Jeffrey Miller

A Writer's Life

Tag: David and the Happenings

“Style before Gel” — Damaged Goods

The back story for “Style before Gel” dates back to 1980 when I saw David and the Happenings for the first time at SIU (Southern Illinois University) and three times in Chicago, including one slam-dancing punk rock night at the Space Place, which was the inspiration for this story.

David and the Happenings was a popular band from Carbondale, whose lead singer was the brother of James Chance.

I got to know many of the band members quite well over the years including Scott Morrow, who passed away a few years ago.

I dedicated this story to Scott.

Damaged Goods is now available through Lulu and Amazon.

Jazz? You like Jazz?

Well, not exactly unless it is good jazz and it also helps that I know someone in the band.

In this case, it is Frank Trompeter who used to blow sax for David and the Happenings (who just so incidentally are getting together this weekend at the Smart Bar in Chicago for their first concert since the 80s).

Check out Frank’s Website.

New Wave Class of 1979: “One Step Beyond” — Madness

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eir3-omjMVQ]

I was jamming to some tunes on my iPod today when “One Step Beyond” by Madness comes on, and I think, if someone asked me what songs best characterized the new wave sound, this one would be one of them.

Although some music purists and musicologists might beg to differ with my simplified assessment—after all, the song is really “ska” and not new wave, but what’s in a name, right?

The song was originally written by Jamaican ska singer Prince Buster, but was made famous by the band Madness on their 1979 debut album of the same name. Although the song was mostly an instrumental arrangement with the title shouted a few times, when Madness recorded their version of the song, there was a spoken intro.

I really dig the sax in this song and the resounding bass—which in themselves lend much to the new wave sound as does the obvious ska influenced up-beat strumming on the guitar.

As for that cool sax sound, bands like Martha and the Muffins would also use a sax in their hit “Echo Beach,” and Midwest/Chicago-based bands like David and the Happenings, Bohemia, and Phil n’ the Blanks would also feature some snappy saxophone stylings in their new wave repertoire.

If it’s been awhile since you’ve last listened to this gem and you’re beginning to feel the heat, well listen buster, you better start to move your feet; to the rockinest, rock steady beat of Madness.

Carbondale Alumni Reunion in Chicago at the Smart Bar

It was a little over a year ago when I first wrote an essay about an email I had gotten from David Siegfried, the former lead singer of David and the Happenings, a band that I seen a couple of times in Carbondale, Illinois as well as Chicago.

I thought it was cool that David had stumbled across my blog one day and had read the first essay I had written about his former band and then sent me an email. Other than my very good friend Paul Collin who I met the first year I attended SIU (Southern Illinois University) David was the only other person I corresponded with from SIU.

After I wrote that blog some other Carbondale alums that knew David stumbled across my blog and soon people who had not seen each other in years were re-connecting. That essay was bringing a lot of people together and the chance to share memories and to catch up.

Now there’s going to be a Carbondale Reunion of sorts at the Smart Bar in Chicago on March 6 for many of these same people who re-connected courtesy of my blog.

That’s awesome.

Guess who’s been stopping by?

That’s what I am always curious to know when I see the number of hits some of my posts get, like the ones about-Buckacre, Howard Air Force Base, David and the Happenings, Family Classics with Frazier Thomas, and Panmunjom to name but a few.

And I am quite delighted when someone leaves comments, like some recent ones on the post about Howard Air Force Base. One person’s comments in particular helped me to remember the name of a department store-the Gran Morrison across the street from the Ancon Inn that I used to go as well as the name of the Napoli Italian Restaurant.

Along the way I have been able to reconnect with some people and others have written to me directly hoping that they can locate someone they haven’t seen in some time or in the case of one family member of a soldier killed in the Korean War, ask me how they can get in touch with other veterans who might have known their family member.

I am just pleased that what I write about and the people who do come here enjoy what they read and maybe find what or who they are looking for when they visit. Of course, not everyone finds what he or she is looking for and I am sorry if I can’t always offer the specific information one is looking for when they visit this blog.

It’s just too darn bad that I am not making any money off this blog. Donations, anyone? Just kidding.

I am just happy that this blog is serving a good purpose for some people.

