Black Randy and The Metrosquad — Pass The Dust…

Black Randy and The Metrosquad – Pass The Dust I Think I’m Bowie (Dangerhouse) 1979. OK, I’m gonna assume that you have read “We Got The Neutron Bomb” and “Lexicon Devil”. If not, go read them. I’m gonna assume that you know who Black Randy was and that The Metrosquad were a veritable who’s-who of local punk luminaries in late 1970′s LA. Instead, I’m gonna give my thoughts on what I think Black Randy and The Metrosquad were all about.

In my opinion, BR and the MS were on purposely creating some sort of agit-prop, performance art musical statement. The fact that BR was a huge drug fiend, dulls the impact of this a little bit. However, the recurring theme of race baiting on the album can either be taken as the work of a racist (i.e. Skrewdriver) or as some sort of drug fueled post-modernist prank. By all accounts, Black Randy would have loved to have you think it was simple racism because he loved to offend and didn’t seem interested in artisitic justifications.

On the album BR baits James Chance. He says

James Chance
Take down your mutherfuckin pants
you stealin my act
it ain’t no goddam romance

I don’t think James Chance was stealing Black Randy’s act. I think that like a lot of things that happened in the late 70′s, great ideas just seem to come out of nowhere and oftentimes more than one band was doing something brilliant and unique , while being unaware of someone else doing it elsewhere. I think Black Randy and James Chance were doing the same thing. Anyway thats enough of my expounding. Needless to say, this album is NOT for the easily offended. Bare Footin’ On The Wicked Picket is the only song I have ever heard about an orgy where people pass around an elctric eel.

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39 Responses to Black Randy and The Metrosquad — Pass The Dust…

  1. Breanna_inthe3D says:

    This album is very hard to find, and I just wanted to thank you for uploading it.

  2. Joe Stumble says:

    Thanks Breanna…Its nice to get some feedback every now and then!

  3. Peter - KBDRecords says:

    An excellent post Joe! Thanks alot!!!!

  4. Randolph says:

    thanks a bunch! this is an awesome upload. wish i had high speed so i could get it quicker.

  5. biffa says:

    dangerhouse were a greeeaaaat label…95%spot on witheverything they touch…wozzup w/howard werth???

  6. Anonymous says:

    appreciate the upload a lot…

  7. Joe Stumble says:

    hey I dig Howard Werth!

  8. booblikon says:

    James Chance & Black Randy, both of whom i’ve grown to appreciate immensely, are quite different in my estimation, despite perceived similarities. JC seemed to be working toward a synthesis of several musics with a trained ear while BR was apparently drawing almost exclusively on life experience and appropriation of admittedly similar styles to arrive at his musical end; the slide rule versus the gutbucket, if you will. in addition, and perhaps more importantly, BR applied an acidic wit and humor that one could not detect in JC’s output, leading one to the potential conclusion that JC was engaged in what he viewed as serious artistic/musical composition, while BR may have just been “sending up” or parodying the idea of such pretension. either way, both great artists and both quite original from other artists in their immediate environment or “scene”. thanks for the “…Dust”, and thanks for the enjoyable blog (my first visit).

  9. Joe Stumble says:

    Dude…now thats a friggin post!

    We will have to agree to disagree…I definitely hear a streak of dark humor in James Chances output (i.e. “he’s the king of oral sax, “The Natives Are Getting Restless”). Its also important to note that this similarity was pointed out by Black Randy himself in “I’m Black and I’m Proud”…I didn’t come up with it on my own. I’m not that smart. I don’t think anyone would say that James Chance and Black are identical, but there are similarities with regards to musical style and the inverting of conventional racial roles for shock value.

  10. griz says:

    I doubt Black Randy had a clue about Chance when he started out. When the first BR Dangerhouse 45 came out, no one on the west coast knew who the fuck Chance was. Not to say that Chance was aware of BR, they were just on parallel paths. BR’s embracing of funk, no matter how unauthentic, was unique at the time, at least in the SoCal scene. I partied one night w/the Middle Class, BR and Alice Bag in a hotel room in San Diego and he was a riot. At one point, he put a lamp shade on his head and said “Look! I’m John Denny!” [Denny was/is lead singer of the Weirdos] alluding not only to the Weirdos’ habit of dressing like walking pop culture collages, but his own status of life of the party/in-joke of the early LA punk scene. He was a nice guy though, gave me cab fare to get home to my mom’s house. The next day when thay came to pick up their equipment (which was stored after the gig in my mom’s garage) it was surreal, my Mom meeting Black Randy: the colliding of two worlds…..

  11. Joe Stumble says:

    Yeah “parallel paths” thats what I was trying to say in my post. As far as embracing the funk, didn’t BR at one point put on some shows on a double bill with Rudy Ray Moore?

