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Top Jimmy--He's the Head Pig and Proud of It

October 30, 1987|STEVE HOCHMAN

As singer Top Jimmy screeches his car into a parking space outside a Hollywood bar and then ambles up the sidewalk, he looks perfectly in his element. With his hair close-cropped yet tousled, a piece of bone dangling from his left ear lobe and several days' growth of stubble to go with his mustache and stinger, he's appears as quintessential a Hollywoodlander as all the other characters that parade on by.

But when he's sitting inside the saloon, nursing a double bourbon and Coke at a corner booth, it's clear from his drawl and amiable manners that Top Jimmy is still very much James Paul Koncek, the self-described "hick from the woods" of Kentucky that he was when he arrived here at age 15 in 1970.

"I came here Friday, November the 13th," he said, noting that he recalls the specific date because it was the day he was released from a Washington State juvenile institution (he did a four-and-a-half-month stint after leading police on a car chase while driving without a license). While he was inside, his mother had moved to Los Angeles.

"Was it a shock coming here!," he continued. "I'd been to Louisville a couple times, but what's Louisville? My mother picked me up and I looked around and said, 'Mama, look at those ladies!' She laughed and said, 'Look closer.' I went, 'Oh, Mama, that lady needs a shave .' "

Still, to many, Top Jimmy is the flesh and blood manifestation of the spirit of the Hollywood rock scene of the past eight years. In that time, Jimmy and ax-slinger Carlos Guitarlos have fronted the Rhythm Pigs, which he describes as more a "fraternity" than a band in the conventional sense and which has included some of the local scenes' top musicians.

"You can hardly name a good group in L.A. that at least one member wasn't in the Rhythm Pigs--and they're always the best players," he said, recalling that his very first friend in L.A. was a young guitarist who later became known as Billy Zoom and that when he made his first concert appearance in 1979, it was Zoom's group, X, that backed him. Notables ranging from Darby Crash to Tom Waits have joined the hard-partying Rhythm Pigs on stage, and no less than David Lee Roth has celebrated it in song ("Top Jimmy," from the Van Halen album "1984").

But for all that, the Rhythm Pigs have never released an album--until now. Appropriately titled "Pigus Drunkus Maximus," the Rhythm Pigs' long-coming Down There records debut (most of it was actually recorded six years ago) contains group standards like Willie Dixon's "Dance With Your Baby," Merle Haggard's "Working Man Blues" and two Bob Dylan numbers ("Obviously Five Believers" and "Ballad of a Thin Man"), as well as Jimi Hendrix's "Spanish Castle Magic." All are done with a bluesy power that supports the band's legend. (Top Jimmy and the Rhythm Pigs will appear tonight at the Palomino and Saturday at Club Lingerie.)

The reasons that it took so long for the album to come out are many, including an admitted aversion to business matters and various misfortunes that befell band members and their families.

But why would he want to release old recordings as the band's vinyl debut?

"Six years ago the Rhythm Pigs represented a slice of Los Angeles," Jimmy said. "It's like a time capsule. All the other bands of that time have records out, so I thought we should, too."

Jimmy says he has no regrets about it having taken so long to get the band to this point.

"I'm not going to make any money at this," he said. "But I've gotten to do things other people would die for. I got to get up and play the blues for punk kids, play in the big clubs in L.A."

And now, having "done so much damage to myself" with various vices, Jimmy says he really has but one aim: "My goal in life is to be an old man."

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