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EVEN LA HAD never seen anything quite like them. Deaf School that is. A very British group who really have nothing to do with punk rock at all. Except, perhaps, that they don't spend much money on clothes.

For three consecutive nights Deaf School confused the audience at the infamous Whiskey once of A-Go-Go fame. They confused the people at Warner Brothers. And they confused the press. As hard as everyone tried, no one could quite classify this wonderfully unique Liverpool rock 'n' roll band.

One Warner Brothers Executive described them as 'desperate' after witnessing the opening night set in which Enrico Cadillac Jnr. turned in a performance charged with enough adrenalin to galvanise the blase crowd of archetypal laid-back, liggers.

Deaf School have matured, now ready to take their place at the top of the rock 'n' roll hierarchy. Their imaginative, refreshing sound offered a pleasant contrast to the pedestrian bluesy rock 'n' schlock headliner Corky Laing tossed out.

The band joked about the tremendous differences between the size of Whittaker's kit and Laing's mammoth set-up. But that didn't stop Tim Whittaker from keeping better metronome-like time than Laing. Often when Corky and group were playing standard 12 bar blues, Miss Betty Bright would giggle, "Oh god, here comes his tenth drum solo this set!"

Miss Bright is a true musical connoisseur. Self indulgent solos are not her particular fave-rave. "I even walked out on Led Zeppelin," she revealed with pride.
Deaf School don't spend much money on clothes but then they don't have to. Enrico Cadillac Jnr, who looks like a demented Ricky Ricardo, flaunted a new suit he had purchased for a mere ten dollars, and a one dollar tie. These boys have style.

The very Reverend Max Ripple admits that the band laughed when he first bought an ancient Farfisa organ which adds to their earthy sound. Drummer Whittaker boasts proudly of 1959 snare drums which facilitate that essential back beat.
And so the curious (including non-queuers Manhattan Transfer and Harry Nilsson) stood faithfully outside the Whiskey for three nights running, often coming back for more and more of the addictive sounds. No one quite knew what 'kind' of music Deaf School played but they were certain about one thing. They'd never heard anything like it before.

THE GIG: Admittedly, Deaf School are going over the top on this, their first American tour. Determined to impress without excess, their performances exhilarating. And exhausting. Guitarist Clive Langer has substantial blisters to prove it.

And no wonder. The band have infinitely improved. Now the music matches the visuals perfectly. It's almost like watching a movie with a captivating soundtrack. Only better.

They begin like the last silent frames from some great detective epic from the thirties with 'Last Night' as Eric Shark talk-sings a very Raymond Chandler-ish monologue over some backstreet music. Suddenly sleazy dark lights turn bright revealing the entire band as they launch into the hard driving 'Get Set Ready Go'. Betty wears a gold lame slicker and outrageous gold and black striped shades.
"Where does she get her clothes," one lady clad in the latest Gucci apparel drawled when Miss Bright took off the slicker to reveal a rather 'brief' dress with the word "swanky" cut out on the butt.

Enrico Cadillac Jnr., takes a cigarette from a crumpled pack, lights it, and throws the empty pack into the crowd, all the while singing rock lyrics with total obsession. Occasionally he'll snarl at the audience. And they love it.
Guitarist Clive Langer is the virtuoso of the group, consistently getting the most incredible sounds from his 15 pound amplifier. With Enrico, Langer is responsible for most of the material. As with any rock band, it's the great songs that makes it great.

Deaf School are probably one of the only bands to play Los Angeles and look even stranger than the audience. Hardened posers could not take their eyes off the unorthodox front line of Betty Bright, Eric Shark and Enrico; all of them bumping and grinding to the music, driven by sensual rhythmic configurations.
Deaf School offer a diverse assortment of musical delicacies, oscillating between Broadway musicals, sixties flavoured rock, seventies experimentation and traditional British music hall samplings.

At the root of every song is a solid rhythmic groove, captured by drummer Whittaker, bassist Frankie Average and guitarist extraordinaire Langer. A new song 'I Wanna Be Your Boy' has a vocal that uses Bowie and Ferry for a starting point before exploring totally new territories. Lots of echo makes the already tense atmosphere extra eerie.

The gentlemen's favourite section of the show undoubtedly is Miss Bright's tour de force on 'Final Act' where she out camps Bette Midler.

She's like Gwen Verdon and Lucille Ball wrapped up in one glorious whole, as original as you'd expect from the whacky band. Sleazy red lights lend themself to the wonderfully smokey lounge atmosphere.

When she croons, 'don't like what I see in the mirror,' almost every male in the club screams out illicit offers, practically creaming their pants with joy. Obviously Miss Bright gets an ovation nightly.

Typically, they end the set with a touch of black humour. "Now we'll bring you all down with a song about suicide," Enrico says as the band kick off 'What A Way To End It All'.

 
© Barbara Charone, 1977 Reproduced by kind permission of

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