("Our shows were always 80 per cent Ontario jocks and 20 per cent weirdos (laughs). It’s probably about the same now." -John Davis)
The Gruesomes formed in 1985 in Montreal, Canada. Members Bobby Beaton (vocals/guitar), Gerry Alvarez (guitar/vocals) and brothers John (bass) and Eric Davis (drums) all ranged between ages 16-19 at the time, and as if that wasn't enough- none of them had an experience playing music. They took their name from characters on the cartoon series The Flinstones (they were the creepy family), and much of their style from The Beatles. Basically they were a group of kids hanging out, listening to music, that thought "We can do that." I'm pretty sure every teenage rebel feels the same at some point, but The Gruesomes actually got off their arses & did it.
Despite their lack of technical ability, the band easily won over crowds with their enthusiasm & banter. They released two EPs almost immediately, with their first full length album coming out in 1986. 'Tyrants of Teen Trash' was aptly titled, and was in frequent rotation on radio stations across both Europe & North America. They came back the next year with 'Gruesomania', and it was also that year that Eric Davis left the band, and was replaced by John Knoll. The line up change also initiated a change in sound- leaning further away from punk & a bit closer to R&B. They then released 'Hey!' in 1988, and though the video for the title track was almost constantly on in Canada (because it's flipping awesome. Watch below.), though they were at that point one of the biggest underground bands- The Gruesomes broke up not long after, in 1990. The story goes that they basically felt they could achieve all they could achieve as non-mainstream artists.
In 99 the group reunited & recorded 'Cave-In!'. International touring followed, and since then they've been sort of on again, off again- playing shows as recently as 2008 (that I could confirm). The Gruesomes also spawned a couple side projects- both the Gerry Alvarez Odyssey & Fuad & the Feztones (which included Alvarez, Beaton, and John Davis) both have two albums under their belts. The Gruesomes material has been rereleased in various forms over the last decade, and a live album that was recorded in Nova Scotia in 1989 & used to be available only at their shows was released in 07 as 'Live in Hell'.
Dirty, nasty, awesomeness. That's what The Gruesomes are. Their live shows by all accounts were an absolute blast- in particular their Halloween shows. They'd dress up, decorate the stage... cheesy rocking brilliance. I appreciate any group (with talent) that starts before they've even reached voting age- and while technically all musicians initially pick up an instrument so they can play music... these guys did it so they could form this band, and that's just cool. They had personality, energy, ambition... maybe not off the charts as far as skill goes- but it's the sum of the parts that make them so fantastic. The next time you're cursing Canada for Celine Dion, remember The Gruesomes.