Sunday, October 18, 2009

The World's Oldest Disease

Does punk rock breed VD?

 (L to R): Patsy Poison, Mickey Skin, Dr. Bourque, Trixie Danger

That's what one promo poster notoriously asked, 'round about '77/'78. 

Frequently referred to as "North America's first all-female punk rock band", The Curse slithered out from Toronto's underground: the same scene that would spawn The Diodes, Viletones, Battered Wives, etc. 

Thing is, they didn't even bother to learn their instruments or learn how to write songs when they were challenged to start a band.  Much like a certain athletic footwear company, they Just Did It. 

You see, Mickey Skin had a dance instructor.  The dance instructor had a band.  Said dance instructor (reportedly named "Roland" -- I have no surname of reference) had a challenge for Mickey: form a band to open for his own group, The Tools -- which was performing its first gig on May 27th, 1977-- then write some songs and rehearse.  And You Have Three Weeks To Do It.

So Mickey enlists her best friend, one Dr. Bourque -- who may or may not have had a medical degree -- to play bass.  The pair are joined by Trixie Danger and Patsy Poison, who reportedly worked downtown Toronto's sin strip, before banging on the skins for Mickey's "band".


The erstwhile musicians practiced in Mickey's mom's basement -- until Mickey's mom, Loet Voss returned from summer vacation and reclaimed it.  Freddy Pompeii of the infamous Viletones brings along his bandmates to The Curse's second basement rehearsal.  But the Viletones had, by this time, garnered an -- erm -- "reputation" for inciting violence.  So Roland and the Tools canceled their gig. 

(L To R): Unknown, Mickey, Mickey's Mom, Steve Leckie of The Viletones

Not to worry.  Freddy Pompeii insisted the girls open for the Viletones at Toronto's Summer '77 do-it-yourself club, The Crash 'N Burn. The C 'N B was run by the revolutionary Centre For Experimental Art & Communication.  They played eight songs.  But the set reportedly left the audience stunned. 

A month later, CBGB's beckoned.  Playing on a bill touting the  "...outrageous punk bands from Toronto, Canada" New York's audience got their first taste of what The Curse had in store.  (By the way: The Diodes, Teenage Head and The Viletones were also on that bill, along with The Cramps).  Apparently, Mickey Skin sprayed the audience repeatedly with whipped cream.

Nonetheless, The Curse returned to Toronto, playing local clubs such as David's, The Horseshoe Tavern, The Turning Point, etc. They were usually remunerated with beer, but on occasion they were given $50 (which, in 1977/78, was big money for a gig, I suppose).  Meanwhile, they also played out of town shows, such as London, Ontario's Forest City Gallery at the invitation of performance artist Gerard Pas on November 25th, 1977.  By now, word of The Curse's stage antics prompt local punks to hurl rotting steaks and other assorted food on stage.  The Ugly was also supposed to play the bill, but they didn't show.  So The Curse were forced to play their 8-song set three times, in different order.

In December of that year, The Curse accompany a group of members from CEAC to a Detroit art gallery, as guest performers.  In a bizarre post-show piece, the girls are asked to line up against a wall while being shot at with a pistol by a performance artist, while she sings "Happiness Is Warm Gun", by The Beatles. 

The Curse were the Prop Queens of Punk.  Apparently they had more trouble getting their props to shows than their gear: bringing everything from Mickey's "Lobotomy Scar" (an excuse for forgetting the lyrics), to Patsy's Kotex Bikini, to the purple Jesus Punch they served at their record release party.  The only way to drink it was to suck the tampons floating on top.  Trixie Danger starting a power drill, cranking up the amp and boring through her guitar.

               Mickey & Her Lobotomy Scar


David Robinson of The Diodes Sucking A Tampon

 Plastic helmets, feather boas, huge telephones, whipped cream and neon wands; squirtguns, tricycles, surgical gloves and the foulest language North of the CN Tower (still under construction): the girls succeeded in shattering inhibitions whenever they performed. During their first show, Mickey Skin pulled wieners out of her pants, chewed them up, spat them out and threw them at the audience.  Sometimes she would trample the little hotdogs underfoot.  The men squirmed; so did the women. 

