Unheard stories and sounds from the proto-punk years featuring Toronto's The Scenics

December 1975/JUne 1976, Toronto                 


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Ken and Andy, alone in the basement of Andy's suburban home, bounce this one off the walls while they  figure out what a band might sound like. Taking off disguises, October 1, 1976.

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A song of Ken's he played me on the first day we got together- one of the first versions we got on tape, November 1976. Ken's guitar at the end is, as the Toronto Star's Ben Rayner says, "Wayward, jammy, a bit druggy....". Our studio version from 1977 made our SUNSHINE WORLD CD.

 I am posting an apology on the first few punk haiku pages for the primitive audio quality. As the Scenics went along, we got a better tape recorder!



And then, unannounced, the next world arrived.  


 I began hearing a song on Chum FM, in the mornings when I wasn’t quite awake. The first few times I may have dreamt it. I couldn’t make out the words,  even the language. I couldn’t find out who it was, like a few years earlier, when early in the morning,  half awake before school, a cool voice urged me to “walk on the wild side”.

I thought i heard the DJ say it was by Lou Rawls, and I thought OK, way to go


Lou, imagining  his smiling, tomming face. It excited me, the way years earlier I had found out who I was by putting on a flannel shirt and Neil Young’s“Everybody Knows this is Nowhere” in the autumn. I fell in love with that, like when Kia, a gorgeous exotic blonde  with long frizzy hair and a dazed expression would walk  portensiously to the front of 11th grade art class and put on Ziggy Stardust, and I fell in love, with Ziggy.  



  This song began with low toms, saying something as clearly as anything was ever said around a tribal fire,  an organ wavering around a handful of notes. A decision to go on. And the voice. “The wall is high, the blood born, the babe in my arms wrapped in swaddling clothes, the unborn soul...” Kimberly by Patti Smith.

    Well, this really changed things, and a few weeks later I found a copy of her album “Horses” at Records on Wheels at Yonge and Bloor, still a row of shops with used records on the second floor, a decade before it would be torn apart and forced into being a monolithic High fashion store that  people could not afford to shop in, a store with ceilings as high as it’s prices.

  But on this day it was still Records on Wheels. I bought used copies of Horses and the live three lp “Yessongs”  the flotsam and jetsam of my musical life. I brought them home, set Yessongs aside, and started playing Horses. Daily.


    At first it was impenetrable. There was the cover to start with, Patti completely vulnerable, yet looking like a bomb that would devestate everything if touched. Her band on the back not looking like rock stars, or even what later became called punks, just too cool to be bothered to be cool. The icy greys and whites and type.

But the music. Has there ever been a better opening line than “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine.” 


   I listened, was stunned by it, hungry for it, but it took me a while to make it all add up. The lack of hard rock sound, but it’s intensity. It’s gentle, balming songs (“Break it Up” featuring someone named Tom Verlaine on guitar). Patti’s feral vocals, and grace, and lack of  tuning, and then sweetness.  The unheard of shapeless cloud mass of “Birdland” and the unoriginal music to “Free Money”.

  And at the end, “Land”, taking every punk/teenage story of  the hunt for danger and/or desire and translating it into a spiritual state, the core of life. I played “Horses” every day, I began to realize that I really dug it.



  As I was figuring this out, Patti’s show at Massey Hall was announced.  Carol and I went at the last moment, picking up a couple of seats in the front of the balcony. It seemed everyone else was settling in as we settled in. There was a buzz going through the hall, looking around, we didn’t look like an audience, we all looked like individuals, waiting to find out.

   The lights went out and Patti and band came out. They started  with no bass, just drums, 2 guitars,  piano, and Patti. They started with 

                 “We’re going to have a real good time together

                  We’re going to have a real good time together

                  We’re going to jump and shout and shoot together

                  Na na na na na na na na na na naaaa”


                  A Velvet Underground song (I later found out) and they  did all of  Horses and part of their next album and ended with an encore of “My Generation”, drum kit hurled across the stage. They moved together on stage as they  explored the music together,  making it up as they went along. It seemed very New York,  folk cabaret filtered through the down and out.


                 Soon after I  wrote a story about a High School boy seeing a concert by “Queen Bitch” and how, at the end, “the whole idiom lay in shambles.” This is what this concert and this album did for me (and many, many others.) Rock and roll in 1976 was not what it used to be. I never believed that the Eagles were outlaws,  and Fleetwood Mac were big, and although my eyes light up for “Go Your Own Way”, I always knew Hotel California was an abomination, and anyway, that’s not the point- there’s always room for commercial pop, but in those days, there was nothing else. Even the Stones had gone from Exile on Main Street to Goat’s Head Soup, which was not a horrible album, but as Lester Bangs wrote, “It was the first Stones album to be completely meaningless”, which was far worse than horrible.

The fact that Rock and Roll had become “entertainment” and nothing more, had made “entertainment” a dirty word for me-  I hated the loud subtext of reassurance that coursed through Bob Seger et al. And so I began my retreat from entertainment to a place where nothing was ever safe- The Scenics.



   Anyway, I won a young writer’s grant for that story on Queen Bitch, and was awarded $250, and bought a pair of speakers with it. David Young, who had led a writer’s workshop at Don Mills High in ‘75 and liked my stuff had gotten me the grant, and was about to get me a job.


   But first there was my last Writer’s workshop with David Mcfadden, a poet and novelist from Hamilton who taught me more than the others because he showed me that if you pay attention and are open, life becomes art, and can be recorded as such. My favorite poem of his is  “Rainy Day Song”, five pages of blank verse, an afternoon at home,  he  intermittently playing with his five year old, and following  CFL and NFL games on the radio, back and forth, while a pot roast simmers, and his wife refinishes a chair. It  exquisitely covers all the plot and emotion you would ever need. David would take me and a couple other desperate teens to a coffee shop after class, and when I told him about Patti Smith he said he saw my aura, and inscribed a book of his “To Andrew, the perennial passionate student.”

  David had a child’s innocence. He was married to his high-school sweetheart, had been a proofreader at the Hamilton Spectator for numerous years as he began publishing chap books. He had a straight-faced recognition of Hamilton as, literally,  the center of the universe. This persona continued into the early eighties as he began a series of books based on  trips his family took around the great lakes. A sudden dark undercurrent swept through book number two like blood leaving a body, and by book number three, he was living alone, dressed in black leather,  filled with pain. These days he writes a series of celebrated travel books, going to various cities (Glasgow, Athens) and, true to his history, appreciating what crosses his path.  A special nod of respect must go his way,  when I knew him, he was humorous and open, with an wise and amused face and a salt and pepper mustache.


 The writer’s workshop wound down, and the final school band concerts passed, friends sizing each other up for goodbyes in the parking lot, fourteen years of school, essentially the same stream of kids year in and year out, the same place, and now that was cracked open forever, by the end of  summer we would be spread out across the country, continent, world.

    Carol was dutifully preparing to study education at the U of T. Everyone was making plans, and I wasn’t planning on doing anything at all. We were assigned projects about going to University in different disciplines. I had asked if I could do my project on “Taking a year off”, and that had been ok’d, and I duly researched the topic and that option soon lay on a table in the guidance office alongside Dentistry, Mining, and Hospitality Management.

    When I was expelled from the school orbit, it may have looked to the world, and myself, that I had no plans or goal. A year away from school would become ten and then twenty. I did have the job that David Young set me up in, shipping a recently published set of ten “Guides to Teaching Canadian Literature” to high schools across the country. It was full time for about 3 months, and then one or two days a week for the next 3 years or so. My type of job.

    But I had something more than a job, or an education, I had a mission, something I was entrusted with. In the last week of High School, in the library, I hand wrote a sign. In bold and shaky print, I issued a series of challenges- “Are you tired of being in bands that aren’t doing anything different? Do you want to do something exciting?” At the bottom, a list of names. The Band, and Bowie, and Traffic,  and the Steve Miller Band, (remember this is his early 70’s stuff, not his AM breakthrough of the late 70’s) and Eric Dolphy (a bit of a curve, fishing for a bit of depth) and, among a few others, Patti Smith.  I took the TTC down to Long and Mcquade’s, Toronto’s largest music store,  and thumb tacked it up on their bulletin board.


The sign generated one call- luckily, from the right guy.



 PUNK HAIKU chapter 2 : " Andy meets Ken".  audio features two more very early Scenic songs- "Scenic caves" and Pink Floyd's "See EMily Play"
punk haiku 1 CREDITS

Little Johnny Jewel (Tom Verlaine, Double Exposure Music). ln the basement of Andy's home at 34 Ternhill Crescent. bass/vocals Ken Badger. guitar Andy Meyers.

In the Summer  (Ken Badger, Timmy's Music)  in rehearsal at Neill Wycik, February, 1977. guitar/vocals Ken Badger.  bass/vocals Andy Meyers.  drums  Mike Cusheon.

drawing by Gareth Gaudin, MAGIC TEETH COMICS

drawing of David Mcfadden by Greg Curnoe

©2010 Dream Tower Productions. All Rights Reserved.

 Punk Haiku written by and audio produced by Andy Meyers.