C. J. Walsh
GTOs - Permanent Damage
Cover Design: John Williams
Photography: Andee Cohen
Starting life as the Laurel Canyon Ballet Company, the GTOs (Girls Together Outrageously) were thrown together by Frank Zappa for his fledgling Straight label in 1968. Though Zappa gave them their name, the moniker – Miss Pamela, Miss Christine, etc. came from a meeting with Tiny Tim, so they really had it all covered. Though Zappa wasn’t a fan of the psychedelic movement, the cover was a solarized photograph of a bucolic forest setting, gone hot pink and purple, surrounded by pond-scum green. John Williams also did the band shots for Alice Cooper’s debut album, Pretties For You, another group that understood the value of visual image. The buyer would be in for a shock when the needle came down on this one.
The gatefold opens to reveal the individual shots of the GTOs looking much older than they were and waxing philosophically on important topics like panhandling. Dressed to the nines in clothes they either made or found at a thrift shop closeout, Mercy with her kohl-darkened eyes and an obviously pregnant Sandra (Father: Zappa art director Cal Schenkel). Christine has the back cover all to herself. Put into some semblance of musical sense by Lowell George during his brief stint in the Mothers of Invention the record was part spoken word, with anthropological sensibilities and salacious field recordings.
They come off like cosmic cheerleaders on Captain’s fat Theresa Shoes, which celebrates Captain Beefheart’s footwear. Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart helped out on Ghost Chained To The Past and I Have A Paintbrush… has an uncredited slide guitar contribution from Ry Cooder along with Mercy’s off-key warbling, which anticipates punk by a good 8 years. The record sometimes resembles a convalescent home sing-along. The project quickly resembled a counter culture soap opera. Sparky and Lucy quit before the record was released.
And apparently drugs were involved; Mercy, Sandra and Cynderella were busted before the record even came out, having formed a more primary connection to heroin.
Miss Christine had hooked up with Alice Cooper, he and his band were also signed to Straight, later, she looked like a freshly exhumed corpse when she graced the cover of Zappa’s Hot Rats.
Mercy had a small part in the Jimi Hendrix film, Rainbow Bridge, Lucy and Pamela starred in 200 Motels. Pamela wrote I’m With The Band, which contains truckloads of sex mixed in with a great firsthand account of Los Angeles’ late-sixties music scene. They nearly succeeded in becoming as famous as the rock stars they idolized. A troubled soul, Miss Christine fatally overdosed in 1972.