In '81(?)Starvation Army formed as "Burning Theater" or "Chosen Few" In Elyria, OH (Fraser Sims, Doug Gillard, Sean Saley)....Starvation Army's original guitar player was Doug Gillard in '82. There was no bass player at that time. I (J. Phlegm) replaced Doug for a short period during '82. Alex Struhall (sp? later of a skate punk band-can't remember- Civilian Terrorists?) followed me in '82 (still no bass player). The "classic" S A line up (Krane, Kelly, Sims, Saley) formed in '83- later that year they added a guitar player from Connecticut on lead guitar (name unknown). They straggled on until Fraser joined the "real" Army sometime in '84. Kelly and Krane formed Jippo, then Squelch. Saley left to join D.C.'s Government Issue. Tim Kelly, Fraser Sims, myself and Numbskull drummer John Scully reformed the band in spring '86, and recorded two E.P.s-"New Way to Burn" and "In the Red". I quit after a brawl with Tim Kelly at the Euclid Tavern in January '87. I was replaced by Tony Urso- the band recorded the cassette "Ticket to Oblivion". I rejoined in August '87, played 5 or 6 gigs(along with Urso) and quit again in September. I was replaced by Tom Miller (Offbeats) Drummer John Scully quit and was replaced by Sean Watkins. The band recorded an album ("Execution Style"?) with this line up (Miller, Urso, Kelly, Sims, Watkins). Sims left (quit or was fired) in late '88 or early '89, and Sean Watkins replaced Sims on lead vocals.(No original band members were left at this point. ) Danny Phillips joined on drums and the band recorded one more album (I believe it was "Mercenary Position", but I may have the order of the albums reversed). Starvation Army disintegrated in '90 or '91.
Dayton, OH - Sometime in the late eighties. SA is playing in a club to about 10 people. In the middle of the show the entire audience leaves the room. We stopped playing to see what the hell was going on. We walked outside to the front of the club and watched with the whole audience as the bouncer/doorman was getting the shit kicked out of him by some necks from across the street. For me, that was symbolic of what it was like to be a member of SA. Fraser is the best lead singer in the City of Cleveland. That was my primary reason for joining the band.
I met SA in 1990 on a tour with my band Alien Boys from Germany. We had fucking cool 3 weeks touring the eastcoast circuit and the midwest. Two years later they came over to europe and we toured Germany, Austria and Scandinavia together. Great, those guys. I wonder what has become of each of them. Danny, did you build your frictionless perpetuum mobile-car?
Reaching adolescence in the suburbs of Mentor Ohio was pretty fucking boring. In the latter part of the seventies into the eighties while I was still in junior high I started to listen to bands like Devo, The Clash, The Jam, and even New wave shit like early Adam and the Ants, Joy Division, and Flock of Seagulls.
My older sisters played a lot of that music. One of my sisters who was a senior in high school and four years older than me hung around a guy named Kevin Kelly. I thought this guy was the coolest. He drove a black GTO circa 1967-68 (I think), and listened to really off the wall music. One afternoon I looked in his car and saw a Germs tape. I went out and bought it and that was it for me.
The first local scene show I saw was at the Mentor Civic Center in 83 and The Offbeats, The Holes (I think), and a few other bands played (maybe Starvation Army). From then on I went Downtown to see shows at The Lakefront, Cleveland Underground, and eventually Kent shows at JB's down. During high school I met a guy named Brian Kelly, who I eventually became good friends with for quite a few years (unfortunately we lost touch many years ago which is my own fault). Through him I met his brothers and a few other musicians involved in the scene at the time.
One dark evening we were at a party (Brian and I) in Mentor getting real drunk on Red, White and Blue and other things and decided to go to the East Side to visit. When we got to the home a few of the members of Starvation Army were there (I'll leave out where and who) and were already well in outer space. We hung out for a while, but things soon got out of control. The chimney was pushed over and the house was set ablaze. Instruments and luggage were thrown into Brian's car and we sped away.
