Punk haiku 4 "1 2 3 4/ drummer for a day"

 PUNK HAIKU: unheard stories and sounds from the proto-punk years                          featuring Toronto's The Scenics

OCTOBER 1976, Toronto

 

All of the songs  from Punk Haiku 1-5 are collected and available on the free/by donation album "Proto-Spunk" at  Dream Tower Records.

SEE ME SMILE

An out-take from the SUNSHINE WORLD cd. Recorded during the Scenics' first studio sessions, summer of 77. Ends with a gorgeous guitar coda. I always thought the first two lines of this song were a manifesto of a sorts: "Turn your eyes around in your head/what you see is just what you get"...

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Too Much of Nothing

These  songs (Written by Bob Dylan and Lou Reed)  are from the first time the proto-Scenics played with a drummer- October 17, 1976, the enigmatic Mike Brown. 

 

                                                                                                                                                                      Lou and Bob. The two poles of some universe. We kept Femme Fatale in the lineup for a couple of years. Too Much of Nothing soon faded from... sight? sound?  This version features temp Scenic Dave Moore on Wah texture guitar and Andy on guitar at the end of 'Nothing".

 

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FEMME FATALE

  This first session was a day of discovery- what does this stuff feel like with drums?  Sound quality is the lowest of fi. As this Scenics thing began heating up, we got a better tape deck.

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Gary Topp opened the 99 cent Roxy on the Danforth in Toronto in 1972. The Roxy was a rep cinema psychedelic-dream-with-an-edge plopped down in the middle of Toronto-the-staid. The Roxy is a story in itself- here's what 'The Last Pogo' film-maker/Roxy usher Colin Brunton has to say about it. 

 

 In 1976 Gary moved to the New Yorker Theatre, on Yonge St, Toronto's main drag. I saw lots of great movies there, like Aquirre and Nosferatu, my two favorite movies by Werner Herzog, my favorite director.  They’d do all night showings of rare Beatle and Stones footage, Elvis in Hawaii,  Visconti, El Topo, and Zacariah, the first rock and roll western.

Gary got tired of  the fact that the movies didn’t change, one showing to the next, and there were only so many foreign films and rock and roll movies to show,  so he decided to start booking bands. The Ramones were the first band he booked,  and he hired a carpenter to come in and build a stage. The carpenter was Gary Cormier, who had been a music promoter himself, before he quit, finding banging nails and building things more interesting than booking bands  for people to get hammered to. 

  Gary and Gary started talking, and Gary found Gary was also turned on by this new music he was  hearing about, (and 'old' music like Roxy Music, and the Stooges, etc) so Gary and Gary became partners, and for the next decade, first at the New Yorker, and then at the Horseshoe, the Edge, and other venues, as “the Garys” they brought in every magnificient musical act Toronto hadn’t yet seen.

 

 

   Ken and Sue and Carol and I swung down Yonge St to the New Yorker. I  was singing Bryan Ferry’s  “Heart on my Sleeve.” We were going to a party, the curtain was opening on the Ramones, the newest thing I hadn't yet seen, and I was dying to know what  it would be like.

 

 

  Things were also pretty new for the Ramones- this was an early tour for them. (Consider the role that artful promoters play, the encouragement given to the Ramones, helped on their way to twenty years of touring and thousands of shows. And the cultural effect on the audience that night, rippling out to the rest of Toronto and Canada and the world). The 500 seat theatre was about half full. It was all of our first punk show. 

 

  Seeing the Ramones take the stage was stunning, it was as if they were going to shoot themselves out of a cannon. You’d seen the pictures, you’d heard the record, but now these four boys were offering up  a scientific proof by performing their unimaginable recasting of the rock form in person. There was no man behind the curtain to ignore.

     The audience was right on edge, really excited, - lots of noise, shouting, applause, even a few “1-2-3-4”s- their amps belched loudly as they plugged in, Deedee thumping his bass like a caveman testing out a new club, Johnny building up a wall of feedback as Joey stood stock-still centre stage, brushing his hair back from his sunglasses. He loomed forward- “Good evening, we’re the Ramones, you’re a loudmouth baby you better shut it up”, Deedee barked "1234" and they were here.  

For me the show started a bit slowly, maybe I was thinking too much, Sue questioned the fact that they all had new (unripped) jeans on, but it built in intensity as they continued to hammer home their truths, standing in their classic diamond formation like republicans on the ramparts of the Bastille, or, in Johnny’s case, just Republicans. They played with commitment and one focus, even if their limbs did not yet move as swiftly as they would. Their sound was already solid,  almost perfect! Tempos got faster as the years past, but already at this point they were pounding it out. It was impossible to know how much they meant exactly what they were doing after one show- it was a point of view  that was hammered home song after song show after show for years.

The show peaked for the last third and encore, and by then, I was in deeply in love. They showed us that you didn’t need flashpots, didn’t need big hair, (although their hair was fantastic), didn’t need wanking guitar solos. Just stick your finger in the socket, and connect. If you want to hear what it sounded like, get a copy of the Remastered “Ramones Leave Home” CD- there are bonus tracks of a live set from LA, recorded a month before the Toronto show.

      The next day, I called Ken to post-mortem the concert. Instead he told me that there had been a knock on his door that afternoon, and when he had gone to answer it, it had come flying in on him. Mrs Giacato’s revenge-the cops  had come for his pot plant, which sat on his balcony, in plain sight. Ken commemorated the event in his song See Me Smile, “you go for your door and your door’s not there.” (Compact, solidly built, with an ever-expanding instrumental coda, See Me Smile stayed in our rotation through 1981, and we recorded it in our first (1977) and last (1980) trips into the recording studio.)

