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Big-T & the Bada-Bings

RCR Turns Up The Heat
By Christian Chensvold

When Royal Crown Revue plays, people listen.

Photo by Joe Wood.
At least that's what happened on January 17 at the Key Club in West Hollywood. With 13 years under their collective belt, the forerunners of the swing revival and self-proclaimed "Kings of Gangster Bop" have emerged as genuine entertainers. The band has grown as jazz musicians and songwriters, and become more dancer friendly. Which is why sitting still why they played was so disappointing.

Perhaps it had something to do with the crowd. Despite the band's growing refinement (frontman Eddie Nichols now prefers singing "On the Sunny Side of the Street" to the hitman's homage, "Zip Gun Bop"), Royal Crown Revue maintains a strong rockabilly following. The Key Club, hardly a small venue, was packed with pink-haired punks, LA hipsters, parental types, and pompadours so tall they were in danger of being circumcised by the ceiling fan. Though the crowd was eclectic on the surface, the night was dictated by the whims of the rockabilly scenesters. Opening act The Hollywood Combo got the dance floor jumping, but during the intermission, the DJ played tunes specifically designed for greaser girls to take to the floor with a line dance called "The Stroll." It was a curious phenomenon, as they seem content to, with utmost seriousness, perform the same simple step to song after song ad nauseum. Perhaps the dance is intended to act as accompaniment to a kind of beauty parade of tattoos and fishnet stockings. Thus, when some dancers attempted to swing on the floor's outskirts, the DJ was heard to command, "Now is not the time to be lindy hopping. In fact, it's never the time to be lindy hopping." Someone needs to tell these people that the lindy hop is exactly what the kids are doing in all those '50s rock and roll movies.

Photo by Joe Wood.
The reviewer's ruminations were brought to a halt by the introduction of the evening's headliners. Royal Crown Revue rocked, to use the term of the evening, which is nothing surprising. From originals, such as that ode to public transportation, "Watts Local," to a seductively catchy version of "Too Young," complete with doo-wop backup vocals, the
band proved they are certainly no flat characters. Nichols said a couple of years ago he planned to work on his singing. He obviously has, and proves that the terms "crooner" and "tough guy" are not mutually exclusive. His notorious filthy mouth seems to have been washed with soap by his momma, and with his characteristic stage moves-somewhere between a dance and a swagger-he will likely become the neo-swing generation's equivalent of Wayne Newton, living out his golden years as a beloved Vegas lounge lizard.

Sadly, the band's lofty status filled the dance floor with rapt onlookers, and dancing became impossible. Packed shoulder to shoulder, the crowd was content to gaze upwards at the musician-gods, as our American Idol nation watched in collective solipsism, wondering "What if that were me?"

Royal Crown Review plays classic American music. That will never change. But it's satisfying to see that they have found plenty of room for growth, while still remaining unabashedly retro.

Behind in your reading?
Check out past ATOMIC features.

Dear Dottie
1999 Articles List
2000 Articles List
2001 Articles List
2002 Articles List
2003 Articles List
2004 Articles List
Remembering Bing Crosby
Carnival Knowledge
Vintage Skivvies Lets It All Hang Out
Destroy Puny Humans!
Broadway By the Year: 1939
Michael Lesy's Altered States
RCR Turns Up The Heat
Super Bowl of Go-Go


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