Friday, May 22, 2015

RECORD REVIEW - "They're Not Joking: A Tribute to Dead Serios"

They're Not Joking:
A Tribute to Dead Serios
GhoulTone Records
CD - 5.24.15 / iTunes - 5.26.19

Packed with super-fun,
high-energy, crunchy
classics, this compilation
could be THE feel-good
record of the summer!

More than a mere review, this is a story. It's a behind-the-scenes story about people creative artists, woven together by one common thread, and driven by one common greater goal.

When I first met Chuck Lazaras and May Fleming, my immediate impression was that they both were raging wack-a-doos. The two Florida-based entertainment entrepreneurs had reached out to me via social media during the 2013 Christmas season and invited me to join them for coffee, as they had “something important” to discuss with me. Frightening.

During our initial face-to-face in January 2014, they revealed to me in short order their plans to launch a new music venture  GhoulTone Records. And as I began perusing the four-page business proposal that Chuck wasted no time in handing me, I discovered that their desired debut release for the label was a Dead Serios tribute record. Hmm. I made clear to both Chuck and May that although I was flattered by the sentiment, I thought that a Dead Serios tribute record was a really bad idea. 

DEAD SERIOS: Live in Orlando, FL
From 1985-1995, Dead Serios was one of THE top up-and-coming bands on the U.S. rock scene. But our “glory days” now were a distant memory. Since 2000, Dead Serios had played only a handful of live shows. By 2014, we’d been completely inactive for three years. And given my life at that time, pursuing Christian ministry work, I no longer wanted any connection to my rock and roll past. In fact, I doubted whether or not anyone even still remembered us  or even cared. As a result, I told Chuck and May that I thought their proposal had “disaster” written all over it.

Fast-forward a year or so later, and THEY’RE NOT JOKING: A Tribute to Dead Serios finally has arrived. The GhoulTone team members poured their hearts and souls into this project  motivated by a burning desire to prove me wrong. Along the way, there were setbacks, challenges and disappoints. But Chuck and May never gave up — they believed in my band and they believed in our songs. But they also remained committed to a greater goal.

Coincidentally, Dead Serios experienced a wonderful re-birth during the tribute record’s production process. Snatched from the jaws of retirement, we celebrated our 30th anniversary year (2015) playing some of our biggest shows ever.

Celebrating our 30th anniversary, live onstage at
Melbourne, FL's King Center for the Performing Arts.
Like Chuck and May, the acts that were selected to appear on THEY'RE NOT JOKING all possess bold vision. And in the end, this album stands tall, all on its own as a rock solid compilation. Regardless of whether or not you're familiar with Dead Serios or the other bands, it's just a super-fun record — the organic result of supremely talented artists coming together — unified by a peculiar passion for kooky Dead Serios music. That’s pretty humbling, man. 

“To our knowledge, only three
Florida acts ever have been
honored with a tribute record;
Lynyrd Skynyrd, Marilyn Manson
-May Fleming (GhoulTone Records)

May Fleming picking up the first case
of THEY'RE NOT JOKING CDs from the
production plant in St. Augustine, FL.
Now, here's the REAL payoff — neither GhoulTone nor any of the musicians, producers, engineers, or even songwriters involved with the record will receive a single dollar from the sales of THEY'RE NOT JOKING, as ALL proceeds will benefit The Genesis House Inc. — a fantastic Melbourne, Florida-based operation that provides food and shelter for abused women and their children. A greater goal, indeed!

Cool — right? Heck yeah. Okay, so now, what about the songs? What about the bands? And what about the stories BEHIND the music? Well, let's swoop in and take a looksie...

better than most anyone could
have predicted or hoped for.
It speaks volumes to the far-
reaching influence of this little
band from the Harbor City."
-Bart Savagewood (

"Butterbean Queen"
This was one of the brash-sounding and (often) offensive-smelling bands that Dead Serios performed with in seedy beer joints several times during our mid-90s decent to the middle (and beyond). Although we never broke bread together or exchanged holiday gifts with "the Clowns," I remembered them fondly, and I recall that our bands were fairly like-minded, stylistically. A rap / metal ode to 80's teen "pop princess," Tiffany, "Butterbean Queen" is THE signature Dead Serios tune and it was an oft played college radio track in 1989 and 1990. Although Skurvy the Clown did take a few fun creative liberties, this remake is spot-on arguably much cooler than our original version. "She's only 43 but you know I can't lie" — BRAVO, fellas!

