A Look Back At Fishbone's Truth And Soul 25 Years Later
"They should have been the band that went way beyond any of us that were influenced by them." That's according to Primus frontman Les Claypool, in the Fishbone documentary, Everyday Sunshine, which also featured testimonials by admirers including Gwen Stefani, Tony Kanal and Adrian Young of No Doubt, Branford Marsalis, Flea, George Clinton, Ice-T, Perry Farrell and ?uestlove. They would all likely agree with Claypool, too.
Fishbone, a fun-loving band from South Central, Los Angeles were impossible to classify. At their start, they combined punk rock, ska, new wave, soul and funk on their first two releases their 1985 self-titled debut EP, and 1986′s full-length In Your Face. Known for "Party At Ground Zero" and other light-hearted songs like "Ugly," "? (Modern Industry)," "Lyin' Ass B*tch" (which got a new life when ?uestlove and the Roots used it as Michele Bachmann's walk-on music on an episode of Late Night With Jimmy Fallon in November of 2011) and "I Wish I Had A Date." Besides their range, they were exploding with talent: the band had multiple lead singers and writers, and no single leader. The band was a democracy, which sounds good on paper, but doesn't always work in practice.
However, guitarist Kendall Jones was gradually changing the vibe of the group. He felt that their image was a bit cartoonish; note the video for In Your Face's "When Problems Arise."
Jones wanted the band to be taken more seriously, to address social issues. He was also listening to a lot of heavy metal. Both of these new influences were evident seconds into the album; it led off with a cover of Curtis Mayfield's "Freddie's Dead" powered by Jones' heavily distorted lead guitar. "It was definitely a shift," recalls bassist Norwood Fisher.
"We talked about it, and Kendall was definitely the guy who was leading the charge, saying he wanted the band to be taken more seriously," Jones tells Radio.com. "I personally didn't feel like we needed that. But it was a democracy, and more of the band felt like that was the way to go."
"One Day," "Subliminal Fascism" and "Slow Bus Movin' (Howard Beach Party)" were more serious and political than anything the band had done up to this point. But even if their fans weren't all reading the newspaper, they all reacted to "Ma And Pa," in which Angelo sings "Only a child in the middle of a war, she's a problem child now because of a divorce, hey!" The song was one of the few that addressed not only divorce, but specifically it's effect on children caught in the middle. Jones notes that whenever they performed the song, then or now "It was amazing: people were raising hell (in the mosh pit)."
On the other hand, they wanted fans to still have a good time, hence "Bonin' In The Boneyard," the Flavor Flav to the rest of the album's Chuck D. "We had to let people know that we were still that band you heard on '? (Modern Industry).'" The Red Hot Chili Peppers, clearly paying attention to Truth And Soul, sampled "Bonin' In The Boneyard" on "Good Time Boys," which opened their very next album, 1989′s Mother's Milk.
One of the poppiest songs on the album was a Jones composition: "Mighty Long Way." It was a tribute to the scene at that time: there was a veritable plethora of amazing bands coming from all over the country, and Fishbone toured with many of them. "I had a lot of love in my heart for the people I was playing music with. It was about the relationships with other bands. We had befriended Murphy's Law, and the Chili Peppers and Thelonius Monster as well. But it was really Murphy's Law who really inspired that song. And also my appreciation for the other guys in my band."
"We felt like a natural extension of the scene that came before us: X, Fear, Oingo Boingo, the Busboys, Black Flag. We met Perry Farrell, when he was in a band called Psi Com. I remember the day that I met Flea and Anthony Kiedis, they came to a Fishbone show at a place called Club Lingerie and introduced themselves. It was a scene, we nurtured each other musically. There was a super-friendly competition. You wanted to be bad as f***, because you knew the other bands were going to be bad as f***!." more on this story
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