CLEAVERS “THE PLAYBOY / COMMIE SYMP” 7″ (PORTLAND, OR- ROLLY, 1980)
This cover of course has Buddy Rose front and center- one of the women flanking him is apparently a band member’s wife. I found this out from that Whiskey Rebel guy from Portland’s Rancid Vat- he talks about the Cleavers and Buddy Rose a bit on his site so go there for more.
Former Cleavers member Chris Warner somehow found my posting and left a comment that cleared up a few things- my updated info is in red below. Thanks Chris!
PUNK N’ ROLL SERIES, VOLUME 2
Here is the controversial Cleavers 7″ with its infamous “right wing” punk song on the B-side (or “conservative punk” or “reactionary” punk or whatever you want to call it). Musically, “Commie Symp” (short for “sympathizer”, duh) is GREAT angry punk n’ roll with a nice, tough driving melody and some sharp, jagged guitar jabs. Lyrically, it sounds pretty reactionary on the surface. But, 30 years removed, the lyrics are very laughable to me- “love it or leave it”, they tell the commie symp about the United States. And then, right at the end, “Get Out- Now!”. It’s a simplistic, one-sided argument that yer typical blindly patriotic, flag-waving (and punk-hating) Americans have used over and over again throughout the years against lefties. These types of Americans shake their finger at you and scream: “If you don’t like the way this country is, then get outta here ‘cuz we ain’t changin for you”.
And what exactly got the Cleavers all riled up?
Could it have been wanna-be Communists The Dils? I posit this because I have an old cassette from my tape trading days on which The Dils play a live set on May 12, 1979 at the famous venue The Long Goodbye in Portland. Perhaps some of the Cleavers were there; heard The Dils singing some Commie-tinged song like “Red Rockers” or “Class War”; saw them wearing one of their hammer and sickle T-shirts and then got so mad that they wrote and recorded “Commie Symp”. I think the Cleavers 7″ came out in the early part of 1980 which wouldn’t have been too long after that Dils show in mid-1979. It’s early in the morning and I didn’t sleep much last night as I type this so I’m probably out in left field with this one…
Former member Chris Warner pointed out that: “Commie Symp was done 100% to irritate the
humorlessly earnest knee-jerk leftists of the early punk scene. We were in
actuality no more right wing than we were the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but it
was a lot more fun to go against the grain than join the chorus. Our goal was
to amuse and annoy–mission accomplished.”
Chris also said: “In the early days of the Cleavers, we didn’t
have a lead singer per se, we traded lead vocals on different songs, though I
eventually became the lead singer toward the end of our ‘legendary’
Now if I was in Portland in 1980 when the Cleavers single came out, then I’m sure I would’ve be baffled by the lyrics, like “What the fuck is up with these guys?”. But, like I said earlier, it’s been 30 years since it came out so it comes across as pretty comedic this far removed ‘cuz they’re so serious about their stance, like “We mean it, MAN!!”. The bafflement in 1980 was probably pretty interesting- I mean, Portland is like lefty heaven so I picture other local punk bands shunning the Cleavers for taking such a conservative stand. I’m sure Greg Sage wasn’t amused either- the earlier Cleavers song “Bug” was on the 10-29-79 live comp LP on Mr. Sage’s Trap Records label. But with such a conservative stand, I’m sure Greg would have refused to release this Cleavers 7″ on his label.
Chris Warner has confirmed that, yes, Greg Sage hated them.
Kind of like the remarkable Ice 9 EP– the legend goes that Mr. Sage would not release their record since they had a song in their live repertoire called “Nazi” (see KBD 14 from 1998 for that vintage unreleased track). The song was definitely not pro-Nazi, so who was the reactionary I guess is the question begged. Thankfully, Ice 9 released their EP on another label and the rest is history.
Anyway, back to the Cleavers- the A-side is another GREAT, tough guy punk n’ roll ditty, this time an homage to the local Portland wrestler Playboy Buddy Rose (nee Paul Perschmann, who actually died in April of 2009). “The Playboy” also has some fun, amusing lyrics- dig the references to Andre The Giant and Roddy Piper, back when he wrestled in the Pacific Northwest, pre-Pipers Pit, pre-WWF fame. The growling by the singer plays nicely against some nice, chunky driving guitar. I think the song especially gels when he says “He’s the cripplerrrr- Playboy Buddy Rose!” and the punk n’ roll guitar kicks right in after that. Both “The Playboy” and “Commie Symp” have great, sharp guitar solos too. Um, one may argue that it should be no surprise that the Cleavers had a song like “Commie Symp” on the B-side since the A-side was wrestling worship for fucks sake.
Another baffling thing about the Cleavers to me is how much interview time they got on 2006’s great Northwest Passage documentary about the early Portland scene. The one old member (Larry Lee, the lead guitarist who also did lead vocals on “The Playboy”) was nearly waxing poetic about how the Cleavers were a groundbreaking, legendary band. Huh?! I mean, the single is good and their song on the 10-29-79 comp was cool but I’d consider them more of a minor Portland band and nowhere NEAR the stature (or output) of the almighty early Wipers or The Rats or friggin’ Poison Idea if you want to go into the hardcore years. That aside, Northwest Passage is a really great doc that you should check out. It was produced and directed by Mike Lastra of the noisy “experimental” band Smegma- read about their history here. The movie has TONS of vintage footage, like The Bags visiting Portland and doing a mean version of the already-mean “Survive”, early Dead Kennedys footage, or unreleased video footage from concerts from which the 10-29-79 comp LP was derived. VERY cool to me is seeing the Rubbers with Bob Glassley, before he played bass for the almighty Cheifs, doing the original version of “Riot Squad”. The Cheifs re-recorded this song in their trademark intense fashion two years later for 1981’s great Who Cares comp LP. Among others, that comp also featured a band called Political Crap which featured skate punk legend Duane Peters on vocals who was at the height of his Santa Cruz-era skate punk powers. And before he was in like 100 other bands.
I was a huge wrestling fan as a kid in the early 80’s (mainly Georgia Wrestling ‘cuz that’s what came on Channel 61 in Cleveland on Saturday mornings). Before there was the slick Vince McMahon Jr. WWF takeover of wrestling in 1984, each part of the country had its own wrestling circuit (Mid-Atlantic, Southwest, Pacific Northwest, etc.). The national wrestling mags back then (Pro Wrestling Illustrated, The Wrestler, Inside Wrestling, etc.) were printed on lovely newsprint and used to have ratings for each region, and I remember Buddy Rose ‘cuz he used to be in the Pacific Northwest ratings. Just some trivia that I decided to cut and paste from the main part of this posting to the end here…