10 Best Fishbone Songs
Angelo Moore and company have been knocking out ska, funk, punk and rock tunes since 1979, before anyone knew what to do with this L.A. crew’s wild infusion of cross-wired genres and unbridled songwriting skill. While Fishbone have seen their share of trouble — including the “kidnapping” of guitarist Kendall Jones, who might have been brainwashed by a religious cult — they’ve managed to endure. Through personnel changes and record-company snubs, they’ve churned out loads of awe-inspiring music that defies easy categorization, and their live shows have remained intense, year in and year out. In honor of these genre smasher-uppers, we present this list of the 10 Best Fishbone Songs.
There’s no way you can listen to ‘Everyday Sunshine,’ which also happens to be the title of a Fishbone documentary, and not have a big-ass smile spread across your face. This upbeat, ultra-cheerful song grooves along nonstop … but don’t let the joyful beats and happy-go-lucky vibe fool you. The lyrics betray a yearning for a better place for all of humanity, where suffering simply no longer exists: “No wants or needs, nor sign of greed could rule our soul.” Sunshine is on the menu for everyone, and no one should ever go without.
‘Ma and Pa’
‘Ma and Pa,’ the next entry on our list of the 10 Best Fishbone Songs, is bit of funk and a whole lot of ska fused into one delicious track. It’s an incredibly easy tune to bounce around the house to. In typical Fishbone fashion, the quick, uplifting beat offers a contrast to the lyrics, all about a child of divorce trying to figure out why her parents are always fighting. Taking the side of the kid (a little sister), Moore asks, “Hey Ma and Pa, what the hell is wrong with y’all?” Maybe the parents would have fought less if they had only listened to a little more Fishbone.
‘V.T.T.L.O.T.F.D.G.F.’ is a quirky punk rock song from the early days of Fishbone. The crazy title alone merits inclusion on our list, and for those unfamiliar with the decidedly unconventional thinking that has always characterized this band, ‘V.T.T.L.O.T.F.D.G.F.’ stands for “Voyage to the Land of the Freeze-Dried Godzilla Farts.” The sick beats, thick guitar licks and chanting verses are somewhat reminiscent of the Red Hot Chili Peppers track ‘Fight Like a Brave,’ which didn’t arrive until a couple of years later in 1987. It makes sense, since both bands come from the scorching heat of the L.A. music scene.
While ‘Everyday Sunshine’ speaks of illumination for everyone, the hypersonic ‘Sunless Saturday’ kicks the listener in the head with its frenetic pace and lyrics that describe a planet full of “pestilence” and “dung heaps piled at least a mile high.” The sun will only return when “the truth is seen by each and every eye.” This song, about an awakening social conscience, was the band’s highest-charting hit. If you have energy to burn off, just spin this track and rampage through your house until you pass out. The high-octane beat is infectious.
‘Lemon Meringue,’ No. 6 on our list of the 10 Best Fishbone Songs, is good ol’ funk-soul jam, backed up by a killer horn section and a frisky chorus. The lyrics are a little cryptic at first, and no, this song has nothing to do with pie. Rather, it’s a critique on commercial music too saccharine for true lovers of harmony and melody to stomach. It seems the boys would prefer artists stay true to their art form instead of selling out and serving up sweet musical goodies that might be appetizing at first bite but ultimately do nothing for the body or the soul.
‘Fight the Youth’
‘Fight the Youth’ is one of Fishbone’s toughest rock anthems. The opening power chords slug you in the gut, just before the melody sets in, telling you about “another story of stolen faith and tragic glory.” The songs swings back and forth between distorted, hard-edged funk and all-out hard rock, ripping through the softer parts of the tune at the bridge and carrying on through to the chorus: “Fight the youth, the youth with poisoned minds, ignite the truth, restore sight to these blind.”
The oh-so-happy horn parts that are the spine of ‘Unyielding Conditioning,’ the next entry on our 10 Best Fishbone Songs list, will have you jumping up and down with pure joy — at least for the first two-thirds of the track. This stirring song calls on the listener to remove the shackles of someone “trained” and “claimed” by his or her world, and then eliminate all bigotry, so no one has to ever “live on bended knees.” The horns veer off on a looser, darker path toward the end of the song, but overall, it’s still an incredibly inspirational jam.
‘Bonin’ In the Boneyard’
‘Bonin’ In the Boneyard’ is yet another extremely catchy Fishbone staple from back in the day, when the lads were still just young and funky punk rock boys. Unlike many Fishbone songs, there isn’t a lot of social commentary or hidden symbolism to wade through here. Basically, the title and main verse say it all: “Oh! Got me bonin’ in the boneyard yeah! It’s alright, yeah!” With its great funk bass line, it’s a damn fun song to listen to live. While we nod our heads, we’ll let you try and figure out what Moore, cohort Philip Fisher and producer David Kahne were trying to say with this one.
‘Party at Ground Zero’
Anyone who loves Fishbone or music with tons of horns and ska-oriented tempo changes should dig ‘Party at Ground Zero,’ No. 2 on our list of the 10 Best Fishbone Songs. The tune jumps from a somewhat lethargic opening to a pumped up second verse that sounds like something you’d hear blasted out from hot Dixieland jazz band marching down the streets of New Orleans during Mardi Gras. This crowd favorite also includes a cool blues guitar riff and plenty of other musical surprises sprinkled throughout. It’s about nuclear war, but there’s no doom to be found here. It’ll keep audiences happy and grooving along to the end.
‘Shakey Ground’ (Cover)
‘Shakey Ground’ isn’t a Fishbone original. The Temptations were the first group to give this superb funk song life, so Fishbone was already starting with some outstanding source material. While they’re plenty capable on their own, they decide here to inject even more talent into the mix by adding John Frusciante and Flea of the Chili Peppers, turning up the dial on the funk-o-meter to 11. When Fishbone’s Norwood Fisher and Flea combine bass skills, they achieve a level of cosmic funkiness not of this world.