Flash Metal Suicide: Britny Fox
This week: they wore purple velvet and ruffled shirts, and were debauched, gender-bending Prince Charmings. They were Britny Fox
“We have to stick together for rock n' roll music!” - Rock Revolution
In 1988 a new band with an eye-rollingly glam name emerged outta Philadelphia slathered in purple velvet and ruffled shirts. They were called Britny Fox, and they basically sounded just like Cinderella. They even had Cinderella's old guitar player in the band. And that's all ok. Why wouldn't a band dressed up like debauched, gender-bending Prince Charmings sound like Cinderella? It just makes fucking sense, man. They released a gold-selling debut that year that was warmly embraced by the glitter kids, but reviled by “real” metal fans who considered it just more hairspray bullshit. And sure, some of it was.
But some of everything in 1988 was hairspray bullshit. Never forget Cold Lake, man. But there's nothing on Britny Fox that you can't really roll with. Most of it is AC/DC inspired teenage wasteland riff'n'roll. Even their power ballad, Save the Weak, sounds like they were shooting for some weird glammy Beatles thing. In fact the only thing keeping Britny Fox's debut from entering the upper-tier cool kids flash metal pantheon with bands like the GN'R, Smack, Hanoi Rocks, Dog's D'amour, Blackboard Jungle and Rock City Angels is, you know, the fact that they're called Britny Fox. I mean, we've gotta draw a line somewhere, don't we?
Girlschool was the big hit from that album, and it really is remarkable how much Fox screamer Dizzy Dean Davidson looks and sounds like Cinderella's Tom Keifer on their memorable MTV video, but aside from the dopplegangery, it's pretty flawless. I mean, if you don't get caught up in all the excitement, what with the catholic school girls and the hair flying everywhere and the pyrotechnic guitar solo, then rock n' roll might not be your thing. It's a fucking jammer, man. And it's not the only one on that album. Kick N' Fight, Rock Revolution, Fun In Texas, all sleazy little nuggets of high-impact hard rock anchored by Dizzy's aggressively unhinged screech and a tough-as-nails rhythm section that rolls thunder. The Slade cover is pretty abysmal (Goodbuy T' Jane), but that smacks of record label meddling anyway. Overall, a real stomper of a flash metal record.
They followed it up a year later with Boys in Heat, but Britny Foxmania was already on the wane. Time just wasn't on their side, and neither was fashion. Victorian glam wasn't that bad an idea, really. It could've worked pretty well as Britny Fox got older and crustier, but they were already abandoning the concept by the early 90's when they switched to jeans and t-shirts to keep up with the dialed-down grunge kids. Aside from these dudes, it never really caught on as a trend outside of the hilariously wrong-headed LA velvet-abusers Beau Nasty, a few vampire cult goth bands, and Boston AC/DC fetishists Upper Crust, who threw powdered wigs into the mix and really went to town with the concept.
As for the band itself, Dizzy Dean split after the second record and formed the short-lived but altogether more satisfying southern-fried sleaze-rock outfit Blackeyed Susan, while the rest of the band marched forward into the abyss. 1991's Bite Down Hard album featured new throat-man Tommy Paris who sported a more traditional high-pitched, tight-pants yelp. In a way, the album is a pretty admirable stab at authenticity in a rapidly changing musical climate. I mean, it's as 1987 as you can possibly get, from the naked-girl-with-snake cover to cameo appearances from spelling-impaired spandex superstars Rikki Rockett and Zakk Wylde.
If you want big dumb glam, well, this record is the biggest and dumbest. But it was 1991 and people wanted Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Smashing Pumpkins. Their stripped-down image at this point certainly suggests that the band was aware of the turning tides and while they did make wardrobe concessions, they did not change their sound. And in a world reeling from Teen Spirit, that was an act of reckless heroism.
And naturally, it sunk them. The band broke up, officially, in 1992. But the dream never died. In 2000, outta nowhere, a new album featuring the entire '91 line-up emerged. Springhead Motorshark found the band edging towards the AOR scale, essentially the last refuge for aging glam-metal bands and a golden ticket to the European melodic metal circuit. It works, man. Saga's been touring Germany every year for decades. And that's basically been their trip ever since.
They're still together today, although bass player Billy Childs is the sole man standing from the classic mid-80's line-up. And while everything after their still kind of amazing debut muddies the waters, there is a good chance that Britny Fox will eventually become cult heroes. Like a hundred years from now, sleazy Victorian glam-dandy metal will suddenly be fashionable, and the Britny Fox album will basically be that crew's Exile on Main Street. You and me and Britny Fox will all be dead by then but still, good work fellas.
Next week: Soul Survivors