We never really talked too much about it after that. Beyond all that these folks were some of the nicest people I ever met "no posers" just real. I don't think they would remember me, but I wish them well and on occasion I throw the shitty cassettes into the stereo and treat my wife and daughter to some of the greatest music to come out of Cleveland to this day.
It happened in '89 maybe it was '90. We were on are way back from a trip around the country sleeping on beer-stained couches. We were a completely self contained unit. Contained in an 8' x 14' rolling laundry basket we called a van. We travelled with a case of Ramen and a miscellaneous box of dented cans Tony had picked up for a quarter and promptly tore the labels off. Everyone loves a mystery. We placed bets as to the contents. Tony made a big show of not wasting the precious liquids contained inside. "Nectar" he would say "Full of nutrition" and then he would gently lift the can to his pursed, quivering lips.
Ramen can be eaten straight out of the wrapper like a giant wrapper using the packet of MSG at your discretion. We preferred to get hot water when we stopped for gas. This had never been a problem until the day we pulled into a gas station in Wyoming. It was nowhere, but for the little man behind the counter it was everywhere. That day he denied us our hot water and nobody was in the mood for giant crackers. Dan went in first, Dan always went in first. He was in charge of anything related to driving He could even jack-off while driving and would do so into some unfortunates sock whilst we were nestled in the back having dreams about Cliff Burton and that guy from the Minutemen. Tom followed him in and went for the hot water. Don Knots see him and says "That waters for people what buy somethin" and Tom replies " We are buying something, gas" guy says "Nope, It can't be gas, gotta be food". Well our three dollar a day per diem didn't allow such extravagances. Besides fuck him.
Tom exits with his steaming plastic cup of sustenance and here comes Mr. Magoo tailing him. Dan had moved to the front of the van to check the oil and the rest of us were lulling around preparing our own meals. Dude starts bitching at Tom near the pumps about his theft of the water. Tom being the reasonable one says "you want your water" and dumps it out. The guy gets upset and starts ranting about us messing up his place. He's gonna call the cops. Yeah we got time, we'll wait an hour for Smokey to show up.
"Get out, Get out" he starts screaming. In the meantime Tom had walked over to a KOA campground a few hundred yard away. We drove the van over to finish are morning routine. Tom had gone into the campground facilities to get some tap water to finish preparing his meal when here comes that guy running towards us yelling "Where's that kid, Wheres that kid" then quickly figures it out. He goes in. Seconds later they emerge grappling with the cup whose contents dump out, further infuriating him.
At this point people are emerging from their trailers and tents, dogs are barking so we decide to make a casual retreat. Dan finishes checking the oil and tosses the paper towel on the ground. The guy is livid now, trembling in fact. Dan looks at him and says "look at you, you baby, you gonna cry". The guys response is "I..I.. might" well were pretty hard but nobody wants to see a grown man cry. Hooting with laughter we get in the van to leave. Dipshit gets in front of the van like his Mannix on meth. "You're a baby, You're a baby" we taunt him. "Get out of the way ya baby" we continue and toss some beer cans out the window for good measure. "Good bye, baby."
Friday, June 8th, 2001: Betwixt Cleveland and Detroit
But, now that I think of it, I can remember an even funnier Lemonheads story, if I may seriously digress.
