Thursday, June 21, 2018

Beginnings of Punk Rock in London Ontario Part 3

Beginnings of Punk Rock in London Ontario Part 3 

Graffiti in London Ontario circa 1979 under Dundas St Bridge.

But we had a good number of solid local combos, some of whom would go on to release their own records, many highly collectible today. Bands like The Hippies, Generics, Terminals, Motives, Second Thoughts, Spiral Scratch, Radio 4, Crash 80’s, Conning Tower, Idiot Savant, Mettle, Dead Rabbits, UIC, Enemas, Napalm Babys and so many more were making noise and drawing people out to see them!

Certain General at the Embassy Hotel Jan 1 1983

In the summer of 1981 we had an event that helped the local bands go up a step musically. Sinners drummer Doug, and Rose, who was a sometime waitress at the Cedar (if memory serves correct) were getting married and the bash was at the Cedar Lounge. Coming directly from NYC was a band called Certain General, which just happened to have local tub thumper Marcy Saddy in the band, fresh from her stint in Toronto’s finest all girl combo, The B Girls. In the B Girls, Marcy had opened for such notables as The Clash, appeared on a BOMP single and had a picture spread in Bomp Magazine amongst other things! Certain General hit the stage of The Cedar Lounge that night, and played a set of surf meets psychedelic meets post punk that opened the ears and brains of everyone there! They stuck around London for a few weeks, rehearsing, playing local and out of town gigs, and getting ready to release their first record, which brought them a fair bit of acclaim in the press! Just check Certain General’s wiki page for an idea of what they accomplished!

Early 1982 and there was a bash to tear down the wall at the Embassy Hotel. There was a large dividing wall in what was called The Sunnyside Room, the big room where the bands played. This wall prevented line of sight from more than half the room to the stage. Owner Helen Haller didn’t want the expense of tearing down the wall, so a bunch of local bands organized a one day bash to help pay for the renovations. With loads of co-operation, the bash was a success, money raised and the wall came down. Unfortunately instead of having the punk/new wave bands play there, the bar reverted back to country as the old time drinkers did less damage (one front window was damaged almost weekly when there was a punk event happening there…finally the Embassy boarded over the window for good) and drank way more beer than the kids. Things reverted back to the kids after a short time and they got their music which lasted until the demise of The Embassy many years later.

And on May 1st 1982 The Cedar closed its doors to bands with a huge blowout bash that resulted in furniture being tossed from second floor windows onto the street below. The end of an era here in London as times changed. The entire block the Cedar was located on is now the Budweiser Gardens, which ironically hosts the kind of music The Cedar Lounge was an escape from.

Later developments….more zines with a bit of help from Mike Niederman….Livin’ End published by Jan Maxwell and lasted 2 or 3 issues. Zines really contribute greatly to the scene and get the word out to the underagers and people all over the world. Livin’ End, What’s The Poop and coverage in places like Maximum Rock’n’Roll really validated our scene.

What Wave zine….started around 1980 (by poster artist Al Cole) and lasted until 1994….known around the world as The Canadian Garage Music zine. Also a record label and released over a dozen compilation cassettes of bands. Lots and lots of local stuff released on the compilations.

Then what goes around, comes around.  The Nihilist Spasm Band and their artist pals now had offspring old enough to start playing music and they did!! There was a whole scene that started to happen around this bunch. Usually playing art galleries, but also ventured into places like The Victoria, all ages shows and even the Embassy Hotel’s smaller room as a whole new scene of kids erupted. With band names like Anthrophomophics, Stupid Head, Bits Of Food, Lubatunes, Brain Show, and many others, you could guess the music wasn’t quite like anything else happening around here! This was definitely art rock with some of it very electronic, some keyboard oriented but definitely unlike anything from the class of 77 guitar punk! And they had their own comic/zine called Mind Theatre which covered a bit of the scene, but was definitely more comic/art oriented and really showed that some of these kids were major art talents. And to bring it even more full circle, Mike Niederman helped some of these bands release cassettes of which there were dozens, and I’m sure he helped them get started with their Mind Theatre publication.

