- Paperback: 432 pages
- Publisher: Continuum; First Edition edition (September 1, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0826428460
- ISBN-13: 978-0826428462
- Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 24 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #960,756 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Sweat: The Story of the Fleshtones, America's Garage Band Paperback – September 1, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Everyone has a favorite overlooked band they feel should have sold millions of records, filled arenas and enjoyed household-name status; among those commercially unsuccessful stalwarts, the Fleshtones rank as one of America's most enduring musical forces. Crawling out from under New York City's punk and new wave scenes in the mid-1970s, this gang of misfits dubbed their fuzzy yet danceable mix of guitars, Farfisa organ, old-school R&B, rockabilly and surf music as "Super Rock," then watched contemporaries such as the Ramones, Talking Heads, R.E.M. and Blondie became stars. Topping out on the Billboard album charts at no. 174, the Fleshtones, still active 30 years on, make for an unconventional study in rock 'n' roll survival. Bonomo, better known for his essays and poetry, has conducted new interviews with all the principles to provide an exhaustive account of the band's checkered history, colored by excessive amounts of alcohol and drugs, mismanagement and the 2005 suicide of sax man Gordon Spaeth. Bonomo marches a parade of colorful characters in and out of his narrative, including past and present band members, business associates, friends, family members and fellow musicians, to present an honest and dramatic look at rock semi-obscurity. B/w photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
—Peter Case, singer-songwriter
Imagine the myth of Sisyphus recast as a garage band—and a goodone—and you have the story of the Fleshtones. One of the latter-dayCBGBs bands, championed by REM and critically adored for theirexplosive concerts, the 'Tones shoulda been contenders. But whathappened? First-time author (and fan) Bonomo tells their cursed storywith religious fervor and a near-lyrical quality to his prose. Bonomoexpands on a history that would otherwise be summed up by a pithy entryin All Music Guide over a sprawling 400 pages, packed with newinterviews and anecdotes. In cataloging a decadeslong litany ofindignities and misfortunes that did little to deter the Fleshtones'passion, the book raises deeper questions about what making it in musicmeans. Does the distinction of being the only CBGBs-era band to keepgoing without an inactive year count for anything? Consider this themad-eyed older brother of James Greer's biography of the indie-rockband Guided by Voices or Michael Azerrad's Our Band Could Be Your Life. This is the secret history that even NYC punk histories like Please Kill Me couldn't handle. Recommended for libraries with large popular music collections.
—Library Journal (Library Journal)
— Jim DeRogatis, pop music critic, Chicago Sun-Times, and author, Let It Blurt: The Life and Times of Lester Bangs, America's Greatest Rock Critic.
"Rock and roll is a pretty egalitarian affair. On any given night any band can be the best band in the world, if only for ten minutes. The amazing thing about the Fleshtones is that every night for the last thirty years they have consistently been the best live band on earth. Year in, year out — high, low and in between — the Fleshtones have embodied the very essence of rock and roll. This great book by Joe Bonomo really gets to the heart of who the Fleshtones are, and the price they paid. Now it's up to you to check out the Fleshtones when they hit your town. And in my own defense, that fire that Keith and I started in France was really a very small fire. Not worth mentioning at all. Please."
—Peter Buck, R.E.M.
Mention in Memphis Flyer
"Most bands have a narrative arc that runs from formative years torock-star ascent to inevitable breakup. The Fleshtones' chart flatlinessomewhere between fame and obscurity, and this is where Bonomo takes aninteresting angle.
By recounting the band's Sisyphean chase offame, which is rewarded only with a raging cult following, he offers aunique "view from the bottom" - familiar to 99.9 percent of all bands -of rock's last three decades.
"Sweat" reads like a true laborof love. It's a highly detailed account of the band that refused to goaway until, through determination and stamina, they got the book theydeserved."
—The New York Post
"Rather than chalk up the band to be some amazing quartet who'vesurpassed their time in the spotlight (or lack of in this case), [Bonomo] focuses on their longevity and passion. Thirty years in the game and nohits to be accounted for but the band still holds it together becauseof their love, their pure unadulterated love of rock and roll."
"I just finished a biography of the band, called Sweat: The Story of the Fleshtones, America's Garage Band. I would have given this book 873 stars, but they only let me give it five. Me? I live to read. I lust for the book that I cannot bear to put down. That is what I like, that is what I look for. This is one of those books. A love letter, a labor of love, and a gripping read about people who have brought nothing but happiness to thousands of people for a long, long time. It helps to already have spent some time living in total intoxication of the Fleshtones, of course, but it is a brilliant book no matter what."
