Joe Bonomo,
Sweat: The Story of the Fleshtones, America's Garage Band
(Continuum, 2007)

I was a rock critic back in the day and I bought Marty Thau's 2X5 when it came out and was immediately struck by "Shadow Line." Sometimes when you hear a song, you can immediately envision a band on stage charging through it. It blew me away. Hmm. Who are these tones of flesh color?

When I spotted the EP Up Front, I could hardly get it home, get the shrink wrap off and get the platter on a turntable fast enough. Only five songs, but three were absolute knockouts: "Girl from Baltimore," "Cold, Cold Shoes" and "Vindicators." In fact, whenever I would put "Shoes" on at a party, everybody would hit the dance floor, shouting "Whoa! Who's This?" To this day, I consider it one of the greatest rock 'n' roll dance songs ever written.

Then came Roman Gods with more powerhouse stuff, including the title track which has one of the greatest use of horns in rock song I've ever heard.

I have only seen them once, at a small club in Philadelphia. Great show.

It not only puzzles me, it angers me that such great talent has not been met with the reward it deserves. It is absolutely infernal that it has taken the French, who adore them, to keep their fortunes afloat.

It is rare to hear a rock band whose taste in music seems to come out of your own head, like they were reading your thoughts. To me, the Fleshtones are that band. Some contenders are Jonathan Richman, Neil Young and the Feelies.

I think one problem could be their name. It's semi-comical instead of abstract and "cool." Maybe it should have just been Flesh.

Anyway, thanks, Joe Bonomo, for giving us the truth and the legend about these enduring, underappreciated rock 'n' roll geniuses.

review by
Dave Sturm

5 December 2009

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