Right after, just a few years after, no more than 5 years after Julius Caesar conquered the Gauls, seeing is that he had an affinity for splitting things up, he set his military might upon the Western Reserve...
There, he defeated the armies of Moses Cleaveland (thankfully, he had left the Ten Commandments tablets in the hands of Charlton Heston), and divided the city into two: the east side and the west side.
No one to this day knows why the west side was even settled. It was and still is a place of wild, disparate, and isolated clans and tribes. People were so pissed at its founding that Brutus took a knife to Julius so that the mistake would never again be repeated, although, from time to time, throughout America, people honor Julius by downing a flaggard of orange-ish slush in food courts that dot the land.
So, sometime around 1972 or 1973, no one is quite sure when, John Morton, a tall lad with a shock of blonde hair and a guitar, decided he had nothing better to do so he invented the electric eels. Whatever day it was, it also marks the invention of punk rock. Now, you may fret and disagree, it was The Ramones or Television or Talking Heads. Yeah, blah blah blah. You know how easy it was to be a weirdo in New York City in the early to mid 1970s? Real easy. The place was full of them. It was hard to be normal there, not weird. Anyone and everyone was weird in New York. Big deal.
You try pulling that shit in the Midwest in 1973. Dead meat is what you’ll be, dead fucking bunny meat. Then add to that 3 other musicians: Dave E on vocals, Brian McMahon also with a guitar, and Nick Knox on drums, and you have a locker full of dead meat. Dead fucking meat.
How they even survived to play 5 or 6 gigs is unknown. The Guinness Book of World Records doesn’t have a category for “ the first time 4 people trying to impersonate a band in 1973 playing aggressive free jazz influenced punk rock tried to get a gig at a Top 40 bar in Cleveland.” If they did, it would read: electric eels. You ever walk into one of those places on the west side? Yeah, bullshit, they’d slice and dice your ass for even walking through the door. For a second, I just thought maybe David Byrne was singing about Cleveland: “this ain’t no CBGB’s”. The fuck it wasn’t.
In any event, that is what we have: 5 or 6 gigs, and rehearsal recordings made in near-complete isolation from any other scene. Listen to Agitated or Jaguar Ride and then go to your local butcher and listen to them make ground meat. It is the same fucking sound. No one in New York was attempting that in 197-the fuck-whatever. All they did was sing about girls on the beach and sniffing glue, or god forbid, Television sang about their feelings, and applied a couple power chords.
This is Cleveland, people. Cleveland in all its sarcastic fuck you revelry. This is the electric eels.
The eels’ gigs were always some sort of disastoplex (to use Johnny Dromette’s (John Thompson)) self explanatory term for such things. The very first electric eels gig August 1974 in Columbus, Ohio being a sterling example. Dave E.’s stage clothes were finished off with white Painter Pants in front of his jeans attached by looping his belt through the loops and he had attached several rat traps using the pressure power of the springs. John D Morton was wearing a totally ripped jean jacket that he had “fixed” by using several packs of assorted safety pins.
After the plug was pulled about 20 minutes into the set by the club owner, (an oft repeated occurrence) Dave and John decided to finish out the evening by drinking as much as possible, declining the offer of a ride from band mate, Paul Marotta mostly because they didn’t want to be seen in a Volkswagen Mini Bus.
When they left the Moonshine Co-op at the 2 am closing, John tried to hail a cab on High Street. What pulled up was a white Police Van.
"You’re drunk!" said cop #1. to John. "No, I am not!" He had John walk the white line which John did rather perfectly. Then cop #1 said, "It doesn’t matter, you’re still drunk!" He handcuffed Morton and tossed him into the van where he hit his head on the door. Being the good Catholic that he was, Dave went into the van willingly.
They arrived at 3 a.m. at a dark "cop" parking lot behind the jail where they had to wait for an elevator to take them to the cells some floors above. Two other officers joined the crowd. “What do we have here? Inquired one of the new arrivals.
