Is This Skynyrd? It’s Pretty Cool: The Strange Tale of Raging Slab

Raging Slab album cover

In some respects, the Wikipedia entry for New York’s Best Southern Rock band (yes, you read that correctly) Raging Slab is as (unintentionally) funny and as interesting as any band.

Raging Slab had a career blighted by incredibly poor luck, doubtless brought some of that on themselves*, yet began life with Deee-Lite’s Super DJ Dmitri on guitar (yes – that Dee-Lite, of “Groove Is In The Heart” fame)**, often gigged with hardcore punk bands such as the Butthole Surfers, had the unique feature (in the male dominated eighties hard rock scene) of boasting a female lead (slide) guitarist, (actually Greg Strzempka and  Elyse Steinman were a husband and wife team), supported Guns n Roses and were supported by “Mr Crowe’s Garden (before they became The Black Crowes) and through it all produced not one, but two albums that are amongst the best of the hard rock genre with a unique sound that was accurately described on their 1989 LP as “Lynyrd Skynyrd meets Metallica”.

I have an ongoing debate with a friend about what makes a great band. I reckon you only need one or two great records – it doesn’t matter if there are a couple that don’t quite hit the mark. Raging Slab are one of the bands I think about when I make this argument.

There’s something about slide guitar when played well that I can’t resist, from Muddy Waters’ playful “I Can’t Be Satisfied”, to George Harrison’s more deliberate tones on “Free As A Bird”. Raging Slab also used slide guitar to superb effect.

But before I wax lyrical, let’s start with the Spinal Tap bit:

This is a band which:

  1. Utilised the talents of over twenty different drummers…
  2. Named their 1987 debut album, “Assmaster”…
  3. Built a personal recording studio and called it “Slabby Road”.
  4. Recorded no less than three studio albums that the record company deemed not good enough to release – in just five years.

In addition to this, their lead guitarist left the band and rejoined a classic rock covers band (like Judas Priest in reverse), a tour was cancelled due to the drummer suffering from a knee injury, they were forced to go on hiatus for six years due to their record label not releasing them from their contract, (*takes deep breath*) and when they did regroup another European tour got postponed when their flight was scheduled to depart New York on 11th September 2001…

All this from a band whose debut single was called “Mr Lucky”…

Now we have got that out of our system, let’s look at the two album that makes this band special. They are respectively, 1989’s “Raging Slab” and 1993’s “Dynamite Monster Boogie Concert”.

The former is the most obviously influenced by Metallica, in the staccato riff of “Waiting for the Potion” and the fast paced “Don’t Dog Me” and “Get Off My Jollies”, “Dig a Hole” on the other hand could have sat on any of Aerosmith’s classic seventies albums – and strengthened them – whilst songs like “Sorry’s All I Got” and “Shiny Mama” are simply joyful and have stood the test of time, sounding sharp even now.

Raging Slab Dynamite Monster Boogie Concert album cover

The four year wait between the two albums included the band recording two rejected albums for RCA and subsequently being signed by Rick Rubin’s Def American label. The result was Dynamite Monster Boogie Concert, produced by Brendan O’Brien and featuring string arrangements by Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones.

Beavis and Butt-Head saw the video, asking “Is this Skynyrd?” “Heh, yeah, they’re pretty cool…”

And so they were. Opener “Anywhere But Here” might have had the Black Crowes spitting feathers of jealousy, whilst Mumford and Sons can only dream of writing something as beautiful as the proto-Mumford ballad (and banjo-led) “So Help Me”.

On the other hand, even Mumford and his sons might baulk at what are perhaps the least tender love song lyrics on album closer “Ain’t Ugly None”, which chorus goes “One thing I know / My baby ain’t ugly none”, which I can’t help feel is rather damning any girl with faint praise.

So why is Raging Slab not better known, more than 25 years after the release of the classic self titled major label debut?

Well, Grunge was one reason. The Slabs’ music didn’t quite fit into the mainstream, and “Dynamite…” was released less a year before the death of Kurt Cobain – when Grunge was at a commercial peak.

The other reason was that previously mentioned Record Company-enforced hiatus, and because the follow up to “Dynamite…” – 1996’s “Sing Monkey Sing” – was pretty disappointing.

Sometimes it seems, a band is capable of great things but struggles to live up to their early success. Raging Slab did better than many, and managed to hit the target twice.

That’s not so bad, right…?

* I can only speculate, but their 2001 song “The Dealer” contains the lyric “I’m in love with the needle and the dealer”. I’m assuming they aren’t talking about sewing.

