One hit wonders: Brownsville Station and “Smokin’ in the Boys Room”

Guitarist Michael “Cub” Koda has been one of the most influential musicians in modern rock – despite the fact that his band, Brownsville Station, only scored on the charts once in 10 years.

Brownsville Station Smokin' in the Boys RoomKoda formed the band in 1969, with original members Mike Lutz (guitar), T.J. Cronley (drums), and Tony Driggins (bass).  They were generally more effective as a live act than as recording artists.  Koda has sometimes been described as looking like a “70’s version of Buddy Holly,” but his stage style was unmistakable.  He bantered with the audience, climbed on speakers, and slid across the stage without missing a note.  VH1.com credits Koda with influencing everyone from Peter Wolf to Alice Cooper.

Koda wrote “Smokin’ in the Boys Room,” which appears on the band’s 1973 Album, “Yeah!”  The single hit the charts in 1973, going as high as number three on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and eventually sold over two million copies.  It seemed as though every teenager having a bad day could relate to the spoken introduction of the song:

Y’ever seem to have one of those days where it just seems like everybody’s gettin’ on your case, from your teacher all the way down to your best girlfriend?  Well, y’know, I used to have ’em just about all the time.  But I found a way to get out of ’em.  Let me tell you about it!

You didn’t have to be that much of a rebel to be “sitting in the classroom, thinking it’s a drag.”  Even the biggest nerds and teacher’s pets could imagine that small bit of anarchy.  And if you were a bit of a rebel, you knew this song was really about you.

“Smokin” seemed poised to be Brownsville Station’s break-out song, but although they continued to record until 1979, they were never able to capitalize on that success.  “Smokin” still receives radio airplay (the Station’s version as well as the 1985 cover Motley Crue, which went as high as #16), and their 1977 novelty song, “Martian Boogie,” is still heard regularly on the Dr. Demento show.

Koda continued to be both active and influential in the music business long after the band’s demise.  He began writin a column for Goldmind magazine, called “The Vinyl Junkie,” and established himself as an expert collector and music critic.  Koda compiled and wrote liner notes for a number of projects, such as Rhino’s Blues Masters series.  He contributed to even more, including retrospectives of the Trashmen, JB Hutto, and the Kingsmen.

Koda also continued to record, releasing his last album in 2000 with a reunited band, Points.  Recorded live in 1999, Noise Monkeys was hard-driving rock ‘n roll, and was receiving favorable notices and reviews.  Koda, though, had been sick.  In the spring of 2000, he was placed on kidney dialysis.  At first, he seemed to be recovering, but he had a sudden down-turn in June.  He died on July 1, 200, at the age of 51.

Koda always seemed to live up to the line, “Now teacher, don’t you fill me up with your rules.”  How else would a one-hit wonder have such an influence?

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