Angelyne Revisits Her Early DIY Records, Talks New Music, and Reaching Critical Mass
Words like "legend", "icon", "institution", and "billboard queen" are commonplace in interviews, documents, and write-ups associated with Angelyne, and they are indeed warranted in any conversation about her place in Los Angeles pop culture history. Prefiguring today's dense landscape of social media and reality TV, Angelyne occupies a worthy place in the history books for her audacious and effective DIY approach to self-promotion.
And while so much has been - and continues to be - explored on the topic of Angelyne's persona (inexorably connected to her seemingly ubiquitous billboards in L.A., particularly in the 1980s and '90s), we at WMF have long wanted to specifically consider her music and obtain first-hand information about it. Imagine our delight, then, when we were afforded the opportunity to sit down with Angelyne and discuss a body of work that dates from 1978's Baby Blue 45 and leads all the way up to her new vinyl release of "Heart". And though we only planned on talking music with the Billboard Queen, we happily got a lot more than that.
Bobby Weirdo: I wanted to start by talking the Baby Blue 45 from 1978. It’s really hard to find, and my understanding is that it was released in England rather than the U.S. Do you have any background to that release, especially why it was released in England?
Angelyne: The Baby Blue record was the first thing that I recorded. My boyfriend at the time, Jordan, had the band, and he had already recorded [the music]. It had my voice on it. I did it in three takes, which was amazing. It went to England because Jordan thought that all these bands went to England first, made it there, and then would make it here. It was a silly thing, but cute.
BW: And though Baby Blue released the single in England, you were rehearsing at the Masque in the '70s, playing live shows in L.A., and even opening for the Screamers at The Whisky A Go Go. What was that time like for you?
A: It was pretty cool playing all the different clubs in L.A. at the time. We plastered posters of me all over the streets to advertise the band, and we had music on KROQ. It was fun, but it was also a grind, because it was just before I really made it. It really wasn’t my niche, so the minute the first billboard went up - boom, I’d made it as a billboard queen.
BW: The next step for you was to release music as a solo artist: First, you released two versions of the “Too Much to Touch” single, and then and the eponymous Angelyne album in 1982, which had “Kiss Me L.A.” on it. What are your memories of that era?
A: I think of those times as successful – we got “Kiss Me L.A.” on KROQ, but it wasn’t the high that I got when I got the billboard up. That was total success. “Kiss Me L.A.” only has two sentences in it – “Kiss me L.A.” and “I’m getting off on you”. I mean, it works.
BW: By the time you did “My List”, you’d moved away from the punkier sounding songs toward more new wave territory. Would you agree?
A: If you listen to all my songs, none of them sounds like any of the others. Did you know that? If you listen to some other bands’ albums, you hear that all the songs are similar. But everything I do is different. So “Kiss Me L.A.” was punky, and then “Too Much to Touch” is different…all the songs are different.
I just don’t like doing the same thing over and over; I want to do something different all the time. I’ve done gothic...which one’s gothic, Mr. Know-it-All?
BW: I don’t know which one I’d call gothic…
A: “I’m So Lucky”. That’s a good example of something completely different. It’s kind of industrial-gothic. It was recorded in my honor when I ran for mayor in 2002. It was live at the El Rey Theatre on Wilshire.
BW: Was “My List” a turning point for you? It seems like that song really captures the spirit of Angelyne.
A: “My List” was not a turning point. It was just another song that seems to be a favorite of so many people, however, “Kiss Me L.A.” is liked by almost everybody – even people who hate rock and roll. A six-year-old liked it and a ninety-two-year-old liked it, so “Kiss Me L.A.” is the quintessential example of my music. If I were going to shoot my music up to Mars, or Venus – where I was born - that would be the one.
BW: Your song “Animal Attraction” is heard in the movie Earth Girls Are Easy.
A: “Animal Attraction” took a whole year to record. It was not like the first thing I recorded – “Rock & Roll Rebel” - which took three takes. I don’t know why it took a year, but it sure ended up in a good place. When I’m on the screen on Earth Girls Are Easy, it's playing.
BW: You’ve been working with Charlotte Ercoli Coe recently, right?
A:Yes, I’ve been working with Charlotte. Josh Scholl of Skim Milk introduced her to me for a T shirt and skateboard collaboration, and she did a wonderful job on a video at Zebulon. We're thinking of having her edit one of my music videos, “Tangerine Rose” [which] is another one of my favorite songs. I like them all, so if other songs are listening, don’t get jealous. It’s OK, it’ll be your turn. I’ve already filmed the video, and I just need to have it edited. It’s gorgeous – I’m on a bed wearing black lingerie holding a tangerine rose, with the wind wisping through the curtains.
BW: Is pink still your power color?
A: Pink is a power color because it defines that I am someone who is different. It’s so powerful, because a lot of people wouldn’t use pink on their car because it would make everybody stare at them. The reason I’m stared at is because I have a message for everybody. I inspire people; it’s beautiful.
BW: How did your new vinyl single “Heart” come about?
A: “Heart” is on NDN records. The label owner is Henrik Poulsen, and I absolutely love him. He’s all about the music; not about corporate. He offered “Heart” to me, I changed some of the melody, and we collaborated. That’s how it came about.
BW: When you’re writing melodies or lyrics, how do you write? Is it a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing, or do you have these ideas ready to go after working on them for some time?
A: Actually, all my music has been inspired by aliens. Haha!
BW: So what does it mean that your music is inspired by aliens?
A: I think other telepathic entities inspire us, and we’re their emissaries - I know I am. My troupe of aliens is trying to help humans and any sentient beings, including rocks and trees and other things, to elevate to a higher stage of consciousness. They’re doing it through me, and other people - probably her [points to Suzy Weirdo]. I’m not sure about you, though.
BW: What’s coming up for Angelyne in 2018 and 2019?
A: It’s all good, and it’s elevating upwards and upwards and upwards. But I do have to say just looking at you, I think Andy Warhol just dropped into your body – the good part of Andy Warhol. Let me ask you something: what do you think is coming up for me?
BW: I think the story of Angelyne is just beginning. If I heard about someone in an ancient civilization who had done what you’ve done, I would be curious about that person. I think that hundreds and thousands of years from now people will still talk about Los Angeles as one of the centers of our world, and that within that center, there was someone who did something far ahead of her time. I believe that you’re a visionary in that sense – way before reality TV, Instagram, and these kind of things, you created a way to get the word out about who you were. Rather than fading, I think people in the future will be even more interested in your story.
A: Actually, they say that an angelic, pink force or entity travels throughout time and morphs into whatever is going on at the time, like carrying a torch and passing it on. But long after I’m gone, I’m hoping civilization does behave itself and do the right thing by elevating its consciousness and getting the F out of here when it’s supposed to rather than loitering.
Suzy Weirdo: Is there anything specific about Los Angeles that has been particularly conductive or necessary for getting your message out, or for being the birthplace of Angelyne?
A: Well, it’s obvious that it’s the crossroads of the world – we have to start with that. It’s an energy that catapults and launches from here to the rest of the world. Basically, I’m sprinkled around the globe in different spots I hope, because it’s claustrophobic if it’s too much. I think when me being known reaches critical mass, that’s when I should leave, because if it’s too much power, it will kill me.
And then that power will spread to everybody. That’s a first; I’ve never told that to anybody. Like Alan Watts said, “When you get the message, hang up the phone.” That’s his thing - I have to think of a slogan for me... “Critical mass, and then I’m out of here.” That’s my job.