Punk haiku 9 DEVO, THE RESIDENTS, THE DEAD BOYS, AND BRADLEY COOPER on Drums

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

June 1977, Toronto.

All of the songs  from Punk Haiku 6-10 are collected and available on the free/by donation album "See Me Smile" at  Dream Tower Records.

 

                                                                                    

CHILLS

Two songs from our first couple of weeks playing with Brad Cooper on drums, June 1977. Chills is one of  my favourite Ken Badger songs that has NOT been recorded in the studio. We almost got to it in 2008, our most recent time multi-tracking.

At the beginning of the track, Brad's comment gives you a glimpse of the life of unbridled hedonism that we were living in the summer of '77.

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I HAVE YOU                                                                                      

A number of Andy's with a pounding style that fit Brad like a glove. It later kicked off side 2 on our 1980 LP Underneath the Door.

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And here is Punk Haiku 10. Audio will feature more early recordings with drummer Bradley Cooper, (including the first recording we got of Ken Badger's O BOY) and- The Scenics talk on the radio.

 

 

   We were continuing to hear about bands that were releasing their own records. A band from Ohio were presenting themselves as a multi media performance troupe, making films of their songs, songs which related to their costumed presentation of the fact that human society was devolving. Their music sounded like Popular Science (Fiction), the recent past's take on the ever nearer future. Mark Mothersbaugh's nerdy voice declaiming slogans and warnings while ominous/silly electronic sounds whizzed to the surface like selzer.  The band was called Devo, their first two singles, Jocko Homo and Mongoloid were  fun and silly and smart and musically very cool, Jocko playing like a machine repeatedly breaking down, and Mongoloid a garage rock groove that told a story.

 

Then there was the Residents, a troupe from  San Francisco who remained totally anonymous, only appearing live in costume and mask behind a gauze curtain (sort of like a non-animated Gorillaz) while releasing  recordings called Duck Stab and Bach is Dead- chants, silliness, drones, squelches of any discription, non/sense lyrics, kind of frat boy deconstructionist. My favorite was the Third Reich ‘n Roll LP, (right above),  each side a full-length collage- Pushing Too Hard/Hey Jude/ Dock of the Bay, reconfigured into something a marching band of savant pinheads might play at a shriner’s parade, ridiculous and funny, and what was so clever was that it was at the same time just one large step into another dimension away from something you might hear played in an elevator or grocery store. You bought the Residents' LPs from an anonymous postal box in San Francisco- to this day I have no idea who they actually are- quite an accomplishment, and not the usual rock 'star' goal.

  In June the Ramones played the New Yorker again with the Dead Boys and Toronto’s the Poles opening. The Poles were cool, icy in fact, with a dominatrix lead singer named Michaele Jordana. (halfway between Patti and Souxsie, although I am not saying that's where she got it from, because we hadn't heard Souxsie yet) They were working a Patti Smith kinda vein, though. Their CN Tower 45 has a catchy chorus and is a tad visionary.

 

 

    The Dead Boys were in the Stooges Rolling Stones lineage- garage with a touch of glitter. Their stage shows edged towards mayhem and chaos. Their front man, Stiv Bators, was a high stepping sneerer, a punk puck taken to sticking his head inside the bass drum while Johnny Blitz pounded it.  He looked like he didn't have an ounce of nutrition on his bones, and he definitely didn't give a fuck what you thought. The Dead Boys, (originally from Cleveland, descendants of pre-punk legends "Rocket From the Tombs", which also fed Pere Ubu) were the most 'no future' of the first wave of North American punk. Guitarist Cheetah Chrome (probably THE best ever rock sobriquet) had orange hair and a stunned expression like he had been kicked in the balls, and was right pissed about it.  Cheetah was kinda North America's Mick Jones, (Altho not in attitude, the Clash's guitarist being more of a preening sweetie-pie). But Cheetah was the guitarist on this side of the pond who combined Johnny Ramone type punk attack with the ability to play more, if desired.

   A funny thing- their signature tune Sonic Reducer opened with basically the same riff as the Scenics' I'm Hurt, except I'm Hurt's tempo was half as fast, and moved twice as quickly from note to note. I had written I'm Hurt four months before I saw the Dead Boys.

    Headliners The Ramones had hit top gear. Ten months of touring had turned them into jet pilots flying high, owners of their sound, and stage personas etched large. Tommy, relaxed and at ease providing a completely stable base for their sound. Dee Dee, truly a cartoon character with a heart that beat 1234. Even when still he seemed to be moving. Johnny’s fierceness on guitar, a grimace that was a grin (or a grin that was a grimace).

 

And Joey, regal, an everyman, leaning into the song, impossibly tall, sparse, emphatic gestures and comments, and, you could tell, a beautiful heart. The Ramones were the start of  true punk (if you ignore early Stones and Them and the Dolls and Stooges era, hmm, maybe you can’t ingore the Stooges) and there was obviously a lot of anger and aggression in the genre, but in the midst of it stood Joey, beaming humanity, and he didn’t sing one wrong note on their first 4 lps.

 

  So here were the Scenics, drinking in this rapidly expanding/arriving punk/new wave world and clutching  our first demo of which we were justifiably proud. Time to make it work for us.

