Today is the 33rd birthday of John "Norwood" Fisher, bassist for Fishbone,
the L.A.-based group whose music has mixed countless genres -- including punk,
jazz and ska -- without ever achieving mainstream recognition.
Fishbone was formed in 1979 as a seven-man band of junior high school friends that
included Fisher and vocalist/saxophonist Angelo Moore. After playing in
L.A. clubs during the early '80s, Fishbone signed with Columbia Records and
released an eponymous 1985 EP, which featured manic ska cuts, such as "Party
at Ground Zero." In 1986, Fishbone released their debut album, In Your Face, which showcased the band's crazy sense of humor. Fishbone also began
building a fanbase with their outrageous concerts, which were highlighted by
Moore's rooster haircut and amazing backflips.
After a 1987 Christmas EP, Fishbone released Truth and Soul (1988),
which included a cover of Curtis Mayfield's hit "Freddie's Dead." In the ensuing years, Fishbone released EPs until 1991's The Reality of My
Surroundings. The album hit #49 in the U.S. and was hailed as Fishbone's most cohesive record, but mainstream attention was not in the cards.
The band's 1993 album, Give a Monkey a Brain and He'll Swear He's the
Center of the Universe, broke the top 100 and Fishbone appeared on that
year's Lollapalooza tour. But these successes were followed by the biggest
blow yet: In 1993, guitarist Kendall Jones left to join a religious cult.
Fisher tried to rescue his friend, but failed and was charged with
kidnapping. (He was eventually acquitted.)
When ska made a comeback in the U.S. in 1996, Fishbone were curiously ignored. The band's first Arista album, Chim Chim's Bad Ass Revenge, was a commercial flop that year. And the two-disc retrospective Fishbone 101: Nuttasaurusmeg Fossil Fuelin' also didn't sell well. Fishbone have since parted ways with Arista.
It remains to be seen where the band will head next, but it still attracts
a loyal following. Fishbone played a version of the Rolling Stones' "Shattered" in July on Magic Johnson's recently canceled television show. They are scheduled to play shows in Washington State today (Sept. 12) and tomorrow (Sept. 13).
Jam TV reported in July that No Doubt, 311, Perry Farrell, Primus, the
Mighty Mighty Bosstones and others are scheduled to contribute to a tribute
disc titled Fishbone and Friends, which is slated for an early 1999 release on Hollywood Records.
"A lot of younger artists owe their musical heritage to Fishbone," Wil
Sharpe, Fishbone's manager, told Jam TV.
Fisher recently began writing with fellow bassist Les Claypool of Primus.
Both men also played on Boggy Depot, Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry
Cantrell's first solo album.
Other birthdays: Barry White, 54; Colin Young (Foundations), 54; Gerry Beckley (America), 46;
Neil Peart (Rush), 46; Barry Andrews (King Crimson, XTC), 42; Brian Robertson (Thin Lizzy, Motörhead), 42; and Larry Lalonde (Primus), 30.