Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Flipper's music was very shambolic and noisy for a punk band of the time. In many early shows, the band had half the audience onstage with them singing backup vocals, and encouraged horn players to join them for their anthem, "Sex Bomb" -- and the crowding onstage usually knocked the stringed instruments out of tune. Guitarist Ted Falconi installed spikes in the head of his guitar to help prevent this, but blaring, out-of-tune dissonance became part of the band's signature sound.
Flipper was often as strongly in league with conceptual art and atonal music as with rock or punk. They were originally known in San Francisco as a band that 'everybody hated,' and who bombarded the city with grafitti far more than they actually played: Years after the band's demise, its spray-painted dead fish logos are still visible in San Francisco (although signs on the city's Clipper Street have since been reverted from "Flipper Street"). (Other notable places to find their fish logo include the Berlin Wall, the Eiffel Tower, the Great Wall of China, and the bathroom at the Vatican in Rome.) Many expressed a professed hatred of the band by attending their shows. Their first single, Love Canal/Ha Ha Ha, was also widely derided and sold many copies. This, in brief, was the band's 'concept' -- to be bad in ways that no band had ever been bad before.
They had failed in this by the 1982 album, Album (also known as Generic Flipper) -- in which the drone and blare is molded into startlingly effective songs, with a bleak, but humane vulnerability in the vocals, and flashes of genuine musicianship. It is widely considered a classic album.
The band had many subsequent releases. The original lineup splintered in 1985, and singer and core member Will Shatter died in 1987 of a drug overdose. The band reunited from 1990 to 1995, pursuing a more straighforward rock sound. Their demise was again due to a death by drug overdose, this time of bass player John Dourity.
Public Image Ltd. was widely accused in the US of stealing the cover art and concept of their album, Album, and was subsequently repaid by Flipper, who entitled their following live album, Public Flipper Ltd.
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