There’s a case to be made that Redd Kross is the seminal Los Angeles band of the last 40 years. And ‘BORN INNOCENT’ is gonna make it.
Formed in 1978 by brothers Jeff and Steve McDonald, and still actively playing and recording today, Redd Kross are the ultimate rock and roll lifers. They have influenced independent music in ways that beg to be acknowledged. From helping invent Beach Punk to influencing the Grunge and Glam Metal movements, Redd Kross have maintained the highest level of musical integrity, originality and quality for over forty years.
Born Innocent will introduce a wider audience to two of the coolest people alive. The McDonald Brothers embody Southern California, rock and roll, and what it means to be an artist.
In 1978, in the Southern California beach suburb of Hawthorne – home of The Beach Boys – two brothers, Jeff McDonald, age 15, and Steven McDonald, age 11, started a band called The Tourists. They wrote a set of songs including “Annette’s Got the Hits” and “Clorox Girls” that would become classics and define the genre known as “Beach Punk”. The first time The Tourists played in front of anyone was at Black Flag’s legendary rehearsal space, The Church in Hermosa Beach. They got the older band’s seal of approval, along with a new name – Red Cross. They were so young that their first studio recordings were financed with money from Steve’s paper route.
But when Jeff saw hardcore being codified into a set of musical and fashion rules, he rebelled. Red Cross was the first band from the hardcore scene to grow their hair long, and their second record, Born Innocent, was unlike anything that had come out of the underground. It’s a record drenched in 70’s pop culture references: Linda Blair, Tatum O’Neal, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls… even a cover of a Charles Manson song. Steven Malkmus of Pavement listed it as one of his top five biggest influences, and Mark Arm of Mudhoney has said that it was the record that got all the Seattle grunge bands started.
Red Cross fought back against hardcore’s anti-rock star stance, dressing in outlandish thrift-store-glam stage costumes like their idols, The New York Dolls.
The high school-age McDonalds received a letter from the International Red Cross threatening legal action if they continued to use the name “Red Cross”. Jeff’s response was to change their name to “Redd Kross” in an homage to comedian Redd Foxx. With their new name, Redd Kross continued to evolve their sound. Their Neurotica record would prove to be one of the crucial influences on the Grunge scene in Seattle that changed music in the 1990’s.
When pop music caught up to what they were doing and grunge was on the rise, Redd Kross pivoted again, making a sugary bubblegum record for their major label debut, Third Eye, which sported a nude Sofia Coppola on the cover. And while they had previously starred in the cult classics Desperate Teenage Lovedolls and Lovedolls Superstar, the 90’s saw them star in their first studio movie. Before there was The Brady Bunch Movie, there was The Spirit of 76, a 70’s nostalgia movie that saw Jeff and Steve starring alongside David Cassidy, Leif Garrett and Devo.
Their next evolution had them perfecting a beefy power pop sound, with their records Phaseshifter and Show World. This was the phase that garnered them fans from Robert Plant to Joe Elliott of Def Leppard to Dave Davies of The Kinks.
While chart-topping success in America eluded them, they have toured the world to massive acclaim, treated like rock gods in the UK, Spain and Japan. Steve has played with Beck, Hole, Sparks, and Tenacious D. He currently plays in both The Melvins and Off! Redd Kross have always followed their artistic muse, wherever it led. Forty years later, they are still going strong, heading out on tour in support of their seventh studio album, Beyond the Door.
Redd Kross has long been a cult band, a band’s band, a secret code word among music fans that signifies taste and cool. But unlike many cult bands, their music is eminently accessible. If you like The Beatles or The Ramones or Cheap Trick, basically if you’re a rock and roll fan, you’ll like Redd Kross.
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