Remembering The Frogs (RIP Dennis)
I will never, ever forget the first time the disturbing, wonderful sounds of The Frogs crossed my ears, which is pretty impressive considering I was in a closet full of weed smoke.
My brother-from-another-mother Jesse & I were 18 years old and worshipped at the altar of weird. Ever since the moment we heard the air raid sirens that open Black Sabbath’s Paranoid, we were on board. One of our regular activities was to record the strangest collage of footage we could find from public access TV throughout the week and present the findings to one-up each other on the weekends, most often amidst clouds full of the stickiest of the icky. We also recorded a series of bizarre, improvised songs (amazingly enough before our “drug phase”) we would eventually title Warm Soapy Enema. So Jesse was shocked to find out through his older brother that there was an underground duo doing the same thing, only at freak levels we could barely fathom.
On one night of decadent smokeupery, Jesse had planned a surprise for me. Out of nowhere, he quickly ushered me to his bedroom closet, handed me a water bong, and yelled “HEY YOU NEED TO SMOKE THIS AND LISTEN! YOU CAN’T COME OUT!” After the closet was appropriately fishbowled, I gave the go ahead and heard a cassette screech to life.
He had the change done at the shop
earlobes for cocks
He had his balls thrown over the top
like a mop of hair
He had his buttocks transferred to his cheeks on his face
April, April doom
Because then where would the poop come out of?
Well, he decided he wanted a vagina down south
Where his belly button once stood, now stood a cock
With a mouth at the end that ate the food
Oh, well, what a peculiar guest he was at summer swimming parties
What with the nipples protruding from his eyelids
And, of course, beneath his chin the penis…
I was both horrified and exhilarated by what I heard. I imagined two shut-ins living in an old cabin recording these maddening diatribes living some kind of Henry Darger existence. That these two men were living the homosexual, orgiastic lifestyle they were singing about, perhaps during recording. Or that these tapes were found in an abandoned house and there was no explanation as to their origin, that they had just been passed around and dubbed and redubbed and played at summer swimming parties.
After I was released from the fog closet, Jesse & I learned the truth about The Frogs, that the Flemion brothers were buds with the likes of Smashing Pumpkins and Pearl Jam. It was kind of a letdown compared to the fantasies, as the truth often is, but those fantasies are alive and pulse through The Frogs’ prolific output of brilliantly twisted compositions. I continued to listen to their cassettes, and loved them more with each listen, as I do to this day. It was a long time before I heard live bootlegs (I regret that I never had the pleasure of seeing them live), but when I did I was surprised all over again to hear the difference in their powerhouse shows, much like the dichotomy between Guided By Voices’ lo-fi recordings and anthemic live sets.
The Frogs certainly aren’t for everybody. I’ve tried to make converts out of many people and have grown accustomed to the piercing look of confusion and disapproval that most often accompanies the effort. And that’s fine by me. With those who got it, I’ll always feel a kinship.
Like all other ardent Frogs believers, I am deeply saddened by the death of Dennis Flemion. I wish his brother Jimmy and the rest of his family peace. I like to think his being still floats around our ether, running its hands through spines, making all things it touches much more inappropriate, interesting and brilliant.