I estimate that I have written close to 480,000 words on Faith No More in various comment sections of this site alone. What’s 12,000 more?
Part 3 of 7
Part 1 here.
Part 2 here.
The Real Thing (1989)
Without a singer, there was no shortage of suggestions. The big suggestion was Chris Cornell from Soundga—who am I kidding? You know who Chris Cornell is. Anyway, the label and management pressured the band to bring Cornell in to audition (word had gotten out, and one local paper printed Cornell joining the band as fact before any phone calls had been made). The band had played with Soundgarden numerous times, and they had a kinship, but they really weren’t looking to snatch Cornell away. Eventually, drummer Mike Bordin caved to pressure and called Cornell. Cornell told Bordin that he loved Faith No More, but he had to stay with Soundgarden. Bordin agreed, he said that Faith No More loved Soundgarden, and that Cornell should stay with his band. Nothing else was ever said about it.
While some other people were being auditioned and being considered, guitarist Jim Martin was really pushing for Mr. Bungle’s Mike Patton. Martin was a huge fan of the death metal of Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny demo, but he was not a fan of the Bowel of Chiley demo, in which Patton actually does some singing. Martin used to leave demented late-night messages on Patton’s parents’ answering machine, telling Patton that Wrath was the way to go, and the Chiley style should be abandoned. Bordin, on the other hand was enthused by Mr. Bungle’s evolution, and he was the one who made the call to Patton about coming down to audition.
Mike Patton, by his own admission, only drifted to music in high school because he didn’t fit in with anyone else. He attempted to play sports, but he was not accepted by the jocks, so to music he went. He only did his first singing gig because the singer of the band of his high school friends bailed at the last minute for a talent show. “It’s not like I thought about it. It just happened,” Patton said. Mr. Bungle guitarist Trey Spruance saw this performance, and drafted him into his band. So began his accidental upward flailing into the music world.
The group had no idea what Patton would look like, Martin thought he was going to be “a 300-pound fat guy”, but they were all surprised at how young Patton was when he made the trek down. Patton had brought Mr. Bungle bassist Trevor Dunn with him, but Patton wasn’t really into the idea of joining Faith No More at first. It was actually Dunn and Spruance who urged him to follow through, telling him that it didn’t mean he had to quit Mr. Bungle.
Patton came down and jammed with the band. They listened back to the tapes, and bassist Bill Gould realized that he was the only singer who was actually helping the songs. When Patton came back down for a weekend to work on some ideas, he already had ideas for six songs that were almost complete. At this point, Patton had eliminated the competition.
In November 1988, a few weeks before entering the studio to record The Real Thing, the band played a show to introduce Patton to the band’s fans. The fans, and even friends of the band, hated it. To them, Patton was a “macho asshole” and “a sexist”, and everyone wanted to know where ousted vocalist Chuck Mosley was. This show is also where they filmed footage for what became the video for “From Out of Nowhere”, and someone threw a bottle at Patton, and right when he was moving, he punched it and shredded his hand. The band got hate mail, honest to God, hate mail. Faith No More, however, was undeterred. As Gould says, “change happens”.
The Real Thing was released June 20, 1989. While, it often gets placed in a category of “funk-metal”, that is an over simplification. “From Out of Nowhere” and “Falling to Pieces” are straight up pop songs, “Edge of the World” was a smooth-jazz piano ballad (with hilarious and creepy lyrics), “Woodpecker From Mars” is prog rock on steroids, and “Surprise! You’re Dead!” and the cover of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” are the only straight up metal tracks. Of course, the big hit of the album, “Epic” is a hard rock, funk, rap song with a piano ballad outro.
Faith No More had begun rigorous touring to try and break the album, but the sales weren’t coming. After about 8 months, they had only sold 25,000. The band had released “From Out of Nowhere”, and it pretty much went… nowhere. They then did a video for “Epic”, which was released in January of 1990, and it sank like a stone. They band was gaining word of mouth for their high energy live shows, and eventually went to Europe for more touring. While overseas, the “Epic” video suddenly got put back in rotation in late May, which began to build on their touring, and soon the song was charting all over the globe.
I can remember seeing the video at my cousin’s house (same cousin as most of my adventures), and it just destroyed my 14-year-old brain. I had not only never seen anything like it, but I hadn’t heard anything like it, either. We didn’t have it on the radio very often in my hometown, because we were a small town and radio was largely pop music (or country).
That Christmas, I received a new dual cassette stereo, and The Real Thing on cassette. Upon listening to it, the track listing gives you the three singles right in row, then it slaps you in the face with “Surprise! You’re Dead!”. That song actually frightened me a little bit, as did “War Pigs” (I hadn’t discovered BAD STEPDAD’s Black Sabbath collection yet, and the concept of a cover song was still foreign to me). The other stuff was just weird to me. Prior to this album, Aerosmith was my favorite band, and the only other thing I knew was whatever hair metal ballads were pumping out. Everything I heard prior to this, I immediately knew if I liked it or if I didn’t, but this challenged me in that I just didn’t know. But I didn’t give up. As I got a little bit older, I joined Columbia House (there’s that name again) just to order more copies of The Real Thing. I ended up wearing out four copies of the cassette, listening so much that they snapped. When I converted to CDs a few years later, I bought it three more times, because I kept playing them to absolute death.
In the spring of 1990, Faith No More recorded their concert at Brixton Academy for release of a home video, and later a European only live album, both titled You Fat Bastards. I can remember the purple cover taunting me for months, while I saved up the $19.99 ($39.43 in 2020 money). The album version of the live show had the tracks all scrambled from their sequence on the video, which I wasn’t a fan of, but it did have two unreleased tracks from the sessions for The Real Thing, “The Cowboy Song” and “The Grade”, both of which would be included when The Real Thing was reissued in 2015.
On December 1, 1990, Faith No More played on Saturday Night Live. I recorded it and wore the thing out. The only reason I bring it up, was because on both this performance and the You Fat Bastards video, Patton wore a suit with a t-shirt underneath, long pants on SNL, but the suit pants were cut off on the home video. This became my adopted look for a few years, old man dress pants from the thrift store cut off into shorts, and I even got the “undercut” haircut Patton had on SNL. I didn’t stick with the suit jackets, but the cut off dress pants lasted me through grunge and into the mid/late 90s. Although, often times the plaid ones would be wool, and they’d be hot as hell.