|Also known as||Hard Attack|
|Origin||Red Bank, New Jersey, USA|
|Genres||Punk Rock, Power Pop, New Wave|
|Years active||1978 - 1985|
|Labels||Salute Records, Elektra Records|
|Associated acts||Monster Magnet, Gallery of Mites, Murphy's Law, The Bowery Electric Crew, The Dictators, The Martinets, The Ramones, Jakalope, Blitzspeer|
Shrapnel was a punk rock band based out of Red Bank, New Jersey. Formed in 1978 when the band members were still in junior high, Shrapnel performed punk rock with a military image and theme, drawing from the Vietnam War among the New York lifestyle. The band also used this war theme to provoke audiences. Despite their controversial beginnings the band would land a deal with Elektra Records though their sound would change from punk rock to a mix of power pop and new wave.
Ultimately releasing two 7" singles and a 12" EP before disbanding in 1985, Shrapnel is notable as the first band that Dave Wyndorf and Phil Caivano performed in, years before Monster Magnet was formed. Notably one Daniel Rey performed in this band before his collaborations with The Ramones and a successful career as a songwriter and producer.
Originating as Hard Attack (named after the second Dust album), the band evolved and changed their name to Shrapnel, which became a militaristic, jingoistic concept band in its first few years of existence. Guitarist Daniel Rey cites the Alice Cooper stage show as an inspiration to develop a "schtick". The concept drew from singer Dave Wyndorf's strong interest in history, a desire to counter the hippie feeling still present in 70's rock, and memories of childhood games of play acting as soldiers (a practice that the band and manager Legs McNeil (Who would go one to have success as a journalist, music historian and founder of Punk magazine) continued during the band's formative days). The band and McNeil also conceived of war as a relevant metaphor for both life on the NYC streets, and also for opposition to elements of late 70s culture that they felt alienated from.
The band's stage show and lyrics were entertaining and helped the band develop a local following, but were also controversial. The band (and McNeil) had artistic intentions for these elements, such as satirically redefining slang terms that were used by soldiers during World War II, the Korean conflict, and the Vietnam War. Rey describes the net effect as being a display of "comic book politics", and McNeil provides the perspective that they were all “white liberals”, albeit ones that had (to use contemporary parlance) a very un-PC sense of humor. Wyndorf has compared the band's antics in the earlier part of their history to Vaudeville, and has stated that it was amusing to provoke the easily offended.
At the outset, Shrapnel wore military uniforms onstage. The band's aesthetic included glorification of war, carrying prop M16 rifles onstage, and stances criticizing earlier anti-Vietnam War sentiment. This satirical but straight faced outlook was criticized, including being labeled as "proto-fascist" by the Village Voice. Although the band gained popularity in the NYC punk scene, they may have "suffered a virtual press blackout because they flirt(ed) with attitudes (which)... the rock press apparently deem(ed) unacceptable even as satire."
The band played CBGB often, and drew comparison to the Ramones. On 9 April 1979, Shrapnel opened for the Ramones in the latter band's last ever concert at CBGB. The concert was a benefit to buy bulletproof vests for NYPD. The concert was attended by Norman Mailer, who was a friend of McNeil. Shrapnel would soon play at parties at Mailer's Brooklyn home, including one that was attended by Kurt Vonnegut, Woody Allen, Glen Buxton, José Torres, and other luminaries. The event was covered by Rolling Stone, with that magazine's Kurt Loder writing "It figures that author Norman Mailer would go for Shrapnel, a New York punk band whose act is derived from endless reruns of the old Combat! series." Vonnegut apparently was particularly impressed; Loder reported that while many guests danced, the author "stood transfixed by the spectacle", and later complemented Rey on the song I lost my baby on the Siegfried Line, saying that it was a "damn good song, lots of feeling."
In 1980, Amazing Spider-Man Annual #14 (by Frank Miller and Dennis O'Neil) featured a plot in which Peter Parker went on a date with a girl named Debbie to see Shrapnel play CBGB, before a super villain mind controls the crowd and band alike, forcing Spider-Man to save the day. The comic also contained an ad for Shrapnel's Combat Love b/w Hey 45.
By 1983, Shrapnel had softened their image. Michael Alagro, who would go on to broker the band's Elektra Records deal (and who would later help major acts including Metallica and White Zombie sign record deals), had replaced Legs McNeil as manager. Gone were the combat fatigues, sandbags, and masked characters, although the band would still use a "bomb" as a prop during their performance of the song Chrome Magnum Man, to Alagro's chagrin. Wyndorf, always an avid comic book enthusiast, explained that although the song uses war themes (bombs), it is actually a superhero song. He also stated that the band's use of a patriotic star in their image was a tribute to Captain America. During this period, the band retired some older material that, while amusing at the time, was written "while drunk" and started to "feel hypocritical". Wyndorf now wrote songs, such as Hope For Us All, that had explicitly positive messages. This song would appear on the EP that would serve as both their major label debut, and their swan song, before disbanding in 1985.
Two additional Shrapnel songs, "Sleepover" and "Come Back to Me", are used in the 1983 cult film The First Turn-On! by Troma Films.
Wyndorf, after founding short-lived bands under various names, would go on to co-found eventual Monster Magnet in 1989. Caivano has also been a long time member of Monster Magnet, and has played in other bands including Blitzspeer and Murphy's Law. Rey has produced over 40 albums since 1987, including for artists such as the Ramones, Misfits, L7, White Zombie, and Ronnie Spector just to name a few. Rey also served as Joey Ramone's guitarist during his solo career.
- Combat Love (7" Single) (1979, Salute Records)
- Go Cruisin (7" Single) (1981, Salute Records)
- Shrapnel (12" EP) (1984, Elektra Records)
- Dave Wyndorf - Vocals (1978 - 1985)
- Phil Caivano - Bass (1978 - 1985)
- Daniel Rey - Guitar (1978 - 1985)
- David Vogt - Guitar (1978 - 1985) (Deceased)
- Danny Clayton - Drums (1978 - 1985)
- ↑ The Aquarian
- ↑ Please Kill Me
- ↑ ffanzeen
- ↑ / Google Books
- ↑ / Google Books
- ↑ / American Radio History
- ↑ / Google Books
- ↑ The Tampa Tribune
- ↑ CBR
- ↑ Austin Chronicle
- ↑ Noisecreep
- ↑ IMDB