10/19/2005

The Beat Police- Consider Yourself Arrested.


Sweet! The Beat Police! Remember 'em? In th' 70's and early '80's? These guys were one of the best and most influential bands of th' new wave era!

They started in London in 1977, when mercurial American drummer Andy Kissinger decided to get out of his art rock bag and start a real live "punk" band. Andy, the love child of American political visionary Henry Kissinger and ex-UN secretary Madeleine Albright, grew up in the Australian outback. He found a bassist and singer from Manchester with the odd moniker of "The Number One" and together they convinced the older and more experienced guitarist Art McChumley to join them. Art was already 63 when he joined the Beat Police, but his boyish charm and excellent toupee made him a natural addition.

They played around in London, at the Marquee opening for XTC, at the Rainbow, at the Shit Hole in Surrey. They rocked like blazes. Andy and The Number One penned some early punk anthems at this point, among them "Piss On You", "So Sorry" and the skankeriffic rock/reggae classic "Walking 'Round".

"So Sorry" caught the attention of Andy Kissinger's brother, Henry Jr., who was operating an airbrushing/escort business in London, and it was Henry who bankrolled them and eventually became their manager, getting them a deal with Phillips International.

A sample of their brilliant early hit, "So Sorry":

Mama's gonna spank you 'cause you didn't do your homework
And your brother's gonna kick you 'cause you scratched up all his records...
So sorry, so sorry, so sorry...
So sorry...so sorry...

The Beat Police's first LP was released in late 1978 and was given the evocative title of Auslander. This was followed by 1979's smash Riccotta Da Vinci, which contained their white-reggae masterpieces "Walking 'Round" "Larry Struck A Gold Mine" and the protest anthem, "This Is Just Terrible".

In 1980 came the international breakthrough with the multi-million-selling Domo Areggato. Domo was a sleek, commercial bullet of a record that shot to the top of the charts all over the world. This album contained several classics, among them "Driving To Leeds", "Don't Just Stand There" and "Get Me Off This Rundown World".

It was on Domo Areggato that The Number One began to address political matters, poverty and the lack of faith in The Machine.

A sample of "Don't Just Stand There":

There's a secretary crying with a nylon tear
(I'm in so much pain)
There's an old man coughing up his Grand Marnier
(I'm in so much pain)
There's a drunk politician going in the red
(I'm in...etc.)
There's a spoiled little brat that won't get off to bed...
(I'm...etc.)

Don't just stand there
Don't just stand there

Domo
gave the boys the means to indulge their own creative and professional whims in 1980 and '81. The Number One cultivated a career as a professional wrestler with mixed results. He and his wife Kuntina had two children over these two years, The Number Two and The Number Two-And-A-Half. Andy Kissinger drummed on an album by power pop wordsmith extraordinaire Arliss McCutcheon (1981's superlative "Looking Icelandic") and travelled through the Middle East on a drug-and-gun-soaked escapade with his third brother, arms dealer Chip Kissinger.

Art McChumley had some heart problems but managed to make a guitar-centric jazz album with Dig Digby from the '60's stalwarts The Chocolate Vanilla Strawberry.

In 1981 The Beat Police reconvened to record the amazing Spanner In The Works. On Spanner we hear the bare-bones approach of earlier Beat Police records augmented with brass bands and accordions. The Number One's assiduous study of world music had yielded creative fruit as well, and the influence of Hawaiian Slack Guitar and Mongolian Ork Rhythm can be heard throughout.

The Number One had lost his belief in political systems at this point, and his disquiet can be heard in such tracks as "Spanner In The Works" and the first single "I've Lost My Belief In Political Systems (At This Point)".

Another protest anthem from Spanner In The Works was "Everything's Tragic" which ruled the airwaves in the spring of '81. The polka-reggae workout "Indivisible Sum" was released to mixed results and another gruelling world tour ensued.

Cracks in the Beat Police edifice began to appear during the recording of Spanner In The Works as The Number One and Andy Kissinger reportedly came to blows on several occasions. Art McChumley attempted to join in but was dependent on a respirator at this point and was somewhat ineffectual. The Beat Police's producer, Noah Chomskey, later described these spats in interviews as "looking like two old ladies trying to put a fire out on each other's chest".

Their fifth and final album was their finest. The world knew that a creative powerhouse like the Beat Police could only implode but the process was captured beautifully and for all time on 1982's Dianetics. Dianetics was essentially a concept album about a science and religion that The Number One had taken to heart, and sported muscular and skeletal (ha) tracks of simple power. The title track was called "Dianetics" and dealt with the many levels of meaning and the various dimensions of the physical universe.

