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Forgotten Hard Rock Albums: Bad Biscut, "The American Dream?" (1994)
Bad Biscut - "The American Dream?" (Cathedral Records, 1994)
I first encountered Bad Biscut in either late 1991 or early '92 (I forget exactly) at a long-gone rock dive in Staten Island, New York called "The Redspot!" I was a college senior and veteran rock-club crawler who came to the club that night to witness a personal appearance by drummer Steven Adler, who had recently been given the boot from the mighty Guns N' Roses. Adler was slated to premiere his then-new band, Roadcrew (which also featured Davy Vain of Vain fame) at Manhattan's landmark Limelight nightclub the next night, but on this particular evening he was merely making a brief meet-and-greet stop in the outer boroughs. Since Roadcrew weren't scheduled to actually play at the Redspot, the club had stacked the bill with an assortment of local talent and though none of the names on the bill meant much to me, I figured it would be worth a bus ride through some questionable neighborhoods to meet a former Gunner and possibly get his autograph. (Yes, I'm a total fanboy like that.)
The first several bands to take the Redspot's stage that night were lackluster, to say the least, but fortunately their names have been lost to the mists of time. After I'd downed several beers and seen no sign of the night's Guest of Honor, I was beginning to think that the entire evening might turn out to be a waste of a bus token. However, the former Gun (and his entourage) suddenly arrived during a set change, and Steven Adler began pressing the flesh with fans. With the J-card to my GN'R Appetite For Destruction cassette (remember cassettes?) and a black Sharpie marker in my hand, I weaseled my way to the front of the line and said "Hey, Steven, how you doin' man?"...and that's when things got weird. As Adler shook my hand, his eyes suddenly lit up and he screamed "HEEEEEYYY MAAAAN! HOW YA DOIN?" while patting me on the back as if we were old buddies. I was a bit unnerved by the unexpected reaction, and could only assume that he had mistaken me for someone he knew. (Need I mention that he seemed rather... shall we say... "altered" at the time? Nahh, probably not.) Rather than correct him I decided to roll with it -- "I'm great, Steven. Hey, how'bout an autograph?" He leaned on someone else's back to scrawl his signature on the inside of my cassette insert, muttering "too cool, too cool" the entire time. My prize was given back to me and after I wished him luck with his new project (which, it must be noted, never went anywhere) I left Steven Adler to the rest of the autograph-hungry horde, wondering what the heck had just happened. (I still have that signed tape insert, by the way, and honestly, if I didn't tell you it was Adler's autograph on the inside, you would think someone killed a spider with my J-card.)
After that oh-so-brief and very odd brush with (minor) celebrity, I turned my attention to the club stage, where the evening's headliners Bad Biscut were about to launch into their set. I'd never seen the band before but had heard good things about them. It only took one song for me to say..."WOW! This is more LIKE it!" B.B. had everything that the other bands on the bill that night didn't...stage presence, great songs, and most importantly, VOLUME. I remember that covers of the Ramones' "Chinese Rock" and the Sex Pistols' version of "Steppin' Stone" were included in the set (hearing the former endeared the band to me immediately, as I was and still am a massive Ramones fanboy) as well as a selection of their original tunes, all of which were a potent cocktail of sleazy, '80s style hard rock (similar to GN'R or Skid Row) topped with a healthy shot of snotty, punk-rock attitude. Steven Adler took over the drum stool for a couple of songs (including a cover of GN'R's version of "Knockin' On Heaven's Door") and by the time Bad Biscut's set was finished, I had become an instant fan.