The Soundtrack of my Life — Tracks 1-5

One song that is in heavy rotation on my iPod Nano these days is “Echo Beach” by Martha and the Muffins. Every time I hear this song-a classic from 1980-I am reminded of the time that I almost saw them. They were playing at Tuts in Chicago just right after New Year’s Day in 1981.

I had gone to Chicago with my best friend Chris Vasquez and two other friends Colleen and Dawn to see them. Colleen, a mutual friend of ours said that she could get us in free. Sadly, we spent too much time at another friend’s apartment before the concert-by the time we got to Tuts, we couldn’t get in. Colleen pleaded with the bouncer (whom she knew), but to no avail.

To this day, I swear that when we were standing out there on the sidewalk I could hear Martha and the Muffins playing inside. There was another band playing later-David and the Happenings, a band from SIU-so we decided to wait in this small blues bar just down the street until they came on.

Now, whenever I hear “Echo Beach” I think about the time that I was so close to seeing the band at Tuts that cold, January night.

And this got me thinking about a lot of the music I have grown fond of over the years. What is the story behind some of my favorite music? What was going on in my life when I first heard or listened to a particular song over and over? We all have our favorite songs that remind us of something in our lives, whether it was someone we once dated, hanging out with friends, or some other significant event.

I like making lists, especially ones about music and how it has impacted me most over the years. It’s kind of what like the character played by John Cusack did in one of my favorite movies High Fidelity. More than just a “top 10” list, this list is my own personal soundtrack for my life.

There is no particular order for these songs. This is just a list of some of my favorite music and the memories associated with them.
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – Devo

If I had to come up with just one Devo song that had some connection to my life I might be hard pressed because there have been so many of their songs which have a lot of memories attached.

Devo was the kind of band that you either really liked or really hated. I have been a big fan of theirs ever since I first heard about them in October 1978 when I was stationed at George Air Force Base in the High Desert outside of Victorville, California. When I saw them performing their song “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” on Saturday Night Live and wearing those yellow radioactive suits, this was one band that I was definitely going to listen to more.

The following weekend, I was at a Tower Records’ store in West Covina picking up a copy of Devo’s first album Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo. Once I slapped it on my turntable, I couldn’t get enough of it. This was some zany, cool stuff. It was like nothing else I was listening to at the time. Little did I know at the time but my musi-cal tastes were beginning to change. I was really into music at the time listening to practically everything and in many ways, that album was the beginning of a musical transformation of sorts in terms of what I would be listening to for the next couple of years.

I Wanna Be Sedated – The Ramones

One memorable weekend in October 1980 I was home from Southern Illinois Univer-sity (SIU) when I saw The Jerks at Fridays for the first time and also ran into Chris who I hadn’t seen in over four years.

That same weekend I bought The Ramones’ Road to Ruin and Split Enz’s True Colors. Now, whenever I hear this song (or any song from the album) I think about that weekend and how my life would change when I got back to SIU.

You know what it’s like when you slap a new record on a turntable and as soon as you hear that first song you want to run out and tell all your friends about it? That’s kind of how I felt when I heard “I Wanna Be Sedated.” This was just a rocking song. And I am thinking, “damn, why haven’t I been listening to the Ramones already?”

I suppose that a lot of the songs that I heard that weekend would be worth noting, but it’s this song by The Ramones that has really stayed with me the most.

Vienna – Ultravox

If I were to come up with my Top Ten list of my all-time favorite New Wave songs not to mention one of my favorite all-time videos, one of them would be Ultravox’s Vienna.

It was October 31, 1980-Halloween in Carbondale-and I was sitting in the balcony of Shyrock Auditorium on the SIU campus waiting for Ultravox to take the stage. John Candy was in town, the host of a short-lived NBC show about college life and was sort of the emcee for the concert, keeping the audience entertained while every-one waited to find out if the opening act Steel Pulse would make it to the concert (they never did).

I had only heard about Ultravox just a few weeks before and had not bought my ticket until a few days before the concert. It has remained one of the best concerts I have ever been to-right up there with Devo in 1982, Ultravox again in 1983, and The Stray Cats in 1981.

In that last week of the month before that night, I had gone back home and seen The Jerks, ran into my old friend Chris, cut off my hair, got an earring, and seen Kansas in concert.

Whenever I hear Vienna now I always think back to when I was going to SIU and how music was redefining and shaping my life.

