December 21, 2014

James "Rebel" O'Leary............... ......The Man... The Legend (c1930-1994)

 We wish to take this time to welcome you to our world, 
Come travel with us, share our thoughts, 
memories, our past, our future, our DREAMS, 
until we meet again....

I met the Rebel at his annual 39th birthday celebration in 1986. He had stopped at aged "39" some years back; no one really knows how many. This was an event not to be missed, not just for the Reb... and his family backing band... and his 30 pounds of jewelry... and his wig, but also to see their regular opening act, the Yahoos, play Sister Ray and destroy their instruments on stage to the uneasy amusement of the Rebel, family, and friends. It was such an odd match-up, but one that everyone seemed to enjoy. Then again, The Rebel was just a little out of place just about anywhere he went.
Gus Aguirre: They would walk around the York Mall Friday night... .. a lot of kids would make fun of them.. but looking back.. this guy had a great attitude and always had a smile... he did what he wanted to do...and didn't give a hoot about what anyone thought!! Pretty punk rock if you ask me!! Rock on Rebel!!!  
The only studio recording that I know of was the Southbound 81 single sold at the annual Fan Fair in Nashville, right down that lonesome highway, along with this VHS tape of a special aired on Cable TV of York:

The Man - The Legend (1986)

The following interviews feature the Rebel excerpted from the 1986 video interspersed with 2014 recollections from Bob Campbell of the Rebel's opening band, the Yahoos.
Rebel: Well I originally got in music when I was about approximately between 5 or 6 years old. My brother and I, we was on a ranch; I was born in El Paso, Texas, and there we have two things: They give ya a guitar and they give ya a gun; learn ya how to shoot it....

Bob Campbell: I had been following Rebel and the family band for quite a while before they started having the regular birthday parties.  I was always into different music from my friends and could appreciate the Rebel as sort of a local version of the Shaggs. See, while others talk about how bad they were, I didn't really see it that way. One thing I got to understand about them is that they were very consistent in their quirkiness. One listen to a song like 'Ring of Fire' and you think about how they got it wrong with misplaced riffs and odd fills, but after I saw them several different times I realized that this was their "style." They played those same riffs and fills each and every time. Rosettia's steel guitar riffs were consistent in their wide, sweeping spaceship like tones for example. 

Rebel: I'm called a rebel because I broke from a part there of music. These days when I go back, and I'm speaking twenty years back, I ___ different upbeat country. Them days it was more or less a personality in music more-in-less the music itself. Now you call it "easy listening" and so forth. Them days it was "upbeat" country, which they almost considered you "rock." It isn't rock, but they considered you on a ___. And I enjoyed myself very much in my new style, and I was called "Rebel" because I broke from part of standard positions in music.

Bob: Because the Rebel and the Rebelettes were consistent, us regulars could really get into it. For example, during the chorus of "Your Cheating Heart" the great Hank Williams song, the band would launch into almost a march feel. Our group of fans would pound the table, buddababumb, buddababump', building up with volume and intensity until the climax where the last line of the chorus was sang and they went back into a more traditional country feel.   
Rebel: I do like original country music, and I write quite a bit myself, but I think everything should be alive and have feeling in it.... I have to get in the mood, in other words, it's like you do anything else. I gotta feel the music in my body and soul. When the[re are] musicians around me, you can feel em. It's like walkin in church; you know it's there or it isn't. So that's the way I feel about a musician; either he has it or he doesn't have it. It takes a special kind of breed of people to be a musician.
Bob:  I got invited to the birthday parties and eventually asked to put something together and play a set. So, in 1984 the Yahoos made their first appearance. We were a loose collection of musicians who patched together songs like White Light/White Heat, Folsom Prison Blues and the Mr. Ed theme song. We all dressed up a little weird (or a lot weird for some of us) but played a fairly normal set of tunes. And our instruments were pretty standard except for the electric banjo made out of a piece of plywood and played through an envelope filter. So, the Rebel crew invited us back.
Rebel: It gives you a great feelin inside, and it still does when I go out into the full house.... If you can give yourself to people; if they can enjoy you; you got it made. ...I sing from within. I don't sing for money. You have to have money. It's a real rugged life; it ain't easy.
Bob: The following year, 1985, the birthday show moved to the local firehall, possibly in part because our tuxedo wearing guitarist accidentally smashed a light at the last place. Fueled on by our success the year before, several of us formed the Lost Yahoos and dressed a little crazier, played a little more weird stuff and used a drum machine. During this show, the three core members proceeded to destroy our instruments by hatchet and drill during Folsom Prison Blues.  First we donned masks of some sort, launched into the intro riff and immediately began the mutilation process. I had a power drill behind my amp for this part. Part way into this I had arranged for 2 friends who had played with us in the Yahoos, come up on stage and tie me up. This was our big finale.

Rebel: There used to be in the older days where I can remember when I first started you'd grab a guitar and strapped it on your back, and a few guys'd jump in the car and you went to the Wheeling Jamboree, even Nashville. You also went into a club or something, and you had a few drinks now and then... maybe it got a little rough in the olden days, little more than it is now. ...You was wilder maybe.
I've been in a few fights in my life, sometimes in self-defense. Never went out of my way to pick one. I guess I've had to 'fend myself in my life; even playin musicians sometimes your own musicians 'll get a little 'tight or somethin, or a little jealous....  
Bob: We played two more years for the Rebel and then the shows stopped. You could always count on a big set from the Rebel featuring the other band members singing a few tunes. Certain songs I always looked forward to especially the Rebel Boogie, which had every Rebelism in it, the chromatic downward riff, the Keith Moon like drum fills, the higher warbly riffs and of course the sweeping pedal steel guitar, drenched in reverb and sounding like a rocket taking off! Hamilton had that driving beat and odd sense of fills that made the song so much more exciting.
Well whenever I come in town
All them girls stop and look around
Some'll shiver, some they'll shake
Say "Good Lord! The Rebel ___

Hubba hubba hubba
Rebel: I think if I had to say anything [that] caused most of my scenes -- I'm not an addict, or I'm not a man to go out an, what you say, get drunk or something like this. I take a drink; there's nothing wrong with that, and I don't buy anything else -- I guess my weakness would be women I imagine. But I also have an answer to this: I say, if God made anything better'n ladies he kept it to his self. So that's the way I part on this question.

