Reissues Take the Piss Out of Slimy Jersey ’70s Band’s Catalog

Recommendation from Poison, Bon Jovi, and Mötley Crüe slobbers for Starz, mid-’70s Joisey metal act, as inspiration. It’s difficult to hear. Starz had a blaring bluntness, rarely duplicated by others, delivered in a handful of signature tunes—woman-hating set pieces for young, dumb, and full of cum “boys in action.” Conveying of the general themes: “So Young, So Bad” (couples “playing with dolls” to “playing with my balls”), “Subway Terror” (the singer likes to “dirty up” a victim’s “skirties” before he throws her onto the third rail), and “Pull the Plug,” the only endless blooz wail of amore and euthanasia for a loved one trapped in the iron lung. As end-stage care metal, its oxygen rebreather to the beat is second only to the ambulance siren in Bloodrock’s “DOA.”

The young Starz-men, who seemingly boasted on their first album of tasting like milk shakes when given head, are found in a four-CD reintroduction from Ryko. Plotting the curve, the records rate thus: Starz—A-grade stomps of large hook; Violation—more of same with 12-string-polished “Cherry Baby”; Attention Shoppers—the lead guitarist’s hair is gradually waving goodbye, leadership panics, and blue-movie power rock is forsaken for sap pop; Colosseum Rock—hammer-down riffing mostly minus the old juice.

The only thing missing is “Piss Party,” a publicity-getter aimed at shoving their semi-pretty boy, Michael Lee Smith, singing non-euphemistic filth over melodic hard rock, onto the airwaves. Most heard it as a radio broadcast concert committed to a promotional bootleg (or as Smith said, “you read about it” in cheesy rock mags). “PP” was a rap from a dirty paperback plus choruses: “Judy and Doris were casually sucking Bill when Bill decided to piss on both of them/The girls went wild licking the urine off each other. . . . They said, ‘Michael, if you come on over to our place/Michael, come on over and piss in my face!'” The national infrastructure for the networking of outrage and correction might have retrieved Starz’ career—but it was only 1977, and still under construction.


Faux-French Ticklers—Tonite They Were Gonna Shag You Tonite

A single you never heard, “Do It the French Way,” kicks off the best “box set” I heard in 2003—Marseille’s Rock You Tonight. Allegedly written for a porn film, its glam-pop metal makes you want to see the movie, just like Starz’ “Piss Party,” when that band was allegedly finding cinema-filth inspirational.

I’ve long believed that just by performing “Piss Party” the Starz scuttled Capitol’s enthusiasm in 1977. Marseille’s 1978 Red, White and Slightly Blue faced a similar fate, apparently bumming out all industry types associated with it. It never came to America, and in its green and pleasant English home was withdrawn from circulation, according to the notes.

But though the roaring chorus of “French Way” was jump-about special, the band was only warming up. Next came songs about the benefit of being close to a window while boning some other chap’s woman, about the work schedule (complete with closet-queen climax) of a gigolo named Percival, and about reporting to the doctor for VD treatment. “Please withhold my name and address,” simpers the singer. “Motherly Love” is the reverse of Vom’s “I’m In Love With Your Mom,” and “Not Tonight Josephine” delivers the pleas of a man who doesn’t wish to carry out his duty.

Beaten off by the opprobrium of no sale, Marseille cleaned up for their self-titled second LP, carving out an excellent build on UFO’s Obsession. The shaggy sex stories are gone, but the singer’s no longer a wheedling punk—he’s Joe Elliott! “Rock You Tonight” predates Def Leppard’s million-selling anthemic sound, and that didn’t work for Marseille, either. American classic-rock consumers were no more gonna request a band whose moniker they weren’t sure how to pronounce than they were gonna order rosé in the restaurant before it was renamed blush.

So Marseille’s final album wound up being pure girly metal. But any lapses in backbone on it are now forgiven on account of the salacious fun and cheerful arena-ready riffs of everything before.