  12. griz says:

    Don’t know about the Rudy Ray Moore double bill thing. One more comment: Regarding the earlier comment by booblikon about “an acidic wit and humor that one could not detect in JC’s output”, he [Chance] may not have had an obvious sense of humor, but he did have one. I saw him live in a tiny place in NY in 86. Just before he was to have a sax solo, someone in front knocked over the mike stand and, rather than wait to have someone put it upright, he laid down on the ground to play his solo into the mike. In that incident at least, his sense of humor was evident.

  13. Spin says:

    I’ll never forget how hard I laughed when I first read that there was an album out there called “Pass the Dust, I Think I’m Bowie.” Mind you, I laughed even harder when I read that the Boredoms had a song called “JB Dick and Tin Turner Pussy Badsmell (sic),” but hey…

    Thank you so much for making this LP available. It ain’t “Buy the Contortions,” but it’s still cool.

  14. Cait says:

    Found this post on a random blogsearch – thank you so much for sharing this album, I’ve never heard the whole thing.

  15. Joe says:

    Voodoojoo — I was going to reply to your entry and I deleted it! There’s no undo!

    which sucks…cuz yr words were very entertaining.

    I totally agree with not getting it the first time. The first track i heard by Black Randy was Trouble at the Cup on a Dangerhouse comp and I thought it was total shit. When I got the album I liked a few tracks but some just seemed stoopid. I decided at that moment too that this was not a failure on Black Randy’s part but a failure on my own. Over time this has grown to be one of my favorite records ever. Glad you like it!

  16. speedstan says:

    I remember hauling some girl I met in early 1981 out to a gig somewhere on the west side, with Black Randy performing his less politically correct version of “Barefooting” which went by the name of “Black Dick and White Pussy”. The last number of the set had Randy singing “Ziggy Stardust” while another member of the entourage (perhaps Joe Nanini) shaved Randy’s head with an electric razor. Afterwards we hung out at Kendra Smith’s place, and this girl made the comment “uh, you have some interesting acquaintances”… Last time she ever consented to go out with me.

  17. Joe says:

    Yes taking a girl on a first date to see vintage Black Randy is probably not a ticket to success. But I bet YOU had a great time.

  18. KK says:

    BR’s brilliant Art wreckage was equal parts David Brown and Black Randy. The point being
    that, armed with a delectable sense of skewer, no one was above being strip searched for posing credentials. They were satirizing the music scene the second it self-annointed itself. Not the obvious bloated targets, instead the newborns high on there own placenta. The ultimate check your head and laugh your ass off. He mostly loved all he lampooned, yet if they perceived themselves too seriously, ready aim, takedown. It was Saturday night live for the local set. Musically born of a love of Funkadelic and JB, scatologically shat to the wind as a square wheeled carnival dervish. I was fired at least three times and asked back.
    . Although he enjoyedaltered experiences, even if it was only Beer bingeing, I would not call him a druggie. He was a huckster, an entertainer, a con man, a really fun guy.

  19. Joe says:

    Wow, KK Barrett, you would definitely know if he was a druggie or not, you were there. It probably goes without saying that your commenting on this post is a big deal for me…thanks!!!!!!!!!

    The Black Randy post was an early one for me and I don’t think I was as comfortable writing in public at that point as I later became. A few of my points I was trying to make with it were:

    1. That listeners would be really doing themselves a disservice by writing Randy off bc of the scatalogical stuff he says.
    2. That BR would probably find it funny if listeners did exactly that because it would kinda prove his point.

    I guess, to a degree, this is the essence of satire. Would you agree?

  20. Jeremy says:

    Nice blog. Very interesting. Any chance of making the mp3′s available again?

  21. Jeremy says:

    It seems that only “I Slept In An Arcade” is unavailable, but the same ? applies. Thank you.

  22. Ray Sure says:

    i d/l’d this a while ago and finally got around to appreciating it… and boy do i ever.

    it’s great stuff. thanks for making it available!

  23. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for this post. So hard to find this album

  24. Jake Fogelnest says:

    I first heard about Black Randy from the movie “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains.” I’ve been looking for this record ever since. This is the most useful thing I’ve found on the internet in the history of the internet.

  25. Ashley-ee-ie-eigh says:

    Great post! I was born too late and too far away to experience this firsthand and finding stuff like this is like a little Christmas present.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Black Randy was a friend of mine,actually a boyfriend too. he was a gentle beautiful lover…. I will never forget him

  27. Anonymous says:

    Even though he was from SF, us in the LA punk scene couldn’t ignore Black Randy – a legend in the minds of those who don’t matter.

  28. Alicia says:

    Thanks again for posting this – worth it just for “I Slept In An Arcade.”

    Contrary to his public image, Randy was really just a big teddy bear.

