"Believe it or not, St. John's, Newfoundland's first punk band may not have been the mighty Da Slyme. According to Wallace Hammond, Da Slyme's bassist, co-founder, compiler and archivist, among other things, recorded Mike Fisher and Rick Harbin's art-rock, hard-rock band sometime in 1977. Apparently, at least two of the tracks he laid down on tape were borderline punk.
In any case, the Reaction's real birth occurred when Terry Carter (aka Pasquale Neutron), another co-founder of Da Slyme, returned from broadcast school in Halifax, Nova Scotia where he'd been turned onto the raucous sounds of the Sex Pistols and the Ramones. Since Carter's departure for Halifax in early 1978, Da Slyme had replaced him on drums with, according to Carter, the more competent Justin Hall. Luckily, when Carter returned to St. John's in December 1978 he spotted an ad Fisher and Harbin had placed in the Memorial University of Newfoundland's Thompson Students' Centre looking for a drummer to play punk and new wave music, and so the Reaction was born. They took their name from a line in the Jam song "All Around The World". Their first gig was around a month later, opening for Da Slyme.
Although the Reaction was modelled after The Jam and other Mod bands, their set lists also included numbers by Elvis Costello ("Less Than Zero"), Eddie and the Hot Rods ("Do Anything You Wanna Do") and the Sex Pistols ("Anarchy In The U.K."). In the early incarnation they played mostly covers- to guarantee club gigs. They initially snuck in a few originals, including "The Kids Arrived", "No Excuses", and the "Rest of It All"; the last two songs were never recorded.
Gig-wise they started by playing at the university and the legendary scumpit Middle Earth bar, where Da Slyme also played. In the oddly named town of Old Shop near Trinity Bay, the Reaction had a fairly decent following, where the local youths had been exposed to the Ramones and caught the punk bug. Whenever the Reaction played St. John's, the so-called "Old Shop Army" kids would pile into town for the gig.
Later, the Reaction went out on the "Bay Circuit", a tour of bars along the coast outside St. John's, initially playing contemporary punk and new wave covers. However, Carter admits that was a less than successful recipe: playing songs by underground British bands did not go over too well with musically conservative bar audiences who'd never heard the originals. They soon learned to throw in some high-energy 60s classics such as "Satisfaction", "Ready Steady Go" and "Respectable" and often ended the evening with "My Generation", which allowed Carter to indulge in a Keith Moon once or twice, kicking his kit over while the guitarist and bassist did the splits and hammered their instruments.
Still, it was tough being in the forefront of the new music scene. Carter penned "The Kids Arrived" in response to people who were really negative about this new breed of musicians. At a gig outside of St. John's, one unhappy bar patron bought a copy of the record so he could smash it while the group was on stage [Idiot! He's one of the reasons their single is so damn rare!- ed]. '"The Kids Arrived" is a bit of self-vindication: it's a big 'fuck you' to people who did nothing but criticize", declares Carter.
He's gonna be on the stage tonight
He's gonna kick it out with rage tonight
They never call him for a loss
He'll finally show them who'll be boss
Move over- the kids arrived
He'll be alright...
Climbing the greased ladder rung by rung
Singing a song that must be sung
[Pretty urgent lyrics!- ed]
They recorded the single at Echo Recording Studios in St. John's in March 1979, later pressing around 500 copies at World Records in Toronto. Mike and Terry came up with different picture sleeves, but they only made 50-75 of each [Ouch!- ed]. The single quickly made it into local jukeboxes, including the one at the Middle Earth. Distribution, like all the records on this compilation, was DIY.
Also in the spring of 1979 the band recorded three more songs at Echo Recording Studios: "In Tune With The Times", "Trials In Error" and "Till Midnight". They appeared on a posthumous cassette entitled "Underexposure" that was released in 1981 on Wallace Hammond's Vicki Beat label [anyone have this cassette?- Ed]. The original group lasted for 10 months, until Carter left the band in October 1979.
Harbin and Fisher recruited another drummer and continued gigging, including a trip to Toronto where they played a few gigs (one at the Ontario College of Art) and recorded a number of tracks while Tom Atom at Cottingham Sound. Interestingly, Tom Atom was also the engineer of the Arson and Fits' singles (see Smash The State Volume 1)."
