The Fleshtones formed in 1975 when Jan Marek Pakulski, fresh from a job on a Maine chicken farm, moved in with his friend Keith Streng, who was living in Queens, New York.
Pakulski discovered a cheap bass in the house and began to pluck it. Drummer Streng switched to an equally inexpensive guitar, and his high school chum Peter Zaremba was recruited to blow harmonica and sing. The group’s initially minimal competence had some unforeseen creative consequences – they couldn’t play well enough to cover songs, so they had to write their own.
The band moved to Manhattan in 1976 and debuted at CBGB‘s on 19 May. They shared rehearsal space on the Bowery with The Cramps the following year and earned the title “kings of garage rock” courtesy of their raucous original tunes and covers of material by such Sixties groups as The Troggs and The Dave Clark Five.
On signing to Marty Thau’s small new wave label, Red Star, they released their first single, American Beat, in 1979. Unfortunately, the small label collapsed before the band’s album could be released. Titled Blast Off! it was finally issued in cassette form in 1982.
In 1980, Police manager Miles Copeland signed The Fleshtones to his IRS label, and their debut album, Roman Gods, was released in 1982.
Like its successor, Hexbreaker!, it was immediately pegged “garage-band music” – a label with which the band grew increasingly impatient.
They called their music “super rock”, which was as good a way as any to describe their high-energy mix of raw psychedelia, soul, R&B and contemporary rock & roll.
Gordon Spaeth died on 8 March 2005.
The Fleshtones returned with more of the same in 2008, dishing up a heady brew of honking R&B, pounding British Invasion beat and sneering garage punk on Take A Good Look.
Jan Marek Pakulski