"Pizza Face"
The first time that I saw Nightfall perform onstage was in a rock mega club during the glorious big hair, short skirt and high heel summer of 1988. My initial reaction was (and remains) that they were the greatest pop-inspired, arena-caliber rock band that I'd ever seen or heard. What makes this testimonial particularly powerful is that, at the time, the ages of the four band members ranged from 14-16. But their lack of drivers' permits was irrelevant — this band looked great, played great, sounded great, AND their infectious, guitar-driven sing-along songs were absolutely superb! In 1994, I was privileged to collaborate with then-former Nightfall frontman / guitarist and chief songwriter, Linus Dotson, on an album's worth of demos for a short-lived side project called The Flunkees. The crown jewel of that batch of gems was a catchy, Offspring-style, garage-pop-punk dittie entitled, "Pizza Face." Heartbroken that the song might never find an audience, I claimed it and recorded it properly with Dead Serios for our 1995 album, Face Rake — it quickly became a much-loved fan fave. Now, 20 years later, the original Nightfall line-up has reunited (albeit briefly) to reinvent the song — "pimping" it into one of their own authentic, signature-sounding power ballads — seemingly culled from the soundtrack to that summer of '88. Guys, bust out your Bics. Gals, hang on to your hankies. This one is pure gold!

"Harbor City"
Appearing on our debut 1985 EP, Dead in the USA, "Harbor City" is a bona fide, old school heavy metal anthem reflecting on real life in our hometown of Melbourne, Florida. And it would take a bona fide rocker with an old school metal soul to re-create it. Vocal powerhouse, Ty Oglesby, IS that guy. Remaining (reasonably) true to the song's original arrangement, Ty brought in former Dead Serios rhythm guitarist, Phil Billingsley, and current Dead Serios drummer, Scooter Greenbud, to ensure the track's ball-busting authenticity. And in what is the record's biggest rock star coup, Ty actually bagged former UFO guitarist, Paul Chapman, to lay down the blistering leads. What the... As a teenager, I attended many of Central Florida's biggest day-long, multi band rock fests — and I always was delighted when UFO was on the bill although typically, I was WAY up at the top of the stadium — perched somewhere near Row 843 in Section 217. So, to have a guitar hero like Paul Chapman playing one of my band's songs on an album, 91 years later, is quite a thrill, for sure. And I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention that Jay Are's "Harbor City" bass track is totally "Glover"-worthy. Congrats, Ty. You and your crew nailed this one to the wall!

"No More Pipe for Potato Head"
In the spirit of full disclosure, I'll admit that the release of THEY'RE NOT JOKING was to coincide with the Dead Serios 30th Anniversary concert — four months ago. But as the original January 24th release date drew closer, we still were missing two, of what were in my mind, "marquee" tracks. This was one of them. "You CAN'T release this record without Katty Shack," I bellowed like a hooker who'd just been "stiffed," as I begged a GhoulTone staffer to delay the release. "It's better to get it right, than to get it fast," was my closing plea. Fortunately, the label agreed, and the release date was moved back to May 24th. In the end, GhoulTone finally got all ten tracks, and I got Katty Shack's fabulous "No Doubt-meets-Missing Persons at a group therapy session" version of one of THE definitive Dead Serios songs ever. Not being one to ever say, "I told ya so" (especially to record label types), I'll just simply say that this remake is the seventh single greatest recording in the history of mankind. Oooh-wah, PIPE!

