Pin It
Submit to Reddit

New Wave a Go-Go 

NC's Cosmopolitans reissued

Okay ladies, here's how to keep that man of the house content: maintain a "firm and graceful body," give him "a bright smile over morning coffee," get "a weekly pedicure," have "well-set hair" and be "a good conversationalist." Remnants from the pre-PC, Ward & June Cleaver era or postmodern hipster irony?

Right on both counts, suggests Jamie Sims, who in 1980 borrowed tips from early-1960s TV exercise guru Debbie Drake's How To Keep Your Husband Happy LP, and turned them into a college radio mainstay for her New York band the Cosmopolitans. "Shape up, firm up, tone up -- with Debbie!" went the mantra-like refrain of "(How to Keep Your) Husband Happy."

"My mom had the Debbie Drake record and I exercised to it," Sims says now. "Some of her concepts were so over the top I just had to 'frame' them with a song."

With the newly reissued Wild Moose Party: New Wave Pom Pom Girls Gone Go-Go, NYC 1980-1981 (Dionysus/Bacchus Archives) -- featuring "Husband" -- the Cosmopolitans' name is suddenly back in the spotlight.

Asheville native Sims migrated northward in 1977 at the urging of dB's founder Chris Stamey, with whom she'd shared music classes at UNC-Chapel Hill. Having headed up the NC Progressive Dance Troop while still at UNC, Sims put together the avant-garde Cosmopolitan Dance Troop in Manhattan. A light bulb went on over her head, however, at a CBGB's fund-raiser for her ensemble in 1979. Following sets by the dB's, Fleshtones and Bobby "Boris" Pickett, the Troop performed one of its offbeat dance pieces and the audience went nuts. "What a revelation!" Sims marvels. "We'd just been playing to the wrong crowd."

Stamey and fellow Tarheel Mitch Easter helped Sims record some backing tapes and soon the newly-christened Cosmopolitans -- Sims plus fellow hoofers Nel Moore and Leslie Levinson -- were taking their choreographed, girl-group new wave to downtown Manhattan rock clubs. The following summer the Cosmopolitans, now a duo following Levinson's departure, trekked to Easter's Drive-In Studio in Winston-Salem to record a demo tape. With Sims (organ) and Moore (harmonica) on cheerleader-esque vocals and producer Easter handling guitar and drum duties, the sessions yielded "Husband," "Wild Moose Party" and "Dancin' Lesson," subsequently released as a three-song EP on NYC indie Shake Records.

"Husband" was an instant hit at college radio, and the in-demand Cosmopolitans began rounding up live musicians (Robert Crenshaw and dB's Peter Holsapple and Will Rigby were among the many honorary Cosmopolitans), eventually settling on drummer Evan "Funk" Davies, guitarist David Itch and organist Jeff Dedrick. Sims' party-out-of-bounds concept of "Shangri-La's meets the Fleshtones," wedded to some genuinely bizarre, ripped-from-tabloids lyrics, ensured no shortage of wild shows. "The audience would throw things like socks and stuffed animals at us," Sims recalls. "Before singing 'Wild Moose Party,' we had a moose call contest and the winner would get to sing on stage with us. And one of our most asked for numbers was Sam the Sham's 'Wooly Bully.'"

But in 1982 the party ground to a halt after Sims, having contracted chronic Epstein-Barre, found herself unable to play live. Nowadays, though, both Sims and Moore are active musically: Sims lives in Richmond where she composes and performs her own classical music, additionally writing for film, dance and theater, while Moore plays harmonica for Wilmington blues band Tommy B. & the Stingers.

Moose Party is now generating a bit of Internet chatter, something that Sims finds "humbling." Included is the original EP plus live tracks, 1981 demos (notably the B-52's-like "Psychic Joan" and a frat-rock take on Chuck Berry's "Talkin' Bout You") and the video for "Husband" (featuring a business-suited Easter being pampered by his "wife"). Easter, commenting on the EP's longevity, observes, "It was the times, of course, and the Cosmopolitans were totally in synch with what was going on. The disc has such a 'bwaaaah!' factor -- it does its thing with such aplomb and glee."

A reunion is being discussed by Sims, Moore and drummer Davies, possibly along the lines of George Clinton's P-Funk All Stars, with plenty of guests. Meanwhile, with "Husband" also pushing Debbie Drake's name to the top of Google searches, Sims has a brainstorm: She wants to track down the retired exercise queen and possibly do some promo together.

"The CD is certainly getting her name back in circulation," Sims says, clearly excited at the thought of meeting Drake. "Though some folks think I was making fun of those tips, it was actually that I was in awe of them. And that people would actually do them!"

Hear/download Cosmopolitans online:

Pin It
Submit to Reddit

Tags: ,

Speaking of 5.00000


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Creative Loafing encourages a healthy discussion on its website from all sides of the conversation, but we reserve the right to delete any comments that detract from that. Violence, racism and personal attacks that go beyond the pale will not be tolerated.

Search Events
items in Creative Loafing Charlotte More in Creative Loafing Charlotte pool

© 2018 Womack Newspapers, Inc.
Powered by Foundation