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It All Began At Wong's

September 27, 1987|STEVE HOCHMAN and JEFF SPURRIER

Esther Wong is throwing a party to celebrate the 10th anniversary of when the Know, a band featuring ex-Blondie member Gary Valentine, took the stage at her Chinatown restaurant and launched a new era in Los Angeles rock. And that means that all those who were part of the then-burgeoning Los Angeles underground music scene a decade ago are in for a treat.

What 70-year-old Wong has in mind is to bring in some of the acts that helped put her original Madame Wong's on the rock map--and vice versa. Among those she hopes to have on hand for the Oct. 30 and 31 wing-dings at her current Santa Monica hangout are Martha Davis, introducing her new band, and the original (or at least near-original) lineups of Code Blue, Sumner, the Rubber City Rebels and the Naughty Sweeties.

Though Wong counts emphysema (her doctor said it came from working in smoky clubs) and legal headaches (she's fighting a charge of selling liquor to minors) among the things she's gotten from being in the rock business, she said most of her memories are happy ones.

Highlights of the last decade include hosting the then-unknown Police in its local debut at the Chinatown location in 1979 and watching the likes of the Knack, Oingo Boingo and X rise to world acclaim.

Los Angeles Times Sunday October 4, 1987 Home Edition Calendar Page 111 Calendar Desk 2 inches; 37 words Type of Material: Correction
L.A. Beat's report that the Walking Wounded's album "The New West" has been released by a German label, Chameleon, was mistaken. In fact, Chameleon is based in Hawthorne and has issued the record in the U.S. as well as through its German-based associate, Line Records.

But Wong believes that the party will mark a promising future as well as a rich past. "I'm trying to revitalize the scene like 10 years ago," she said.

TRUE COLORS: Speaking of Code Blue, if you read the Village Voice you might have noticed ads for New York-area performances by a band by that name. Nope, that's not the same band that was one of the hot prospects around here in the late '70s and early '80s, with an acclaimed album on Warner Bros. in 1980, but a new outfit that seems to have chosen the same name without realizing it was once taken.

Dean Chamberlain, who fronted our Code Blue, said he didn't really mind the name being recycled. When asked if he still legally owns the name, he said, "Probably, but they're welcome to it," and rejected the prospect of any legal action at this time.

Chamberlain, who has been represented recently as a songwriter on the Jets' most recent album and the upcoming release from the young British R&B band Five Star and as a performer on the "Echo Park" sound track, is still very much a part of our scene, and is forming a new band that will center on his guitar prowess.

FLOPPYSIDE: Flipside fanzine is marking its 10th anniversary this month with a special issue featuring scads of interviews, photos, and reviews culled from the influential publication's past, demonstrating that while the magazine has grown in the past decade, it hasn't changed its underground tone.

What's more, October is the 10th anniversary of Flipside Video, a regular offering on four cable stations around town (Century Cable, Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m.; Sammons Cable, Wednesdays at 9 p.m.; United Cable, Wednesdays at 9 p.m., and MCTV, daily at 6:30 p.m.).

And that's not the only way to get your Flipside fix. For hard cores with hard disc (or even floppies) there is now the new Flipside electronic bulletin board carrying all the news, gossip and analysis of the magazine. The system, which operates from midnight to 10 a.m. daily, can be accessed by having a modem dial (213) 693-6971.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Walking Wounded's upcoming album is aptly titled "The New West," featuring songs that take a hard look at life in California with a very Western, guitar-driven sound. But to get the album released, the local band had to go East-- way East. The album, the group's second (the first came out last year on the local Stonegarden label), is set to be issued by the German Chameleon label.

"A lot of people say they wouldn't take a deal with Chameleon, that it's better to wait for something here," said group leader Jerry Giddens, insisting that he'd rather get his music out on the streets now than wait. "I say they're idiots. The major labels just aren't giving out a lot of contracts these days."

Giddens may find the situation changing soon, at least for his band. A recent album listening party/concert at Club Lingerie attracted several very interested major label reps. The band will be at the Music Machine on Monday and performing live on Dierdre O'Donoghue's SNAP on KCRW (89.9 FM) on Thursday.

Clay Idols, another promising local outfit, is also touring overseas, with it's debut planned to come out sometime in the next few months on the U.K.-based Glass label.

"We never really tried to get signed here," said Randy Kaye, the band's manager. "I really like what's going on in England. I like the independent scene there. People over there are much more willing to take chances, to release a record and see how it does. If the record does well, then we have more power because we already have a record out. We're not waiting for the major labels to come around with their checkbooks, but if they do, we'll listen."

Clay Idols will be at Raji's on Oct. 4 and at the Lhasa on Oct. 7.

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