By Sarah Bennett
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The Dickies have been a band for almost 25 years now, and guitarist Stan Lee still gets pink panties in the mail. And really, that's everything you need to know right there—even Elvis had to settle for plain white cotton by his 25th year, right? But Dickies fans (possibly the most devoted ones this side of the people who wear Star Trek jump suits to jury selections) still care enough to send the very best, and it grabs ol' Stan right in his tender bits. This isn't infatuation; this is love.
"We just did Japan last year, and there were a couple of kids crying, saying, 'I thought you'd never come,'" Lee says. "We were doing 'Gigantor,' and I look down, and there are two Japanese kids with tears dripping down their faces. And I was like, 'They get it—somebody fucking gets it.' Little shit like that makes it worth it at the end of the day."
See, that's real Dickies love, and Dickies love is a special kind of love. It makes you pick pink over white. It makes you track down every hissy bootleg cassette of every show they've played since their baby days at LA's Masque back in the '70s. If you're Noodles from the Offspring, it makes you go into their dressing room on tour and humbly ask how to play 'Gigantor.' And if you were the kids at the show two weeks ago at the Troubadour, it's why you already knew the words to All This and Puppet Stew(the latest Dickies album on take-it-to-the-mall punk überlabel Fat Wreck Chords), even though it hadn't technically been released at the time.
"That's what I loved the other night," says Lee. "They're singing along, and there ain't nothing greater than that."
Dickies love is forever.
Lee remembers when the world's love affair with the Dickies started. It was a summer thing, when American punk was young, nubile and hid a sappy schoolgirl heart under all the safety pins and nobody had died yet. When a buncha snarky guys from the Valley and their midget roadie with a DICKIES WRECKING CREW T-shirt (yeah, the Dickies were pioneering midget involvement in the arts back when Kid Rock and Blink-182 were barely zygotes) strutted into Hollywood, there was nothing to do but swoon.
"The Hollywood crowd was all into being real punks, whatever the fuck that is—living in squats and stuff," says Lee. "We had our parents' houses with swimming pools; we went to water slides. When we went down there and there were all these fucking people with safety pins in their cheeks, we were expecting to get killed!"
But instead, they got loved, and they got a major-label deal (the first LA punk band to do so) and a giant penis puppet (the first LA punk band to do that, too) and went to England, where they were also loved for their own sub-subgenre of manic poppy punk that is something between electroshock therapy and an adrenalin injection (judging by the way Dickies fans dance).
Their first two albums and a crateful of brightly colored singles (like the "Nights in White Satin" cover EP on which they're all—gasp!—wearing KKK hoods! Those Dickies!) established a fundamental punk food group upon which the bands of today shamelessly gorge, and the Dickies-scored Killer Klowns From Outer Space is nothing less than the Citizen Kane of killer-clowns-from-outer-space films. So what if it takes them forever to make albums? Even five long years for the latest effort—true love waits, right?
"Fat Mike [Fat Wreck Chords CEO/NOFX singer and bass player/major punk luminary in his own right] called me up," says Lee, "and I didn't know who he was. I was like, 'What the fuck is Fat Wreck?' So I asked Leonard, and he said, 'I dunno.' So I went to the guys in the band who are all 10 years younger, and they said, 'Fat? Do it.' So I told Mike we had an album's worth of stuff, but we really only had three songs."
And that's why it took five years—that and sometimes the label had to remind them to show up at the recording studio. But under strict guidance from the Fat One, they still managed to crank out All This and Puppet Stew over the course of several presidential administrations, and thankfully, it sounds like the Dickies should sound, by God: cover songs, keyboards, and Leonard's falsetto-flapping-in-the-breeze vocals. "We haven't brought any props into the mix yet," says Lee. "We've been kind of waiting for the thing to come out." Really, they haven't changed a bit—and you know you love them for it.
The Dickies play with Total Chaos, Orange Blossom Special and Dumfounded at the Galaxy Concert Theatre, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, (714) 957-0600. Fri., 8 p.m. $12.50. All ages.