Lead by legendary performer Tomata du Plenty, the Screamers roamed the early
Los Angeles punk scene. They never released anything but they became a staple
of that scene and were widely recognized as being twenty years ahead of their
time. In A Better World (Extravertigo) is a summary of their "career".
David Xavier Harrigan, a.k.a. Tomata du Plenty died of cancer in august 2000,
at the age of 52.
Tomata du Plenty, a New York native, had started out in 1968 as a member
of a San Francisco drag troupe, the Cockettes, a hippie-glitter musical
theater troupe that predated David Bowie's glam-rock and the
"The Rocky Horror Picture Show".
They even produced the film "Tricia's Wedding".
He subsequently moved to Seattle and in 1969 he formed a
counter-culture theater group, Ze Whiz Kidz, that staged dozens of musical
revues until 1972.
After a a few years in Manhattan, where he met the young Stilettos
(later Blondie) and Ramones,
in 1975 Tomata moved back to Seattle and formed a glam-rock band, the
In 1976 they moved to Los Angeles and in april 1977 they renamed themselves the Screamers.
The line-up stabilized with keyboardists Melba "Tommy Gear" Toast and
The double-keyboards and no-guitar sound, coupled with Tomata's wild
attire and performances and a multimedia setting,
turned them into a major attraction on the Hollywood strip.
The band's last performance was at the Whisky-A-Go Go in 1981.
Tomata was a prolific stage producer, playwright, filmmaker and songwriter
who continued to write scores of songs and plays, but since 1983 his passion
had shifted to painting.
Eventually, Tomata abandoned music to concentrate on art, first in Miami
and then in New Orleans.
Tomata's last exhibition was held at Cafe Vesuvio in San Francisco, and featured
performances by Jello Biafra and Penelope Houston.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da Carmine DeMatteis) |
Capitanati dal leggendario front-man Tomata du Plenty, gli Screamers parteciparono alla formazione della prima scena punk di Los Angeles. Non pubblicarono nulla ma divennero un simbolo di questa scena e furono considerati avanti sui tempi di almeno vent’anni. "In A Better World" (Extravertigo) è una summa della loro "carriera". David Xavier Harrigan, in arte Tomata du Plenty, morì di cancro nell’agosto del 2000, all’età di 52 anni.
Tomata du Plenty, nato a New York, cominciò nel 1968 come membro di un gruppo musicale di drag queens di San Francisco, the Cockettes, una troupe teatrale che inscenava musical di stampo hippie-decadente, a metà fra il glam-rock di David Bowie e il "Rocky Horror Picture Show".
Inoltre produssero il film "Tricia's Wedding". In seguito si trasferì a Seattle e nel 1969 fondò un gruppo teatrale di contro-cultura, chiamato Ze Whiz Kidz, che pubblicò dozzine di riviste musicali fino al 1972. Dopo alcuni anni trascorsi a Manhattan, dove incontrò i giovani Stilettos (in seguito Blondie) e i Ramones, nel 1975 Tomata ritornò a Seattle e formò una band glam-rock, the Tupperwares. Nel 1976 du Planty e la sua nuova band si spostarono a Los Angeles e ad aprile del 1977 cambiarono il loro nome in Screamers. La line-up fu definita con i tastieristi Melba "Tommy Gear" Toast e Paul Roessler. Il sound caratteristico dovuto alla doppia tastiera e all’assenza di chitarre, associati agli strani abiti di Tomata, alle performaces selvagge e ad una ambientazione multimediale, li trasformarono nella maggior attrazione dei locali "caldi" di Holliwood. L’ultima esibizione della band si tenne allo Whisky-A-Go Go nel 1981. Tomata fu un produttore teatrale notevole, drammaturgo, regista e compositore che continuò a scrivere tonnellate di canzoni e opere teatrali, ma dal 1983 la sua passione venne convogliata nella pittura. Infatti alla fine Tomata abbandonò la musica per concentrarsi sulle altre forme d’arte, prima a Miami e poi a New Orleans. La sua ultima esibizione fu tenuta al Cafè Vesuvio di San Francisco, insieme alle performances di Jello Biafra e Penelope Houston.
Candice Pedersen writes:
David Xavier Harrigan, a.k.a.
Tomata du Plenty, lead vocalist for the Screamers ('77-'81), died in San
Francisco on Sunday, apparently from cancer. He was 52. Born on Coney
Island, Tomata was the son of Irish immigrants. He is survived by two
sisters. One of L.A.'s all-time biggest club bands, the Screamers were also
its most mysterious.