Thanx for putting up with me and my yammering about a long gone scene. And here’s a couple of books from which you can get even more info about the scene and the times….What Wave #24, Graphic Underground: London 1977-1990 and Treat Me Like Dirt (published by Ralph Alfonso, who is the manager of The Diodes and brought them here to London for the first punk show in London). There was also a documentary made about this time period, called Stinkin’ Out The Joint (named after a 63 Monroe LP) and was done by former CHRW Manager Mario Circelli…this came out around 2003 and you can find it on youtube.  There is also a documentary on the Toronto and area punk scene called the Last Pogo Jumps Again by Colin Brunton which talks a bit about the London punk scene. This is a really good doc and goes into the Toronto scene in great depth.


The Beginnings of Punk Rock In London Ontario Part 2

                   The Beginnings of Punk Rock in London Ontario

1979 Graffiti under the Dundas St Bridge


By summer 1978  Uranus and The Demics would often alternate weeks at the Blue Boot Hotel….ie back then bands would play for full weeks, or at least Wednesday to Saturday and quite often an afternoon set on Saturdays.

Out of town bands were starting to play here as well, ie Teenage Head (who really packed it in with their high energy rock’n’roll), The Scenics, Arson and other forgotten short lived bands. And a scene was actually starting to form with local bands starting to pop up….ie Regulators, Sinners, Stoves, Crash 80’s, NFG and an early version of The Zellots, called Heaven 17 who were to move to Vancouver to fully form as The Zellots and then come back to Londonlater….but that’s a whole nother story that was covered in Mongrel Zine (Vancouver print zine, still some copies available locally) a few years back.

Summer 1980 looking North across King St, Bell Building on the far left.

By the end of summer 1978, the owners had re-modelled The Blue Boot by adding tacky cedar shingles on the wall and various other places. Hence they renamed the place The Cedar Lounge in August 1978 (some of the early adverts refer to it as The New Cedar Lounge), a name it was to retain until it finally closed its doors for good with a massive blast on the weekend of May lst 1982! But during its existence, it was the so called punk bar here in London!

Someone added some appropriate graffiti to the south wall. Circa 1980

It was also around this time there were all ages gigs set up at places like the Polish Hall on Anne St which hosted several of these with the most memorable being Bauhuas playing there around 1980 (locals Raw Dogs opened).

Other temporary locations for all ages shows were a large house on Colborne St and what is now the Masonic Hall on Dufferin. These were usually well attended with the kids coming out to check the noise and the usual underage drinking problems that go along with the music. But these did prove to be great breeding grounds for up and coming bands like The Generics, Hippies, Terminals, VD Teens and so many more short lived combos! Many of these bands would get to play their first real bar gig at the Cedar Lounge later on, as openers for the bigger acts. And even later on, some would headline the Cedar…ie The Terminals and The Generics, who would go on to release a record that is quite sought after these days, and was even bootlegged in Germany.

Also late summer 1978 and Fanshawe College’s radio station called 6X started to play new wave/punk music! Finally you could hear all these crazy bands you’d been reading about, but had no idea what they sounded like! Being college and Canadian, there was a lot of emphasis put on Canadian bands which was great as some of these bands you could catch live at the Cedar Lounge, which by now was becoming known as London’s punk bar, where the weird people went! As it became more popular with college and university kids checking it out, some smartass (a member of one of the local bands, The Dead Rabbits) put up a Tourist Section sign in the area leading to the farthest away from the stage tables. The sign was crafted out of wood and remained at the club as long as I can remember!
Elvis Costello at Alumni Hall. Pic by Bob Gliddon

And the fall of 1978 brought Elvis Costello to town to play Alumni Hall, a fairly large hall on the campus of the University. Openers were the Battered Wives, who were being harassed at many of their gigs by women offended with the band’s name! This even made the mainstream news, giving the punk scene a tarnished name, but elevating the Battered Wives status and enabling them to open up for Elvis Costello at this rather large hall! I stupidly didn’t go to this show, as EC wasn’t punk enough at the time for me, and have been regretting it ever since. Friends told me it was a great show and this was not too long after EC made his legendary appearance on Saturday Night Live, where he quickly stopped a song and started playing Radio Radio! 

The Perks 7"....sleeve is a large manila envelope.