Bob: The Rebel was always showing pictures of him with famous celebrities.  Anywhere from genuine, to cardboard cutouts (Dolly Parton, Elvis) and a couple where he saddled up to a performer and got a shot of him with them as they were rushing out the back door photo bomb style. Ray Eicher, the teacher here [at Campbell's Music] who worked with the Rebelettes (guitar lessons), asked for a picture of Rebel with Isaac Hayes. Now Ray did this tongue in cheek and never expected Rebel to be able to pull it off, but damned if he didn't. It was genuine too. Rebel must have caught up with him in a back lot and got the picture!!

Rebel: ...They say, "Hey Reb, Do me another number, will ya?"  That's what you live for.
Oh tonight the Rebel Star is shinin. 
Oh the snow and rain is coming down.
I can smell those hamburgers fryin
And them dishes rattlin all around

They call me country
But Rebel is my name!

I jumped out of teen years a couple years ago. When I say you come nineteen,  then you become twenty-teen ____ they all say. But after that you become umpteen. See I'm getting around that line where you're umpteen like Jack Benny see. I'm gonna drop at thirty-nine and I'm gonna stay there, see! If anything I'm going backwards; I ain't going forwards, ya know. But I consider myself a teenager, like umpteen.... If you feel old, you can be nineteen year old and be old. Me I'm alive; I only live once. And I am gonna try and enjoy it. And I think I'm going to make my mark. People know I was here anyway.
The Rebel passed away in 1994 (at aged 39 of course).

Thanks to the Yahoos' Bob Campbell who also recorded under the names Ben Wah, Donovan's Brain, and Scattered Limbs for Bona Fide Records. He is currently the second generation owner of Campbell's Music Service in York, PA and their online store

Thanks also to Tory O'Leary for inspiring my earlier post on the Rebel: "Leave My Grandpa Alone!"

Thanks to Yahoos sit-in drummer Rustle Noonetwisting for providing the Rebel video and postcards, and for inviting me to the Rebel's birthday party.

Stay tuned for more of the Rebel. I'm hoping to hear more from the O'Leary family!

November 22, 2014

Jack Lord's Hair ...... Season 2: ...... The Difference Between Trash and Garbage ..........................(Lancaster 1988)

The second season of Jack Lord's Hair starts to show a little maturity, not quite as silly as Season 1: War of the Monster Trucks, but with tongue still in somebody's cheeks. I'm off being a college kid, and Russ Cox takes over on bass, followed by Rick Bard on second guitar. JLH gets darker, grungier, and Rex gets more Johnny Thundersy seeing as he's moonlighting with Jet Silver & the Dolls of Venus. 

Just Add Water

The Difference Between Trash and Garbage

Rustle Noonetwisting: [The show in Philly] was actually the finest JLH performance I've seen, broken bass drum pedal notwithstanding. That lineup with The Gurn Twins Rex Thunders and Rick just being Rick circa 1988 (much to the bewilderment of the jaded Phila punk crowd) juxtaposed against the tall skinny short-haired wiseacres M. Gamber was a sight to behold.
Mark Gamber: That bewilderment made it all worthwhile. F 'em if they can't take a joke and on at least a couple of levels the Hair was a damn funny joke. Half punk rock show, half stand-up comedy act, 100% entertaining. Even from the stage! Maybe especially from the stage. Never did see that girl again. She was the kind-of-cute friend of a way-freaking-cute but not punk rock girl I worked with at Mars Electronics in Folcroft back around the time of the Challenger explosion. I don't remember the incident as much as almost getting fired for telling the "7-up" joke a couple days after it exploded. Oops....

Stay tuned for Seasons 3 & 4 of Jack Lord's Hair, when things really get weird....


..Jack Lord's Hair prequels, sequels & spinoffs:.. The Bodies, Last KnightThe Sinister Lampshades, The Combat Hamsters, Substitute, The Obvious, The Real Gone, Fred, Penal Code, Bachelors With Guns, The Oogies, Charms du Crane, Jet Silver & the Dolls of Venus, Rocknoceros, Blue, The New Regency 5, Mud Pie Sun, The Chelsea Squares, Trio Agave, Gone to Seed.


October 26, 2014

So the Prophets Say................ ........The Centurys - Lebanon PA 1965-67

One of central PA's bands made it into the canon of 60s punk classics with their regional hit Hard Times, but the Centurys were truly unusual at the time for their pro-war stance.

So the Prophets Say
(Billy Beard)
I bet they'll tell you that they're wise
And that they'll analyze
Your situation

They can tell you what's gonna come
And how certain things will be done
They're your

Will the world end today
Like it did yesterday
Or will we have to wait
Till tomorrow

I will tell you when it comes
You will hear those (?) drums (?)
(?) your sorrow

These (?)
These prophets of peace 
And prophets of war

They may tell you to make a big sound
About gettin out of Viet Nam
You know you gotta right
To your convictions

But will they warn you of a coming day
When your placards might be thrown away
And they'll say
Now you've got a few

You may not like it if they hand you a gun
Before you turn twenty-one
And say
Now you've got to 
Be a man

But your freedoms bells stop ringing (?)
And red state song your singing
I bet you wish 
You had a gun 
In your hand

These men so good
And men so bad

These prophets so sane
And prophets so mad


Why don't you let it be known
You got a mind of your own
And you can tell right from wrong
From day to day

Cause they know you care
And so you beware
Of what the prophets say


Billy Beard had been enlisted in the Navy since 1960 and other band members got draft notices in 1967.


