The Fleshtones  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Related e



Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Fleshtones are an American garage rock band. In 2006 they marked their 30th anniversary.



Outsiders: 1976-1979

The Fleshtones were formed in 1976 in New York by Keith Streng (b. Sep 18 1955, New York, New York) and Jan-Marek Pakulski (b. Aug 22 1956, Lewiston, Maine), two roommates who discovered that a previous tenant had left behind some instruments in the basement of the house they were renting. Streng, on guitar, and Pakulski, on bass, were soon joined by neighborhood friends Peter Zaremba (b. Sep 16 1954, Queens, New York) on harmonica, keyboards, and vocals, and Lenny Calderon (b. 1958, New York) on drums.

The Fleshtones debuted at CBGB on May 19, 1976, and began touring in the early 80s. Starting in 1978, the group was often joined onstage, as well as on record, by Action Combo, brothers Gordon (alto sax and harmonica) and Brian (tenor sax) Spaeth; Gordon Spaeth (b. Sep 21 1951—d. Mar 8 2005) became an official band member in 1983.

In the late 70s, The Fleshtones earned a local following and played often in Manhattan at CBGB and Max's Kansas City. Later, they found a favorite venue at Club 57 on St. Mark's Place. The Fleshtones were the first band to be booked or to play at several famous venues, including Irving Plaza and Danceteria in Manhattan, Maxwell's in Hoboken, New Jersey, and the original 9:30 Club in Washington D.C..

The Fleshtones shared a rehearsal space with The Cramps on the Bowery in 1977. The following year, The Fleshtones signed with Marty Thau's Red Star Records (a roster that included Suicide and Real Kids, among others artists), recorded their first album, and with filmmaker/artist M. Henry Jones produced Soul City, a performance-animation video comprised of hand-painted cutouts. The Fleshtones' first single "American Beat" was released in 1979 (re-recorded in 1984 as part of the soundtrack of the Tom Hanks' movie Bachelor Party.)

The I.R.S. Years: 1980-1985

In 1980, with the Red Star Records album unreleased (later issued on cassette on ROIR, now available on CD and vinyl), the Fleshtones were snapped up by Miles Copeland at I.R.S. Records (R.E.M., The Go-Gos) where they would work with producers Richard Mazda and Richard Gottehrer. The band replaced Calderon with drummer Bill Milhizer (b. Sep 21 1948, Troy, New York), appeared in the British Punk/New Wave concert film Urgh! A Music War, and released its first EP Up-Front. Four discs on I.R.S. followed: Roman Gods (1982), Hexbreaker! (1983), and the live Speed Connection and Speed Connection II (1985). In 1982 they appeared on Dick Clark's American Bandstand TV show.

The band never became a commercial success: Roman Gods debuted at #174 on Billboard’s album chart, the highest position that a Fleshtones album would attain.

Zaremba was the host of The Cutting Edge on MTV from 1984 to 1987. The I.R.S. Records-produced show featured up and coming underground artists. The program was short-lived (airing in a late night time slot didn't help accumulate a wide audience) but the format later revived as 120 Minutes. Zaremba's MC talents surfaced again in the late-90s at New York City's "Cavestomp" Garage Rock festivals.

In the mid-80s, The Fleshtones regularly played at the Pyramid Club on Avenue A in the East Village, where Streng booked shows at the weekly "Mod Teepee," and The Fleshtones were instrumental in helping to start Wigstock, the drag-queen festival that became a New York City staple.

Era of the Indies: 1986 to date

In the late 80s The Fleshtones were without major-label support, though they continued to tour America and Europe steadily, including shows opening for Chuck Berry and James Brown. In 1987 The Fleshtones made an appearance on the final episode of Andy Warhol's Andy Warhol's Fifteen Minutes, an MTV program, during which they backed up famed English stage actor Ian McKellen as he recited William Shakespeare's Twentieth Sonnet. The band recorded the title track to the 1987 camp-horror film I Was a Teenage Zombie that same year. They released Fleshtones vs. Reality (studio) in 1987 and Soul Madrid (live) in 1989. I.R.S. Records released a best-of compilation, Living Legends, in 1989.

In 1986, Pakulski left The Fleshtones. Robert (Burke) Warren, Fred Smith (Television), and Andy Shernoff (The Dictators) shared bass duties until 1990, when Ken Fox (b. Feb 19 1961, Toronto, Canada) joined. Fox, who had formed Raving Mojos in Toronto and played in Jason and The Scorchers, has been with The Fleshtones ever since.

The Fleshtones signed with Ichiban Records in 1992, where they stayed until the label's demise, releasing Powerstance (1992), Beautiful Light (1994), Laboratory of Sound (1995), and More Than Skin Deep (1998). In the 90s and 00s, in addition to self-producing in Paul Johnson's Compactor basement studio in Brooklyn, New York, The Fleshtones worked with producers Dave Faulkner (Hoodoo Gurus), Peter Buck (R.E.M.), Steve Albini, Rick Miller (Southern Culture on the Skids), Jim Diamond (The Dirtbombs), and Ivan Julian (The Voidoids).

