having ruled out the possibility of scoring a hit way back in the early 80s, the Fleshtones have never been frustrated by their lack of chart success.Consequently, the archetypal garage rock combo have outlasted all their punk contemporaries (and many of the groups they inspired during the mid-80s garage boom), driven by sheer stubbornness and an abiding lust for hip-shaking rock 'n' roll.
They're certainly not getting rich on sales of their past recordings. Just about every song they've ever cut is currently out of print.
Even during the short time that the Fleshtones albums were on the shelves, many of their biggest fans were reluctant to buy them, knowing that they'd never be able to recreate the frantic frat-party pandemonium of a Fleshtones live free-for-all.
There are brief glimpses of that magical mayhem in rowdy rave-ups like Whatever It Takes on their just-released Solid Gold Sound! (Blood Red Records). But then they follow it up with a disco detour through Good Good Crack, a dope-positive romp whose sole purpose seems to be to confound the garage rock faithful to whom you'd expect the Fleshtones to pander.
But then, part of the reason they're still around is that they've always refused to join any club that would have them as members.
"If some other people pick up on what we're doing, we'll just try something else," explains frontman Peter Zaremba from his New York hideout. "It's like "You've heard that, but what about this?' I think that's kept us trying things that are different and interesting."
Different? Definitely. Interesting? Sometimes. But just how successful they've been is debatable. Zaremba and his crew are a bright bunch who could easily make their albums sound like the conventional punk product that Estrus and other garage-consumer-friendly labels turn out, but the Fleshtones won't do it.
As a result, they've largely been shunned by West Coast retro enthusiasts and virtually shut out of the annual Garage Shock and Las Vegas Grind gatherings where they should be honoured as conquering heroes.
"In the 80s we deliberately irritated people by bringing in some disco sounds, and in the 90s I think we alienated a lot of the garage rock people by maybe not being purist enough.
"I sort of regret that now, but then, the reason we're still here is that we've never done what people thought we should be doing.
"We've stared success in the face and laughed. And we're still laughing. I don't know why exactly, but we're laughing."
Beyond the whole garage cult, the Fleshtones could reach a much larger audience if they'd sneak onto a film soundtrack or do some commercial work. All it would take is some astute music supervisor to realize there's not a huge difference between the Fleshtones' "super rock" sound and the riff-ripping big-beat jams that keep appearing in beer and car commercials. The Fleshtones could be bigger than Fatboy Slim.
"There could very well be similarities to Fatboy Slim's stuff in what we're doing, but even if we'd gone to England when big beat was huge, people still would've hated us.
"We learned 20 years ago that there's no movement that would help the Fleshtones. We've accepted the fact that we'll always have to struggle, and continue making music on our own terms."
THE FLESHTONES with SHIKASTA at the Horseshoe (370 Queen West), Friday (June 29). $8.50. 416-598-4753.