Uglier than Alice Cooper: Five forgotten shock rock bands from the 1970s
2. Bitter Blood Street Theatre
Bitter Blood Street Theatre was a performance art troupe-slash-acid rock band from Cincinnati active in the early 1970s. Their music was a swirling dervish of bong-hitting psychedelia with slashing hard rock guitars and a penchant for exotic instrumentation, including a few saw solos.
The band were colourful kooks in Kiss-style masks, draped in capes and/or dominatrix outfits, and the ‘street theatre’ bit involved exactly that: extras culled from the local freak scene who would perform on stage with the band, or in the audience, or out on the sidewalk in front of the club. Perfomances would range from a guy in a wheelchair calmly eating live locusts out of a cigar box, to flashers showing their private bits to whomever caught their eye.
The band played with all the heavy-hitters of the era and the area, from The MC5 to Alice Cooper (who, some believe, nicked a thing or two from Bitter’s stage performance), but never made any headway beyond Ohio’s borders. In 1975, the band were briefly part of the Columbia Records roster, but the exec who signed them was reportedly fired the same day, and the band was unceromoniously dropped.
They did manage to eke out one single in ’75, but the band broke up soon after, morphing into still-active ‘fringe-rock’ outfit, Blacklight Braille. In the late 70s, BBST mainman Tom Owen was able to cobble together the band’s various demo tracks and release them as a two-volume anthology. Both are now considered minor masterpieces of 70s weird-psyche. Sadly, no vintage footage of the band has surfaced yet, so we are left to imagine what it might be like to catch these pioneering maniacs live.