Led by the progenies of two ’60s rockers, hippy-dippy Donovan and blue-hatted Monkee Mike Nesmith, pomo new wavers Nancy Boy definitely rebelled against their musical pedigree, emphasizing fashion and style over traditional substance. Model Donovan Leitch and Jason Nesmith threw Bowie, Suede, Duran Duran, and Blur in a blender and served up their self-titled full-length debut in 1996, competing with the post-grunge, Creed-infested landscape of alternative music. With their skinny ties and eyeliner, they didn’t stand a chance.
Nicking a guitar lick and chorus from early Blur, lead single “Deep Sleep Motel” (download) was an instantly catchy if lightweight song that would have fit quite nicely on that band’s Modern Life Is Rubbish a couple years earlier. Considering I was in the throes of a serious Blur phase at the time, I didn’t mind at all, enjoying Nancy Boy much as I did Camouflage in the ’80s when Depeche Mode were between albums — they were far from the real thing, but nice in a pinch.
A track the band carried over from an earlier EP, “Johnny Chrome & Silver” (download), sounds like a lost Duran outtake circa 1981, and that’s a good thing. It’s completely out of step with what was happening musically at the time, but that doesn’t stop it and the album as a whole from being entertaining. The group’s proclivity for posing, quite literally (they did a few fashion-magazine spreads), didn’t endear them to the press or public, but Leitch’s Paris Hilton-like celebutante image garnered the band a small but fervent following in New York clubs.
I saw Nancy Boy live in ’96 in a tiny Cleveland club called the Grog Shop, smack dab in the “arty” section of town called Coventry. The place was packed with scene-istas and the band was tight and quite good. I did find it telling, though, that the best-received song of the set was a cover of Gary Numan’s “Are Friends Electric” from their impossible-to-find debut EP, Promosexual (1995):
America shrugged and ignored Nancy Boy — their sole album has sold a grand total of 4,000 copies since its release and can be had for a full penny on Amazon. They were a bit ahead of their time, as they would fit right in with the current crop of mascaraed pretty boys wearing their ’80s influences proudly on their sleeves. The group called it a day in 2001 after having trouble finding a deal to record their follow-up, and except for an aborted reunion gig in 2004, they’ve shied away from getting back together. Leitch currently plays a central part in Ã¼bercover band Camp Freddy, the rotating band of rock superstars who gig around the L.A. area.
“Deep Sleep Motel” and “Johnny Chrome & Silver” failed to chart.
Get Nancy Boy music at Amazon.