Sunday, February 5, 2012

It Coulda Been Different!

Not that there was anything wrong with the scene here in London Ontario, but it coulda been different! We had the Cedar Lounge, an old hotel centrally located in the heart of the city that was a home to the growing punk/new wave/alternative type scene in the late 70's and early 80's

Here's a picture looking north from King St. You entered right below the Cedar Lounge sign and walked into a partially enclosed area where you could see the band and most of the club. There was usually someone standing there, hand out, asking for the 2 buck or whatever it was cover. In the early days, there was this spastic geek who would be dancing and grooving to the tunes and would be so into the music he'd often keep you waiting for the tune to end before taking your cash. Or even acknowledging that you were there and waiting to get in. It certainly added to the oh so cool ambience of the place. That along with the loud music, smoke (not always of the nicotine type), beer and people actually up dancing and having fun while the band is playing. But it coulda been different!

Sure, we had our local faves like Uranus, The Demics, NFG, The Zellots, The Sinners, Crash 80's, Regulators, Second Thoughts and many others in the first wave of late 70's bands to form in this city. It was a long way from the crap cover bands who worshipped stadium rockers Aerosmith, Foghat, Journey and other unmentionables who filled seats in just about every other bar in this city. Seats indeed as your ass would be glued down to watch this shit as you downed your weekly pay. Unless it was a disco bar and that was even worse with the dress code in effect. You can't come in here, your jeans are frayed! And the smartass retort would be 'my jeans ain't fraid of nothin' which was better not to say. But it coulda been different!

We had tons of bands from all over the place visit London in the early days of the punk rock scene; Teenage Head, The Diodes, Simply Saucer, Joe King Carrasco, Psychedelic Furs, Eddie and The Hot Rods, DOA, Subhumans, UK Subs, Anti-Nowhere League, 999, Ramones, The Stranglers, B-Girls, Viletones, The Ruts and TONS more. So many more that it would have been impossible to see them all. But we tried and failed and still had lots and lots of fun. But it coulda been different!

There used to be a poster, it was beat up as it had been on the wall of the Covent Garden Market for years. Not the new Covent Market, but the old concrete monstrosity that had the covered parking lot above it. A place where  you could look out and take pictures. In fact, here's a picture of The Cedar Lounge from that parking lot.

This picture was taken facing west from the Covent Garden parking lot, looks like maybe the third level and the street in front of The Cedar is Talbot St. What is now a wide open area with a some large concrete balls on it. Maybe that signifies The Cedar Lounge was the only place in London that had balls. Whatever the fuck that's supposed to mean. Here's what that area, sometimes referred to as ground zero looks like today. That's NFG paying homage to ground zero this past summer and somehow, the large balls didn't show up in any of the pictures that i took. That could mean something too....

But back to that beat up poster. I can remember seeing it a couple of times, but stupidly never took a picture of it. Others commented on that poster as well and we all agreed upon one thing,  It could been different!

That poster was for a band that didn't make their gig at The Cedar Lounge. It was no fault of the band's. Nope, it was the Toronto Police force or whatever name they were billing themselves at that time. The time being the late 70's. The band on the poster were visitors to police headquarters. Not by choice or by invitation. Nope, they were being questioned as murder suspects. One of them in particular had more than a passing resemblance to the suspect in the case.

The band, The Cramps. When The Cramps were supposed to play London, they were but one of what we thought were a zillion up and coming bands in what we thought were an endless stream. Nope, it was but a window that opened long enough for a bunch of loonies to escape, learn to play some musical instruments or create some art and then the window closed again. Hasn't been open since and probably never will be.

I didn't become a total Cramps freak until about 1980, well after the band was supposed to play here. I first heard The Cramps on the radio show Young Fast and Scientific on CHRW. Hosted by Al Cole, it was easily the best show on the that station at that time. The only show that i regularly listened to and used it as a springboard to start Saturday night's adventures.

It wasn't easy finding records in London back then, but Records On Wheels was THE place to go for the so called underground sounds and i picked up the Drug Train single there and haven't been the same since!  Here was a band that finally summed up all that i was 60's punk via Pebbles, rockabilly via Johnny Burnette and a WHOLE new set of bands to try and find! Yep, The Cramps set me off on a record finding mission that still hasn't been completed up to this day. And hopefully it never will be.

Just lately i picked up The Cramps boxset of singles on Munster Records and spinning these records is just amazing! They have such a wide dynamic range and the vinyl is so noise free for those really quiet times that it just blows me away. Here's a picture of the sleeves with our man Bryan, centered and smoking as always.

But it coulda been different if The Cramps had actually played London. It just might have sparked a few like minded souls into forming a band in the mode of The Cramps. Now that would have been something!  A rockabilly/60's punk combo in London Ontario!! A band that would get others interested in the same things. Ya, it coulda been different!


Since you've read this far, here's what we're working on at the moment. We're going to be re-publishing What Wave #22 in an updated form as What Wave #24. Originally released in 1996, WW22 was a history of the local scene here in London Ontario. We're looking for corrections/additions/etc and you can post these to facebook on the Radio What Wave facebook page. All of the relevant pages of WW22 are in  photo form on this facebook page. Here's the link:

Feel free to add comments or whatever to the above photos. We need all of this info and it's going to take all of us to get it done properly. Release date is Oct 26/2012.

Why Oct 26? That's because it is the opening night for a big visual exhibit at The Forest City Gallery here in London. The exhibit is Underground Graphic Art: London Ontario 1977 to 1990 and will feature the fanzines, comics, posters, etc from that era. And we're going to have an  opening party on Oct 26th with some of the bands mentioned in the above blog...NO, not The Cramps. So far Uranus, The Zellots, NFG and The Enemas have agreed to play opening night. Nothing's in concrete at the moment but this is going to be a bash that you don't want to miss! So put your boots on baby, cause we're going to a party....

Marki and Rooster at The Cedar Lounge in the early 80's.....

All photos are copyright What Wave archives so please DO NOT reproduce without know who i'm referring to.