you not, as well as ‘I’m Happy’ where R&B is twisted and angled until it sounds just like the Dead Kennedys.
Obviously, my innate British reserve, modesty, decency and my well-bred priggishness prevents me from discussing ‘Come Into My Mouth’ at all, or even referring to it ever again in my life. Ever. In fact I have just forgotten it ever existed. True story.
^’Jackie Chan Does Kung Fu’ contains the ace line, ‘Jackie attack / Rib-cage Crack!’.
*Strychnine is covered here, really well.