  29. steen says:

    funny, I always thought he was saying
    “…take off your muthfuckin’ pants,
    your skinny white ass,
    ain’t no goddamn romance”
    Listening to it again though, I guess I was mistaken.

  30. Lethargic says:

    I just stumbled over Black Randy while binging on 45s over at Killed by Death Records. The almost tuneless wailing with a manic back up reminds me a bit of the New York Dolls. All in all ex-cel-ent!

  31. Roi says:

    I too became hip to Randy via The Fabulous Stains movie. Just saw it again a couple of nights ago. Randy was interesting to watch, but the rest of the act seemed contrived. Jerking about arrhythmically, like some low budget parody of a DEVO conception. It was as if they put Black Randy in front of Kid Creole’s back-up band, and told them to “act all punk”.

  32. Rasec says:

    If anybody knows anything about a Black Randy death certificate or burial site please let me know. It would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

  33. mik says:

    Love this album, I agree it grows on you over the years.

    I read the original version of the LP had a cover of ziggy stardust but it got recalled for legal reasons, has anyone heard it?

  34. thefuzzymode says:

    Duuuuuuuude. I sold toner to unsuspecting zerox owners with Black Randy for “a quick minute” back in the day in Hollywood. He was one fast talk’in, toner sell’in champion to be sure!!!! He was also a frigg’in genius and should be an awful lot more well known then he is for all his contributions to the L.A. Punk scene!!!!!

    RIP Black Randy!!!!! Viva Metro Squad! Viva! Viva!!!!

  35. Paul Murray says:

    Anyone know what happened to David Brown? Spent some time with Terry Brown and Black Randy in his last days in SF.

  36. andy average says:

    Firstly very cool website. Secondly I love this album. I had it way back when and was lucky enough to see Black Randy & Co. in San Francisco. What a character. Just hilarious.

  37. Dr. Rock says:

    Hmm. There’s all these comments posted tonight, but the mp3′s are gone. Did I just miss the boat?

  38. Joe says:

    Its a bug from when my computer crashed. The comments are all actually pretty old. I removed the album last year when it was re-released.

  39. DJ MOJO says:

    Black Randy (who wasn’t ‘black’) was one of those extraordinarily split people: his first action in the embryonic Hollywood punk scene was to steal the receipts of the Masque and heroically return them a few hours later. Black Randy died of HIV related illnesses somewhere in California when it was still GRID. He could’ve been infected countless times- dirty needles, unprotected sex. He was sneering for your affection and everything he said and did, no matter how serious, teetered on the edge of laughter that laid over a vast despair. He once sung in his ode/attack on San Francisco “golden gate/ready to jump…” while he railed against the very pimps, pushers and punks that he made documentaries of in Seattle and started a punk label for in L.A..

    That label was Dangerhouse Records, the seminal L.A. label. Slash and others have endured longer and done more, but Dangerhouse gave L.A. punk the jump start it needed- they released early singles by the Germs, X, Weirdos and Avengers. Dangerhouse folded by 1979, leaving Los Angeles less than a year before Black Flag codified punk into hardcore, and then began the next phase of L.A. punk.

    Black Randy and his Metrosquad were a supergroup of the Hollywood punk era: the line up included members of the Randoms, Eyes and the Dils as well as one of the other founding partners of Dangerhouse, David Browne. Musically, they were nothing like the hard-fast-loud sound of punk- if anything they were a ’60′s Soul/James Brown style funk/soul band that played rather fast. They also had echoes of early Blondie and the Who, with there tough and tight rock and roll. They were a funny band, a joke band in the sense that humor was key to understanding what they were about. The bands’ music, with its circus-like Woolsworth Doors organ vibe, played the collective straight man to Black Randy’s drunken, buffoonish, drawling, sneering voice. His voice is one of the few truly filthy voices I’ve ever heard in music- every word he says is dripping in self hatred and general loathing, a venomous nicotine and beer-stained voice that’s just laughing. His voice is sleazy enough that you don’t just think that he just slept in a porn arcade (as the lyrics to his anthem “I Slept in an Arcade” discuss), you think he INHABITED it. The band was perfectly in sync with Black Randy, playing covers of “Shaft” and “Say It Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud)” while he took aim at the songs, exaggerating the swaggering manhood of one and the simple minded racial pride of the other to grotesque proportions.

