NEW YORK ROCKER   Issue #18, Apr-May 1979

ELTON DUCK

by Gregg Turner

 
DIG THE XEROX-NURD SCENE: L.A.'s notorious Xerox-function maps their certified-nurd domain to the curious-but-evident Xerox-nurd range!

'Tis the nature of the dog when considerations of L.A.-as-rock arise, so considerations of nurd-as-rock arise in L.A.! 'Course, that's just what "nurd" encompasses reduces to a mere semantical argument of New Wave politics and persuasions; so that so-called "Xerox-nurd" entries constitute a territory as generally vague or explicit as its pre-Xerox starting point.

To illustrate, check out Blow-Up. Blow-up are these faceless specimens of subhumanity, masquerading as subliterate male-groupie rockstars complete with 1973's wardrobe of Tony Iommi neck-ornaments, Michael Des Barres wrist bracelets and related apparatus of glitter accoutrements and bogus superstar fiction. It's Midnight Special Goes New Wave (or at least the pretense of...): a real horrorshow orgy of gutted clichés, incompetently delivered. Rectal Orifice #1, wearing the Gibson SG, appears to have OD'd on Creem and American Bandstand; decked out in standardoid guitar player costume, said porkbrain proves a cruel trick-or-treat to a "'s-got-a-good-dance-and-you-can-beat-to-it" constituency of ravenous females. TRICK: He cannot strum his fang! And while group's red-robed rhythm-axe has similar problems stroking his oar, the pencil-necked geek chirping lead lines at center-mike cops (Iggy) Pop ad-nauseum... True to their school, they are L.A.-stamped translations emulating prototypes of weak and listless inferiority: Xerox-nurd at its worst!

Alternatively, a slightly different formula manifests itself in the form of Elton Duck. Nurd? You bet: "The name was given to our lead singer when he guest-starred in a Tubes TV special as Elton John..." Elton Duck?? "Well, umm, y’know, he laughs like a duck... I dunno, it just came about. He has a duckishness about him..."

Xerox-nurd? Closer to nurd-Xerox, maybe: Many have likened lead singer Mike "Elton Duck" McFadden to a bald Tom Petty. Petty by-way-of and especially peculiar vocal range, not dissimilar to both Heartbreaker Tom and Elvis the C. So great - what a thrill, right? But here’s the punch line: basically, every Duck-tune, composition, and subsequent arrangement turns out to be an uncanny facsimile of... take-a-guess!!

"Y’know, I’ll tell ya," reflects drummer Andy Robinson, "We got a lot of that a while back. People sayin’ we sound a lot like Elvis and Petty. Especially Elvis.

"But," he adds pensively, "Elvis sounds a lot like Mike. It’s true!"

Umm, influences? "We all like a lot of things," ??? "Mike’s real big on the Beach Boys." Bass-person Dave Burkette insistently mutters "Dick Dale" and something about a "religious experience" at a Dick Dale show attended at age 15. "I was 15½, maybe 16 years old. And I guess it was Friday night - it was really great, the place was jammed full of kids. Everybody was smokin’ cigarettes, ya know, everybody’[s got the latest fashions on. Dick Dale comes on, and he just plays. He useta play so loud, that real heavy guitar-sound." Religious, no doubt. Bassist continues, extrapolating to modern times: "He’s had a serious cancer operation now, he’s a real frail guy now and doesn’t have the, umm, balls he useta have..."

Speaking of which... E. Duck spread their wings professionally, if not entirely originally. Songs’re delivered with taut mechanics and slicko execution; Mike Condello’s lead fills and 12-string rhythm strides match rhythm-axe/singer McFadden’s with layered continuity and precision. Drummer Andy Robinson’s strident B.J. Wilson attack brightens occasional lags and enhances mediocrity otherwise. Otherwise, mediocrity’s the name of the game, and the Duck’s game, visually/musically aside, has gotta be "Quack UP!" A real sorry state of affairs here. 12-string guy’s this smiling, bell-bottomed, shirttails-out hippie at stage left; lead vox McDuck checks out short, pudgy and scalpy. Rest of the band seems normaloid, but altogether E. Duck cartoons pitiful Disney images and ultimately caricatures-of-the-nurd! The Xerox-nurd reality (here) being this strict conformity (and adherence) to musical professionalism, competence, ability and imitation vis-à-vis a noncomformist atrocity-of-appearance (as described) marring a placeable focus or theme. They’re dull! "You can never be as good as the person or thing you copy," offers drummer Andy...

Unique in this respect, Duck are unique as flamboyant offstage personalities too:

Q: Wot’s the age range of yer band?
"All through the 20’s..."
Q: Favorite era?
"They’re all good..."
Q: Favorite bands?
"Tubes, Sex Pistols..."
Q: Any Elton Duck anecdotes?
"Yeah, well, some guy from UXA called us Donald John last night..."
Wild and crazy guys, these Elton Ducks! Nevertheless, a packed and partisan Tuesday-night Troubadour crowd couldn’t get enuff of the recycled power-pop message this band dishes out with regularity. A motley crowd of overaged hipsters and grown-ups have come to DUCK... To sanctify an L.A.-sweepstakes of mounting popularity and prominence within the greater Xerox community; Elton Duck will challenge nurd-as-viable in a continuing struggle to insure the longevity of yet another generic foothold in the annals of regional music!!

 

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