I saw Bad Biscut several more times over the next couple of years at a variety of New York and Southern New Jersey dives and they delivered on stage each and every time. The last time I saw the band was sometime in 1995 at the (greatly missed) Birch Hill in Old Bridge, New Jersey, where they were opening for Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. Passing by their merch table, I snapped up a copy of their recently released debut album, The American Dream?, which went on to rule my CD player for several months afterwards. From the chugging opener "Blowin' Smoke" and hilarious "Masturbation" to the slamming cover of Kim Wilde's new-wave chestnut "Kids In America" and the mournful closing ballad "Chelsea Hotel," The American Dream? was a power-packed mix of 70's bubblegum fun and sleazy '80s rock vibrations. I honestly thought that these guys had the goods to become the Next Big Band from New Jersey and talked them up to anyone who would listen to me as I waited for news of a new album. Sadly, after several years, it became clear that there would be no follow-up to The American Dream?. Bad Biscut had simply disappeared...living fast, dying young, and leaving one excellent album for me to remember them by.
So Who the Hell Was Bad Biscut, Anyway?
Details on the history of Bad Biscut are sketchy at best, and since their time in the limelight came and went long before the advent of the Internet, there are virtually no Web pages with any info on them (so hey, if any of the former Bad Biscut members happen to read this, feel free to leave a comment correcting any mistakes!). To the best of my knowledge, the band was formed in the Old Bridge, New Jersey area in 1989. Starting out as a cover band performing a mix of hard-edged '70s glam/bubblegum and punk rock favorites, they eventually worked a number of original songs into their sets as they became regulars on the Jersey and New York club scenes. The band briefly hit the national spotlight when they won MTV's "Highway to Fame" contest in 1992 which tied into AC/DC's then-current Live release. Unsigned bands were asked to send in cover versions of the AC/DC classic "Highway to Hell" and the AC/DC band members themselves chose Bad Biscut's rendition as the best submission. The notoriety led to a deal with the fledgling New Jersey indie label Cathedral Records, owned by Tony Bongiovi (a music producer/engineer and recording studio owner who has worked with everybody from Jimi Hendrix and Meco to Aerosmith and Ace Frehley -- he also happens to be a cousin of Jersey's favorite son, Jon Bon Jovi). Bad Biscut's 1994 debut, The American Dream? was produced by Tom Allom (Judas Priest) and several pressings of the album exist, each with a slightly different track listing and cover art. Though the album was heavily promoted in the local rock press, I can only assume that Cathedral Records didn't have much distribution muscle outside of the band's New York/New Jersey home base, since the album never made much of a splash anywhere else. The last I heard from Bad Biscut was in 1996, when they released a 7-inch single of cover tunes called Cult 45, and then I assume that they must've hung up their leather jackets. Former Biscut members Keith Roth and Tommy Tafaro later turned up in another Jersey Shore rock combo, Frankenstein 3000, which has released several albums and gigs around the Garden State to this day, in addition to Roth's DJ gigs on both terrestrial and satellite radio.
"Kids In America"
Wow! Someone Besides Me Still Remembers This Band??
For a while it seemed like I was the only person who even remembered Bad Biscut, and I'm sure my friends got tired of listening to me talk about them all the time. Imagine my surprise when a random click of the Internet led me to CDBaby.com in 2008 and I discovered that the Jersey Shore based indie label Main Man Records (home to Roth and Tafaro's Frankenstein 3000) had just released a Bad Biscut "greatest hits" compilation entitled We Still Believe the Hype, a 22-track collection of demos, live material, cover songs and other odds and ends that had been recorded throughout the band's career. This was followed by the 2009 release of Shag Abbey, a second full-length studio album which had been slated for release in 1997 but was shelved when the band broke up. Needless to say, I was happy to have "new" material to listen to after so many years! To complete the Bad Biscut "Hat Trick," Main Man eventually released a "Deluxe Edition" of The American Dream? in 2008, which compiled all the different tracks from both pressings of the first album. I'm now the proud owner of the entire Bad Biscut discography (I wonder how many other people can make that claim?) and even though this means that the band's vaults are now most likely empty, it's good to know that the music of this long-lost, once promising combo is still out there waiting for hard rock fans to discover it. Take a bite of the Biscut!