Punk haiku 5 a drummer stays/talking heads

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

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.

 JANUARY 1977, Toronto

 

TOKYO

These first two are early '77 with Mike Cusheon, the Scenics first drummer.     One day I dragged Carol's reel to reel tape deck down to Neil Wycik. That day we captured these first two songs (and others, including 'Do the Wait'  and 'In the Summer', from Punk Haiku 3 and 1). This rave-out rocker of Ken Badger's we played in '77 and then brought back in 1980.

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FARM REPORTS (AND TEST PATTERNS)  

An early song of Ken's: wired into your easy chair, hurtling down 'a crooked highway/ at a straight-away speed'. Wide-eyed in front of your TV till dawn, until farm reports and test patterns bring you in for a landing. Simple pleasures.

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PUNK HAIKU 6 here. Audio features the first recorded proto-version of Ken's "Not Dead Yet" and Andy's Iggy inspired "New Part in Town".

PUNK HAIKU 5  A  DRUMMER STAYS/TALKING HEADS

 

One night in November we got a call from Wally, a drummer who lived downtown in Rochedale. Rochedale had been Canada’s free-wheeling hippy-enclave-of-a-university residence, existing as virtually a closed society with parallel government and mores. It had recently been cleaned up and restocked with standard issue first year removed from the suburbs university freshman.

 

It was a stormy night, snow and wind, but Ken and I drove down and across town to get Wally and his drums- Ken riding shotgun on my shaky, experimental driving technique (in my parent’s toyota hatch-back),  navigating freeway and stoplight and finally, Rochedale's parking lot, looking, considering it’s history, appropriately like an ariel map of Moria, full of bottomless potholes and snow heaped parking barrier mountain ranges.

  We located Wally,  an affable, chatty fellow, and we filled up the  hatch with bass drum cases and hi hat stands, and the back seat with smaller drums and cymbals, found a place to stuff Wally, and then headed back through checkpoints and straightaway and finally the concentric circles of Don Mills to 34 Ternhill Crescent. Drums were unloaded and carried downstairs (Ken and I of course helping, and, despite Wally’s chattering and lack of content, excited. Who cared what he had to say- here was a DRUMMER. By now we that if you added a drummer to what we already had,  you had a band.)

So, down in the basement- Wally setting up, Ken playing host and rolling a joint, talk about musical influences (on the phone, Wally said “yeah, sure” to everyone we mentioned.)

We  started with the ubiquitous “Where Have All the Good Times Gone.” I counted it in and played the riff. Ken clicked in. We started chugging back and forth from F to G, as required. All eyes turned to Wally, who raised his sticks and did a thundering fill. Fine. I shouted out the verse. There was a brief pause from the drums, and then another fill, a pause, a fill...  I began expectant, on edge, decided Wally had no taste, and then slowly realized.... Wally couldn’t actually play the drums. All he could do was play cod drum introductions, a la overblown rock songs.

 

I couldn't believe it, stopped playing and singing, put down my guitar, glared at Wally, and left the room.  The lack of consideration, the self deception that dragged us across town to get him.  And I  had to wait until I was straight enough to drive him back home.

Ken seemed more amused,  chatted about the weather and such while Wally packed up, never once mentioning his lack of actual playing ability, and they ended the evening on the best of terms.

 

After letting the clear November air clear Wally out of our heads, we got a call. From a drummer. No, really. His name was Mike Cusheon, and he lived in Neil Wycik, another downtown College residence, hard by Maple Leaf Gardens, home of Toronto Hockey and smoky concerts with the Who and the Stones, where I saw Dylan and the Band in '74.

 

Mike didn't sound like a perfect fit on the phone, but it did sound kind of plausible, in a resigned sort of Mike Cusheon way. So as my parents  returned from Europe  I took to leaving, taking the bus to the subway.

 

Mike  was tall, verging on gaunt,   with a black handlebar mustache.  His apartment was scattered with used cereal bowls and radio parts- transistors, capicitators, circuit boards and unhoused speakers. He had a large girlfriend who I believe I only ever saw at the sink, from behind.

   Importantly, Mike  had access to a room in the basement of Neil Wycik where we could get our trio sound together. He became our first full time drummer. He completed us. For a while.  Not exactly the Scenics, but proto-Scenics- The Scenic Caves. The best thing you could say about Mike was that his drumming had a simple sort of third Velvet’s LP charm.  The worst thing you could say is that he had no idea where we were heading. He kept pushing for us to do “Brown-Eyed Handsome Man”. We asked him what the song was about, and he said, "well, about how women all over the world want the brown-eyed handsome man". We were not convinced. He also did too many drum fills, and in the new regime, drum fills were rarely called for.

  His pinnacle with us came when he had an epilieptic fit whilst moving into the rave-out ending to Ken’s song “Tokyo”. Ken, who’s back was to Mike at the time, later said “For a couple of seconds, I thought he had finally got it.”

But Mike could keep a groove, and despite his treating Ken and my grasp of what we were aiming for as an irritating pretension, we did have something we could work on, and we played several times a week, building reperetoire, writing songs. After a month of regular practice, we had our first ever gig, December 76,  in our basement room at the Neil Wycik, supporting Albert the gay show poet. 

