|The Amazing Story of the Greatest Band You've Probably Never Heard of...
Lou Miami and the Kozmetix
|This is a true story, one that probably won't be seen by many people, but one that needs to be told. It's the story of a man, a band and a certain time and place. The time is the late 1970's and early 1980's, the place is Boston and other parts of Massachusetts. The band and the man out front on vocals: Lou Miami and the Kozmetix. In the hallowed history of Boston rock and roll, this is one band that can not be overlooked. This is one fan's tribute, in hopes that this great band will not be forgotten.
The pictures on this page make up the majority of the precious few photos ever actually published on the group. Indeed, their recorded output goes along with the scant availability of images. In other words, there's not a lot to see or even listen to these days to remember the past, but there is a past worth retelling.
|Cover of a Boston rock magazine with one of the few articles ever written about Lou Miami|
|I first saw Lou Miami and the Kozmetix sometime around 1978, outside a movie theater in Boston for the opening of the movie La Cage Aux Folles. To go along with the premier of the movie, there was a drag queen contest, and Lou was the musical act. Bursting onto the stage like the human embodiment of a five car accident covered in hot fudge sauce in a hurricane, Lou Miami played a set of raw punk that night that nearly made Iggy Pop look polished. And to this day when I try and explain Lou to people I say that he was sort of a cross between Iggy Pop, Boy George, Devo and Helen Reddy.|
|It would be awhile before I was to see Lou perform again. most likely the next time was while attending UMass, Amherst. Somehwere around 1979 Lou often played at a bar near Smith College, where my friend Bo and I would go and get drunk and play pool while listening to Lou and the band rip through such 2-1/2 minute punk classics as Fight Fire With Fire, 1 Million BC, Lathe and Drill Press and of course THE BIGGIES - Boy Detective (Guys, you got to spy on the girl you love), My Baby Wears Rubber Pants (my personal favorite song of all time BTW, next to Rebel Rebel), and Blacklist (I wanna be on your Blacklist Baby, and I want it now!). Most shows started with the Them From Hawaii 5-0 and usually ended with Blackout (I will not be a victim of the Blackout!). These were great times. Legend even has it that "Galo invented wood" during this period (inside joke). We began to spread the word about Lou and before long we had the whole 3rd floor of Coolidge off to see Lou at The Blue Wall.|
|Meanwhile, back in Boston, Lou began to gain attention on the underground punk rock scene, and we would see him during summers and vacations back home, as he played legendary sets at such classic places as the Rat, the Channel, Jonathan Swifts, Spit, and a host of other Boston institutions most of which are now sadly gone. Lou even opened on a few occassions for the Cramps (the legendary psychobilly band led by the incomparable Lux Interior on vocals and atop speakers, and Poison Ivy, the world's most desirable woman, on guitar) at the famous Channel. About this time (I'm guessing 1980) Lou Miami and the Kozmetix released their first recording, the infamous Kozmetix bag 45 picured here, Side A being the live favorite Fascist Lover (A fascist lover made my mother and then my mother made me!), backed with their own unique interrpretation of the Lulu hit, To Sir With Love, complete with all kinds of B&D innuendo. With the great Jack Rootoo on guitar (more on him in a bit), the Kozmetix had finally captured at least a small amount of their manic magic on vinyl.|
|The "Kozmetix Bag" 45|
|Lou Miami and the Kozmetix contnued to play gigs around Boston and Cambridge, and even played New York a few times (they were perfect for the downtown punk scene of the era). The bass and drums part of the band were something of a revolving door throughout the band's history but it was the crazed antics of Lou that the crowd came to see, anchored by the surf twang of Rootoo's roots playing (compared to Lou's outrageous attire and behavior Jack always served as comic relief just by looking so straight in comparison). The Kozmetix added such covers to their shows as Surfer Joe, Delta Dawn, Wild Thing, and Do You Know the Way to San Jose. It was pure camp meets pure rock and roll.