"Rosemary's Baby Was Framed"
When I first got the call from GhoulTone informing me that former Misfits drummer, Joey Image, was going to be playing on the Dead Serios tribute record, I nearly "messed." And when it was revealed that he was going to be playing with a few of the label's go-to session guys on "Rosemary's Baby Was Framed," I may or may not actually have done a little jig on my back porch. This was one of our most popular tunes during the early '90s — especially live, when I'd destroy one of my many baby doll props onstage. In short, Image's version delivers exactly what fans would expect from the legendary punk pioneer. A re-creation so heartfelt, so well-performed and so well-produced, that it compels me to break stuff. Nicely done, Joey.

"Bad Luck"
Driven by Knoxville frontchick, Döll DeVain, and Florida guitar ace, Matt Swart, The Glitter Döllz offer the set's most "straight-up" track. Featured originally on our first record, in 1985, "Bad Luck" was only the second song that I'd ever written — while I was still in high school, back in 1980 — five years before there even was a Dead Serios. Döll DeVain's female interpretation and performance make this "oldie" sound fresh and fun. For his part, Matt Swart's Slash-inspired guitar work oozes low-strung rock cred. And based on the glowing, pre-release fan reaction to this remake, we've now brought it back into the Dead Serios live set, after a near 30-year absence.

"Ranks of the Unemployed"
Known affectionately to Dead Serios as "the angriest man in show biz," multi instrumentalist, Bennie Donald, IS Digisex Gimp. During the early '90s, Bennie was an enthusiastic kid from Brevard County, Florida who frequented many of our shows in the Cocoa Beach / Cape Canaveral area. He'd always be up front at our concerts — often bringing along his guitar, seemingly anticipating some sort of impromptu, live opportunity. And over the years, he's become a much-loved member of the Dead Serios family — even filling in for our ailing guitarist at a show in the early 2000s. If there was an award for the artist who created THE most perfect, note-for-note re-creation on this record, it would go to Bennie. Simply put, the man didn't miss a lick. Bravo, my friend.

"Dead Under the Tree"
In the fall of 1986, Dead Serios recorded a spoofy 7" holiday single. Side One featured the now-family classic, "Heavy Metal X-Mas," and Side Two featured another Yuletide standard, "Dead Under the Tree." Both songs were written by me and then-Dead Serios guitarist (15-year-old) Scott Beckey in the course of one afternoon, while hanging out at my apartment, guzzling gallons of Mountain Dew. We had nothing but my gravely voice and Scott's acoustic guitar, however, our little boombox demos still sounded heavier than anything we'd done up to that point. And when we went into the studio to cut the tracks, with amps-a-cranking, it was a real "WOW" moment. For many reasons, those crazy Christmas tunes have always been two of my all-time faves. One fan who really connected with Dead Serios back in those days was a 14-year-old teenage freak named Chuck Lazaras. This kid was so gaga over Dead Serios, that he skipped school and rode his bike to the local record store to buy our Christmas single on the day it was released. Today, at age 98, Chuck is the head of GhoulTone Records and the guitarist / vocalist  for the band, Lazaras. Simply put, this Lazaras track delivers — in spades. It captures and re-creates perfectly the song's original energy, attitude and splendor.

"People Need Ozzy"
With a jet-black Betty Page-inspired coif that framed her delicate-looking, porcelain-white skin and sporting six-inch stilettos with black fishnets and an "appealing" black S&M-type micro dress, I was rather intimidated the first time I met Michelle Jones — backstage in 2012 following her performance at Orlando, Florida's Hard Rock Live. But who wouldn't have been at least a little intimidated? Over the last two decades the renown classical / rock violinist has toured the world with the likes of Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and Michael McDonald. Yet despite being taken aback initially by her powerful presence, I soon discovered that Michelle actually ranks as the 4th coolest chick of all time. And over the last couple of years we've developed a lovely friendship. As a result, I've become a huge fan of her various musical endeavors, including Violectric and her popular string ensemble, Fretless Rock. I recall one of our early morning "girl talk" phone conversations last Christmas in which I shared with Michelle the details of the upcoming Dead Serios tribute album. To my utter shock, she gleefully offered to sign on with the project. Whoa, no way! However, Michelle had a two-week tour of China scheduled for early 2015. So it would be several weeks before she was back in the States and could assemble her Fretless Rock team in the studio to record a track. Suffice to say, I wasn't holding my breath. Then one night last February, I heard my laptop "ping" in my office — You've got mail! I opened the message, and there it was — the audio file I'd been yearning for — the authentic, instrumental classical version of "People Need Ozzy— the most intricate and complicated selection in the Dead Serios catalog. Upon first hearing this beautiful rendition of our 1989 tribute to the "Prince of Darkness," our bass player, Joe DelCorvo, commented — "I think I'm gonna cry." Clearly, Joe loves this Fretless Rock remake. Our whole band loves it. You'll love it too.

