Charlie Ellis is best known as the frontman of Mighty Jack, but he also recently took part in a reunion show with local surf-rock group The Phantoms. Mighty Jack mixes punk, surf rock, lounge and rock—an interesting combination that makes them stand out in the Coachella Valley music scene. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/mightyjackband. Charlie Ellis was kind enough to answer the Lucky 13; here are his answers.
What was the first concert you attended?
Depending on what qualifies as a concert, when I was growing up in Las Vegas in the ’70s, the Paul Ankas and Neil Sedakas were hard to avoid, even for a 7-year-old. But my first real rock concert was Ozzy Osbourne with Metallica at the Long Beach Arena, on June 14, 1986. Metallica was touring for Master of Puppets and just being introduced to the masses. Ozzy was touring for The Ultimate Sin, and he had a serious Liberace thing happening with his wardrobe selection. There was still no escaping Vegas, I guess.
What was the first album you owned?
Not counting Christmas With the Chipmunks and various Peter Pan-label 45s: I talked my mom into buying me Kiss, Alive!, on vinyl when I was in kindergarten, and I wore it out on my tiny blue briefcase-style record player. Naturally through the years, and for better or worse, the go-to gift for me from my relatives was a Kiss record or tape.
What bands are you listening to right now?
A lot of Nick Waterhouse. He’s brilliant and sounds amazing live. Also, a band out of Spain called The Excitements … which basically sounds like Nick Waterhouse’s band with a young Tina Turner on vocals. Also a band called Nightmare of You.
What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?
Well to each his own, I’d say, but there seems to be an uprising of baseball-themed bands, and all the music is specifically written about the sport such as the infield-fly rule, the balk, etc. I don’t even understand those rules; how can I comprehend bands with entire catalogs of songs about them?
What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?
I’d love to see the original Alice Cooper band. I guess Dick Wagner can sub for the deceased Glen Buxton on guitar, and also on the bill, The Misfits with Glenn Danzig, Jerry Only, Doyle and preferably Robo on drums.
What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?
Songs about baseball. What can I say? I don’t get it, but I can’t get enough of it.
What’s your favorite music venue?
Now that Nonna’s Italian Drive-thru is gone, probably The Greek Theatre (in Los Angeles).
What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?
“Put It Right Here!” by high desert rockers Gutter Candy.
What band or artist changed your life? How?
I was a teenager in the desert during the late ’80s, so naturally I’m under obligation to say Mario Lalli. 😉 Seriously, though, he and others like him made me aware that you could just play at the mall or a dirt lot, and people will cheer, clap and dance. Of course, I found out the hard way that you have to be fairly good and/or very popular for that to happen.
You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?
I’d ask Jeff Bowman, drummer of Mighty Jack: “Do you have to play with so many other bands?”
What song would you like played at your funeral?
“If I Can Dream,” by Elvis Presley. It’s a great song, with an even greater cheese factor.
Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?
Alice Cooper’s Billion Dollar Babies. Even if you, by some slim chance, hate the music, you can’t help but be in awe of the replicated snakeskin wallet packaging. I used to tell people I was the baby he’s holding in the photo inside. Damn you, Internet!
What song should everyone listen to right now?
If you like surf music (and who doesn’t, really) I’d say “Reef Break” by The Atlantics. I believe it’s the greatest surf song ever. (Scroll down to hear it.) But if you like sad stuff and feel like crying, then I urge you to listen to Sturgill Simpson’s cover of “The Promise” by When in Rome. Also, Nightmare of You’s “Dear Scene I Wish I Were Deaf” is really good, too. Sorry, that’s three songs to listen to right now. I recommend not all at the same time.