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Electric Sheep was a garage rock band founded in the early 1980s that found no success but featured members who went on to major fame: Adam Jones (future Tool guitarist) and Tom Morello (future Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave guitarist). The band has the distinction of having two members that made the Rolling Stone list of the 100 greatest guitarists of rock history,[1] alongside bands like The Byrds, The Allman Brothers Band, The Yardbirds, MC5, Sonic Youth, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, The Stills-Young Band and Radiohead.

HistoryEdit

Jones and Morello played in the band as students at Libertyville High School in Libertyville, Illinois. Jones played bass while Morello played guitar. Other members of the band included Chris George (lead vocals), Randy Cotton (keyboards) and Ward "Yardstick" Wilson (drums). Morello has recalled:[2]

Adam wasn't in the original lineup. There was this one guy who was sort of the principal player in the band--he was the only one in the group with any working knowledge of music--but he quit because he thought he was far above us. Adam was his replacement.

Jones told the same interviewer: "I was just so excited to officially be in a band. Of course, I had to borrow a bass because I didn't have one of my own."[3]

The band formed in the 1980-81 school year, initially as a joke. (At early performances, the band had no instruments.)[4] As time went on, however, the band evolved into a credible garage band (sometimes literally—one of the band's best-attended concerts was held in Morello's garage). The band was not well known, even within the school, but it did have an enthusiastic following among a limited circle.[5] Morello joked that they "had a pretty heavy rep in Libertyville" as "the bad boys of Midwestern punk," while Jones described the Sheep as a "terrible band, but great to see."[6]

Morello then described the band as a "punk" band, though at the time heavy metal was his major musical influence, and George always cited Mick Jagger as his main role model. Their best-known songs, which often had an element of dark humor, included "Rat Race," "She Eats Razors" and "Oh Jackie O." "Salvador Death Squad Blues," written by Morello, foreshadowed his later politically charged music.[7]

The band's name was apparently not inspired by Philip K. Dick's 1968 novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?.[8] (The book would attain greater pop-cultural prominence in 1982 with the release of the film adaptation Blade Runner.) Morello makes no apologies for the name: "In a world of bands called Limp Bizkit and Hoobastank, Electric Sheep rolls off the tongue like a Shakespearean love sonnet," he told one interviewer.[9]

RecordingsEdit

The only recording released in any formal way by the band is a cover of Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild," included on a record based on Libertyville High School's 1982 talent show called All Shook Up.[10] With George away at college, the recording features Geoff Johnson on vocals.[11]

The band also provided the theme song for the video Season of the Snow Bitch, a horror movie parody written by and starring Morello and George. Jones supervised the no-budget video's gore effects, a role that foreshadowed his special effects work in Hollywood and his later direction of Tool videos.[12]

"The Electric Sheep Video" was a documentary featuring interviews with band members, admirers and critics interspersed with concert footage from "The Electric Sheep Farewell Tour of the Americas," a 1983 event that was held in the Mundelein Cinema in Mundelein, Illinois.[13]

One of the band's last recordings was a jam with extemporized lyrics titled "Platypus"—an experiment that inspired the Yuletide Jam, an annual Libertyville tradition in the 1990s.

There was an Electric Sheep reunion of sorts in 1993, when both Rage and Tool were part of the Lollapalooza tour. Babes in Toyland, featuring fellow Libertyvillian Maureen Herman, also joined that year's traveling rock festival. Another brief union occurred in 2007 when Morello joined Tool on the stage at the band's Bonnaroo performance.[14]

The Toronto-based band Nice Cat recorded a cover version of Electric Sheep's "Rat Race" in 2005.[15]

Puscifer, a band led by Tool's vocalist Maynard James Keenan, recorded a cover version of "My Country Boner" (AKA: "Cuntry Boner") in 2007.[16][17] "Cuntry Boner" (Evil Joe Barresi Mix), Written by Tom Morello and Chris George. Published by Wixen Music Publishing, Inc./Nightwatchman Music (BMI) and Copyright Control/Chris George [18]

ReferencesEdit

  1. "100 Greatest Guitarists: 75 – Adam Jones", Rolling Stone; "100 Greatest Guitarists: 40 - Tom Morello", Rolling Stone.
  2. Guitar World, June 1994
  3. Guitar World, June 1994
  4. "From Libertyville To L.a.-and A Big-time Album Deal". Chicago Tribune. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1990-05-04/entertainment/9002060733_1_libertyville-high-school-band-lock.
  5. "Even within their own school, Electric Sheep were something of an unknown quantity, but those who were into the band were voracious supporters, turning up at all hours to witness garage rehearsals": Rage Against the Machine: Stage Fighters, by Paul Stenning (John Blake Publishing, 2016).
  6. Guitar World, June 1994.
  7. "Salvador Death Squad Blues" is described as a "hint that deeper things were to come, musically," in Know Your Enemy: The Story of Rage Against the Machine, by Joel McIver (Omnibus Press, 2014)
  8. Know Your Enemy, by Joel McIver
  9. "20 Questions With Tom Morello", by Donna Anderson, Metal Sludge, July 16, 2002.
  10. Rage Against the Machine, by Paul Stenning.
  11. Know Your Enemy, by Joel McIver
  12. Know Your Enemy, by Joel McIver
  13. Know Your Enemy, by Joel McIver
  14. "Tom Morello Jams With Tool at Bonnaroo Festival", Blabbermouth.net, June 16, 2007.
  15. "Rat Race", Nice Cat on YouTube
  16. "Maynard James Keenan's Puscifer: Tool Leader Speaks on Enigmatic Side Project". Rolling Stone. http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/maynard-james-keenans-puscifer-tool-leader-speaks-on-enigmatic-side-project-20070718.
  17. "Cover Story: Maynard James Keenan". Illinois Entertainer. http://illinoisentertainer.com/2007/10/cover-story-maynard-james-keenan.
  18. "Cuntry Boner/World Up My Ass", AllMusicGuide

External linksEdit

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