At the same time, the song also reminds me of cold, autumn or winter days-

“We walked in the cold air
Freezing breath on a windowpane lying and waiting
The warmth of your hand and a cold gray sky
It fades to the distance.”

The Wait – Pretenders

It’s the spring of 1980 and I am stationed at George Air Force Base just outside of Victorville, California in the Mojave Desert. For the past couple of months I had been getting into all kinds of new music-Tom Petty, Madness, The B-52’s, Talking Heads, Pat Benatar, and Gary Numan. One day I’ve got the radio tuned into some FM station out of LA and I hear the Pretenders for the first time. As soon as I hear their song “The Wait” I go out and buy their debut album the first chance I get.

Five months later, on September 10 I am sitting in Shyrock Auditorium at SIU wait-ing for the Pretenders to take the stage.

Whenever I hear the song I think about that spring of 1980 when I was preparing to get out of the Air Force and how my life would change forever a few months later when I started going to school at SIU. The die had been cast, a defining moment of my life was underway.

Their debut album still rocks. It’s raw, visceral, and powerful.

Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding – Elton John

When I was a high school student in the mid seventies, you couldn’t listen to the ra-dio without hearing at least one or two Elton John songs like “Bennie and the Jets” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” or his version of the Who classic “Pinball Wizard” being played heavy in rotation.

In a decade that started with Kent State and ended with the hostage crisis in Iran, the music of the decade might have lacked some of the cultural relish that the music of the 60s gave us, but it did offer a medley of styles and expressions which saw the birth of arena rock, disco and punk rock. It was also the beginning and the ending: The Beatles and The Doors were no more while the Rolling Stones, The Who, and Led Zeppelin would keep on rocking through the decade and turning out some of the best stuff. For other bands it was the beginning like The Eagles with their own distinct sound were ready to dominate the airwaves, while Queen, Aerosmith, Deep Purple, and Pink Floyd continued to redefine rock and push the music envelop.

In New York, the Ramones would strip down rock to its raw basics and energize crowds at a venue called CBGB’s. By the end of the decade, music would undergo a major reawakening thanks to those four lads from the UK who went by the name of the Sex Pistols and shook things up a bit.

It was a strange decade for music that gave us hits like C. W. McCall’s “Convoy” and Rick Dees’ “Disco Duck” along with soon to be classics like “Bohemian Rhapsody” “Hotel California” and “Born to Run.”

The decade also saw the rise of rock superstars and business-type rock and rollers playing enormous venues. It was also a time for Pop and Rock icons like Elton John.

I first started listening to Elton John in the summer of 1975 when it seemed that every time you turned on the radio another one of his songs was playing. He had al-ready scored big on AM with “Bennie and the Jets” and in the summer of 1975 he was shooting up the charts with his version of “Pinball Wizard” for the upcoming the-atrical release of Tommy as well as “Philadelphia Freedom” and “Someone Saved My Life Tonight.” I liked Bennie and the Jets a lot it was featured in a little known movie from that summer Aloha Bobby and Rose (starring Paul LeMat from American Graffiti fame). I had just a couple 45’s and as well as his first Greatest Hits collection. I didn’t listen to Elton John too much after that summer. I preferred more of his earlier stuff like “Your Song” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and “Rocket Man” than the stuff he came out with toward the end of the decade.

A year later I had raised the bar for the music that rocked my world and I pretty much stopped listening to Elton John until 1980.

When I started attending SIU in the summer of 1980 I started getting into all kinds of music and catching up on a lot of the music I might have missed which meant adding a lot of albums to my collection including Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

There was at least one or two concerts every month on campus and a lot of up and coming bands were playing some of the local bars and clubs.

Elton John was one of the performers/bands who had a concert on campus that se-mester. As soon as it was announced that he was coming to SIU, my roommate and I decided to go. Elton John had recently reformed his old band and returned to per-forming the way he had when he first started. It was definitely going to be classic Elton John in concert.

My roommate asked his girlfriend to get us tickets and she got us some pretty good seats. Actually, she bought six tickets: one for herself, my roommate and myself and three for her friends. Somehow when she gave my roommate and me our tickets she got them mixed up with the other tickets. My roommate and I ended up with seats in the fifth row while his girlfriend and her friends ended up with seats in the twentieth row. Then, to complicate matters even more, my roommate had just broken up with his girlfriend. We had already given her the money for the tickets (she and I got along okay, too) so she had to give us our tickets. She just gave us the wrong ones though.

