10 Most Influential Punk Records of Arizona: #9 - Killer Pussy, Teenage Enema Nurses In Bondage

10 Most Influential Punk Records of Arizona: #9 - Killer Pussy, Teenage Enema Nurses In Bondage

In late October, we introduced The 10 Most Influential Punk Records of Arizona. Over the next few weeks, we will reveal how we've ranked each record, and we will take an in-depth look at the people and circumstance behind each album's creation.

When I was a young'un, we would often say, "I'm in rag doll city" when we were hungry. This was short for "I'm so hungry I could eat the crotch out of a rag doll through a park bench."

That sort of rolls off the tongue the same way Teenage Enema Nurses in Bondage does, right? The legendarily named first seven-inch EP (33 rpm, no less, and not a 45 rpm) from Killer Pussy is easily one of the 10 most influential Arizona punk rock records and it rolls in at number nine on my list.

Though some might say the 1982 album is not very punk rock. I disagree. This slab of vinyl oozes punk attitude, right down to the cover photo of lead vocalist Lucy LaMode, in what probably was one of the original sexy enema nurse outfits and looking as though she put the "b" in terminal boredom.

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Fun fact: 32 years ago, this record was New Times' best EP of the year and Killer Pussy also was picked Best Modern Band.

Now, they get their greatest accolade.

Kidding, of course. These days, LaMode loudly and proudly proclaims the details of her life, and keyboard/percussionist Robert X. Planet (former New Times Thrills editor, as well) about the history of the band and the record in question. The band, according to both LaMode and Planet, has never opened for another band. Killer Pussy may be the only notable local act to make that claim, except maybe Hub Kapp and the Wheels.

Compared with other records in this list, this one sounds more like raunchy new wave, sure, but at the time, Killer Pussy essentially put Phoenix punk on the national map. Whether it was Rodney Bingenheimer (influential L.A. DJ, also known as Rodney on the Roq) or Dr. Demento (every music-loving nerd's best friend in the early '80s) who turned folks outside Phoenix onto Killer Pussy, the band definitely made a large splash in the underground music scene.

The tall, charismatic, and striking LaMode had been a fixture in the scene as part of the infamous Roll-Ons, who had another early Phoenix punk phenom, the Feederz' Frank Discussion on guitar (and, later, JFA's Don Pendleton).

"We were never serious about getting a record deal; that was never our goal," LaMode says. "We just liked hanging out and being controversial with outrageous punk rock music. There weren't a lot of bars to play at because they didn't 'get' punk rock music. So, I decided to borrow some money from my mom to rent a hall. It just happened to be run by the fire department and was called Fireman's Hall. We had the hall rented, and the bands lined up to play and called this event 'Trout-o-rama.' Frank Discussion and I were walking through the grocery store and they were having a sale on trout. They were calling it a "Trout-o-rama," and Frank said that is what we should call the showcase. It was $2 to get in and we asked everyone to bring a dead trout. It was very successful."

Remember, kids, those days were pre-Internet (thanks for slacking, Al Gore). Getting the word out was not the easiest thing in the world, so musicians actually put flyers in music stores, promoting shows however they could. There was a stigma about punk rock in the late '70s and early '80s. Punk was dangerous, subversive, and out to steal the souls of children. The Phoenix punk scene was an extremely small and tightly knit group, as well, so a show like Trout-o-Rama would have been like the first infamous Sex Pistols shows at the 100 Club in England: Almost everyone who attended was either in a band or soon would start one.

For those of you who have to know things like this, by the way, Trout-o-Rama featured sets by The Roll-Ons, The Feederz, The Cicadas, and Turquoise Orchestra, the latter two also featuring future Killer Pussies John Vivier (drums in the Cicadas) and Gary Russell (guitar in Turquoise Orchestra). The infamous show took place on December 1, 1979, (Wrap your brain around that and consider it is almost 35 years ago) at Fireman's Hall, located on Dreamy Draw Road in Phoenix.  

10 Most Influential Punk Records of Arizona: #9 - Killer Pussy, Teenage Enema Nurses In Bondage
Brendan DeVallance

The band itself was named, innocently enough, for some rambunctious cats.

"Dash Assault (Dave Webb, original KP bassist) came up with the band's name because Leslie (Les A-Go-Go from the Roll-Ons) had a couple of cats that would attack him all the time, so he referred to them as the 'Killer Pussies,'" LaMode says.

The original lineup consisted of LaMode and Les A-Go-Go (a.k.a. Leslie Webb) on vocals, Russell on guitar, Dash Assault on bass, and John E. Precious (Vivier, who had played in the Consumers, as well as most of the other local punk acts in the late '70s at one point or another). Planet joined on keyboards and percussion about a year into the band's existence, and Les A-Go-Go left the band to become a wife and mother, so the lineup that recorded the 7-inch was cemented in 1981.

Title track "Teenage Enema Nurses in Bondage" actually is the second track on side two. Perhaps this was done to build up anticipation, and perhaps it was done to piss people off, but either way, the placement goes against the grain and is indicative of the choices the band liked to make.

LaMode sort of embodies the full-on punk ethos, even if the rest of the band never really looked the part. Recorded in January 1982 at Behemoth Studios by Bruce Liddil.

"We recorded Teenage Enema Nurses in Bondage over two weekends at Jack Miller Productions recording studio at Third Street and Garfield in downtown Phoenix," Liddil says. "Jack and I were ultimately partners in the enterprise, but I don't remember if we were at the time of the recording. We put 'Behemoth Studios' as the recording venue on the record jacket, as Jack didn't want his name used on this particular project. He wasn't fond of the name Killer Pussy."