** The first line up also included Warrior Soul’s Kory Clarke on drums.


19 responses to “Is This Skynyrd? It’s Pretty Cool: The Strange Tale of Raging Slab”

  1. 80smetalman Avatar

    Not quite Skynyrd but there is a definite Southern Boogie rock vibe to their sound. The one song reminded me a bit of Steve Earle’s “Copperhead Road.”

    Liked by 2 people

  2. J. Avatar

    Interesting bunch, eh? I honestly hadn’t heard of these dudes. Some o’ that stuff there is interesting (mostly the Crowes-like Anywhere But Here) so reckon I’ll investigate a bit further …

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      Great! There’s quite a Crowes vibe to “Dynamite…” I think…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. h82typ Avatar

    Listening to things missed…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. marycigarettes Avatar

    what i love here is how i get the feeling they’re quietly aware of the cartoon quality of the genres heritage. it somehow renders them less earnest than their own predecessors…. i agree entirely how chris rahhhhhbinson springs to mind in the vocals…
    wow…. they look set to be a huge mainstream success in the best and most fun way.


    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      They did. Shame it didn’t work out that way!


  5. 1537 Avatar

    Brilliant, I really enjoyed your write-up. I really enjoy their 2nd LP and any band calling an album ‘Assmaster’ just deserve worship, in my book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      It is quite a special title that one, isn’t it?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pablo Avatar

    Great little snippet into a band I was lucky enough to find Assmaster in 88 here in Australia
    Followed them ever since, but unfortunately they fell Right off the edge of the earth, even as far as tracking down if Greg and Elyse were doing anything these days?
    In they’re time The Slab obviously Rocked too Hard!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Eric Avatar

    I saw Raging Slab with Paw and Monster Magnet at Rock Candy in Seattle in August 1993. Being that Seattle was the birthplace of grunge (which was at the height of its popularity at the time) and since my brother and I were only in Seattle for one night, we decided to go out and look for some local bands. A local suggested Rock Candy. The lineup was Paw (sounded a lot like Pearl Jam) opening, then the Slab, with Monster Magnet headlining.
    The sound for Paw and Raging Slab was great and I particularly remember the chick playing slide guitar on an axe that looked like a map of the lower 48. I’d never heard of any of the bands, but was blown away by the first two. Strangely, I only remember Monster Magnet gaining any big success, yet we left half way through because they sounded like they didn’t practice.
    Hard to believe how great Raging Slab is and yet, they never really seemed to blow up. What a shame.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pablo Quintana Elizondo Avatar
    Pablo Quintana Elizondo

    Hi! Some years ago… (2004), I recorded (with a little mini-disc) this concert, in BILBAO (sala AZKENA), and now, I can share with all of you 🙂 I hope you like this little treasure (soon I share a link to download too). Sorry for my English, and Enjoy! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      Thank you! Fantastic stuff.


  9. Mattia Avatar

    Who knows if the band is still active?i haven’t heard news about them in more than 10 years,a great band!!


  10. Chris Ford Avatar

    Sing Monkey Sing and The Dealer are fantastic albums – really quite odd in places – Def American just didn’t get them. Sadly co-founder Elyse has recently passed away…


    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      Yes, just heard about that and posted a couple of things on Twitter. A great shame – it turned out Elyse was diagnosed with cancer three years ago and finally succumbed last week – a great pity.


  11. John Getze Avatar
    John Getze

    I was in a band in high school and we had the great fortune to open up for Raging Slab on the Monster Magnet/Paw tour in 1993. Not only were they amazing to watch live, but Greg and Elyse were two of the nicest people I’ve ever met. They went out of their way to make us feel welcome backstage and even cheered us on from the side of the stage while we played.

    As a result, it was with a heavy heart that I learned Elyse (who was still married to Greg at the time) passed away from cancer some years ago.

    God bless the Slab – true originals!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      It’s lovely to hear Greg and Elyse were so nice to you. Thank you for sharing that story.


  12. Thomas Neill Avatar
    Thomas Neill

    Loved the slab. Pronounced ‘Eat shit’ anyone? Love to hear those unreleased albums!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. stew herrera Avatar

    Great article and I always appreciate seeing folks spreading the love for RS. As for Sing Monkey Sing, perhaps different sequencing may have helped. I confess that I didn’t quite “get” all of it at first either, but it’s proven to be one of those records whose charms are a little elusive to the impatient. Tracks 1 and 2, “Shoulda Known” and “Econoliner” are perfect, classic, stoney Slab. I recommend jumping directly to the MASSIVE grooves of “C’mon and On” and “Lay Down” to keep the flow flowing. Give that disc a couple more spins, dude. “It” is in there. Boogie!


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