They are renowned as the original punk underground's most popular band, who
vanished into thin air without ever releasing a single record, who never
officially toured, and who were so far ahead of their time in doing away
with electric guitars in aggressive rock that they were called "techno-punk"
by local scene scribe Kristine McKenna as early as February '78.
Style and theater were also so much a part of the Screamers that nobody ever
called them out for being a punk band with a full-time stylist. Later
on, under the direction of Austrian filmmaker Rene Daalder, the band made
a series of video clips and short promotional films nearly two years
before MTV went on the air. Gary Panter's screaming, hair-raising
skull caricature of Tomata has become one of the few recognizable
"official unofficial" emblems of the great L.A. underground rock band
rebirth of the late '70s.
No one with any management or business skills understood the Screamers
or their lo-fi psycho-Kraftwerk-meets-The Night Porter as performance
art, yet the band (one ARP Odyssey synth, one Fender Rhodes with fuzzbox,
and one minimal drumkit plus Tomata) was still regularly selling out
multiple consecutive nights at the Whisky and the Roxy, two shows a
night with their meticulously polished productions. Any unsigned band
able to rack up ticket sales even half that amount today would stir up
a major knock-down bloodied bidding war among several multi-national
After the final break-up of the Screamers in '81, Tomata embarked on
a new career as a painter, and after his first show at the Zero One
Gallery in '83, he gradually evolved into a revered folk artist who
worked the storefront gallery circuit in Seattle, L.A., Miami, New
Orleans and San Francisco. (He always said he'd sooner sell 100 of his
trademark instant paintings of his favorite artists and other plain
folks at $25 each rather than one at $25,000.) Before moving to L.A. in
early '77 Tomata was a beneficiary of Seattle's
"one-percent-for-the-arts" policy at a time when there were more than a
dozen funded live theaters in the city mostly featuring farcical musical
comedies which brought out droves of actors, designers, costumers, and
performers like Tomata who were enticed to artist-friendly Seattle
looking for low-wage work in the arts. Tomata was a big hit on the
thriving Seattle off-theater circuit of the early 70's as a member of
Ze Whiz Kidz a lip-sync troupe he originally formed with Gorilla Rose
(RIP Michael Farris) in '69.
After opening for Alice Cooper at the Paramount in '72 with a 50's-theme
musical "Puttin' Out In Dreamsville " the vitality around Ze Whiz Kidz
god-fathered major re-births of local scenes in modern dance,
performance art, punk and the gay underground in Seattle. Ze Kidz staged
nearly 100 mini-musical/revues with a cast whose stage names included
Satin Sheets, Co Co Ritz, Daily Flo, Benny Whiplash, Michael
Hautepants (costume designer Michael Murphy), Leah Vigeah and real
females Louise Lovely (Di Linge) and Cha Cha Samoa (Cha Davis). After
bailing on Ze Kidz circa '74 Tomata formed the Tupperwares an all-drag
vocal trio with Melba Toast who later reinvented herself as Tommy Gear
(the utterly enigmatic musician-writer who wrote most of the
Screamers' classic songs and then seemed to disappear) and Rio de Janiero
(David Gulbransen). Frequently billed together on what came to be
known as "TMT" shows, three Seattle bands -- the Tupperwares, the Meyce
and the Telepaths -- basically mid-wifed Seattle's version of the late
70's punk-new wave scene.
There was also a brief period in New York with Gorilla Rose and
Fayette Hauser who performed comedy at CBGB's with the Stilettos
(featuring a pre-Blondie Debbie Harry) and the Ramones as opening acts.
After moving to L.A. in early '77 the Tupperwares quickly changed their
name to the Screamers after meeting keyboardist David Brown and
transplanted Oklahoman multi-media artist-musician KK Barrett. Following
the final break-up of the Screamers in '81, Tomata embarked on a new
career as a painter whose first show was at the Zero One Gallery in '83.
Since then he gradually evolved into a revered populist folk artist
who worked the small store-front gallery circuit in Seattle, L.A.,
Miami, New Orleans and San Francisco where he always said he'd sooner
sell 100 of his trademark instant paintings of artists at $25.00 each
rather than one at $25,000. "With style, grace and humor" Tomata once
said "everybody must be made to feel important sometime ..."