The opening track, "Tomahawks," has overt Native American themes running through both the lyrics and the music. It's hilarious and abrasive, especially when put into the context of its time, and Killer Pussy obviously attempted both social commentary and punk rock posturing. I am sure, for a while, it was shocking, then during the late '80s and early '90s probably became passé. But now, in our age of enlightened political correctness and endless waves of Facebook pleas for understanding, it is now back to the stark cliffs of objectionable, or at very least, questionable taste. This, of course, is why I love it. Well, that and the fact it talks about sodomy via tomahawk. Russell's guitar work helps punctuate Precious and Assault's attempt at tribal kitsch via drums and bass.

"Dial-A-Teen" is track two on side one. If you don't listen closely to the lyrics, it is plain silly and could have been an up-tempo take on late '50s rock 'n' roll. Russell's guitar work is intricate and all the instruments are well played. What really sells this one (as well as "Tomahawk") is the image of LaMode staring down the audience and daring them to do anything but surrender to her, creating a powerful juxtaposition of performance art and pop music.

 
10 Most Influential Punk Records of Arizona: #9 - Killer Pussy, Teenage Enema Nurses In Bondage

Side two starts with "Pump-rama." There may be a slight inclination with Ms. LaMode to hyphenate words, but who I am to say or diagnose it. Either way, this 1:27 ode to last call at the YMCA gym shows the punk chops of LaMode, Russell, and Precious most blatantly. "Pump-rama" actually best shows LaMode's limited yet confident vocal range. (Little-known fact about the early punks in Arizona: There was some fascination with mixing music and pumping iron. Stay tuned for more on that as other influential albums are discussed.)

The track, of course, that gave the band its most daunting dance with infamy is the aforementioned "Teenage Enema Nurses in Bondage," which closes out the EP. It's the brainchild of Robert X. Planet, who wrote it on his accordion and came up with the phrase when he and a friend were partying. He tells the story best:

"At the time I composed the music for "Teenage Enema Nurses in Bondage," I did not own or have access to an electronic keyboard, nor an organ or piano. I wrote the song on my ACCORDION (which may have influenced the tune's quirky-jerky cadence) -- and then I went to a rehearsal and played it for Lucy's band -- of which I was NOT yet a member. They liked it, so I taught it to them -- including the now-famous guitar solo, which is fairly simple to do on the accordion, but which I've been told is actually pretty challenging on the guitar. But Gary Russell picked it up quickly and performed brilliantly on the recording. The sound was sort of a B-52s homage, so we decided it needed an organ part -- so I bought a keyboard, joined the group, and that's how the song -- and hence, Killer Pussy -- got its keyboard player. (To add a wry touch of enema-school-appropriate goth, I set it to sound like a pipe organ -- an instrument heard in no other garage-punk band's music!)

As for the title, it was created by me and my friend Matt Banegas in 1974 when we stayed up too late one night partying and trying to think up the "ultimate" soft-core porn movie title. We wanted to parody recent REAL underground film titles such as "The 3D Stewardesses," "Elevator Girls in Bondage," "The Student Nurses," and "Night Nurse," etc., and we'd found some old bondage magazines called "Harlots in Heels" and "Bitches in Boots." To make a long story short, by the end of the evening, when he went home we had settled on "Teenage Nurses in Bondage." It was funny, but we both knew SOMETHING was still missing. In the middle of the night I sat up screaming "ENEMA!" That was the missing word! "Teenage Enema Nurses in Bondage!" When I called him he couldn't stop laughing. I still haven't stopped laughing. The combination of sounds and syllables just rolls off the tongue. It's impossible to say it aloud and keep a straight face. I dare you to try!"

The song has an infectious hook. After one listen, it burrows its way into your head like a "Rockabilly Earwig" (which is a song off of Killer Pussy's 1983 record Bikini Wax) and doesn't let up until you are singing the chorus in your sleep.

It's fun, yet sinister, and the music is almost perfectly crafted. It is no wonder it was a hit on radio stations like KROQ in Los Angeles and garnered the band attention from TV, movie, and music dignitaries for years. In fact, the late, great Dennis Hopper once painted a triptych of LaMode in full nurse regalia as a tribute the mighty imagery conveyed in Planet's awesome song.

Imagine that. It's fun to wrap one's brain around Hopper, dancing around his studio (or wherever he painted) listening to Killer Pussy and maybe, just maybe, inhaling a shitload of nitrous.

All in all, the finished product is rough around the edges, but in 1982, what self-respecting punk rock record wasn't?

"I remember it was quite a struggle, as I knew what I needed to do, but everyone wanted to hover and give his input," Liddil says. "Things got tense at times, as a lot of bad calls were being made -- fueled by mind-altering substances -- and I had to navigate that mine field and try to get an acceptable mix. There are a few decisions made that I'm unhappy with, but the guys wore me down. Ultimately the mixes came out fairly well."

LaMode, now 52, is now a married mother of two and lives in Austin. She has concerns about what her sons, 16 and 24, think about her music, but she's also about the most self-confident musician I've ever met. It might be bravado fueled by her acting ability, but I sincerely doubt it. For their farewell shows, LaMode and Planet have welcomed back former drummer Varya Hautimacki, who replaced John E. Precious after his untimely death in the mid-1980s. While Russell and Assault's replacement, Dale Sari, no longer performing with the band due to health issues, they are still very much loved by LaMode and Planet.

"The problem with Killer Pussy is the name itself is controversial," states LaMode, and she's right.

Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.

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