Robert Slide, New Math’s original bass player, sent took these photos
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Robert Slide, New Math’s original bass player, sent took these photos
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Hazy Memories From J. Laben
This might read like a bowl of Alpha-Bits as it’s really difficult, after all these years, to keep things in any kind of chronological order but here goes…Everyone deserves a “shout-out” and there are plenty in this one, plus, some observations from various “Scorgies regulars” and Cliches band mates.
I took a job with Record Theater in Gates in 1977. The guy who hired me was John Pusateri and I think he hired me because we had similar taste in music. We used to play Ramones, Pistols, Clash, etc. LPs in the store all the time, to scare the few customers that we had right out the front door. John was good friends with the guys in New Math and he convinced this sheltered suburban pseudo-punk (me) to go see this band that I had never heard of. It might have been at The Electric Circus…Big Daddy’s…The Orange Monkey… I’m not sure of the order but from the first time I went to see them, not only did I think this band was the greatest thing I had ever seen, I also liked the “scene” itself. I started going to see them every time they played a gig. These early gig locales were dumps but in actuality, PERFECT venues to see New Math in.
There may have only been 30-40 people at many of those early shows, but the people that went to see the band were also developing their own very tight community…and they were so friendly and willing to accept me into their little scene. I loved the first New Math lineup – Paul on drums, Robert on bass…Gary and Dale playing guitar and Kevin channeling Barrie Masters on vocals. This was my favorite incarnation of the band…I liked their originals and loved their cover tune choices. Over the next year or two, I started slowly convincing some of my OTHER suburban pals to come out to the shows and they also dug this scene. It seemed like something special, and it was ours- I think that’s what made it so cool to be a part of.
R.Hollands speaks: “Terry is exactly right from his description of the tape he has of New Math at the Penny Arcade. We did, every time we saw New Math and Pink Hat (Kevin Patrick) play, yell shit at the stage, constantly. I believe we derived more pleasure from yelling stuff than the actual music. But we were if nothing else, devoted. I didn’t see too many other people at these other venues voicing their drunkenness or their support for the band. Penny Arcade, Electric Circus. “You’re f—–g the dog!’ was indeed our exhortation! Funny stuff indeed.”
Meanwhile, they closed down the Gates Record Theater and offered me the chance to go work at the Midtown Plaza location. I was not yet the “downtown city animal” that I would evolve into but with some trepidation, I took the offer. I was going to college at St. John Fisher and Midtown was fairly close by so it made sense to me. It was here that I worked with Martin Edic – later of Hi-Techs and BlueHand “fame” – and we had a lot of fun at the store, too. Martin was also a part of the “new scene” that New Math was incubating so we all hung out together after work. The guys from New Math would come into the store on occasion and because I was regularly appearing at the gigs, I became pals with Kevin Patrick. It was he who convinced me that I could start a band, even though my guitar skills were limited. But I suspected that I did know how to incite bedlam, which was a requirement for fronting a band back then.
It was also around this time that I discovered Scorgies. I think we walked over from RT for lunch one day. It was close to Midtown…they had GREAT cheeseburgers and it was here that I had my first taste of chicken wings. Over time, I came to think that they were the best wings in the city. And I found out that bands could play downstairs. Now, they were not all “punk” or “new wave” bands. I recall seeing King Juke a number of times early on…Mose Allison…Lots of different stuff…But if New Math wasn’t playing elsewhere, this became my hangout…Because of the jukebox – I had never seen a jukebox that had music like THIS on it – and because of Don Scorgie himself. I guess Danny Deutsch was the man who started putting the hip stuff on the juke box and he will be forever remembered as a visionary for that deed alone.
I think I had gotten in a fight in one of my early visits to Scorgies and instead of banning me for life, Don took a liking to me. I started spending so much time at the bar that I decided, in late 78 or early 79, that I might like to work there. I had zero bartending experience but Don hired me anyway. If your drinks at Scorgies all tasted like Gin and Tonics in the late 70’s, that’s probably because that’s the only mixed drink I knew how to make. But I could pour a $.55 Genny, Genny Light, or Genny Cream Ale just fine.
