Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dominoes - Lies

A. Lies

B1. I'll Keep You In Stitches

B2. Local Disaster

DOMINOES (Milwaukee, WI)
Lies EP
New Deal (8201x69), 1982

Clancy Carroll started playing music at age 13 and within a couple years formed his first band. His early influences included Jimi Hendrix, Alice Copper and David Bowie. He caught the punk bug a couple years later after seeing the Ramones play live in a small club in June '77 .

His band at the time was called Ozone. Initially playing house parties and school dances, they eventually went on to win a huge battle of the bands competition. The group was rewarded with studio time and a short run 45. However, once the sessions began, they found out another band was called Ozone, so they changed their moniker to something a little more punk sounding: The Ones.

By mid-1980, Clancy wanted to move in a different direction. So he started rehearsing with Gerard LaValliere who had just left The Haskels. Marty Chittum and Mark Graves filled in for a short while, but things really came together for the band when Bobby Mitchell came on board. He had played in The Haskels as well, but left shortly after they released their stellar Taking The City By Storm EP. Bobby then suggested Mike Farrow, a drummer from Oshkosh, come in to solidify the Dominoes line-up. Mike started playing drums just a year earlier and the Dominoes would be his first band.

Clancy, Gerard and Bobby started writing songs immediately. With the objective of having fun and not wanting to confine themselves to any one genre, their music contained elements of 50s rock n roll and 60s garage. Along with their infectious originals that many confused for covers, the band incorporated their own twists on classics ranging from Eddie Cochran to the 13th Floor Elevators. To add even more of a dynamic to their unique sound, all members shared vocal duties as they had a natural affinity for tight harmonies.

Their approach was different than most other bands in town. They didn't want to over saturate the market, so they played shows sparingly, beginning in April of 1981. By this time Zak's had fallen by the wayside so the Starship became their mainstay. They were able to draw pretty good crowds. The scene was at its zenith with a flurry of exceptional local bands playing any given night of the week plus a constant flow of quality touring bands coming through town.

In early 1982, the Dominoes went into Traum Studio to lay down tracks for an EP. After recording the basic tracks, the building that housed the studio was slated to be torn down. So in the midst of recording, they had to pack up and reconvene at another location to do their guitar overdubs and vocals.

But the major annoyance came when they received the records from the pressing plant. Having no knowledge of mastering, the songs wound up sounding very thin. Nevertheless, they still received airplay on Milwaukee's first college radio station, WMSE, as well as on WCCX in Waukesha. 500 copies of the 7" were pressed and they sold modestly via local record shops and at gigs.

The Starship closed its doors in 1983. After that, the scene scattered and lost its collective energy. Likewise, the momentum of the band had gradually faltered. Feeling they had accomplished what they set out to do, the Dominoes simply called it quits.

Clancy then started the Clancy Carroll Band. His Honesty EP, released in 1985, features two ex-Haskels (Bobby Mitchell and Vodie Rhinehart) as well as members of Those X-Cleavers and Rock-A-Dials. Gerard and Mike went on to play in a band called the Barnburners with Gerard's brother Richard (formerly of the Haskels and Oil Tasters). Mike also ended up playing in a band with a third LaValliere brother, Doug (formerly in The Prosecutors).

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Haskels - Taking The City By Storm

A1. Taking The City By Storm

A2. Body Language

B1. Daddy's Girl

B2. Baby Let's French

THE HASKELS (Milwaukee, WI)
Taking The City By Storm EP
Milwaukee Hits (NR12264), 1980

Richard LaValliere started playing bass in bands when he was 12 years old. By the time he was 16, he was playing the Midwest bar circuit upwards of six nights a week, three to five sets a night. While in between bands in the mid 70s, he started jamming with his brother Gerard on guitar. Around the same time he answered an ad placed by a 16 year old girl named Jill Kossoris who was looking to join a band. Their mutual interest in Patti Smith sealed the deal.

Meanwhile, Jerome Brish was playing guitar and singing in a band called Marilyn with Scott Krueger, Caleb Alexander and a rotating cast of drummers. They soon morphed into In A Hot Coma. After Scott and Caleb left the band, Jerome merged with Richard, Gerard and Jill. Scott went on to play in numerous bands, most notably The Orbits and later, The Shivvers.

In September of 1977, Jerome walked into an instrument repair shop to put up an ad for a drummer wanted in a "rock and punk" band. The clerk, Guy Hoffman, mentioned that he played drums. So they exchanged numbers and about a month later Guy received a call to come check out a rehearsal at Jill's place.

Guy had been selected by his school to play concert snare drum when he was just nine years old. The instrument felt natural to him and within a couple years he received enough pieces of a kit to form his first band, The Griffins. From then on, he played in a myriad of rock bands leading up to this encounter.

When he went over to Jill's house, he was graciously greeted by Jill's mom and taken to the basement where the band was rehearsing. He liked what they were doing, a combination of originals and covers from the early 60s. The only criticism he received was to "play harder," a sentiment even Jill's dad encouraged!

Soon after that, Jill, who was playing electric piano and had no real input into the band's sound, decided she wanted to write her own songs and go in a different direction. So she left and started the Shivvers while the remaining four continued on together, changing their name to the Haskels.

There weren't any places that catered to the new music that was starting to come out of the basements of Milwaukee. So Jerome (who would change his name to Presley Haskel) and Leroy Buth (of the Lubricants), convinced a local bar owner named Damian Zak to start hosting bands playing original "punk" music in his venue. While he thought the idea was crazy, he reluctantly agreed. Before long, the Milwaukee underground music scene exploded with a diverse group of bands.

