Formed in 1973 and New-York based, Milk 'n' Cookies were cute, flashy powerpoppers. They got up in dungerees and white bow ties.

A burst of pure pop exuberance, Milk’n’Cookies, could have been The Ramones but wanted to be the boys next door. As lead singer Justin Strauss coos unabashedly on the opening track. Tinkertoy Tomorrow "Everything looks real and sparkling and squeaky clean, just like me!".

Here come the nice boys, the kind of kids who always did their homework and got to school on time. As guitarist and chief song writer lan North told Sounds scribe Pete Makowski  in March 1975: "I hate the word Punk Rock." Formed during New York's  most decadent musical period, Milk'n'Cookies were fresh faced Lilies of the Valley rather than the alley. Now this could really have been a drag had they not been so unintentionally kitsch not to mention such a fine band.


milk'n'cookies-ian north

Hailing from Woodmere, in Long Island, ail of their press stresses that they were a suburban group. To have been considered a neighbourhood outfit would have been far too street. Musically however, this bunch of self-professed goody two shoes had the potential to kick ass as Wok'n'Woll so ably demonstrates. Although eschewing any of the conventional props of Glam and Glitter (no eyeliner or nail varnish for The Cookies) Wok'n'Woll is a classic of the genre, from the sledge hammer drum beat to the strident guitar riff. The other key factor to Milk’n’Cookies' accidental subversion is Justin's feathery emasculated vocals. Justin’s no Joe Cocker that’s for sure and when he sings “I’ve got a girl, she’s a pink alligator”  one can help wonder if it's some kind of Freudian castration allusion.


While Milk'n'Cookies might have wanted to buck the prevailing trends, lan North, the group's main motivator had conventionally rebellious ambitions to become a rock star whilst growing up as a backlash to the stifling environment of Woodmere. The core of the band had been formed with lan's best friend bass player Jay Weis and drummer Mike Ruiz in early 1973. It was the elusive Justin who had been harder to snare as lan told Sounds: " When we were forming the band we wanted a singer and suddenly I thought we gotta have Justin. I mean he looks like a rock singer. He didn't want to know, he had never sung before, so we beat him up a little and he began to sing. We beat him up more and he sang more," which may account for Justin’s traumatised vocal technique.

Christened by Strauss's 12 year old sister, Milk'n'Cookies started playing school dances and hawking a demo tape around. At the intervention of Spark's fan club organiser Joseph Fleury one of the tapes winged its way to John Hewlett, manager of Sparks and The Jook. Under the auspices of Hewlett, Jay Weis left the band and was replaced by Sal Maida who had previously played bass with Roxy Music. At 23 was the old man of the band. Although more experienced than the rest of his Cookie cohorts, the bass player was still able to evince the requisite wide-eyed naiveté as he explained to the N.M.E: "We're middle class, sure. Our music, lyrics and whole image is innocence, but with a knowing behind it. Our stage personalities corne from what we really are; we don't wear costumes 'cos we use our own clothes. Compared to the other New York groups we're a lot less contrived and the first thing we wanted to do was avoid the typical glam label."


And yet as the album attests, Milk'n'Cookies, still manifested Glam tendencies, as on the extremely foppish We Go On Dancing which extols dancing over making love amidst suggestions of falling bombs and impending apocalypse, whilst Rabbits Make Love is sugar coated camp, the story of a promiscuous bunny girl conveyed by Justin Strauss who sounds like a helium Monroe whilst delivering the following lyrical nuggets 'Hippity hop, hippity hop/ Ooh, ooh, you just can't stop/Hippity hop, hippity hop.'

In their pursuit of a love crazy wholesomeness Milk'n'Cookies were unwittingly bizarre, like comic characters turned pop act The Archies on aphrodisiacs. But they were very cute, especially Justin Strauss, a factor John Hewlett must surely have been counting on when he talked them up to Island records.

The company took the bait and the band began recording their eponymously titled debut album with Muff Winwood who had produced Spark's Kimono My House. Ultimately Island who, although a quality label, didn't provide a comfortable home for Milk'n'Cookies, being more au-fait with rock acts than power pop whilst Winwood's production wasn't particular­ly sympathetic.

Yet Milk'n'Cookies achieved what they had set out to do as Sal Maida told the N.M.E: 'The whole album was written as singles. Very com mercial; always a melody and   short   songs,   with lyrics the kids can relate to about school and just sub-urban growing up.

In February 1975, Milk'n'Cookies arrived in England to publicise the release of their first single   Little, Lost And Innocent / Good  Friends. Maida   confided to the N.M.E:" Certain people find it a relief that it's a pop thing." Speaking to Record & Popswop Mirror, lan North was more direct: "We would like a hit even more than most people would. You see, I had a very traumatic childhood. Can you imagine what it's like to grow up in solid, safe, suburbia wanting nothing but to become a pop star?'


Forget boy bands, Milk'n'Cookies were the original coy band, as Little, Lost And Innocent bears out but it was the 45's b-side Good Friends (also called Just Friends on the French sleeve) that was really special. Opening with a prime example of lan North's gift for coming up with hooky riffs and directed by a hard driving rhythm section Good Friends is a perfect fusion of the band's sweet essence spliced with a petulant rock rush.

French Single 1975



By making the track the flip side however, one wonders whether Island or even the band themselves understood just exactly where their true strength lay. Certainly Milk'n'Cookies were pitching themselves in two widely diverse directions as Sal Maida's comments to the N.M.E testifies: "Our visuals appeal to the younger kids and the raw act and strength of our material should pull in the progressives."

Sentiments that lan North echoed in Sounds: "I like to think of ourselves as a progressive band. We're our greatest fans and I know if I heard that album on the radio l'd go out and buy it."


Although the 45 made barely a ripple in the charts, Sal Maida promised Record Mirror and Popswop that the best was yet to come, including live shows: "When we do gigs, Justin will sing much harder and the whole sounnd will be much harsher and more rocky than our recorded work". Justin alas, said not a word during the interviews perhaps saving his voice for when they finally started gigging. One of the best examples of the live sound can be heard on the 1976 CBGB's concert - 14 songs full of energy and raw power, forget all about the album childish vocals and Muff Winwood flat production, so you'll get a band closer to the New-York Dolls / Ramones mood than , say,  the Bay City Rollers look or a sub-Sparks oufit.

1976 CBGB's Show : 1. Chance To Play (2'19) - 2. Just A Kid (2'34) - 3. Little, Lost & Innocent (3'11) - 4. On The Outs (3'22) - 5. The Last Letter (3'36) - 6. Local Talent (2'00) - 7. Broken Melody (2'27) - 8.  Typically Teenage (3'04) - 9. Buy This Record (2'27) - 10. Not Enough Girls In The World (3'04) - 11. We Goon Dancing (1'55) - 12. Tinkertoy Tomorrow (2'59) - 13. Rivets (3'00) - 14.Girls And Gangs (3'22) .

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