Recorded in May 1980 @ ZAZ Recording Studio in San Antonio, TX (and when I Google'd this studio, it appears to still be operating 33 years later and they even have their own Facebook page. But then again, who doesn't these days eh?!)
BLOWS AGAINST THE EMPIRE REUNION SHOW
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, 2013 (aka LATE SUNDAY NIGHT)
MIDNIGHT TO 2AM
WCSB 89.3 FM
If you're not from Cleveland and the title of this post does not immediately jump out at you, you may be wondering what kind of reunion this is and what all my excitement is about. First off, no- it's nothing related to Jefferson Airplane/Starship's concept album called "Blows Against The Empire". Instead, it's an upcoming one-off reunion show for one of THE best college radio shows from the great and fertile college radio landscape of 1980's Cleveland.
Blows Against The Empire (BATE) played punk and hardcore and was a weekly, 2 1/2 hour show on WSCB out of Cleveland State University that was hosted by then-students Matt Dudas and Mike Kole. It originally aired between late 1987 and late 1989, mostly on Wednesday afternoons between 3 and 5:30 pm. For me, the show was very formative in helping me develop my taste for punk and sparked a passion for punk that continues to this day, 25 years later. I was wrapping up high school at the time and Blows was THE FIRST place I heard Black Flag, Bad Brains, Germs, Misfits, Subhumans, Sham 69, Social Distortion, you name it. But beyond the music, Matt and Mike were awesome hosts who had great camaraderie between them and engaged in some great, fun shenanigans when they weren't playing music during the show. Their show inspired me to march into my campus radio station my first week of college in August of 1989 and get my own punk/HC show that I had for nearly 4 years.
Anyway, as I mentioned above the Blows reunion is going to air on Sunday night/Monday morning September 2nd between midnight and 2 am during Keith Newman's Scruggscorp Radio time slot. Of course, you can stream WCSB through iTunes (go to "Radio", then "College/University", then search for "WCSB 89.3 FM"); Windows Media Player; or RealPlayer, if you're not in Cleveland to listen live on yer radio.
Here is the very cool, minute long promo that was just put together specifically for this reunion show- I really dig the vintage soundbites from old Blows shows scattered throughout it, brings back lots of great memories for me:
Blows Against The Empire 2013 Reunion Promo
And here is a scan of my vintage Blows flyer that I musta picked up at Chris' Warped Records in Lakewood, Ohio in either late 1988 or early 1989 and that I've held onto for all these years. I remember that I was listening to the Blows show one week back then when they said they made up a cool new flyer for the show, so I went looking for it soon thereafter. I grabbed multiple copies of this at the time (musta been the hoarding instinct in me!)- I think one of them hung on my dorm room wall at the time and got kinda wrecked, but luckily a few- including this one- was perfectly preserved in one of my file cabinets.
For all these years I thought that this was just some random picture Matt and Mike
cut out of a 'zine of a punk with spiked-up hair. However, Mike (who I happened
upon online earlier this year) said that this is actually his Blows co-host Matt
and that the picture was taken in London at Battersea Park, which I am told is the
park where Steve Jones and Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols hung around in while they
were growing up.
As I said above, Blows Against The Empire was formative for me as I got more and more into punk. I first started listening to punk in '87, thanks to old messy newsprint days of Thrasher mag but I only dabbled in it. Once I discovered Blows my mind was like a sponge that soaked up everything they played; it was all new to me at the time. I remember them playing the first Misfits EP on the show and I thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. Same for Side 1 of the 7 Seconds Committed For Life EP. And it just mushroomed from there. See, I didn’t have a lot of money to buy records so I relied on the Blows radio show to be my record store. My job in high school was a Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper route and, well, profits weren't stellar from that so I didn't have much disposable income. My Dad worked in a factory so I didn't exactly have a trust fund to pull from either ya hear.
