Flipper (band): Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Flipper at the 9:30 Club, Washington, DC, 1984
Background information
Origin San Francisco, California, United States
Genres Punk rock, noise rock
Years active 1979-1987
Labels Subterranean Records
American Recordings
Website flipperrules.com
Bruce Loose
Ted Falconi
Steve DePace
Rachel Thoele
Former members
Krist Novoselic
Will Shatter
John Dougerty
Ricky Williams
Bruno DeSmartas

Flipper is an influential punk band formed in San Francisco, California in 1979, continuing in often erratic fashion until the mid-1990s, then reuniting in 2005.



Initial impact

Flipper was founded from former members of the Sleepers and Negative Trend. Founding member and original vocalist Ricky Williams was fired from the band before any recordings were made because he was deemed too messed up to remain in the band. The name is often seen to be a reference to thalidomide babies, such as the one featured on the cover of their early "Love Canal" single.[1] In fact, the band was named Flipper after Ricky Williams' curious habit of naming all of his pets "Flipper", regardless of their species.

Flipper made their first recordings available in late 1979 via the SF Underground 7" compilation series released through Steve Tupper's newly-formed Subterranean Records. In 1981, a 7" comprising "Love Canal/Ha Ha Ha" followed, and the original lineup made two full-length studio albums on Subterranean, 1982's Generic and a 1984 follow up Gone Fishin'.

Flipper's music was very shambolic and noisy, and often considered "slow" for a punk band of the time. In many early shows, the band had half the audience on stage with them singing backup vocals, and encouraged horn players to join them for their anthem, "Sex Bomb"; the crowding on stage usually knocked the stringed instruments out of tune. Guitarist Ted Falconi installed spikes in the head of his guitar to help prevent this, but blaring, out-of-tune dissonance became part of the band's signature sound. At the time, San Francisco had a very active scene which combined free form performance and audience participation in the guise of rock and roll shows. In addition to Flipper, other innovative groups such as The 12 Year Olds, Scropes and The Dicks were blazing trails in the noise rock forest.

Flipper was often as strongly in league with conceptual art and atonal music as with rock or punk. Years after the band's demise, its spray-painted dead fish logos were still visible in San Francisco (although signs on the city's Clipper Street have since been reverted from "Flipper Street").

Mark Arm posits in the 2003 documentary American Hardcore that Flipper's charm as a band lies in their ability to upset audiences, while attracting their undivided attention and curiosity at the same time. Their first single, "Love Canal"/"Ha Ha Ha", was widely derided, not only for its offensive cover art, but its bizarre sound, and yet sold many copies in the underground. This, in brief, was the band's concept: to be bad in ways that no band had ever been bad before. Causing some to later label Flipper as "Limp Dick Core" or, "music to fail at having sex to." However, in true Flipper fashion, they even failed to fail, and their audience continued to grow as their outlandish approach appealed to those seeking something different.

Two more singles on Subterranean followed, "Brainwash"/"Sex Bomb" and "Old Lady That Swallowed The Fly"/"Get Away" before Album (also known as Generic Flipper). Their debut LP sees the drone and blare molded into startlingly effective songs, with a lyrically bleak outlook, but humane vulnerability in the vocals, and flashes of genuine musicianship. It is widely considered a classic album of this era. The mayhem contained on the disc is infectious as Will Shatter repeats "Life! Life! Life is the only thing worth living for!" Similarly, "Sex Bomb" is a seven minute track with only one lyric, "She's a sex bomb, my baby, yeah.", intertwined with a raucous yet melodic musical interplay. The original release of the "Sex Bomb" single featured individually hand-made covers.

The follow-up studio album in 1984, Gone Fishin, was even darker and artier than the first LP. It featured the disorientating opening track "The Lights, The Sound, The Rhythm, The Noise", the haunting "Survivors of the Plague" and the decrying of the war machine in the song "Sacrifice". The multi-colored delivery step van pictured on the cover was also where Ted Falconi lived when the group was not on the road. The van, along with figures representing the band and their equipment could be cut out and folded with Subterranean offering extra covers through a small mail order fee.