Renco 115 – 83 / So the Prophets Say
Renco 116 – Don’t Bother / Together To Stay
Swan 4265 – Hard Times / Endless Search
BB 4002 – And I Cried / Catch Me Fast

The Centurys on Garage Hangover
The Centurys on Bona Fide Records' Return of the Young Pennsylvanians
The Centurys on Nuclear Platters 
Obituary for William Beard

September 13, 2014

Circle of Shit Show.......... .........Punk Rock Invades Lancaster

MAY 22, 1984

     Editor, New Era: Lancaster is about to be invaded! The enclosed poster was found taped to one of the trash containers in Downtown Lancaster announcing a punk rock "invasion" which will convene, of all places, in the YWCA, the Young Women's Christian Association. As a Christian, it seems to me highly incongruous for such a group to be allowed to offer their obscene and filthy entertainment in a place which historically has been known as "Christian."
     ... The four-letter work on the poster should be enough of a clue to their message! Their intentions are clear -- "Punk rock invades Lancaster." My Webster's dictionary defines "invade" as "To enter for conquest or plunder; to infringe or encroach on; to spread over injuriously and progressively as gangrene invades healthy tissue." Is this what we want for Lancaster? ... I for one deplore this "punk" appearance in the Lancaster YWCA and raise my voice in opposition to it in the name of decency. --a Christian

Circle Of Shit - The Punks Are Out Tonight

     Editor, New Era: I would like to correct some misinformation.... The YWCA is not sponsoring a punk rock dance.... We were approached regarding the rental of our facilities.... Before a contract was signed, however, a flyer announcing the event was distributed and posted in public locations. We found the flyer objectionable, and informed the sponsors that our facilities were not available.... --Susan C. Eckert, Executive Director

     Editor, New Era: I am writing concerning the letter written by a "Christian," and that person's attitude toward Punk Rock music....
     ... Punk music is not invading Lancaster. It has always been here and will always be here. Just because some do not appreciate this kind of music and lifestyle does not make it unnacceptable. Punks are a very misunderstood group in Lancaster. They are deemed outcasts because of the way they dress and the music to which they listen. In a free society, this is called bigotry and wholesale discrimination.
     As a whole, punks are not violent or obscene. There are good and bad people in any group.... Concerning the word in question, used on the flyers, granted the word should not have been printed. But why condemn the concert as "obscene" when there it so much true obscenity happening around us in the real world.
     All over the world, millions are oppressed, tortured, and killed outright because what they believe is different from what others believe. Censorship is a cruel tool if used blindly, as this "Christian" would do. The history of the Christian Church shows many battles against censorship....
     What the punks wanted was a place to enjoy live music. Now they must travel to enjoy a live concert because of the ignorance and intolerance in Lancaster County.
     I have one last question for this "Christian." What would you do to the punks in Lancaster? Erect a colosseum and throw them to the lions? --Dwight Yoder, Lancaster

     Editor, New Era: ... As for what Punk Rock stands for, do you really know? It's to solve all of the problems you and your so-called society have created.
     Have you tried addressing any of today's problems? We have. By trying to throw a show with all proceeds benefiting Lancaster's poor.
     Our goal would not have been conquest or plunder. We simply wanted to have a good time, and get rid of some pent up aggression. How do you get rid of your aggression? ...
     Don't be so quick to condemn Punks or our ideals. Maybe you should take a look at yourself and your ideals, Christian. --Roger Walton, A Punk And Proud Of It


In memory of John Brubaker, who passed away this week. He was a native of Lancaster County, and the singer of Circle Of Shit.

Letters to the editor of the Lancaster New Era reprinted by Death Frisbee
Circle Of Shit Black Thoughts demo available on the Internet Archive
Circle of Shit page

August 21, 2014

The Electric Love Muffin................ ...That looks like my 6th grade teacher 0_0... Mr Kaufmann is that you?

photos by Tracey Long
I must have seen the Electric Love Muffin more than any other band when I went to college in Philly in 1987. They seemed to play out every week and I never got tired of seeing them boing-boinging all over stage to their not-too-serious, seemingly apolitical speed americana.  Like a country band playing punk rock songs, and not the other way around.

demo tape (1985)
This Time I'm Gone

Playdoh Meathook (recorded 1985)
I Should Have
Blackness That Could Be Blue

Live at the Kennel Club (1986)
Backstreet Ride
Norweigian Wood

Rassafranna (1988)
Club Car
Down Easy

Second Third Time Around (1990)
Another Please
Under Candy Bridge

I eschewed the punker label when I was a teen, cuz, hey, uncool to label, right? But they were the kids I hung out with in Lancaster and Philadelphia. In retrospect punk rock had a pretty deep influence on me that has lasted into adulthood. More than just liking the music and the DIY ethic, I underwent a fair amount of political socialization through the music and the scene. It was a catalyst in my break from the political views of my family and many teachers and friends at my suburban school. Punk was my first exposure to radicalism, at least in a pop cultural sense -- entertaining, if not always very serious. But it also taught me that politics doesn't always have to be serious; radical acts can be fun! So I hung a bunch of sacrilegious and antinuclear xerox art and a huge Orgasm Addict poster on my bedroom wall. My parents were unimpressed.

The show we didn't play.... Fuckin' Bernie.
It was easy to cross over into more authentic political activism in college, take courses in third world history, make a move to San Francisco, subsist as a DIY handyman, and ultimately make a career choice... a political choice... to become a public school teacher - Radical? Well, punk might at least deserve a line on my curriculum vitae just to make sure I don't sell out.

In Rich Kaufmann's interview on LOUD! FAST! PHILLY!, he talks about his childhood, the Philly punk scene, the rise and demise of the Electric Love Muffin, his later band Rolling Hayseeds, and his solo work, but the part that resonates with me is his current experience as a former Philly punk scene star, turned suburban 6th grade teacher:
Rich Kaufmann: I remember the phrase, “Punk is an attitude,” and I really think that. Once it got its claws into you, you have to live your life sort of that way. It’s not about selling out or not selling out, or having material goods. But it is about knowing what’s important. And I do feel like those years in the punk scene, and that attitude that sort of got implanted is still with me even though I’ve become middle aged, and I have two kids, and I’m a school teacher. The idea of questioning things is important to me – questioning authority.
When I hear about the latest boogieman group, like punk rockers were, and heavy metalers were, and rappers were, I always think, "there’s something else there, that it’s not true. They’re trying to corner one group into being the bad guy, and I know that that’s probably not true."
The 80s were a tough time politically. Punks were one of the few groups that were openly against the grain and I feel like now more than ever it’s needed again…. The government has a lot of power. People need to be standing up and speaking out.
Teacher face?
It’s not like you have to do that, but I know people that are lawyers, and they still carry that attitude of like “I want to make the world a slightly better place. It’s not just about me getting everything I can get my hands on.” I teach English, but I also teach a social studies class, and I think it’s important to teach kids to be critical.  I live in a very conservative county…. So I get a lot of students who are often echoing what their parents are telling them, and that’s fine. But I always try to pose every question as to “How do you know that this is true?” If they say, “The President, or this politician, is doing this.” I say, “Well how do you know? You have to back it up.” I try to get kids to look at both sides of every issue…. They accept so much on just blind faith. They have to arrive at it by their own hard work. They need to research it and look at it themselves. And some of them really do….
I found a couple videos of us from University of Pennsylvania TV studio which are pretty good quality and I posted them up [online], and I’ve seen some of my former students typing stuff into the comments sections....

