The Houston Press has an in-depth feature this week on early ’80s Texas new wave heroes the Judy’s, who recently re-released their catalog on CD and reunited to play at the Austin Music Awards. I first heard of the Judy’s my freshman year of high school as I was digging through my dad’s record collection, and immediately latched on to their super-mart brand of bass-and-percussion-oriented weirdo pop, which goes above and beyond your run-of-the-mill new wave fare, an especially impressive feat considering that they developed their sound not amid a thriving scene in New York, L.A., or even Austin, but rather in a garage in the (then rural) Houston suburb of Pearland. They became massively popular in Texas, opening for the B-52s and Talking Heads, and packing clubs for their own shows. Their most famous song is an infectious, squealing tribute the Jonestown massacre called “Guyana Punch.” Thankfully there’s a live 1981 performance of the song, complete with water-tossing and cutoff shorts. Never has mass suicide been so catchy.
The band never hit it big outside of Texas despite its genuine potential, and the Press article is an interesting look into the sometimes-peculiar phenomenon of regional popularity. It’s also got a fairly detailed description of early ’80s Texas punk demographics, if you into that kind of thing, as well as a few amusing anecdotes from back in The Good Old Days of the Houston music scene, such as this little anecdote about ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons:
“He said, ‘I think I’m on the guest list,’” Srere remembers. “I said, ‘And your name?’
“‘Well, my name’s Billy Gibbons.’
“‘Really? Oh yes, yes, you’re on here.’
“I asked him, ‘What brings you to the Judy’s?’ He told me his pigs liked the Judy’s.”
There are three, basically equally likely possibilities here: 1) It’s a typo, 2) “Pigs” is a slang term in this context, or 3) Billy used to raise very hip pigs.
Perhaps the most appealing thing about The Judy’s is their ability to be both obscure and pop in just the right measure, a blend so rarely achieved with such success. Check out this short documentary about the band for some great old performance clips, and an adorable explanation of the group’s origins by a young, “aw, shucks” David Bean (lead singer and keyboardist).