Shirley Temple died today at the age of 85. Without question, the former child star was an institution, shaping American pop culture since the age of three, but why in the Good Ship Lollipop, you may ask, are we posting about her here on Chart Attack?
Turns out, the dimpled, tapdancing little scamp had connections that ran as far and as twisted as the seminal grounds of sludge punk: her daughter played bass in the Melvins. She dated their sardonic, afroed singer (the same man who once tried to pay for a house with indie cred). The Melvins came over for family dinners. It’s hard to imagine a weirder yet more perfect rebellion for the daughter of America’s little darling.
As we noted in our PRIMER on the Melvins’ long, strange career Lori “Lorax” Black, Temple’s daughter, played bass on 1989′s Ozma and 1991′s Bullhead and got ousted from the group sometime during the (partially Kurt Cobain-assisted) sessions for their’ storied 1993 major label debut, Houdini (though her name still appears in the credits). In Mark Yarm’s 2011 book Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge, Melvins frontman King Buzzo remembers his time around the Temple-Black household, as per this excerpt from Yarm’s Tumblr:
BUZZ OSBORNE (Melvins singer/guitarist): When I went to San Francisco, I moved directly into Lori’s house. Now, bear in mind, I started going out with her long before I ever knew who her mom was. Months and months later, she said, “My mom is somebody famous.” I was like, “What are you fucking talking about?” It was crazy. I couldn’t believe that her mom was Shirley Temple.
Lori’s dad was Charles Black, who came from oil money, I think. And Shirley is a self-made woman. Shirley’s parents squandered every dime she ever made as a child before she had a chance to spend any of it. She got nothing. Zero. So she’s a pretty tough broad, you know? She’ll rip your head off and eat you for breakfast. She was the ambassador to Czechoslovakia at that point, after being the ambassador to Ghana.
Their house was unbelievable. Lots of stuff from the Hearst collection. Amazing shit—they had really great taste. And there was an Oscar sitting there. Shirley talked about her acting a lot. At one point they had her playing drums, and she had a recording of her playing drums when she was a kid, and she sounded like fucking Buddy Rich. And then she showed us how tap dancing is really just drumming. She tap-danced for us, and she was fucking amazing.
Just think: the animal cracker-loving warbler above had at least some part in birthing (quite literally) the proto-grunge anthem below.
Osborne: They probably thought that I was some leeching weirdo and that their daughter went out with me just to screw with them. Her dad was never nice to me. Shirley was nice to me to some degree, but they’re very guarded people. I’m sure they thought I was going to write some book or something. And believe me, without going into any graphic details, there are massive skeletons in that closet.
One thing that Shirley said to me was, “Working in the government, you can always get somebody audited.” I took that to heart. They never did anything to me personally, or even threatened me, but they didn’t need to. You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. They were über-right-wing. Now, I’m not talking about Rush Limbaugh; I’m talking about the people who make life-and-death decisions. And it’s not necessarily evil; it’s more realistic. Charles was ex-CIA. It’s weirder than you can possibly imagine. I certainly never got the truth.
Since then, everything that’s happened—from Nirvana going crazy and on and on and on—none of that holds a candle to how weird that situation was. That’s David Lynch weird.
If you want to read more about the godfathers of grunge, check out our Melvins PRIMER.