Interviewed by Rockford Review
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In a nutshell, "Sweat" reveals that despite the jolly, party-time atmosphere that is the essence of the Fleshtones, the band and its individual members have truly been through hell along the way. The well-documented drug use by this band is nothing short of legendary, and at least one member, Marek Pakulski, ultimately had to leave the group do to his uncontrollable heroin addiction. Other members, particularly Keith Streng and Bill Milhizer, are probably lucky to be alive considering the amount of alcohol they've consumed. As for Peter Zaremba, it's surprising his body didn't just blast off into orbit, with the amount of speed he was taking!
Funny personal story - I saw the Fleshtones in Boston back around 1988, and got a chance to meet them before the show. I'd brought along the cover of my "Fleshtones vs. Reality" CD and Keith, Bill and Peter all cheerfully signed it. But Peter was irked by the fact that the label, Roadrunner, had included one of those anti-drug public service messages inside it. So Peter scribbled over the message and wrote underneath, "Do what thou willst! A.C." (An Aleister Crowley quote) I had no idea at the time just how serious he was!
Then of course there's the most notorious Fleshtone of all, Gordon Spaeth (R.I.P.). Who would have thought that a member of the Fleshtones served several years in prison after killing a man in a drunken fight?!
Author Joe Bonomo does a fantastic job of tracing the band's history over more than 30 years. From the young hipsters prowling lower Manhattan at the dawn of the punk era, through the 80's where at least Europe embraced the band and they enjoyed some celebrity, and on through the 90's to the present, as the bandmates have continued to make music on their own terms, even as material success has eluded them, "Sweat" spares no detail and offers compelling proof that the Fleshtones are indeed living legends.
And by the way, why won't I.R.S. allow those classic early albums to be reissued? You guessed it - it's all about money. As much as any band in history, the Fleshtones are a prime example of why major labels suck.
This book is essential for any Fleshtones fan, and even someone who never heard of them should still find "Sweat" to be one hell of a good read.
(p.s. The Fleshtones' brand-new album "Take A Good Look" is their best album ever.)
This book captures their wild abandon, the influences that made them who they are and ever-present obstacles in their way (be they from an indifferent record industry, bad planning, or their own personal demons).
If you are a contemporary of the band and think you know their story, you don't. Every chapter reveals a new insight, a new wrinkle, a new disaster gone right that you've never heard. And if you never heard of the Fleshtones and want to know what it's like to be in a REAL rock and roll band - this book is for you.
SWEAT is an essential read, it strongly stands right up next to PLEASE KILL ME for many reasons. The book is not just for those who are already fans of Super Rock, but for anyone wanting to learn how hard it can be playing rock'n'roll, and for readers wanting to learn another aspect of the "punk" scene in NYC circa 1970's. It tells the history of the band, gives insight into these complex individuals and the perils they've been thru, and demystifies them. Somehow though, The Fleshtones still are on a plane that makes them who they are, what differentiates them from so many other bands that have come and gone.
Bonomo writes in such a deft way that The Fleshtones are allowed to be who they are, to make the choices they've made (some good, some not so good), and still shows them as the truly unique bunch they are. Judgement is never passed on The Fleshtones in SWEAT; their noses are never rubbed in the messes that might've been created. The tone and style on the book is nearly perfect, putting the reader right there in the middle between the Comedy and Tragedy of it all, not quite knowing if the next turn will be the one that could've ended it all.
Thank you, Joe Bonomo, for taking the time and effort to do this; it is genuinely inspired reading. Your love for them comes through like an avalanche, but you still allowed the harsh realities to exist. This is a book I plan to revisit many times in the future. Well done, sir!
And thank you to The Fleshtones for making music and spreading the gospel of Super Rock. You are the most underappreciated band to come out of NYC from the 70s. Thank you, Peter, Kieth, Bill, Ken, Marek, and all other Fleshtones for not knowing when to walk away. We that are lucky to have found you and are better people for it all. RIP, Gordon -- we'll never forget...
Most recent customer reviews
I know some of the players before they were the Fleshtones, and after reading the book and watching the documentary/promotion I have more questions than...Read more