Elton John started off that concert with “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding.” The lights had gone down and you heard the song’s opening notes on a keyboard that sounded eerily like some funeral dirge. Then white lights bathed the stage with thick fog rolling across it; and it was then that you saw this small baby white grand piano on the left side of the stage illuminated by a few more white lights. When some of the fog cleared, you could see (and from where my roommate and I were sitting see very well) members of his band already on stage and then Elton walked out on the stage and took a seat at that baby grand. As that funeral dirge-like procession reached a climax Elton and his band launched into the song and literally brought the house down.

It was a memorable beginning to one of the better concerts I have been to and that song will forever remind me of when I was a student at SIU. I was just listening to it on my iPod today and you better believe I was transported back in time to that cool October night in 1980.

That’s one of the things that music is supposed to do. Take you back in time.

Gee, I wish I had that song on a CD or an audio file

Today one of my blog readers left some real cool comments on my From Carbondale to Daejeon posting which got me thinking about SIU and the early 80s again as well as music—more specifically, some bands that I liked back then, but whose songs I do not have on any CD or any audio files.

And then, this got me thinking about either those songs in my head (at least the ones that I remember well) of some of the bands I liked back then and the memories that have remained over the years or the songs that I don’t remember but still remember the band. 

Scott Wilk and the Walls – “Radioactive” 

I saw Scott Wilk and his band in concert at the SIU Student Center not long after I had started getting into New Wave music (it might have been in October or November of 1980). Scott Wilk came off sounding like an Elvis Costello wannabe (maybe the record company was trying to cash in on Elvis’ success) and even sort of looked like Elvis (or a little like Warren Zevon). In 1980 he was on tour promoting his album with the hit single “Radioactive.” Hey, this was the eighties and nuclear Armageddon was still real. I still remember the opening lines to the catchy song: “I feel radioactive; think I’m gonna meltdown tonight.”  

Well, that’s about all I remember, but it was a cool song and I did buy the album. I have been trying to find that song for the longest time, hoping that the album will eventually be released on CD or even as some audio file.  

Of course what the song reminds me most of is going to SIU and pretty much having the time of my life when I should have been hitting the books.

Bohemia – “Automatic Man”/“American Life” 

I had the chance to see Chicago-based band Bohemia on two occasions—once at the Hangar 9 in Carbondale and at ChicagoFest in August 1981 when they opened for The Ventures. 

I saw them at the Hangar 9 in January of 1981. I was hanging out with Dean and Becky at the time and one of their friends who knew the lead singer of Bohemia (I think they might have even been friends.)  

They came out with this hip 3-song EP in 1980 that I bought at this record shop in DeKalb. I am not too sure about the songs that were on this EP (anyone out there who knows the correct titles, please let me know). The band reminded me a little of Martha and the Muffins, but grittier and more rocking.  

It was cool seeing them again opening up for The Ventures later that summer. At the concert Chris and I ran into Scott Morrow who was in David and the Happenings. Turns out Scott was a huge Venture’s fan. I just learned from David the other day that Scott passed away two years ago. Rest in Peace Scott. 

During their concert (on a barge at Navy Pier) a live recording was made of their song “312” that was about Chicago. (Sorry, I can’t give you any more information about it, but again if there’s anyone out there who knows about this song…please let me know.) 

Bohemia came out with an album in 1981 that I bought but at some point over the years it either got misplaced, lent out to someone and never returned, or I might have even traded it. I think the EP was among the records that were lost when LJ’s (Louis Kirsteatter) grandmother’s house caught on fire. LJ had been holding onto a lot of my records for me while I was overseas.

I did record some cassettes with two of the songs from that EP and currently they are with all my belongings in a self-storage unit in Peru, Illinois. I will just have to transfer them to a digital audio file one day.

Rock & Roll Brothers

James Chance and David Zigfried 1981

David sent along some cool pics of his brother James Chance and himself as well as some of his band David and the Happenings. 

This first pic with his brother James Chance on the left was taken in 1981.

David and James in concert 2004

The second pic, with David on the left was taken at a concert in Chicago in 2004.

From Carbondale to Daejeon

You just never know who is going to stumble across your blog on the Internet and then either write to you or leave comments on one of your postings.

