All Kindsa Girls is a practically perfect documentary about a frequently overlooked band: The Real Kids. Released in 2006, this film is the authoritative account of the band’s history, and producer/director Cheryl Eagan-Donovan’s affection for her subject shines through every frame. For those who have only heard the title song, the film illustrates why The Real Kids matter.
The Real Kids are a true cult band, which I define as a band that achieved greater fame than success, influenced many other bands, and developed a fervent following. They’re the equal of their Boston garage rock contemporaries; DMZ, The Lyres, Nervous Eaters, and Willie “Loco” Alexander. Those bands are still performing because Boston musicians seem to possess a working-class mindset, and to view rock and roll as a job that they’re lucky to have.
Like Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, The Real Kids were lumped in with new wave/punk rock, that they pre-dated, because their stripped-down high-energy rock & roll had more in common with punk than the disco and prog rock that were popular at the time. Rock ’n’ roll fans leaned toward acts like Led Zeppelin, or Boston’s Aerosmith, or The J.Geils Band.
Lead singer/songwriter John Felice never liked the punk label. As he told Creative Loafing in 2016: “We were just a rock ‘n’ roll band, and that’s all we ever wanted to be.” For those unfamiliar with the band, their sound reflects their influences; The Kinks, The Velvet Underground, The Stooges, and The New York Dolls, who Felice was friends with.
“Street Cred” doesn’t come any more rock solid than Felice’s. A childhood friend and next-door neighbor of Jonathan Richman in Natick Massachusetts, Felice was a member of Richman’s The Modern Lovers at 15. Also in the band were future Cars member Dave Robinson and future Talking Head Jerry Harrison. It was a “super group” in reverse.
Felice convinced Jonathan Richman, who was performing solo at the time, that he needed a band, but left The Modern Lovers before their groundbreaking first recordings. Felice never achieved anything like his friend’s level of success outside of Boston and France. Even Richman may be best known as the minstrel in There’s Something About Mary.
The people who discuss The Real Kids onscreen are as quietly legendary as the band. Richman gets lots of screen time, and according to one source, is responsible for the band’s name. Originally named simply; “The Kids,” after their first live show (opening for The Modern Lovers), it came to their attention that there was already another group calling themselves The Kids. Jonathan said: “Aw, don’t worry… You guys are the REAL Kids.”
Lower-visibility trendsetters interviewed include; Rick Harte of Ace Of Hearts Records, Miriam Linna of Norton Records, Patrick Mathe of New Rose Records, J.J. Rassler of DMZ, John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants, and fellow Boston music legend Willie “Loco” Alexander. Someone needs to tell Willie to button up his shirt. Maybe he’s trying to live up to his “Loco” nickname—because you’d have to be crazy to think anyone wants to see a 60 year old guy’s chest hair.
Richman was also responsible for connecting John Felice with his three bandmates. Felice told The Boston Groupie News that: “Jonathan came to me and said he knew some guys in Beverly who wanted to put a band together, but needed songs. I kinda, at that point, needed a band so that’s how I hooked up with them.”
Guitarist Billy Borgioli and bassist Allen ‘Alpo’ Paulino saw drummer Howard Ferguson playing with his band at The Rat. Borgioli & Alpo invited the drummer to a rehearsal, and Ferguson’s drumming clicked with Alpo’s similarly simple style right away. By all accounts John Felice & Alpo were instantly like brothers; bonding over their record collection & the striking number of albums they both owned.
Any record collector understands how someone loving a certain artist can “make or break” them with you. Several of my most lasting friendships have come about because of a shared love of certain bands. Some have lasted longer than my affection for the bands that brought us together. Conversely, if someone doesn’t like Buddy Holly, I don’t want to know them. Felice clearly has good taste in rock ’n’ roll, and he sports an impressive range of well-worn, still trendy, rock band t-shirts in the film; The Flamin’ Groovies, The Pep Boys, The Methadones, The Pinkz, and Norton Records.
Within a couple of years of forming, there was six-figured interest inThe Modern Lovers & Jonathan had written his classic ode to Massachusetts; “Roadrunner.” Felice left The Modern Lovers to form his own “Children’s Rock & Roll Band” (later “The Kids”) to play middle and high schools. Having turned pro at 15, Felice had skipped the “three sets a night” stage of his career, and wanted to play more relaxed, less-professional shows. By 1973 Felice had written his best-known song, the one that gives this documentary it’s title.
