Musical Family Tree

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MFT Mixtape - July 2010 - Vintage Punk

Howdy gang,

We enlisted two Indiana Punk experts to help us compile a very special mixtape this month that pays homage primarily to the 80's punk scene here in Indy. This was a legendary scene that truly set the tone for the next two decades. This compilation is by no means meant to be exhausting, but rather a reference to the growth of the scene and the beginnings of a deeply rooted Musical Family Tree (see what i did there?).

Drink it in and then slam-dance it out. Thanks to Mike Whybark and Marvin Goldstein for compiling the tracks!

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Dancing Cigarettes - Puppies in a Sack - 1981 - Forming in Bloomington in 1980, the Cigarettes fused their high-school geek visions of dada and beat literature with punk energy, the Ralph Records catalog, an obvious love for pre-punk icons like Eno and Beefheart, and the fumes of earlier art-damaged Midwestern bands like MX-80, Pere Ubu, and Tin Huey. In 1981, the Dancing Cigarettes hooked up with Gulcher Records to produce a quite 4-song, self-titled EP.

The Panics - Drugs Are for Thugs - 1981 - Another early 80's Bloomington band that formed very organically out of a deep love of Punk. This song originally appeared on Gulcher Records "Red Snerts" which was a collectors dream comp of all Indiana bands.

Frankie Camaro and the QAX Pistols
- Steppin Stone - 1980 - This is a live recording of the second ever show at Bullwinkle's in Bloomington, which was later partly converted into the legendary rock venue Second Story. The QAX Pistols were a "Cool garage band of WQAX workers. Did mash-ups of surf and TV show themes" that included Paul Jova (who's stage name was/is Frankie Camaro).

Last Four Digits - Act Like Nothing's Wrong - 1982 - Formed in 1982 L4D invented and promoted "abstract commercialism." Taking themes from pop culture, including commercial jingles and TV show themes, the band attracted a rabid following during the eighteen months they were in existence. They completed a tour of the east coast which included successful gigs at CBGB's in Manhattan and Maxwell's in Hoboken, and returned to Indy to headline a punk show at the Vogue nightclub, promoted by Bill Levin. At the time, punk and new wave was virtually unheard of at the Vogue. The event was so noteworthy that local TV stations had reporters providing live coverage of the concert from the sidewalk in front of the nightclub. The next day, the Last Four Digits broke up, only to reunite in part as the even quirkier "We're Jimmy Hoffa" band.

The Gizmos - Rock and Roll Don't Come From New York - 1977 - The Gizmos were a legendary Indiana band of the late 1970s that put out three EPs at the beginning of the punk-rock/new wave age. Formed by singers and rock critics Ken Highland and Eddie Flowers in 1976, they released the EP The Gizmos (Gulcher, 1976), one of the earliest documents of the era.

Moto X - In the Dark Sky - 1986 - Started when Frankie Camaro finished college in Bloomington, looked to start a Surf Punk band and found local skaters from The Resistors: Ross Danielson and Greg Phillips at a street dance. They moved to Austin, Texas in 1984 and recorded the unreleased record Congo Road, which was mastered by Kevin Loyal and is available here on MFT!

Zero Boys - Blow it Away - 1983 - It came out of nowhere in 1982, this punk rock/hardcore fireball with the bright yellow sleeve. In one sense, The Zero Boys’ Vicious Circle was yet another example of how U.S. punk seemed to peak coast to coast that year. Singer Paul Mahern ("Paul-Z" on the sleeve) was like an uncaged rabbit, singing so quickly yet so clearly, you didn't need a lyric sheet. Behind him, lightning-quick, adroit guitarist Terry Hollywood and punishing drummer Mark Cutsinger. This recording is from a live show at Ricky's Cantina in 1983 with Tim Crist playing bass.

The Slammies - Riot (in Cell Block 11) - Contained the Pfeffer brothers who later formed Otto and the Gearheads, Otto the Comic, The Primates and plenty more. They recently reunited on New Years Eve of 2007 and were subsequently nominated for a "Band of the Year" award from Punk Rock Night.

Blood Farmers - Tim - 1983 - This recording was made by Scott Colburn and others and pressed and released on the 4-song EP "Blood Farmers," as seen in the link above. All four band members were Bloomington high school punk rock kids. Andy went on to play with, what, everyone? He was in an early Blake Babies with JPS, then played with Al Jarvis, Glenn Hicks, Greg Philips and Dave again in PBOC, then John again on some demos and also with Frankie.

