Never Mind The Cliches, Here’s The Bollocks
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.