 Albert had some kind of grant from the Ministry of Education, and thirty inner city high school kids trooped in as we played our extended version of the Velvet’s “What Goes On”. We did a few  of our songs and then Albert did some performance poetry and then we made noises with  him on his piece about the Vietnamese monk immolating himself in a vat of “Sunsmoko” oil in protest of the U.S.A.’s imperialist policies. The kids loved us, Albert was  very appreciative and bubbly about how well everything went, and we tore down our gear while sincere kids told us about their writing and said you guys were cool. When everyone left, we had beers and toasted each other, because now, no-one could deny, we were a band. 

 

the Scenic Caves- Mike, Ken, Andy.

1977

  The singer’s head swivels, a sensor searching for signs of life.

The drummer, a tow-headed boy,  settles  in his stool, sitting erect.     The bassist’s expression is severe. She is androgynous, beautiful,   boyish. She clutched her bass with both hands like it would fly away.

  I don’t know where it could have gone. Ken, 100 other people and I, jammed into “A Space”, a tiny art gallery. The singer raised his eyes to the ceiling and said “The name of this band is Talking Heads and the name of this song is “For Artists Only”.

He played a figure on his Jaguar guitar, his hips moving like sailors in a Broadway musical. What his guitar was saying was exotic,  mysterious, middle eastern, possibly from Venus. Notes, Rythms I had not heard in rock,  an odd hiccup in it like a record skipping. Something an oboe would play in ”Sheherazade”. Then the drums and bass kicked in and grounded it all in apprehension.

And then he sang.

I couldn’t tell what words he was singing. The words didn’t sound English, or, literally, even human. The melody wasn’t a human melody. He was making sounds in space, and they did have different pitches, and there was timing, but...

I’ve  wondered how an extra-terrestrial would “see” the earth. How could eyes not formed in oxygen and carbon take this in?

Our world an interconnected web of minerals, substances- fractal forms, from atomic cubes to shoe boxes,  so interlaced and overlaid with the meaning we give it and it has given us. Surely it is a totally different world to a creature formed elsewhere.

   That night, January 27, 1977, Talking Heads, still a trio, played their first show in Toronto, and I saw that creature, and heard his song.

 

photo © Richard E Aaron

   Song after song, all wonderful,  rythmically compelling, strong original constructions. As the evening passed, I started to understand the language,  songs about books, buildings, making time for your friends, songs written from places that rock music had never been. And they were considerate creatures, because they had taken the time to learn our music-  the 6 year old in me felt right at home  when they sang “every time I make a move to kiss you... 1 2 3 red light”.

 The next night we heard them again  at the Ontario College of Art Auditorium and I pulled posters for both shows off of Hydro poles. The OCA show cost $3.00. The opening act’s name was scrawled, handwritten. It kind of looked like it said “Dishes”, (An artpop band already playing galleries and dives around town),  but it was really “Diodes”, a five or six piece who played punky pop songs. It was their first gig and they were cool- they were art school kids who looked like they owned the place. When Talking Heads played, Ken, Carol and I (Carol came to this second show after I told her how good the Heads were,) dragged our chairs to the front of the floor and leaned back with our heels up on the stage and bobbed and swayed for the entire set. When Tina would play, crouched, a little diamond of light would shine through at the top of her thighs. As they stood offstage waiting to come back for the encore, she waved at us. We were in love, the band was brilliant.

  By this point this was being called “punk” or “new wave”, and I was literally experiencing it like a new wave of consciousness, or choice of manifestation... To this point I had heard Television’s “Little Johnny Jewel” single,  Patti’s album and concert, ditto for the Ramones, and now, Talking Heads live. At the A Space show, I also purchased the 45 Love Goes to Building on Fire b/w New Feeling (a version of New Feeling far superior to their still to come first lp version) . Each of these bands were writing songs that were not hackneyed and cliche- their lyrics held wit and humour,  abstraction, a bridling energy, there was a self awareness, the artists were in the songs themselves, whether it was Patti dreaming, Tom Verlaine cool and blank, or the Ramones riffing on the banalities of modern life and faithfully recording primal scenes of  fear and violence. Musically these bands were creating something really fresh- none of this “it’s a blues” or “folk-rock ballad in G", they were accurately catching, in musical forms, what was coming out of their heart, crotch, solar plexus, and  wary eyes.

   At this point, early 77,  real, honest and very hip expression was the order of the day. It seemed like pop music had been washed clean and reconnected to what it was before it beame a business (which was an accurate description of how these particular bands came together.) In early 77, this door  was kicked wide open, it was our responsibility to walk through it, and based on the evidence,  it seemed like maybe all bands would.  Maybe being great and visceral was the new reality.

 

PUNK HAIKU 6 here. We start writing a ton of songs and see Iggy, Patti, Sparks, and Blondie.

PUNK HAIKU 5 CREDITS

 

TOKYO (Ken Badger, Timmy's Music) 

guitar/vocals Ken Badger.   bass/bgs Andy Meyers.  drums Mike Cusheon.

 

FARM REPORTS (AND TEST PATTERNS)  (Ken Badger, Timmy's Music) 

guitar/vocals Ken Badger.   bass/bgs Andy Meyers.  drums Mike Cusheon.

 

Recorded February, 1977, Neil Wycik Building

 

See Emily Play (Sid Barrett, TRO_Essex 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.


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

PUNK HAIKU written by Andy Meyers

 

Digital IPR royalties are being collected from sales of downloads.

 

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