Margaret Explosion

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It was mid 1981, I think. Pee Wee, an old friend and former bandmate as well as the soundman for New Math, called and asked if I’d be interested in trying out for a band. The band was called Personal Effects. I said sure, I’d love to.

I went to try out with them and thought it went pretty well. The songs were cool, with chord changes I’d never thought of before. In general, things were an exercise in ‘less is more’ – using a minimalist approach to tell the slices of life that the songs expressed. I was called back many times before the end of the year and kept hoping that I was in the running, as I very much loved the material and the people. In December, I had a party during which Paul and Peggi told me that we had a gig lined up at Scorgies on January 23rd (this would be ’82). I said, “so, does this mean I am in the band?” They had a good laugh… they’d forgotten to tell me that I’d been in the band since, pretty much, the second time I ‘tried out.’

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It was fun going to band practice while New Math developed their sound and songs. First at a house off Park Ave. where Gary and Mark lived. Then they moved to their first practice space in the Cox Building and later to another there. I remember the first one was huge and cavernous. The second was better sound-wise and had windows that overlooked St. Paul and the side street where the Adult Bookstore resided. An easy walk down the street to Scorgies for a beer after practice. Somewhere along the way Michelle Ford, Sue Metro, Tim Dodd (Paul’s brother) and I started jamming in the closet of their practice space. We had a really long gestation period and had trouble coming up with a name (Rhonda’s Radio?) and the music ambled all over the place but we had fun (they later formed Targets). Then Paul decided to leave New Math and we joined up to form Hi-Techs with Martin and Ned. During this time, everyone lived and breathed music, whatever they were doing, and our lives are forever intertwined. So many of us from that time still are friends and share some common history. Personal Effects evolved out of Hi-Techs when Ned left the band and Bob joined us. That was in 1981. The PE story is in itself a long, involved one like any band’s. I’ll just say that we played together through the 80’s and then after a hiatus, formed Margaret Explosion which continues to play today as an improvisational, instrumental jazz band.

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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.

New Math "Die Trying" cover - click for enlargement

New Math "Die Trying" cover - click photo for enlargement

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.

New Math Die Trying covers

New Math Die Trying covers

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.

New Math at the Orange Monkey 1978. Robert Slide - bass, Gary Trainer, guitar, Paul Dodd - drums, Kevin Patrick - vocals, Dale Mincey - lead guitar.

New Math at the Orange Monkey 1978. Robert Slide - bass, Gary Trainer, guitar, Paul Dodd - drums, Kevin Patrick - vocals, Dale Mincey - lead guitar.

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.

New Math at the Electric Circus on Dewey Avenue in Rochester, NY

New Math at the Electric Circus on Dewey Avenue in Rochester, NY

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

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Pete Presstone at Abilene in 2008

Pete Presstone at Abilene in 2008 - photo by Stan the Man

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, lead singer with the Press Tones

Jim Frieze, lead singer with the Press Tones

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.

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