The Dictators posed the question on their 2011 reunion album D.F.F.D. (that’s “Dictators Forever, Forever Dictators,” in case you were wondering), but many listening might have felt that The Dictators themselves could have been the saviors. Yet despite recording three well-received albums between 1975 and 1978, and gaining such high-profile fans as Bruce Springsteen and Little Steven Van Zandt, The Dictators’ anarchic, acerbic brand of rock-and-roll never garnered the group mainstream success. But Raven Records believes in The Dictators, and has just celebrated the band with its first-ever career-spanning, multi-label anthology. Faster…Louder: The Dictators’ Best 1975-2001 draws on all four studio albums for a fast and furious introduction to the group Van Zandt asserted was “the missing link between The New York Dolls and punk.”
Vocalist/bassist/chief songwriter Andy Shernoff joined lead guitarist Ross “The Boss” Friedman, rhythm guitarist Scott “Top Ten” Kempner, drummer Stu Boy King and lead vocalist “Handsome” Dick Manitoba in the first lineup of The Dictators. This quintet unleashed The Dictators Go Girl Crazy! on Epic Records in 1976, produced by Murray Krugman and Sandy Pearlman, known for their work with hard rockers Blue Öyster Cult. With its humorously biting lyrics and full-throttle garage-style musical attack, Girl Crazy is often considered one of the building blocks of the punk sound. Six tracks are culled from Girl Crazy for Raven’s anthology, including “California Sun,” one of the original LP’s two covers. (The other was “I Got You, Babe,” nodding to the punks’ affection for – and satire of – sixties pop.) Of Shernoff’s originals included here, “(I Live For) Cars and Girls” was the songwriter’s tribute to Brian Wilson; “Master Race Rock” wasn’t quite as malevolent as the title might indicate, opening with “Hippies are squares with long hair/And they don’t wear no underwear” and going from there!
After a brief breakup, The Dictators reconvened with Manitoba, Friedman and Kempner joined by drummer Richie Teeter and bassist Mark “The Animal” Mendoza. Shernoff stayed on to play keyboards and write most of the group’s 1977 Asylum debut Manifest Destiny. Four tracks, including a live cover of The Stooges’ “Search and Destroy” from CBGB’s, are reprised here. Though the musicianship was as savage as ever, Manifest presented a more diverse hard-rock sound encompassing arena rock, punk, metal, and even power ballads. One more album followed for Asylum, 1978’s Bloodbrothers, from which five songs have been extracted. Shernoff once again handled the lion’s share of songwriting, even enlisting an uncredited Bruce Springsteen for a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it vocal cameo on “Faster and Louder,” the track which gives this compilation its title. “Slow Death” was a cover of the Flamin’ Groovies’ anti-drug song from 1972.
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After Bloodbrothers failed to turn the band’s commercial fortunes around, The Dictators broke up. Ross “The Boss” joined Shakin’ Street and later, Manowar; Kempner formed The Del-Lords; Shernoff moved into production. The first steps to a Dictators reunion came when Manitoba, Friedman, Shernoff and drummer J.P. “Thunderbolt” Patterson formed Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom and released what Rolling Stone deemed “the first great punk rock album of the 1990s.” By the end of the decade, a proper Dictators reunion was mooted, resulting in the 2001 album D.F.F.D. produced by Shernoff. With songs like “Moronic Inferno” and “The Savage Beat” (two of its five cuts here), it was clear that time hadn’t tamed The Dictators.
Since then, The Dictators have played on-and-off. Among the “on” occasions was the 2006 closing of the storied New York club CBGB’s, for which the band played the venue’s second- and-third-to-last ever shows. In 2011, Manitoba, Friedman and Patterson formed the group Manitoba with new recruits Dean Rispler and Daniel Rey. It eventually morphed into a band by the name of The Dictators NYC, keeping the spirit of the original group alive.
Faster…Louder: The Dictators’ Best 1975-2011 features a color booklet with copious new liner notes from compilation co-producer Ian McFarlane. Warren Barnett has freshly remastered all tracks. You can order this non-stop rush of punk-infused adrenaline at the links below!
- The Next Big Thing
- Master Race Rock
- California Sun
- Two Tub Man
- (I Live For) Cars and Girls
- Science Gone Too Far!
- Young, Fast, Scientific
- Search and Destroy
- Faster and Louder
- Baby, Let’s Twist
- The Minnesota Strip
- Stay with Me
- Slow Death
- Who Will Save Rock and Roll?
- I Am Right!
- Moronic Inferno
- The Savage Beat
- Burn, Baby, Burn!
Tracks 1-6 from The Dictators Go Girl Crazy!, Epic LP KE 33348, 1975
Tracks 7-10 from Manifest Destiny, Asylum LP 7E-1109, 1977
Tracks 11-15 from Bloodbrothers, Asylum LP 6E-147, 1978
Tracks 16-20 from D.F.F.D., Dictators Multimedia, DFFD-02, 2001