Speaking of The Cleveland Plain Dealer, that is how I first heard the radio show. I’d get up at 5 am every morning to deliver papers and I'd be done by about 5:45. One morning in the Fall of 1987 I got home about 5:45 am and turned on the trusty grey boombox I had in my room. I happened to tune the radio to 89.3 FM WCSB and heard some punk playing. Cool, I thought, I get to hear this new kind of music I like even early in the morning! At the end of the set, the DJ announced that their show was moving from this early morning slot to Wednesday afternoons at 3. It turns out that DJ was Matt Dudas and the show I happened on a whim to hear about was Blows Against The Empire. Fate perhaps? Had I not turned on the radio that morning who knows how long it would have taken me to hear through the grapevine about Blows. No one in my burg listened to punk, everyone was into Metallica and had the Master of Puppets patch on the back of their jean jackets to match. So I definitely wasn't going to hear it about from them. No one at high school was going to tell me about Blows either, since I wasn't "in" with the punk kids and definitely not the skate punk kids. I guess I looked too normal and they probably didn't believe I was into both punk and skating. Oh, the injustice of high school! LOL
So here was my routine, especially during my senior year of high school in ’88-’89. I did not participate in any extracurricular stuff so as soon as school let out on Wednesdays I'd hop on the RTA #23 bus to get home (no driver’s license yet, and even if I did, I surely was not going to be able to get a car). I'd probably get home about 3:15 or so and immediately turn on the trusty grey beast of a boombox. The boombox was already pre-tuned to 89.3 of course. I'd miss the first 15 or so minutes since it started at 3 but then I'd listen through the rest of the show until they went off the air at 5:30. I'd have a tape in the cassette deck ready to tape anything I especially dug by having Record and Pause depressed at the same time. My one regret is that I didn't tape more complete Blows shows for posterity's sake. But who was thinking of that back then?! Plus I didn't have a lot of blank cassette tapes, I used to re-purpose old Cure and Def Leppard cassettes that I had laying around. But to tape a whole 2 1/2 hour show, each week, would have gotten expensive since cassettes were either 60 or 90 minutes. Luckily I taped select portions of some great shows they aired in '88 and '89, like the "12 Days of Hardcore Christmas" show from December of '88 and the "Misfits Blitz" show from June of '89. Plus former Blows DJ Mike has hooked me up big time this year with digital rips of some old shows he had thankfully taped back then. Listening to these old shows really takes me back 25 years ago, to sitting in my bedroom listening to Blows on the old boombox while either paging through the latest issue of Thrasher magazine or fine-tuning the bolts or trucks on my old Dogtown Eric Dressen Street board (the one with the cross drawing on it).
TO BE CONTINUED...
Here is what the Staring Down The Barrel liner notes had to say about Secret Savior:
Short-lived Buffalo group that must have operated on the fringes of the local scene as no one remembers them. Press clippings indicate they played out and included some punk covers in their set, ruling this out as a "punk-by-accident" release by some AOR rock band
Well, the interwebs have come a long way since that was written in 2005 in terms of finding out band info very quickly but online info about Secret Savior is still rather scant unfortunately. I found a MySpace page that mentioned an old 70's Buffalo-area band called- get ready for this- "Ballzy" (LOL! Love that total hard rock spelling). Apparently, one of their members (was it that Ken Orgel guy?) went on to Secret Savior a few years later.
Another blurb on the same page also makes it sound like Secret Savior had bigger commercial ambitions in the early 80's but that didn't pan out that way. They were included on some 1981 comp LP called "Buffalo Rocks" (anyone ever heard this thing cuz I haven't) along with what sounds like a bunch of hard rock bands: Raven, Teaser, Mike Mazur and the Blue Collar Band, etc. The comp was related to some local Buffalo station called "97 Rock WGRQ". I can just hear a cheesy, macho station ID done all dramatically for them by some deep-voiced announcer- ah, the early 80s's. Anyway, the comp was put out by this label called "Big America Music Contest" who released a slew of- I am guessing- similarly bad regional comps from other cities like Milwaukee, Denver, Houston, etc.
In digging around a little more, it turns out that the Select Sound label which put out the Secret Savior 7" also released some other records, including some non-rock stuff, and probably nothing else even remotely punk-related. Makes sense because the Secret Savior 7" was label #SS-1015 and not a very low label number like SS-1000 or something. The studio itself was located at 1585 Kenmore Avenue in Kenmore, New York near Buffalo. When I did a Google Map search of that address, it looks like there is a drab, tiny strip mall at that location with a Curves in it and that the Select Studio is long gone.
