Growing up Gen X in SoCal, Violent Femmes were just part of my musical life. “Add it Up,” “Blister in the Sun,” and “Kiss Off” were always in my world, as were many KROQ/91X bands.
When I left CA to pursue the radio DJ life, residents in other states would generally say, “Who?” when I named my favorite “cool” bands…. except for Violent Femmes. Let’s just say my time in Milwaukee consisted of a lot of smug, “Oh you know they are from here, right?” My point in this little backstory: Some bands may be SoCal famous, but Violent Femmes are world famous.
As they celebrate 40 years as a band, they are also honoring the 30th anniversary of “Why Do Birds Sing?” with a special re-issue of the album. The deluxe re-mastered set will be available as a two-CD set, digitally, or on vinyl, and will be released October 8th.
In addition to the original tracks – including the monster hit “American Music” – the new release contains early versions of “Color Me Once,” “4 Seasons,” “Breaking Up,” an alternate version of “American Music,” B-side “Dance, M.F., Dance,” plus the full 1991 show from The Boat House in Norfolk, VA.
Another notable from the original album: their cover of Culture Club’s “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me,” with front-man Gordon Gano reworking the lyrics to give it a Violent Femmes sound. Bassist Brian Ritchie said, “It was an experiment that turned out really well…in fact, we bumped into Boy George once in a hotel bar and he told us, ‘That is the best cover of any of our songs anyone’s ever done.’”
The band is also kicking off another leg of their tour October 1st with mostly East Coast dates. Founding members Gordon Gano and Brian Ritchie, along with John Sparrow, have plenty of material to choose from; starting with their self-titled debut in 1983, through 2019’s “Hotel Last Resort.” Hopefully we can coerce them to add dates to the West Coast.
Get your hands on the re-issue of “Why Do Birds Sing?” and check out those tour dates to get your dose of the world famous Violent Femmes.