Flipper – Subterranean / Thermidor Records – 1980

Love Canal

Ha Ha Ha

Could not be arsed to write anything today so ripped the below off the old wikipedi site:

Flipper was founded by former members of the Sleepers and Negative Trend. Founding member and original vocalist Ricky Williams was fired from the band before any recordings were made because he was deemed too messed up to remain in the band. The name is often seen to be a reference to thalidomide babies, such as the one featured on the cover of their early “Love Canal” single. In fact, the band was named Flipper after Ricky Williams’ curious habit of naming all of his pets “Flipper”, regardless of their species.

Flipper made their first recordings available in late 1979 via the SF Underground 7″ compilation series released through Steve Tuppers newly-formed Subterranean Records. In 1981, a 7″ comprising “Love Canal/Ha Ha Ha” followed, and the original lineup made two full-length studio albums on Subterranean, 1982’s Generic and a 1984 follow up Gone Fishin’.

Flipper’s music was very shambolic and noisy, and often considered “slow” for a punk band of the time. In many early shows, the band had half the audience on stage with them singing backup vocals, and encouraged horn players to join them for their anthem, “Sex Bomb”; the crowding on stage usually knocked the stringed instruments out of tune. Guitarist Ted Falconi installed spikes in the head of his guitar to help prevent this, but blaring, out-of-tune dissonance became part of the band’s signature sound.

Flipper was often as strongly in league with conceptual art and atonal music as with rock or punk. Years after the band’s demise, its spray-painted dead fish logos were still visible in San Francisco (although signs on the city’s Clipper Street have since been reverted from “Flipper Street”).

Some say that Flipper’s charm as a band lies in their ability to upset audiences, while attracting their undivided attention and curiosity at the same time. Their first single, “Love Canal”/”Ha Ha Ha”, was widely derided, not only for its offensive cover art, but its bizarre sound, and yet sold many copies in the underground. This, in brief, was the band’s concept: to be bad in ways that no band had ever been bad before. However, in true Flipper fashion, they even failed to fail, and their audience continued to grow as their outlandish approach appealed to those seeking something different.

Two more singles on Subterranean followed, “Brainwash”/”Sex Bomb” and “Old Lady That Swallowed The Fly”/”Get Away” before Album (also known as Generic Flipper). Their debut LP sees the drone and blare molded into startlingly effective songs, with a lyrically bleak outlook, but humane vulnerability in the vocals, and flashes of genuine musicianship. It is widely considered a classic album of this era. The mayhem contained on the disc is infectious as Will Shatter repeats “Life! Life! Life is the only thing worth living for!” Similarly, “Sex Bomb” is a seven minute track with only one lyric, “She’s a sex bomb, my baby, yeah.”, intertwined with a raucous yet melodic musical interplay. The original release of the “Sex Bomb” single featured individually hand-made covers.

The follow-up studio album in 1984, Gone Fishin, was even darker and artier than the first LP. It featured the disorientating opening track “The Lights, The Sound, The Rhythm, The Noise”, the haunting “Survivors of the Plague” and the decrying of the war machine in the song “Sacrifice”. The multi-colored delivery step van pictured on the cover was also where Ted Falconi lived when the group was not on the road. The van, along with figures representing the band and their equipment could be cut out and folded with Subterranean offering extra covers through a small mail order fee.

The ‘Sex Bomb’ single with the handcrafted sleeves and the ‘S.F. Underground’ E.P. both mentioned above are featured on this site if you want to search for them. 

  1. stirmonster
    August 27, 2008 at 12:15 am

    love, love, love flipper. saw them last year with that dude from nirvana playing with them. they still had it.

  2. chris
    August 27, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    without doubt my favourite of all the american ‘punk’ bands. Gotta admit i never liked any of the US ‘hardcore’ acts and always found jello Biafra’s voice irritating so never liked the DKs but Flipper were amazing. Was listening to ‘Album’ just the other week.

  3. edu
    September 4, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    i would like to know how to play bass to play “love canal” intro one and another time until the eternity. i do love this single. but maybe favourite of mine is “earthworm”.

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