The band began in 1977 when Lee and bassist pal Billy Club witnessed The Damned’s first American tour, which marked the first time a British Punk band toured outside of the U.K. The Dickies quickly established their own benchmarks; they were the first SoCal Punk band to appear on network television (on the Don Rickles vehicle CPO Sharkey) and the first to sign with a major label. The band has recorded for five labels in the past four decades and only issued seven full-length studio albums, the last being 2001’s All This and Puppet Stew.
Like their heroes and primary inspiration, The Ramones, The Dickies have always relied on a goofy yet anarchic sense of humor to drive home their musical point. Over the years, the band has covered a variety of crazy classic Rock and Pop songs to incredible effect, like The Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin,” Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence.” They even scored a top five hit in England with their version of the theme song from the ’60s live-action cartoon The Banana Splits.
The band’s third album was titled Stukas Over Disneyland and featured cover art showing the titular aircraft in a dive bombing raid with Mickey Mouse in silhouette below, and they provided the soundtrack for the 1988 cult film Killer Klowns from Outer Space (last month they celebrated the film’s 30th anniversary by performing along to the movie with the Hollywood Chamber Orchestra). In 1978, the band defaced the A&M billboard on Sunset Boulevard which was promoting label head Herb Alpert’s album Rise — they tagged it so that it read “Rise to the Dickies” — in order to gain attention for their A&M debut album, The Incredible Shrinking Dickies, in one of the earliest examples of guerrilla marketing. The label actually left the graffiti in place for weeks and capitalized on the publicity.
Although the Dickies haven’t released an actual album in 17 years, due in part to their abhorrence of the current state of the recording industry, they continue to tour relentlessly, including last year’s massive global circuit to celebrate their 40th-anniversary year. The Dickies remain relevant simply by still being The Dickies nearly 20 years into the new millennium.