Break out the Frederick’s of Hollywood: In 1983, Southside Johnny attempted to “Trash It Up”

By on September 12, 2019

In 1983, John Lyon, a.k.a. Southside Johnny, leader of sweat-drippin’ bluesy soul-rockin’ bar band the Asbury Jukes, decided it was time to “Trash It Up,” recording his first new studio album in three years and filling it with disco-fied dance tunes.

Watch “Trash It Up” — which crash-landed the band on MTV briefly before it was banned for showing too much skin — in Night Flight’s “Regional Rock: New Jersey” episode, which originally aired on April 23, 1988, and is now streaming on Night Flight Plus.

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1983 turned out to be a very transitional year for Southside Johnny Lyon, who was 34 years old at the time.

Earlier that year he’d been credited as a technical adviser on Eddie & The Cruisers, a thinly-disguised bio-pic about his longtime New Jersey pal Bruce Springsteen (the band were portrayed onscreen by John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band).

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Lyon also signed a new record deal with the Atlantic-distributed Mirage label, but he somehow ended up making a disco dance record produced by Chic co-founder Nile Rodgers.

You can see just how far outside his comfort zone Lyon went in the album’s cover photo, which shows him wearing a black suit & tie and looking like an undertaker for the mob as he poses in front of lingerie-clad mannequins in the window of Trash & Vaudeville, an East Village clothing boutique.

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The back-story about the making of this particular video — apparently something of a big deal at the time, premiering on MTV in mid-September ’83 before being yanked off the air — was written up in People magazine (“The Making of a Video — and Southside Johnny“), published on October 17, 1983.

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The article’s author singled out director Eddie Vorkapich and producer Len Lipsom, reminding us they’d previously worked on some of TV’s “glossiest advertisements, showcases for the likes of Cheryl Tiegs, Christie Brinkley, Victoria Principal and Sophia Loren.”

We’re also told that, to both men, Maybelline “always meant eye shadow, not Chuck Berry’s rock classic.”

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As you’ll see, the video featured Johnny Lyon dancing around on a “cramped, sweltering Manhattan soundstage” with a mannequin he’s brought to life by dressing her up in lingerie.

She’s played by Edyie Fleming, who we’re told had taken two personal days off from her twice-daily Radio City show to dance her best “Trash” moves.

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As for the song, well, let’s just let these explicitly over-sexualized lyrics to “Trash It Up” — written by Billy Rush, the band’s main songwriter — speak for themselves:

“The girl’s so refined, sweet and innocent, chic and elegant,
But pour on the French wine, and Miss Sophisticated turns into X-rated,
I feel a frenzy coming on, a sexual storm is blowing strong,
Break out the Frederick’s of Hollywood, and I promise I’ll be very, very good…
Trash it up”

Read more about Southside Johnny’ below.

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The Neptune, NJ-born Southside Johnny Lyon grew up in Ocean Grove, a Methodist retirement community located less than a mile south Asbury Park.

In a 2008 interview for the Philadelphia Daily News, Lyon, who’d just moved back to the local area, said it was “the same nightmare it’s always been.”

Before the end of the ’70s, the so-called Grandad of the “Jersey Shore Sound” had already made his bones — relax, Lyon never killed anybody, it’s a corruption of the idiom “to establish one’s bona fides”– and the historic Stone Pony venue is where he did it (the Jukes were their house band).

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Lyon wound up up signing to Epic Records in 1975, the very same year their pal Bruce Springsteen — riding high after the release of Born to Run — was anointed as the bearded Second Coming of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Christ by appearing simultaneously on the covers of Time and Newsweek.

Springsteen wrote the liner notes to Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes’ debut album, 1976’s I Don’t Want To Go Home, produced by the E Street Band’s Steven Van Zandt, praising his friend’s band.

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By the early ’80s, Lyon (lead vocals, harmonica) and his band — Billy Rush (guitars, synths), Gene Boccia (bass), Rusty Cloud (keyboards), Kevin Kavanaugh (more keyboards), Mark Pender (trumpet), Al Torrente (more trumpet), Bobbie Ferrell (trombone), Frank Elmo (sax), Ernie “Boom” Carter (percussion) and Steve Becker (drums) — were already looking to shake things up, and all that shakin’ goin’ on is probably what led to the new album being produced by Nile Rodgers.

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Rodgers might seem a curious choice, since he was mainly known for working with disco groups like Chic (his band had finally called it a day in ’83) and Sister Sledge, but earlier that same year he’d achieved commercial success by producing David Bowie‘s Let’s Dance, and so it was entirely possible he would work the same kind of magic with Southside Johnny too.

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Lyon would later tell the L.A. Times that making Trash It Up was “a terrible mistake.”

“…I needed to make a new record in order to be able to go back out on the road, economics being what they are. Anyway, Billy Rush had some ideas, Nile Rodgers wanted to produce it, the record company was real excited about it, so I just kind of went with it and Trash It Up was the album we made. I didn’t feel like I was in control, and I think it showed. It’s my fault, though. I never should have let it happen.”

Watch Night Flight’s “Regional Rock: New Jersey” episode — also featuring videos by Springsteen, Hackensack’s Joe Lynn Turner, and Clarence Clemons — on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.