Of course, one can never talk about The Curse, without bringing up the tragic story of 12-year-old Emmanuel Jacques, the son of Portuguese immigrants from the Azores.  Emmanuel worked as a shoeshine boy, along downtown Toronto's then-infamously seedy Yonge Street strip.  In 1977 Yonge Street was, as described by former mayor David Crombie, a "yawning cesspool" of sex shops, massage parlours, pornographic theatres and strip clubs. On July 28th, 1977 Emmanuel was lured to an apartment above the Charlie's Angels body rub parlour, with the promise of work.  Evidence later showed that Emmanuel was raped over a period of 12 hours, strangled and was later drowned in a sink.  His murderers then stuffed his body into a garbage bag and dumped his body on the roof of the body rub parlour. 

The Curse wrote and recorded the single "Shoeshine Boy" on Hi-Fi, both as a cautionary tale for parents, but also about the dangers of working the streets.  They sparked further controversy and public outrage, when they send the jailed killers a copies of their single.

Almost a year to the day of their first visit to New York City, The Curse make a triumphant return to the Big Apple when they headline Max's Kansas City.  Threatened by bikers, suffering from exhaustion and overcome with the club's claustrophobic dimensions, Mickey Skin delivers her ultimate (and last) performance.  She walks atop the club's tables, but ever-so gingerly: the patrons go wild and rock the tables underneath her wherever she lands.  This would be the last time the original Curse perform together.


The Curse's posters proclaimed them The World's Oldest Disease.  In the process of their original formation, they created a musical epidemic that infected staid, conservative Toronto, in that lava-hot summer of 1977.  They challenged the audience with disturbing tales of growing up bored, stereotyped, exploited and female. 

It isn't hard to find old videos of original Toronto punks these days on the internet.  Good luck in finding anything by The Curse.  The only known Curse video was shot by then-17-year-old Ed Mowbray, as part of a high school television class.  This is the only time The Curse are officially filmed.   Although they were considered an integral part of the Toronto Punk Rock explosion that summer, they somehow escape ever being filmed as part of any documentary or news program.  Film cameras and tape machines inadvertently got turned off... had mechanical failures...batteries ran out.  Just some of the myriad excuses so apologetically delivered to The Curse.

Meanwhile, the Ed Mowbray film, is reportedly still unlocated.

In 1996/97 OtherPeoplesMusic released a compilation of singles, live cuts, reheasal cuts and demos, that showcase The Curse's politics, irreverence and primitive rock and roll. 

The Curse - Teenage Meat:

The Curse

The Curse

The Curse
Switchblade Love

The Curse
Somethin' Ya Can't Tell Your Mother

The Curse
I Accuse You

The Curse
Eat Me

The Curse
Shoeshine Boy

The Curse
Killer Bees

The Curse
Teenage Meat

The Curse
Oh My God (Demo)

The Curse
Feelin' Dirty (Demo)

The Curse
Somethin' You Can't Tell Your Mother (Demo)

The Curse
I Accuse You (Demo)

The Curse
Switchblade Love (Demo)

The Curse
Eat Me (Demo)

The Curse
Aggravation (Demo)

The Curse
Blunks (Live)

The Curse
No More Ice Cream (Live)

The Curse
He's My Boy (Live)

The Curse
Johnny Feels Good (Live)

The Curse
If It Tastes So Great, Swallow It Yourself (Live)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Government (No...Not THAT One)

I'll take this Government over any particular one we've had in the last few years.
At times funky, sometimes angular, oftentimes art-punky and always quirky, witty, sardonic and above all: clever.  By most accounts ,Toronto's The Government  became legendary among the the city's legendary booze-hops and music galleries: The Beverly Tavern, The Edge, The Crash And Burn, Larry Hideaway, and -- quite naturally, The Music Gallery.

