The Liquor Giants


Ward Dotson on stage with the Gun Club

Ward Dotson on stage with the Gun Club

I used to buy nearly all my cd’s at NYCD on the upper west side during my lunchbreak from the Museum of Unnatural Labor Practices. They had two or three milk crates filled with cutouts and promos. At the time New York City was the greatest place for promo copies as there were so many industry jobs around. A solid third of my collection is stamped For Promotional Use Only-Not For Sale. Anyway the cd’s in the milk crates were $2 each or 10 for $15, so I always found 10 I was willing to take a chance on. Later on they were 15 for $10.

A lot of them are now in the basement. Sometimes something will make it back upstairs to the collection, but probably more often the cd’s and artwork are thrown away and the jewel case recycled.
Occasionally I’d stumble onto something grand like Red Red Meat, or in this case, the Liquor Giants.

I knew who Ward Dotson was, as I had been a fixture in the LA punk scene, and used to hang out at the Go-Go’s house as my girlfiend (typo I’m letting stand) Thumbelina (not her real name but my post breakup nickname for her referring to the shape of her head) sublet Belinda’s room while the Go-Go’s were in England getting famous. I pierced my ear one night with a safety pin in their kitchen. We were both going to do it, but at the last second Thumbelina chickened out. I think it was watching me sterilize the safety pin on a gas burner to the point of glowing red that did it.
Ward was a member of the Gun Club whose first gig I attended at the Hong Kong Cafe. I knew them through Kid Congo, an acquaintance (and Gun Club member) also hanging out at the Go-Go’s house at the time. Later Thumbelina dumped me for New York Doll Jerry Nolan who was then slumming in Levi and The Rockats. After Jerry she latched onto Mr Gun Club Jeffrey Lee Pierce.

I’ve still never heard the Pontiac brothers, in fact, when I left California a few years later I didn’t bring any interest in new music with me.
I dropped out of the scene because I got tired of being with people trying to be “cool”, and or “tough”. Everyone was a poser in my estimation, so I tuned out and instead plundered the past, listening to old Jump Blues, Doo Wop, and Country.

Anyway I found The Liquor Giants Here amongst the cut-outs and bought it with nine other cd’s. Every week I’d buy ten and then spend a couple days listening to them, weeding out the bullshit. For every good one there were six awful ones, but finding treasures like Here made it worth the effort.
I was hooked the second it leapt out of the speakers. At the time I lived at 225 East 2nd Street, so the title “67 East 2nd Street” had special resonance. Eventually I even found a “Q” cd in the cut-out bin and bought it because of the name check (it’s really bad, by the way).

Sadly NYCD closed it’s doors the same day I ended my 13 year marriage, December something 2005, a day I knew signaled the end of an era in more ways than one.

The tunes come from Here(“67 East 2nd Street”), Liquor Giants(“Here”, “Fake Love”), Every Other Day At A Time (“I Know I’m Wrong”, “Fire Brigade”), and Up With People(“Whore”).

