I’ve made it to a new set of shelves in the archive that provides the jumping-off points of all of this musical goodness. For the first time, I’‘m starting to see singles from bands from the 1980‘s, and we’ll probably be going over a lot of those in the weeks and months to come. Let’s begin with Cruzados.
The story of Cruzados can not begin without telling the story of The Plugz. The Plugs were a Chicano punk band from Los Angeles that formed in 1977 and disbanded in 1984. Tito Lavarria (vocals/guitar), Charlie Quintana (drums) and Barry McBride (bass/backing vocals) came together and, in the manner of punk rockers, took pride in their musical heritage while mocking it at the same time. The reverence/irreverence ratio is in the ear of the listener. To wit—their cover of “La Bamba:”
By 1983, The Plugz had a more polished and eclectic sound—their second album, 1981’s Better Luck, even featured a horn section. They contributed a number of songs to the Repo Man soundtrack, including this cover of the Johnny Rivers hit “Secret Agent Man.” Here’s “Hombre Secreto.”
Charlie and new bassist Tony Marsico became friends with Bob Dylan, sometimes having loose sessions at his house in L.A. A year after they’d started playing together, Dylan called them up to join him on his Late Night with David Letterman appearance, in which he played three songs. Here they are, along with guitarist J.J. Holiday, performing “License to Kill.”
A few months after that broadcast, The Plugz became Cruzados and embraced a more commercial sound. But commercial was a pretty relative term in the mid-eighties. While the songs had a fair amount of studio sheen, they still felt more human than what could be typically found in the Top 40. Their sound—hitting a sweet spot between bar rock, blues and country— was right in time for the creation of VH1, once a home for Adult Contemporary music videos, believe it or not. From their self-titled debut, here’s “Motorcycle Girl.”
New guitarist Steven Hufsteter had a few writing credits on the album, including this look at artistic ennui called “Hanging Out In California.”
Hufsteter had left the band when it was time to record the second album, After Dark. Marshal Roehner took his place, and quite ably, if this song is any indication. Here’s the single I found in the archive, sharing shelf space with so many other forgotten 80’s bands: “Bed of Lies.”
There was no third Cruzados album, unfortunately. They had contributed three songs to the soundtrack to cult favorite Road House, but none of them made it onto the album. You can still see them play at the beginning of the movie, and the song was later released on a collection of their unreleased rarities. Here’s “Don’t Throw Stones.”
That song sounds like a band hitting its stride, but just it wasn’t in the cards. As main songwriter and singer Tito Lavirra put it,
“The Cruzados started at the tail end of the punk scene, the way I see it, we were punk rockers at heart and in true punk rock fashion we said fuck you to the punk establishment because for us it was over. We changed our name from Plugz to the Cruzados and went in a totally different musical direction. I felt we were on to something but like most bands in the mid 80’s, coke and too much fun cut the ride short”
Tito would go on to form Tito & Tarantula, who were prominently featured in the Robert Rodriguez films Desperado and From Dusk Till Dawn. Tony Marsico would go on to play bass for Matthew Sweet, Bob Dylan, Neil Young and many others. Charlie Quintana played with Izzy Stradlin and the JuJu Hounds and then later Social Distortion. Marshall Rohner went on to play guitar for T.S.O.L. but, unfortunately, died in 2005 of AIDS-related causes.
Let’s close with Tito & Tarantula’s version of a song from the first Cruzados album. This is “La Flor de Mal.”