Monky Business

updated 10/10/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/10/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

NOTHING, IT SEEMS, IS SACRED. Not even sacred music. Early this past summer, a group of cloistered Benedictine monks reached No. 3 on the Billboard pop-album charts with its sonorous recording of golden oldies from the monastic canon. Now a bunch of felonious monks from Los Angeles have come out with a variation on that theme—Gregorian-chant renditions of such soul-stirring favorites as Queen's "We Will Rock You," Rod Stewart's "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" and Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

The faux monks are called the Benzedrine Monks of Santo Domonica and are not to be confused with the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos, whose album Chant is a monster hit in the U.S. and Europe. The Benzedrines' CD is called Chantmania and has been selling a healthy 2,000 copies a week.

The brainchild of Richard Foos, president of Rhino Records, which specializes in novelty albums and oldies compilations, the bad-habit monks—who use such noms de chant as Brother E. (named for Elvis) and Brother Can You Spare a Dime?—are actually the members of Big Daddy, a group that performs music rearranged to sound as if it had been recorded in the 1950s. They have made four albums, most recently a '50s-style Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Going back another 1,000 years or so wasn't a big stretch for them, although there were difficulties. "It took us two hours to get past the first chorus of 'Wooly Bully' without laughing," says 46-year-old Marty Kaniger, alias Brother Martini de Que.

Unlike the real monks, the Benzedrines are totally uninterested in lives of cloistered poverty. "We're the ones who travel," says Kaniger. "We like to go out and touch the people—well, certain people. Actually, our main goal is to make as much money as we can." Neither is celibacy part of their calling. "We're getting the babes," insists Kaniger. Meantime, as they wait for Chant-mania's, royalties to start rolling in, the Benzedrine monks are, of course, available—for proms, weddings, bar mitzvahs and exorcisms. "Our version of the 'Hokey-Pokey,' a big number at parties, can take 45 minutes," says Kaniger. "By the time we get to the chorus, it's time to cut the cake. Still, if the money's there, we'll be there."

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