They still want their MTV.
The guys in the nerdy-looking rock band known as the Spazmatics grew up with MTV. But now they – like many Villagers – are hitting middle age.
And they are determined to keep the ‘80s alive.
Who ever thought Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” would be played like a golden oldie at Lake Sumter Landing?
The Spazmatics – that’s who.
This band bids farewell to Elvis and the Beatles and says hello to the Clash, Ramones, Flock of Seagulls, Billy Idol, Bryan Adams and even Toni Basil.
Villages’ demographics are changing and the Spazmatics are appealing to a newer, younger audience that came of age in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
“It’s hard to believe that these songs are 40 years old,” said lead singer Kurt Frohlich who asked to use his Spazmatic stage name — Chad. “I grew up with this music and it’s still great.”
He, along with fellow Spazmatics Paul Smith (stage name Richard), guitar; James Woodrich (Gary), bass and Matt Bloodwell (Irving) on drums are having a blast living in the past.
“The music we play is fun,” Chad said. “I think people love it because they can come out with us and have a good time. The crowd is a big part of the show.”
The Spazmatics’ dress and choreography is part of the show. They’re sort of a cross between Pee Wee Herman and Devo. Outfits include everything from bow ties to neck braces to thick glasses and safety helmets.
At times, they move like robots but then, just when you think they’re too stiff, they will kick up their legs and move side to side in unison, like lost Rockettes.
Chad wasn’t always into ‘80s video stars.
“My first concert was Iron Maiden and Twisted Sister,” he said. Eventually, Chad outgrew heavy metal and found a gig playing with Marky Ramone of the famed punk band the Ramones.
Chad, a nationally acclaimed musician, moved on and has been playing in Spazmatic bands for over a decade.
The band’s history is a bit strange. The Spazmatics started out in Los Angeles and then went to Las Vegas, where Chad joined them over a decade ago. The band’s name –Spazmatics – has been franchised to about 20 other bands across the country he said.
“It’s like McDonald’s – a franchise,” Chad said.
What makes it even stranger is that Chad, also plays in a number of other bands, including Villages’ classic rock favorites, The Hooligans.
The Spazmatics recently played a July 4 show at Epcot in Walt Disney World. But Disney did not approve of the name Spazmatics, so they changed it to the M-80s.
No matter what you call them, the Spazmatics have a loyal following in The Villages.
“These guys are nuts but they put on a good show and I love them,” said Villager Frank McComb. “The ‘80s are oldies now,” said his wife, Sue. “I’m in my 70s, but I love the ‘80s. It’s like classic rock and they know how to play it right.”
Dick Vega, who has a house in The Villages, came to a recent Lake Sumter show decked out in Spazmatics’ garb. He wore red suspenders, a pale blue tee-shirt with cartoon characters on it; pale blue socks that covered his lower calves, and yellow reflective googles that stuck out from under a khaki-colored safari hat. He looked like a refugee from a Swiss Alps Spazmatics’ concert.
“I just like to have fun with the band; I wish I was in the band,” Vega said. “These guys fool around but they are great musicians. I grew up in the ‘80s, and I know this music. They play it the way it should be played.”
A recent Spazmatic performance at Lake Sumter Landing displayed the band’s versatility and authentic musical style.
They started fast and furious with such ‘80s’ standards as: Clash’s “Rock the Casbah;” Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ’69;” Madness’ “Our House;” Tony Basil’s “Mickey;” Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” and Modern English’s “I’ll Stop the World to Melt with You.”
“So many people grew up with these songs, and so did we,” Chad said. “They are a part of our lives.”
Especially in The Villages.
“Villages’ audiences are great,” he added. “They don’t take live music for granted. They appreciate this music and it’s special for us to be up on stage and play for them.”
Tony Violanti covers arts and music for Villages-News.com. He was inducted into the Buffalo NY Music Hall of Fame as a music journalist.