Sometimes it’s not unusual like when an old friend who you thought you might have lost touch with writes you or leaves a comment; other times it’s someone looking for information about how to contact Jimmy Wong or information about teaching English in Korea.

Then there are those times when someone comes across your blog and sends you an email that really catches you off guard and surprises you.

Like the email I received a few months ago from David from the band David and the Happenings.

Talk about a trip down memory lane. The last time I saw David and his band was a party in Carbondale back in March 1981. I had gone to Carbondale with Chris Vasquez and Dave Scholle to pick up my stuff from my dorm room at Freeman Hall (I had “dropped out” of SIU a few weeks before) and ended up staying in Carbondale for a few days. While we were there, we caught The Romantics and The Rockats at Shryock Auditorium (The Rockats blew away The Romantics) and ended up going to a few parties were David and other people I knew from SIU were at.

I never really knew David (who was the brother of James Chance of James Chance and the Contortions fame) that well, but I had seen his band a number of times when I was attending SIU from the summer of 1980 to the spring of 1981. The first time I saw his band was at an outdoor concert at the beginning of the semester; then again later in the Student Center right before Thanksgiving. They were a pretty outrageous and tight-knit band known for David’s vocal stylings and stage presence, which might have reminded one of Iggy Pop. If you were into the New Wave or Alternative Rock Scene at SIU then you probably caught them playing one of their gigs around town.

When I had gone home for Thanksgiving in 1980 I hung out with Chris and one of his friends Colleen who was going to SIU at the same time I was and who also knew David and the band. Then, when I came home for the holidays again at Christmas, Chris, Colleen, Dawn (a friend of Colleen) and I went to Chicago to see David and the Happenings play at this punk rock club called The Space Place and another time at Tuts.

That Tuts gig was a bit of a downer because David’s band came on after Martha and the Muffins, a band that Chris and I really wanted to see. We pretty much screwed ourselves on missing the band by partying with Colleen and some of her friends too long before the concert (“Don’t worry, I know the bouncer there and I will be able to get you guys in,” Colleen said).Well, she knew the bouncer all right, but what she didn’t count on was the club following the fire code to a T. By the time we got there, the place was packed and they weren’t letting anyone else in (after Colleen had managed to talk her way inside). So, Chris, two other girls and myself ended up hanging out at this small blues bar until Martha and her muffins finished and we could finally enter Tuts.

The Space Place, on the other hand, was an interesting club and we had no problem getting in and seeing the band. The club itself, located somewhere on the North side of Chicago (if I am not mistaken) had been converted from an old warehouse. It was big and roomy and on the night we saw David and the Happenings and some other bands, it was packed.What I remember most about that night was the bouncers who looked liked professional wrestlers wearing white tee shirts with “security” scrawled on the front (which looked as though it had been hastily written with a black marker earlier in the evening).

A couple of skinheads showed up to cause trouble and these bouncers—standing around the stage—pounced on them and started beating the shit of them right in the middle of the dance floor as one of the bands played.Later that night, Chris and I went to a party where the band was and we stayed up all night. The next day, a Sunday, we went to Wax Trax Records on North Lincoln Avenue, the coolest and hippest record store in Chicago.

I think seeing David and the Happenings—then and when we saw them in Carbondale afew months later—really had an influence on Chris when he finally got around to putting his band together The Libido Boys in the summer of 1981. David and the Happenings was the kind of band that Chris wanted to have or be in; he wanted to have a really strong stage presence with a band that could back him up musically and who were not afraid to take chances. What Chris really needed to do was put a band together and get out of the Illinois Valley.

I would see David and the Happenings one more time, a month later in Chicago. Chris and I were trying to put something together to have the band play at Friday’s Saloon in Peru and were in contact with Pete Katsis, the manager of the band at the time. However, the owner of Friday’s wasn’t too keen on bringing a band in that he didn’t know too much about and never got around to returning phone calls. We had even made these posters of the band and put them all around town (We could have even made a little money off the gig being promoters and all—who knows where that could have led us?) to generate interest, but the owner backed down at the last minute.And that was the last time I had thought about the band until now when out of the blue I get this email from David.

Pretty cool how a one sentence blurb about his band on my blog could bring me back in time to Carbondale in 1980 when life was wild and interesting.

(Thanks for the pics David!)

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