And we got our first local record from this new scene. A band called The Perks released a 7” single packaged in an oversize manila envelope, with typical new wave art on it, that being a repetitive image in black of the center piece of a 45 record. The sounds were definitely new wave from these highschoolers who went their separate ways after releasing this. At the time, you could buy this record just about anywhere, but I don’t think many copies sold. But nowadays it goes for big bucks on discogs. Steve Brent, the brother of The Demics guitarist Rob, was involved in this project.

Uranus 7" EP

And 1978 also brought the first recordings by local rock’n’roll combo Uranus. A 4 song self released 7” EP, no picture sleeve, and basically sold by the band off the stage. Singer Frank had tried taking this record to the local commercial radio station for possible airplay, but was basically told ‘we play all the hits all the time’ and go away leave us alone. Years later, the band still had some of the records left, but nowadays collectors are scooping them up as the record is a real good rock’n’roll record and deserved much better. In hindsight, a picture sleeve probably would have helped with sales.  Coincidentally, both this and the Perks record were recorded at a studio in downtown London called Awes Studio, located on the west side of Richmond St, across from Layman House. Awes was actually a short lived record label as well, with The Perks and another local band, Friendly Fire having their records released on it. Uranus would have had their record released on the label but there were some money issues that prevented it from happening.  The Demics also did some recording at Awes right around the same time as Uranus, unreleased until a few years ago when these songs were released on a retrospective CD of the band on the OPM Label.

As we roll into 1979, more and more out of town bands made appearances at the Cedar Lounge and it started to become the place to check out cool bands. 1979 brought acts like Toronto’s Secrets, The Mods, Simply Saucer, Joe King Carrasco, Blue Peter (way before they were featured in a Black Label Beer advert), The Dice, Steve Blimkie and The Reason, Crash Kills 5, Rex Chainbelt and so many more!! And yet more local acts were starting to pop up as the kids were getting the message that if you could bash out 3 chords and yell, there was a pretty good chance you could get a gig and have some fun! 

Two of The Zellots returned from Vancouver and reformed the band with a couple of local additions in singer Kathy and drummer Greg from The Stoves. Heads above the rest, The Zellots could combine the tough punk guitar sound with intricate walking bass and factory assembly line drum noise to create something very unique yet danceable! They were always my fave band from that era and sadly didn’t release anything back then. Supreme Echo Records based on the west coast of Canada, just recently released 3 songs on a flexi disc that were recorded during the bands Vancouver stay. Only 40 years later and they finally get a record out! Should mention that the Flamingo sign in the background of the picture, was for a hair stylist shop, either owned or managed by Nick Panaseiko (the guy who first brought Kiss into London and was given a couple of gold records by the band for his assistance! Some of you may have met Nick at this event). But Flamingo was one of the very few places you could get a so called punk rock haircut at that time… gotta admit that’s where I got my first so called punk rock haircut. It took a lot of guts back then to make that giant step to having a punk rock haircut as you would stand out in any crowd! Mine was a brush cut, but left a bit longer at the back…and for some odd reason the local army guys thought I was one of them until they got close and the insults were tossed at me. Luckily I was always able to escape any damage from these guys. 

Local combos were now putting out records, The Demics signed with the brand new Ready Records imprint based out of Toronto and released their infamous Talk’s Cheap EP. This one featured the original version of their anthem New York City, which was called the Greatest Canadian Song of all time by Chart Magazine in a 1996 poll. Kind of ironic the song was about leaving here and going to NYC! At the time, the record did much better than expected, getting airplay locally on Fanshawe’s 6X and was quite visible in the local record stores here in town, being racked up front in the displays! Just about anyone here in London that was into this kind of music bought the record and it went through at least 2 different pressings.
Bit of local success and it’s time to move to Toronto for The Demics as they’d outgrown little London Ontario. They’d played Toronto many times prior, and were well respected by their peers there. And original guitarist Rob Brent exits to form Metttle, an experimental band on the opposite end of the musical spectrum from The Demics. It wasn’t surprising as Rob was the cerebral member of the band who was interested in Stockhausen and had gone as far as he wanted with the band. Steve Koch moved into his place and ended up staying in the band until its demise a year or 2 later. 

NFG...not sure who took this pic.

