No city's formative punk years were complete without its own zine. In the truly underground happenings of the mid to late 70s, a local scene needed the kid who was into it enough to take and gather some photos, write some reviews, interview some bands, throw in some humor, and just as importantly have the strength to persevere and see it through to completion. Some rose to legendary status. Sniffin' Glue, Punk, Flipside, Slash - they all come to mind. Here in Cleveland it was CLE magazine......
At the prodding of David (Crocus Behemoth) Thomas one day while the two were working at Johnny Dromette's Hideo Discodrome, Jim Ellis undertook the critical mission. By the end of that 1977 summer, Jim had published the premier issue. But first, let's look at how he got there.
Jim was into music early. He entered the world October '58 and was raised in Euclid. By 1968, not quite ten, he was reading Rolling Stone and Hullaballoo , seeing bands like Cream and The Who and grabbing the first Steppenwolf LP (still a favorite he says). As an 8th grader in 1971, he put out his first zine - Zatoons!, where he reviewed albums like Alice Cooper's Killer and The Doors' L.A. Woman. He began playing bass in a band at Saturday night dances in the projects off Babbitt Road. He fondly recalls the great days of the early to mid 70s in Cleveland when he was able to see the likes of Pink Floyd at Blossom and bands like The Stooges, The Dolls, David Bowie and others at the Allen, all at the onset of his teenage years.
While record shopping in '75 he found the Pere Ubu Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo seven inch and grabbed one. He had heard the Rocket From The Tombs broadcasts on WMMS and was seeing the names Peter Laughner and Crocus Behemoth on bylines in rock magazines he was reading. Fate would have Hideos Discodrome catch his eye one snowy night in Cleveland Heights as he passed by. Quickly stopping, he ventured in curious to see what kind of records they had for sale. What he found blew his mind, an amazing selection and also that Laughner and Crocus both worked there. Returning often, he struck up a friendship with the pair, and soon found himself employed right there along with them.
Returning to the story of the first issue, Jim tells it as "David looked at me and said your're not doing anything, you should do a zine. We had a recent photo of the Dead Boys playing at Chippewa Lake. I remember them getting booed there. Anyhow, we had this photo of them laying on the counter. David stuck it on a piece of paper and then we wrote the article in a few minutes. It's in his handwriting. We had our first page."
Jim continued, "I think the run was 500 copies for 100 bucks, something like that. I just put in whatever we were doing at the time. I had a friendship with The Residents because of Gary Mollica, so they went in. They were interested in what was going on here and we would trade Cleveland for San Francisco stuff. That's how it all got intertwined back then , trading with other bands in other cities. Of course, there was Peter's funeral page. DEVO was featured in the issue. Charlotte Pressler wrote that one. At Swingo's, I knocked out an interview with Willy DeVille, after he had performed at the Agora. Michigan Mom had introduced us to Destroy All Monsters and they were coming to Cleveland a lot. I didn't have a plan. Just did it."
He figured that was it, one and done, until Jane Scott ran a feature on issue 1 in the Plain Dealer. After that, people were sending him money for copies. Inspired, he published number 2 in summer of 1978. Michael Weldon's Psychotronic was born in that issue. 3, 3A and 3B followed over the next couple of years. 3B featured a flexi-disc compilation which includes that amazing track from Dave E & The Cool Marriage Counselors. Jim had been in The Jazz Detroyers with Dave E. "Such an amazing talent he was. But he had had enough. He was miserable by this point."
Going on, Jim explains, " I was still making trips to New York. I used to love going there, it had always been so much fun. But now it was the no wave. Everyone had become nihilistic as if it were a fashion. And it seemed to me that it wasn't just Dave E, but that everyone was miserable. This was not at all what had brought me here in the first place. I had been drawn in by the art and the musical frontiers that were being crossed. I realized the time for me to move on had arrived."
So that was it until 1995 when Jim got the itch again and released 3X, followed by 4 in 1996. Both included CDs and both issues were snapped up with much enthusiam. But in '97, unbeknownst to him at the time, he published the final CLE. The issue was numbered 5. Jim focused on what was happening at that moment in Cleveland and thought he had put together a great issue and soundtrack.
"It was met with total apathy. All anybody wanted from CLE was the old stuff. Once again, I was done."
Jim Ellis' CLE magazine had spread the word of the scene in Cleveland around the nation and around the world, all in the beautiful fashion of how things spread in the late 70s. As a kid growing up just 30 miles east of Cleveland, in a town called Painesville, my first exposure to this scene was CLE magazine and a Pagans 45. I was immediately taken in by both and began venturing downtown to see this hidden world for myself. I wasn't alone. A slowly growing handful of kids from both sides of town were coming as well, to also see the things they saw in CLE. And it made us want to do this stuff as well. And so we did.