Muffin March
zkruzin Sep 7, 2012
     That looks like my 6th grade teacher 0_0... Mr Kaufmann is that you?
maseve21 Sep 7, 2012
     Lookin good Mr. K!
zkruzin Sep 7, 2012
    It is him?!?
zkruzin Sep 18, 2012
     Waiiit.... Is that a marijuana plant?
Rich Kaufmann Sep 18, 2012 in reply to zkruzin
     Nice try! It's some sort of Japanese Maple. It was in the UPenn TV studio, so you can bet they wouldn't be decorating their studios with pot plants.
zkruzin Sep 20, 2012
     That would make a lot more sense....

Support your teachers!
Badass Teacher Association - BATs
Education Voters of Pennsylvania
Caucus of Working Educators - WE
Teacher Action Group - TAGPhilly
Parents United for Public Education
Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools - PCAPS
Philadelphia Student Union
Youth United for Change
Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools - APPS

Another Philly punk teacher: Todd Shuster from The Jags and The Impossible Years


Thanks to LOUD! FAST! PHILLY!, Stacey Finney, and Joseph A. Gervasi for the audio interview with Rich Kaufmann.

Music by the Electric Love Muffin on Mike Eidle's Freedom Has No Bounds and Jeff Fox's Razorcake/Barracuda Magazine Podcast

Photos by Tracey Long and Seven Morris

July 18, 2014

Billy Synth & the Janitors... ........ ...Punk Rock Janitors (Harrisburg 1978-80)

The great central Pennsylvania musical oddball Billy Synth sent me this 1978 EP after posting the last tapewrecks retrospective of his music. The Janitors were started by Billy and Bernie, the Capital City Mall custodian, who apparently lost his job for wearing spandex pants to work, or so the story goes.... Billy seems to have been the singer early on, with Bernie taking over as they turned into the Punk Rock Janitors. Please correct me if I'm wrong and send me details if you have them.

Everytime You Give Me a Call
Rock & Roll Casualty
Captain Groovy
Misty Lane Fadeout
Billy Synth: When I bought my Arp Odyssey synthesizer.  We first had a group called Blue Ice, and we recorded one 45....
I eventually left Blue Ice because I liked the new wave scene and wanted a strictly punk-oriented band.  I hooked up with Bernie, the original "punk rock janitor" (yes, he was in another punk group AND a janitor!), another friend, Mikearama, and Dave Tritt on drums.... [Attacking the Beat]
At some point the Janitors got together with Half Japanese and played a set of outright insanity that was released as an EP:

Hartzdale Drive Destruction
Billy: I can't remember how we first connected, but Bernie & I from the Janitors went down to see Half Japanese with our instruments, and when we got there, we just started playing.  I mean, it was 1, 2, 3, 4, and we all started playing ANYTHING.  No rehearsal, no NOTHING!  That's how it came out.  Sooo strange!  [Attacking the Beat]
After Billy moved on to play with the Turn-Ups, Bernie took over on vocals and they re-dubbed themselves The Punk Rock Janitors. Harrisburg's Tina Peel (later known as The Fuzztones) had them as an opening act for many shows.

Work to Live
Just Once
Rob Doorack (Fuzztones roadie): The zenith of the Janitors' career came when the Fuzztones secured the audition gig at CBGB for them and a couple of hours of time in a small recording studio the same day....
That night the Janitors played to a nearly empty CBGB. The audience consisted of a half dozen Japanese tourists, the Fuzztones, their crew, and a few friends. The Janitors didn't care, they were completely awestruck by standing on the same stage where their heroes the Ramones had played. You'd have thought they were playing before 50,000 people. Danny was so nervous that he threw up before going on.

...The band played like they were possessed, careening around the stage madly, jumping in the air, completely uninhibited. At one point Bernie leaped off the front of the stage and crashed down onto the club's concrete floor on his knees without missing a note. Danny played a solo lying on his back with his head in a kick drum. When the Janitors had blasted through every song they knew they just stopped. Those of us in the audience were too stunned by what we'd seen to even applaud. For a moment we just stood there like sheep, mouths agape in astonishment and wonder.

The Janitors went back to Harrisburg the next day and broke up shortly after....
[Audio Asylum]
The complete Punk Rock Janitors CD is available on Sin Records.
Thanks to Pat Phos Martin and the Bands of Central PA page for the links and info.

May 24, 2014

The Woods ............... (NYC 1985-87)

Linda Smith was in a real band in NYC before she retreated back to her Baltimore home with her 4-track recorder to make some of the most spare and pretty pop songs ever to grace a mail order cassette tape. The Woods have barely seen the light of day since they made music, but these tracks stand out for their time in both lyrics and sound.

Brian Bendlin and bandmates have recently dug up recordings and photos and are posting them here along with a little history:
The Woods was a postpunk pop/rock band in NYC in the 1980s. The founding members were Brian Bendlin (drums, guitar, vocals), Peggy Bitzer (bass, guitar, drums), Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer (guitar, vocals, cello), and Linda Smith (guitar, vocals); at other times the band also included Susan Brewster (guitar, vocals) and Antonio Tatum (bass).
In 1985 The Woods released a single on Mark Dumais' Justine Records, Miracles Tonight /Love Me Again This Summer (produced by Bill Carey), which enjoyed a fair amount of airplay on indie radio stations and jukeboxes in the NYC area. They were perhaps best known for their intricate harmonies and the fact that the instrumentation included cello, both of which were unusual in the indie music scene at that time.  

The band played a number of shows at a variety of NYC area venues, including CBGB's, the Pyramid, and Maxwell's, and played live (with interviews) on WFMU and WYBC (Yale University radio).
At the time the Woods parted ways (in late 1987) they were recording an album; it was never released....
Hairy Condescension
Far Away
Never Before
So Long Before Now
Two By Two
Any Second
The Woods went on to various other artistic pursuits: the home recordings of Linda Smiththe paintings of L. M. Smith, Girls Ranch, Trouble Picnic, Two Houses, TV Goodbyes, Y'all, and rock musical "Lizzie," based on the story of Lizzie Borden.

