Today’s single is my most recent acquisition – I saw info floating around about it and I made the purchase. It’s as much a curiosity as anything but it’s cool to have one of the most influential figures from my era on a recorded piece of music for the first time (that I know of).
To start let’s talk about Punk Rock Karaoke for a bit. The band has been around since 1996, formed by Circle Jerks and former Bad Religion guitarist Greg Hetson. It was formed for the purpose stated in the band’s name – to do punk rock “karaoke” covers for parties. It is possible to actually sing for the band at a gig, just like karaoke but with a real live backing band.
The present incarnation of the band includes Stan Lee (of The Dickies, not that Stan Lee) on guitar, Randy Bradbury of Pennywise on bass and Darrin Pheiffer of Goldfinger on drums. All are credited and present for these two songs as they are fronted by Tony Hawk. The Birdman is a legend among legends in skateboarding and recounting his career accolades would take far longer than it will to briefly discuss two songs he sang on.
During 2021, Punk Rock Karaoke got together with Tony and did a few songs. They were laid down in remote fashion, now a common feature of the “new normal” of COVID. A bit over a year later a record was pressed and here we are today to talk about it.
In The City
The A-side to this release is a cover of a 1977 song from England’s The Jam. This group were noteworthy for their punk-era run through Britain until their break-up in 1982. The band featured Paul Weller, known today as a long-running solo artist of some renown.
Here today we have a cover of their debut single, executed by PRK and with Tony Hawk handling vocals. The song itself is played well by the band, it’s a faithfully executed cover and a song I’d wager they’ve run through more than once in their karaoke gigs.
The real question is “How are Tony Hawk’s vocals?” and honestly he totally kills it. He isn’t just serviceable and is even beyond competent – he absolutely has a voice for punk rock and it is on full display here. It’s very easy to say that Tony should front his own band, but I doubt the guy who made a zillion dollars off his video game franchise wants to start a punk band in his 50’s. But he could totally pull it off.
The video is worth a watch at the end, as Tony tears down his backdrop and heads back to his day job.
Neat Neat Neat
The B-side is a cover from The Damned and the opening cut of their 1977 debut album Damned Damned Damned. While The Damned might be most recognized for their cover of The Sweet’s Ballroom Blitz (recorded with Lemmy), this song is often the go-to original from the group.
Again, Tony and PRK handle the cover brilliantly. The Damned’s early snarling and rough attitude isn’t going to replicated but this cover does justice to the song and isn’t just a clean, polished rendition. It packs much of the same punch as the original.
That does it for today’s single. Not something I was ever expecting but one I was very happy to grab when it did come around. And Tony Hawk is beyond capable of handling some punk rock vocals, making this more than a mere gimmick release.