Fishbone was one of those bands that got away. When
they exploded out of South Central LA in the mid-80s, they were like nothing
else out there. They were an all black band that played a dizzying array of
styles, punk to ska, metal to R&B and pretty much everything in between.
They were groundbreaking. They were fantastic artists. They were tight
musicians. They had critical acclaim. They had a hypnotic front man. They
put on legendary live performances.
Sadly, they never quite found the following that in hindsight
nearly everyone agrees that they deserved.
Now, nearly 30 years into the band’s career, they are
still chasing the public adulation that got away. It is a triumphant and at
the same time sort of sad circumstance, which is shown right off the bat in
this fascinating documentary when the film segues from a triumphant,
sold-out 1992 theater show when the band was at its peak of potential to
today, when an older version of the band, with only two original members,
starts playing on an Eastern European courtyard for a couple dozen elderly
people on lawn chairs.
Fame is a fickle mistress. Particularly so when you
never quite catch up to her.
Many artists sing the praises of Fishbone – both
contemporaries and those influenced by Fishbone, many of whom ended up being
more popular than the band they are soliloquizing. Included in this role
call are Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ice-T,
Gwen Stefani (and the rest of the members) of No Doubt, Branford Marsalis,
George Clinton from Parliament-Funkadelic, Perry Farrell of Jane’s
Addiction, Eugene Hutz of Gogol Bordello, Les Claypool of Primus and Vernon
Reid of Living Colour. The band’s early producer and well-known Columbia
Records exec David Kahne says that it is one of his true regrets in the
music industry that he was never able to figure out how to make Fishbone a
Many theories are thrown out here. Some people say that the complete
democracy of the band – there were usually about eight or nine players in
the band and each had equal say – caused friction. Some people suggest that
the band’s recorded output never quite captured their magical concert vibe.
Some suggest their song stylings were a little too complex for pop radio.
Some people think the band was just too far ahead of its time. Perhaps
funk-master George Clinton nailed it when he suggested that Fishbone were
simply too white for black audiences and too black
for white audiences.
Whatever the explanation is, Everyday Sunshine
does a fine job of reintroducing the band’s music to the world, as well as
giving a fascinating view into the highs and lows of the band.
With a bright look made up of talking heads, vintage
footage and clean illustration, Everyday Sunshine takes us from the
members’ formation as teens. The theory is that the group’s wide variety of
influences come from the fact that they were amongst the first children
bussed from South Central LA to go to school in the San Fernando Valley,
finding the kids immersed in both the R&B and rock cultures.
Eventually, as the superstardom that was long predicted
for the band slips away and these longtime friends fracture in some
delightfully non-Behind the Music ways. It isn’t drugs, it is mostly
personality clashes and artistic differences, but there is still room in the
story for fantastic stories of religious cults and
In the meantime, the two faces of the band – the
original member and bassist Norwood Turner and charismatic but occasionally
odd front man Angelo Moore – continue trying to keep the band’s legacy
going, despite often finding themselves at odds with each other. They keep
trying for that brass ring long after the world has mostly moved on, as the
film shows in scenes that are both kind of funny (a Spinal Tap-ish scene
where they go to a store for a record signing and no one shows up) and very
sad (an adult Moore has to move back in with his mother when he can’t afford
to pay for his not overly luxurious house due to scarcity of gigs.)
The filmmakers and
interviewees occasionally overdo it with the credit for the band – none of
them mention the similar musical boundaries being busted down by other
contemporary black (or mixed race) groups like The Bus Boys, Bad Brains, The
Specials, The Beat and Living Colour (this one is particularly surprising,
since LC lead guitarist Vernon Reid is pretty extensively interviewed for
However, as a tribute to an artistic force that has not
received their due – and as a fascinating look at friendship – Everyday
Sunshine is a visual and narrative party at ground zero.
Copyright ©2011 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: October 5, 2011.