punk haiku 11 the garys


Video is the Scenics playing What Goes On in 2009,  in London, Ontario. What Goes On is also featured below, played in 1977.

PUNK HAIKU: Unheard stories and sounds from the proto-punk years featuring Toronto's THE SCENICS

 August 1977, toronto


 A couple of songs performed at a very liquid and smoky session at our "basement under the toy shop" with our new friends - "the Garys" and a bunch of their friends. This is, of course, a Velvet Underground song. A year or so later we recorded a version, also in our basement, that ended up on the How Does it Feel to Be Loved CD.

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This song of Ken's doesn't remind me of anything, really, except for a movie or a story... The character, the narrator, is really clear, but musically, it's uniquely Ken. He has the ability to write so strongly from from a place that is just him. This song is just a week or two old at this point. About three months later, we recorded it in the studio. 30 years later, it ended up on Sunshine World.

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Go here for Punk Haiku 12 The Scenics play for Toronto's wealthy and well-heeled. 

The Garys 

We drove from CFNY back south to Toronto, a shade more real, bolder. A day or two later I was walking down Yonge St from Bloor, trembling, inexorably drawn to the  New Yorker Theatre. Our demo was in my hands, a simple cassette with hand written titles and the words “THE SCENICS” on the insert. We wanted to get somewhere,  we were making the suggestion that people should pay us some attention, and Gary and Gary were the obvious choice, the only people we knew of doing the mental origami and making something out of this music.

photo: David Andoff

  I reached the New Yorker around six o’clock. I was hoping that someone would be there preparing for the evening’s movies. If not, I’d go down to Cinebooks and read Bomp and Trouser Press for an hour or so.


I put my face up to the glass. The lobby was dark, dim, they must have had some sort of filter over the wine gums and ju jubes, but I could tell- there was somebody there, I could see movement.  I knocked on the door and someone coolly waded through the shadows. I recognized him from the box office, later found out he was Colin Brunton, cabby, filmaker, (who would make the Last Pogo film and end up in production on the films Roadkill, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, the Cube, etc. ) He leaned into the door, opening it a few inches, said “Yes?”


Joey Ramone & Colin on the set of Roadkill. See it- it's a way worthy rock n roll flick. photo Joanie Noordover, who was 7 at the time.

  I told him I had something, a tape for Gary and Gary. He said they weren’t here, but he could get it to them. I said OK, and placed our cassette into his grinning hands.


    It meant so much to us, and the transaction was so simple and over so quickly. I felt like I should have said no, I’d wait and give it to them myself, but I couldn’t grab it back, (that’s too rude, I’m too Canadian) and besides, then I’d seem untrustworthy, awkward, demanding...

  I said thanks and left. That was our life there.







 the OISE building. It was like a second home to me.  photo: Stephanie Fysh

   The next day I went to work in my clinical room in the basement at OISE (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education) at Beford and Bloor, about 10 minutes west of the New Yorker. 

 OISE was the type of building you might expect, flourescent lights, institutional metal trim on the paneled walls,  a building that could double for a high security scientific research station in a low budget sci-fi film.



I had a large room, empty except for a table whose fold-out legs were snapped to attention. Piles and piles of boxes of books, bright flourescent lights, and my tape machine, which I kept kind of quiet, because I didn’t want to blow my cover with the locals. I could walk in efficiently at any hour of the day and down to the basement, occasionally up to the floating gardens cafeteria on the top floor.



Gary Topp, 1973 or so.  


  I’m in my basement room, putting sets of the ten guides for teaching Canadian literature into boxes and shipping them out to high schools and libraries across the country, when the phone rang. I don’t know why I rated a phone: must have come with the room.


  “Hi. This is Gary Topp. Is this Andrew?


  “I just heard your Scenics tape. It’s great. I had no idea there was a band like this in Toronto.”

   At this I began waltzing around the room like Fred Astaire as we talked, lovingly holding the phone in both rounded arms as I pirouetted.



   At one point Gary said, haltingly, “Do... you have a....   manager?”

   I was in love. Not with Gary, with the world. I always hope to create those moments where everything happens as I imagine it might- those moments hardly ever come.

   We set up a time for Gary and Gary and their posse to come out and hear us live. I gave them our address, got his phone number, hung up, screamed, and phoned Ken.





The Scenics all scrubbed clean, standing outside the washrooms down the hall, waiting for guests to arrive. photo: Brian Molyneaux.

  A week later, we had our practice place polished, or at least, we’d swept the mountains of empty coffee cups into a green garbage bag and emptied the ashtrays in the toilet down the hall. We played a bit, warmed up, and at the appointed time  there was a knock on the door and they streamed in.




 Our tiny basement room became the Marx Brothers’ stateroom scene as they kept on coming. There must have been a dozen of them, Gary Topp, looking like Jerry Rubin with Abbie Hoffman’s hair, quick to know if he liked it or not, certain of where he floated in the cultural parade at any moment. Gary Cormier, tall, aquiline nose, talked a bit like a tough guy, but really decent. Colin Brunton was there, smiling, the guy I’d given the tape to,  and a bunch of friends/New Yorker employees, mostly familiar to me.


Among them was a girl my heart had been fluttering over at various punk events. Black hair, translucent skin, thin, it must be admitted,  a Patti Smith type. (I had by this point written “Patti you need somebody to love”, a wry sonnet/song, the last verse of which started “Tho I’m already taken/ and a twelve hour drive away/ I’m sure that I could get the car sometimes...) She moved with her own grace and  sureness, always in black and white, sunglasses always. I was still with Carol, and our drifting apart had barely begun, and in any case I knew this girl was not the type of girl I could be with, too quiet, too cool, an archetype it was best for me to be smitten with from a distance. 


   But here she was, in our rehearsal room,  about to hear us play, and, amazingly, it turned out that she was the daughter of my favourite high school english teacher, a mentor, a man who would let me out of class to jam with friends, a man with a highly extravagant manner, noble and regal, funny and moody, a mix of Danny Kaye and Richard Burton, and he enjoyed playing the dark corners of the curriculum, powerfully leading us through “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”. 


Once, when he was chaperoning one of our high-school dances, I spent an hour talking with him, he seemed quite outside of himself, he inferred that he was stoned, in talking about Carol and I, he sputtered on about what a beautiful and wondrous species the young women at school were, how enthralling, but no, he must respectfully keep his distance, it seemed both because of what was required for him to keep his job, and also because of what was deeply right, proper, where the energies of life attracted and repelled. I ended up having a similar response to his daughter, but that night at the dance he began talking agitatedly about the fear he always had to keep at bay, and I asked him what was behind that, and he leaned his head against the cool tiled hallway walls, and said that as a child, his father, out of his mind, would lay him on the floor and hold an ax to his neck while his mother screamed and his young brother stood frozen. A year or two after the evening when the New Yorker crew came to see the Scenics,  this gentleman ended his dance, and killed himself, I don’t remember how, and although I loved him, I did not go to the funeral.

  I just didn't. I believe Carol did.


  All the New Yorker people lined up across the half wall in the speaker room of our cave. They were jostled together, oil joints were being industriously rolled and regularly passed. The crowd was too cool to make a lot of noise, but they beamed as we played. I felt like we had found our people.


  At this point, early on in Brad’s history with us, our sound still contained quite a bit of the floating and dancing that Ken and I had established in our early wide eared jumping into space playing without a drummer. This sound was a natural fit with Mark French. At this point Brad’s four square style had pegged us to the ground, but we were still kite-high and moving in the breeze. Our sound with Brad in July 77 was very different than our sound with Brad in November 77. Our softness had not yet been reeled in.

The Scenics playing in their basement. L-R Ken, Brad, Andy. Right in front of Andy, sitting on the half wall between the two rooms they played in, is their cassette machine. If you look closely you can see that play and record are pressed down. Photo: Brian Molyneaux.



   The evening ended with Gary Topp saying great, just great, he had a show he wanted to put us on, but he couldn’t say what yet.  A week later he phoned and said he wanted to put us on a date with the Talking Heads, but it wasn’t in the bag yet.

A few days of walking on eggshells later, Gary phoned back and said yeah- the show was on. September 16 at the New Yorker Theatre. Talking Heads and The Scenics.




Go here for Punk Haiku 12: The Scenics play for Toronto's wealthy and well-heeled.

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WHAT GOES ON (Lou Reed, Oakfield Avenue Music)

ONE COMES CLOSER (Ken Badger, Timmy's Music) 

guitar/vocals Ken Badger.   bass/bgs Andy Meyers. drums Bradley Cooper.


Recorded August or September 1977,  In the Scenics' basement,  with Gary Topp, Gary Cormier and a buncha friends.

PUNK HAIKU AUDIO produced by Andy Meyers  ©2010 Dream Tower Productions.  

PUNK HAIKU written by Andy Meyers ©2010 Dream Tower Productions.?



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