Sunday, July 15, 2007

Punk Rock in St. Louis

This is a subject I’ve been putting off for a long time. It’s just seemed too huge a task to even scratch the surface of the St. Louis Punk/New Wave scene of the late 70s early 80s. A lot of water has passed under the bridge. A lot of folks are gone now.

In 1976 I was living in Soulard with Tony Patti and my brother Patrick. We shared a 3 room flat and had 2 large dogs. Rent was $50.00 a month and we never seemed to be able to come up with it even though we were all working. We lived over a store front that was being used for revival meetings.

We raged through chemically enhanced music marathons that included King Crimson, Captain Beefheart, Roger Ruskin Spear, McDonald & Giles, The Beatles, Funkadelic and many others.

We loved listening to Jockenstein ranting over his Parliament collection on East St. Louis’ WESL. One of the great local radio stations.(Boy do I miss them!).

One day Tony came home with The Ramones first record. I thought it was a put on with songs like “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue” and “Beat on the Brat”. I had no idea it was just the beginning of one of the most important genres of the record industry.

I moved back to the Central West End and started working at Wuxtry. Blondie’s first album came out. Dan Wall (Wuxtry’s first owner) and I went to a small club in the Bevo Mill area called River Daze. We saw a spectacular 45 minute Elvis Costello set. My friend Marge was also there. “What was that all about”? she asked. I was totally sold.

A whole new music scene was beginning to build. We had great rags like the short lived Noise, everybody's favorite Jet Lag, Carrie Lindsey’s NoisyPaper, and Reverb. There were tabloids like Metro that I believe predated Interview. Tony wrote a brilliant essay about cockroaches in Metro. The Riverfront Times was just starting out too.

There seemed to be a renaissance of art. John Linton produced 2 plays – “Mall Children” and “You Look Egyptian, Dear”. I remember being in a small theater in the basement of the Chase Park Plaza and laughing as Mort Hill introduced “You Look Egyptian, Dear” by waving at the audience and calling it his “New Wave”.

Jet Lag would print any review we submitted, no matter how lame. I sent one in that made absolutely no sense at all. Don't get me wrong, I have a great deal of respect for John the Mailman and Steve Pick!

Carrie Lindsey and Timothy Tyme published an issue of NoisyPaper with a flexi-disc insert of my band Earwacks. Eva-Tone, the people that manufactured the disc, took it upon themselves to censor our punk rock song “Ronald Reagan”. The word fuck appeared 3 times but they beeped the song 4 times. One of the words was fun. Timothy Tyme’s great response to this was the quote, “We’ll have no fun under Ronnie’s rigid rule”.

The Reagan era fueled the fire for a lot of us . The book “Fire on the Mountain” was published with an inside look at the revolutionaries in the hills of Nicaragua. What a fiasco. Charlie Langrehr wrote a song called “We Don’t Want a War in El Salvador.

We were all getting a tremendous amount of press from all of the media outlets.

We were finding all kinds of alternative venues like bowling alleys, VFW posts, etc. Who can forget American Legion Post 555 off of S. Kingshighway?

Everyone was doing regional tours of all the college towns complete with a pre-show interview at the local radio station. This always packed them in.

Alan Kalina booked us opening for John Cale at the Casa Loma Ballroom. We partied with the band until dawn in a swimming pool a friend owned. Alan also booked The Oozkicks as the opening act for Iggy Pop.

A Who cover band named The 6 O'clock News changed their name to the Strikers started playing Ska and got involved in the "Sid and Nancy" movie.

As far as indie records go, I think The Dinosaurs were the first. Dominic Schaeffer and I saw them at Wash U's Gargoyle. We heckled the band calling them the "Dinah Shores". Their front man Bob Rueter thought it was funny and we became friends. He let us in on the details of producing our own record and soon everyone was doing it.

Bands I remember off the top of my head were The Raymillands, The Felons, The Strikers, The Dinosaurs, Antimation, Blammo, White Pride, The Zanti Misfits, The Murder City Players, The Philosophic Collage, Max Load, Brown & Langrehr, Dear John, The Welders, Trained Animal (my favorite), and let's not forget Jambox and The Oui Oui Twins. I'm sure there are many others and I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, leave a response and I'll update the list.

I just spoke with Tony and it seems to me that this topic will require several entries. I’ll come back to it soon!


paycheck said...

I bought the Ramones first album at Wuxtry. I remember you had some timeline problems with that recollection. It was right in the middle of my infatuation with Parliament/Funkadelic, too. I thought it was a new record when I bought it, but it was an impulse buy, and it could have been a much older record by then.

Doggie said...

I remember you bringing it back to our apt on 18th street. It couldn't have been that old.

Doggie said...

On second thought I wonder if you brought it back to the Funk Lab on Victor!!!?

Anonymous said...

David, I just discovered your blog doing a search for the Zanti Misfits. Great stuff! Seems I have a lot of catching up to do. By the way, I've set up a "Saint Louis Flyer Project" on Flickr... maybe you have some old punk/new wave show flyers you'd like to share? Also, I'm adding links to your blog from two of mine (Trouble in River City and Kopper's Korner). Thanks for sharing all of this great stuff!

Anonymous said...

I remember the issue of Noisy Paper that came with the recording of "The Magic of Fear" and "Ronald Reagan." I recall being amazed that this music was coming out of St. Louis I was still in high school at the time. A short time later, I met a lot of "you people" at Heartbreak Hotel, where, by some miracle, I'd gotten my underage ass into. Met Carrie, Constance, Mort. The best part was being taken seriously by people 50% older than I was.

God, those were the days.

Bill Boll

Anonymous said...

My uncle uncle was in the oozkicks his name is scott medearis

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Steve Pick said...

Hey, Dave, we did have some standards - I think we may have rejected two or three articles for Jet Lag over the years.

Nice piece - definitely give us more!

Anonymous said...

Il semble que vous soyez un expert dans ce domaine, vos remarques sont tres interessantes, merci.

- Daniel

kitty chiwawa said...

Barry and the Rude Pets... Retros, saw a lot of bands at Billy Goat Hill.

Anonymous said...

mailman sez: more reminiscences of the early days!!

brewgazi said...

Retros were fantastic. Saw them a couple times. The last time was when they opened for the Ramones in the fall of 1979 at Mississippi Nights. They certainly turned it up a notch for that show.

ribcage said...

Jon Timian, Gary Robbins, & Tom Rybak were "Blammo". Jon & I were previously in the St Louis band L-7, 2-guitars & drums, (no bass) then formed "Blammo" with Gary. It was really cool to see us mentioned along with these other bands that were our contemporaries. Our "art music" was experimental & improvisational using Casio keyboards, drums machines, tape-loops, Cordovox electric accordion, guitars, & home made percussion, which was sometimes profound & other times crap cacophony. It often pissed people off chasing them out in anger although that was not our intention. We used National Enquirer type newspapers as primary source of our lyrics.

We had just began to develop a good fluid chemistry when we broke up, all moving to different parts of the country. We had made numerous recordings but never officially published or promoted any of them. The closest we got was to make a bunch of cassettes that we distributed locally & to a few record companies. Shows at Billy Goat Hill, Dr. Munchies, Radio Gallery, and a cover on Noisey Paper were some of the more memorable events for me.
Jon & I subsequently got together & formed "Pruitt Igoe" in Virginia.This band also has fallen apart. One of our members decided to post several of our tunes on My Space (does this date us or what?) under the name Tequila Mockingbirds for some reason.
It seems every band name I have been in has since been taken by other groups with more or less degrees of notoriety.