Thanks to Brian Bendlin and the contributors to the Woods Facebook page and to Linda Smith for sending the songs.

Previous post about Linda Smith on Tapewrecks....

April 12, 2014

K-tel presents: Memories from The Van.... .....Black Flag, Meat Puppets, Nig-Heist in Harrisburg 1984

April 1984, and Black Flag was playing less than an hour northwest of Lancaster, but none of us had our drivers license yet. This was probably the first hardcore band to play an all-ages show anywhere near Lancaster, as always, 4 or 5 years behind Philly and New York. We were listening to some punk rock: the Clash, Pistols, Ramones, and some new wave was breaking into top-40 radio. A few college DJs on WIXQ Millersville were playing some hardcore, and this was the same year that i92 "Rock of the 80's" briefly broadcast out of Philly, playing poppy new wave. Late at night they played some punk. Black Flag, Meat Puppets, and Nig Heist was in the middle of a touring binge of 36 cities in about 40 days when they came through an unsuspecting central Pennsylvania.

My parents had this customized 1976
Me & The Van in 1977
Dodge van that looked like a motorized Thomas Kinkaid painting. It must have been spring break, because I somehow talked them into driving me, my cousin Jimmy, and friends Andy, Megan, and Mark to the show. We tried to dress punk rock and piled into the plush interior of The Van, under the mirrored ceiling. Uncle Frank and Aunt Rose came along too, and when they dropped us off at the club, the grownups went out for dinner... leaving us at this wholesome small-town all-ages show....

Memories from the kids in The Van:

Jim: We had a pre-show Polaroid that I lost track of around 10 years ago.

Tom: Ahgh, there was a photo - you're killin me!

Ticket photo: Eric Cleland
Jim: The Polaroid showed our chosen outfits. Mark: black Adidas tee (sleeves cut off) me: tan and brown striped long sleeved rugby shirt complete with white collar and rubber buttons. I believe Mark borrowed a pair of Beatle boots from you, Tom. 

I remember everyone at the show being GIANT.  And the mix of mohawks to bikers seemed like 3:2. ZZ Top's "Cheap Sunglasses" played before one of the band's sets and this huge bearded biker played the smallest air guitar I had ever seen. His face squinted into classic rock ecstasy. Nig Heist was nude except for the singer's studded leather

Tom: I think the jock only lasted half a song at that. The bass player was still wearing his socks.

Andy: I can't remember if they played it at this show, but Nig Heist actually had a really great cover of a Velvet Underground song If She Ever Comes that I heard on Uncle Steven's Garage. To this day, this is one of those "songs that gets stuck in your head" for me.

Tom: This lends a whole new meaning to this song. I didn't recall them playing anything except for awful sludgy metally stuff and provoking the audience with sexual slurs. The audience was either laughing or angry. It wasn't meant to sound good, but tt was a pretty funny act at the time for me as a 15 year old boy. I was shocked and excited to see them go way over the line, and amazing to look back on that and see a group of wig-wearing adults putting on a totally irresponsible show in front of a bunch of teenagers. 

Andy: I think the point of Nig Heist was to be over-the-top offensive and vulgar in an almost Andy Kaufman way where half the audience thought they were being serious. About the only thing memorable about their set was them coming onstage naked.

Megan: Perhaps Kaufmanesque but it felt like it was trying too hard. They never really did it for me.

Tom: After the Metron management shut down the lights and sound on them, they put some clothes back on. The bass player had on tightie whities for the rest of the set.

Jim: I remember thinking Meat Puppets sounded like CCR. 

Tom: Surprisingly, I don't remember the Meat Puppets musically, except they were so piercingly loud it was physically painful. Now I love their deceptively incompetent-sounding early music. 

Bucket Head
Magic Toy Missing
Playing Dead
Communications Breakdown

Tom: This was my first punk or hardcore show and I remember eagerly jumping into the slam pit and having someone land squarely on top of my head within seconds. I saw stars for about ten minutes. Learned to keep my head down and be ready for incoming.

Megan: I remember you being fearless at that show, and not in a good way. I was certain you were going down early.

Tom: This and football were one of the few places you could go crashing into other people and have it
be socially acceptable, and it was so much fun. I tried the football and wrestling teams one year, but wasn't very good at it, except the crashing part.

Live '84

Andy: I remember Henry Rollins ending the encore by saying something like, "You guys were great, thanks a lot" and then the sound man looped "thanks a lot, thanks a lot" over and over. Then Henry shouted, "that's Mugger mind control!" Mugger was their sound man on that tour and also the lead guy behind Nig Heist. 

Tom: When my folks picked us up after the show we were all excitedly talking (probably shouting because we couldn't hear) about everything we saw. It must have seemed like total debauchery to them. Nudity, stage diving, ringing ears; I'm sure they questioned the wisdom of their decision to allow us to go. I don't think Jim was allowed to go to any shows after that. It was a pretty radical event in my 15 year old life.

Jim: Woke up at your house, Tom, my ears ringing 'til lunchtime. That was pretty traumatizing. Definitely my most memorable trip to Harrisburg.


Meat Puppets - LIVE cassette on Internet Archive
Black Flag - LIVE '84 on SST Records
Essential reading: Rock Town Hall's treatise on wearing shorts on stage - Rock's Unfulfilled Fashion Ideas: Shorts

March 15, 2014

Radioactive Releases... ........... ......The Music of Three Mile Island

Root Boy Slim, doing the Meltdown?

Pennsylvania Governor Dick Thornburgh recommended that pregnant women and young children evacuate the area near Three Mile Island in March 1979. Maybe he should have included musicians too....

