Heroin overdose leads to the return of the Cadillac Tramps’ tattooed thugs



By Steve Newton

Five years ago, Orange County’s Cadillac Tramps released It’s Allright, an album chock-full of hyper, street-level punk rock that never quit. The album made my top 10 of ’94, but shortly afterward the group disbanded, vocalist Gabby Gaborno forming the X-Members and guitarist–main songwriter Brian Coakley launching Rule 62, a potent guitar-rock outfit that made some waves with a self-titled ’97 release on Madonna’s Maverick Records. Both of those projects fizzled out, however, which is actually a good thing, because now the Tramps have reunited, and all is well in the world of kick-ass punk rock.

According to Coakley, the reunion came about after the Tramps’ former booking agent died of a heroin overdose. “About nine months ago, we got a call to do a benefit in his honour,” says Coakley from his home in Long Beach, “so we practised once and just did it. It was really fun, and that was the beginning of what is happening right now.”

Not only have Coakley and Gaborno joined forces again, but they’ve also got the original Tramps rhythm section of bassist Warren Renfrow and drummer Steve “Spanky” Barrios in tow. Coakley says the attention the reformation is getting in the band’s SoCal stomping ground is pronounced.

“It’s kinda funny that we get back together and all of a sudden there’s all this interest,” he relates, “even more than there was before. We’ve played about six shows since we’ve been back together, and everything sold out. We recorded the last two shows with the guy who recorded Pearl Jam’s live album—I’m at a loss for his name right now, but anyway, he came down with a mobile unit, and we’re actually gonna put out a live album pretty soon.”

Until that sure-to-be-smokin’ platter hits Vancouver record stores, local fans can relive the Cadillac Tramps’ heyday when they play NewMusicWest ’99 at the Starfish Room on Saturday (May 8), with guests the Alley Boys, Midge, One-900, and Limestone. Judging by Coakley’s enthusiasm, this time around there’s no stopping the band from claiming its rightful place in the platinum club alongside fellow California punkers Green Day and the Offspring.

So what was stopping them before?

“Hmm…probably nothin’,” ponders the confident rocker. “It’s kinda weird, actually. I mean, we had the problem when we first came out of being ahead of our time in some ways. When our first record came out in, like, ’90, there was hard-edged stuff on the radio, but nobody would have been ready for the Cadillac Tramps—tattooed thugs, some of the guys big and burly, and just crazy-lookin’. But the hiatus has actually put us in a different light, where around Hollywood the buzz is that the next big thing is gonna be rock ’n’ roll, and people are just wantin’ to scoop up their next big rock band, you know.”

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