Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Top 10 Bands that Dress to Kill

Elvis wore a leather jacket, Jim Morrison wore leather pants and Nash the Slash...remember him?
Well, he wore surgical bandages all over his head, a white top hat and sunglasses. Some bands use clothes as part of the act, and for some, it becomes the act. In no particular order, here are 10 bands that took their fashion choices to the next level. Remember, we're not here to judge, as it probably seemed like a good idea at the time and also they were very likely high out of their minds on cocaine.

1. Judas Priest

Before there was Megadeath, Motley Crue and Metallica, there was the Priest. Judas Priest that is. Sometime late in the 70’s, they started taking their metal image very seriously and began to dress the part. Think S & M club meets a really skinny, slightly effeminate motorcycle gang. We had seen leather pants on lots of dudes before but Judas Priest really went the extra mile, adding studs to everything and upping the tightness factor. Right or wrong, they may have been solely responsible for the fashion choices of countless 80’s metal bands that followed. The Scorpions, Whitesnake, Slaughter, Ratt, and those of that ilk. That’s a lot of leather legacy.

2. Primus

They have been labeled the weirdest band in the world. If that means singing Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver dressed up as pigs, then yes, they may be contenders to the title. The madness of Primus is directly proportional to the amount of Les Claypool in the mix. If we follow him through his career of solo projects and side bands, a dress up theme is never far off. Claypool seems to pull oddball characters into his orbit like a giant black hole of weirdness. Members of Les Claypool’s Frog Brigade have been known to wear Planet of the Apes masks, reptilian costumes  and other critter themed gear during concerts. And yes, in the Bucket of Bernie Brains band, he had a guitar player that wore a KFC bucket over his head.

3. Devo

Devo put a nerd-rock twist on the dress up game and often sported what looked like B-movie Hazmat suits and plastic planters on their heads. They loved outfits and they loved symmetry, always uniform in their dress. As kids, maybe they all wanted to be astronauts when they grew up because there seems to be a science fiction theme going on with all those outfits.

4. Slipknot

I don’t know anything about Slipknot or their music, except that they scare the crap out of me. From the state of their outfits, I’m guessing thrash metal mixed with a dash of crazy. Like Kiss, this is one of those bands that says “to hell with dress up, we’re going deep into character and we’re not coming out until we’re washed up and ready for our own reality show.” Thumbs up for the commitment boys.

5.Village People

When I was in grade four, I got a copy of the Village People for my birthday.
I was fascinated by the cover photo, depicting them as the heroic looking macho men that they were. Then sometime later, my sister revealed to me that they were in fact, super gay.

 “No they’re not.” I replied, because the only gay person I knew was Jack Tripper from Three’s Company (even though he was faking) and he did not dress cool like the village people.

“Look at how tough looking the construction guy is.” I countered.

“His jeans are ripped. And look at the motorcycle guy…he has all that leather and a moustache.”

“That’s what gay men dress like.” She said.

“Do you really think you could ride a motorcycle in pants with no butt coverage?”

I was not convinced. Regardless, setting aside the actual functionality of the outfits and the cultural stereotyping, they still managed to sell 100 million records along the way. Political correctness wouldn’t be invented for a few years yet, so no harm no foul I suppose.

6. Kiss

To merely say that Kiss wore costumes is a bit like saying Muhammad Ali merely boxed. Kiss took what Alice Cooper was doing in the wardrobe department, multiplied it by 10 and suddenly they became game changers. They added make-up and became comic book characters that could sing and play (sort of). The outfits did change over the years by the way. I learned about some of the nuances and evolution of the Kiss costumes one year when I was researching for an airband performance. (Yes, it was that serious). Any Kiss fanatic will be able to match the era with the costume variations, but I’m not in that camp. I do know however, that between 1973 and 1983, they never played a show without the costumes and make-up, igniting a furious marketing storm that still goes on to this day. They still play live occasionally, but those first 10 years were what made them.

7. Gwar

Gwar is hard to explain if you have never seen what they wear. Think of low budget special effects creatures like the ones in the old Power Rangers t.v. show and you are pretty much there. There is a comedic aspect to them that goes along with their graphic lyrics so at least they're consistent in their ridiculousness. They are not scary like Slipknot, but they are original and they beat them to the punch. They upped the ante from Kiss and Alice Cooper and turned it into a freak show latex-extravaganza of metal. In the family tree of dress up,
No Gwar = no Slipknot.

8. Abba

This band had a couple of things going for them that created the perfect storm of outfits. First off, it was the disco era, so one wasn’t limited by good taste. Secondly, they had that strange incestuous couples thing going on, which provided endless combinations of outfits. The guys would match one day, the blonds would match the next, and then they would all dress the same the following. Their costume designer must have been in heaven with all those rhinestones and sequins. Maybe he had a be-dazzler. If you want to see exactly the extent of the jumpsuit madness, do a Google image search and prepare to be astounded by what you can do with polyester.

9. George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic

Where to begin? This band is one great big potpourri of space trippin’ eccentrics. Their fearless leader, George Clinton himself, stirring the funk soul stew. They rode on the Mothership in some seriously unfiltered outfits. Unlike some of the other large ensemble bands of the day, P-Funk had no rhyme or reason to the clothes, with everyone making a personal statement. They seemed to have toned things down in the later years, but any of the old photos from the 70’s show some truly inspired wardrobe choices.

10. Earth, Wind and Fire

These cats were all about unity. Whether they were wearing dashikis, gold lame or those crazy robes, they did it with style. Even the afros were coifed to the same length. There was a lot of Motown sensibility to their dress code that they carried through their career. These guys could bring it and they had the dance steps to match.

Your homework…one of my favorites. Shining Star by Earth, Wind and Fire.


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