14 March 2007

VH2 Presents
Behind the Pants: The Story of FLASHPANTS

Flashpants. The very sound of the word conjures up visceral images of the heady days of arena rock, the boisterous era of glamrock and heavy metal. It embodies the glitz and glory of those early years with a fusion of power, grace, and allure that has never been equalled or challenged by any other Scottish metal band here in the Cleveland metropolitan area. Tonight we examine the myth, the legend, the history of this seminal and influential ensemble of top rate musicians. We see them at their most glamourous as they dominate the stage, but we also go behind the scenes to examine up close and personal the horrific demons they faced as a band, and how they were able to conquer them.

It was in 1981 in the dingy urban core of Glasgow that Nigel Van Neuffison had a chance meeting with Dugald McCormick. Nigel, a promising young musician studying the ukelele at the local university, had been intrigued by the previous decade of guitar rock that had emanated from their English neighbors to the south.

Nigel Van Neuffison

Nigel Van Neuffison: Hawaiian music was my first love, admittedly. I've never quite given up on it, I always retreat to it, kind of a happy little oasis in a raging sandstorm of rock. So in a way I'm a something of a dromedary camel. And FLASHPANTS is the little Arabian fellow that I carry around on my back. So
sometimes it was nice to strum my ukelele under the palms at the oasis, but other times it was great to carry me little Arabian mate out into the endless dunes of heavy metal.
Dugald, a prize-winning Alpine yodelling champion, was working as an apprentice at a local toy shoppe, and made his paltry earnings glueing the beards onto imported Chinese nutcracker dolls.

Dugald McCormick

Dugald McCormick: Well, the toy shoppe was quite formative for me...it was my life at the time! Several of the songs I wrote were inspired by it. For example, "Nutcrackers and Ballbreakers", that was mostly drawn from my toy
shoppe days. Mostly.

They met to discuss their joint musical vision in a local watering hole outside the city limits. Dugald had actually meant that they meet in the local pub, but Nigel, always the literalist, assumed he meant a real watering hole, so they sat in a meadow near a large metal water trough discussing their goals. Soon enough the local farmer chased them off with a blunderbuss, but not before Dugald had convinced Nigel to abandon his dreams of stardom on the Hawaiian music circuit and unite to conquer the world of rock. Soon after, Angus MacPhadden, the son of the noted botanist and art critic Adolphus MacPhadden, responded to an advert in the local paper to audition for the budding group, known at that time as "The Enchanted Visigoths". His skilled bass guitar chops as well as his thorough knowledge of the entire Barbra Streisand catalog were quickly noticed by Nigel and Dugald, and he was swiftly hired on as bassist. He had auditioned to play hammered dulcimer, and it is significant to note that his failure to gain that position would become a wellspring of intense bitterness and resentment in the years to come.

Angus MacPhadden

Angus MacPhadden: When I firs' met the other lads, I thought to meself, oy, here's a right pair of manky gollywobbler nancies! But I got over that, and we got on like ol' wockety chums from the bally harper brineys! Methinks, crikey!
Wot, ho, spiffy!
And yet one more piece of the puzzle was requisite to complete the picture. The group auditioned for a drummer with little success, as all the talented percussionists were being snapped up by bagpipe ensembles. However, when the three members were returning from performing for a traditional Hawaiian Bar Mitzvah in the highlands, they found a curious man loping along the side of the road. His name was Quentin Walpole. He adamantly claimed to be a retired Army colonel who had fought the Nazis in the Ardennes in 1944 despite his being visibly under the age of 20. While the rest of the band seemed content to dump the confused young vagrant at the next petrol stop, Angus took a liking to him and took him home as a sort of adopted pet.

Quentin Walpole

Quentin Walpole: Right, Angus is me mate. Good lad there, solid backbone, heart of gold. The sort of lad that you'd want in your foxhole when the Gerries would come over the ridge. Salt of the earth.
Angus taught Quentin the ins and outs of rock drumming and soon Quentin was revered widely for his percussion prowess. He was courted by the likes of Pete Townshend and Elton John for studio work, but his loyalty to Angus was unquenchable. Nigel and Dugald were amazed at his improvement and quickly moved to accept him into the band. A new name was thought to be appropriate, and though no one truly recalls whose idea it was, the name FLASHPANTS was immediately accepted.

Nigel Van Neuffison: Well, Flashpants sort of encompasses all that we are, really. We've got the flash, you have to admit. With the noted exception of
Henry Kissinger, can you think of anyone flashier than us? And as far as pants
are concerned, we all are very keen wearers of pants. Except for Dugald...he
tends to wear kilts. It became a bit of a problem in the early years, when he
would go...well...unencumbered. We had to remove high kicks from his repertoire
of stage antics in the interest of public decency.
After recieving some atrociously bad financial advice and signing an aggressively high-interest mortgage on a llama ranch in Naples, the band decided to move to Cleveland, Ohio for tax shelter purposes. There they found their niche and began a steadily rising phenomenom on the local scene. Soon the streets were abuzz with the word "FLASHPANTS". They released their first album, "Not Another Flash In The Pants" in 1982. Unfortunately Nigel, who authored a majority of the songs, had unwittingly rewritten a half-dozen AC/DC songs with only very minor changes, for example, "For Those About To Flash" and "Thunderskunk". The resulting legal setbacks hampered their financial success but their popularity grew despite the bad publicity.

Angus MacPhadden: Those were the good years, says me wop-haired dingo
bat knockwally! All day long the squiffy'd be chiming like a knobby-kneed wimshaw, mate!

Dugald McCormick: Aye, inn't that the truth!