(Potter County Was Made By the Hand of God, But the Devil Made) Three Mile Island - Al Shade & Jean Romaine (Potter County PA 1979)

Tom Quinn (Lancaster-24 miles away)
Sean Kilcoyne (Hummelstown-8 miles away)

TQ: I was 10 years old on that day when we got news that something was happening at some place called Three Mile Island. I never heard of it at the time, but it was only about 24 miles northwest of our suburban Lancaster home. We were supposed to stay indoors with the windows closed. My parents remained calm, but I could tell my mom was really worried and there was a lot of talk about which way the wind would blow. When she dropped us off at my friend Corey's house, we ran from the car to the front door.
5 and 25 mile radii from TMI-2

SK: Three Mile Island had been spitting radioactive filth around central Pennsylvania for more than 48 hours when the governor issued his recommendation that pregnant women and preschool-age children evacuate. It was a Friday afternoon and I was in the first grade. My elementary school was slightly outside the five-mile evacuation radius, a measurement which provided little comfort when emergency sirens began screaming out in the late March air. My six-year-old ears heard one teacher tell another that we would all probably die. 

TQ: Until that day, I had never heard of radiation. I don't think I knew what nuclear power was. I just knew about the Bomb. We spent the day playing in the basement while my parents were at work, entertaining ourselves for a little while by running up to the little window by the ceiling and screaming RADIATION! I'm Meeeeltinnnng!
photo by Lose Kibler

SK: Within the space of an hour or two, most parents had collected their offspring, leaving the school eerily depopulated. My own family was missing in action and naturally I began to panic. Fortunately, a non-catastrophic explanation prevailed: we owned a single car and my father had been detained at work. Sometime later – the wait seemed interminable but was probably an hour or so – our red VW Beetle was wobbling through the Allegheny Mountains toward Altoona.  

TQ: The next day, we headed for the hills with my cousins and spent the weekend at their grandfather's trailer in the Poconos. I was worried about my dad, who stayed behind, but we picked blueberries, ran around the woods, and had a great time. If only all disasters could be this much fun.

SK: I distinctly remember the tension of the ensuing days, my group of adults nervously monitoring media transmissions for evidence of the situation back home. It was unthinkable that something called a hydrogen bubble could cause an explosion large enough to destroy our home and kill everybody that stayed behind....


Radiation Funk - Maxwell (Columbia PA)
Radiation Sickness - Cinecyde (Detroit)
Three Mile Island - The Tyme-Aires (Etters PA)
It's a Meltdown - The Citizen Kafka Singers (NYC)
27.3 - Ice 9 (Portland OR)
Three Mile Smile - Aerosmith (Boston)
Three Mile Island - Jorge Santana
Three Mile Island Interlude - J.P. and the Reactors (Harrisburg)
Plutonium is Forever/Power - John Hall (NY)
No More Nukes - Joy Ryder & Avis Davis (NYC)
Shut 'Em Down / We Almost Lost Detroit at the No Nukes Concert - Gil Scott Heron (NYC)
Melt Down Boogie - Buzzards (Chicago)
No More Nukes - Roger Matura & the Niss Puk Band (Germany)
Three Mile Island - Joseph Aronesty aka Aaron Este (NJ)
Roulette (demo) - Bruce Springsteen (NJ)
Face the Fire - Dan Fogelberg (Nashville)
Radiation - Richie Gerber (ME)
The Beatles at Three Mile Island - Russell Hoffman (on Dr. Demento)
London Calling / Clampdown - The Clash (UK)
Three Mile Island - Jethro Jive & the Genetic Rejection
Microwave Radiation - Xterminators (San Diego)
Volcano - Jimmy Buffet
Radiation Nation on a Three Mile Isle - Mark Levy aka LEV (CA)
Overexposed - Rick Kirby and the Vigilantes (CA)
Is Your Radio Active? - Times 5 (San Francisco)
Atomic - Blondie
On the Beach - The Rattlers (w/Joey Ramone)
Take the Children and Run - Don Lange
Radiation Level - Sun (Dayton OH)
Nuclear Madness - Joseph Lee Hooker (DC or NJ?)
Nuclear Power - Angletrax (UK)
The Meltdown - Root Boy Slim & the Sex Change Band (DC)
Reactor No. 2 - Nash the Slash (Toronto)
Radiation - Digital Dance (Belgium)
Nuclear Night - Crystal Disco Band
Harrisburg - Mark Jones
Atoms on the Loose Pt. 1 and Pt. 2 - Seals and Clubs (LA)
Goodbye T.M.I. - Gary & the Outriders (York PA)
Radiation / Jimmy Carter - Styphnoids (Portland OR)
My Radiation - The Nukes (Bloomington IN)
Nukes Make Me Puke - Oz (Wilmington DE)
Living In the Cancer Zone - Lisa & the Escorts (Wilmington DE)
Three Mile Island - Andrew R. McGhie (Wilmington DE)
Nuclear Boy - Killing Joke (UK)
Three Mile Island - Frank Canna (NJ)
*TMI (after Sex Pistols EMI) - The Pleasure Dotz (York PA)
*Three Mile Island Blues - Alan Fox
*Radiationmasturbation - The Fall of Christianity (CA)
*Harrisburg Radiation Blues - Ernie Hawkins (Pittsburgh)
*No Nuke Blues - Vic Sadot & the Crazy Planet Band (Newark DE)
*Three Mile Island - Thomas Keegan (MI)
*Three Mile Island Blues - Barry Hyman
*Three Mile Island - Robert Schlipf
*Three Mile Island Shakedown - Jon Fonville (San Diego?)
*TMI - Julia Goldensohn (Philadelphia)
*Three Mile Island - Jeff Kalmar
*Now We All Live in Pennsylvania - Jesse P. Slocum (Bloomington IN)
*The Phantom Atom - Thomas J. Mantle & Julia F. Kooken (CA)
*TMI Blues - Debra M. Goodson
*Three Mile Island - Joe Wagner
*3 M.I. (it's what you need) - John Alan Connerly

*denotes songs yet to be found or salvaged 

SK: When Harrisburg wasn’t blown off the map we came down from the mountains of western Pennsylvania. My family adhered to a powdered milk regimen despite assurances that radiation exposures were within “acceptable limits...."