When The Demics did play locally, they often had local combo NFG opening for them, in which singer Keith would introduce the band with ‘here’s NFG and now they’re going to prove it’ to paraphrase! And NFG went on to become 63 Monroe, then First Date for a short time before going back to 63 Monroe and they still exist to this day, playing out every now and again and are working on a new record right now.
By 1980 the Cedar Lounge was a happening place, some of the earlier members of the scene were exiting as the scene was moving away from its beginnings within the art world and being accepted by a more mainstream audience.

West wall of The Cedar Lounge  Circa summer 1980

We had another radio station that was willing to start playing the punk/new wave sounds that were happening. University Of Western Ontario’s CHRW started playing this music, but it was only available in part of the city via one of the cable suppliers back then. Meaning you had to have a certain supplier of cable…either Rogers or Maclean Hunter, can’t remember which, and you had to attach your FM receiver up to the cable. At this point they didn’t even have an antenna, so only a small portion of the city could actually receive the station, and luckily I lived in the area of the city where it could be heard.
One of the DJ’s, Peter Moore, who went by the onair moniker of Simon Less (alluding to the fact he was taken off air many times for swearing) would go out to the clubs and record some of these bands. He used a white Styrofoam head with 2 small microphones where the ears should be. He was real easy to spot in the crowd as the full sized white Styrofoam head stuck out like a sore thumb.  He called this recording binaural and some of these recordings he would actually play over the airwaves of CHRW. I taped some of these on my cassette deck at home and one of those recordings has actually shown up on a bootleg record by a somewhat famous band.  Peter worked with some of the local bands, even providing rehearsal space in his rented house. One of his most successful in sound, image and airplay was Radio 4, who went on to become Sheep Look Up and he was somewhat influential in giving them their unique sound. Peter has continued in the music industry and his work on perfecting the sound of the early Cowboy Junkies is legendary!! He’s the guy that recorded the Trinity Sessions, done in an empty church.
 And about a year or so ago, he and another former Londoner Jan Haust, won a Grammy for work restoring some Bob Dylan tapes! And Peter got his start right here in the early days of the London Ontario punk scene. And Jan Haust who he shared the Grammy with, was also involved in the early punk scene here in London, doing some recording and other background work before starting his own record label, OPM. Most notable for releasing many recordings from the Toronto and area punk scene on CD in the 90’s. These were compilations of many live and unreleased recordings, amassed through Peter’s and Jan’s extensive collections. Bands like The Demics, B Girls, The Curse, The Ugly, Viletones and many others finally got to be on CD, long after their existence!

Booklet that came with Domestic Animals cassette.

But in Peter’s London days, he later put out a cassette compilation  with some of the local bands he recorded. The cassette was called Domestic Animals, and with assistance from Gerry Collins this came out around 1983. It was all local recordings, some dating back as far as 1979 and a few were of dubious audio quality.  Most of the bands that were on the cassette had no idea this was being released, and many heard their songs from the cassette on CHRW for the first time! Some were not happy about song selection and/or the quality of the recording. Hence the bands got together, released their own cassette called Animals Fight Back in 1984.  But that’s a whole ‘nother story for another time.

Uranus released their first and only full length album and broke up not that long after releasing it. The single ‘You’re So Square’ made top 10 on the AM radio charts locally and did extremely well everywhere in Canada! The band managed to tour across Canada, appear on 2 editions of the Vancouver based Terry David Mulligan CBC show that was similar to Reach For The Stars (the band can’t remember the actual name, but it aired here in London). They appeared on an episode with Michael Jackson and Pat Benatar, all lip synced and on a huge stage, but the band wasn’t really impressed as they would rather have rocked it out live and had some fun! With a top selling single, another single just being released. an east coast of Canada tour about to happen, and gigs happening all over the place the band decided to pack it in! Way too many shows and no time to rehearse were just a couple of the reasons they decided to quit, the big one being no money coming in with a record on the radio! That and they didn’t really get along with their management, as the management had no idea how to market the band. They were a rock’n’roll band in a sea of arena rock bands! With that, the band packed it in and the members started playing in other bands, re-uniting as Uranus with a replacement bass player, to fill in any open contracts and make a bit of cash. Welcome to the real world! There's a long, in depth interview with the members of Uranus, that tells the full story, warts and all. It's housed on local radio station CHRW's website, and is in several parts due to length.

