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Minimum Wage Rock & Roll

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Album Review

In the 1950s, rock & roll started out as black music, but you wouldn't have guessed that to pick up Rolling Stone or Creem in the early '80s — by that time, rock was almost exclusively the province of skinny white guys, and black artists were only to be found on the R&B charts, as if Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Jimi Hendrix had never happened. So if there was more than a bit of novelty in the music of the BusBoys, that's not to say that what they were doing wasn't important or necessary — as one of the first African-American groups to emerge to national prominence in the new wave scene, the BusBoys were willing to embrace the contradictions and confront the stereotypes that faced black musicians playing what had come to be known as "white" music. If some of the jokes are a bit forced, they're also pretty funny, especially "There Goes the Neighborhood" ("The whites are moving in!/They'll bring their next of kin!") and "KKK" ("Gonna join the Ku Klux Klan/And play in a rock & roll band"), while the music was certainly prescient, blending straight-ahead rock & roll and old-school R&B with George Clinton-esque absurdity and harmonies and new wave synthesizer squeals at a time when Prince was just edging into similar territory (and well before Cameo dropped the B-52's-ish Alligator Woman). Meanwhile, "Minimum Wage" and "D-Day" faced universal anxieties with honesty and bitter humor, and the band plays with fire and enthusiasm throughout. Not exactly up there with Bad Brains, Minimum Wage Rock & Roll is still smart and enthusiastic rock & roll that's unafraid to take chances; too bad the BusBoys never managed another album this strong.


Formed: Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

The BusBoys were a Los Angeles-based rock & roll band made up of five African-Americans and a Hispanic who played satirically upon their ethnic origins in songs with titles like "There Goes the Neighborhood." They were formed in the late '70s with a lineup of brothers Brian O'Neal (keyboards, vocals) and Kevin O'Neal (bass, vocals), Gus Louderman (vocals), Mike Jones (keyboards, vocals), Victor Johnson (guitar), and Steve Felix (drums). Essentially a novelty act, they nevertheless impressed listeners...
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Minimum Wage Rock & Roll, The Busboys
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