Saturday, January 29, 2011

RPM's - I Don't Wanna Be Young

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A. I Don't Wanna Be Young

B. Loved By You

THE RPM's (Milwaukee, WI)
I Don't Wanna Be Young b/w Loved By You
Hit-Man (NR11835), 1980

Denis Laing migrated to Milwaukee from Scotland in 1976 with his wife and kid.
After taking up a menial job at a hospital, he met a fellow employee name Brent Mireau. After realizing they both shared similar musical interests, they decided to form a band. Brent then recruited Jim Virgili on lead guitar while Denis rocked the bass and Brent played rhythm. The three started off as a cover band called The Ravers and played with different pick-up drummers along the way. Their repertoire consisted of material by Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, Squeeze and others in that vein.

Around the end of 1979, Denis and Brent visited London and hung out with some of Denis' old friends who were now playing in The Ruts. Seeing what was happening in England at the time inspired them to start doing original material. With Laing at the helm, writing songs and singing lead vocals, they recruited a drummer named Rob Mccuen who had recently moved to Milwaukee from Champagne, IL. Rob was friends with Jill Kossoris of the Shivvers and had once sat in with the guys during a jam session at Jill's house. With Rob officially on board, they became the RPM's.

The band recorded a 7" with two songs penned by Laing. The A-Side, "I Don't Wanna Be Young," is one of my favorite power pop tracks of all time. The tale of a young lovers heartache is brilliantly complimented with top notch back-up vocals and excellent harmonies. The B-Side features Mireau sharing vocal duties with Laing and showcases a bit more angst than the previous cut, while maintaining plenty of pop sensibilities and equally stunning harmonies.

The record was released near the end of 1980 in an edition of 500 copies on the band's own Hit-Man label. The plant misspelled the name of the first track on the labels and had to paste the correct title on every copy of the record.

Some time after the single was released, they decided to replace Rob because of personality clashes. They brought in a charming bloke named Jim Kozewski (later coined St. Patrick) and continued on. By this time the band was rehearsing 4-5 times a week and becoming extremely tight. While making plans to record a full length LP, Denis insisted they just practice the music and don't do any vocals at their rehearsals. This tactic lead them to be able to record most of the music tracks for the album in a single day.

Soon after the sessions were completed, Denis was laid off from his job and an opportunity arose in Florida. The band broke up and the LP (which they are all very proud of) remains unreleased to this day.

Brent still lives in Milwaukee and has continued playing music in various bands through the years including Beat Sector, Slacker and Echo Park. Denis still lives in Florida and currently plays in a cover band doing country music. Rob is still active in the Milwaukee scene.

The RPM's sole single was reissued last year on Sing Sing Records and is currently available through them.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Rabies - (My Girl's A) Hologram

A. (My Girl's A) Hologram

B. Criminal

THE RABIES (Larchmont, NY)
(My Girl's A) Hologram b/w Criminal
Presidential (ITR-5205), 1982

George Faulkner and twin brothers Kevin and Torin Alter grew up together in the suburbs outside of New York City. Having known each other since Elementary school, they decided to form a band when they were attending Mamaroneck High. The school was a hotbed of creativity, churning out many well known artists, actors, writers, and musicians. It was after seeing school mates the Student Teachers who had records produced by Blondie's Jimmy Destri and who were scoring gigs opening for Iggy, the Cramps and others, that they got inspired to get something going themselves.

John Dorf was their original drummer, but it soon became obvious that other than owning a drum set he had little sense of how to play. John Gramaglia, who was a few years younger, was soon recruited at Torin's request in the fall of 1981. Torin had played in an earlier band with John's brother Michael called The Unemployed in which John would sit in occasionally. With the line-up now complete and Torin at the helm writing songs, The Rabies scored their first gig at CBGB's. John was only 15 at the time and had to finagle his way into the gig.

They became very popular in their region and put out a single on their own Presidential Records in early 1982. The run of 500 copies was financed with help from their family and features a cover designed by David Hughes, which is reminiscent of the logo on the Clash's first record. The 7" showcases their most popular song "Hologram," which contains hand claps and a poppier sound than they intended. Sounding like a long lost Ramones cut, "Hologram" still holds up strong today, while the flip has more of a post-punk feel and is more representative of the bands developing sound.

Rumor has it that they scored a VHS bootleg copy of Star Wars which they would often play during breaks in their rehearsals. And it was a scene where R2-D2 was projecting a hologram of Leia that the song was inspired and written on the spot. Regardless of how it came about, the single sold out quickly and was even featured in the jukebox at the Larchmont Diner and was often checked out at the local library.

The band released a 4-song EP later in the year which is not held in very high regard by any of its members. The sound was more new wave and by this time they had added an additional guitar player. They continued to play together on a part time basis for nearly two decades, reinventing themselves and changing their name every several years from Intrynsics to Caroline No to Junkstar.

George has an audio engineering degree and still plays music. He currently works in IBM Corporate Communications and runs a podcast called A Pop Diary, where John also contributes episodes. Kevin and Torin are both professors, teaching architecture and philosophy, respectively. John continues to play music in bands and works as a film editor. He helped his brother Michael with the 2003 Ramones documentary, "End Of The Century."