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Why T.S.O.L.'s Jack Grisham said no one would hear his David Bowie, 'Rocky Horror' covers

Kelli Skye Fadroski, The Orange County Register on

Published in Entertainment News

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Jack Grisham has been in and out of punk bands for more than four decades. Most famous for fronting Huntington Beach/Long Beach-based hardcore punk band T.S.O.L. (True Sounds of Liberty), Grisham has experienced some wild stuff both on and off the stage. But he wasn’t prepared for the response he’s received thus far for T.S.O.L.’s latest record, “A-Side Graffiti,” which officially dropped on Kitten Robot Records on Tuesday.

“We recorded these songs like no one was ever going to hear them except for us; that was the plan,” Grisham said with a laugh during a recent phone interview from his Huntington Beach home. “You can make something and want people to hear it and they’re like, ‘Yeah, it’s all right.’ Then you make something that’s not really for anyone else and they get to hear it and it’s like, ‘Oh, well, this is the best!’ It’s crazy to me and it just proves that I have no idea what’s going on.”

The album is a collection of unexpected covers, upbeat originals and songs that others had asked the band to record as favors that they truly never thought would see the light of day. It was an experiment, Grisham said, something to shake up the flavor of a band that has been serving up loud and rowdy West Coast punk rock anthems since the late ’70s.

From the jump, the original songs “Low Low Low” and “Rhythm of Cruelty” are like siren calls to the mosh pit. Yeah, it may hurt a bit tomorrow, but the dancing and singing along will undoubtedly serve as a temporary sweet relief from reality.

And then comes a cover that at first elicits a “Wait, what?” response, which is swiftly followed by “Oh, this makes sense,” when considering the overall career and catalog of T.S.O.L. paired with Grisham’s affinity for wearing face makeup on stage.

His vocals soar through “Sweet Transvestite,” mimicking Tim Curry’s opera-like and cheeky singing style from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” He also called in fellow punk rock legend Keith Morris of Circle Jerks and Off! to assume the role of Brad Majors in the song.

 

“Keith owed me,” Grisham said with a loud laugh, explaining that he had appeared in several Off! music videos. “Somebody asked us to pick out a song for a compilation record and we picked ‘Sweet Transvestite’ and I was thinking, Keith would be the perfect Brad. He sounds like Brad!”

When the punk rock pals delivered the song to the person who had asked for it, it was rejected.

“The guy says ‘Well, I expected something more punky,’” Grisham recalled. “I said, ‘What are you talking about? We are punk! What were you expecting from us?’ He said it sounded too much like the original and that it was too good, which was funny to us. So we just kept it and put it on this record. We haven’t done it live, yet. But we could, we’ve just never tried.”

Another seemingly odd song choice is a cover of R&B singer Amerie’s 1995 hit single “1 Thing,” a track which borrows its groove from The Meters ’70s funk song “Oh, Calcutta!”

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