Seven years after the untimely death of co-founder Dennis Flemion, Oxford, Mississippi's The End of All Music is reissuing "It’s Only Right and Natural," the most well-known release by Milwaukee’s The Frogs, in celebration of its 30th anniversary.
Regulars on the Brew City underground club scene in the 1980s, brothers Jimmy and Dennis Flemion put on shows that were spectacles, as well as performances by unique and talented songwriters that at times drew attention for their sometimes provocative titles.
The 1989 record – The Frogs' second – helped propel the band into becoming a bands’ band, earning them fans among stars like Smashing Pumpkins, which got them booked into Lollapalooza and which later hired Dennis as part of its touring band; Beck, who sampled them on "Where It’s At"; Pearl Jam, which included a recording of theirs on a single; and Sebastian Bach, who hired Jimmy for his band.
Filmmaker Harmony Korine is also a big fan and has said, "I would walk into Kim’s Video on Bleecker Street or Other Music and ask for things, and they would go, "Oh, have you heard of the Frogs?" The Frogs’ album ‘It’s Only Right and Natural’ totally blew me away. It was this weird gay concept record, but they weren’t gay. They were these brothers from Milwaukee who used to dress up in fairy costumes. One of the brothers would play a huge kettle drum and almost do these quasi-surrealist minstrels. The music was so good because it wasn’t really just conceptual, it was pop; once you got over the crudeness of the lyrics, the songs themselves were beautiful pop music."
Did I mention that it was No. 15 on Kurt Cobain’s list of Top 50 albums?
All pretty impressive for a band few would have thought would’ve been Milwaukee’s next musical export.
The new reissue, due out Aug. 16, marks its first appearance in stereo (the initial release in 1989 was in mono) and Jimmy Flemion has penned the song-by-song liner notes, which are instructive and informative, like this section in which he discusses "Homos":
"Perception is a tricky thing, how society and the public in general come to some conclusion with their own line of thinking, that somehow they know you, your heart and your soul without asking, having never been in your presence and claim to know where we stand or where we stood. Stand up for your rights or sit down. For all those who have taken the time to get to know us, our intention has been for you to discover that we’ve always come from a place of love and that if by chance, we may cause you to think or rethink your head and actually feel the translated emotions and vibrations of our exposed souls, then I urge you to take it one step or as many steps as it takes further to and alas throw judgment out the window and embrace acceptance because if you are willing to do so, you’ll find us and who we are."
The Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan wrote the band bio, saying, "These days being in a band means as much about perception as calculation, but there is little manipulation in this group because you see, The Frogs just are; point is they exist. They shouldn't really, because they are either too good for rock and roll, or too politically incorrect to matter. But they are one of the greatest rock groups to come out of the 20th century precisely because they are too good for rock and roll, and too smart to care about caring. Fine tunesmiths, they craft memorable hooks out quite readily before stomping on them because they dare to exist."
You can pre-order the record – which is packaged in a gatefold sleeve – here. All pre-orders get a free The Frogs button and will be entered into a drawing to win a test pressing of the vinyl LP.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.