The Waitresses: King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents – US – CD – 
- No Guilt
- Wise Up
- I Could Rule The World If I Could Only Get The Parts
- I Know What Boys Like
- Pussy Strut
- Wasn’t Tomorrow Wonderful?
- Go On
- It’s My Car
- Heat Night
- Christmas Wrapping
When commenter KeithC offered to send me an extra copy of this Waitresses CD, it offered me an opportunity to revisit a band who was absolutely crucial to early 1982 when I was a freshman in college and captivated by the twin suns of The Human League’s “Dare” and The Waitresses “Wasn’t Tomorrow Wonderful.” But I never climbed back onto The Waitresses’ bus for the next album. Come to think of it, it took ages for me tor try the next Human League album. How would this live peek at the band early on play nearly 40 years later?
I can almost no longer remember the studio sound, but the main feature of the band was Patty Donohue’s deadpan brattiness. Her petulant tone set the emotional tenor of the music. Sarcastic and put upon, Chris Butler wrote the songs to reflect the point of a smart woman who was facing an uphill struggle from the rampant stupidity around her between men, jobs, and society at large giving her grief. What an attitude! She doesn’t sing the songs so much as act them out on stage. Hearing her on this disc, it all came back to me. This was the emotional payload that I had responded to back then in spades.
What I hadn’t been prepared for was how this band live had a lot of Frank Zappa-like energy crammed into the busy live arrangements. Lots of tonal and time signature shifts pointed to Zappa and made the listening to this seem much more “active” than I remembered the album being. Thought the presence of Television’s Billy Ficca on drums in the band was probably there for a reason! Apart from the iconic “I Who What Boy’s Like” most of this music was just not simply constructed.
And Mars Williams’ sax here dipped freely into his free-jazz and improvisational foundations as he showed no fear in adding skronk to the proceedings from time to time. All played with a ferocious gusto that marks his talent as a sax player. Dan Klayman’s organ was almost as wild as the sax got and Chris Butler and Tracey Wormworth kept the backing vocals moving to support the complex song structures.
It’s funny, but at times there was almost a ska vibe to tracks like “No Guilt” and especially “I Could Rule The World If I Could Only Get The Parts.” I really don’t remember hearing that anywhere in the debut album and I never heard the “Rule The World” EP so this was the first time to hear that mouthful of a song. But it was certainly great fun.
Given that this show was recorded on February 13, 1982, I was amazed that they closed the show with “Christmas Wrapping!” That was a song from the Ze Records “A Christmas Record” that was only a UK release from 1981. The 1982 US edition that I eventually got would happen later in the year. But more impressively, They thought nothing of performing a Christmas themed song near St. Valentine’s Day! I wish more bands had this attitude.
Overall, this was a more raucous and wild sound than my brain remembers form their debut album. It’s stuffed with frantic energy that was ultimately all held together by the classic deadpan style of Patty Donohue holding court at the center of the energetic maelstrom. Apart from the three Waitresses releases she only figured vocally on Alice Cooper’s “Zipper Catches Skin” album [“vocals and sarcasm”] and on the solo album [very difficult to get] of Shriekback’s Carl Marsh. She died way too soon in 1996 from lung cancer and I miss her. At least now I have some more of her in my Record Cell.
The Waitresses Christmas Wrapping Song is perennially a Brit Favorite. I love it, too. Such a great vibe and lyrics.
Bridget – I always treasure hearing “Christmas Wrapping” during grocery store trips in December. That is one Mod Rock xmas song that I actually enjoy! Actually, everything on the Ze “A Christmas Record” is top quality goods!
I only have their “Make the Weather” UK 12″ and the single “Christmas Wrapping”,never heard anything else.
The CW track is still a staple of in-store music systems here at Xmas time,but I dont think they ever really had a hit here,strangely.
Gavin – They never really had a hit anywhere. “I Know What Boys Like” reached 62 in the US and “Christmas Wrapping” got as high as 45 in the UK. Their lanel, Ze commissioned them to write the xmas number for “A Christmas Album;” a disc every reader here should have. I saw the viddy for “Make The Weather” a few times on MTV but never heard their 2nd album, “Bruisology” from whence it came.
