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.
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
one can help wonder if it's some kind of Freudian
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
thought we gotta have
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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) .
second part click here...