When you bought your tickets at RoW, you could grab one of these posters.

The big highlight of 1980 that really opened up the doors was The Ramones playing Centennial Hall in May, with The Demics opening for them! Fans came out of the woodwork for this one, many having been exposed to The Ramones by their movie Rock’n’Roll Highschool which was shown at local repertory theatre New Yorker Cinema in downtown London. And with locals The Demics opening, that sure gave The Demics credibility as well as to the local punk scene! Coming full circle as the people involved in this were Records On Wheels, the record store I mentioned earlier. And should mention the New Yorker Cinema was the only place you could see any of the punk documentaries and movies coming out. They had a wide open policy of what they would show and ended up being the place to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show on a regular basis….another meeting place for punks and wannabees.

We were starting to get a fair number of out of town bands punk/new wave bands into the city by this time. We had the dynamic duo of Craig Deans and Dave Fellner that were bringing bands into London to play the clubs and the underage shows. A bit of collaboration with the Two Garys in Toronto really helped put London on the map as far as the new wave/punk bands goes. And being half way between Toronto and Detroit, sure didn’t hurt as we were a logical in between stop on tours. Some of the acts these guys brought in, included; The Stranglers, 999, John Cale, Bauhaus, Simple Minds (2 times), Psychedelic Furs and loads more! And people came out as they would have heard these bands on Fanshawe’s 6X and Western’s CHRW! Craig branched out to managing bands and Dave sadly passed away while the scene was still in full swing.

Some of the bands that played here in 1980 included Platinum Blonde (when they were a glam/punk band and later, a Police cover band), The Hi-Fis (they became Blue Rodeo, but were a powerpop band back then), Bopcats (with a young Jack Dekeyser and sometimes a Londoner, Cam Marshman on bass), Cult Heroes, Steve Blimkie and the Reason, DOA, Forgotten Rebels, Spoons, Protex, Fingerprintz, The Fast, The Shakers and so many more played The Cedar Lounge. But the most memorable show at the Cedar that year was The Psychedelic Furs! Their LP was only available as an import at that time, Records On Wheels here in town sold it, and The Zellots started covering a few of the songs from the album well before the show. People were really digging these tunes and lots of copies of the LP were sold here. When The PFurs hit the stage at the Cedar, everyone knew their songs and one punter even jumped on stage to sing along, scaring the living daylights out of the band as they had no idea a bunch of Londoners would be so into the band, let alone have any idea about their songs! The LP was finally released domestically and as you know, the band did fairly well in a year or 2.

Nick Panaseiko outside Fryfogles. Don't know who took the picture.

Another thing that happened in 1980 here in London, was that the new wave/punk music started to become more acceptable to the other clubs. Fryfogles, one of the top music bars in the city had a few new wave/punk bands play at the very beginning, but had been mostly avoiding this sound due to the reputation of the crowd this music attracted. They even rejecting a chance to get The Police in for a mere $200, but they were virtual unknowns when this happened! Most of the reasoning by the clubs was due to potential violence and they didn’t think these bands would draw. But Fryfogles started getting the bands in and the people came out to see them! The rules were no where near as lax as The Cedar as you weren’t even allowed to dance between the tables, you had to use the small dance floor or the bouncers would escort you out the door after a couple of warnings. But they lightened up after a number of shows there, as their fears proved to be non-existent and the crowds came out to see these bands!
By 1981 The Embassy Hotel, The Victoria Tavern, Cedar Palace (not to be confused with the Cedar Lounge), Oxbox, Fryfogles and The Cedar Lounge were all booking local and touring new wave/punk bands as well as other sounds. With some of the venues, it was a very short experiment that didn’t go over well with the regulars.

The so called scene was splintering as a new sound called hardcore punk was emerging, causing some to lose interest, but a whole load of others hopped on the band wagon.

There were now a multitude of factions that made up this so called scene; there were the people into the original punk sound, people into hardcore, people that only came out for the big name touring bands, and a whole other group that were into electronic, noise and industrial music as an artform. Bands were leaving London for Toronto, hoping that success was just around the corner.

Continued in Part 3....seems like blogger has a length/size limit.