I started working 4 nights a week and it was awesome. I was making money instead of spending money and started meeting people at the bar who would become some of my best friends for life. D. Deutsch…The Shaffer brothers…Who could forget the “Fat Pack”? Many of the people that worked for Scorgie were also musicians…people like Vicki Crosta, who I’ve just recently re-connected with because of this website and reunion show. And I got to work with classic Scorgies characters like barkeeper and guitarist John Kralles…my buddy Clayton…The bouncers like Jimmy Houser who, in addition to working the door for The Cliches at Scorgies many times, saved me from a beating on more than one occasion. Too many people to mention, although they all DESERVE a mention because it wasn’t only the bands but the PEOPLE that made Scorgies into what it was. I even met my future wife after a gig at the bar. And all of my friends from Chili and from Fisher started hanging out at the bar, too, so we didn’t have to go anywhere else to get together and have fun.
Andi speaks: “In fall of 1979 word got to me in the Mercy cafeteria that there was a bar I had to check out. Seems some of the Southwedge girls had heard my eulogy to Sid Vicious in the art room the previous spring and just knew I should be introduced to Scorgies. I blame them. Terri B and I made our way to Andrews St. in her Torino one Friday night, only to find a bland, Izod-covered crowd heading downstairs to see Duke Jupiter. So what’s the big deal? We might as well be at the Mason Jar. Peering into the windows of the main entrance revealed a far more interesting sight. There was Kim B, a junior at Mercy, draped over some short dude in a biker jacket who we would come to know as Jimmy Jazz. A girl who could pass for Nancy Spungeon had fallen on the floor. A guy who I later knew as Geoff Wilson sat alone and mysterious, staring back at us. Now THIS is more like it.”
Skip ahead to later in ’79 and with Kevin Patrick’s encouragement, Geoff Proud – another friend from Chili – and I started writing a few songs and attempting to put a band together. Proud had previously played in a “country rock” band in high school called “NLS”- it doesn’t matter what that stood for (No Longer Strangers) – and I was the sound man for his band, until I was fired for getting hammered one night behind the board and turning all the knobs up to “11” until we had feedback bouncing off the walls and ceiling of the bar they were jamming at. Originally, we called ourselves The Orfans and we were both going to play guitar so we needed a bass player and a drummer. We tried out at least one bass player – can’t recall who – but at the same time, I was going to college with John Perevich, who played and recorded with both “The Now” with “Larry Luxury” and “The Times” with Paul Dodd and the Fritsch brothers (See RIP page on this site). I asked and Johnny was in.
Except now we had three guitar players. That wasn’t going to work unless we wanted to be Foghat or something. So Proud kindly went and bought a bass, but now we needed a drummer. We tried out a few – Tim Roberts, who played in The Targets, was one of the candidates. We finally settled on the guy we should have asked in the first place – Tom Backus, whose drums we were using WHILE we were trying out prospective drummers, and who had played in NLS with Proud.
T.Backus speaks: “I didn’t really pay much attention to what was happening there, so I don’t have much in the way of crazy stories. I do remember us hanging up the sheets that we played behind until the crowd tore them down on Halloween, 1982. Johnny Thunder’s band using our gear and turning everything up to ten on all the amps, then watching him shoot up as soon as he got off the stage. A personal memory happened before Scorgies was popular, I would mix sound for the Tom Austin band and would have to literally push his P.A. From his practice space on St. Paul all the way to Scorgies for the gigs. That was when the stage was on the left as you walked in downstairs, and the pizza was some of the best around still. I remember Willie calling the fire marshal at the Ramones show because they wouldn’t let him due to too many people down there already.”
The band was complete. We came up with about 10 originals and filled in the rest with Ramones, NY Dolls, old 60’s band covers and we were ready to go. We opened for New Math in 1980 at Scorgies for our debut and they couldn’t have been nicer.
Within a year, we opened for anyone that came through town, and then started headlining Scorgies as Don was quick to figure out that a) We could draw people, and 2) that our fans drank. A lot. Scorgie was a happy guy when his cash register rang.
