There are always lots of cool bands in L.A.: The Joneses, Tex And The Horse-Heads, Alejandro Escovedo, The Hangmen, the Humpers…but my favorite Hollywood band since Gun Club, or vintage Van Halen, or Love, had to be the Coma-Tones. Their lyricist/front-man, Gio Vitanza, really captured something intangible, and elusive, but totally potent, that always spoke to, and for me. Their guitarist, Jimmy James (Barrio Tiger, Hangmen, Rock City Angels) was unbelievable, too. They exuded a simmering coolness that few could rival. When the rest of the Strip were getting kookier and kookier with the far-out Kabuki glam, until bands like Peppermint Creeps and Rebel Rebel were so focused on their outlandish images, that KISS seemed nearly quaint, in comparison; the Coma-Tones had this classic, under-stated, Jim Morrison appeal, like Thee Hypnotics. A Mexican wedding shirt, a newsboy cap, a concho belt, a lizard skin jacket-elegant, sophisticated, street-wise, authentic. ‘Same as their music. Simple, bluesy, honest, punk. And so, so full of pained heart and soul, which is all I really look for.I fell in love with that band when I first moved to L.A., in the early nineties, and promoted them in every fanzine and entertainment weekly I ever wrote for. Unfortunately, I was as much of an outsider, as the absolute genius Coma-Tones, so my belligerent enthusiasm had little impact, except, perhaps, amidst the many friends, for whom I dubbed their demos for, over the years…many of whom, similarly came to love, and emulate the raw, naked soul of that bunch. I tried interviewing various Coma-Tones, lots of times, but only one of ’em was ever really that inclined to use the underground media to promote the cause. Like so many of my fave bands–the Waldos, Hanoi Rocks, Gunfire Dance, the Ultras, the Fleshtones, etc., the Coma-Tones seemed to have some really shitty luck. More superstitious observers, have even called it a hex. I don’t know why they never broke out of the cult-ghetto. With the right producer, they should have been a huge mainstream band, like the Doors, or Guns N Roses-the two bands they were most often compared to. My gut tells me racism was part of it, because their singer had way more star power, and matinee idol, brooding good looks, than any of the blonde, toothy, ass-kissing cheese-steaks, that were signed non-stop, in the metal years, and saturation-marketed all over cable tv, until the decision was made, in this past decade, to entirely cease programming rock music on cable, to help condition people to accept the new conformity of the Disneyfied, plantation-state, permanent war-economy, ushered in by the last U.S. administration, and perpetuated under the current one. It’s a damned shame, too.A big corporate rawk dude has currently been soliciting “real rockstars” to appear on his jive-ass satellite radio show, and I was just thinkin’, “Where were you when the Coma-Tones were a full-time, West Coast-based, viable proposition?” I’ll tell ya where: all those major label cock-metal bands were cowering! Quaking in their brand new cowboy boots, because so few of them could hold a candle to the mythic badass grandeur of the Coma-Tones. Maybe they shoulda bleached their hair blonde, and sucked-up to the label weasels, but those dudes were just too pure, too cool, too defiant, too poetic, and too real, to be anything but themselves. It used to be, you could type their name into any random search engine, and instantly, pull-up ten, or twelve features, that me, and a few close pals of mine, had penned on the Coma-Tones, but sadly, our punknroll fanzines come and go, with the blip of a button, in this virtual hypno-screen unreality, so most of what I’d seen posted about them, over the years, has recently vanished….Just two days ago, I found out Gio was gone. That he’d been dead since December….I don’t usually cry, when people die, but this somehow, just fucks me all up. It just makes no sense, at all. Things have been in slow-motion, ever since a dear friend told me the bad news.
I don’t know what happened to Grant Johns, or Gio Vitanza, that stole ’em from us, so prematurely, all I know, is the Coma-Tones were, in my book, the best rock’n’roll band in America.
I can’t believe he’s gone. I’m stunned. Speechless, struck numb. Dumbfounded. Like it just can’t be real.
Gio, you were the man.
I salute you.
Bless your poet soul, brotherman…I am praying for all your loved ones. We already miss you something fierce, Giovanni. xo
I hope all you Veglam rock’n’roll people will visit the following four Coma-Tones related links:
and listen to songs like “Sexual Intellectual” and “Three Dollar Dress”, if you wanna hear the coolest unsigned band in Hollywood. Ever.