The Fleshtones were one of the last bands to play at Windows on the World atop the World Trade Center; they played a show there five weeks before the 9/11 attacks, and in 2002 played at a Night of Remembrance and Hope festival at CBGB. In December 2003 The Fleshtones played at a CBGB 30th Anniversary show along with The Dictators, and in August 2004 played Little Steven's Underground Garage Festival at Randalls Island in New York City with 39 other bands, including The New York Dolls, Iggy Pop, The Strokes, and Bo Diddley.

In 2003 The Fleshtones signed with Yep Roc Records, which has released Do You Swing? (2003), Beachhead (2005), Take A Good Look (2008), and Stocking Stuffer (2008).

Book, Tribute, and Feature Documentary


  • Keith Streng—guitar & vocals
  • Peter Zaremba—lead vocals, harmonica & organ
  • Bill Milhizer—drums & vocals
  • Ken Fox—bass & vocals

Former members

  • Jan-Marek Pakulski—bass, vocals (1976-1986)
  • Lenny Calderon—drums, vocals (1976-1979)
  • Danny Gilbert—guitar (1976)
  • Gordon Spaeth—sax, harmonica, organ, vocals (1978-1988)
  • Brian Spaeth—sax (1978-1981)
  • Mitchell Ames—guitar (1979)
  • Walter Scezney—bass (1979)
  • Robert [Burke] Warren—bass, vocals (1986-1988)


Horn players

  • Steve Greenfield—sax (1988-1992)
  • Ken Fradley—trumpet (1988)
  • Mark McGowan—trumpet (1988-1990)
  • Joe Loposky—trumpet (1990-1994)
  • Markus Arike—sax (1992-1994)

Fleshtones discography

Selected discography

Albums, EPs, and singles

  • American Beat b/w Critical List 7" (Red Star) 1979
  • Up-Front EP (I.R.S.) 1980
  • Roman Gods LP/cassette (I.R.S.) 1982 + CD [limited] (Eur. I.R.S.) 1990
  • Roman Gods [Dance Remix] b/w Ride Your Pony + Chinese Kitchen 12" (I.R.S.) 1982
  • Blast Off! [1978] cassette (ROIR) 1982 + CD (ROIR) 1990 + CD (ROIR/Fr. Danceteria) 1993 + CD (Red Star) 1997 + LP (Sp. Munster) 2001 + LP (Get Hip Records) 2002
  • Hexbreaker! LP/cassette (I.R.S.) 1983
  • American Beat ‘84 + Hall of Fame b/w Mean Ole’ Lonesome Train + Super Hexbreaker 12” EP (Fr. I.R.S.) 1984
  • Speed Connection LP (Fr. I.R.S.) 1985
  • Speed Connection II: The Final Chapter LP/cassette (I.R.S.) 1985
  • Fleshtones vs. Reality LP/cassette/CD (Emergo) 1987
  • The Fleshtones: Living Legends Series CD (I.R.S.) 1989
  • Soul Madrid LP (Sp. Imposible) 1989
  • Powerstance! CD/LP/cassette (Aus. Trafalgar) 1991 + CD/LP/cassette (UK Big Beat ) 1991 + CD (Naked Language/Ichiban) 1992 + download (Ichiban) 2006
  • Forever Fleshtones LP (Gr. Hitch Hyke) 1993
  • Beautiful Light CD (Naked Language/Ichiban) 1994 + download (Ichiban) 2006
  • Angry Years 1984-1986 CD (Sp. Imposible) 1994 + CD (Amsterdamned) 1997
  • Laboratory of Sound CD (Ichiban International) 1995 + LP (Gr. Hitch Hyke) 1996 + download (Ichiban) 2006
  • Fleshtones Favorites CD (Flesh) 1997
  • Hitsburg USA! LP (Telstar) 1997 + CD (Sp. Imposible) 1997
  • More Than Skin Deep CD (Ichiban International) 1998 + LP (Telstar) 1998 + CD/LP (Eur. Epitaph) 1999 + download (Ichiban) 2006
  • Hitsburg Revisited CD (Telstar) 1999 + CD/LP (Eur. Epitaph) 1999
  • Solid Gold Sound CD/LP (Blood Red) 2001 + CD (Fr. Fantastika) 2001
  • Do You Swing? CD/LP (Yep Roc) 2003
  • Beachhead CD/LP (Yep Roc) 2005 + LP (It. Nicotine Records) (2006)
  • Take A Good Look CD/LP (Yep Roc) 2008
  • Stocking Stuffer CD/LP (Yep Roc) 2008

Compilation appearances

Video / DVD

  • Right Side Of A Good Thing, The Beast of I.R.S. Video Vol. 1 VHS (I.R.S. Home Video) 1984
  • F-f-fascination, Back In The Day: Live At Hurrah’s New York City DVD (WEA) 2006
  • The Fleshtones: Brooklyn à Paris! Live at La Maroquinerie DVD (Big Enough) 2006
  • The Fleshtones—Live At The Hurrah Club DVD (Cherry Red) 2008

Side projects

Fleshtones side projects have included Peter Zaremba's Love Delegation, and Streng's bands Full Time Men (which featured Peter Buck) and The Master Plan (with Andy Shernoff).

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Fleshtones" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools