The ultimate proto punk band – Imperial Dogs

The Imperial Dogs DVD Enters The Proto-Punk Pantheon

There have been 16 tongues of talk-talk about ‘proto-punk’ – what it is and who it was – over the last several years.

Aside from the genre’s generally agreed upon ’60s antecedents (the Velvet Underground, the Stooges, the MC5, the Rolling Stones/Who/Kinks, all such that’s now known as ‘garage-rock’ but what was originally called ‘punk-rock’ – bands found on Lenny Kaye’s groundbreaking Nuggets compilation, and ALL the aforementioned artists’ ‘influences’), such pre-Ramones acts as the New York Dolls, a lubed-fistful of British glam-rockers, and several early-70s visionaries from such far-flung outposts as Cleveland (Rocket From The Tombs), Toronto (Simply Saucer), Oklahoma (Debris), Australia (Radio Birdman), and Detroit (Death) have been consensus additions to the canon.

Then there’s the Imperial Dogs, whose recently released Live! In Long Beach (October 30, 1974) DVD provides audio and visual proof positive that four maniacs – guitarist Paul Therrio, bassist Tim Hilger, drummer Bill Willet, and, jumping around and doing the shouty bits, yours truly – were playing this sort of shite in and around the solipsistic singer-songwriter/cosmic cocaine cowpoker paradise that was Los Angeles back before most of the people reading this run-on sentence had hair on their popsicles (English translation: ice lollies.)

Before you accuse this not-so-humble scrivener of propagating a wide butt-load of self-aggrandizing codswallop, the Editorial We would’ve preferred that someone else would’ve written this thinly veiled advertorial, but the powers-that-be either thought there might be some greater insight to be gained from a first-person accounting or they couldn’t be arsed – or afford – to assign anyone else the unenviable task of chin-wagging the Imperial Dogs’ tale. (this is true- we knew a couple of songs but not the history of the band so we are honoured to have them write it- Ed)

But hey, everyone’s a critic nowadays, ’cause anything that’s referenced on the Interwebs is just a click away, so you can see ‘n’ hear for yourself whether it’s jivin’ or jammin’. So here’s the first in a series of video clips taken from that above mentioned Imperial Dogs’ DVD, a Waller & Therrio composition entitled ‘Midnite Dog’.

Prior to the release of this DVD, the Imperial Dogs were best-known to green-teethed record collectors for writing and performing the original version of ‘This Ain’t the Summer of Love’, which was re-worked and recorded by thinking man’s metalmongers the Blue Oyster Cult on their 1976, platinum-selling Agents Of Fortune album. The BOC’s version has since been recorded by the Nomads (under their in-jokey nom de rock, the Screamin’ Dizbusters), L7, the U.V.’s, Lizzy Borden, Current 93, and interpolated into the second recorded version of ‘Swallow My Pride’ by Green River.

It’s also become the title of book (This Ain’t the Summer of Love: Conflict and Crossover in Heavy Metal and Punk by Smith university professor Steve Waksman), a blog, and the hookline/chorus (“This Ain’t the Garden Of Eden/This Ain’t the Summer of Love,” which – as evidenced in the video below – is all the musical/lyrical DNA that the Imperial Dogs’ version shares with the BOCs) has been emblazoned on a limited-edition skateboard.

Some of you who are still reading this far may know that the Imperial Dogs’ original version of this most-Solomonic song of songs first surfaced as a then-posthumous (the band broke up in 1975) single issued on Back Door Man Records, a spin-off of the semi-legendary, L.A. fanzine Back Door Man, in 1977.

Others may know this and the single’s flipside, a cover of the Velvet Underground’s “I’m Waiting for the Man,” resurfaced on the Imperial Dogs’ Unchained Maladies: Live! 1974-75 LP that was released by Australian indie Dog Meat Records in 1989.

Four of the other eight tracks on this LP were recorded at the Imperial Dogs’ first gig under that moniker — the four members had been playing together, first as Sugar Boy, then as White Light, for the past two years — which took place on March 28, 1974 at legendary Sunset Strip nitespot Gazzari’s.

Predictably, it was w-i-L-d. Prophetically, it got them banned from the club for life. Why? The singer did a long slow slide down the mikestand, ripping the crotch out of his silver-studded jeans, which – ’cause he wasn’t wearing any underwear – exposed his shortcomings. This, coupled with his failure to immediately evacuate the stage, resulted in their expulsion.

The other four songs on the LP were taken from a stereo cassette recording of the Imperial Dogs’ practicing for what would be their second live performance at Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco on February 16, 1975. Their first live performance at Rodney’s glam-rock hotspot – where Kim Fowley, wearing an Imperial Dogs T-shirt, introduced the band to an audience of Hollywood glitterati, including the Imperial Dogs’ spiritual Godfather, Iggy Pop (We’ve got pictures to prove this) took place on November 11, 1974, a mere 12 days after the Long Beach gig that was immortalized in glorious mono on half-inch, black & white, pre-Betamax videotape.

The point of all this increasingly mind-numbing reverie that’s got to me is that in addition to the aforementioned trio of tunes found on the band’s 45 and LP as well as another three original tunes (‘Contradictions’, ‘Amphetamine Superman’, and ‘Rock and Roll Overdose’) plus a cover of the Kinks’ ‘Till the End of the Day’, the Imperial Dogs’ DVD features no less than five original songs (‘Just Kids’, ‘Intensity 21.5’, ‘Lizard Love’, ‘Sweet Little Strychnine’, and ‘Loud, Hard & Fast’) and one cover (Mott The Hoople’s ‘Rock and Roll Queen’) that don’t appear anywhere else. Here’s a clip of ‘Just Kids’.

And here’s a clip of ‘Intensity 21.5’

If all this (and more), including a 20-page detailed booklet with 17 eye-popping photos, most of which are in color; has failed to convince you that the Imperial Dogs’ Live! In Long Beach (October 30, 1974) DVD – which is available either directly from or via the fine folks at Forced Exposure – deserve their place in the ‘proto-punk’ pantheon, then let’s just say that once you’ve had your band’s practice interrupted by several shotgun-wielding F.B.I. agents in search of then-fugitive Patty Hearst, you’re not gonna give two dead flies about what anyone else thinks.


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  1. Good band. I love proto-punk. There was another Detroit outfit called The Ramrods who were fantastic. I don’t think they have any records out but there’s a comp doing the rounds online and it absolutely smokes. Stooges influence huge, but so what?

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