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.

Sept 2015 ADDENDUM: Mind Cure Records just released a mindcuring compilation of Billy Synth recordings 1977 to 1982 and the 1980 "Off the Deep End" LP that are beyond description. If you like what's on this post, you won't be disappointed.

1 comment: