TO INFINITY AND BEYOND Ballou, Shore, Cheeks, Fisher, and Enright.
The shorter gent was balding, hirsute, and on the plump side. While bellowing lyrics about Broderick Crawford's machismo and the joys of being a carnivore, he occasionally wore a "brain hat" (spinal cord, medulla oblongata, the works) and was dolled up in a form-fitting muumuu. A saxophone and/or cigar could often be found in his hand. The taller guy (who was also a drummer) was a tad more conventional. He had an array of lovely necklaces (zombie babies, alphabet blocks, barbed wire, and tambourine) and his teased hair looked fab when it caught a gleam of light bouncing off of his cellophane shirt. He called himself Sport Fisher. His chum was Rudy Cheeks. They were the singers for the Young Adults, and if I had a dollar for every guffaw they generated during their 1970-'80s heyday, I could be lounging in a Boca cabana right now.
The Adults — who will reunite for the first time in two decades this weekend for three shows at the Met — were once a very big deal around here. Emerging from a renegade RISD arts scene that dedicated itself to absurdity, the band earned its sizable acclaim by blending silliness and satire to create one of rock's daffiest songbooks. Several members, including Rudy and Sport, spent a chunk of the early '70s working under the name the Fabulous Motels (the late comedian/actor Charles Rocket was part of that seminal crew). They wrote songs such as "Your Mother Is a Fish" and "Nixon's Underwear." Those who truly know their Adults history might even recognize a Motels ditty called "Everybody Should Like Butter." Cheeks (aka Bruce McCrae), a longtime Phoenix columnist and "the most avant-garde oriented" member of the band, wrote its choppy rhythms on a banjo-uke. He says the Adults' bedrock influences were Dadaism and Surrealism. The wilder things got, the better the group liked it.
>> READ: "A fan's notes on the Young Adults: Hail the swinging geniuses!" by Ted Widmer <<
"We had no idea — or interest — in knowing what audiences wanted," Cheeks recalled during a recent chat. "It was all about what amused us. On stage our whole game plan was to make each other laugh. Only the most outré stuff would get Charlie, because he'd seen it all. One of us had an applause machine, and if the audience was standing there with their mouths agape, we'd just hit that button and say, 'Thank you, thank you very much.' "
"We were basically making fun of things," offered Fisher (aka David Hansen) on the phone from his home in New York. "We kind of wanted to piss people off, but have 'em like us as well."
NATURE BOYS The band huddle around the subject of “I Married a Tree.”
Taking cues from the Bonzo Dog Band, the Mothers of Invention, and the Fugs, the Adults — which also featured keyboardist Jeff Shore, guitarist Thom Enright (both back in action this weekend, with bassist Marty Ballou and drummer Marty Richards), drummer Tommy DeQuattro, guitarist Ed Vallee, and a scad of others, if you include those who were active during the equally luminous Motels era — packed local watering holes such as the Jail and Lupo's with the kind of fans who liked to be soaked by a tidal wave of wit.