The Specs on Specs

Printer-friendly version

Specs was born James "Butterfly" Brown, son of a man, in a funky little shack in post-depression era Chicago.

He eventually moved to a blossoming suburb of San Francisco and began his free form musical career as the guitarist in the legendary lo-fi pop sensations, The Originals™ (aka The Hush). Although pioneers of the lo-fi revolution, their cheaply produced four track recordings failed to garner the public recognition so deserved of such stripped-down, one-take mastery. Raw Talent's Michael Moore put it best when he said, "It's not that they're weak ... they suck. I wished they'd play a happy song." And when their self-published fanzine The Hush, dismissed by critics as masturbatory, offensive, self-indulgent doodlings, was discontinued after the first issue, Specs decided to revamp their image as Wild Stallion, a metal band with a decidedly 80's crunch. Although enticed by the growing cereal endorsement and an appealing Arrowhead sponsorship, Specs reluctantly departed and moved to San Francisco to be more in touch with his urban roots.

Specs' gifted knowledge of four track recording and keen ear for quality led him to produce a session for the then up-and-coming, teen punk sensations, the Friendly Dead Kids. After finishing their demo that included the punk classic, Row the Potomac and Constipation, Specs was asked to join the band. Numerous sold-out Gilman Street shows, wild Oakland warehouse parties and relentless label interest ensued, but Specs decided that punk was "just a fad," switched to bass and join the Freak, Fresh, Funkalicous Velvet Jones and his Two Bit Hoes. Their creamy smooth blend of urban street funk with classic soul stylings (and Floyd, the human beat box) led to a devoted fan following and an appearance in Sassy's Cute Band Alert. They released the underground cult classic THE Freaky, Fresh Funkalicous Velvet Jones and His No Good Two Bit Hose Sing the New Order Songbook LP (out of print-ed.) before internal conflict over who was really the super badest led Specs down a brightly orange tinted road to candy yam addiction and lengthy hospital visit.

After deep soul searching (and lots of popcorn), Specs formed Soy Division, the vegan Joy Division coverband. Their reworkings of Day of the Soy, From Tofu to Where and Meat Will Tear Us Apart were welcomed anthems for the meatless generation, but their live shows, complete with digressive dietary habits and shocking lacto-ovo stage performances involving gallons of raw eggs and Berkeley Farms low fat milk, were met with taunts scorn by the famous vegans. Soy, as they were commonly called, found being spokespeople for the Vegan Revolution to be bland and tasteless, and sadly disbanded.

Fortunately (aka Lucky For You), Specs and fellow Soy, Slim (aka The Tall One who coincidentally was also in The Hush, Wild Stallion and the Freaky, Fresh, Funkalicous Velvet Jones and His Two Bit Hoes), reunited to form the solid pop foundations of the band that would become know as Kitty Korner. They enlisted the talented vocal stylings of seasoned Vegas lounge singer, Pippin' (aka Two-Ply), who was hot off the debut of Grimm Burlesque's hit single Killer in the Stall, a richly textured blend of gothic metal and bathroom insight. The charismatic singer instantly fit into the Kitty Korner mould, but finding a drummer would prove elusive.

The quest began with Charlie, a "speedy" cock-rock drum tease with a subtle flair, who rehearsed with the band for two months before departing suddenly to join the grunge-y, Wooden Home Drivers. Numerous no shows, nameless wackos and the infamous "I work with the Dogs" Eric followed before Kitty Korner finally stumbled upon Franco. The man with a love of fire. The man with many toys. The man who could thread his nose with a drum stick. Franco would be the drummer who would take them to the bridge!

Hit Me! Kitty Korner's plan for world domination started slowly with the obligatory begging for shoddy Saturday afternoon bookings, crappy audience turnouts and unsupportive family members who though Kitty Korner were better suited to operate phone sex lines in Canada. But Kitty Korner would prevail, Kitty Korner had CRED!


Gina Arnold is a free lance writer whose work has appeared in numerous publications. This article was originally written for Rolling Stone.