Artist Biography by Jason Ankeny
Inspired as much by breakfast cereal and kiddie TV as by rock music, punk-pop cult band Redd Kross were the brainchild of Steve and Jeff McDonald, brothers from the Los Angeles suburb of Hawthorne (also home of the Beach Boys) who began playing music together before either had hit puberty. Fueled by a series of dubious visits to famed area rock clubs like the Roxy and the Whisky a Go Go, they formed their first band, the Tourists, in 1978; Jeff, then 15, handled vocal duties while Steve, 11, took up the bass. After rounding out the group with schoolmates Greg Hetson on guitar and Ron Reyes on drums, the Tourists played their first gig, opening for Black Flag. Following a name change to Red Cross, they issued their self-titled EP debut in 1980. After the departure of Hetson and Reyes (for the Circle Jerks and Black Flag, respectively), the McDonalds enlisted a revolving lineup of underground musicians for their full-length follow-up, 1981's Born Innocent, which found the group's pop culture obsessions bubbling over on tributes like "Linda Blair" and "Charlie" (about Charles Manson, whose "Cease to Exist" they also covered).
Following the album's release, the band was threatened with a lawsuit from the real International Red Cross; as a result, the group became Redd Kross, and returned in 1984 with Teen Babes from Monsanto, a collection of covers of artists ranging from David Bowie to the Rolling Stones and the Shangri-Las. That year, they also appeared in and composed the music for the no-budget film Desperate Teenage Lovedolls, which included their transcendent cover of the Brady Bunch's "(It's A) Sunshine Day." Complete with new guitarist Robert Hecker and drummer Roy McDonald (no relation), 1987's Neurotica, with songs like "Frosted Flake," "The Ballad of Tatum O'Tot and the Fried Vegetables," and "Janus, Jeanie and George Harrison," appeared primed to push Redd Kross out of the underground, but their label, Big Time, folded shortly after the album's release, and legal hassles prevented the band from recording any new material under its own name for three years.