G.Proud speaks:“I remember one night at the bar Andi and Tracey (Kimono Girls) had taken some Valium or something and were being very silly and I went down to the other end of the bar to order some drinks (Don was bartending and he never moved from the front corner so you had to go to him). When I came back theywere both asleep. I wrote the song “Valium” when I got back to Culver Rd. that night. Actually, I think I had already a verse or two, but needed a chorus. I never did thank them for it.”
Cliches shows were a blast. It didn’t matter how we played, just that we played. We played with TV’s set up on stage so that people could watch “the game” while at the gig. From our audience, we had backup dancers (The Clichettes)…backup singers (The PAWS)…and would let anyone that wanted join us on stage for a song or two. John Kralles of the band Passenger (at the time), best known for bartending at Scorgies for years and for hating every band that hit the stage, including us, would join us onstage to play guitar for encores on a few occasions. Luke Warm would get up on stage and sing background vocals – OK, SCREAM background vocals. The shows were a friggin’ blast. The front of the stage, a veritable train wreck. We even played a weekend where The Hi-Techs opened for us one night, and The Chesterfield Kings opened up for us the next night. The Cliches didn’t host a party without the guys from The Press Tones in attendance. Everyone in the bands got along great. Sometimes, of course, we didn’t always get along with the people that came to the shows to HARASS the bands, but we’ll leave the “Famous Scorgies Fights” for another post.
C Laben speaks: “I guess one of my favorite Don Scorgie stories is that he saved my ass from getting kicked or killed more than once. There was the one time where Me and Angelo (or Rich) were playing doubles in shuffleboard against a couple of idiots and we won maybe $5.00 apiece – but before they paid us they tried skipping out. I saw them in a car out on Andrews St. and I ran out after them. The guy that owed me was in the passenger seat and he had the window down and he was taunting me as they were driving off. So being the smart lad that I was I dove head first into the window and started punching him as they were driving down the street. Scorgie saw this and ran out the front door and grabbed me and pulled me out of the window. He told me it wasn’t worth it – and brought me back inside and gave me a free beer.”
And the after-hour parties were even better. We ended up in the studio sometime in early 1981 – I THINK it was Jim Havalack’s Sandcastle Studio – recording an 8-track demo of “Television Addict” b/w “Disposable Music”. Kevin Patrick produced it for us and I can’t say this for sure, but I believe the only recording outside of New Math or Jet Black Berries with Kevin Patrick vocals would be THESE two recordings. Listen carefully…Kevin sings background vocals on “Disposable Music” and you can clearly hear him ask “Hey man, you got a dime for the bus?” at the beginning of the song.[audio:http://www.greendoch.com/mp3/Disposable.mp3|title=Disposable Music|artists=The Cliches]
We snuck into the second WCMF Homegrown album in late 1981 on the basis of this demo, but then crossed everyone up when we got to the studio and decided to record “Riverview Restaurant” instead with Todd Schaffer (sp?), who worked with Backseat Sally, producing. Called “Embarrassingly stupid” by Times-Union Music Critic Dave Stearns, it was the highlight of our band’s existence. The review, I mean. I don’t care about the record itself. But we ended up winning Dave Stearns over in the end.
We graduated from college in 1982…Hung around playing until March of 1983 when we played a “Farewell Show” at Scorgies…and that was it. We had to move on with “real life”…jobs, careers, etc. I bartended on and off with Scotty Weichman, Pat and Tim Shaffer and Vicki at Scorgies until around 1988, even winning a Democrat & Chronicle “Best Bartender in Rochester” poll. Obviously the ballot box was stuffed but it wasn’t stuffed by me. Undeserved, perhaps, but I’LL TAKE IT. It’s still on my resume.
