Boston's Del Fuegos join the ranks of the reunited

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Del Fuegos
  • Del Fuegos
As best as I can remember, I only ever saw the Del Fuegos once, and it was a few years before the Boston band had a modest bit of breakout success in 1984 as scruffy heartland rockers. I caught them in 1983 in Philadelphia, at a show billed as "Psych-Out." The headliners were LA's Three O'Clock, poster children for the so-called Paisley Underground scene, which also included the Rain Parade, the Bangles, the Long Ryders, the Dream Syndicate, and Green on Red. The middle act on the bill was a solid but long-forgotten Philly trio called the Impossible Years. I think I wore the only paisley shirt I owned at the time—I was down with that shit back then. The cover charge was five bucks, and included a couple of sugar cubes in a small paper cup, presumably to drop my acid onto—nice touch. Check out the fancy gig flyer after the jump!

Anyway, the Del Fuegos were pretty amused by the whole Paisley Underground thing, and made fun of it throughout their set. I don't remember too much about their music, but it was much more raw and wild than the stuff that later made their reputation. On their solid 1982 single "I Can't Sleep" b/w "I Always Call Her Back," they're loose and rowdy, borrowing ideas from raunchy 50s rockabilly (but not the hiccuping vocals, slap bass, and silly duck's-ass hairstyles). I remain especially fond of a song they recorded as a backing band for Beantown character Sonny Columbus, "That Punchbowl Full of Joy"—it appeared on a Christmas record put out by music tabloid Boston Rock and featured the couplet, "You can hear my knees a-knocking / I can't wait to fill your stocking."

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The Del Fuegos released their debut album on Slash in 1984 (it wasn't exactly a major, but it was distributed by Warner Brothers in the States), after cleaning up their sound and bringing in former Embarrassment member Brent "Woody" Giessman to replace original drummer Steve Morrell, who'd quit before they signed. The album is the kind of booming, earnest guitar rock you'd expect from a post-Mellencamp band. I once owned a copy of their second album, 1985's Boston, Mass., but until this past week I hadn't consciously listened to any of the Del Fuegos' post-'82 music since I lost track of that record. I suppose by today's standards they were ahead of their time when they appeared in a TV commercial for Miller beer in the mid-80s—it's not just their music in the spot but the band themselves, talking about their philosophy on rock and singing a jingle for the brewery. (You can watch a very blurry videotape transfer of the ad below, in all of its mind-boggling glory.) Over the weekend I listened to those first two albums, and they haven't improved with time. The production is still marred by 80s-style "big" drum sounds, and the songs are still workmanlike.

The Del Fuegos ended up releasing four albums, and the final one, 1989's Smoking in the Fields (RCA), was cut after both Giessman and guitarist Warren Zanes had left the band. By the following year it was over. Front man Dan Zanes has gone on to have a successful career making rock for kids, and Warren got back into music after earning a few graduate degrees, recording a few forgettable solo albums. Last summer the Del Fuegos got together for the first time in 21 years—why not, everyone's doing it!—and played a couple of shows in Boston to benefit Right Turn, a drug-rehab and mental-health program founded by Giessman. They had fun, so they're still at it, in the middle of a tour that brings them to Lincoln Hall on Saturday and SPACE in Evanston on Sunday. They're putting out a new record too, which is a little mellower than the Slash releases but otherwise doesn't sound all that different. Thomas Conner of the Sun-Times recently interviewed the band, in case you want more detail about the reunion. And you can listen to a new song called "Friday Night" at the band's Soundcloud page—alas, it appears to be uploaded in such a way that forbids embedding.

A Miller beer commercial with the Del Fuegos

Today's playlist:

Joe Hinton, Funny (How Time Slips Away) (Shout!)
Bettye Swann, Bettye Swann (Honest Jon’s)
We All Together, We All Together (Repsychled/Lion Productions)
The Sea and Cake, The Moonlight Butterfly (Thrill Jockey)
Gary Higgins, A Dream a While Back (Drag City)

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