Sunless Saturday was actually played live on Saturday Night Live before being released on the album The Reality Of My Surroundings in 1991. Jeremy Irons was the guest host and was nominated as Best Actor for his performance in the film Reversal Of Fortune. It was odd/funny to hear him say, “Ladies and gentlemen, Fishbone.” Especially, since they were a band from the hood. South Central Los Angeles to be exact.

This is the first single from a great and unique band to come out of the 80s: Fishbone. Straight out of the SC, Fishbone was formed in the late 70s by then a group of black kids, some of whom were bused to the suburbs of the San Fernando Valley in Southern California, then known as The Valley. As someone with the same experience, I can say that it was a culture shock to go from the rough streets of L.A. to the relatively quiet and peaceful suburban environment. But this was the only difference that was entirely true. Without question, most white kids accepted and even embraced black and brown kids. Most. And then there were the teachers and administrators. They took a don’t ask, don’t tell attitude toward the bused-in kids. But again, that’s not to say all were neglectful, or even ignominious. Good and bad, it was a memorable experience. I’ll come back to this topic in regards to the album.

Advertisement

The kids in Fishbone would one day come back to these experiences, expressed through the lyrics in their music. They got their start in the local music scene in L.A. during the 80s. The band was a ska and funk outfit. Their first hit song was Party At Ground Zero.

But with The Reality Of My Surroundings, punk and hard rock had been injected into their sound. With this release, the heaping mixture of different genres which can barely be described as alternative, the label really does not do this band justice. The next song which really deserves recognition was another amalgam of sounds:

Everyday Sunshine starts out with a pop rock/funk sound and kicks into a gospel hymn, all in one song. (I had to stop writing as I listened.) Everyday Sunshine is two songs put together, truly something special when musicians can take two distinct genres (rhythms too) and bring them together to form one song.

Advertisement

In all, TROMS has 18 tracks, though six of these are spoken word/ recitals of recorded live performances.

Though many tracks do have a jovial sound, a song like Pray To The Junkiemaker is just as the title implies. The lyrics delve into what some of the members were experiencing at that time.

I have to wonder if they took a queue from The Police, intentionally playing happy instrumental music, but applying lyrics with a dark message. Another thing to note is that Fishbone had a de facto lead singer Angelo Moore, songs like Everyday were sung by keyboard player Chris Dowd, not to mention that most had a singing ability so the chorus to a given song were overflowing with voices.

But back to the lyrics, as I mention before, much like the title of the album refers to, the lyrics reflect that overview in songs like So Many Millions, a somber funk number that took the school experience to express the busing of inner city kids to the “good schools” didn’t necessarily solve the larger problem facing the poor.

Your education will do me no good
In my neighborhood
All that I see is scrapin’ and scrounging
In my neighborhood

Sex education will do me no good
In my neighborhood
Everybody’s hoin’ for something and it’s understood
In my neighborhood

Advertisement

So as not to drag a music review into a whole other topic, the message here is the idea of kids who traveled from one side of the tracks to the other 5 days a week was a quick fix that failed.

Fishbone was a collective of 7 musicians, and approached the creation of each song in a democratic way. Their distinct sound set them apart in an industry that will always cater to simplest common denominator. Their effort was hard fought. In the documentary Everyday Sunshine: The Story Of Fishbone the band laments a lack of interest in their music from the black community. “We were too weird for black people.” But this was just an example of the overall disregard from the music listening audience. Every time you have music that cannot not be easily figured out, that cannot be readily qualified, the masses will turn away, dismissing it as something that has “too many notes”*.

The Reality Of My Surroundings is an awesome record. When there’s so much to choose from, there’s something for everybody. You simply have to give it a chance.


Bonus material: As I mentioned before, the documentary based on the history of the band is a must for anyone who enjoyed Dig! and Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster. An honest and stark view of a band who has struggled with how the world passed them by, the strife bands face among each other, and personal problems.


* This the third in my series-within-a-series entitled Too Many Notes. Taken from the movie Amadeus, the phrase comes from the king of Austria, who enjoyed Mozart’s latest work, but in order to be perceived as all knowing, he had to find something to criticize about the play, while not able to find any negatives, the king turned to a lackey for meaning, to which the lackey uttered the laziest, most unimaginative of music criticisms, “Too many notes, Sire.

Advertisement

Question of the day: If you could steal something (besides music) without getting caught, what would it be?