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TV’s Most Surreal Musical Performances – No Doubt

The year was 1990, and No Doubt was a band hardly living up to its name. Months away from inking a deal with Interscope on the strength of a modest-but-growing local following, the Gwen Stefani-fronted outfit was brimming with youthful energy (and some stage jitters) when it popped up on a local California cable-access show called ‘The Gig’ for its first-ever appearance on TV.

Truth be told, there was little that stood out about the show. No Doubt came across the same as pretty much any ska-obsessed SoCal high school band on a local TV show probably would have at the time, although they were a few years past high school (the members looked very young for their respective ages), and they were admittedly a bit tighter musically than your average up-and-coming ska band.

And even though she was a far cry from the girl-power/sex kitten pinup that she would soon become, there was still a certain something about young Stefani that sparkled — yes, even in those hideous over-sized overalls that would soon be replaced by midriff-baring crop tops and track pants. Her dance moves were still a little undeveloped too, but look closely and maybe you could see the seeds of a future pop superstar being planted before your eyes.

Besides that, though, it’s the overall unremarkable vibe that makes this clip so surreal — the fact that nothing about it screamed, “In a few years this band is going to sell a gazillion copies of its third album (‘Tragic Kingdom’), snag a couple Grammy nominations, score a worldwide No. 1 hit single and hit the road for a wildly successful two-and-a-half year tour.” Instead, it seems to say, “Be sure to catch these kids at an Orange County house party this summer and you won’t be disappointed.”

After laying down some seriously funky ska-punk grooves with the tunes ‘Up Yours’ and ‘Big City Train’ and going through member introductions, ‘The Gig”s hostess gravitated to Stefani to ask a few simple questions. She was able to answer a query about how long the band had been together (“about three years”) before stumbling on a question about where their next concert would be (“Next we’re going to be playing at Spanky’s Cafe …,” Stefani tried to say, but she couldn’t wrap her tongue around the word “cafe” and the hostess had to help her out.

It’s an endearing moment of stage fright captured for all of eternity, and one you probably wouldn’t get to see again. By the time No Doubt were splattered all over TV a few years later, they were supremely confident, self-assured and sexy rock stars. Finally, a band living up to its name.

Next Surreal TV Performance: Elvis Costello Sabotages the Beastie Boys

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