Anyway, I did get married to Linda in July of 1983 and the wedding guest list was basically made up of 70 people from Scorgies – customers, co-workers, band-members, cleaning crew, etc. – and I think we even snuck in a few relatives. The best part of the wedding reception? We had a “cover band” hired to provide entertainment. Well, at some point they took a break and Don Scorgie, after a few drinks (Can you believe it?), grabbed the microphone and started chanting “Cliches, Cliches”, amongst other incoherent ramblings. You don’t say no to Scorgie when he’s into the tequila. We hadn’t played together in about 4 months but with the bands permission, we used their equipment to play 2 or 3 final songs. In tuxedos. There are a few pictures floating around. What an affair!
If you’ve met him, you HAVE to love Don Scorgie. Some of the best times of my life. The early Scorgies days.
The Hi-Techs were different. Our lead instrument was a soprano sax. We loved the Contortions and James White, Bush Tetras, Kid Creole and James Brown. The Hi-Techs recorded “Pompeii” in 1979 in the basement of Robert Slide’s (Robert played bass with me in New Math’s first line up) house. Duane Sherwood played synth swishes. Tom Kohn and Marty Duda released the song on their “From The City That Brought You Absolutely Nothing” compilation. Ned joined the band in 1980 and we played about twenty gigs at Scorgies before forming Personal Effects. Our first gig was opening for New Math. This was fitting as I had left New Math a few months before and we were all friends. Kevin Patrick called us at the last minute, as in the night of the show. Peggi and I were already in our pjs when he called. We used to practice a lot so we were ready. We wrote all of our material and our songs were fast. We could barely keep up with them. We had lots of songs and never did the same set twice.
Dick Storms asked us to record a single for his new Archive Records label. Dick had already put out Bahama Mama’s “Lonesome Cowboy” single. I played with New Math on “Die Trying” which Dwight Glodell recorded so we lined him up to produce the single. We did this at Craig Fennesy’s studio in the basement of his house in Hilton. We met Kevin Vicalvi there and he became our sound man and friend for life. “Boogaloo Rendezvous” b/w “Subscriptions (Are My Prescription)” became the second release on Archive Records. Bill Jones printed the cover at Asymmetrical Press on Smith Street. We started playing gigs in Buffalo with bands like the Stains, Paper Faces, The Vores, The Jumpers, and 10,000 Maniacs.
Peggi sang most songs and Ned Hoskin sang a few. Ned liked the Clash and the Boss so his songs had a sincere, working class hero vibe to them. Ned wrote the anthem, “Warren”, for Brian Horton and Blue Hand played it every time we saw them. Ned was a great rhythm guitar player and a big part of the Hi-Techs sound.
We recorded a second single for Archive called “Screamin’ You Head”. It was backed with “A Woman’s Revenge,” a funky number that was based on the Kiss and Darling photo novellas that we used to devour. You could buy them at Bertha’s on East Main near where we practiced. Bertha was too big to get up from behind the counter so she barked orders at another woman who just couldn’t move fast enough for Bertha. “Screamin’ You Head” got quite a bit of play in clubs in NYC. A Danceteria DJ named Iolo was instrumental in getting us club dates in New York and eventually our deal with Cachalot Records but by then we had morphed into Personal Effects.
One of the most interesting gigs Hi-Techs did was a live performance at Channel 31 in 1980 (before it went Fox) with Ozzy Osbourne. There was some other band on the bill too but I can’t remember who that might have been. It seems like Marty Duda had something to do with this date. They tried to record all three of us in one night and Ozzy went first. When we got there Ozzy’s roadies were all drunk. They had spent most of the night in the bar downstairs on the corner of Alexander and East. And they took forever to get their stuff taken down. We set up around three in the morning and played three songs – “Pompeii”, “Boogaloo Rendezvous” and “A Woman’s Revenge”. Here is a video of that performance. Channel 31 used the live audio in the first song and then they synced the footage of our second and third songs to the vinyl versions of those songs because they fucked up the sound. And they got Kathy Buckley to prance around as if she had anything to do with the band. That kind of bummed us out at the time.
Hi-Techs – “Pompeii,” “Screamin You Head” and “A Woman’s Revenge”
(From the Channel 31 show “After Hours,” recorded sometime in 1980-81)
To view this video in high quality, go to YouTube and select the “watch in high quality” link.
