Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s Frogs are about as important as an alternative band could be. The duo’s insane 1989 faux- gay-power-folk album It’s Only Right and Natural became something of a cult classic. Nirvana and Pearl Jam had it played over PA systems before performances; the Blake Babies named their EP Rosy Jack World after a song on it, and were known to cover “I Don’t Care If You Disrespect Me (Just So You Love Me)” as an encore; the Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan and James Iha have joined the Frogs on stage at their rare, mind-blowing live appearances.
There is very little, uh, “hard” information available regarding the Frogs. Brothers Jimmy and Dennis Flemion were first noted on the “thank you” list for Die Kreuzen’s Cows and Beer EP back in ’82. Since then, the duo has done a lot of home recording. The self-titled first album is a curiously out-of-time blend of Anglo-clever pop-clichés, heavily referential to Roy Wood and Sparks but with some unusual Christian/smut lyrics tossed into the stew. That few people noted its release is no great surprise.
Then, according to rumor, the Frogs began to send around cassettes of a similarly appointed second LP, backed with some examples of the pair “goofing around.” The latter caught the ear of Gerard Cosloy, then head of Homestead Records, and some of the songs were issued as the Frogs’ second LP. Declaring themselves leaders of the “Gay Supremacist” movement, the Flemings/Frogs caused a lot of ruckus with their (presumably) tongue in cheek lyrical thrust. Encased in a sleeve showing a little boy wearing a pink triangle badge, songs like “Been a Month Since I Had a Man” and “These Are the Finest Queen Boys (I’ve Ever Seen)” generated an enormous amount of pissed-off press, but the crazy Tyrannosaurus Rex-like psychedelia and the weird aura created by the lyrics deserve to be heard.
It’s Only Right and Natural sparked a ferocious controversy, played out in any number of public forums. Were the Frogs actually gay or were they homophobes? Were they making fun of homophobia? Were they making fun of political correctness? Was this argument even relevant? Dennis and Jimmy answered at least one of these questions, and upped the ante, when they reappeared in 1991 with a new (unreleased) recording, Racially Yours, and a new concept. This time, they weren’t gay any more. One of them was in blackface and the other was in whiteface and they did songs about racial tension. Later tours’ repertoires dipped into both albums, and added songs aimed to offend bandwagoneering musicians (“In the Year of Our Lord Grunge”) and, well, absolutely everybody (“Fuck Off”). Incidentally, Jay Tiller of Couch Flambeau served as the Frogs’ tour bassist.
In the meantime, the Frogs kept recording tape after tape of their “Made Up Songs,” distributed to anybody who happened to chance onto their mailing list. A boxed set (!) of their best songs was planned for release on Homestead in the early ’90s; when the label changed managers, it was called off. A live album recorded at CBGB on the Right and Natural tour, featuring an over-the-top medley of “Free Bird,” “The Pretender” and “Luka,” was readied in 1992 for Collision Time, but the label folded before it could be released. And Racially Yours was too much of a hot potato for any label to handle. For a while in 1994, El Recordo planned to put it out, but that fell through.
A few Frogs recordings have snuck out here and there, though. The mediocre “Smack Goes the Dragon” appeared on the 7-inch boxed set compilation Bruce Lee, Heroin and the Punk Scene (on the San Francisco label Massacre at Central Hi); in ’94, Matador released a single with heartfelt, distorted live versions of the gay-period “Adam + Steve” and the race-period “Now You Know You’re Black.” In one of the strangest incidents in recent musical history, the Frogs appeared on the B-side of Pearl Jam’s “Immortality” single, straight-facedly covering that band’s “Rearviewmirror.” Two Frogs records were released by Matador in 1996: a five-years-delayed single entitled “Here Comes Santa’s Pussy” and a compilation of “Made Up Songs” called My Daughter the Broad.