Agony Shorthand

Tuesday, April 01, 2003
A LONG-WINDED, HORRIBLY NOSTALGIC METHOD OF REVIEWING THE REVILLOS' "MOTORBIKE BEAT" 45....I was 12 years old in 1980, and had had some limited exposure to what was then known as "new wave". Punk was still something I wasn't ready to fully tackle, given that the bands & audience actually spit on each other -- or so TIME magazine said -- but I was definitely extremely curious. Anything that might sound "punk" or "new wave" sounded it might be really fucking cool, so armed with a rudimentary knowledge of what it actually might sound like (having heard Devo and the B-52s, I was certainly an expert), I would tune in to various FM dinosaur rock stations and see if I could find any. These stations, which at the time normally played a mix of horrible AOR like Journey, Styx and the Eagles, were being forced by program directors to play some of this new shit, because everyone said it was "about to break". So you'd often hear some crap power pop trotted out as punk/new wave or my favorite, "modern music". And believe me -- and many others who've testified to this fact -- kids in my suburb, at least, used "punk" and "new wave" interchangeably and almost always as a negative, and the main epithet hurled at kids who dressed like funny new wavers or hardcore punks was ALWAYS "Hey, Devo!!".

So my plan was to write down the names of the performers and songs that sounded new wave or punk, and then I'd go look for the records at the mall. The first thing I heard that was DEFINITELY new wave to my 12-year-old ears was LOU REED's "Vicious", from the "Transformer" LP, but when I saw the cover at the Wherehouse or the Record Factory or whatever, I decided it probably wouldn't be any good. The wisdom of youth! It was a blast, though -- this was how I discovered ROXY MUSIC ("Virginia Plain" -- totally new wave), among others. But the big eye-opener was finding college radio. In the area south of San Francisco was (and still is) a great college station, KFJC. It was there that I heard new wave song after punk song after new wave song, but I'll definitely remember the first one I ever heard and loved: "Motorbike Beat" by the REVILLOS. Trouble was, I didn't write it down -- but the song stuck with me, and stuck with me, for years. Once I found out it was the Revillos, sometime in the 1990s, their comedic image as "wacky space people with ray guns" totally turned me off (even though I like the REZILLOS first LP, and it's essentially the same band), so I never tracked the 45 down. An ill wind of nostalgia swept over me recently, though, and I bid for the 45 on eBay -- and won. And you know what? IT HOLDS UP. It's a top-flight corker, this song -- ultra-frantic, rockabilly-tinged punk with dueling male & female vocals, squealing motorcycle sounds, and just a can't-beat-it FUN vibe that's not contrived or too loony to listen to. It was really nice to have it back, 23 years later, since I hadn't heard it since 1980. The flip "No Such Luck" isn't half bad, either! What about the rest of their stuff? That goofball space thing still has me pretty wary...