Dianetics was a last-ditch attempt to rally The Beat Police out of their indolence and mutual disgust, but it was doomed to failure from the first note. Overdubs where carried out by band members on their own, and it was not uncommon for The Number One to come into the studio and erase everything Kissinger had done the night before. Nevertheless this was an album of striking finesse and achievement and topped the charts the world over. Yielding an abundance of hit singles, among them "I'll Be Watching" and the haunting "It's Such A Spiritual World" Dianetics was hailed a classic, and continues to influence progressive popsters to this day.

Where Are They Now?

The Number One continues to pursue his wrestling passions and has enjoyed a second career as a Jungian analyst. He continues to release horrible, self-absorbed music to this day. In 1994 he claimed to be able to masturbate for 10 hours in a row. The consensus of the critics was that he'd succeeded already in doing this for years.

Andy Kissinger and his brothers Chip and Henry Junior purchased a small country in Western Africa and named it Tatooine. Chip and Andy continue to preside at the helm of a "benevolent dictatorship" in Tatooine, and have denied entry visas to The Number One, citing "Masturbatory Overpreponderance".

Art McChumley, hale and hearty at 93, lives in Santa Monica California and has opened McChumley Vinyards in Sonoma. Their excellent Chateau Masoch is renowned the world over.

The Beat Police reunited briefly in 2003 to play at Art's wedding in Malibu.

It is reputed to have been ungodly.

7 Comments:

Blogger fgfdsg said...

I believe I've still got the 12" Single of "I'll Be Watching" (still in it's original picture sleeve). Tracklisting is "I'll Be Watching (I Am Curious, Mellow Extended Mix)" b/w "I'll Be Watching (Go Wait In The Corner Dub Mix). I think they were remixed by Arthur Baker's less successful brother, Fred, though my memory is admittedly fuzzy.

BTW, ever heard "Piss On You" by the Wannadies? It sounds like 'the Archies' on the verge of breaking up the band. Reggie just stuck his bass up Archie's bum, Jughead is o/ding on the floor behind his drumkit and it's Betty and Veronica's time of the month and the tamborines are aimed at each other's heads.

zbacifg?

5:05 AM  
Anonymous the brentmeister general said...

Is this the same Art McChumley that played Sitar guitar in psychedelic art-pop confection The Bicycle of Barbatos in the 1960s? Their seminal single "The Lunatic's Cross-Country Half-Marathon" was a big hit in the Brenmeister General household.
.
Legend has it that Art was the opening act for Bill Haley & The Comets at The London Palladium in 1954. This time the Peter Pan - stroke - Zelig of pop was billed as Wilford Brambles and his Fantastical Washboard Frenzy.

cdsxws
(all the bands from sxsw - in CD form!)

7:37 AM  
Blogger Kevin Wolf said...

Robert, I fully expected to be able to download at least one of these tracks - where are the links?

fthgey, man. fthgey

10:52 AM  
Blogger XTCfan said...

Hmmm ... looking at the lyrics, I seem to remember "Don't Just Stand There" as being on Dianetics. But I was taking a lot of X back then, so my memory may be less than reliable.

I love Dig Digby, especially when he used to play with drummer Bill Bixby. What a hulk that guy was.

kxbyokyw!!!

12:32 PM  
Blogger Bobby Lightfoot said...

Simon- nice. "I Am Curious". Ha! Was "Piss On You" maybe a cover of th' Beat Police classic?

Brentmeister- Absolutely the one! I've heard this awesome song on th' "Boogers" compilation of international garage psychedelic polka.

"Wilford Brambles and his Fantastical Washboard Frenzy"!!!

I sense a Lightfoot award brewing...

Little known fact: Art McChumley played in th' house band on the Titanic.

xtcfan- yeah, yeah. Somebody always has to poke a hole in my research.

I loved how Bill Bixby used to smash his guitarist on stage.

11:01 PM  
Blogger Bobby Lightfoot said...

Oh- and Kevin Wolf ol' boy---

You and everyone else will be frightened to know that I have actually demoed several Beat Police songs. I always wanted to do a spoof like this since I heard th' Rutles.

The songs are actually exceptionally hilarious.

I dream of actually forming this band for a "comeback" someday.

suulxgm

11:04 PM  
Blogger XTCfan said...

Oooh, can I be Andy Kissinger?

That would mean you and I would get to come to blows on several occasions. I'll bring the blow.

svolwaqy

2:45 PM  

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