Dandelion Abortion - Indianapolis - Formed by Paul Mahern from the Ashes of the Zero Boys in the mid eighties.

The Rosebloods - Angeline - 1987 - The band's polished, surf-derived sound came into focus when John Terrill and Steve Cook jammed together acoustically (Terrill has excellent demos of these sessions). Playing the burgeoning alternative tour
circuit in Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky, and garnering very favorable reviews for the released tapes and EPs, the band came to an end when Cook opted out and Brewer and Terrill shifted their focus to the much rawer outfit, the Walking Ruins. This song was recorded by Paul Mahern in 1987.

JOT (Just Ordinary Teenagers) - Superbia - One of the very first projects from legendary local Vess Ruhtenberg.

Pit Bulls on Crack - Rock Your World - 1988 - The original line-up, consisted of Bloomington natives, Greg Phillips (Guitar), Andrew Mayer (Lead Guitar), Glenn Hicks (Vocals), Dave Fortney (Bass) and Al Jarvis (drums) Their song, Rock Your World, landed them on the 1988 version of Hoagie Picks the Hits. They used to drive around to find random parties to crash and perform guerrilla shows.

Walking Ruins - Lightweight - 1988 - Late Eighties super group containing John Barge; Ian Brewer (the Panics), John Terrill (ex-Dancing Cigarettes) and Kevin Loyal. This song is from a live set at Second Story from June 1988. The other bands were Pit Bulls on Crack and the Lemonheads.

Right to Left - All of My Friends - 1988 - This is a live recording from a show that was recorded at BW3 shortly after the 1988 Gizmos reunion.

Datura Seeds - Red Beer - 1990 - In 1989, Zero Boys frontman Paul Mahern moved on to the Datura Seeds, whose sound was closer to straight-up power pop than punk. The Datura Seeds' supporting cast behind Mahern included Lee Cuthbert, Vess Ruhtenberg, Tom Downs and Jonee Quest. Their lone album, Who Do You Want It to Be?, was released on the Toxic Shock label in 1990.

Nevermores - Nevermore (intro) - Bloomington circa 1990 - Bassist Gretchen Holtz writes: "We wore top hats and capes and looked really cool. That was years before the Garage Rock freak out revision that happened so we were very cutting edge. I had never seen a band with a farfisa in it before The Nevermores. The first song that I ever wrote was for that band called "oatmeal". It was about only wanting to play play play and not read or work or go to school. It was about my mom making cereal and being pissed because we wanted oatmeal instead. That band was way fun. The name the Nevermores came to Matt in his sleep."

Soul Paint - Big Balls - Soulpaint started out in Kokomo, IN, in 1988 and relocated to Indianapolis in 1991. They quickly integrated themselves into the Broad Ripple music scene and helped create the collectively-owned and locally-operated Augmented Mammary Records, featuring such like-minded local acts as Gravelbed, Acid Green, and The Young Lords. Soulpaint played a gazillion shows throughout the area, garnered a lot of press and even managed to get songs played on local radio stations for a spell. They also produced two self-released cassettes and a CD, as well as being featured on local compilation CDs from Indianapolis and Chicago. Soulpaint disbanded in 1995 to pursue other musical interests.

The Slurs - The Problem with Rock and Roll - 2004 - The Slurs were pure unpolished rock in the finest sense.

The Smears - The Good Old Days Sucked - Bloomington mid 1990s - The Smears were an all-female force of brutal energy. This recording (Like Hell) was produced by John Strohm and Mass Giorgini.

