KINGS OF HARLEY ROCK The Godz

These late ‘70s, bike-humpin’, long-haired thugs
from Columbus, Ohio, were definitely a product of their
time…

 

BY REV.
KEITH A. GORDON

Back at
the dawn of American hard rock – circa 1969 or so, 1970 at the latest – you had
such eardrum-smackin’ dino-stompers as Grand Funk Railroad, Blue Cheer, Dust,
Sir Lord Baltimore, and other mono-browed cro-mags that roamed the dangerous
rock ‘n’ roll backstreets. Most of these bands took the blues-derived,
guitar-driven music of British dandies like Cream and Status Quo as a starting
point, ratcheted up the amperage to cerebellum-shredding volume, threw in some
fancy on-stage gymnastics like hair-whipping and broken-string flagellation,
and subsequently had their choice of the least skanky of their distaff
backstage admirers for a little extra-curricular activity once the spotlights
were turned off.     

 

While many
of this initial wave of hard rock heroes never made it to first base outside of
their limited geographical popularity (future cult band status notwithstanding),
the rare widespread success of a handful of like-minded chowderheads like Grand
Funk was proof to a generation of bar-hopping teens that fame, fortune, and
feminine charms were just three (loudly played) chords away.

 

Grand Funk
Railroad was hated by college-educated critics with a passion not expressed in
print again until the nerf-metal era of the mid-1980s; but while these
egg-headed rockcrit types were grooving to their George Harrison and Crabby
Appleton albums, the boys and girls were banging their heads in rhythm to the
fab new sounds of bands like Alice Cooper, Kiss, Angel, and the favorite sons of
Columbus, Ohio, the Godz.  

 

Not to be
confused with the hippie-dippie, psychedelic-folk noise terrorists of the same
name from New York City that recorded for the
ESP Records label, the Harley-humpin’ long-haired hard rock thugs from Columbus pursued a blooze-n-booze
swagger that was a universe away from the lysergic fever-dreams of their
namesakes.

 

Formed by
bassist/vocalist Eric Moore and guitarist Bob Hill from the ashes of the L.A. by way of Ohio
band Capital City Rockets (who recorded one ill-fated LP for Elektra that is
often considered one of the worst albums of ’73), the Godz simplified hard rock
into a white light blur of boogie-blues and feedback-drenched guitar chords.
Although the band toured with labelmates Kiss and Angel, as well as folks like
Cheap Trick and Judas Priest, the Godz never found much of an audience outside
of their hometown, and all but disappeared after a pair of albums that have
since achieved near-rabid cult status.

 

To be
entirely honest, the Godz never hooked the earlobes of the young, gullible rock
‘n’ roll fan because, well… they just weren’t really very good. Yeah, all the
pieces fit together like the well-oiled rock ‘n’ roll machine they brag about
being on “Gotta Keep Runnin'”; guitarists Hill and Mark Chatfield (who
would go on to play with Bob Seger) hit some smokin’ notes; and in Moore they
had a gravel-throated grease-n-grits vocalist to mangle their too-often misogynist
lyrics. And, as they say somewhere, therein lies the rub…while the band’s
hearty, Vikingesque four-part harmonies were years ahead of their time, their
shitty songwriting could suck a bowling ball through a vacuum-cleaner hose.

 

Nope,
there wasn’t a decent word-wrangler in the bunch, the six original tunes on
their self-titled 1978 debut split evenly among three of the four band members,
Bob Hill effectively frozen out of the mix after penning the bulk of the
mind-numbing tripe that made the Capital City Rockets album the
critically-reviled diaper-candy that it was. Booze, bikes, broads, and
“rawkin roll” are the primary subjects found in the lyrics on The Godz, and while such lofty intellectual
fare strikes a chord with a bar/club audience jacked up on bottles of Old
Crankcase lager (4.1% alcohol by volume) and pheromones, it loses quite a bit
of gravitas when played at home on the crappy BSR turntable in your bedroom… not
a great selling point with a record-buying teenaged audience trying to figure
out whether disco or booger-rock is going to get them laid faster.   

 

Still, you
gotta give these Godz boys their props… by the late 1970s, when the band had
its coming out party, Southern rock had pretty much begun giving up the ghost
in favor of punk, funk, disco, and the heartland-bred arena-rock sounds of
Seger and Springsteen. The Godz managed to create a near-perfect musical fusion
of north-meets-south, combining the reckless hard rock energy of the Motor City
with the bluesy vibe of Southern rock, kind of a cross between Ted Nugent and
Molly Hatchet, with a healthy dose of Midwest rustbelt biker aesthetic thrown
in for kicks.   

