Along with Twisted Sister, one of the best-known “glam” type bands on the circuit in the early ‘80s was Monroe. While almost all of the bands from that period have faded into memory, Monroe has managed to keep going and is making their return to the Jersey stage with an appearance at Mother’s in Wayne, this coming Saturday, Jan. 4th.
The band was started in the late ‘70s by singer Bill Monroe and his longtime drummer, Kenny, and they have kept the band going through various transitions through the years. Originally, they were an original band, but when they burst on the club scene in the ‘80s, they made a name for themselves with blistering versions of songs by Aerosmith, AC/DC, David Bowie, the Rolling Stones, and the New York Dolls. The group’s main influences include many of the big punk scene bands, such as the Dolls, The Dead Boys, Iggy Pop and T-Rex.
“We were always into a big production,” explains Bill. “It was very theatrical. We did a thing with Marilyn Monroe, who the band was really named after, and we did the ‘Night of the Living Dead,’ with white painted faces and tombstones.” The group was also the first in the area to do guitar spinning, in which the guitarists would spin the guitars around their backs while they were playing.
The group played at all the biggest clubs, including the Soap Factory in Palisades Park, the Hole In The Wall in Rochelle Park, the Fountain Casino in Aberdeen. They even held the attendance record at L’Amour East in Queens.
The band did a video for one of their most popular original songs, “Won’t Last Forever.” It was one of the only unsigned band videos in rotation on U68, which was the precursor to MTV.
The other members of the band now include Rich Leland on bass, and Joey T. and Frank Diviant on guitars. “In the ‘80s we were more hard rock, but now we’re a more musically-oriented band,” says Bill.
While music has gone through a great many changes over the years, Monroe have stayed true to their roots. “We have the opportunity to offer people something different,” says Bill. “Punk influenced rock, ‘70s influenced, but not classic… it doesn’t seem to that many bands are doing that anymore. That’s been our root, and we never switched to alternative or anything.”
Most people who hear about the upcoming show think it’s a reunion, but Bill makes it clear it’s not at all like that. “No keeping the flow going hurt us,” he says. “We didn’t stay on the club scene, because we do more of a show, not like the bands that do three sets a night. We do one show, and make it more like a big event, like bands used to be. And anyway, we’ve always been a rebel band.”
This will be the first show since some New York shows last Summer, but Bill hopes the group will be doing a lot more in the near future. Monroe will be mixing in their own material with the classics for which they were known. They’ll definitely be doing a lot of the old Aerosmith songs from the early albums such as Rocks and Toys In The Attic, which were mainstays of the early ‘80s Monroe shows. They’ll also be doing Exile On Main Street and Sticky Fingers era Rolling Stones music, along with old punk rock by the likes of Johnny Thunders and Iggy Pop. “I want to get my material out there,” says Bill. “And, hopefully, there will be an audience for it.”
Copyright © Hal B. Selzer/The Aquarian/East Coast Rocker and transcribed with permission.