Lead Waitress Chris Butler has his roots in the Akron music scene. He started out, like everybody, in The Numbers Band 15-60-75. Many local musicians from Gerry Casale, to Terry Hynde [Chrissie’s brother] have played in this band; who started in 1969 and have never stopped! They are the quintessential local band who never make it to the next level, but that hasn’t stopped them! I really need to hear Butler’s second band, Tin Huey, who made it to Warner Brothers [briefly] in 1979 with their album “Contents Dislodged During Shipment.” A Zappa-esque title if ever there were one. “I Could Rule The World If I Could Only Get The Parts” was written as a Tin Huey song before The Waitresses covered it.
I remember the song “I know what boys like” – I seem to remember they played it *a lot* on KROQ and when I was in college….yet another demonstration of the pockets of ‘new wave’ alternate music scene influence in the different geographical areas of the USA. It seems you either had to live there to hear these songs or actively seek them out….I consider myself lucky to have had it in my environment, although my boyfriend at the time had moved to AZ from Germany so had been exposed to that music while in high school and he probably introduced me to some of it…..
Bridget – A phenomenon like KROQ was beyond my local scene, so I listened to the cool local college radio station WPRK-FM played the early 1980 release of the single for “I Know What Boys Like” a lot in the 1981 period when I started listening to that station [in spite of their pathetic 100 watt signal that I could barely receive 10 miles away]. So I was primed and ready to jump on the Waitresses album when it got released in early 1982.
Glad you enjoyed the CD; great timing for a Waitresses post. My wife and kids were away this weekend so, while doing some kitchen faucet chores, I popped in their “Just Desserts” compilation and enjoyed it on repeat while de-crusting the hard-water seized tap. Sure made the time fly by and enjoyed listening to Patty’s unique vocal styling which I never tire of. I popped in the Live CD later while installing the new tap and, much the same as you, enjoyed the energy and musicianship that energized the studio tracks especially when listening to both back to back.
Normally I only buy Live CD/DVD releases when I am confident I’ll never see the band live (RIP Tracy) so after the tap was done I was off to Discogs / then a web search for the band’s 1981 Live DVD but not much luck there so audio only for the time being. And of course one falls down the rabbit hole to Chris Butler’s subsequent bands (http://www.tinhuey.com/) and his own label releases (https://www.futurefossilmusic.com/) including the best find of a Bandcamp ‘name your price’ Waitresses demo release (https://chrisbutler1.bandcamp.com/album/your-choice-of-sides). Oddest find was a link to Butler’s purchase of Jeffrey Dahmer’s Akron house (get your own link; not much I can say after that piece of info,eh?).
KeithC – Plumbing? You have my sympathies. It is my least favorite household chore. It would be so much more bearable if I were 18-24″ high, but that’s definitely not the case.
The Butler info was fascinating. I had no idea about the Bandcamp page, and his recent titles [“Impeachment,” “Gotta Vote Him Out!”] don’t mince words. That Waitresses comp looks interesting. And I had no idea that Jeffrey Dahmer lived in Akron. Actually, I only have a vague idea that Dahmer was a serial killer sometime in the last 50 years. More details I could not provide. My media firewall keeps out much more than just bad music!
What a coincidence to see this review, as I now have a copy of this CD in hand! I bought mine off Discogs, still shrink-wrapped with the original hype sticker and all! I haven’t listened to the CD yet, but since the Waitresses are a vital part of my core collection, I’ll be making time for the King Biscuit Flower Hour show soon. Such a fantastic, underrated band. I’m still kicking myself for not buying the Just Desserts 2-disc collection. I had to resort to requesting a library copy so I could copy the MP3s and scan the booklet for my reference.
Besides Chris Butler, Tracy Wormworth has still been very active in music recently. I was so psyched to see her llive with the B-52’s for my birthday in 2019. I honestly had not known beforehand that Tracy was playing with the B-52’s, so it was a special treat to see her on stage. The show was a triple bill of Berlin, OMD, and the B-52’s (at Foxwoods Grand Theater in Connecticut), and I could not have had a more exciting evening to celebrate my birthday! All 3 bands were in top form that night.