MX-80 rolled into Rochester to play Scorgies on Thursday, October 30, 1980. They had just released their first album on Ralph Records entitled “Out Of The Tunnel” and they were touring the East Coast. Martin Edic, Peggi and I caught MX-80 at Max’s in NYC and some other place uptown before their appearance here. Each show was sensational.
Peggi and I were good friends with Rich Stim, lead singer and sax player (pictured on the left). Rich taught Peggi how to play play sax. The first song she learned under his tutelage was Hava Nagila. And the drummer, Dave Mahoney, was my best friend and roomate for years. Peggi and I were in a band called the Chinaboise with these two in Bloomington, Indiana. Bruce Anderson, second from left, could be the best guitar player in the world and Dale Sophiea is a monster bass player. Peggi and I left Bloomington for Rochester and MX-80 eventually moved to San Francisco.
We opened for them in Rochester and in Buffalo. They made the Hi-Techs sound like a toy band with their powerful anthems, “Follow That Car”, “I Walk Among Them” and especially “Someday You’ll Be King”. We were blown away by their performances. Unlike most of the Scorgies bands, MX-80 is still around. Check out their video of “We’re An American Band“.
Here’s an mp3 of “Someday You’ll Be King”
I grew up in Rochester but left for awhile. When I returned, I put a small ad on the wall of Record Archive which at the time was located in a small area next door to the Village Green on Monroe Avenue. I was looking for someone to play drums with and Gary Trainer and Kevin Patrick found my ad. The earliest version of New Math had Mark Schwartz on keys and Paul Armstrong on guitar. That lasted for a few gigs and the lineup changed. Gary and Kevin were always in charge.
The New Math single, “Die Trying”, got a lot of play on the Scorgie’s juke box. It was released on at least three labels and the photo above shows artwork for the 7 inch vinyl that was never used on any of the releases. If you click on the photo above you can can see a comp with the artwork pasted on a forty five. The double lines that arc over the hole created an optical illusion when it spun on the turntable. Without drugs you could see colors in the black and white label! I think you actually had to spin it faster than 78 to see the colors and maybe that’s why it was never used.
I was working as a graphic artist at Multigraphics (in the same block where KrudCo now is) so the artwork for the single fell into my lap. I think Kevin found the design that we used for the front cover in an old art book and I recreated it. In the photo you can see Robert Slide and someone else in one of the small photos on the desktop. I was thinking that Robert took this photo but it may have been Corrinne.
The back cover of the sleeve went through a few revisions and someone had the idea to have each person in the band contribute a two inch square piece of art. I seem to remember Dale never getting around to submitting his piece so Gary suggested that I put a zero in there. I could have that all wrong. Maybe someone else remembers.
The first release was on Reliable Records in England. Howard Thompson produced this single with Dwight Glodell engineering at PCI studios, across the street from East High. Howard went under the name “Howard le Canard” for the deed and he was instrumental in getting it released on this London label.
I had already decided to quit New Math before going into the studio but I waited until the recording was made before announcing my intentions. The same night we recorded these songs Peggi was at Max’s Kansas City for the Cramps and I really wanted to be there. Bryan Gregory was still in the band and we were crazy about them. All we had were two purple and green Vengeance singles (both produced by Alex Chilton) that we had picked up at the House of Guitars. The HOG kept the import and underground US singles in a locked cabinet upstairs in the hallway and you had to get Greg from the Chesterfield Kings to unlock it if you wanted to paw through the offerings. I remember picking up three early Pere Ubu singles and an early Devo version of Mongoloid and all sorts of great stuff .
I met Kevin for lunch and a Heineken at the old Manhattan restaurant near Midtown and told him I was jumping ship. I had a great time in this band but I wanted to do something different – like make music with my wife (you know what I mean). Peggi sings, plays sax and keys and we formed the Hi-Techs not long afterward but that is another story.
Die Trying was re-released on CBS in England with the same b side, “Angela”, and eventually Dick Storms released it in the US on Archive Records. This last sleeve was designed by Duane Sherwood and it had a different b side, a Dale Mincey song called “(I) Can’t Get Off The Ground”. New Math did a gig with Human Switchboard and Dale eventually married their keyboard player, Myrna.