 

The Godz starts off with the riff-happy “Go
Away,” a rollicking booger-rocker that sounds like a less-distinctive Jo
Jo Gunne, with squalls of ringing guitars, a neck-breaking backbeat, and a
solid tho’ unspectacular bass line. Played live, the song probably kicked
serious ass, and it sounds OK on the stereo today if you down a shot or two of
rotgut and let the guitars carry you away on a cloud of alcohol-inspired bliss.
By contrast, “Baby I Love You” is a real fart in the cookie jar, songwriter
Moore ripping off about half-a-dozen tunes from better artists, not limited to
Chuck Berry, Bob Seger, and the Rockets, the chorus alone pinching the infamous
“rock me baby” line that was chiseled in stone sometime during the
hieroglyphic era of rock ‘n’ roll, delivered here like a flaccid reminder to
move your clothes from the washer to the dryer.

 

The next
couple of tunes salvage the remainder of what was originally side one of the
album, the first of ’em, “Guaranteed,” rocking like a cross between
Status Quo and Lynyrd Skynyrd, machine-gun drumbeats matched by twangy vocals
and high-flying, razor-sharp guitars. The proto-metal jam “Gotta Keep
Runnin'” borrows a bit of the cowbell intro from Grand Funk’s “We’re
An American Band,” and pairs it with the locomotive redneck rock of
Blackfoot in the creation of a pud-pounding, steel-toed, junkyard brawl of epic
proportions. Moore’s spoken word bit in the
middle about how we’re all “rock ‘n’ roll godz” was ridiculous even
by 1970s standards but, once again, if you drop enough Quaaludes and chase ’em
down with enough rye whiskey, Moore’s
absurd ramblings hit your ears like a Shakespearean soliloquy.

 

Side two
of The Godz is a mercifully short,
albeit athletic three songs long, jumping off the turntable with the raucous
“Under The Table.” Opening with some sort of industrial drone intro
more suited to a Joy Division single, the song blasts your senses with a
pyrotechnic display of twin guitars that sound like BTO but smack your medulla
oblongata like Judas Priest. From the chaotic peak, the song devolves into an
ear-pleasing Southern rock jam with all four instruments intertwining to great
effect. “Cross Country” is a standard-issue, country-flavored rocker
with screaming guitar solos and a choogling rhythm that plays well to
Harley-Davidson enthusiasts on either side of the Mason-Dixon
line.

 

The
undeniable highlight of The Godz,
though, is the album-closing cover of Golden Earring’s “Candy’s Going
Bad.” An unlikely choice in material (every other bar band at the time was playing “Radar Love”),
“Candy’s Going Bad” showcases the band’s instrumental skills while
removing the “ick” factor of their self-written lyrical turds.
Starting slowly with a blast-oven intro that is more industrial that anything Einstürzende
Neubauten ever thought of, the song unrolls in ways both predictable and
otherwise, with plenty of scorched-earth fretwork, an unusual and somewhat
syncopated arrangement, a blizzard of drumbeats-and-cymbals crashing down in
the back of the mix, and gangfight vocals reminiscent of the Dictators. The
song rocks harder and faster and with more energy than anything else on the
album, and shows what these lunkheads may have achieved if they’d had a
half-decent (and literate) songwriter on the payroll.

 

The
question, then, would be “are the Godz worth their cult band status with
hard rock and heavy metal fans?” The short answer: I dunno!? The Reverend
saw ’em perform once, way back in the day, and I remember being pretty damned
entertained at the time. Given my nutritious daily diet of psilocybin, pizza,
Stroh’s beer, and Jack Daniels during that era, however, I couldn’t reliably
bet my rockcrit reputation on the Godz’ onstage prowess.

 

The band’s
self-titled debut, produced by Grand Funk drummer Don Brewer, shows moments of
hard-rockin’ brilliance surrounded by trite period clichés that would be
repeated ad nauseum a decade later by a younger generation of similarly
shaggy-headed, Marshall-stacked cretins. That the Godz proved to be influential
far beyond their meager album sales is undeniable, and while they may have
rocked many a stage at the time, their trademark biker boogie-rock sound would
be pursued with greater success by bands like Badlands,
Jackyl, and the Black Label Society years down the road. Still, not a bad
musical legacy for a bunch of guys from Columbus….

 

Godz founder Eric Moore has an official website that chronicles the history of the band, and more. He continues to front the
band and a few years ago released the retrospective album
Eric Moore and the Godz:
25 Moore Years.

 


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