Cincinnati Joe and Mad Lydia

Here’s an obscure but not very expensive album that should appeal to anyone whose ears are shaped in a Waxidermian kind of way. The rather unlikely couple came together in the fair town of Cincy, where they released this LP as well as a couple of non-LP 45s. As suggested in my Acid Archives review, only about half the LP — Lydia’s half — works, but her tracks are quite appealing in various strange ways, and combined with the lame-ass macho funkrock of Cincy Joe you get a gatefold package of solid strangeness from the American underbelly.

There’s an edge city Holiday Inn next to your trailer park, and if the wind is right you can sit outside with your beer and hear the seductive sounds of Cincy Joe & Mad Lydia, followed by headliners from down south, Jade Stone & Luv, who drove up from Nashville in their stolen Cadillac.

The track presented here is “Plastic Rose”. At first it may sound like a third-rate Barbra Streisand tune, but over time and with some attention, weirdness starts seeping through. Before reading my take on it, play it a few times.

The tune is reasonably professional, almost seductive with its glitzy nightclub/cocktail production and background harmonies. If heard just once or twice, it may go right by you. But after a while you may (or may not) begin to notice small details that aren’t really right. Such as the line “high-heel shoes, a little bit fat”, where the word FAT may jump out at you. Then you may start to listen more closely to the lyrics, and you can hear things like “she’s a little bit loose” and “the [child’s] father never made her his wife”… and “laundromat” and “satin” and “plastic everywhere”. And it begins to sound a bit CONDESCENDING maybe. Instead of the sentimental tribute to a “salt of the earth” woman it was intended to be, those small, misguided slip-ups in the lyrics instead create a vision of an overweight working-class slut with vulgar taste.

It’s all there in the title: “Plastic Rose”. At first it may seem a bit clever, but in the further and final analysis it’s just weird and misguided. The ultimate question may be this: what would the REAL “Plastic Rose” say if she heard this song about her simple but romantic lifestyle? I think she would be deeply OFFENDED. And that, folks, is Incredibly Strange.


  • I’m not seeing the link…

  • We got 4 guys in Bombay working on the “Plastic Rose” MP3 link right now. But I can always HUM the tune for you.

    “And her na-a-ame is Plastic Rose,

    That’s the chorus.

    EDIT: the link is there now, in the last paragraph, and it works. Thanks… dig it!

    // Patrick

  • Mad Lydia is the daughter of the owner of a local FM radio station, WEBN (who put out a series of various local artist LPs). There are a few 45s by the duo, also on their own Riverwitch imprint, the finest being “Madam Satan”, by Lydia alone, and purportedly about her mother. My copy of the LP luckily came with a newspaper clipping announcing the opening of Joe and Lydia’s club, Cincinnati Joe’s Hideaway, which was to be decorated in a ‘witch motif’!

  • Whoa! Any chance of scanning that clipping?

    Oddly, Cincy Joe’s solo 45 is surprisingly good, with just the groove and energy that his LP tracks lack. I haven’t heard any of Lydia’s 45s, but I remember reading about her working as a DJ.

    Cincinnati witches are not to be taken lightly.

  • If someone can host it, I can send them an .mp3 of “Madam Satan”…


  • I have the scan of the newspaper clipping uploaded to my flickr…I posted the usual script here, but nothing happened…what shall i do?

  • Outstanding, gracias. Is there a date somewhere for the clipping?

    // Patrick

  • No date, Patrick. The clipping is taped to the back of the LP cover. However, I recently made contact with Lydia, which was hard to come by as she’s a bit of a recluse. I’m set to interview her soon. Turns out I’ve been friends with her nephew for almost ten years….small world.

  • awesome. it is incredibly strange.

  • interesting, nice voice…I dig the cover too.
    where can we can get the “madam satan” mp3 now?

  • If I get a file of “Madam Satan” I can make it available via my web server host. I could put up Cincy Joe’s 45 too, if I can remember where I placed the sound clips.

    PS the cover scan above is actually the inside of the gatefold. The actual front cover is a huge drawing of a valentine heart on a white background.

  • Hey, the mp3 is here, and it’s pretty amazing! Don’t miss:

    And a label scan:

    Many thanks to Mr Iceburg for sharing this.

  • That some good ish right there… exactly the kinda weird stuff i’m looking for… Merci!