    Somehow, at this exact moment, we found a drummer, or, at least, he found us.  Bradley Cooper, party boy drummer from Scarborough, Scarberia as it was called, renowned cultural wasteland. He must have seen our sign (probably at Long and Mcquade music)  and called us. I  remember talking with him on the phone, hearing that his touchstones (Golden Earring, Led Zep) were not in line with ours, not being encouraging to him, but when I couldn’t shake him, inviting him out. We were, after all, desperate.

 

photo Derek Flack

This was about the time that the Diodes were creating the Crash and Burn room in a downtown Toronto basement. There were very few bands of any description up and running, and very few people playing this music. I don’t know why we couldn’t find a drummer amongst the 300 people at a Ramones  or Talking Heads show, but that hadn’t happened. Maybe we weren’t art school enough- we weren't connected to any crowd in particular.

 

    On a hot June afternoon Brad  drove his convertible crosstown to Leaside, and half way thru his audition, found a joint tucked behind his ear from his previous evening’s exertions. Brad was clearly a “classic rock” kid, which in those days was just called rock, what normal people listened to.  He was about 5 foot 8, with wiry brown hair, and an open, smiling, handsome face. Right off the bat he didn’t totally get what we were doing, but had the wit to hear that we had something going, both in the fact that we had made a professional  recording (unlike today, not something that happened as a matter of course), and in the quality of our songs. A lot of them (Do the wait, See me Smile) were, after all, pretty straight forward, and the ones that were more abrasive or went on trips, well, I think he could just come at them from his druggy background. For as we found out, our new drummer was a steady dealer of top quality Scarborough pot and beyond.

    In person, as on the phone call, Brad was hard to shake. I think he was  very keen to belong to something, ambitious, and I think he sensed our ambition,  with out being able to realize that we had no idea how to make any 'career' ambitions come true.  He had a double kick drum, which he used to  rumbling effect- helping us develop what we called a 'murky' sound. He had a very rocking sound- a much better drummer than Mike Cusheon, and different enough from Mark French that it was not terribly obvious, at first, what his limitations were.

(roll call of Scenics drummers, chronologically speaking. L-R Mike Cusheon, Mark French, Brad Cooper, and Mark Perkell. Speaking of chronology, it should be mentioned that these are pics of the two Marks when they are about 15 years old. Strictly high school yearbook.)

Although he was a different kind of fish, Brad applied himself assidously and followed us graciously for close to three years, making him the longest serving Scenic (76-82 era) after Ken and I. Despite the fact that his presence immediately upped the drug intake, it was hard to fly with him. He was so heavy, aggressive, and grounded a player (grounded? like a coal miner!) that the lighter, floating side of the Scenics sound took a hiatus until after Brad quit in 1980 and my high school friend Mark Perkell joined us as drummer. With Brad, even our ballads packed a rocking backbeat. He wasn't so comfortable with songs that stepped into nothing lightly (so good-bye Scenic Caves, never to be played again). He was at home with an abstract frenzy, or fury, so this is where our experimentation ended up.

 

After the first rehearsal Bradley indicated his willingness to come back, and left his drums set up. That is a big step- like leaving your toothbrush at your girlfriends' place. After he left Ken and I had one those conversations. There were a couple of things Brad did not bring with him to the table. It would be great to hook up with somebody who had that ability to float, like Mark French (or Mark Perkell, still to come.) It would be great to find a drummer who was already up on Roxy, Big Star, the Velvets, Pere Ubu... someone we didn't have to.... educate?

But there is no shortage of things you can hope for, and that doesn't mean they are going to show up. Brad was a very strong drummer, and enthusiastic. He did understand that we were coming at things from a different perspcective, and was open to that. The bottom line was that with what we had gained in confidence  from making our recording, the way that presented an actual sound, with Brad Cooper on drums we were a legitimate band, we could play gigs, we could continue to develop that sound.  We ended up working with the fact that Brad had chosen  to leap over cultural walls and devote himself to music that must have sounded totally bizarre at times and involved a series of nonsensical and unpredictable rules (only certain types of drum fills were acceptable, no vibrato allowed on his bgs for “femme fatale”).

We plugged in, turned it up, and began working on the Scenic sound with Brad Cooper on drums.

(Bradley Cooper grooving in our basement in a beard, which he sometimes had, and a Golden Earring T-shirt, which he sometimes wore.) 

    Fresh from  studio inspiration, we did have a passle of new tunes to work on. Ken brought in Chills, heard above. Also O Boy, which is on Sunshine World and on video on the Last Pogo DVD. Zombie Go Round was also new that Spring, and Ken had brought in a new arrangement of Mony Mony (which kept mutating until we recorded it in late 77).

I brought in Watch Your Husband, inspired by a tag line in an old National Geographic ad, Little Yeller Linc (here on Video),  and I Have You (Above, it also ended up on our 1980 LP Underneath the Door).

 

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PUNK HAIKU 9 CREDITS

 

I HAVE YOU (Andy Meyers, Allowed Sound Music).  guitar/vocals Andy Meyers. bass/bgs Ken Badger.  drums Brad Cooper.

 

CHILLS  (Ken Badger, Timmy's Music). guitar/vocals Ken Badger .   bass/bgs Andy Meyers. drums Bradley Cooper

  

Recorded June, 1977,  about two weeks into Brad's stint with The Scenics, in our basement, Toronto.


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

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

coming in PUNK HAIKU 10-the Scenics talk on the radio.  At length.