In 1979, they recorded a live soundtrack to a full-length video  production.  They released it as Electric Eye.

Anyway, The Government was led by interdisciplinary artist Andrew J. Paterson.  He was the heart and soul of the group, serving as the band's singer, songwriter, composer and guitarist for most of their work.  

Paterson was joined by bassist Robert Stewart, guitarist Jeremiah Chechik and drummer Ed Boyd -- later to be replaced by Billy Bryans, who played on their last recording before co-founding The Parachute Club.

In 1979, Paterson et al recorded the single "Hemingway Hated Disco"/"I Only Drive My Car At Night".

Later that year, they recorded the 33 1/3 RPM EP.

They followed that one in 1980 with the excellent, Guest List LP.  Consisting of 14 songs, this was their magnum opus.

Guest List gave way to How Many Fingers?.  The Government was finally defeated (well, okay...they disbanded.  I was trying to be clever.) in 1982.

[No Cover...Click The Album Name Below]

The Government - Electric Eye (1979):

1The GovernmentGreetings From The Gutter 3:22

2The GovernmentLetter To Craig/It Must Be God4:45

3The GovernmentDowntown/I Only Drive My Car At Night2:52

4The GovernmentFumigators 4:27

5The GovernmentOn The Prowl4:39

6The GovernmentI Don't Really Care4:04

7The GovernmentFollowing You2:07

8The GovernmentOn The Prowl/I Feel Like A Beer2:36

9The GovernmentI'm Somebody1:36

10The GovernmentGunshot Wound2:56

11The GovernmentFollowing You/It Must Be God2:15

12The GovernmentLoading Of Gun, Shootout, Escape1:22

13The GovernmentParking Ticket 4:31

14The GovernmentGreetings From The Gutter Reprise0:50

The Government - Hemingway Hated Disco Music (1979):

1. Hemingway (Hated Disco)     1:41

2. I Only Drive My Car At Night  3:00

The Government - 331/3 RPM E.P. (1979):

Flat Tire


Get You Sleepin'


Zippers of Fire



The Government - Guest List (1980):


(I’d Rather Be A) Real Computer

Basic Motel


Acute Angle




None Of The Above




Nippon Gaki


Exit Line




I Can't Swim


Fire Escape




The Government - How Many Fingers? (1981):


How Many Fingers?


Plaza del Pimps




Paranoid Downtown Funk Pt. 1

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Waiter, I'll Have My Music...MEDIUM RAW!!!

This is a cassette compilation put out sometime in the early 80s (?), by some mad genius who wanted to catalogue the Victoria, British Columbia punk scene at the time.  With 29 songs, it's a doozy.  Not as comprehensive as the All Your Ears Can Hear compilation 79 (!) songs by Victoria's independent rock scene.  But, get 29 songs, so stop complaining.

Anyway, if anyone else can provide more information, I'd be more than happy to pass the credit along.

(VA) Medium Raw:

1The NeosAlmost Typical Obligitory Anti-Government Song1:19

2The NeosLife Sentence1:00

3The NeosI Dont Wanna Be1:10

4The NeosSexual Revolution1:09

5Automatic ShockMushrooms3:10

6Automatic ShockFuck Off1:56

7Chronic SubmissionSick Of Reality1:40

8Chronic SubmissionNarc2:03

9Chronic Submission(Unknown)1:45

10Jerk WardI Love The Girls1:18

11Jerk WardMajor Threat1:09

12Jerk WardU F O0:41

13Infamous ScientistsNoise N Rhythm3:05

14Infamous ScientistsI Can't Get The Sounds I Want3:23


16SS TopSwamp Stomp2:56

17House Of CommonsWay Down South2:34

18House Of CommonsLow1:54

19House Of Commons19992:19

20House Of CommonsAmerican Patriot2:43

21Da JeepOnly When It Rains1:26

22Da JeepAnti Sex0:47

23Da JeepPurple Jeep3:32

24Red TideMy Son Is A Kuahara1:24

25Red TideFirst Strike2:03

26Dayglo AbortionsBedtime Story2:59

27Dayglo AbortionsProud To Be Canadian1:03

28Dayglo AbortionsArgh Fuck Kill1:29

29Dayglo AbortionsNuclear Supremacy4:36

Saturday, October 3, 2009

John Paul Young Uses His Carboard Brains

Vocals:  John Paul Young
Bass:   Patrick Gregory; John Thomas (Replaced Gregory, 1979)
Guitar:  Vincent Carlucci
Drums:  Mickel Keena; Dave Richardson (Replaced Keena, 1979)