**Any info on Secret Savior, better scans of the sleeve, scans of the press clipping alluded to in the Staring Down The Barrel liner notes would be greatly appreciated**
As always I have a long queue of stuff to get up here "time permitting" (the key phrase here). Work has been way too busy this Summer. Plus, we essentially get 12 weeks of good weather where I live so gotta make the most of it with the kids and the Mrs. So time in colder months that might be spent sittin inside in front of the computer is understandably substituted by "enjoying the great outdoors" in the Summer.
NO NO's "WHO SHOT THE PRESIDENT?" 4-SONG 7"EP
(SAN DIEGO, CA- MUTATION PRODUCTIONS, 1981)
The No No's remain a mystery band to me- searching the names on the labels,namely Engineer Mike Clark and Producers David Nestor aka David Slash and his lady (presumably) Linda Slash didn't turn up much for me. I assume all copies are sleeveless as well.
Anyway, here's a mystery band- searching the interwebs on The No No's turns up next to zilch. Somehow the Collector Scum site knows that the band was from San Diego (but how?). The early 80's San Diego-area scene turned out some nice memorable records- we all know the great stuff on the area's Radioactive label (Xterminators, Injections and Executives, all fine discs) as well as some other stuff (off the top of my head, the Tokyos' 10", that first Battalion of Saints record and the Standbys). The Penetrators turned out some good songs, and of course the Cardiac Kidz squeezed out one superb track with "Get Out".
And now that I've heard it I can add this No No's EP to that list of good records from there. It sounds kind of like "new wave punk" to me at some parts, meaning that it's nothing over the top and frothing mad but rather has quirky new wave-ish vocals which border on sounding goofy. But guitar skronk on the title track is good, at one point the gunka-gunka sound reminds me of similiar strumming on The Rivals' Future Rights.
The title track is my favorite tune out of the four but thankfully the other three songs are no slouches. I was pleasantly surprised, as I knew this was a 4-song EP before I heard it but I worried that it might be the old "one good song and three bad songs". But it's not, and three out of the four songs are catchy and pretty driving stuff. They almost lose me on the last track, "Call It Doom's Day", with this weird middle part that makes me grimace. But the rest of the song makes up for the weird interlude.
Listening to the EP as a whole, I wonder- and speculate- if The No No's might have been a more traditional rock band who morphed into a punk band 'cuz I hear rock influences here and there 'specially with the guitar playing and the cowbell(!) that pops up a few times. But at a tolerable level to me, of course, or this record would have been filed away and not posted here.
Thanks to blog commenter Brad C. for providing these rips! I have been wanting to hear this entire EP for quite a while!
WHAT "ON VINYL / TO THE STARS" 7"
(AKRON, OH- WHAT RECORDS INC, 1984)
CLEVELAND-AREA SERIES, PART 2
These labels for this sleeveless record provide some clues related to the band
(but not for any actual band members themselves)- see my "Endnotes" section below
for the details...
Here is a record and band that is pretty much a mystery. It's not a punk record, but the A-side has those outsider qualities that will appeal to punk fans (at least it does to me). If anything, I'd describe the great song "On Vinyl" something like garage-y hard rock if that description makes any sense. Whatever it is, I dig it and it brings a smile to my face because from the goofy "Rock Me" intro and the opening riff you know you're in for a good, weird time. The band is very enthusiastic- especially that drummer!- and so darn excited that they're in the studio making a record. And the vocals- wow, they really stand out. The singer sings in a faux high-pitched style for some reason unknown to all of us (that CAN'T be his regular talking voice) and the vocals are what really make this song stand out. Blog commenter Clayton Silva who hipped me to this song about two years ago (and provided rips of both sides- thanks again!) said the singer reminds him of Snuky Tate, and I think that's accurate. But kinda like if Snuky inhaled a helium balloon to get all high-pitched, eh.
The lyrics are totally awesome and talk about- you guessed it- how the band is making a record and is going to be on vinyl. It sounds improvised to me at times which only adds to the charm of this song. I kind of picture the band getting sauced up at someone's house one night and then saying "Godammit, let's make a record tonight!" and then promptly going over to a studio on a whim to record "On Vinyl" and just totally winging it with the playing and the vocals and only having a rough road map of how the song was laid out when they hit the record button. The extended noodling in the guitar solos (plural!) totally point to some improvising, me thinks, especially at the 3:37 mark where things seem to slow down until he launches into another solo. Great tune. And, at a total time of over 4 minutes, far past the usual 2 minute punk song length.
