Note from John: My Phagz on 45 partner (not THAT way!) Matty has been on my jock non-stop, begging me to feature today’s artist on Lost in the ’90s since its inception.  After nearly nine months of crying, hounding, and Abby Ewing-level blackmail, I finally told the bitch to put his money where his mouth is and write the damn thing himself if he wants to see it so badly.  And the sucker fell for it!  So, here’s Matty with today’s post…

Board games, candy, AWFUL boys, Nancy Drew books and girls who sing – these are a TON of my favorite things!

Melissa Farris and Margaret McCartney met while waiting tables at the Zig Zag café in DC.  The two had been playing guitar for about 3 and 6 months respectively when they recruited bassist Phil Satlof and drummer Jack Hornady to form their first band, (named in homage to Fonzie’s paramour, Leather Tuscadero).  Says Melissa via e-mail, “We knew that between them they owned both a drum kit and a bass, and that was very important. Plus they were nice to us.”  When asked if my foggy memories of their inception happening at a Halloween party in the fall of ’93 were accurate, she adds “I think the Halloween story might have been that we decided to form a band whilst liquored up at a Halloween party. Like everything we did in Tuscadero, the decision was made with an almost tactical precision.”  This is so my kinda gal!  I still won’t balance my checkbook without a fistful of candy corns and a Natty Lite!

Like the stuff Indie legends are made of, Mark Robinson of Teenbeat Records signed the band on the spot at their first gig.  The whole story is like a Girl Band Geek FAIRYTALE – not unlike my recurring dreams of my fairy Godmother Kim Shattuck waving her Gretsch wand and changing my Converse Hi Top and pack of Parliaments into a Go-Go’s driven Coopers limousine to Ladyfest! – but for realsies!!!

Teenbeat wasted no time committing the band to wax and their first single “Mount Pleasant”, an ode to their fair hometown, was released in mid-’94.  The single was soon followed by their full-length debut, the ADORABLE Pink Album, produced by Mark Waterman (Elastica, Ride) and engineered by Ian Jones and Rob Christiansen of Teenbeat’s rock opera innovators Viva Satellite and DC hometown boys Eggs.

The Pink Album was packed full of catchy, hook-bursting tunes about candy and AWFUL boys (“Candy Song), board games and AWFUL boys (“Game Song”), gorgeous AWFUL boys (“Hollywood Handsome”), and feeling AWFUL about AWFUL boys (“Lovesick”), the plentiful supply of AWFUL boys (“Dime a Dozen”) and how a boy would was AWFUL for you might be a good match for your gal pal (“Just My Size”).  I loved it so much I didn’t know whether to listen to it or do mudd masques with it and spill all my deepest secrets over a game of Trouble and Cosmopolitans!

Check out the video for the single, “Hollywood Handsome” with Jimmie “J.J.” Walker (non-embeddable, thanksalot!)!

Undeniable was the ladies’ unrivaled mastery of creating flawless, unforced laundry list-styled lyrics.  Take “Nancy Drew” (download), for example, where a full verse is simply a savant level recitation of the titles of the Nancy Drew novels carelessly tossed in the trash by Melissa’s parents after she first left home.

“The Mystery of the Ivory Charm” and “The Secret of Red Gate Farm”
“The Message in the Hollow Oak” and “The Clue in the Old Stagecoach”
“The Mystery at Lilac Inn” and “The Mysterious Mannequin”
“The Clue in the Crumbling Wall” and “The Ghost of Blackwood Hall”
I read them all, they were the best  How will you two ever rest?
I loved them each and every one. Oh, what the hell have you done?

Honestly girl, if my ‘rents did that to me, I think I would understand how the Menendez brothers felt.  Come to think of it, my Holly Hobby Oven BEST still be in the attic when I go home for Christmas OR ELSE.

And the list-rap bridge of “Candy Song” describes Margaret’s doomed future with her Sugar Daddy so well you might end up needing a cavity filled!

Oh you were my Chips Ahoy
You were my Almond Joy
You were my Necco Wafer
You were my Now and Later
You were my Bit-O-Honey
My Easter morning chocolate bunny
My Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup
You were my LifeSavers lollipop

I know I did when I changed the verb tense to the present and inscribed it in a hand-made-complete-with-glued-macaroni-and-glitter-contruction-paper Valentine that got my cavity filled by a gentleman caller absolutely DAZZLED by my witty wordsmithery! Yum! (I owe you one Melissa.)

With the release of the EP Step Into My Wiggle Room in ’95, the major labels came sniffin’ around (just like you-know-what-kind-of-boys ALWAYS do when you got something they want) and after some remixing and rerecording, Elektra re-released The Pink Album in the summer of ‘96. Thankfully, the update did not lose any of the charm of the original.  And unlike the many Indie band/major label sob stories, Tuscadero’s experience in the big leagues shows little heartbreak or regret as Melissa says it “made it possible for us to not have other jobs, and to extend our adolescence for about 4 years longer than we otherwise could have. So I have no real complaints.”  In fact, her happy memories abound:

“…recording our first demo (with Geoff Turner and Charles Bennington), the myriad Teenbeat Banquets, the couple all-Teenbeat tours we did, and the one tour where we got to share a bus. That was pretty posh. Also the times we went on tour with Cheap Trick. Those guys were total gents.”

Elektra moved forward with the band’s follow up My Way or the Highway which hit stores min ’98.  Although it was pretty well pushed with videos for the singles “Queen for a Day” and “Paper Dolls”, the album failed to chart and Tuscadero disbanded a year later.

Melissa marched on with a couple of all-lady endeavors – “The Long Goodbye” (KRS) and then the psychedelic trip-rock trio “Dame Fate”.  She’s now living in Brooklyn and happily married (to a NICE boy) and occasionally picks up her axe to jam with friends. Just about everything you could ever want to know about her (along with the all the secrets of the universe) is answered in this goldmine interview, but in a nutshell, she loves her hubby, Alouette cheese, Shark Week, making jewelry and may possibly change her name to Iron Honeybee.  Fuck yeah!

Tuscadero reunited once for Teenbeat Record’s 20th anniversary blowout in 2005.

I still listen to “Heat Lightnin'” (download) when I dress for sex.

None of the songs charted.

John here again: Thanks, Matty, for that … informative post!  And don’t fear, everyone – Matty and I will return with a new round of Phagz on 45 very soon (like, maybe Monday!).

Get Tuscadero music at Amazon or on Tuscadero