Sunday Old School: Ugly Kid Joe
For many, the band Ugly Kid Joe was the group on MTV with videos for “Cat’s In the Cradle” and “Everything about You,” but there was more, trust me. They landed in a strange time (right at the start of the grunge nineties) and had a song picked up by a major movie, giving them immediate success. Then, despite this good fortune, the band was unable to keep their momentum (again, blame the nineties – damn you Cobain!) and flamed out rather quickly, leaving us with a limited catalog of three full albums. However, that may change soon... SPOILER ALERT: Ugly Kid Joe is coming back!
Initially, the band used the name Ugly Kid Joe as a parody of the band named Pretty Boy Floyd, and then it just stuck so they kept it. Their first EP was titled “As Ugly as They Wanna Be,” again another parody, this time a take on 2 Live Crew’s “As Nasty as They Wanna Be.” It was clear from the start that this band wouldn’t take themselves too seriously; the music was a mix of hard rock, funk, and glam, though mostly hard rock as they were heavily influenced by Black Sabbath. The current lineup of Ugly Kid Joe is Whitfield Crane (vocals), Klaus Eichstadt (guitar), Cordell Crockett (bass), Dave Fortman (guitar), and Shannon Larkin (drums).
The first EP included the riff heavy songs “Madman,” “Whiplash Liquor,” and cover of Black Sabbath’s “Sweet Leaf,” that was combined with a funky original titled “Funky Fresh Country Club” that (in addition to the funky bass line) featured a blistering chorus (“As you stagger home/In the blackest form of night/The rollers out in force baby/They’re looking for a fight”). The songs “Too Bad” and “Everything about You” were also included; the latter eventually becoming a hit single, included on their full length album, and featured in the movie “Wayne’s World.” The EP set the tone for their full length album, “America’s Least Wanted,” released in 1992.
During the recording of “America’s Least Wanted” then guitarist, Roger Lahr, left the band due to musical differences (Dave Fortman replaced him). Once released, the band toured with Ozzy Osbourne during his “No More Tears” tour. The album sold 600,000 copies upon initial release and was considered a rare rock record you can play from start to finish and over and over. After touring with Ozzy, the band would support Def Leppard during their sold out U.S. tour. After their tour, Mark Davis, the original drummer of Ugly Kid Joe left the band; after a few “tryouts” the band found Shannon Larkin who joined the band shortly after.
“America’s Least Wanted” album track listing:
1. “Neighbor” - The first track sets the tone for an album of heavy riffs and humor. “My kid’s a punk and I’m a drunk…”
2. “Goddamn Devil” - For serious Ugly Kid Joe fans it doesn’t get any better than this. “Devil” is an in your face track that starts soft and escalates into a monster. If that isn’t enough, Rob Halford (Judas Priest) contributes to the backing vocals. THAT should be enough!
3. “Come Tomorrow” - A melodic track that breaks up the two heavy hitters; another example of Crane’s diverse vocal range is on display as he transitions from soft to heavy throughout.
4. “Panhandlin’ Prince” - Along with track #2 this song brings the “beast” and energy of the band to the forefront.
5. “Busy Bee” - A soft, slow ballad. Reminds me of Blind Melon and the bumble bee from their video, whatever that’s worth!
6. “Don’t Go” - In addition to mixing hard rock, funk, glam, etc… This band knows how to write a catchy riffs and great hooks. Here’s another great example of this.
7. “So Damn Cool” - See #6.
8. “Same Side” - Ugly Kid Joe brings the funk in this one.
9. “Cat’s in the Cradle” - A cover of the song originally by Harry Chapin.
10. “I’ll Keep Trying” - A very cool track that tells the story of “the chase” with the tables turned in the end.
11. “Everything About You” - I still find it funny how such a hate filled song became a huge pop radio hit.
12. “Madman” (’92 Remix) - First appeared on their debut EP, this song rips though a story of a killer in Disney Land. Fire up the nightmares!
13. “Mr. Recordman” - For those that appreciate a great and UNEXPECTED final track, this album delivers. This song is a soft and humorous (uh, hopefully you see a pattern by now) melody where Crane is asking Mr. Recordman if he even knows who he is.
In 1995 the band released their second full album titled “Menace to Sobriety.” The album received positive critical response from both the media and fans. The band enjoyed some success overseas, but this success did not translate in the states where the radio stations were knee deep in Pearl Jam and Nirvana. Soon after the band was dropped from their label, Mercury Records, and formed their own independent label for the release of their next album, released in 1996 and titled “Motel California.” Despite a recent cult following, the album did not initially do well and the band broke up shortly after.
In the aftermath, Shannon Larkin joined Godsmack, while Whitfield Crane became the new vocalist for Life of Agony. Crane also worked with Soulfly members on a project called Medication and Godsmack on Another Animal. Since rumors have spread rampant regarding a reunion and new material.
In July of 2011 Larkin stated that a new album had been completed. In September, Crane confirmed a new track titled “Love Ain’t True” was part of a new six track EP that was mixed and finished. The band is scheduled to play at Sweden Rock Festival, Download Festival, the Gods of Metal festival in 2012, and opening for Guns N’ Roses in Tel Aviv in July. For those excited for an Ugly Kid Joe reunion, it looks like 2012 is going to be a good year. In the meantime, dig up (or download/stream) “America’s Least Wanted” and take a trip back to when rock and roll was fun and it was okay to call your kid a punk and yourself a drunk!
Goddamn Devil/Everything About You
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