The B-side is a slow, dreamy tune which meanders too long for me with a total running time of over 5 minutes (!). My ears are used to 2 minutes, and I can do 4 minutes but sometimes when songs go into the territory of 5-plus minutes then my mind starts to wander and I lose interest. There is some sloppy playing in it and some off-key parts where the drummer loses pace and stumbles and the guitar player goes out of tune, which is nice, but it can't match the A-side's inspired nature. Not that anything else they recorded could have. Maybe they recorded "On Vinyl" first while buzzing and feeling good but then they toked up and got totally wasted (and totally mellowed out from too much smokey) and recorded the B-side while hallucinating or something while the night was winding down (?). Like I said at the beginning of this post, I really don't know anything about the band or the backstory of the record- information is very scant on the interwebs- so this is all speculation. Googling "What On Vinyl Akron Ohio" emits predictable dead-end results and a bunch of horseshit totally unrelated to the band or record.
Any filling in of details or information you have would be greatly appreciated.
To The Stars.mp3
I know nothing about the band, but thankfully the information provided on the labels provide some related clues. Well, first of all, the address on the labels is a residential address (thanks, Google Maps) and NOT an office or business address. So this was someone's house, presumably one of the band members.
And for those who don’t know, Akron is about 40 miles due South of my hometown of Cleveland. So I always love hearing records from the Cleveland / Northeastern Ohio area and am usually impartial to bands from there. Cleveland, of course, has such a great history full of original, groundbreaking punk- and music in general for that matter (jazz and other genres). And outsiderness/creativity! Akron's nickname is "Rubber City" which comes from the fact that two huge tire companies (Goodyear and Firestone) were based out of there beginning in about 1900. Goodyear is still headquartered in Akron but Firestone nearly imploded by 1979 and was restructured and moved out of town but that's really yet another depressing story for the local Akron economy, and Ohio in general.
Anyway, Akron is most well known for being the original home of The Rubber City Rebels before they moved to Los Angeles. And OF COURSE Akron is well-remembered for the awesome Hammer Damage song "Laugh". And now the great song "On Vinyl" by WHAT, eh. And the home of the eccentric Clone label. The Bizzaros were also from Akron and were more of a rock band sometimes and not punk per se.
Let's go back to the labels on the WHAT record- which is their second of two 7"s by the way- more on that later. We see that writing credits were given to two people with the last name Murdi, as well as Nooch and Hable. Searches on these names led me nowhere. However, the production credits got me somewhere. The record was produced by Jim Newcomb, Lanny Walter and WHAT. I happened to find out that Lanny Walter was actually Landolin "Lanny" G. Walter who was an Akron radio engineer and radio announcer for many years. His radio name was "David Steele" (almost sounds like a porn name, eh) and had a long stint at WAKR 1590 AM between 1984 and 1999. In Akron's sister city of Canton (home of the football hall of fame- which was always a school field trip for kids from Cleveland by the way), Lanny was also an announcer at stations WINW, WOIO (WRCW), and WQIO (WRCW) and Chief Engineer at WHLQ (WOOS) from 1975 to 1977. How did I find this all out? Well, he actually died in late 2011 and this was all in an online obituary. Ah, the power of the internet. So maybe someone connected WHAT with this local announcer Mr. Walter, or the band got his attention somehow, and that's how they were able to record the "On Vinyl" 7", etc. Perhaps that person was the other production credit, Jim Newcomb, who also produced the first WHAT record. Through some online research I think Jim Newcomb might actually be a nickname for one "Harold James Newcomb" but that is speculation again.
Oh yeah- that first WHAT record. It was a 3-song EP which was released in 1983 but Clayton Silva warns me that it's a pretty bad traditional rock record and NOTHING even closely resembling the great freakout of "On Vinyl". The 3 songs on it are "Hard Rocker," "The Cynical Blitz," and "Killer Machine" (all suspicious sounding, cock rock-ish titles I think). Plus the song "Hard Rocker" clocks in at over 7 minutes (!)- cover your ears and run for the hills! I happened to find an old auction listing on Collectors Frenzy from early 2010. Of course the record is hyped- er, I mean "described" by the seller waterpolo85- as "Excellent lo-fi bedroom psychedelic rock" and "Rare Rock Psych 45" which is funny given how Clayton warned me of its crappiness. Here's a picture of the labels: