03 February 2007

The Brothers Denery

Everybody who really knows or cares about pop-punk has to be at least somewhat aware of the legendary status of brothers Dallas and John Denery. The two of them have been involved in more crucial, seminal (I hate using that word; it sounds so rock critic-y and/or salacious, but in this case there's no avoiding it) bands than I have the energy to enumerate right now.

Currently there's a debate, well, not exactly raging, but gently bubbling along over on the ever-debatable Pop Punk Bored over which Denery Brothers-related band is the greatest of all. Sweet Baby (orginally Sweet Baby Jesus, and some say they lost up to a third of their punch when they shaved the name down to three syllables) are of course the runaway winner in the polling and discussion, but now Kendra K, who as one of the smartest people in the universe is normally right about almost everything, has weighed in on the wrong side on this particular issue.

Of course one can understand Ms Kendrak's viewpoint, if not her reasoning. She was one of the biggest Hi-Fives fans ever (for those of you who are not au fait on all matters Denery, the Hi-Fives were led by younger brother John, while Sweet Baby were fronted by big brother Dallas) and saw them numerous times, whereas Sweet Baby, whose heyday was in the mid to late 80s, were a bit before Kendrak's time (and it's only due to some shockingly lax parentage, some might say, that 15 year old Kendra was allowed to swan off to the city to follow the Hi-Fives around, but those who did say such a thing would be forgetting that John Denery was a cherubic former altar boy who, unlike most altar boys, actually behaved like one).

Anyway, before I digress myself off onto another planet (by the way, did you know that they had found water on Mars? I'm sure this is old news, but it completely slipped past my radar until I heard it mentioned on the radio tonight), while Kendra's reasoning is quite understandable, the reason she is wrong is simple and goes like this: the Hi-Fives were (and occasionally, approximately once a year on average, still are) a great band, certainly a lot slicker and more professional than Sweet Baby. They also played to far more people, sold far more records, and even opened up part of an arena tour for Green Day. But the music they played was essentially a revisiting, and yes, a reinvigoration of an old genre, primarily 60s garage.

Sweet Baby, on the other hand, along with some help from their friends in the Mr T Experience, pretty much invented East Bay pop punk. Being pioneers, their shows in those days (that bleak hardcore and speedmetal-ridden era of teh mid-80s) were typically attended by a handful of diehard fanatics still clinging to the dream that punk rock bands would one day rediscover melody and harmony, but as someone once said about that seminal (there's that bloody word again) Sex Pistols show in Manchester, practically everyone in that audience went out and started a band.

My own band, the Lookouts, had the honour of playing with Sweet Baby (Jesus) a couple times, and I couldn't swear there's a connection, but it was right about then that I stopped trying to bellow tuneless political diatribes like a third-string Jello Biafra and started trying to figure out how to write and play actual songs. To me one of the tragedies of the early East Bay/Gilman scene was what turned out to be Sweet Baby's unfortunate decision to release their first and only album on a subsidiary of major label Slash (Warner) Records. You can't blame them; they were being offered a recording budget that at the time was barely imaginable for an unknown, underground punk rock band ($50,000 if I remember correctly), but the label didn't have a clue what to do with them, and compounded that error by failing to press It's A Girl on CD when major labels (and stores that mainly trafficked in major label product) had pretty much given up on vinyl.

The record disappeared without a trace. Eventually, years later, Lookout Records was able to buy back the rights from Warner and re-release it. But although the re-release sold significantly more than the original, Sweet Baby's moment had passed, and they were destined to remain a cult classic. Nevertheless, and this brings me back to my original argument (are you still listening, Kendra??), without Sweet Baby, it's very likely that a whole genre of music would never have developed quite the way it did. And more specifically, it's quite possible that Brent's TV would never have come into existence, at least not in the style and form that it did.

And without Brent's TV, no Ne'er Do Wells (Dukes of Burl, Thee Shattners, Judy and the Loadies, etc., etc.). And without the Ne'er Do Wells: no Hi-Fives. Can I say quod erat demonstrandum now? I think I can.


Anonymous said...

Oh my fucking God, no Brent's TV!? No Ne'er Do Wells!? Well then thank Allah for Sweet Baby (PBUT)

Psmith said...

I've noticed that when Larry and I agree, he's right 100% of the time.

Hank said...

...without Brent's TV, no Ne'er Do Wells (Dukes of Burl, Thee Shattners, Judy and the Loadies, etc., etc.)...

To say nothing of Dieselhed. Or Troop Librarian(TM)-brand mix tapes.

dirt_trail_runner said...

Oh hell yeah, Troop Librarian was better than any of them.

disluinon said...

Nice post! I love Sweet Baby, but Brent's TV is probably my favorite Denery band! Dallas and John have both had an influence on my music!

William Smith said...

MTX preceded SBJ by a whim. Frank never seems to get his due share in the godfatherdom of EBPP.