Friday, February 13, 2009

The Dictators -- "Who Will Save Rock and Roll?" (2001)

Kudos to Little Steven's Underground Garage channel on Sirius Satellite Radio to get me into New York City's other proto punk group many, many years after they first arrived on the scene.

I don't know why I never got into the Dictators. Probably like everybody else in the 70's, the record company botched promoting them, they weren't played on the radio and for some reason, nobody else had the decency to turn me on to them.

Yet, the Dictators put out their first studio album in decades in 2001 and Little Steven had the superior taste to put some of the tunes on the playlist. Even if you never heard any of their previous Epic and Elektra albums from their heyday, and I hardly knew them myself, the DFFD album was a blazing rock and roll statement that basically ignored if any other style of music ever existed.

Primal yet well-recorded, loud, and funn,y The Dictators broke everything down to its basics. Not just with their instrumental makeup -- your basic guitars, bass and drums -- and no synths or keyboards. The subject matter: the rawness and beauty of rock and roll conquers all.

The first song I heard from the album on Little Steven was "Savage Beat," an ode to the "primitive sound" packed with brilliant Flintstones references. Soon enough, it was life down on "Avenue A" and the catch-phrase happy "What's Up With That?"

Yet, the album's... and the Dictators'... statement of purpose opened up the whole escapade with "Who Will Save Rock and Roll?" The overdriven guitar notes lovingly ripping-off The Clash's cover version of "Police On My Back," lead singer Handsome Dick Manitoba sounds like an angry thug on the warpath, wailing on about the loss of the greatness of the music he loves.

I fall to my knees
and look to the sky.
Who will save rock and roll?

Murray The K, is not here today.
so who will save rock and roll?

Every protest singer.
every guitar slinger.
every punk rock sinner sells his soul.

My generation is not the salvation
so who will save rock and roll?

I saw The Stooges, covered with bruises
who will save rock and roll?

Every mercenary
Three chord revolutionaries.
Choose your side and choose it well.

June 1st, '67... something died and went to heaven.
I wish Sgt Pepper
never taught the band to play.

My generation
is not the salvation.
so who will save,
who will save...
tell me who will save
rock and...... roll!?

We've all had favorite guitar players, but a listen through "Who Will Save Rock and Roll" and the rest of DFFD record convinced me that the band's Ross The Boss (yes!) can swing that high gain axe through the Marshalls about as good as anybody. You begin to sympathize with that opening anthem because how often do you hear an album full of amazing raw rock and roll like this one in this day and age?

I found out over the next several years that some of these songs were re-recordings from earlier band and solo albums, including "Who Will Save Rock and Roll?" I had to go back and check out the early Dictators albums, such as their Epic debut from 1975, The Dictators Go Girl Crazy!! when Handsome Dick had a colossal afro and they were known for their irreverent cover of the Riveras' "California Sun" and whacked out punk classic "Cars and Girls."

It was only tonight that I finally found out that DFFD stood for Dictators Forever Forever Dictators. Here they are in 1999 in Detroit, raising the roof.


Unknown said...

You will be hsppy Drew, in the CBGB section at the Rock n Roll annex in NY, there is a dictators jacket hung up... the Ramones playing, and a huge Clash exhibition

Anonymous said...

Yo TMG! Welcome to the world of the DICTATORS! Better late than never ... As sound engineer for the Dictators, I can tell you that no one can touch the Dictators live! They are one of NYC's real rock & roll treasures and hopefully we get some more live performances from these guys in the future. "Stay with Me" is one of the greatest R&R songs ever. check it out ...
DFFD, gerry