Back in 1981, one of Jill Cunniff's
earliest forays into music was the Moppy Skuds. This duo
has been mentioned in more than one magazine article without
any clear explanation as to who exactly comprised this New
York punk entity.
"The Moppy Skuds were actually called Reparata and the Moppy Skuds and we were like a punky version of a girl group from the 1960's. We got the name from Reparata and the Delrons. I had a leather jacket that was basically this gross muddy green color and we called it Skud green. Moppy came from the fact that we all had really teased hair that was moppy. Our specialty was singing to lines of concertgoers in lower Manhattan and asking for quarters. Usually they would give us money to stop singing. Our repertoire consisted of "Gilligan's Island", "Brady Bunch", "Mr Popcorn Man" and "Jesus Loves Me". The members of the "group" included anyone up for it: Tania Aebi, Rebecca Scanlon, Kate Stearns, Gabby Glaser, Robin Moore, Arabella Field, and me." (from a 2006 beastiemania.com interview with Jill Cunniff)
Jill Cunniff is best known for having been the lead singer of the band Luscious Jackson (1991-2000). However, before establishing her presence in the world of pop music, she was an avid supporter of the early 1980s New York punk music scene and participated in publishing a punk zine called Decline of Art. It was from the pages of this zine's second issue, that the Beastie Boys borrowed the 1981 interview which was later reprinted in the Some Old Bullshit liner notes. The others named in the Decline of Art staff credits were Marguerite Lutton, Rebecca Scanlon, Tania Aebi, Robin Moore, Dana Ditullio, Arabella Field, and Judy Holmes. In order of historical occurrence, one has to believe that this issue (#2) of Decline of Art came out about 4 months after Jill Cunniff, as part of the Bag Ladies, lent her vocals to the Young Aborigines recordings of "City Blue and Grey", "Motherland," and "Booty Dub."
Actress Arabella Field also worked on Decline of Art and is credited with having taken the photograph of the Beastie Boys which appeared on the back of the Polly Wog Stew EP. Although he was not 100% sure of the line-up, Dave Parsons said that Arabella Field was one of the Moppy Skuds and described her as the "moppiest." Parsons said that he recalled the girls entering a lower eastside bar that he was at one afternoon when "They proceeded to pass a hat for donations amongst the patrons while singing 'Jesus Loves Me'." He went on to say that in a subsequent issue of his punk zine Mouth of the Rat he remembered printing a list of his favorite songs, and included the Moppy Skuds' rendition of the traditional Christian children's song "Jesus Loves Me" towards the top of the list.
Tania Aebi is best known for having been the first American women and the youngest person, at age 18, to sail around the world. She recorded her memories of New York's Lower East Side punk scene in the book Maiden Voyage (1989) and following excerpt was taken from chapter four. "The first two years of high school are a bleary memory of lying, sneaking out of the house at night, hanging out on the streets, going to clubs and following bands with names like The Bad Brains, The Mad, and the Stimulators. I bought all my clothes at the Salvation Army and thrift shops, arranging outfits to make them look as strange as possible. We all wore construction boots with skirts, lots of makeup and black eyeliner and teased out hair. We painted badges and pins with slogans and statements that we stuck all over our oversized men's vests." Having sailed out of New York in May of 1985, as the Beastie Boys were out on the road opening for Madonna, and having returned home to New York from her 27,000 mile trip in November of 1987; it is interesting to note that Tania more or less missed out on the popularity of Licensed to Ill and ensuing insanity that encircled her fellow New York punk cronies the Beastie Boys.
Although several NYHC punk flyers promoting performances by Beastie Boys, as well as the Young and the Useless have surfaced, nothing mentioning the Moppy Skuds has come to our attention. Yet, it is likely that they may have recorded some material and performed it live. Jill Cunniff in a VH1 Before They Were Rockstars interview said the following, "I was so absorbed with it that I would sit in my room and just like play these notes and sing with the notes. The first song I wrote was called 'Socialite' and it was… socialite you are so finite. It was just about this girl I knew who…I won't name her, but I felt she was very superficial." On the other hand, maybe the Moppy Skuds performances were not anything as formal as an onstage concert and were closer to what Dave Parsons and Jill Cunniff had described. Again, another quote from the Tania Aebi's book Maiden Voyage; "At concerts, sometimes we went up to people in line and asked, 'wanna hear a song for fifty cents?' Whenever anyone would flip us the two quarters, we'd burst into a medley of TV themes from 'The Brady Bunch' to 'Gilligan's Island.' We were just having fun."
Lastly, in a 2002 conversation with the late Dave Parsons it was pointed out how many people from this close knit unit have gone on to become successful. Obviously both Jill Cunniff and Tania Aebi went on to achieve a level of notoriety, but Parsons also mentioned the fact that Arabella Field went on to become an actress and appeared in the blockbuster motion picture Godzilla (1998). Dave Parsons once likened St. Mark's Place and the area surrounding his Ratcage Records store to the "Force" in the Star Wars movies. He said that this unseen force had the ability to somehow pull all of these highly creative people together for a brief period in time. We are thankful that both the Beastie Boys and Luscious Jackson evolved out of this period.