On this day in music history: September 21, 1985 – “Fishbone”, the debut EP by Fishbone is released. Produced by David Kahne, it is recorded at Sunset Sound Factory in Hollywood, CA and Eldorado Recording Studios in Burbank, CA from Late 1984 – Mid 1985. Friends since junior high school, the core of Fishbone is formed around brothers John Norwood Fisher (bass) and Phillip “Fish” Fisher (drums) “Dirty Walt” A. Kibby II (vocals, trumpet), Kendall Jones (guitar, keyboards), and Christopher Dowd (keyboards, vocals). The group begin jamming and rehearsing at the Fishers home in South Central Los Angeles. At this time, all five are bussed to another high school in the San Fernando Valley, where they meet Angelo Moore (vocals, saxophone). First calling themselves Megatron, they change their name to Fishbone with Moore as lead singer. Having a wildly eclectic and manic music style that includes funk, R&B, rock, ska and punk, Fishbone establishes themselves on L.A.’s thriving underground punk scene quickly becoming an attraction and developing a following. Fishbone are discovered by Columbia Records A&R man and producer David Kahne in 1983 when they’re playing a club. He offers to sign the band and take them into the studio. Kahne and Fishbone emerge from the studio with a six track EP featuring all original material written by mostly by guitarist Kendall Jones with contributions from Norwood and Angelo. The bands now trademark “fishbone” logo featured on the back cover is designed by producer David Kahne using an early version of the MacPaint illustrating program on an Apple MacIntosh personal computer. Original vinyl pressings have the message “THANKS MOMMA FISH” etched into the run out groove on both sides, in tribute to Norwood and “Fish” Fisher’s mother. The EP spins off two singles including “? (Modern Industry)” and “Party At Ground Zero”. The closing track “Lyin’ Ass Bitch” also becomes a major fan favorite. In spite of only a limited promotional push from Columbia Records, the EP sells especially well in the Southern California region thanks to major support from stations like KROQ and 91X, and finds pockets of support in other areas when Fishbone tours in support of it. “Fishbone” does not chart on the Billboard Top 200.
On this day in music history: September 13, 1988 – “Truth And Soul”, the second album by Fishbone is released. Produced by David Kahne, it is recorded at Sunset Sound Factory in Hollywood, CA from Late 1987 – Mid 1988. The second full length album by the multi-faceted and multi-talented L.A. based band sees them expanding beyond their ska, punk and funk music roots, incorporating more thought provoking social commentary into their lyrics, clearly pointed out on tracks such as “Subliminal Fascism”, “Slow Bus Movin’ (Howard Beach Party)”, and “Ghetto Soundwave”. It spins off the hits “Ma And Pa” and their cover of the Curtis Mayfield classic “Freddie’s Dead”, the latter of which gives the band its first major MTV exposure. The album is remastered and reissued in 2012 by UK label Eastworld Recordings. It is also reissued by Asbestos Records in 2014, pressed on red vinyl. “Truth And Soul” peaks at number one hundred fifty three on the Billboard Top 200.
On this day in music history: December 10, 1985 – “Fine Young Cannibals”, the debut album by Fine Young Cannibals is released. Produced by Robin Millar, it is recorded at The Power Plant Studios in Willesden, North London and Sound Suite Studios in Camden, London, UK from May – August 1985. Following the break up of The (English) Beat in 1983, co-founding members David Steele and Andy Cox set about forming a new band. Going through more than five hundred demo tapes and spending eight months looking for a lead singer to front their band, Steele and Cox find singer Roland Gift, originally a member of the Hull based ska band The Akrylykz. Blessed with a uniquely soulful and distinctive voice, natural charisma and stage presence, Gift proves to be the perfect front man. The trio name themselves Fine Young Cannibals after the 1960 film “All The Fine Young Cannibals” starring Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner. Writing more than enough material to a record a full album, FYC go in search of a record deal. Surprisingly, in spite of Steele and Cox’s past track record of success with The Beat, they have great difficulty in getting a record company interested in signing the new unproven band. While still unsigned, Fine Young Cannibals make an appearance on the long running music show “The Tube” in late 1984, performing three original songs. Almost immediately, offers from the very record labels that had previously rejected FYC come pouring in, following the positive response to their debut television performance. Signing with London Records in the UK and IRS Records in the US, the band enter the studio with producer Robin Millar, fresh off of having produced Sade’s hugely successful debut album “Diamond Life”. Featuring nearly all original material, Fine Young Cannibals’ unique blend of ska, new wave, pop and R&B does take long to find favor with the public. Their debut single “Johnny Come Home” (#8 UK Pop, #76 US Pop, #8 US Club Play), quickly becomes a hit in the UK and gains the band a foothold in the US. It spins off three singles including a cover of Elvis Presley’s classic “Suspicious Minds” (#8 UK Pop), featuring Jimmy Somerville (Bronski Beat, The Communards) on backing vocals. The album is reissued on CD in 1999, and then remastered and reissued again in 2013 as two CD deluxe edition. The first disc features the original ten track album with three additional bonus tracks. The second disc contains the 12" dance mixes of “Johnny” and “Suspicious”. “Fine Young Cannibals” peaks number eleven on the UK album chart and number forty nine on the Billboard Top 200.
On this day in music history: November 30, 1986 – “In Your Face”, the full length debut album by Fishbone is released. Produced by David Kahne, it is recorded at Sunset Sound Factory in Hollywood, CA, Ocean Way Recording Studios in Los Angeles, CA from June – September 1986. Having found success with their self-titled EP released in September of 1985, Columbia Records options a full album from Fishbone. Working once again with producer David Kahne, the L.A. based band write all of the material on their full length debut, drawing on all of their musical influences from funk and R&B, to ska and punk rock. Fishbone’s musical versatility along with their over the top energy and wry sense of humor produce another solid set. However, with CBS Records unsure of how to properly market the band, and with radio’s propensity to segregate artists based on color and musical style, the album largely falls through the cracks and fails to reach a wide audience. In spite of this, Fishbone continue to build a loyal following in part by landing a spot as the opening act for then label mates the Beastie Boys in early 1987, who are touring in support of their hugely successful album “Licensed To Ill”. “Face” spins off two singles including “It’s A Wonderful Life (Gonna Have A Good Time)” and “When Problems Arise”. The latter is accompanied by a memorable music video by Saturday Night Live short film director Gary Weis and choreographer Toni Basil. The album’s cover artwork features close up photos of the band on the front and back (taken by photographer John Scarpati). The original LP release features the artist, title graphics, track listing and a UPC barcode on both sides, making it difficult for fans and record store retailers to tell which side is the front and which is the back. Though it does include a “Parental Advisory” sticker on the outer shrink wrap of the sleeve, indicating it is the front side. “In Your Face” does not chart on the Billboard Top 200.