Were the Dukes of Stratosphear the greatest band to never have played live?

The compilation Chips from the Chocolate Fireball gathers almost everything done by what I maintain were GREATEST BAND TO HAVE NEVER PLAYED LIVE-the Dukes of Stratosphear!  (If not them, then whom? Got a suggestion? )

A studio hallucination of the finest sort, the Dukes exist in a hazy, theatrical sonic dimension of dubious provenance. One suspects that with names such as the Red Curtain and EIEI Owen, they might actually have day jobs as supremely talented studio musicians. But the songwriting on display from this lost artyfact of thee psychedelic era is often great, and occasionally amazing. The title-track off their debut EP  “25 O’clock” is a miniature novel contained in a song about a dark and obsessed mysterioso character, with a driving bassline and lysergic organ (listen to it with headphones!) Also recommended from the 25 O’clock are the driving “My Love Explodes” and “What in the World?”

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From their only LP Psonic Psunspot come bright and sprightly pop gems in “Vanishing Girl”, “Little Lighthouse”, “You’re My Drug”, and “Shiny Cage”. The songs often have little twists and turns and odd bits, while sparkling harmonies abound, and guitar textures paint in color. The lyrics are clever and charming, the storytelling sometimes poignant. The Dukes play pop so memorably and with such strong melodies that country or jazz players could cover this material, but their take on psych-rock stands with the greats of the genre.


2 thoughts on “Were the Dukes of Stratosphear the greatest band to never have played live?

    • Yes. The Dukes were not actually part of the ’80’s neo-psych aesthetic, an influence which was felt widely but has mostly escaped comment. There was the “Paisely Underground” of L.A, trippy/quirky hybrid outfits like Camper van Beethoven, there was plenty of psychedelic punk and post-punk such as Sonic Youth, and quite a number of new wave bands such as Love and Rockets showed the influence. But noone pulled off the combination of note-perfect sound and memorable songwriting like the Dukes. I think much of their music is better than the real thing!

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