Friday, July 13, 2018

Everybody's Boring But Pearl Harbour (Part 1)

The singer known as Pearl Harbour was born in 1955 to an American soldier and a Filipino mother, and was raised in Germany with four older brothers. At the age of 17, she moved to San Francisco with ambitions of becoming a country singer. At 18, she joined a dance troupe called the Wood Nymphs. In 1976, Pearl became a dancer for The Tubes (after beating a hundred other performers in a talent contest). She then joined a Tubes-related cabaret act called Leila And The Snakes. "We did four sets a night: punk, cocktail hour, comedy, skits, tap dancing, twirling hula hoops while singing. It was kind of like being in a play. Interesting and fun for awhile, but you got tired of it.... Then I wanted to branch out into rock and roll." Leila And The Snakes released a 1978 single called "Rock & Roll Weirdos".  Pearl, John Hanes (drums) and Hilary Hanes (bass) split from the Snakes, added guitarist Peter Bilt, and formed Pearl Harbor and the Explosions. Their debut single Drivin' was a local hit in SF for 415 Records, and was re-released by Warner Bros. A self-titled album followed.

The Explosions imploded after two world tours. "I wanted the show to be more wild rock & roll. They were more interested in jazz, funk, and rhythm & blues and a little bit straighter kind of show," Pearl recalled in an interview. (The Explosions did perform the Sparkletones' classic Black Slacks and Pearl's rockabilly tune Nerves.) The Explosions' drummer and bassist John and Hilary Hanes (aka the Stench brothers) joined Damon Edge and Helios Creed in Chrome. Pearl moved to London, where she knew members of the punk and pub rock scenes. Pearl had a contract with Warners for a solo album. She wrote songs with guitarist Nigel Dixon (from British rockabilly band Whirlwind) and pianist Geraint "Otis" Watkins. Micky Gallagher from Ian Dury's Blockheads was the producer. Musicians who participated in the sessions included Paul Simonon and his brother Nick, Mick Jones, Topper Headon, Wilko Johnson, Steve New, Steve Goulding, and BJ Cole. Pearl's first single was a cover of Fujiyama Mama (first recorded by Anisteen Allen, then made famous by Pearl's rockabilly role model Wanda Jackson), with Pearl's original composition Nerves on the flipside.

The music on Pearl's debut solo albumDon't Follow Me, I'm Lost Too (1980), ranged from rockabilly to country (Losing To You), girl groups (Everybody's Boring But My Baby), New Orleans R&B (Let's Go Upstairs), and the autobiographical Filipino Baby. The LP was a showcase for Pearl's eclectic taste, her sense of humor, and the expressive range of her voice. According to her website, Pearl didn't think it suited the spirit of the punk era to print the all-star guest list on the album cover

Pearl and Paul Simonon married in 1982. There are live videos from this period of Pearl singing Fujiyama Mama with the Clash, and Pearl and Wilko Johnson joining the Stray Cats onstage at Montreux for Be Bop A Lula. Wilko produced Pearl's next single, a cover of Voodoo Voodoo (first recorded by LaVern Baker). Pearl's next album was recorded at Abbey Road. Nigel Dixon, Otis Watkins and BJ Cole were back, along with members of Tenpole Tudor. Warners didn't pick it up, but Pearls Galore (1983) was released in Japan, on Epic/Sony.

Another album (also called Pearls Galore) was recorded with producer Richard Gottehrer and a Japanese punk band called The Mods. Nigel Dixon and Chris Spedding also contributed guitar work. This LP was released by in Europe by Island Records in 1984. Some of the songs from the previous album were rerecorded, along with a new version of Nerves and covers of the Rocky Fellers' Killer Joe and the Buddy Knox hit Hula Love. Gottehrer had produced the Go-Go's, Blondie, and other New Wave artists, but his songwriting and production credits go back to the girl group era. He seemed to be a perfect match for Pearl (who had been singing the Shangri-Las' song Out In The Streets since she was in Leila And The Snakes), but the album and its singles didn't chart. Pearl made several tours of Japan with The Mods between 1983 and 1985. After her marriage ended in 1987, she moved back to SF. Her former writing partner Nigel Dixon joined her ex-husband Paul Simonon in the short-lived band Havana 3 A.M. Nigel Dixon died in 1993. Pearl is alive and well (and still gorgeous), and she occasionally performs in LA and SF.

First photo of Pearl (with Leila And The Snakes) by Chester Simpson.  Third photo by Richard McCaffree (from the 1980 book X-Capees).  Second and fourth photo (with The Mods) appeared on Pearl Harbour's Instagram. Pearl noted that she lived for three years in the storage shed seen in the second photo. Interview quotes from Mary Campbell, "Singer Pearl Harbour has curious past, bright future." (AP)


  1. Here is my rip of Pearls Galore (1983), the Epic Sony album.

    This is PBTHAL's vinyl rip of Pearls Galore (1984), the Island Records album.

    Check out draftervoi's excellent rip of the "Drivin" single:

    In this 1983 appearance on Japanese TV, Pearl lip syncs "Get Out Of Here" with Nigel Dixon (and "Old Bob, Dick & Gary" from Tenpole Tudor), then performs "Everybody's Boring" backed by The Mods. Fans of Amy Winehouse's sense of style, take note of Pearl's hair and clothes (and fake tattoo!)

    Here's another one from Japanese TV featuring Pearl, Nigel, Bob, Dick and Gary on two songs from the 1983 LP:

  2. Hey Jonder:

    Pearls "comeback" album HERE COMES TROUBLE is a stone cold classic that contains members of the legendary Buck Naked's band!

    Here's a Pearl Harbor & The Explosions show (LIVE IN OAKLAND '79) that I digitized, tweaked the sound on, and broke into individual tracks!

    I love your blog,

    1. I'm so glad you found my blog, Stinky. You have an open invitation to share goodies here from your record collection and your fantastic mixtapes! I thought of you when I found this video from 2015 with Pearl backed by East Bay Ray and Stinky Le Pew of the Buck Naked boys: And don't miss with photos dating back to her childhood, her career, marriage to Paul Simenon, and her cute little dog Earl Harbour!

      Pearl Harbour Part 2 is coming soon and will include Here Comes Trouble.

    2. PS - there's a Leila And The Snakes collection at CD Baby, featuring "Rock & Roll Weirdos", "Out In The Streets" and "Don't Touch Me There" (cowritten by Leila and Ron Nagle). Listen to clips and buy it here: Lead singer Jane Dornacker (aka Leila) became an actress and radio reporter, first in SF and later in NYC. She died in 1986 when her traffic helicopter plunged into the Hudson River. She had survived a previous helicopter crash into the Hackensack River.

  3. Great historic much needed post again...will try to give you a plug with a Screaming Blue Messiah repost since i got some those files from you...just a short note to get their butts over here for last 2 posts.

    1. I appreciate that. My wife got me the Messiahs box set for Christmas, bless her!
      I hope everybody is digging the vinyl goldmine at!