Thursday, May 30, 2013

When Ohio was Cutting Edge

Believe it or not, Ohio had a vibrant avant garde music scene in the mid 70s, with Devo being the best-known band of the Ohio scene. Seriously, in 1973-4, Ohio was more of a hotbed of rock-and/or-roll innovation than any other place on the globe. Another celebrated Ohio band was Cleveland's Pere Ubu, a band which had its origin in short-lived band Rocket from the Tombs, a band which also gave rise to The Dead Boys.

While I have long been a Pere Ubu fan, and I dig a couple of The Dead Boys' songs, I had never heard anything by Rocket from the Tombs (not to be confused with the band Rocket from the Crypt, which took its name from RftT). Recently, I found some Youtube videos of live recordings by Rocket from the Tombs (who broke up before releasing an album). The sound reminds me of a lo-fi Black Sabbath, playing avant-weird music and fronted by a warbling art-school student).

"Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo" was an early single by Pere Ubu, a chilling, jagged-edged soundscape inspired by accounts of The Doolittle Raid, a one-way bombing mission meant to bolster American morale and jar the Japanese out of a sense of military supremacy:

Dark flak spiders bursting in the sky,
reaching twisted claws on every side.
No place to run.
No place to hide.
No turning back on a suicide ride.

The version by Pere Ubu is enough to elicit goosebumps:

The original by Rocket from the Crypt is sparer, and even less conventional than the Pere Ubu single:

"Sonic Reducer" by The Dead Boys is a fairly straightforward punk song, all adrenaline and attitude, and has passed into the punk "canon" (covered even by St. Joseph):

While the original by Rocket from the Tombs clocks in at about twice the length, it clearly foreshadows The Dead Boys' version, sounding like a "Stooges" outtake:

I suppose it was inevitable that Rocket from the Tombs would break up, what with two such disparate musical styles (exemplified by David Thomas and Cheetah Chrome) characterizing the band's output.

I'd been meaning to hunt down music by Rocket from the Tombs ever since reading Jon Savage's England's Dreaming, but the recordings were as rare as hens' teeth. I'd make a snide comment about how the internet makes everything easy to find, but I'm too happy to have found these recordings to play at being a hipster d-bag.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Hey, this stuff is easy to find!

You just go to B^4's blog...

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Thanks for the accolade!