In 1984, the ROIR cassette label released a live Flipper document of a CBGB's performance entitled "Blow'n Chunks" that became available on CD in 1990, and goes in and out of print. A 2001 reissue includes four outtakes from the live sessions. The performance included material from all phases of the band's existence thus far.

John Lydon's Public Image Ltd was widely accused in the U.S. of stealing the cover art and concept of Flipper's album, Album. Consequently, Flipper entitled their 1986 double live album, Public Flipper Ltd. The album unfolded into a board game complete with a cutout spinner and game cards with Subterranean once again providing extra covers through mail order.

The original lineup began splintering after a long debauched period of touring, and singer and core member Will Shatter eventually died on December 9, 1987 of a drug overdose after forming A3I (Any Three Initials, a punk outfit whose title mocked the prevalence of acronymic band names). Subterranean packaged the band's singles and some rarities into a collection entitled "Sex Bomb Baby" released in 1987. The cassette edition and later CD rerelease featured three bonus tracks.

After Will Shatter

By the early 1990s, the band resurfaced with a new single on Subterranean called "Someday"/"Distant Illusion" and began performing again, releasing an all-new studio album in 1993, American Grafishy. Bruce Loose had become a heroin addict by this point. After Loose allegedly stole the band's master tapes from Subterranean's warehouse, he and DePace brokered a deal with powerful Los Angeles-based music industry figure Rick Rubin. Rubin used his attorneys to quash Subterranean's claim to the music and soon re-released Album Generic Flipper and the singles compilation Sex Bomb Baby on his Infinite Zero label. Even with Henry Rollins onboard as the latter label's A&R, the label soon went defunct. By 1997, Flipper's groundbreaking music went largely out of print, with Rubin still holding onto the rights, though tentative plans had been made for the band's catalogue to be re-released on Rubin's American Recordings in 2007.

As part of the legal settlement Subterranean Records was awarded the right to reissue its Flipper records on vinyl in the United States.

The band continued playing from 1990 to 1995, pursuing a more straightforward rock sound and attempt to cash in on their notoriety. In 1992, the new lineup released "American Grafishy" on Rick Rubin's Def American imprint; this is their only recording that is still consistently (legally) available. Their demise was again forthcoming due to another death by heroin overdose, this time that of replacement bass player John Dougherty.

Loose once commented to SF Weekly on the band's history as "like Spinal Tap, except the bass player keeps dying" (in the film, Spinal Tap's drummers repeatedly die in outlandish ways).

In 2002 Bruce Loose, father of a teenager, using a cane to get around (following a horrific car accident), resurfaced with a one off gig at Berkeley's 924 Gilman Street space as "Not Flipper". Falconi is somewhat reclusive. DePace is reportedly shopping Flipper stories to potential publishers. He lives in the L.A. area and works in the animation industry.

The original members of Flipper, barring the late Will Shatter (with Bruno DeSmartass replacing Shatter once again as he had done for a 1982 tour), reunited to support CBGB on August 22 and August 28, 2005. Singer Bruce Loose appeared on stage with a cane. This line-up of Flipper then continued to play live again beginning in 2006, with plans for a new album to be recorded and released in 2007.

In December 2006, DeSmartass was replaced by Krist Novoselic on bass for a tour of the UK and Ireland, as well as several US shows.[2] The song "Scentless Apprentice", which the band recorded (without Novoselic) for a 2000 Nirvana tribute album, was added to the band's setlist.

In 2008, the band recorded a new album with Novoselic,[3] Flipper have announced that they will finally be releasing their new album as a "twin album" featuring 1 album, titled 'Love', with new studio material and a second live album, titled 'Fight' featuring both old and new songs. Both of these albums will be released on May 19, 2009.[4][5] . In addition, Novoselic announced his departure from the band in September 2008 due to responsibilities at home, forcing a tour cancellation.[6] It was announced on the band's myspace site that Rachel Thoele is the new bassist for Flipper.

