Music* 17 Pygmies – Chameleon (Captured In Ice, 1985) / Photography* Vanessa Paxton – Color project I / II

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17 Pygmies
Real Name:
Philip Drucker, Jeff Brenneman, Dirk Doucette, Meg Maryatt, Bob Mora
17 Pygmies officially began in 1982 when then Savage Republic member Jackson Del Rey (aka Philip Drucker) began jamming in a garage with keyboardist and guitarist Michael Kory (Radwaste) and drummer, soon to be singer, Debbie Spinelli from Food & Shelter and Radwaste. The group’s first composition was an odd, kind of surf-a-delic, Emerson Lake & Palmer inspired cover version of the theme music to David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia. Since no one was around to say stop, the band quickly devolved into a kind of spooky instrumental and 80’s style techno-pop band, and by the time the Pygs, as they were now known to the five people including the band members who knew them, started covering Brazilian sambas (and just before the release of their first EP) Robert Loveless, now a member of Savage Republic, signed on as bass player/keyboardist.

That “Hatikva,” EP quickly led (minus Kory, who left to pursue an alternate path to obscurity) to 1984’s full length LP “Jedda By The Sea.” “Jedda” was an album short on the letter “h” but long on musical innovation and is still considered a “post-punk” masterpiece by those same five people including the band members who though “Hatikva” was worth releasing. Next came 1985’s “Captured In Ice” which interestingly contained the non-hit “Chameleon” which made a very influential list called the 100 greatest unknown techno songs. All this obscurity led to several personnel changes (the only permanent idiot,,,er band member is Del Rey) which of course led to the release in 1989 of “Welcome” on the Island Records subsidiary Great Jones label. And they say contrary thought won’t get you anywhere. Well, it didn’t and the band was dropped the next year (1990) that saw the self- release of the last demos for Island as the EP “Missyfish”.

Ironically( or is it iconic) 17 years later, the “13 Blackbirds/13 Lotus” double CD was released under the indie record label Trakwerx, with original member Del Rey and Welcome era singer Louise Bialik in tow. Another fine fellow worth mentioning, guitarist Jeff Brenneman from White Glove Test also joined the fray. Soon after, there were more personnel changes, and the band reformed as The 17th Pygmy with Meg Maryatt (who was a contributor on 13 Blackbirds/13 Lotus) on vocals, guitar and accordion, Tony Davis, from White Glove Test on bass and Dirk Doucette, also from White Glove Test, on drums.

Thus, in October 2007, “Ballade of Tristram’s Last Harping” was released, which reflected a retro ’60s Psychedelic-’70s Classic Rock direction. Ballade is also a visual tribute to the Art Nouveau movement. The Art Nouveau style is probably best exemplified by the works of Gustav Klimpt and Aubrey Beardsley both of whose works were liberally borrowed from (but never credited) on the covers of many, many, many ’60s albums.

With Jackson Del Rey’s newfound creativity writing experimental prog rock scores to classic silent films (“Battleship Potemkin”,”Nosferatu” & “Tarzan”), he had the idea to record a concept album, “Celestina” (loosely based upon the classic 15th century Latin novel La Celestina, a timeless tale of love and betrayal). 17 Pygmies have returned to their original name, perhaps for good, and continue on in the tradition of their signature sound that was first explored and presented on their classic 1984 release “Jedda By The Sea”.

Not to rest on their laurels, 17 Pygmies, along with their new bass player, Bob Mora, are in the process of writing a new CD that leans toward alternative pop/rock songs, although with that very Pyg vibe. Some new songs have already been performed at live shows such as the IPO Festival at Spaceland in Los Angeles.

And so it is, for now.

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