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Swing's Crown Jewel

Swing's Crown Jewel

Who: The Royal Crown Review
Where: Fanny's
When: Friday May 5, 2000

BY the beginning of the 1990s the grunge juggernaut loomed large, perched at the edge of a decade known for overproduced pop songs and 'poodle rock' hair bands.

Record-buying people were looking for something real, something that was not manufactured by the major labels, something that SMELLED LIKE TEEN SPIRIT. The time was ripe for an underground explosion but we got two.

One was grunge, which burst open like a dam and drenched the countryside in raw guitars and a flood of angst.

The other was swing, which had been bubbling away for close to a decade already.

Sitting on top of the pile was seven-piece band THE ROYAL CROWN REVUE, who had a residency at The Derby, a recently restored Art Deco supper club built by CECIL B DEMILLE. According to RCR saxophonist and songwriter BILL UNGERMAN, the band was ripe for the picking, playing music derived from 'American roots music' of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.

The Royal Crown Revue will perform this Friday at Fanny's.

'It was definitely the hot thing,' Ungerman said of the band's weekly residency at The Derby.

'I think if you live in LA and you're visible, and part of a hot scene like that, it can get you things like TV and movie work and all that kind of stuff.'

Movie work came in the form of the 1994 film THE MASK, starring JIM CARREY, and the band's song HEY PACHUCO which became a classic.

There was no denying The Royal Crown Revue had cross-over potential.

On the one hand it was playing music where dancers actually touched each other and learnt choreographed steps rather than moshing.

But it was the rhythm and blues elements of swing which drew a lot of other characters out of the woodwork.

The punks and the rockabillies cherished the opportunity to dress up and swing out, rejecting what they already perceived as a mass mainstream exodus to grunge.

'I think the pendulum swings and that sort of thing,' Ungerman said.

'There was grunge and people went the other way, I don't know. I think that we cross a lot of lines. We get a pretty wide variety of people to our shows.'

A national swing craze swept the United States like a prairie fire in the 1990s.

Swing inspired countless Las Vegas revues and ad campaigns, as well as gymnastic and skating routines at the 1996 Olympics.

The Royal Crown Revue went full-on mainstream when it recorded with BETTE MIDLER, performing as her backing band at the BILLBOARD MUSIC AWARDS. But it didn't stop them appearing worldwide on the punk/hardcore bill of the VANS WARPED TOUR, which came to Newcastle in 1998. 'I think when the swing thing came up, it was more of a grass-roots semi-underground thing, and then came up and became mainstream,' Ungerman said.

'The big boys decided to exploit it and kind of burn it out unfortunately in the States, and it pretty much peaked out last year as far as the trend goes.

'It's pretty much over as being the big mainstream thing in the US right now.'

TE has a copy of the group's latest CD WALK ON FIRE to give away.

To go in the draw mail an envelope, with your name, address and telephone number on the back, to ROYAL CROWN REVUE GIVEAWAY, PO Box 615, Newcastle, 2300.

Or enter on-line at www.nnp.com.au TE

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