Who Will Close Pandora's Box - Fred & the Jupiter Gypsies (Harrisburg)
Radioactive Nights - Syn (Philadelphia)
Nuclear Infected - Alice Cooper (Detroit)
photo by Donna Jean
Atomic Love - The Late Teens (Harrisburg)
Critical Mass / System Failure - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (TN)
Radioactive - Scott Wilk & the Walls (Chicago)
Radiation - Suicide (NYC)
Radioactivity - The Zips (Glasgow)
Meltdown (at Madame Toussaud's) - Steve Taylor (Denver)
I'm a Reactor - The Reactors (CT & NYC)
Radioactive Love - Wreck'n Crew (NY)
TMI - Reesa & the Rooters (Philadelphia)
Nuclear Toy - Hawkwind (UK)
All Clear in Harrisburg - Tom Paxton (NYC)
Radiation Squirm - The Judy’s (Texas)
Three Mile Island - Larry Coryell (NYC)
Radioactive - Terminal Mind - (Texas)
Rotten to the Core - Missing Persons (UK)

Nuclear Twist - The Hipsters (State College PA)
Anti-Nuclear Blues - Louisiana Red 
Harrisburg / Your Money and Your Life / Tell ‘Em No - The Fourth Wall (NYC from We Are the Guinea Pigs documentary)
Janitor - Suburban Lawns (LA)
TMI - Locksmith (Pasadena)
Give Me Nuclear Power - Mykel Board’s Art (NYC)
The Whole World Causes Cancer - The Ralphs (TX)
Nuclear Blues - Blood, Sweat and Tears (CA)
Reactor - Painterband (Chicago)
Strontium 90 - Six Minute War (UK)
Low Level Radiation - The Cardboards (Pittsburgh)
Radioactivity - The Aircuts (Vancouver)
Harrisburg Half Life - Ray Anderson (US)
Harrisburg - Søren Sidevinds Spillemænd (Denmark)
R-Love (is Approaching Critical Mass) - Transistors (CO)
Atomreggae Harrisburg - KSMB (Sweden)
Harrisburg / Metallo Electtico - Kaos Rock (Italy)
Tmi - Elliott Sharp (NYC)
Radiation Man - Fault 151 (UK)
I Wanna have a Nuclear Reaction - R.F. (Atlanta)
Half Life - Humans from Earth (NJ)
City of Fear - Rondos (Netherlands)
Mutant - K.T.H. Kill The Hostages (FL)
Radioactive Feelings - Outrageous (France)
Nuclear Love - Exits (LA)
Radiation Polka - Chicago City Limits (NYC)
Reactor #2 - D.C. LaRue
Meltdown / To the Core - The Reactors (San Bernadino)
She Glows In the Dark - The Bagazoid Brothers (Cincinnati)
*Don't Melt Down on My Baby / Nuclear Waste - Tru Fax & the Insaniacs (DC 1980?)

*Radiation - The Visitor (Netherlands)
*Three Mile Island / Call to Arms - Arcade (central PA)
*Need You - Presence (central PA)
*Three Mile Island Blues - Larry Downey and Teddy Felix

SK: Growing up, TMI was an inescapable feature of my domain, a 400-foot concrete colossus lurking at the periphery of my daily movements and vision. My imagination absorbed the forbidden interiors, the  massive control panels, the slope of the cooling towers, the vapor pillows spilling over their tops, merging with the atmosphere....


Nuclear Power - Fallout (UK 1981)
Three Mile Island - Fred Small (MA 1981)
Stop the Nukes - Joey Skidmore & the Cellmates (MO 1981)
Nuclear Meltdown - ? (198?)
Three Isle My Land / Meltdown Requiem - Heads in the Sky (Canada 1981)
Radiation Baby - The Form (Boston 1981)
Radioactive Love - Nathan-Coates (Chicago 1981)
Harrisburg - De Fabriek (Netherlands 1981)
Meltdown - Hermanos Gusanos (1981?)
Radio Active (Fun, Fun, Fun) - Deborah Galli (1981)
Harrisburg Today - Tim Craven (PA 1981)
Strontium 90 - Kreegah! (Norway 1981)
Radiation - The Mistakes (UK 1981)
Nuclear Song - Craig Carothers (Portland OR 1981)
Radioactive Love / Radiation - Gotham City (Australia 1981)
Three Mile Island - Steve Allen (1981)
Meltdown Situation - The 012 (UK 1981)
*Radiation - The Tom and Marty Band (VA 1981)

*Susquehanna Meltdown - Fly By Night (central PA 1981)
*Meltdown - The Chameleons (Portland OR 1981)
Radiationmasturbation - The Authorities (CA 1982)
Harrisburg - Buschband (Germany 1982)
Uh-Oh Plutonium - Anne Waldman & the Hyacinth Girls (NYC 1982)
Nuclear Reactor - Birth Control (Germany 1982)
Radiation Nation - Subverts (Chicago 1982)
Meltdown - Lipstick Stains (GA 1982)
The No Nuke Song - Serious Bizness (NYC 1982)
Atomkraft - Elektrisk Regn (Norway, 1982)
Nuclear Blues - Flashback (CA 1982)
Ballad of Three Mile Island - Jack Alves (AZ 1982)
Babylon - Driftwood (1982)
Here's to the Nukes - AJO Repertory Company (1982)
Caveat No. 23 - Rigsby and Lamb (1982)
Radiation Blues - Hans Olson (1982)
Nuke Blues (Melt Down Mama) - Richard Kaplan (1982)
Midlogue - Peter Cannon (1982)
Five or Ten from Now - Big Pete Pearson with the Magic Matt Blues Band  (1982
Shut Up - Sun City Girls  (1982)
Girl From Three Mile Island - Timothy J. MacDonald (LA 1982 on the Dr. Demento show)
*Anti-Nuclear Songbook - The Crustaceans (Seattle 1982)
*Radio-Active - Barry Ford (UK 1982)
Radioactive Chocolate - MDC (San Francisco 1983)
Nuclear Power (Yes Please) - Dave Greenfield & J.J. Burnel (UK 1983)
Radioactive Baby - The Turn-Ups (Harrisburg 1983)
Sister Cities - The Pawns of Society (Harrisburg 1983)
Harrisburg - La Banda Sin Futuro (Spain 1983)
I'm in Love With My Nuclear Reactor - Kelley and the Beachcombers (LA 1983)
Meltdown - Loverboy (1983)
Nuclear Love / Meltdown Dub - Annie G (1983)
T.M.I. - Spanish Dogs (Florida 1983)
Happy Mutants (For Nuclear Energy) - Killing Children (IN 1983)
Meltdown - Lives of Angels (UK 1983)
*Meltdown - Metro Youth (UK 1983)
Three Mile Island - Pinkard and Bowden (TX 1984)
Harrisburg - Midnight Oil (Australia 1984)
*Sister Cities -- The Screaming Lincolns (Harrisburg 1984)
Meltdown - Watchtower (TX 1985)
No Filthy Nuclear Power - Oi Polloi (UK 1985)

SK: ...the Nuclear Regulatory Commission allowed the undamaged Unit 1 reactor to go back online in 1985. This was not a welcome development for most central Pennsylvania households, but by that point in my own childhood I had spent the entire Reagan-era acutely fearful of the coming nuclear holocaust. When emergency sirens sounded in the dead of night to arouse volunteer firefighters from their slumbers, my juvenile pysche was pre-programmed for panic. After  the TMI-1 restart, the only formality was which flavor our nuclear death would assume: reactor or missile-based. 

