Although tens of thousands of HiNRG disco fans own a copy of “Too Tuff to Cry” single by the Tyrants in Therapy, few realize that there’s a hidden message embedded amidst the hieroglyphic writing on the classic vinyl 12” album cover.
“The cover of “Too Tuff” illustrates the story of the Tyrants’ tumultuous early days,” says The Tyrant Michael J, who wrote and produced the track with Sabby Rayas.
“When The Tyrants cut “Too Tuff,” I was still working part-time at an advertising agency in Beverly Hills writing ads and commercials,” remembers The Tyrant Michael, “and my partner in crime was an expatriate English art director named Barry Brenner who was himself segueing into a career as a painter. We used to go out at lunch, enjoy a little herbal stimulation in the park, and then get a drink at one of those fancy little bars in the neighborhood. And little by little, I told him what was going on with the Tyrants, like how we started out with a guitarist named Jack and a keyboard player named Charlie, both of whom didn’t work out; why we fired Carol (the original third Tyrant) and Brenda X, the girl who sang background vocals on “Too Tuff;” why diminutive rocker Breath (aka Beth Sharon) only did one gig with us; and the story of Mau Mau (statuesque Maureen Mahon) who appeared on two Tyrants’ covers but never sang a note on any of our records. We were on JDC Records at the time, and they were between art directors, so Barry Brenner designed the “Too Tuff” cover for us, channeling all the sordid de
tails of TIT’s expanding and contracting lineup into that ingenious graffiti-like motif.”
“On the “Too Tuff” cover, Barry Brenner actually predicted the Tyrants becoming a duo,” says AbbeAbbe, the girl Tyrant, “because when you look at all the names on the cover, the only ones that are not x’d out are ‘you’ and ‘me’ which of course was me, and the Tyrant Michael. (Lucky) Pierre, the veteran radio DJ who was our booking agent and, much later, the host of many of our cable TV shows, his name made on the cover, too.”
The red rose on the cover also has special significance because it soon became a tradition for AbbeAbbe to toss roses to the crowd whenever the Tyrants came onstage.
The backside of the cover also contained a coded message: The face of a girl who’s wearing the beret is eerily blank.
“When “Too Tuff To Cry” came out, there was no third Tyrant,” says The Tyrant Michael, “Maureen was long gone, and we had just parted ways with Brenda X, so Barry put the same picture that we had used on the back of “Paint It Pink,” and he just whited out Maureen’s face. It gave the whole thing a surreal aspect that creeps me out to this day.”
“And the cover’s prediction came true for TIT in the early 90s,” says AbbeAbbe, “we were between co-Tyrants and we got an offer to perform in Hollywood at Circus Disco. Throwing caution to the winds, we decided to take the gig anyway and performed for the first time as a duo, just The Tyrant Michael and me. After the show, fans told us that it was the best Tyrant’s performance ever. We took the hint and we’ve been a duo ever since.”
Both “Too Tuff to Cry” and “Paint It Pink” (along with hard to find tracks from the Tyrants’ solo careers like “Sweet Magic” and “Call of the Wild”) are included on a new compilation “Dance With The Tyrants, Dance Club Classics Vol. 1.” Available at iTunes, Amazon.c
om, cdbaby.com, and through the Tyrants website at tyrantsintherapy.com.