New York-based, The Plasmatics established a cult reputation for their outrageous stage presentation, built around the contortions, distortions and disrobing of Wendy Orleans Williams.
Williams had abandoned a promising career as a live-act porn star to front a band which outraged even New York’s hardened rock neighbourhood.
In fact, one critic remarked that the band “take all the marketable aspects of those musicians and combine them with the formularised commercialism of KISS, Alice Cooper and Blondie to come up with a truly perverse yet utterly saleable commodity”
Sure, The Plasmatics music sounded more like unadulterated noise than music; Sure, Wendy’s blatant exhibitionism stood eroticism on its head, turning sexual pleasure into a castrating horror show, but so what? No one ever lost money underestimating the intelligence of the American public.
The band’s debut (Meet The Plasmatics) contained Want You Baby and Sometimes, Won’t You?. During the instrumental section of Want You Baby, the band members were isolated from one another so that no one could see or hear what the other was playing!
As a visual act, The Plasmatics made The Tubes look like a temperance union meeting. Wendy O’ Williams, usually topless, systematically destroyed all manner of objects on stage – including motor vehicles (the band sold out Manhattan’s Palladium, the biggest rock venue in New York, and blew up a Cadillac onstage).
Police officers attending a 1981 Plasmatics gig in Milwaukee felt that Wendy had perhaps exceeded the entertainment brief when they arrested her for simulating masturbation on stage with a sledgehammer.
In the ensuing fracas, police officers wrestled her to the floor of the auditorium and pinned her down.
The singer received cuts to the head and face requiring 12 stitches.
On 6 April 1998, Wendy O Williams committed suicide in woods near her Connecticut home. A memorial was held at CBGBs on 18 May.
Wendy Orleans Williams
Vocals & saxophone