  • Hey guys, I’ve been looking for a track called “Cincinnati Soul” by Mad Lydia & Cincinnati Joe. Heard it on WEBN many years ago well before the Jacor era. BTW — I met Lydia 15 years ago when she was doing an evening coffeehouse in her store “The Wizard’s Wardrobe”.

  • “Cincinnati Soul” is on the LP, yep. I like to think of it as an unexpected answer song to Marvin Gaye’s “California Soul”.

  • Wow, Im orginally from ‘natti. Never knew of our reprazentaion on the obscure DIY front. I remember wizards wardrope over there in Mt Lookout. Thats cool to know now

  • Hi All!
    Google cool!

  • Is this the same Cincinnati Joe that sometimes was heard at Soho Underground on Central Parkway? Did they have a child together (boy)? I worked there I think the years were either 1971 or 72…

  • oh wow thanks soooo much you really are the king of raers thank you so so much we all love you so so much thankyou thankyou thankyou you really are the greatest

  • My ex-husband, James Green (now deceased) had this album and told me he lived with Lydia and Joe in Cincy….I just took a shot and FOUND the album! on the net. Is Lydia still around? Would love to chat with her about their time together!
    Thank you.

  • Cincinnati Joe’s Hideaway, The Wizard’s Wardrobe… real non-big box America.

  • I am the last child of this wacko couple, and lemme tell ya: my mom and dad were both insane musically. As for my own music, I got dad’s soul and mom’s smarts- thank God!!!

  • I’m the last child of this wacky union, and lemme tell ya: mom had (has) the real talent and soul. I agree that dad’s stuff was macho and lame-ass: well, most of it anyway!

  • i occasionally heard ‘plastic rose’in 2007,and i think they are my favourite song!

  • Holy Mackeral! Just for a grin I googled these folks; we played “Plastic Rose” on progressive-rock/freeform WHCN in Hartford, CT, back when it was new (1972). I always liked the song and the production sound, even if it was indeed just a little “off” (part of its charm, obviously), but I never knew anything behind the abum except for the fact that these folks looked like a total mismatch – and it sounded like someone sunk some serious money into producing it (if not into the cover art).

    Anyway, this is a treat to rediscover; thank you for posting it, and thanks to all the commenters (including Lucky) who added depth and dimension to the story. (By the way, am I the only one to notice a bit of a Cher resemblance in Lydia?)

  • Patrick, what’s with the negative vibes on Cincy Joe? “Love Spider” is a smokin’ classic, as is his 45.

    What’s not to love about a singing duo of a bare-chested, jump-suited headband-wearing dude and a 900 year old witch who was born down on a bed of moss by the Ohio river?

    What’s incredibly strange is that the LP and their two 1970 singles have not been formally been released on CD yet.

  • My family has been involved in music all my life. From Mom and Dad to Gramps. Love all the positive vibes. Thanks.

  • From 1978 to 1981 or 2 (kind of a blur folks) I played with Joe and Mike Spenser in the little shack out back of Joe and Lydia’s place at the top of Delta Terrace that Joe liked to call the “band room”. A very tight little place. It was a good time for me, as I learned much about the music and a lot about people. I liked Joe. Why, I don’t know as he could be the biggest asshole on the planet from time to time. He actually smacked me once for making eyes at some chick that came through the band room for an audition. He was always mooching pot and smokes off me, but, through it all we were chums and made some good music. He would call me “Slimmy Junior” for some unknown reason. I remember most of all our rendition of Lydia’s “Momma’s Sweet Magic Boy”. “I was born 900 years ago, at midnight in a storm of hearts.” What a line and I thought the three of us did that song some major justice. I think Lydia even liked our rendition.

    Part of the memory concerns a drummer. We finally found a good drummer and Joe could play keys and be out front for a change. His name is Pete Thomakas (sp) and he was a bitchin’ drummer for sure. I’ll never forget Joe reassuring his parents that we would take good care of him when we played out at a bar (our first gig with Pete) one weekend. We sold his parents on our validity. Sadly, Pete was hit by some dumb SOB driving home from that gig and became paralyzed. I have not seen or heard from Pete since.

    I’ve often wondered about Joe and his whereabouts and what he was up to these days. It was a seriously important time in my life and Joe taught me a lot about music and I’ll never forget the time I spent with him and Mike.

  • re: Rick.

    Uh, the drummer Pete Thomakas from Cincinnati is alive and well (and most certainly not paralyzed). I played in various bands with him over the years (in the late 90s). He runs an autobody detail shop in Loveland.

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