#47 – “The Devil Went Down To Newport (Totally Rocking)” (Mono Puff; 1996)



L.K.: Ladies and gentlemen… do you remember an era? An era before the Flansbeard was a thing? When there was just… this terrifying video?  And yeah, this is such a special song just because you get so few chances to chant “Go, go, Satan go” during your lifetime. This is a cover, but I’ve never heard the original or even heard of the band that wrote it.

A.S.: I love this song so much although I’m now caught up in trying to find an original recording of it and I am getting very confused in the process.
L.K.: “The Clamdiggers”. Who on Earth are The Clamdiggers?
A.S.: I guess The Clamdiggers were a side project of another band, Mente, of which there just seems to be a very small, devout Bostonian following.  It seems totally insular and local. Most Google searches for the song just bring up Mono Puff’s version.
L.K.: If they wrote a song about Bobby Orr… (“greatest hockey player in the world- bahhhh-none!“)
A.S.: Yeah, I’m listening to “Bobby Orr” right now and it’s a pretty fun, catchy tune.  Not unlike “Devil Went Down To Newport”!
L.K.: I have to take issue with TMBW here for assuming “Newport” has anything to do with California. Wouldn’t Rhode Island make more sense?
A.S.: It would, based on the band’s geographical affiliation, although I don’t think Newport, RI is much of a surfing town.
L.K.: Hey, people surf in Lake Erie, so you never know…
A.S.: True.  As a born-and-raised New Englander, I honestly can’t say because somehow, I never went down to Newport.
L.K.: But if the band is really as New England-centric as they seem, writing a song about California seems kind of nuts.
A.S.: I mean, The Beach Boys sang a shitload about surfing and I believe Dennis Wilson was the only one who could actually surf.
A.S.: Touché.
L.K.: I am sitting here Googling “newport rhode island surfing”. Maybe that’ll be the next search term that leads somebody to this blog…
A.S.: Is that something you ever expected to Google?
L.K.: Nope. But I feel better about my hypothesis now.
A.S.: Anyway, this song is, as its namesake denotes, totally rocking.
L.K.: It really does only have two chords or so, right?
A.S.: It does!
L.K.: It certainly doesn’t sound complex.
A.S.: But it doesn’t overstay its welcome for almost four minutes. Wait, it modulates at the very end.  But most of the song is just two chords. Oh yeah, I guess we should mention that it’s based on The Charlie Daniels Band’s “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” although that should go without saying.
L.K.: Yeah. No golden fiddle (or bassoon) play-offs though, just the devil being unable to surf because of his cloven-hooved feet. And the song is thoroughly on Team Satan.
A.S.: Although a big difference is that here, the contest is between The Devil and God, and not “Johnny,” which yeah, I guess the Johnny singing this song couldn’t compete against Satan and cheer him on.
L.K.: Ah, rock, the devil’s music. Flans’s fake beard in the video for this song is definitely some sort of hellspawn.
A.S.: Yeah, I don’t know what the hell.
L.K.: It’s the only music video Mono Puff ever did, and it’s pretty strange. “Satan” here is a weird silver alien type dude, and there’s very little surf-related anything going on.
A.S.: The Mojo Chessmaster returns though! Agh, I’m sorry but it’s frustrating how little there is online about the original version of this song. I guess Mente had a website at one point, but it was a fucking Geocities site. Ah, dear reader, I do apologize that we won’t be able to provide an original version of this song from “The worst band in Boston.”
L.K.: Maybe this track was just a little too regional to have made it onto the wider internet, even in this day and age.
A.S.: Which seems almost insane to think about.
L.K.: I’m waiting for some specialty site/label to do a compilation of obscure rock tracks of New England now.
A.S.: I’m Googling some of the bands from the Cleveland Confidential compilation and I’m finding little information about them, so I guess it is still possible to be really obscure. Although I guess Mente does have a site, but they don’t even count “Devil Went Down…” on their list of songs, which would make sense since it’s a demo of a side project, so man… obscure shit there, Flansy. So let that be a lesson folks: obscurity is still possible, take it from The Clamdiggers. Maybe if The Clamdiggers were meant to be a surf-rock parody band, the song would be reference to Newport, CA?
L.K.: No idea. I’m sticking to my theory until I hear otherwise, and I refuse to budge.
A.S.: Yeah, I stand with you on that.  I just crave more information.
L.K.: Here’s more info on an earlier Mono Puff song: “According to Flans, “Felt Tip Pen” was written on the way to a gig, so that the set could be longer.”
A.S.: Maybe we’ll discover more about “The Devil” later.
L.K.: Maybe. “Mono Puff also released a 2 song vinyl 7” on  the Slow River label which features “The Devil Went Down To Newport”,  as well as a song called “Pretty Fly” – a song by John Flansburgh’s wife  Robin Goldwasser, A.K.A Sister Puff.  The cover of the record is green with the words “Mono Puff” and other text hand-written on the front.  On the back is a hand-drawn picture of a building and the words “Manhattan  Psychiatric Center”.  The squiggly things drawn underneath the building  are labelled as “Mind-Reading Antennas.” I need to own this.
2 Responses to “#47 – “The Devil Went Down To Newport (Totally Rocking)” (Mono Puff; 1996)”
  1. UPDATE: A message from our record store owner friend, Charles:

    “The direct precursors to the Upper Crust, this band sported the original Upper Crust lineup and described themselves as “surf-rock with a nod toward Satanism.” They pretended to be a 1960s surf band, singing Beach Boys type songs about the crappy New England beaches, but it quickly descended into a celebration of heavy metal and satanism. They once re-wrote all there songs and did a Halloween show as the Gravediggers. Clearly, the Upper Crust was the inevitable next step. The Upper Crust song “Rock and Roll Butler” has its origins in a Clamdiggers tune called “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau.” See also Mono Puff.” The Upper Crust played [WRUW music festival] Studio-A-Rama circa 1999, we have a great recording of that show along with records / CDs by them and the Sataninics, Titanics, Scruffy The Cat, Flies, Bags (not the L.A. one) and other related bands. I think that some of the Diggers stuff might have been bonus material on either the Titanics or Satanics CD, sorry I don’t have them near me to check for sure. The Crust are one of my favorite bands, always a great and very fun show. Here’s a stupid bit of trivia. Lord Rockingham left the Crust because his day job got to be too much, speech writer for President Clinton.

  2. Nathan says:

    Wasn’t Kim Deal’s ex-husband John Murphy in Mente?

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