A few weeks ago I was talking to Gary Trainer at the Village Gate Courtyard between Margaret Explosion sets and he was saying how lucky we were to have a place like Scorgies. We were trying to recall some of the places we played before Scorgies opened. The rock clubs mostly had commercial hard rock bands at the time and you needed a manager or booking agent to get you into the clubs. We worked with Jim Armstrong and even gave him credit on the single. He had some rock solid advice that stuck with me like “don’t let the crowd hear you tuning up (or playing anything for that matter) before you hit the stage because it spoils the performance”. NRBQ did this better than anyone by running on stage and starting as soon as they touched their instruments. Howie from Six String sales booked some club along the river and we did business with him too. Pelican booked bands at the time and Penny Arcade would book an original band but then have the bartenders wear t-shirts that said, “Punk Rock Sucks” or some such nonsense. Like they would know. They were in cahoots with the ultra conservative, formerly “underground” WCMF at the time and they did everything they could to hold back change eventually giving in to playing such “adventurous” new music as the Cars or the Pretenders.
We played the Orange Monkey out in Henrietta and the Electric Circus on Dewey and Big Daddy’s on Lyell and some place that Howie booked along the river. Scorgies was better than all these places by a mile. They had their own sound system and lights. All you need are these two things, an empty room and a bar and you have the perfect rock and roll club. I played with New Math for a year and a half and but had already left the band before they played Scorgies. The Hi-Tech and Personal Effects played there many times with New Math and we are all still friends today.
New Math got along fine without me. Bobby “Bam Bam” McCarthy played drums for a while and then Roy Stein joined. They released many more records and eventually changed their name to Jet Black Berries. When I saw Gary, he had a bunch of old New Math posters that he was giving Tom Kohn to scan for the Scorgies site. They should be up here soon.
Listen to Die Trying
One of my favorite bands from the Scorgies days was The Press Tones. Judging by the pile of old posters we rounded up, they were the first band we (Hi-Techs) asked to play with us at Scorgies. Our first show together would have been Friday June 10, 1980.
We missed their reunion at Abilene but we’re planning on catching them at the next reunion at the German House in November. It did seem sort of odd, a reunion before the reunion, but Tom Kohn said it only wet the whistle or primed the pump or one of those things. My extended family was calling a yearly picnic that we used to do, a “reunion”. And Peggi said, “You can’t call it a reunion if you do it every year”. I suspect the Press Tones never really broke up and that is their excuse. Everyone we know that saw them at Abilene said they sounded great. Bob Martin told us they were “really great”, in a way that implied that we better get our act together before we (Personal Effects) play with them. Here we’ve been spending all these years trying to get loose and now I feel some sort of pressure to get tight or least have a rehearsal.
This Friday we (Margaret Explosion) are playing at Village Gate and Ken Frank is on vacation so Bernie Heveron will be sitting in on bass. This could technically be a Personal Effects reunion because it would be an intact lineup. We might do a PE song. We’ll have to see what happens.
We got the Press Tones 45 out this morning and took it for a spin. I had forgotten that Dwight Glodell produced this thing and that it was on Dick Storm’s Archive Records. “Treat it like a Scar” sounded really good. They had a sort of dark pop guitar rock sound and this single captures it perfectly. Pete Presstone writes some great songs and Scott Presstone has a really good voice. Didn’t Scott used to play drums in the Bowery Boys or am I all mixed up?
Jim Frieze brought this photo of himself to me when I lived over by East High. He wanted me to do a poster for a gig the Press Tones were doing with the Chesterfield Kings at Scorgies. Jim was the lead vocalist for the Press Tones for a while but I can’t remember if that was before or after Scott. Maybe Scott went to Florida for a while. And it seems like Pete sang when neither one of them was in the band. Didn’t Mick Sarubbi play bass with them too in the early days? Maybe Tony Brown was still going to East High. Somebody has to help me out on the details. Anyway I hear the classic lineup is back and they sound better than ever. I’m looking forward to their Scorgies Reunion performance.