TQ: By the time of the Chernobyl disaster I had gone from pretend meltdowns to musical meltdowns (Ha! These songs are getting to me; I succumbed to the hokey TMI metaphor! But "meltdown" came into widespread usage after 1979), playing in bands and listening to music with apocalyptic themes. I was pretty sure 1986 was the year World War III would start, based of course on all the scholarly evidence I had accumulated from pop psychics, episodes of Leonard Nimoy's In Search Of..., and the lyrics of the Minutemen and Dead Kennedys. I didn't bother to apply for colleges until the last minute, and then only one....

Post 1986: Chernobyl to Fukushima

Tell Me / Deadly Radiation Blues - Jayne Cortez (NYC 1986)
Nuclear Wastoid - Miser (Elizabethtown PA 1988)
Roulette - Bruce Springsteen (NJ 1988)
TMI - Rick Baker (Pittsburgh 1990)
Last Call - T.P.Y. (Hershey PA 1990)
Radioactivity - Kraftwerk (Germany 1991)
This Land - MDC (San Francisco 1993)
TMI / TMI (Unit 3) - Hex / L.U. Cipha (York PA 1999 / 2000)
Three Mile Island - Jerry Joseph & the Jackmormons (CO 2001)
Three Mile Island - Andy Middleton (Harrisburg 2003)
Three Mile Island - Kickland, Johnson & Martin (2003)
Three Mile Island - Stockholm Syndrome (2004)
Three Mile Island - Nuclear Forehead (WA 2005)
Just a Little Meltdown - Tom Neilson (2006)
Three Mile Island - Oh Shit They’re Going To Kill Us (Franklin PA 2007)
Three Mile Island - Clouds 10: Mushrooms (WI 2008)
Three Mile Island - Zone (Wales 2008)
Three Mile Island - Darius Brubeck & Gathering Forces (2008)
Nuclear Power Song - Environment Man (2008)
Three Miles Island - Nightmare (France 2009)
Good Times on Three Mile Island - The Durden Estate (Red Lion PA 2009)
Three Mile Monster Island - Divine Tragedy (Pittsburgh 2009)
Three Mile Island - Les Alstat & the Green Farmacy Gardeners (MD 2011)

Three Mile Island - Arms (2011)
Three Mile Island - Minushuman (France 2011)
Three Mile Island - Metalhead Motion Pictures (Long Island 2011)
Something in the Air - Three Mile Island Band (Middletown PA 2011)
A Catastrophe - Fukushima, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island - Miki Shunji and his Grand Orchestra (Japan 2011)
TMI-2 - Three Mile Island (UK 2012)
Three Mile Island - Andrea Molina (Italy 2012)
Three Mile Island: TMI - Suicide Squirrel (NJ 2012)
Harrisburg - Rusk (Lithuania 2012)
Three Mile Island - Grayscale (2012)
3 Mile Island - The James Taylor Quartet (2012)
Meltdown Stomp - The Meltdowns (Detroit 2012)

TQ: I survived Three Mile Island and the latter Cold War, went to college in Philly without much of a plan, and grew out of my sense of impending doom. But the impact of TMI was much bigger than I ever realized, certainly as little kids in our own worlds, but even as adults, for me anyway. The only lyrical references I was aware of at the time were on The Clash's London Calling

Once I started looking, I was surprised to find so many TMI songs. I figure any song about "radiation" in '79-81 had to be part of the reaction. The '79 tracks tend to be very literal, anti-nuke, some good black humor, and sometimes hyperbolic and some would say silly fear mongering. There are lots of people glowing in the dark, mutant fish, and nuclear explosions. The 80s tracks began to use nuclear accident lingo as metaphor in the best tradition of atomic bomb songs from the 50s and 60s with "radioactive" coming to mean "hot love" more often than not.  Reesa's You melt my heart like TMI is my favorite, and Syn's Radioactive Nights is the hands-down mathematical winner (15 distinct metaphors!). I held most of the later tracks to a higher standard. Most had to make direct reference to TMI to make the cut. There are at least 21 songs titled Three Mile Island or TMI from the 2000-2012 period, though interestingly, outside the US, "Harrisburg" seems to be the word most closely associated with the accident. Sean and I salvaged many of these tracks from the analog abyss, digitizing and archiving them for the first time, and I hope people can find an interest in their collective effect, weirdness, fear, and humor.

SK: As far as the impact goes, yeah, I would agree, it's hard to overestimate. It even informed how we discussed such events. Following from your point about the word "radiation", I bet "reactor", "control rod" and "meltdown" weren't even in some adult vocabularies before 1979. And for those that wrote all the earnest, politically engaged protest songs throughout the 70s in opposition to new nuclear plants, all of a sudden their worst fears are confirmed.

I appreciate that these songs and other assorted cultural detritus (even crassly commercial cash-in stuff) tell a story about how humans of different cultures and belief systems respond to complex, traumatic events. It really becomes a sort of unofficial "people's history." There are some scholarly articles I came across about Chernobyl describing how school kids were responding with these morbid nursery rhymes while skipping rope! Children talking matter-of-factly about leukemia or calling one another "dirty radioactive pigs" as a form of insult. It's amazing how deeply these terrors filter down to the individual level, shaping private experience. This would also indicate to me that whatever official explanation may prevail, whenever you've lived through a nuclear accident, radiation exposure is a nebulous, gnawing sort of psychic burden.

There are surely many more TMI songs that haven't been salvaged yet. If you find any, let us know!

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