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Comment by John P. Strohm on July 27, 2010 at 9:59am
Yeah, but come on (continuing to play devil's advocate here)...if you can record a symphony in all its complexity, or an opera, then recording a rock band should be simple. I'm sure there were talented people coming out of that program, and I don't really know much about it...but my own experiences up there were of buffoonery in the face of a pretty easy challenge (stick a mic in front of the amp and turn the fucker up). And the tapes...just give them a critical listen. I mean no offense to the musicians of the time; there's some great music - it's not their fault (assuming there was an engineer taking the challenge of translating the music in the studio). I was lucky to have great engineers available at the time. You use the resources at your disposal, and my point is that there's a whole generation of great Bloomington music that is just not particularly well documented. I know I shouldn't be so quick to propose theories about who was incompetent, but (given that you're dealing with some archiving issues as well such as bad cassettes) the evidence is in the recordings of the time. For me it's frustrating to hear those PBOC recordings because I heard the band live. They could've gone in a room with a couple nice mics and a tape running, played their set, and had a classic record.
Comment by Frankie Camaro on July 26, 2010 at 7:50pm
Yes I agree Mike. I agree recordings were not as good and wish we had better recordings in the 80s. But i don't blame it on the MAC or none of us had ears or terrible engineers. I didn't agree with all I heard or other engineers at the time, but felt since they were usually older and audio techie people, that I didn't really produce myself much in the early days but just recorded what I could with a local person running the sessions. I wish I would have tried to record more, but with Moto-X, our lead singer was almost killed just as we were getting our sound together and we were put on hold during the time bands like the Zero Boys had their heyday. And I know the Moto-X recording in 1985 was huge at the studio, and I wish I could get that original tape.

We did a pretty good demo in 82 I am posting as well as some live shows. And I'll be posting other things I did locally like the Truckadelics soon.

I see it as the natural progression everywhere, that recording alt rock or anything, was better by the 90s (or was back up in quality as recording went downhill in the 80s everywhere), not just a small college town like Bloomington. We were performance oriented and put on great shows. That's what we obsessed about. I didn't think many people would want my home made recordings or I would have done more and would have done it more like the 50's style.
Comment by Bill Zink on July 26, 2010 at 7:31pm
That's my take on it, Mike.
Comment by mike whybark on July 26, 2010 at 6:57pm
Unless there's another explanation, it seems that somebody was flying under the radar getting to run a department in a major university without the necessary competency.

Well, the studio is a School of Music thing in a building designed and built to house a world class opera company and since the 1970s the product which the IU SoM is geared toward is classical and jazz, both genres which generally benefit from transparency-oriented recording techniques. So my guess is the training given to the MAC people at that time was really geared toward that style or recording because it's what the rest of the SoM faculty were demanding, as well as the rest of the culture of the time.
Comment by Frankie Camaro on July 26, 2010 at 6:20pm
I think you just said below that most engineers are bad that came out of the MAC. I disagree. I don't see what that has to do with anything as those are hit/miss student demos. Bloomington was a small town with few bands, little money, or studios to get the sounds on par with bigger cities.
Comment by John P. Strohm on July 26, 2010 at 6:15pm
Well, it won't be the first time on this site two people will have to agree to disagree. I'm no expert - I used the resources available to me and did what I had to do to get things sounding the way I wanted. But I maintain my thesis that - other than the notable exceptions - there weren't many good sounding recordings coming out of B'ton in the 80s, which is too bad because there were good sounding bands.
Comment by Frankie Camaro on July 26, 2010 at 5:55pm
I think they had a reverse echo going on the Rock your World chorus, probably through a crappy 80s processor. I like the flanging towards the end.
Comment by Frankie Camaro on July 26, 2010 at 5:47pm
I think the Pit Bulls got some digital artifacts when converting to mp3 as partly what you are hearing. I remember the original cassette sound and it sounded much better than the mp3 on this site. Still it's really just a demo recorded in a student studio, unsupervised.
Comment by Frankie Camaro on July 26, 2010 at 5:04pm
I still have no idea what you are talking about as I think the Pit Bulls sounds good, but of course could be better. But they really rock as a band. I learned how to run a recording studio and gear well. I didn't learn how to make a 90's alternative record in 1979. The MAC recordings you heard are probably students, recording unsupervised at night, and then on top of that an old cassette copy. I think my ears are fine. I knew what I wanted to to differently but, no there was still more to learn after school.

I did a session with Stuart Sullivan, one of my peers in the audio program, while I lived in Austin. He was producing Alternative, Blues, Rock, back in 1985. And I did not have the power to run sessions in studios in the 80's but did it how they told me.

The main types of music when I was there was electronic, jazz and classical. So no, they did not have a rock vibe either then, but did really well in those other categories. It's not a pro studio, it's a student studio where people make mistakes.
Comment by Frankie Camaro on July 24, 2010 at 2:25pm
I agree that by the 90s recording locally had improved. I saw also a lot of better techniques, guitars, guitar amps, mics and bigger. lower end bass set ups. Small distorted tube amps are great for guitar. Like Bill said there was a disconnect between the clean correct recording methods and the sounds we really wanted with more distortion.

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