Also at the end of 2008, the classic Flipper albums were reissued in a variety of formats. Water Records reissued four albums on compact disc: Album – Generic Flipper, Gone Fishin', Public Flipper Limited, and Sex Bomb Baby! Their reissue on vinyl was set for 2009 by the label 4 Men With Beards (which along with Water is an imprint under the Runt label). Lastly, on January 6, 2009, those four albums were released digitally.[7] In the United Kingdom, the Flipper reissues are available on Domino Records.[8]

Influence on other musicians

Kurt Cobain was a huge fan of Flipper and often wore self-made Flipper t-shirts, e.g. in the booklet pictures of Nirvana's In Utero and on the band's first performance on Saturday Night Live in 1992.

In the documentary American Hardcore, Moby stated that he fronted for Flipper for two days while singer Will Shatter was in jail because he "knew all of their songs". The band denies this however.

Eric Avery of Jane's Addiction has said that Flipper's rolling rhythms and repetitive riffs were an influence on Jane's early sound.

In Get in the Van, his memoir of the early '80s punk rock scene, Henry Rollins of Black Flag described the Flipper experience: "They were just heavy. Heavier than you. Heavier than anything...When they played they were amazing."


Current members

Former members


Studio albums

Title Year Label
Album - Generic Flipper 1982 Subterranean Records, reissued on Water Records in 2008
Gone Fishin' 1984 Subterranean Records, reissued on Water Records in 2008
American Grafishy January 12, 1993 Def American
Love May 19, 2009 FLIPPER

Live albums

Title Year Label
Blow'n Chunks 1984 ROIR
Public Flipper Limited Live 1980-1985 1986 Subterranean Records, reissued on Water Records in 2008
Nürnberg Fish Trials 1991 Musical orgys
Live At CBGB's 1983 1997 Overground
Fight (new live album) May 19, 2009 MVDaudio


Title Year Label
Love Canal/Ha Ha Ha 1980 Subterranean Records
Sex Bomb/Brainwash 1981 Subterranean Records
Get Away/The Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly 1982 Subterranean Records
Someday/Distant Illusion 1990 Subterranean Records
Flipper Twist/Fucked Up Once Again 1992 Matador Records
Sex Bomb (remix)/Falconi's Horn Concerto In D-Fault (live) 1993 Teen Sensation Records/Def American


Title Year Label
Sex bomb baby 1988 Subterranean Records, reissued on Infinite Zero Archive/American Recordings in 1995, reissued on Water Records in 2008


Title Year Label
Flipper Live: Target Video 1980-81 February 19, 2008 Music Video Distributors

Other appearances

  • "Earthworm" on SF Underground (1979)
  • "Falling", "Lowrider" and "End of the Game" on Live At Target (1981)
  • "Ha Ha Ha" on Let Them Eat Jellybeans (1981)
  • "Sacrifice" on Not So Quiet On The Western Front (1982)
  • "Life" on Rat Music for Rat People (1982)
  • "Ever" on Eastern Front (1983)
  • "Ever" and "Sex Bomb" on The Wanna-Be-An-Indie-But-Got-Too-Much-$ Sampler (1992)
  • "Some Day" on SXSW (1993)
  • "Love Canal" and "Get Away" on Infinite Zero Promotional CD #2 (1994)
  • "Ha Ha Ha" (live) on Old School Punk (1998)
  • "Scentless Apprentice" (Nirvana cover) on Smells Like Bleach: A Punk Tribute to Nirvana (2000)
  • "Sad But True" on "A Punk tribute to Metallica" (2001)
  • "Ha Ha Ha" on "American Hardcore's Official Movie Soundtrack" (2006)


External links


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address