Billy has his own original style embracing the synthesizer as an implement of mayhem in Harrisburg a few years before the great proliferation of PA punk began around 1980 and most other synthesizer bands were playing crappy MTV pop. Mama don't allow no technopop playin' around here. Nooo way.
Billy has established his garage punk cred as the creator of the Psychedelic Unknowns series of 60s garage compilations, and the mysterious force behind Frog and Rabbit Records and the Pennsylvania Rock Archives, so his own bizarre sounds come from the deepest recesses of mid-state vinyl junkiedom.
I hadn't heard from Billy Synth for years until a few months ago, while sifting through the Frog and Rabbit catalog, I was jolted once more by that unmistakable voice. Some vocalists sing from the throat and others from the chest. But Billy seems to sing from the large intestine. I knew this had to be the same fellow. Sure enough. He was 16 when Billy and the Starjets recorded You Changed in the early 70s.
Then he changed. What came over Billy?
...when I bought my Arp Odyssey synthesizer. We first had a group called Blue Ice... we began as an early '70s "classic" rock band, because we were hippies and that's what we grew up with....Blue Ice (1977)
...Then, when "new wave" came along, I liked it and left Blue Ice to form a more punk-like band, the Janitors.... I hooked up with Bernie, the original "punk rock janitor" (yes, he was in another punk group AND a janitor!).... That didn't last long, really, even though we did release a few EPs... After a year or so, I got back together with Blue Ice (with new drummer Joe Gear). They had already "gone punk" themselves and changed their name to the Turn Ups, so it was all-cool again. When we recorded our first LP, it was like Stevinyl-guitar, Billy-synth, etc., and that's how I got the name....Billy might have started one of central PA's first punk rock bands around 1978 with The Janitors. They released a couple of EPs around 1978 but I haven't been able to find any of the tracks. [Update: Billy sent me the Rock & Roll Casualty EP. Check out the Billy Synth & the Janitors post here.]
...There were actually quite a few "new wave/punk"-type bands around here then. We played shows with groups such as the Sharks, the Late Teens, Reesa & the Rooters (Philly) and the Slickee Boys (DC). There were a few nice venues to play, such as the Metron, Rumpelstiltskins, the Landing... Also, an annual pig roast! ...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!The Janitors and Half Japanese Hartzdale Drive Destruction
I first heard The TurnUps on Bona Fide Records Train To Disaster comp, and then I found Billy Synth & the Turnups Disorderly Conduct (1983) at a record swap in York County.
Billy's later bands included the Traces of Thyme (early 90s)
and the Windowpaynes
Sweet Pea/Hooray for Hazel
And finally, Billy Starboy and The Tyme Machine's homage to the beat of different drum entirely - a cover of Lancaster's Joey Welz doozy: Rockin' In America
More from Billy Synth & Many Friends!
And even more: Alien X 117 Good stuff! Stay tuned for more wreckage!
The Turnups on The Deadly Spawn Compilation