Toronto's Cardboard Brains formed in September of 1976.  They played the same Queen Street clubs -- The Edge, The Horseshoe Tavern, etc. -- as the Viletones, Teenage Head, The Ugly and others, defining the strip as the epicenter of a New Music movement.  But unlike the aforementioned groups, Cardboard Brains' musical output was brainier, with a "unique, King Crimson-inspired art-punk" sound: intelligent lyrics, and decidedly Post-Punk before the term even came into being.    Throughout a series of lineup changes, the one constant has been singer and group leader, John Paul Young (and possibly Vince Carlucci). 

In 1977, the band released a four-song EP called simply, 'The White EP'. 

Naturally, when they followed it up in 1979 with another four-song EP of original songs, they called it, 'The Black EP'.    The group was also immortalized in the film and record, “The Last Pogo”, that year. 

However, John Paul Young  (not to be confused with the Scottish “Love Is In The Air” JPY) seemingly wasn't satisfied.  With the official death of Toronto punk, he decided to go solo so he could produce "a more stable and reliable format" for his musical yearnings.  In 1980 he released a new set of semi-autobiographical recordings, which he called “The Life of Ermie Scub”, on which he played all the instruments.  These are the dark tales of a presumably lonely boy, an errant genius who was clearly ahead of his time and lost in his own fantasies. 

The Cardboard Brains reunited on April 26, 1981 for The Edge's brief resurrection and anniversary celebration.  Recordings from this show were released as a live album before the band split up for good. 

Patrick Gregory went on to form Woods Are Full Of Cuckoos as well as The Lawn.  Vincent Carlucci would perform in Station Twang and John Paul Young worked as an actor and has contributed to movie soundtracks.  He has since resurrected the band to coincide with the release of a “Best of” compilation, which is no longer available.  

I once had the pleasure of meeting John Paul Young, in 1998.  I was working towards a documentary on the Canadian Punk Rock scene of 1976-1979 and was doing some research when I found out he was releasing the John Paul Young And Cardboard Brains compilation, which he dedicated to his brother.  I bought it off him for $20.  (In the interests of full disclosure, I've divided up the songs into the original releases, for archival and educational/informational purposes.)

      Interesting sidenote: John Paul Young is a decendant of Brigham Young as well as Dr. Robert Goddard, the father of American rocketry.  

Cardboard Brains - The White EP (1977):

 1. I Want To Be A Yank
2. Can Stress Kill
3. Stepping Stone
4. Living Inside My Head

Cardboard Brains - The Last Pogo (1979):

1. Babies Run My World
2. Jungles

Cardboard Brains - The Black EP (1979): 

1. Caesar Drives A Fast Car
2. Out, Out, Out
3. And So I Hide
4. The Rescue Crew


John Paul Young - The Life Of Ermie Scub (1980):

1. Ermie Has Feelers
2. All The Sad Goodbyes
3. Have You Seen The Boy In The Gutter With The Broken Mind?
4. Our Time Escapes
5. Summertime!
6. Is That Why?
7. The Monster In Ed
8. The Girl Spells Grief
9. Angels With Dirty Faces
10. Boulevards Of Hope
11. Surrender To The Void

(No Cover Available -- Click On The Link Below)

Cardboard Brains - Live At The Edge (1982):

1. Ermie Has Feelers
2. Have You Seen The Boy In The Gutter With The Broken Mind

John Paul Young and Cardboard Brains (1998):

1. World Within A Dream