Friday, April 24, 2009

lose your chains

illustration by ib.

Hello, Ramone666. And Groover's Paradise.

pri•ma don•na
the chief female singer in an opera or opera company.
• a very temperamental person with an inflated view of their own talent or importance.

pri•ma don•na-ish adjective

ORIGIN late 18th cent.: Italian, literally ‘first lady.’

Cleveland, Ohio, February 1975. An atypical loft rehearsal sewing the viral spores which would ultimately seed both Pere Ubu and the Dead Boys: Rocket from the Tombs; a marriage born of the symbiotic partnership between one David Thomas and guitarist, Peter Laughner, and an uneasy alliance forged with fellow Clevelanders, Gene O' Connor (later Cheetah Chrome), David Bell and Johnny Madensky.

Penned by Laughner and O' Connor, "Ain't It Fun" - as sung here by David Thomas - prompted those disparate individuals to temporarily invite Stiv Bators in to contribute vocals, with Thomas sidelined on keyboards and saxophone. As much as Thomas's abrasive stylings infuriated certain elements within the group, it was quickly decided that Bators was too much the prima donna and Thomas wa
s reinstated merely as the lesser of two evils. Much of the material thrown up during this period would subsequently form the core of those songs called on by the Dead Boys, with Chrome and Bators reunited in NYC. Thomas and Laughner virtually rejected all of it save for the Ubu staple, "30 Seconds Over Tokyo".

It would be inaccurate to attempt to establish that there was ever a Cleveland scene in the strictest sense. Prior to Rocket from the Tombs, affiliated bands like Slash and The Mirrors were almost uniformly ignored by club promoters and prospective audiences in Ohio alike. The American midwest sought shelter in beer and qualudes and celebrated denial between swinging shifts while they burned all the rubbers back in Akron. Desperate for recognition, if not outright patronage, Laughner and O' Connor submitted demos to John Sinclair over in Detroit. A calculated move; the heavy welted imprint of both the MC5 and the Stooges on their sound could scarcely be denied. However politely pitched, their pleas fell on deaf ears. The White Panthers had troubles of their own.

F@ck it, boys and girls. Enough was enough.

Starved of all options, crumbling into acrimonious conceits, Rocket from the Tombs could only descend back into dust. As elsewhere in time - in a thousand foul smelling back bedrooms, or garages or lofts - circumstances dictated mutation; the survival of the most determined, if not quite the fittest. The rest, as every f@cker will insist, is history.

Crocus Behemoth be damned.

Good evening; siblings and muthaf@ckers. The night is not so young, and I am desperate too.


ROCKET FROM THE TOMBS: AIN'T IT FUN from "The Day The Earth Met Rocket From The Tombs" CD (Smog Veil) 2002 (US)



Ramone666 said...

And hello to you too Ib. Great version this. Btw: Stiv may have been a prima donna and a royal pain, but if we´re talking snotty vocals he was the man for a while. Ever heard the Bomp version of the 1st Dead Boys album? Pure class mate.


always loving that C-land thang.
you know my love of all things Ubu (& I have to agree with R666 - caught with the meat in her mouth - Lords of TNC - Stiv mighta beena prima donna punka but he was the shit). don't know if you (or other visitors)'ve heard Take the Guitar Player for a Ride, a great chunk of home-taping Laughner was workin' on when he died (in fact, one of the songs was recorded the night he died - you can hear the booze & drugs & end-of-the-road in it all). everyone should check it out.

by the way, there's a new Ballard scan & post just for you over at my place (& a Dots tune - & the Dots link for Whispering Wall is fixed, thanks)

& you won't believe this, but the word verification is nophin

Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

Hadn't seen that photo of longhair Cheetah Chrome. All the old punks love those old photos of our longhair selves before we found out Black Sabbath and Status Quo could be improved upon and then be improved upon yet again. All it took was a little more speed.

ib said...

Oh; hell, yes!

"Young, Loud and Snotty" is an almost perfect album, and although "We Have Come For Your Children" is less so, it is still a favourite.


I don't think I've heard the Bomp version. Did they remix the Sire mixes in the same way as the Heartbreakers "LAMF" ? The Lost and Found version of the original is an eye-opener.

And yes, Stiv was a fine front man. No doubt about it.


I've heard much about Laughner's "Take the Guitar Player for a Ride", but never actually HEARD it. Thanks!

Will check in on the Ballard post.

nophin = outstanding sentience at play.


Cheetah Chrome looks very hip there in the best Stooges tradition, agreed.

Later with the Dead Boys he perfected the most terminally ill look I remember ever witnessing, making even Sid's flaccid junkie demeanor seem positively healthy by comparison.

Was that the speed, d'you think, or the largactyl ?

ib said...

BTW, Laughner's guitar on this version is simply amazing.

Ramone666 said...

The Bomp version contains the rough mixes of the album, done by Stiv, Cheetah and Bob Clearmountain. I prefer ´em to the Genya Ravan production. Will email you an example asap.

Unknown said...

my god.

this song as a behemoth.

ib said...

It is a monster, Chad R. Definitely.

And quite possibly on a higher, more rarified level than the Dead Boys Sire standard. David Thomas's phrasing is characteristically immense.

Unknown said...

ah, yes. not that the dead boys ever lacked anything in the dept. of rawness, but there's something almost indescribably visceral about this version. that guitar sounds like it could cut sheet metal. maybe it is cutting sheet metal.

ib said...

"cutting sheet metal."

Yes. Nicely observed. Like "Rivethead" by Ben Hamper.