"Buster's Got a Booger"
Even after 30 years, I realize that THEY'RE NOT JOKING actually will still be an introduction to Dead Serios for many who discover the record. Hence, we thought that it would be fitting to include a track of our own on the compilation. "Buster's Got a Booger" has been one of our concert staples since 1990. It was the first song in which we incorporated a live character into our onstage presentation. Immediately, "Buster" became a new breed of  "rock star" on the Southeast concert circuit. There have been four different cast members to play the role of Buster over the years. The first was an 11-year-old boy from Melbourne, Florida named Christopher Brown. Chris' parents were huge DS fans and they often brought all three of their young sons to our all-ages concerts and we all became fast friends. In short order, Chris became an official Dead Serios cast member. In fact, given his young age, papers were drawn up, giving me legal guardianship of Chris while he was with us on the road. Although it's been one of our best-known tunes for a quarter century, we never recorded it properly or released it in any form. We thought that the compilation presented the ideal opportunity in which to cut the track. And in September 2014, we entered the studio for the first time in nearly 20 years and finally got it "on tape." 

Christopher Brown (L) as the ORIGINAL "Buster."
Moletteire (R) as Buster #2.
Each actor who has played
the role of "Buster" has
brought his own personal
"flavor" to the character.
Jesse Tanner Long (L) as Buster #3.
Drew Sands (R) as Buster #4.
So there ya go — (arguably) the FULL inside story behind what I believe is THE "feel-good" record of the summer. And it's ALL for a tremendously worthwhile cause. The CD version of THEY'RE NOT JOKING will be released officially at our Boondocks concert in Melbourne, Florida on May 24th. The digital version is expected to be available via iTunes by May 26. 

Oh yeah, as for the record's quirky title — I don't recall with certain clarity exactly what inspired me, but during one of our very early performances, I concluded the set with a bold declaration to the crowd — Don't forget, WE'RE NOT JOKING... WE'RE - DEAD - SERIOS! The seemingly random offering stuck to us like Elmer's. And to this day, fans will rise to their feet, stand on their seats, or on tables, or whatever at the end of our concerts, and with clenched fists in the air, they shout along with us what has become our signature closing tag line. The GhoulTone team felt that THEY'RE NOT JOKING was a clever tribute to this now infamous catchphrase. 

-Christopher Long
(May 2015)



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Thursday, May 14, 2015

COCOA BEACH KIDNEY WALK 2015: Footprints in the Sand

Footprints in the Sand

The sun was shining and
the surf was rolling in
 a picture perfect day
for celebration of life.

Hundreds of passionate supporters converged at the Cocoa Beach Pier on Saturday, May 9th for the fourth annual  Kidney Walk  an enormous fundraising event for the National Kidney Foundation.

The mission of the NKF is to raise awareness and to educate the public about kidney disease. The foundation also assists kidney transplant recipients financially — helping many to cover the staggering $1,000 in monthly related medication costs.

Following an early morning surfer "Paddle Out" and a fun-filled dance exhibition at 9:30, participants enjoyed complimentary coffee and doughnuts while visiting an array of tent-style sponsor booths. Florida Congressman Bill Posey opened the ceremony officially at 10:00 — followed by a powerful, inspirational prayer from Keith Capizzi, pastor of Club Zion Community Church in Cocoa Beach. Then, it was time to "walk" — a southbound trek that covered a half-mile stretch of beach  then back north to the pier.

Mike the Magic DJ got the Kidney Walk
party off to an early high-energy start.

1 in 9 American adults
has kidney disease 
and most don't know it.

The Cocoa Beach Pier was lined with
loyal Kidney Foundation sponsors.

Kidney disease often
has no symptoms until
it is very advanced.

Speaking from the heart, Florida Congressman
Bill Posey opened the Kidney Walk ceremony.

118,000 Americans are
on the waiting list for a life-
saving organ transplant 
80% of them need a kidney.

Pastor Keith Capizzi "brought"
Jesus to the Pier.

"I'm a walking miracle"
-Robyn Sawczyn
(Kidney transplant recipient)

Hundreds of supporters participated
in this year's mile-long Kidney Walk.

It was a truly heart-warming experience — a coming together of community — families, friends and loved ones — united in an amazing cause. Congratulations to the National Kidney Foundation, and kudos to the many sponsors, as this year's Kidney Walk raised a reported $30,000 in much-needed donations.

-Christopher Long
(May 2015)

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

STAGE REVIEW: Soul Street Dance Company — Melbourne, FL (5.7.15)

Soul Street
Dance Company
King Center / Melbourne, FL 

Kickin' and breakin' 
lockin', flippin', poppin'
and droppin'  I had
such a blast last week
at The King Center that
I nearly slipped a disc!

The Maxwell C. King Center is a world-class performing arts facility with a longstanding commitment to culture, community and kids. And as a fervent supporter of the arts, a dedicated parent and the oldest "kid" in town, I value, appreciate and enjoy its Theatre for Youth program. Overseen by Director, Karen Wilson, the program has been entertaining and educating (us) young people here on Florida's Space Coast since my son was in diapers. And this year's 20th Anniversary season went out recently with a high-energy BANG!

The joint was jumpin' on Thursday morning, May 7th as 1,000+ students from elementary schools throughout Brevard County converged on The King Center for the much-anticipated performance by the Houston-based Soul Street Dance Company. Comprised of seasoned professional dancers, athletes and instructors, the four-man troupe lit the place up in short order. In fact, I've attended Van Halen concerts at which the crowd lacked the enthusiasm of these young fans.

Garcia, Ramirez, Hicks and Williams
greeting students at the private after-
show dance and fitness class.
Dressed in matching red Cool J-style warm-up pants and black T-s with eye-catching white Soul Street logos emblazoned across the front, Javier Garcia, Roy Ramirez, Cedric Hicks and Rock Williams captured (and held) the crowd's complete attention throughout the 60-minute show. Incorporating aspects of modern street moves and traditional dance techniques with a dash of martial arts spice, the live experience was both entertaining and educational. However, I'm not sure how many of the other kids caught on to the latter — they were simply having FUN  learning!

From start to finish, Soul Street Dance Company
connected with kids successfully  combining
hip hop entertainment with physical education.
Following the show, Garcia, Ramirez, Hicks and Williams held an authentic street-style dance class for a group of lucky students from local Sea Park Elementary. Promoting and encouraging physical education, the up-close-and-personal session kicked off with a series of warm-up exercises. As a parent, the private session was impressive. As a kid, it was fun, educational — and memorable. FYI, I was the only "kid" in the class who was familiar with the term, "poppin'" — just sayin'.

Congratulations to the students from
Sea Park Elementary on being selected
for the after-show dance experience.
And therein lies the continued value and importance of the King Center's Theatre for Youth program presenting quality productions that combine a fun factor with an education factor and will resonate with students. And from School House Rock to Lady Bug: Action Hero to Soul Street Dance, the 2014-2015 season accomplished that objective famously. NOTE TO SELF: Reserve my tickets for next season, ASAP!

-Christopher Long
(May 2015)


Soul Street
Dance Company

The latest from author Christopher Long
is available NOW on Amazon.

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