The Fleshtones, in the flesh 

NYC legends play Savannah Smiles

LOCAL ROCK promoters Tiny Team Concerts, who have made waves in the local music scene by presenting an ongoing series of criminally underappreciated acts from around the country, are putting on a garage rock freakout this Sun., Feb. 8 at Savannah Smiles.

Included on the bill are perennial local favorites Superhorse, Atlanta’s Tiger! Tiger! and seminal New York super-rock purveyors The Fleshtones, in an evening that is sure to leave any fan of good rock music drenched in sweat from hours of furious dancing.

Headliners The Fleshtones arose from the same late ‘70s NYC scene that launched clubs like CBGBs and Max’s Kansas City into icon status with groups like The Ramones and The Talking Heads. The Fleshtones’ frontman Peter Zaremba caught up with Connect by email last week.

How long has it been since you guys played in Savannah?

Peter Zaremba: We managed to play Savannah once before, about 15 years ago if I’m not wrong. We’ve always been interested in playing the city—you know all that history and mystique! I mean, is it Count Pulaski’s bones or not? I was just skimming Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil, which oddly enough mentions how Savannah is more inward looking and not necessarily that interested in what’s going on musically on the ‘outside.’ I wonder...

How does it feel to suddenly have a biography (Sweat: The Story of The Fleshtones) and a documentary (“Pardon Us For Living, But the Graveyard is Full”) made about the band? Is it bittersweet that it’s taken so long?

Peter Zaremba: Feels pretty good, but as you say, bittersweet. It’s been a long, long time, although for the most part the doing has been it’s own reward. I’m waiting for an action movie based on our lives.


Here's the first-ever promotional video of the band (made in 1979), in which they cover an extremely rare 1965 tune called "Soul City", written by Lou Reed before he formed The Velvet Underground:


The Fleshtones have played with some of the greatest musical acts of the 20th century (James Brown, REM, Chuck Berry, Iggy Pop). Do any stand out as your favorites to play with?

Peter Zaremba: Having REM open for us a few times was nice (or was it the other way?). They’re good guys, regular Americans. James Brown was very professional and removed, but it was a real honor opening for him. Chuck Berry’s well-known unpleasantness to other musicians was tempered considerably by the fact that he needed to borrow Keith’s tuner in order to go on stage. The Brits can also be difficult to play with. They’ve got a lot of class baggage to work out, usually at the expense of Americans. The Buzzcocks were a very notable exception, swell guys and pretty good dancers to boot.


Here's a live, 1988 airing of their riff-heavy cult classic "The Dreg":


While so many of the bands from the late ‘70s have stopped playing or broken up, what has kept the Fleshtones together? Is there a secret to rock n roll longevity?

Peter Zaremba: Yes, firstly staying alive. For most of our history that was good luck, or due to our very diligent guardian angels. But what’s kept us together mostly is that being in The Fleshtones is a blast.


Here's a great medley of live Fleshtones songs shot in 1999:


Some of your catalog from IRS Records will be re-issued online this month. Has the internet helped or hurt the prospects of a thriving indie music culture?

Peter Zaremba: It’s a double edged sword! Of course it’s killing the music business as we knew it, but if anything was deserving of being killed that was it. There’s less money around, okay, but then that’s less money to be wasted on bloated recording budgets and superstar pretensions. It’s easier now for a band to be heard, and now with Youtube, to even be seen. Makes being ‘underground’ darn right easy. As for the IRS stuff, they certainly sat on it long enough, which hurt The Fleshtones very badly. Every group in the world seemed to be getting their records re-released, assuring their place in music history, or more accurately, distorting it! Now Capitol/EMI (who sat on the IRS stuff for decades) is making a big deal that we’re part of the digital release. Too bad they never even told us about it!


Here's a recent, fan-shot clip of the band in Madrid just a few months back:


How much do you love rock n roll?

Peter Zaremba: Enough to devote my life to it! cs

Tiny Team and Connect Savannah present The Fleshtones with Tiger! Tiger! and Superhorse

Where: Savannah Smiles

When: Sun., Feb. 8. Doors open at 7 p.m., show starts at 8 p.m.

Cost: $15 advance, $17 door. Ages 21 and over.

Info: tinyteamconcerts.org.


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