    It happened in an instant- it was a moment when your life changes and you have to think fast to stay ahead of the tide.  Ken had dual citizenship, and Sue was a landed imigrant working as a teacher. Ken took the rap.

   Gicato had won. Ken waited for his day in court, and we had to find another place to play. I got us a permit to use one of the classrooms at Don Mills Collegiate (my alma what's the mater), and we had a month of grey linoleum and chalkboards and bookcases ringing to “White Light/White Heat”.

 

We had the room on Tuesday evenings, and the slow-broom pushing janitor would let us in to the closet where our gear was stashed and we would pull it on a carpeted dolly down darkened hallways dotted with security lights and exit signs, through the breezeway with trees beyond the glass walls in the dark, to the room where we would play. We had as little to do with what that building was normally used for as he did. 

 

 At DMCI we jammed with another guitar/bass duo- "Berlin". Mike Young and Paul Boudra. Both duos were looking to raid the other for parts, but neither was a good fit. They rejected us as seriously weird, we rejected them as a couple of college kids who lacked the guts to either be or not be punk, and who played “White Light/White Heat” with one obviously wrong chord, which we called them on, but which they, after looking earnestly at each other, stuck with. Later I realized they were playing the chords from the David Bowie live version. Still later, in 1979,  Mike Young joined the Scenics on second guitar, and then shifted to bass. He still plays bass for the Scenics today. 

 

 

At DMCI we did begin playing with my rock n roll guitar buddy from high school, Dave Moore. Now Ken and I had company, and began to feel like maybe something was growing. 

 

   In late September my parents left for 6 weeks in Europe. I had blow out parties with my high school friends, but now the mix tapes featured Jonathan Richman and Iggy Stooge. Ken and I shifted our noise nest to my basement “family room”. We started taping there, a cassette labelled “the Scenic Tapes volume 1”. The title was a pun on “The Scenic Caves”, which was by now our name, taken from Ken’s “Scenic Caves” a song which helped us find out who we were- long improvised passages, vocal lines that shifted from me to him halfway through the line. Lots of room to melt and listen. Then a rave out ending. (The version of Scenic Caves from this first cassette is posted with Punk Haiku 3)

 By now I had begun writing songs  with the Scenics in mind.-“So Fine”, a love song in three, written after watching a Fred Astaire movie with Carol, promising the planets and moon over quirky, spiked chords. It's on the Sunshine World  CD.

 

Other new songs: my Smash the Mirror (inspired by the scene in the movie Performance where a mirror is held up to Mick Jagger’s chest, reflecting a woman’s breasts and his androgony. I lifted it's chorus from the TV show The Courtship of Eddie’s Father).

 

 The tape also includes my Love and the Idiot Boy,  Patti’s Ain’t it Strange and Dylan’s Too Much of Nothing. Also, Garthuson, my tribute to the Band’s Garth Hudson, and Ken’s Oh Charlotte.

 

I had been learning bass, but at this point there were a couple of weeks where I felt like I was holding things back, so at this point It's Dave and I on guitar and Ken playing bass on everything.

 

Dave had been the lead player in bands we had in high school. I had always felt shy about my inability to mimic Page, Clapton et al, but I was finding out that that wasn't necessary. The way I was hearing and playing things was changing, so Dave and I are both taking leads. Dave plays some hot stuff, but on Scenic Caves, Ken and I are both listening, breathing the song, clinging to it like water dripping down stalagtites, while Dave is filling in all available spaces with as many notes as possible.

 

Of course, the Scenics without Ken Badger guitar is impossible to imagine.

 

Two days later,  October 17, 1976- we had a drummer for a day. Mike Brown was a friend of Dave Moore's. He came in, set up, a calm, friendly, straight-ahead guy. We counted in and he came in. Our songs suddenly had the muscle and gristle that comes from things being hit, hard. They jumped up 3D in the room like when you're a kid and the car lights pass in the night, lighting up your hockey posters. Mike paid attention, he listened, the songs had shape and swagger.  Every song Ken and I had been playing filled the room like smoke.

 

The cymbals rang forever at the end of the day. I was stunned. The answer was here. Ken and I looked at each other. Scenic Caves were a band. Mike began packing up. Friendly, relaxed, methodical.

 

But- he told us he was moving on. Wasn't for him. Couldn't make it fit. He came he saw he left. Left us trying to grab the last sounds in the room as he carried his kit out to the car.

 

I remember him as a mythical figure, like Johnny Appleseed or Sisyphus. Forever crossing the country, never stopping, hurtling into people's living rooms, giving them a glimpse of what it was they needed, and then backing out of the room like reverse-motion film. Never to be seen, or heard from, again.

 

Oh well, at least I had got it on tape.

 

 

PUNK HAIKU 5  Scenics find a drummer who stays around a while. 

 

PUNK HAIKU 4 CREDITS

 

See Me Smile (Ken Badger, Timmy's Music) 

guitar/vocals Ken Badger.   bass/bgs Andy Meyers.  drums Mark French.

Recorded July 1977 at Mushroom Sound, Toronto. Out-take from what became the Sunshine World  CD.

Produced by Barry Steinberg and Ken Badger.

 

Femme Fatale  (Lou Reed, Oakfield Avenue Music)

bass/vocals Ken Badger.   guitar Andy Meyers. guitar Dave Moore. drums Mike Brown.

 

Too Much Of Nothing (Bob Dylan, Dwarf Music)

guitar/vocals Andy Meyers.  bass Ken Badger.  guitar Dave Moore. drums Mike Brown.

 

Recorded October 17, 1976 (the day before Andy's 19th birthday) In Andy's basement.


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PUNK HAIKU written by, and PUNK HAIKU AUDIO produced by, Andy Meyers.

©2010 Dream Tower Productions