A Young Person’s Guide To: The Dickies – Nights In White Satin

A+M Records | UK| 7" | 1979 | AMS 7469

A+M Records | UK| 7″ | 1979 | AMS 7469

The Dickies: Nights In White Satin UK 7″ [1979]

  1. Nights In White Satin
  2. Waterslide [remix]

Back in the New Wave era we had a crate load of irreverent, smart-assed cover versions. Cover versions usually follow new genres. Disco was filled with ’em. It’s how new styles become ripe for exploitation after the pioneers define them. What set New Wave apart is that is was full of cover versions that were intellectual responses to a lot of what came before. Much of the genre was a reaction against: rock pretension, smugness, and accomplishment. As Meatloaf said, “two outta three ain’t bad.” The record we’re looking at today certainly hits the target for the first two criteria, but don’t let their amphetamine speed fool you; The Dickies had talent to spare even as they were practically allergic to using it in the ways that, let’s say, Rick Wakeman, might have done. They partially existed to mock rock royalty’s penchant for pretension and smugness.

And nowhere is that ethos more encapsulated than within the grooves of this record. If ever there was a standard-bearer for middlebrow pretension in rock, it was probably The Moody Blues with their laughably kitschy, albeit game-changing, second album. When I was nine years old, for some reason, “Nights In White Satin,” the 1967 single by The Moody Blues was inexplicably a number one single in America five years later! As a child, I found the song impossibly maudlin and depressing. Five years later, as a pretentious adolescent, it became for a year or two, my favorite song ever! Fortunately, I came to my senses and when I had more education and experience under my belt, I could see it as the processed cheese that it always was.

White vinyl from A+M UK, of course!

White vinyl from A+M UK, of course!

So the time was ripe in 1979 for The Dickies to give this stodgy piece of middlebrow aspiration an injection of irreverent speed and fun; the last quality being completely alien to The Moody Blues, who were as stiff as boards. They rip through this with aplomb, but it’s perhaps not quite as fast as their blistering take on “Paranoid,” which actually was a great song before they covered it. Here, they are content to merely spray seltzer in Justin Hayward’s face, metaphorically, at least. As usual, the primary, A+M UK 7″ was, like almost every Dickies single, issued on colored vinyl. This time it was white, of course. Sadly, this is not a record in my Record Cell, but I should get a copy since the B-side is a remix of “Waterslide” from the band’s debut album. Fortunately, copies of this seem to be plentiful and at low prices.

A+M Records | Portugal | 7" |1979 | PAM 20069F

A+M Records | Portugal | 7″ |1979 | PAM 20069F

The Dickies: Nights In White Satin PORTUGAL 7″ [1979]

  1. Nights In White Satin
  2. Infidel Zombie

Strangely, enough, their is another sleeve variant for the Portuguese release, also made in 1979. As we can see, the tie + tails splendor of the UK sleeve has been eschewed for a straight run of the cover to the attendant “Dawn Of The Dickies” album. Why, I can’t quite say. Sure, the type treatment differs, understandably. But only Dickies completists need apply here, since the colored vinyl stayed in the UK and more importantly, the B-side with a remix variant was swapped for a straight cut from the “Dawn Of The Dickies” album.

A+M Records | US | 7" | 1980 | 2225-S

A+M Records | US | 7″ | 1980 | 2225-S

The Dickies: Nights In White Satin US withdrawn 7″ [1980]

  1. Nights In White Satin
  2. Manny, Moe, and Jack

Throughout my history of collecting records, there are more than a handful that I count myself lucky to own. Records that I simply can’t believe ever found their way to the sleepy hamlet I grew up in and into the right record stores, awaiting my purchase. And then there’s this one! A+M US was a year late to the game in releasing this single compared to the UK and Portuguese divisions of the label, but in terms of packaging, they more than made up for it! Looking at this sleeve, it’s hard to imagine how such a incendiary image would ever have gotten green-lighted! Even more shocking was that I did not buy this in 1980, but 18 years later! Heck, I didn’t even know about this sleeve until I walked into Rock & Roll Heaven in 1998 and saw it pinned to the wall for, what, six or eight dollars?! As a Dickies fan, I didn’t think twice and today, if I wanted the pleasure of its company, I would be looking at serious money to own this.

The B-side is yet another album cut, albeit one that was a single as well in the UK. The band’s song of praise to the three Pep Boys, who sell car parts all over this great land of ours. But who cares about that; just look at that sleeve! These guys were mocking the Ku Klux Klan long before that became mainstream with “O Brother, Where Art Thou!” But, somehow, I can’t help suspecting that this release may have a lot to do with why The Dickies soon found themselves off of A+M Records and faced a three year banishment from the record stores until “Stutkas Over Disneyland” appeared on PVC Records three years later.

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About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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4 Responses to A Young Person’s Guide To: The Dickies – Nights In White Satin

  1. I just love these guys, and though they have managed to come up with the goods time and time again over the years, they were never better than the original unit and the first two albums. What the Dickies did was not so much parody the pretentiousness of mainstream rock as they did the pretentiousness OF PUNK, which by that point was a hollow shell of “marketable rebellion” fashion and hairstyles, with the bands long moved on to pastures new. Most if not all of their cover songs work *better* as punk rawk than they did in their original formats, and I particularly like the way they point out that “Paranoid” and “The Banana Splits” WERE a form of punk for their day.

    Their cover of “Knights in White Satin” really brings out the catchiness of the song, which had been all but buried by the funereal dirge production the Moody Blues had given it. Much like when the Pet Shop Boys fused the pretentious “Where the Streets Have No Name” with “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” I think the point the Dickies were making is all pop music is essentially the same, it’s all a question of attitude and arrangements. In their case, punk was just a platform for fun and little else — true to their southern California roots. I’ve always thought of them as the geeky little brothers of the Ramones.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      chasinvictoria – Yes, though I have later releases, the A+M years were pretty amazing. Poor Karlos. And many thanks for turning my ear in their direction way back when. Yet more positive fallout over the legendary “No Wave” album! How many copies do you have now?


  2. Jon Chaisson says:

    Heh, I just heard this on KSCU this afternoon! I really need to get more Dickies in my collection. I am woefully low on them.

    When my friend and I started up a band in 1988 one of our plans was to have all our b-sides be ridiculous covers. We had a perky ska-influened “Part of Your World” (the Little Mermaid song, natch), a medley of all the “Save It for Later” 3-chord songs we could think of, and my favorite: a straight cover of the Bee Gees’ “I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You”. Alas we never got far, but we did tape most of our covers, which I converted to mp3.

    Also: my favorite 80s alt-rock cover? Elvis Hitler’s “Green Haze.” :)


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Jon Chaisson – I have to admit that I was wearing a blank stare at the mention of “Green Haze.” Didn’t ring any bells. Heck, I barely recognized Elvis Hitler from the Camelot Music cutout bins. Then I looked it up. Then I imagined it in my mind… Do you remember Little Roger And The Goosebumps, or was that before your time?


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