No longer having the luxury of Jill's house to practice in, the guys moved their rehearsals to the basement of the dingy 4-plex they were living in off Brady and Arlington, which was coined the Haskel Hotel. They started playing their first gigs at Zak's in February of 1978. Before long they were pulling in crowds of 200+ and ruled the scene along with the Shivvers. The Haskels got to open up for touring bands like Iggy Pop in the fall of '79 in support of his New Values Tour.

Around November of 1979, Bobby Mitchell, who had moved to Milwaukee from Cleveland early that year, was cruising by North and Humboldt. He noticed some guys lugging gear into Zak's, so he asked one of them what was going on. Presley said he should come back later to see the bands that were going to be playing that night. So Bobby returned to the club that evening and got his first taste of the Milwaukee punk scene.

Following a gig on New Years Eve, Richard and Guy decided to leave the Haskels. They would go on to start another project called the Oil Tasters with Caleb Alexander. The group's instrumentation included sax, bass and drums and they released several records in the early 80s.

In need of a bass player, Presley asked his new friend Bobby if he could play so that he could keep the Haskels together. Bobby auditioned and got the job, and then Vodie Rhinehart came in on drums. They played their first show with the new line-up in February of 1980.

After only a few more weekend gigs at Zak's, Jerome started looking for a new spot to play shows. He found a venue called the Starship that was run by a drummer named Kenny Baldwin. Jerome helped convince him to start hosting punk bands, much like he'd done for Zak's a couple years earlier.

Gerard stuck with the band for only a short while longer, leaving after a Summerfest gig in July of 1980. He would go on to join Clancy Caroll in his new band, the Dominoes. Meanwhile, Gerard was also running sound at the Starship, which by this time had really taken over the role as the punk rock club in Milwaukee. Gerard's brother Doug, who was playing in the Prosecutors at the time, also ran sound at the club. It's interesting to note that Kevn Kinney of the Prosecutors (later Drivin' N Cryin') was the roadie for the Haskels.

At this point the Haskels were now a three-piece. The original four-piece line-up had Presley and Richard both writing songs and sharing vocal duties. The new version took things in a different direction (some would say power pop). Reworking a couple of old standards ("Daddy's Girl" and "Baby Let's French"), along with a couple fresh tunes, the band self-released a four song EP in late 1980. "Taking The City By Storm" was later featured on both the Bloodstains Across The Midwest and Killed By Death Vol 8.5 compilations, though the other three songs on the 7" stand up just as well, if not better.

By early 1981 Bobby decided to leave the group, reconnecting with Gerard in the Dominoes. Vodie stayed on just a little while longer with a replacement bass player before moving on as well, which resulted in the imminent demise of the band.

After the Oil Tasters, Richard and Guy both continued playing music. Guy most notably played with the Bodeans and for many years with the Violent Femmes, while Richard most recently played in Polkafinger. Jerome was senselessly killed in 1991.

Besides the 7", a couple other Haskels recordings were released in later years. Mark Shurilla, who was a journalist with the Shepard and played in a band called the Blackholes, was planning to make a record documenting the scene in the late 70s. So the Haskels recorded some songs in their basement for him, but the album never materialized at the time. It wasn't until 1997 that two of those songs ("It's Hard To Smile" and "Drop The Bomb") eventually surfaced on Shurilla's Great Lost Brew Wave Album.

A few years later, another Milwaukee compilation surfaced entitled History In 3 Chords, which included two other lost Haskels songs ("Liberace Is Coming" and an early rendition of "Baby Let's French"). These two were recorded in a studio and intended to be the Haskels first 7" but technical difficulties prevented it's release.

All four of the previously mentioned songs were of the original four-piece line-up, not the version of the band that recorded the EP.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Vendettas - Atheist Rock

A. Atheist Rock

B. All About My Love

Atheist Rock b/w All About My Love
Revenge (37734), 1980

Alan Goldin wanted to test his theatrical and lyrical talents, so he put up an ad in an Austin music store to find musicians to play in a band with him. Rusty Keith answered and brought along Steve Gotesky who he had played in bands with since the 60s. A short-lived drummer (who's name escapes all three members) came into play for a while as they started gigging the Austin mainstays like Raul's and Dukes Royal Coach Inn.

Being a little bit older than many of the other bands in the scene, they didn't exactly fit in. And even though bands like the Big Boys and Dicks helped break down certain taboos by wearing drag on stage, Alan deliberately tried to confuse audiences by combining various gender-bending looks, incorporating costumes, and wearing make-up.

By the time the band was ready to lay down the tracks for their sole single, it was a guy named "Paco" who sat in on drums for the shotgun session. They financed the recording and self-released the single in a limited run, though the exact quantity is not recollected by the band members. Paco wasn't interested in actually joining the band, so they recruited Dick Ross so they could continue playing shows.

Purposefully written ambiguously, their song "Atheist Rock" is a tale about Madalyn Murray O'Hair, "the most hated woman in America." It was intended to grab attention in Bible-Belt Texas, where she resided. The song managed to get noticed by the American Atheist Center, who discussed collaborating with the band and doing a benefit concert to raise money for the Center. Unfortunately O'Hair (or her advisers) decided to not cause her further contempt by having her associated with the punk movement.

Soon afterward, and roughly six months after the band initially formed, the members went their separate ways. Alan formed another short lived group called the Hormoans before moving out to New York. Rusty Keith went on to play in the first version of X-Spand-X and has continued playing in many bands to this day. Steve became the house sound engineer at Antones, where he remained for 20 years. Dick continued playing in bands as well, including F-Systems and the original line-up of Poi Dog Pondering. He's also done work with Joe "King" Carrasco and many others.