Concrete Blonde Biography

After spending several years in the embryonic form of Dream 6 (under which name they released an EP for Happy Hermit in France), Hollywood, California, USA-based rock outfit Concrete Blonde formed in 1986. The founders of the group, former Sparks member Jim Mankey (James Mankey, 23 May 1952, Pennsylvania, USA; guitar) and Johnette Napolitano (b. 22 September 1957, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USA; bass/vocals), were joined by Harry Rushakoff (b. 17 November 1959, USA; drums) for their 1986 debut on I.R.S. Records. Its alluring mix of energy, sensitivity and streetwise wit secured Concrete Blonde a positive response from both the music press and more mature rock audiences.

For the 1989 follow-up Free, Napolitano handed over bass playing to new member Alan Block, allowing her to concentrate on singing. Irrespective of this, she remained the focus of the band. Her remarkable voice, both assertive and vulnerable, gave Concrete Blonde much of its poignancy and power. Bloodletting (1990) was perhaps the band’s strongest album in terms of emotional intensity, essaying a painful dissection of an ailing relationship (all songwriting handled by Napolitano). It included the introduction of new percussionist Paul Thompson (b. 13 May 1951, Newcastle upon Tyne, England, ex-Roxy Music), with the band now effectively a trio of Napolitano, Mankey and Thompson, and featured their biggest hit, ‘Joey’. Rushakoff returned to the line-up on 1992’s Walking In London, which included a female-sung cover version of James Brown’s ‘It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World’. Mexican Moon (1993) included Hispanic influences, and continued the vein of sincere, sassy and seductive rock that made the band such a welcome presence during the late 80s and early 90s.

In 1995 Napolitano left to form Vowel Movement (with Holly Jean Vincnet) and Pretty & Twisted (with Marc Moreland of Wall Of Voodoo), and the rest of the group decided to disband. Napolitano and Mankey reunited in 1997 to record Concrete Blonde Y Los Illegals with the Los Angeles-based Los Illegals. A more permanent reunion took place in September 2001, when the duo reunited with Rushakoff to play at a benefit concert for the New York Firefighters 9-11 Disaster Relief Fund. Two new studio albums emerged during this period, Group Therapy (2002) and Mojave (2004), the latter featuring new drummer Gabriel Ramirez-Quezada, following which the band was laid to rest for a second and final time.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.