Wayne County and the Electric Chairs

  • Wayne County and the Electric Chairs
  • The Electric Chairs (UK Safari) 1978 
  • Storm the Gates of Heaven (UK Safari) 1979 
  • Things Your Mother Never Told You (UK Safari) 1979 
  • The Best of Jayne/Wayne County and the Electric Chairs (UK Safari) 1982 
  • Jayne County
  • Bock 'n' Roll Resurrection (UK Safari) 1981 
  • Private Oyster (UK Revolver) 1986 
  • So New York (Ratcage) 2003 

Georgia-born transsexual County was a (male) fixture on the budding New York club scene in the early ’70s, stretching the limits of vulgarity and outrage on stages alongside the New York Dolls. After writing and recording the theme song for the legendary venue Max’s Kansas City, County migrated to England, just as the London punk scene was getting underway. Having been commercially unappreciated at home, County found a sympathetic British label and recorded a series of albums, none of which were ever released Stateside.

High camp posturing and foul-mouthed (but not unfunny) lyrics form the basis of County’s work. Along with a skillful trio playing routine rock, The Electric Chairs finds County singing (with more enthusiasm than talent) touching ballads (“Eddie & Sheena,” a minor hit single recounting a love story between a teddy boy and a punk), catty putdowns (“Bad in Bed”) and trotting out the old narcissistic scene celebration of “Max’s Kansas City.”

Storm the Gates of Heaven has a great cover, was pressed on sickly colored lavender vinyl and showcases two new guitarists hired to replace one left behind. The songs are less contrived and more interesting; the beginnings of a band sound can be discerned. All in all, a vast improvement that even includes a smoking version of “I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night.” Flying Lizard David Cunningham produced the subsequent Things Your Mother Never Told You with the same lineup, but came up with a flat-sounding, dull LP.

A New Year’s Eve gig in Toronto yielded the live Rock’n’Roll Resurrection. Fronting a largely new band, Jayne (following the surgery) belts out a shambling selection of non-hits, including such gutter faves as “Cream in My Jeans” and “F… Off.” Pretty dire. A nicely packaged best-of collection (pressed on white vinyl) finally brought together everything you’d ever want to hear by Wayne or Jayne.

In the mid-’80s, County made the self-produced Private Oyster (reissued as Amerikan Cleopatra). Proof that some things really never change, Jayne sounds exactly the same as ever on Betty Grable’s Legs!: five songs recorded with an old-style rock trio. County still has the identical voice (and singing ability), songs like “Paranoia Paradise” are the same trashy junk she/he’s always written and the hapless band sounds totally unaware that the ’80s have come and gone.

[Ira Robbins]