Sunday, December 4, 2011

Little Diesel and the Weasels/"5 Powerful Punks on a High-Energy Hellride"/Where is the Ratz Vein Band?

I ask you, how many minor league, private press, hard rock lps from the 70's does one need to hear to match the proto-punk greatness that is found on Little Diesel's "No Lie"?" Sadly, you are in denial friends. You can listen to those boring but collectible releases which you have to impress your friends, but it is a fool's game to even glean the slightest influence of ANY high energy combo on those grooves. They don't exist no matter how hard your record dealer grafts on the adjectives. On the other hand, try to imagine yourself in early 70's Winston-Salem, North Carolina going to R.J. Reynolds (Tobacco) High School and having a band influenced by (and even knowing about) the MC5, Move, Big Star, Blue Ash, Bowie, the Stooges, the Velvet Underground and the New York Dolls. That band is Little Diesel and it is time to set the record straight. Right out of Waitakere Walks central casting, "No Lie" is a teenage take on Kama Sutra-era Flamin' Groovies and "Back in the USA," mixed in with just the right progressive FM covers. Just dig the "I Can Hear the Ants Dancing" vibe offa this great photo from July 4, 1974.

Yes, Mojo (sic) had a proto-punk feature but where was Little Diesel? Little Diesel was Bob Northcott, Peter Holsapple, Will Rigby, Phil Thomas, Tommy Eshelman, Chris Chamis and Chris Stamey. Some of the those names should be familiar to you. Will Rigby says he remembers Little Diesel's "slow-Stooges version of "Yo-Yo" (Osmonds) with Bob (Nothcott) oozing down the stage steps, Ig-like . . . and Bob's suggestion to call us the Hard-ons." That is NOT unfortunately on the lp. One of the last shows I saw before leaving the USA was Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey in LA. I have been following what those two have been doing for three decades now. What may have escaped you is that while the dBs and Let's Active - hell even Rittenhouse Square and Sneakers - gather all the press, here is ground zero.

Little Diesel were omnivorous rock animals similar to those that were springing up in small burgs coast to coast prior to the 1977 punk history re-write. According to Peter Holsapple:
We were all into music as listeners at some depth, devouring Creem and Phonograph Record magazines whenever we could get them. Will was a consummate Beatles collector for a long while. He and Bob loved Dylan, who I saw as a singles artist. Bob listened to Lenny Bruce, Streisand, the Velvet Underground, and the Stooges. We all adored the MC5, who performed in Winston-Salem at a legendary show the year I was away. My tastes were in the Roxy Music/Eno/Can school, with a nascent fascination with Fairport and Richard Thompson. We saw lots of shows together in Greensboro, like Alice Cooper/Free/Todd Rundgren. I think we went to see the J. Geils Band every time they played in NC.
The tracks that comprise "No Lie" (Telstar Records) were originally "released" in 1974 on homemade 8-tracks in a total run of 20. Here is the great Dolls homage of "Kissy Boys" and a cover of "American Ruse":

Check these great photos from the band's page showing them playing and setting up at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds.

The cd version even contains a "hidden" bonus cover of "Sweet Emotion."

Check out the correspondence where a teenage Holsapple is trying to get some writing work with Bangs. Ah, how the pretenders have cashed in with their own place in hagiographic movies about their LOW energy careers. Surely you too gagged at the five minutes you spent watching "Almost Famous" on the telly at the bar. I know I did. Also, we MUST hear the Ratz Vein Band! Nice logo in an Imperial Dogs fashion.

Now for the video, some notes. When the MC5's "Babes in Arms" cassette came out in '83, it registered that Peter Zaremba of the Fleshtones did the artwork. I played that tape incessantly in 1984. I also watched the Cutting Edge all the time. The start of the feature on Let's Active totally made me move as the band is playing "Shakin' Street" outside their barn with Zaremba. I had not seen it since the original broadcast but always remembered it. Now that Little Diesel's material is out, it makes total sense that Mitch Easter would cover it. I will also argue that this may be the FIRST time any MC5 material was played on ANY network prior to various "history of rock" type shows in the 2000s. Readers, correct me if I am wrong on this.

You also get the Osmands doing "Yo-Yo" though we need the Stooges-bubblegum version. Lastly, the MC5 as Little Diesel would have seen them in 1970 in W-S. Note that Holsapple was at boarding school at Andover that year (at the same time as Benmont Tench of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers) and missed it!


  1. WOW!

    And the Telstar record came out 5 years ago? and I only just hear about it? I hang my head in shame...

    hey, can you do something on Brownsville station please??

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Great post, photos & vids!

    Did you hear the news? Peter & Chris's "old" band The dB's will release an album of new material (by the original band members) in June.

    Here's the link to my new blog dedicated to the band & friends, in case anyone out there is interested:

  4. Hey, my dad is the lead guitarist in Ratz Vein and I have a tape of that Polo Park gig. I can send you a track called "Mountain of Forgot" it's heavy as shit

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