"We got ourselves Ratman (alluding to the traps) and Bobbin . . ." (alluding to the safety pins). 3 a.m. in a dark hidden cop parking lot with nothing but 4 mean of Columbus Ohio’s finest John made the perhaps regrettable decision to take a stand and knee-ed the cop that tossed him in the van headfirst in the testicles. We should remember that John was handcuffed. John wound up facedown on the tarmac being beaten by the quartet of blue with billy clubs till they broke a finger on his left hand.
Two weeks later and on the second only eel’s gig, John played with a slide taped to his hand, earning his well fought sobriquet, "Broken Hand." By the time this went before a Judge the charges of "Drunk and Disorderly" and "Resisting Arrest" were dropped as the Court Appointed Attorney pointed out that Mr. Morton had suffered enough by brandishing the x-rays of the broken finger. Luckily for John, the judge agreed and John was released only loosing his initial $150 bail money that had been graciously supplied by Jamie Lyons (You know, that guy from "The Music Explosion" that sang "Little Bit O' Soul" The eels had opened for Jamie’s band "Hard Sauce").
Dave E. and I were driving around one day. You know . . . just to drive around . . . like a joy ride like. Out of utter boredom, we picked up a young couple hitchhiking and Dave insisted that they tell a joke. The guy told a horrible jape about rubbing your dick with lard to make it bigger, the punch line of which was "I said lard . . .not shortening!" Dave grimaced, paused, then asked, with a great straight delivery while I am driving in my hulky scariness, "Did you hear the one about the two hitch hikers that were found murdered?" He scared the piss out of them.
In the aforementioned (or perhaps aftmentioned, I am not posting this story) emerald doored eels enclave, there was always a red plastic dishpan full of soapy water in the kitchen sink on the theory that when a various eel would use a plate to eat (and yes we used plates to eat, sometimes) said eel could then dip it into the soapy water, rinse and voila! A clean dish! Fait a-fucking-ccompli!
The de facto was, the dishpan was always full of soapy water and dirty dishes. (I always thought Dave E. would get to them seeing as he was a professional).
One very very very fine proto-day, Brian had cause to usurp the sink (I think he dyed his hair) so he took the dishpan (full of course) and placed it on the back porch. When he terminated his task, he dutifully went to retrieve the dishpan and was met with three thirsty neighborhood dogs, hideously grinning at him from over the dishpan. Very scientifically, he evinced the curs were rabid, as foam was issuing from their mouths I later found him cowering in the kitchen where he related me the tale.
And oddly enough this incident is not where he got his nickname..
Master, Master, this was recorded through a fly's ear . . .
When in Columbus, the entrance to the Eels enclave . . .( wait . . . I'll make it better ) . . . When in Columbus, one evinced that egress into the erstwhile eel's enclave, was through an elegant and evocative emerald-coloured door, fenestrated its full length with plate glass in the manner of doors to the "olde shoppes" and "conveyance stores" that one would find along the breadth of quaint North High Street.
One particularly mournful spring morning, Dave E. decided he needed a break from the monotony of drinking infinite long neck Rolling Rocks and watching monster movies on Paul's black and white Zenith with the rest of the eelings. So he ventured out on to the boulevard for a constitutional.
Unbeknownst to us, that very afternoon the totally poncified "Ohio State Fuckeyes" were to engage in a competition with another school (If I had known, I would have proudly held aloft my thyrsus). The game was deemed of such import that the Goodyear Corporation had sent aloft their aerial ambassador, the USS Shenendoah, in order to commemorate the event.
I had just expressed my desire (for the fifth time) to have sex with both Emi and Yumi Ito, the diminutive chanteuses of the cine we were watching, when, after a deafeningly loud crash, Dave E. appeared in front of us covered in blood. thrashing his arms about yelling, "The Blimp! The Blimp! . . . It's the Blimp!" ( it should be noted that there was only one zealous zeppelin in the entire world in 1973 )
In the extreme urgency of his mission to appraise us of the flying behemoth (not to be confused with Crocus Behemoth), Dave had neglected to open the door. And being the stalwart soldier he was, he would not allow us to minister his wounds till we went out and saw the semi-rigid airship for ourselves.