    Black Randy as a lyricist was a satirist who made everything he took aim at disgusting and outrageous, but still rooted in the real world. This is important, as many artists will take satire into fantasy (such as Eminem), making the situations so outlandish they become unreal. Almost all of Black Randy’s lyrics are internal narratives of a person’s feelings at a certain moment. A man revels in his ability to manipulate others in “I Tell Lies Everyday” (complete with a ‘nya-nya-na’ chorus). Another song has a man discussing his love for the syphilitic African dictator Idi Amin (‘Idi-idi-idi Amin/I’m your fan!/Idi-idi-idi Amin/I’m your man!). The only song of his that betrays any sympathy for other people is one called “Marlon Brando,” whose chorus goes ‘What could they do?/He was Marlon Brando?.’ The song is about an incident at the Oscars in the ’70′s where Marlon Brando won an award, and sent a Native American woman to accept it for him and who used the acceptance speech as an opportunity to rail against the treatment of Native Americans in the U.S. The ‘they’ in the song is everyone involved with Marlon Brando, who has to submit to the power he wields- and this includes the Oscar people, the Native Americans and the audience that was watching. While the sentiment behind Brando’s decision was laudable, it was entirely the product of his power, and finally, everyone was kowtowing to him. Black Randy was obsessed the abuse of power, with the ego and obsession and the vanity that it produces.

    My favorite Black Randy song is “I Wannabe a Nark.” Like all his best work, it’s about power and is probably his most vicious look at it. The music, secondary in a lot of Black Randy songs, seems like a half thought- its a loping rock and roll background, pounding in the way that one’s head does when you have revenge fantasies.

    The narrator is a high school kid who’s been rejected by the hipsters, ‘the scene’ he wishes to join. He’s rejected the people he believes to be ‘cool,’ who have that ideal lifestyle he wants. His rejected triggers the fantasy of “I Wannabe a Nark.” It’s stating the obvious to say the he now wants to be a cop, but it’s his reasons, the specific forms his desire takes, that makes the song brilliant. He wants to be a dirty, dirty cop in Hollywood, like something out of Bad Lieutenant. More than that, he dreams of demanding bribes, taking the hipsters’ dope and throwing them in the back of his car. He dreams of being able to assert power over the very cool rock culture that’s rejected him as a square. He’ll become the ultimate symbol of Squaredom, and lock them up for locking him out. He veers between sneering and sniveling, saying that he has to study hard to become a cop. He can’t wait. He wants to take bribes, steal drugs and lock ‘em up. This song has a vicious take on the rock star/fan relationship, displaying how powerful a force jealousy is when we’re watching people perform- jealous of the power we give them, and that they enjoy so much. This song is the strongest example of Randy’s satire, as well as the one that’s the nastiest of his songs.

    The other interesting aspect of Black Randy is his total obscurity. He doesn’t even have an individual listing in the All Music Guide. This is extraordinary in of itself. Everyone has a listing there: The Dils, Chainsaw Kitten, even Delta 5 (a band known more for a single and a tour than an album). Black Randy’s album was briefly reissued by Sympathy for the Record Industry, but has fallen out of print again. He hasn’t been discovered by a new generation of punk kids, but then he was never embraced by the older generation of punk fans either.

    Why is this? Part of the reason is that he put out very little recorded work in his lifetime. His one and only album Pass the Dust, I Think I’m Bowie is little over half an hour. Even with some dodgy out-takes and live recordings added (including an interminable sampling of Randy’s stage show), the CD barely cracks the fifty minute mark. Randy’s early death prevented any kind of body of work from forming.

    Also, his music was strangely difficult. Unlike the Germs or X who drew from fairly traditional rock roots, Black Randy’s appropriation of soft funk-soul makes him a much less appealing artist for musicians in his milieu to follow- he had no Gang Of Four no-wave-isms or Minuteman virtuosity and song writing. Black Randy’s music isn’t very interesting when viewed as music per se- rather, it should be viewed as performance art. His use of his musical forms was to further exaggerate the grotesque parody.

    The last reason I think that he’s been largely forgotten is one of image. Unlike Darby Crash or Exene, Black Randy never embodied (or even seemed to try to embody) the punk look. He was too old and kind of chubby. He wore long hippie shirts and pork pie hats- never anything close to the punk look. Black Randy wasn’t sexy or iconic, and didn’t live long enough to become a punk elder and didn’t die young enough to become one of its martyr’s.

    His cerebral and vicious humor, combined with his antagonistic actions and odd appearance meant in some ways that he wasn’t the kind of fascist/charismatic rock star figure around which legends build. He didn’t seem to embody some kind of ideal state to which to aspire towards. Black Randy was working against the rock star image the majority of artists cultivate- he bathed in the dregs of society without trying to ennoble them (like Lou Reed). He didn’t try to make a virtue out of weakness like punk rock traditionally did- he wasn’t the voice of the oppressed or an agent of the oppressor, but rather a howling, bitter laugh. He was a nihilistic satire of our collective vanity and ambition, and showed how the human desire for power is consuming and essentially always the same, whether it’s in the form of a bloated celebrity, hipster, African dictator, cultural icon or religious worshiper relying on God to provide.

    Hopefully, one day there’ll be a cult following for Randy, and I’m sure he’d have secretly brimmed with pride, while subjecting them to as much abuse, verbal and otherwise as he could.

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