New York’s finest, The Dictators, are one of those bands that influenced lots of bands that became famous but missed out on any of that success themselves. When they released their debut, ‘Go Girl Crazy’, in 1975 none of the big punk bands had recorded anything. There was no Ramones, no Sex Pistols, they were out there on their own and despite their mix of loud yet catchy songs that were full of attitude and wit, few took notice at the time. The two follow ups, ‘Manifest Destiny’ and ‘Bloodbrothers’, fared little better despite being packed with great songs.
Words: Ian Sutherland
When the band split in 1979 that could have been all she wrote but forty plus years on those songs are regarded as the start of the US punk movement and the reputation of the band is such that they can pull a healthy crowd into Edinburgh’s cosy Bannermans venue on a Monday night for the second of their first ever Scottish shows, the first being in Aberdeen last night.
These guys may have influenced a generation of punk bands and they are still full of fuck you attitude all these years on but this is a really good band and they are tight and can really play. Ross The Boss on guitar may not have as many flashy moments up front as his Manowar days but he can still wail with the best of them and the rest of the band are no slouches either. It’s rock and roll with edge yet very controlled.
Billed these days as The Dictators NYC, presumably for some kind of legal reasons, this line-up features three original members in the aforementioned Ross The Boss, drummer JP Patterson and of course Handsome Dick Manitoba up front.
Manitoba may be older and sporting a beanie on his head rather than the huge afro style haircut of the old days but he still has all the Bronx attitude and charisma he is famous for. There are lots of chats with the audience and rye comments like still being able to sing ‘The Next Big Thing’ with a straight face. During the classic riff laden groove of ‘Baby Let’s Twist’ he comes out among the audience and gets them to supply enthusiastic if not always tuneful backing vocals.
The set is made up mainly of songs from the first and third albums, nothing from the excellent ‘Manifest Destiny’ gets played but I suspect there might be more legal stuff behind that. It doesn’t really matter though as there are good songs a-plenty to choose from anyway and the likes of ‘I Stand Tall’ and ‘Master Race Rock’ have stood the test of time and sound fresh and vibrant even now.
We even get a couple of tunes from post Dictators Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom days and ‘New York, New York’ has nothing to do with Sinatra and more to do with the streets and deprivations of the band’s youth and is kind of angry and proud at the same time.
By the time the last notes of their cover of The MC5’s ‘Kick Out The Jams’ ends the night the place is hot and sweaty and full of smiling, happy punters. It may have taken forty years for them to get here but they made the most of it when they came and showed us and the world what they missed out on. A really enjoyable show, now if they can only squeeze some songs from ‘Manifest Destiny’ in there next time.
Dictators NYC have three more shows in England before they cross the Channel for a fourteen date European tour.