THE DICTATORS: Tony Besgrove suggests a re-evaluation is overdue!

Many fans of rock music will be familiar with the works of the Ramones and The New York Dolls. The Ramones, in particular, have become punk icons. You can buy a Ramones T-shirt in Primark (yes, I do shop there!), though I would hazard a guess that most purchasers of said T-shirt would be unable to sing a single line from ‘Sheena is a Punk Rocker’, they have become that iconic! Iggy Pop also is a household name (car insurance, anyone?), and even the magnificent MC5 have featured in those BBC4 Friday evening rock documentaries.

So how many people know of a band from the same music stable - The Dictators? Very few I would guess, which is a shame as they were a band that didn’t take themselves too seriously, yet managed to record two glorious albums, ‘Blood Brothers’ in 1976 and ‘D.F.F.D.’ in 2001, a mere 25 years later.

Now I like guitars: wailing guitars, screaming guitars, guitars that sustain forever, guitars that slowly feed back via Marshalls on 12; if you like this too, you’ll love The Dictators!

Originating in New York, fronted by vocalist ‘Handsome’ Dick Manitoba, previously a professional wrestler, with twin guitarists Scott ‘Top Ten’ Kempner and Ross ‘The Boss’ Friedman (I told you they didn’t take themselves too seriously), with main songwriter Andy ‘Adny’ Shernoff on bass/keys and JP ‘Thunderbolt’ Patterson as the rock-solid rhythm section, they hammered out the kind of rock boogie guaranteed to whip the headbangers in the crowd into a frenzy. Nothing too complex or taxing on the brain, this was music to stir the primeval instincts in us, to get us out of our armchairs, and to have us dancing wildly around the room with gay abandon.

Ross ‘The Boss’ is quite outstanding as the main axeman, taking guitar solos wherever and whenever possible. His playing fits beautifully into the songs – never over indulgent – but just right. Fans of the band include such luminaries as Steven Van Zandt (Little Steven) and Bruce Springsteen (coincidentally another ‘Boss’ – he had a cameo role counting in the band on ‘Faster and Louder’)

There are few videos on YouTube with decent audio, so I would suggest firing up Spotify (other music replay sites are available), and sampling, say:-
From Blood Brothers: ‘Stay With Me’, ‘Slow Death’

From D.F.D.D.: ‘Who Will Save Rock’n’Roll?’, ‘It’s Alright’

The audio quality and song quality on the other Dictator’s albums may not always be too hot, but it’s really worth checking out:-

‘What’s Up With That #2’ and ‘Loyola’ from ‘Every Day Is Saturday’


The Velvet’s song ‘What Goes On’ from ‘New York New York’


They are still touring and playing festivals with varying lineups, now as Dictators NYC – go see them if you can before they retire – they are all around 60 years old now, but you’d never guess!

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