As smooth as Crown Royal

As smooth as Crown Royal

(by Mark Deming AMG)
Ward Dotson once said that he left the band the Gun Club because he got tired of playing for people in black leather who never smiled (emphasis added-ED) and he responded by forming the considerably lighter hearted hard rock outfit the Pontiac Brothers. Given this logic, it probably made sense that after the Pontiac Brothers called it a day in 1989, Dotson found himself moving away from the good-natured crunch of the Pontiacs and started indulging his fondness for ’60s-style pop and the result was a witty and tuneful new project called the Liquor Giants. The group released their first album in 1992, You’re Always Welcome (which was released in some overseas markets as America’s #1 Recording Artists), but from the start it was obvious that this was a “group” in only the broadest sense. Dotson, who handled guitar and lead vocals and wrote the lion’s share of the material, was the only musician who played on every cut of the album, with a round-robin crew of various L.A. cronies pitching in on bass, drum, and keys (among them former Pontiacs drummer Dave Valdez on bass; drummers Dan Earhart and Bill McGarvey, and keyboard man Dan McGough dominated the supporting cast). The material played down the hard rock stomp of Dotson’s work with the Pontiac Brothers in favor of hooky but enjoyably unpolished pop/rock tunes that made no secret of their roots in the sounds of ’60s AM radio. You’re Always Welcome was released by short-lived indie label Lucky Records, and the second Liquor Giants full-length, Here, was released in 1994 by ESD; this time around, Dotson was joined by guitarist Steve Dima and bassist Joel Katz, with Bill McGarvey returning as drummer. While this might have suggested Dotson was settling on a stable lineup for the band, that assumption was tossed out the window in 1996 with the group’s first album for Matador, simply called Liquor Giants, in which Dotson played everything except for drums (another former Pontiac Brother, Matt Simon, was this album’s timekeeper), a few keyboard parts, and female backing vocals. The album found Dotson refining and broadening his pop influences, dipping his toes back into hard rock while still embracing the tunefulness of British Invasion pop and melding snarky humor with a heartfelt but realistic romanticism. Dotson once again was most of the “band” for 1998’s Every Other Day at a Time; coming clean with his influences, Dotson tacked on a few obscure ’60s and ’70s pop covers as unlisted bonus tracks, which subsequently appeared on a separate all-covers album released the same year, Something Special for the Kids. Unfortunately, Every Other Day at a Time proved to be The Liquor Giants’ last album for Matador, and their next album, Up With People, was recorded for an Australian label, Elastic Records, owing to Dotson’s significant cult following down under.

67 East 2nd Street
I Know I’m Wrong
Fire Brigade (Move cover)
Fake Love


14 thoughts on “The Liquor Giants

  1. Dear Ward-

    Please send me a check for the $12.97 you earned by recording my song “67 East 2nd Street” ASAP. Its very cold here in Minneapolis, and I need to buy some of those Duroflame logs which are on sale at Walmart. Thanks, and Regards – Paul Westerberg

  2. Dear Paul,

    I’m still pissed at you for the last couple ‘placemats’ albums. I already spent the $12.97 on a 12-pack of Ballantine Ale. It keeps you warmer than Duraflames any day.
    I’d have thought you’d made enough money to move to LA by now, and were lunching with Sting in Malibu.


  3. Nice! Poppy, 12 stringy tunes. I ain’t never heard none of this shit before but what’s wrong with playing for people in black leather who never smile? Wasn’t that the desired effect for the Gun Club? I never heard your punk rock days stories either. Sounds like that chick of yours was a real winner! I’m sure that whatever it was though that tore you apart, must have been your fault. It sounds like the cutting-room floor for The Decline Of Western Civilization (The Metal Years). One night at the Starwood I danced to Rodney B’s DJ Set with Belinda, Gina and Jane all at once…now I just feel scuzzy and dirty about it. Why don’t you do yourself a favor and clean out your basement and open NJCD and get rid of that potential firetrap? This Liquor Giant stuff sounds like one of those records that when you buy it you feel a connection but no matter how hard you try, you can’t get any one of your friends to give a shit about it. Well, I for one think it’s okay!
    Now, if I may, it’s time for recess.

  4. What you said about finding an album and having an instant connection to it and none of your friends give a shit is pretty much my whole life.
    The Liquor Giants were an infatuation at first, but like all my faves, I’ve never stopped playing them. Others are on their way downstairs.

  5. I was the owner of NYCD. It warms my heart when people who aren’t my friends or former employees remember the place fondly. Thanks for the shout-out!

  6. I was always treated as a friend, and did my best to keep the place in business.
    I miss NYCD. Hope all is well with you.

    How the blazes did you find me?

  7. I love the first 2 CD’s and listen to em 1000’s of times. The story about Westerberg calling Ward after the 1st one came out was funny – jealous fucker.

  8. Is there a story? Or are people getting confused by the fictiscious conversation at the head of the comments? We want to know!

  9. Thanks for the photo of the Play Along vinyl. I’m updating my iTunes artwork, and I transferred this vinyl to mp3 a couple of years ago.

  10. I’m the only person posting here that was present with when Ward performed Wipe Out for his Fullerton College music class final. That was pre-everything

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