By the time of their first EP though, we began to see a darker side of Lou. Always colorful from the start, Lou's shows began to take on somewhat sinister themes, with songs like Dance With Death, Voodoo Bride, and (I Live With) Ghosts beginning to show up. One song I recall them doing one night at the club Spit, had Lou bopping across the stage singing "you're gonna' be dead dead dead dead dead for a very long time."
|A rare photo of Lou Miami and the Kozmetix|
|The first of two Lou Miami EPs (sadly they never did release a full album) was released around 1981 and showed something of a polished edge compared to their anarchistic live performances. This and their second EP (Rituals) highlight a trend toward becoming more melodic and having tighter arrangements in the songs, sometimes to the expense of the pure energy that carried their live gigs. While both of the EPs are indispensable, in my opinion they are not great representations of what the band was really about. With the excpeption of a rumored early album that someone told me used to be sold at early shows and a couple of radio shows, it may well be that we will never see the wealth of great songs that Lou performed in a recorded format. The closest I happen to have is a tape that Jack Rootoo personally made for me of the Kozmetix's second ever show at a local college whereas in the pure spirit pf punk (in fact Lou mentions Sid and Nancy several time during the show) Lou berates the crowd with a host of expletives and you can hear the crowd getting really pissed off. It's an amazing recording which includes versions of I Think We're Alone Now, These Boots Are Made For Walking and not one but TWO versions of a slightly slowed down version of My Baby Wears Rubber Pants.|
|Ad for early Kozmetix shows|
|Someday I hope to write a more thorough piece on Lou, perhaps even a book. He truly was one of a kind, and remains one of my top 10 favorite performers of all time - not just because of the great memories I have of seeing him with Bo and Al Baby and Phil and the Reverend and Jay and the rest of the Monday Night Excess Club, but because of the great tunes and spirit. Lou, in my opinion, truly had that mystical "star" quality that sadly was never to be known outside of Boston. At some point around 1984-'85, the shows became less frequent until the Kozmetix pretty much disappeared, One night Bo and I went to the fabled Rat to see another great Boston band, Native Tongue. Bo taped a note to a Red Sox helmet he wore that night that read "Do you have any information about the whereabouts of one Lou Miami." Sure enough late in the evening I looked over at the bar, and saw a hat with a feather in it - it was LOU! We spent quite awhile drinking and chatting with him that night and one other night not long thereafter. Lou had begun to get into witchcraft up in Salem. The classic line was when I asked him if he was a good witch or a bad witch. Lou replied "I'm kind of a grey witch." He also said he was starting to get into Country Music (which seemed about as probable as Liberace going punk), but he had done a cover of the old C&W tune Jackson, so who's to say. He said he was going to do some shows with a band called My Fabulous Ass, but despite looking in the paper every week, it never seemed to happen.|
|Back cover of the first Lou Miami
and the Kozmetix EP
|Jack Rootoo, Lou's guitarist, had in the meantime formed a band called Girl On Top, which continues to play around Boston. They're quite good. The last time we saw Lou was in 1990 at a place called Club Babyhead in Providence, RI where Lou joined Girl On Top for just two songs - Ghosts, and a tremendous version of Billy Idol's Dancing With Myself. We yelled ourselves hoarse and danced like crazy, not knowing this would be the last time. Jack would later tell me after a Girl On Top show that Lou had moved to LA. I recall saying that Lou would be a long way from the witches of Salem. I then said that I was sure LA had its own underbelly of strange communities, to which Jack replied "Yeah, and Lou will find them too."
The summer of 1995 I spent a very long night sleeping on a lounge chair alongside the Southeast Expressway in Milton, Mass. in order to get tickets to see David Bowie and Nine Inch Nails at Great Woods. That morning I grabbed coffee and a newspaper to help wake up and make it through the last couple of hours in line. I still remember reading the paper that morning and seeing just a small mention in the Arts section, that one-time Boston rocker Lou Miami had been discovered dead in Los Angeles. As far as I know, from unknown causes.
In addition to the one single and the two EPs, only a couple other songs were ever officially released by Lou Miami and the Kozmetix, both on compilations. The song Love In The Back Seat appeared on an album called Sounds Eclectic, and an album of Boston bands covering the Rolling Stones called Boston Gets Stoned found "Lucifer Miami" doing a truly eerie version of Play with Fire. Calls to Boston area radio stations that may have had tapes of the band and other sources have turned up nothing in the quest to unearth more material. Even Jack Rootoo himself claims to only have the one tape of the Kozmetix. If ever a band deserved to reach a wider audience then and now, I feel it's the Kozmetix.
Lou Miami and the Kozmetix. Gone, but not forgotten.
|Cover of the 2nd EP, Rituals|
|Promo for Girl On Top, band with Lou's guitarist Jack Rootoo. Girl On Top still plays around Boston and has a CD out.|
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