The band's second album, "Back In A FLASHPANTS", was released in 1982 to tepid critical reception. It was around this period under the growing stress of touring the Cleveland club circuit that Quentin, feeling overlooked and overworked, turned to croquet. His first games took place over the summer at various lawn parties in the suburbs.

Nigel Van Neuffison: Well, it was about that time...I think Quentin just felt a bit outside the circle, right, and a bit lonesome. Croquet was innocent
at first, we all experimented with it, just a bit o' fun. I don't think any of
us had any idea what it was capable of. We don't often speak of it these
Dugald even gave Quentin a travel croquet set as gift, hoping to reach out to their disillusioned drummer. It was a move that he would regret for years to come. A seed had been planted that would bear the fruit of tragedy. In 1984 the band released their third album, which was erroneously labelled "FLASHPANTS XII" due to the band's failure to properly comprehend the Roman numeral system. The haunting ukelele-driven ballad "Smell The Worcestershire" was a big hit locally and gained considerable airplay despite its condiment-inspired lyrics. It was at this point that in a dramatic misunderstanding they hired Don King as their band manager. He and the band quickly agreed to part ways after a tragic incident in which Nigel was given a concussion in a boxing ring. Ever since that time he has found it difficult to say the word "cheadle" which unfortunately meant that he could never, ever again sing the backing vocals to "Another One Flashes The Pants".

Dugald McCormick: You've done got it this time, Nig'.

Nigel Van Neuffison: (singing into studio mic): We're gonna take
you to Cheady...choddle...chuddy...chhh...chhh...oh BOLLOCKS!

Also in 1984, they released their first and only Christmas album, "FLASHPANTS For The Holidays", which was panned viciously by the critics and largely ignored by fans. Although mostly a collection of heavy metal interpretations of Christmas classics, it had one original composition, a disturbingly lewd number entitled "Pull On A Warm Pair Of Festive FLASHPANTS".

Quentin Walpole: I think a great many people misunderstood our Christmas album. It was chock full of holiday cheer, packed to the brim. I mean, honestly,who says whips and leather can't be cheery?
The next year things started to go awry. Quentin's growing obsession with croquet had started to concern the band. His every waking moment was spent in pursuit of croquet...when he couldn't play, he drew diagrams of croquet fields, plotted croquet strategies, and even wrote a book entitled "Quentin's Winning Croquet Methodologies". It was never published. Finally, the band members' growing concerns culminated when Quentin showed up for a gig wearing nothing but a suit woven entirely of croquet hoops. It was the last straw. With great sadness, Angus checked Quentin into the obscure sports wing of Ohio's preeminent substance abuse clinic.

Angus MacPhadden: Aye, twas a great pity. I'd never been more down on the crock, if you follow, than when the chogged-up pommy wagged the starboard hives, by Saint Mary! Twas a pity, truly.
The band members recognized they could never replace Quentin, and they decided to go ahead and finish the rest of the record in progress with a drum machine. The resultant album, "Flash Flood", was universally dismissed as utter tripe.

Dugald McCormick: I found the reviews in 85 to be a bit cruel. Tripe I could handle, it was a bit harsh, but fair. Once we were called "audible cancer", that smarted a bit but turned out to be a smashing title for our boxed set. But when the critics started to publicly burn effigies, we knew it was time to do a bit of self-reflection.
The band, despondent at the loss of their drummer and their success, officially called it quits in January 1986.

Nigel Van Neuffison: Well, naturally, I wouldn't want Quentin to think that the downfall of the band was his fault. It would be unfair for me to say that no one else contributed to it, and that if he hadn't had that stupid little
obsession with lawn darts or whatever it was we'd all be very rich and popular
still. I don't think I'd want him to think that he is responsible for all that,
no, that just wouldn't be very fair.
After the breakup, Dugald went back to Glasgow to humbly ask for his job back at the toy shoppe. Unfortunately the shopmaster had found a new apprentice as well as a Chinese supplier of pre-bearded nutcrackers, so Dugald went into commercial real estate, and was quite successful in procuring lots for strip-mining. Nigel fulfilled his life-long dream in releasing the solo album "Odes To Maggie", a collection of traditional Hawaiian love songs dedicated to Margaret Thatcher. Angus, being free to pursue his own musical ambitions, formed the group "The New Visigoths" in which he played lead dulcimer. They released one album, "Advanced Metallurgy", had a brief chart hit with their remix of "The Way We Were", and subsequently disbanded. He went on to become a Daoist accountant. Quentin, meanwhile, slowly came to grips with his addiction, and began the healing process. In 1992 he suffered a relapse when he took up crochet, which turned out to sound too much like "croquet" for Quentin to be able to handle. However, after a few more years of therapy, Quentin was released, 100% croquet free, in 1997.


Matt said...

Woooo! Flashpants!

I got to see the reunion concert in the early naught's (00's). It was a little sad, though, as the exaggerated forearms and constant downward gazing of Quentin are obvious signs of his former addiction. Never again will their likes pass through this classic rock town again. I was a part of history.

The Irascible Neufonzola said...



We got a couple videos of it, but unfortunately neither camera man caught the best part of the night...when the curtains opened, spilling expensive fog out, a huge FP sign (partially seen in the images above) covered in foil was lowered, or swung outwards, dramatically I might add, from the ceiling, right as we started to play "The Immigrant Song" complete with Viking helmets.

It was a particularly poignant variety of "bitchin'".

I meant to make the above into an actual mini-documentary, to show at a reunion FP concert, just before it got started. Sadly, nobody, including myself errr Nigel, got bored enough to do that.