Pianosaurus May Toy Around, but Its Music Is Hickory Dickory Rock!

updated 01/18/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/18/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

Steve Dansiger sits on a low stool, hunched over his tiny drums like a giant hippie. "Muppet Babies is my drum brand of choice right now," says Dansiger, 25, "but I still use a Smurf crash cymbal because it sounds the best. Menudo drums are another personal favorite. I like pounding onto Menudo's faces."

Such are the small pleasures of playing in Pianosaurus, the world's only known toy rock 'n' roll band. Rocking away on wee drums, plastic guitars, a Mickey Mouse organ and a Schoen-hut toy piano, Dansiger and three manic co-conspirators deliver playful versions of the blues and original songs idealizing such everyday spots as thrift shops and cafes. The band performs nationally, and adults are flocking to them like children to the Pied Piper. Pianosaurus has done the theme for a Boston children's TV series, and the New York Daily News called their 1987 debut album, Groovy Neighborhood, "as charming and casual as the best of the Lovin' Spoonful."

Alex Garvin, 24, who played guitar for a Manhattan punk group when he was in high school, got the idea for Pianosaurus in a Woolworth's toy department in 1981. He fooled around with toy instruments for a year or so and formed the group while studying painting at the Philadelphia Academy of the Fine Arts. "Some people say, 'You guys would be such a great band if you played on real instruments,' " says Garvin, who writes the band's songs. "That's missing the point entirely. We couldn't make this music if we didn't play toys. It wouldn't have the same sincere sound." Pianosaurus didn't introduce toys to rock: Seals and Crofts, NRBQ, and the Velvet Underground have all toyed with kids' instruments. But none achieved Pianosaurus' harmless blend of childish and adult abandon. "We get so worked up we smash our instruments," says Garvin. "The audience goes wild. Once they stormed the stage and took everything. Bits of guitars. Bits of drums. And they made us autograph them. It was okay though. We knew we could go to a Toys "R" Us and replace it all for about $50."

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