“The first record we ever made was a single of “All Kindsa Girls” for a French guy who had a label called Sponge,” says Felice. Years later, the band put out a couple of albums on France’s New Rose label. Felice says the band never made a dime from any of their releases in France (where they were most popular) despite what can be assumed were considerable sales.
After that, the band put out their self-titled debut on Marty Thau’s Red Star label. Known as “The Red Star Record,” it was produced in five weeks in 1977 by Thau himself, who had cut early demos with The Ramones, and was The New York Doll’s manager. Thau had signed the band to a two record deal, but the label was floundering, and The Real Kids extricated themselves, with diminished returns.
Norton Records owner, Miriam Linna, who also played drums with The Cramps, & The A-Bones says: “They had some kind of energy onstage & off” and “managed to come out with this incredible album.” Norton would later figure prominently in keeping the band in the public eye by re-releasing their debut. Felice himself isn’t happy with the record that is now considered a classic. When the album didn’t sell, Felice worked briefly as a roadie for The Ramones.
Original guitarist Billy Borgioli was replaced after the first album. As Felice explains in a voiceover, he and Alpo went for an image that Borgioli didn’t fit, looking more like a member of Aerosmith. Felice, who resembles a blonde Johnny Ramone with Tom Perry’s overbite added aftermarket, says: “We kinda did like a trade…. like a baseball team trade. We traded their Billy for our Billy with (the band) Baby’s Arm.” For the record, “Baby’s Arm” is most likely a reference to Lenny Bruce’s description of an African-American man’s penis resembling a baby’s arm, holding an apple.
But along with the new guitarist, Felice also got a drug buddy with a similar appetite for heroin. He says: “We liked to get high together…. All of a sudden I had like, a partner in crime, someone who wanted to do drugs with me all the time…. When we weren’t rehearsing, we were just, we were chasing drugs and shooting drugs, and just being crazy, and just getting really out of control… After a while people came to see just how fucked up we’d be onstage.”
France was wild for The Real Kids from the get go. They were recognized by a customs agent as they entered the country in 1983. Despite their successful shows there, indulgence in Paris’ low-priced and high-quality heroin resulted in them not returning for many years. After that tour, Felice explains the band “disintegrated for twenty years” and the documentary jumps ahead to some thicker-in-the-middle 2003 footage of the band. We learn in the time that elapsed, Felice had a breakdown and received shock therapy. That’s rock & roll, for you. Sometimes the guy who deserves the Grammy gets shock treatment instead.
All Kindsa Girls contains surprisingly high-quality footage of the band considering they started in 1976, and never achieved the American Bandstand level of success. There’s no slow tracking across grainy black & white photos while the narrator does his best Orson Welles impression. There’s no narrator either, for that matter, just a few quotes on the screen used as transitions. The participants tell their truth, and the film goes by quickly, even considering that it’s only 64 minutes long.
There’s a wonderful clip of The Real Kids playing “Baby’s Book” in a rustic drop-ceilinged, wood-paneled basement with clothes drying in the corner, and they still manage to be 100% cool. They clearly already had “it.” There’s a great live version of “All Kindsa Girls” from The Rat in 1978, and a 1983 run through of The Rolling Stones‘ “Grown Up All Wrong” in a room in Paris’ Hotel de Lima.
In the final footage, shot eleven years ago, we learn that original bassist Allen ‘Alpo’ Paulino passed away, & I’m told that Billy Borgioli passed in 2015. John Felice says that: “There is no Real Kids anymore,” and that he won’t be fronting a band called that. He also shares that he has arthritis that makes playing guitar very painful, so it’s possible he won’t be able to play anymore. In the interim, John has had six surgeries on his hands so he can keep playing, and he seems to have decided that if he and Billy Cole are in the band, it’s The Real Kids. The world is undoubtedly better for it.
Eight years after this documentary was made, Felice released The Real Kids’ Shake Outta Control album on Ace Of Hearts. Many of the songs were intended to be on the band’s second Red Star album, but never saw the inside of a studio. Only live versions previously existed. They added organ, which pushes the band’s sound firmly into garage rock territory.
Despite their thirty year history when the film was produced only 10 band members were listed in the credits, and they may be up to 12 by now.. There have been enough developments in the last 10 years to justify an epilogue in order to bring Felice’s story up to date, and to bring this doc up to feature film length. I hope it happens.
Cheryl Eagan-Donovan’s Controversy Films has a brand-new documentary: Nothing Is Truer Than Truth about Shake-speare’s sexuality and his travels in Italy. Funds were raised via Kickstarted to film in Venice and Northern Italy, and Controversy’s currently submitting it to film festivals.