24 July 2019

Dyan Diamond - Mystery Dance/ Western Ave.

Teenage punk managed by Kim Fowley takes on Elvis Costello song

Label: MCA
Year of Release: 1978

Venus and The Razorblades were a mixed gender punk band who tend not to be widely discussed these days. They were managed by the sketchy music mogul Kim Fowley after he severed his relationship with The Runaways, and never quite managed the same degree of press attention, perhaps feeling on the surface like a repetition of the same trick. Singers Dyan Diamond and Vicki Razorblade were 14 and 17 years old respectively, mirroring his previous "teen female rock band sensation" stunt.

On top of that, they signed to Spark Records in the UK just as that label was about to keel over (It's probably news to most readers that Spark lasted long enough to sign a punk act). Their style was also, for all its merits, distinctly American - this wasn't ramshackle, rapidfire hard punk but rather rough and ready rock music sounding as if it belonged in spit and sawdust bars where Hells Angels hung out. Tracks like "Dog Food" give a strong impression of where their heads were at - part New York Dolls, part Gene Vincent with some of the spirit of The Runaways thrown in. 

After the group failed to have any success on either continent, Fowley turned all his attention to Dyan Diamond, feeling that she would be a huge solo star. Her solitary single was a spirited cover of Elvis Costello's "Mystery Dance", which - like his original effort - is over and done with in under two minutes. While Costello's version has very slight elements of knowing nerdy pastiche about it, though, Diamond cranks up the attitude a notch and turns it into a straight-ahead head-down rocker. 

Despite the failure of the single, a full album slipped out on MCA as well, entitled "In The Dark", which also included a composition by the dependable Chris Spedding ("Nervous"). Sadly, despite a release in several countries, it failed to pick up much attention anywhere and Diamond was dropped. She continued performing into the early eighties, but no further offers came her way.

While we should perhaps be careful not to over-state the importance of her work, which (while strong) doesn't sound as if it was entitled to widespread appeal, Diamond was nonetheless a very early example of a teenage girl performing punk rock in a deeply sexist industry with formidable attitude. She wouldn't be the last. 

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