lose your chains
illustration by ib.
pri•ma don•na noun the chief female singer in an opera or opera company. • a very temperamental person with an inflated view of their own talent or importance.
DERIVATIVES 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 was 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) UBU PROJEX: BUYER\’S GUIDE TO PERE UBU (WITH LINKS TO SMOG VEIL)