In 1987, we went on our first ever tour and we were, like, a bunch of wiry little 18-year-olds looking for whatever trouble we could drum up. We were also sort of popular on the punk circuit, so we found trouble everywhere we went. Anyway, we played a show in Cleveland at this place called (I think) Twister’s, which doubled as a dinner theatre place. We were opening for a popular local punk band called Starvation Army who were, well, sort of...dirty, for lack of a better word. They were all at least a decade older than us and very, very punk. Evan and I were playing pinball when these two teenaged girls came up and started talking to us. Evan told them we were in the band and they said bullshit and he said, “Yo, I can prove it.” Anyway, he started working his magical charm and soon they were not only convinced that we were in the band, but they were game for seemingly almost anything. (This is sounding like a Penthouse Forum letter, but I promise it won’t go that way). Evan brought them backstage and started really flirting in earnest. We found all of these costumes for the dinner theatre and Evan pulled out a cummerbund and said, “Hey, do you know what this is for?” The girls said, “Um, no, what is it for?” Evan explained that it was kind of like a bra and that, for certain dance numbers, women wear them to (sort of) cover their breasts. The girls were like, “Really? I never knew.” Anyway, he convinced them both to go into the bathroom and put on the cummerbunds in that fashion. Once they were obviously putting them on, Evan went and assembled all of the members of Starvation Army in the dressing room and told them to be really quiet. When the girls finally burst out of the bathroom, sporting nothing on top but these very narrow, tight cummerbunds, all of the guys from Starvation army started cheering. The girls then went back into the bathroom and refused to come out for the rest of the evening.
We were once again touring the Midwest disproving the myth of the groupie when Dan decided to turn things around. He was a good looking guy back then. Think Eric Stoltz but secretly gay.
This was gonna be one of the best shows of the tour, opening up for Poison Idea. These were the fattest fucking punks since the Big Boys. Pig Champion, the lead guitarist was so immense he had to jam a stool under his enormous ass to prop himself up. His guitar dwarfed by his mammoth girth appeared the size of a ukulele. You could tell when he was getting into it because he would stand up.
The gig was a success, over 700 in attendance. We felt victorious and wanted to celebrate. There was always an after party even if it was just the five of us. We found someone to follow. Dan had found a friend who wanted to ride along. The convoy rolled out of town. The mood was festive. Ol Dan's gettin some, hurrah! We get to driving and driving when we realize were in the suburbs. It's too late to turn back so we follow our hosts into one of those faceless subdivisions we'd all run from.
The kid who lives there ushers us in and down to the basement. There's a partial keg of flat beer and some teenagers making out. We're mortified but per the Punk Rock Handbook we rally and decide to make the most of it. We open a few bottles of wine discovered on a shelf and commence celebrations. Well Mr. Poser comes charging down the stairs "My step-dad's home, My step-dad's home". "Everyone's gotta go cept the band". Oh, no! My mom's wine you can't.
Sorry sport, we did. He goes upstairs. I guess so his step-dad can tuck him in. See ya...fag. We grew bored and located a cache of dry goods in the basement pantry. We proceeded to throw dried beans all over the basement. I mean c'mon were professionals at this punk shit.
This gave us an idea. We were hungry. By now it was about 7:00 am and Dan and his conquest had gone out to further humiliate the van.
The house was still as we crept into the kitchen, found some grocery bags and went on a little shopping spree. Fresh eggs, bacon, bread and something for lunch were taken. We went to the van and since Dan's friend was obviously no stranger to a large breakfast and since she needed a ride home anyway we repaired to her abode.
We grilled her on the ride home about her roommates. Hoping they would be girls. She was vague saying she lived with her "Uh...friend. By the time we pulled into her driveway which was on the opposite side of the Denver sprawl it was a warm sunny morning. We went into the kitchen and started fixing breakfast. Dan and his gal pal decided to get cleaned up and headed into the shower. We're looking out the window into the backyard and see some dude back there. It must be the neighbor sunning himself in the sweet spot. He gets up and to our amazement comes right in the back door.
"What the fuck's going on in here" he's pissed.
"Were making breakfast" Tony replies.
"Not anymore, Get the fuck out" he seems to be getting more pissed.
"Can't we at least clean up" asks Tony wanting to be a gracious guest.
Dude starts shouting for the girl. "Oh, she's in the shower" we offered. He goes and starts pounding on the door. "Knock it off asshole" Dan yells at the door thinking it's us. Fraser gets mad because his blood sugar is low. He wants some fucking breakfast. He storms out the front door. The rest of us stay behind to watch the fun and just in case we gotta kick this guys' ass. The girl managed to calm down her friend.
Thankfully cooler heads prevailed and we all sat down to a nice breakfast, except Fraser who stewed in the van occasionally shouting "Fuck You" at the house.
We cleaned up and made Fraser a sandwich to go. That's what happened in Denver.
The Useless Tavern, late '86. Fine establishment. Despite the fact that S. A. had done our duty and drawn a decent sized (and hard drinking) crowd, the bartender would barely serve me when I was paying, and he wouldn't pony up so much as a courtesy draft after we'd all (inevitably) run out of money. Maybe he disliked our churlish 'Who' imitation at the end of the set - kicking over the amps. No real damage done except to poor Fraser's head (which is, as frequently proven, quite hard and very durable).
Fraser made a heroic dive worthy of 'Wide World of Sports' and managed to catch my amp head before it hit the floor - "the thrill of victory!" Unfortunately he was buried under the two 4/12" speaker cabinets as they fell - "the agony of defeat!" One of the cabinets also tumbled into the PA stack, knocking it over. That mess barely missed the pinball machines. A week or so later I was standing at the bar. The same bartender poured me free shots until I couldn't stand up. No explanation, barely a word, he just kept 'em coming.
Originally SA had formed as "Burning Theatre", influenced more along the lines of early Gang of Four and Killing Joke. But then, around December of '81, maybe January of '82, Fraser and I realized hardcore was where it was at and we changed our sound. First "gig" as SA went something like this: Doug Gillard, our original guitarist, was dating this girl- I want to say her name was Cindy, but thanks to lots of drugs in the ensuing years and the fact that this was nearly 25 years ago, who the fuck knows? Anyway, "Cindy" decided to have a party at her house in bumfuck Wakeman or North Ridgeville or someplace like that, and invited us to play, unaware of what she (and we) were in for. We show up, hang out for a while, and then it was time to rock. We're setting up our equipment and the kids seem excited. "Alright! A band!"... people seemed happy to have us, even though we looked a little weird. We looked like punks and the rest of the partygoers.. well, they were comfortble with their feathered hair and Van Halen or Billy Squier t-shirts. So we hit those first few notes, feedback blaring, no bassist, and Fraser screaming his face off. For the first few minutes, the kids stood there dumbfounded and frowning. By the time we were into the second or third "song" (read: blast of cacophony), they'd had enough. The boos, shouts of "you suck!" and "play "Freeze Frame!" grew as loud as us. Finally, here comes their show of appreciation with a shower of lit cigarette butts, plastic forks, and paper plates. We didn't exactly go over. The funny thing was, if memory serves me, as soon as we stopped playing, everything was copasetic. We escaped without a beatdown by the AC/DC crew somehow...
In the spring (?) of '83, SA had a new guitarist in Jim Krane and took it's first road trip, playing a few gigs in CT and NYC. Played a show at the Anthrax club in Stamford, CT with Corrosion of Conformity, which went over swimmingly. Hey, I even got to play Reed Mullin's enormous Tama drum kit for SA's set. Then, after a gig a Pogo's in Bridgeport, we headed for a much anticipated show at The Great Gildersleeve's in NYC with Roach Motel and, on their first tour, Suicidal Tendencies. We opened the show- then Roach Motel played. Those guys were some funny MF's- ...then Suicidal hit the stage. During their set, Mike Muir dropped the mic he was singing into, broke it, and grabbed the bassist's mic and kept singing. The soundman wasn't watching when it happened. When he went to the stage to start wrapping up cables, he found the broken mic and came to US. I think he assumed Fraser was responsible as he was much more of an energetic wildman, thrashing all over the fuckin' place. So we're like "Hell no, we didn't do it, it was the singer from Suicidal Tendencies!" So the soundman goes to *those* guys. Next thing we know, All of Suicidal (who were all buff, huge dudes), walks over to us with their equally muscular barrio/street gang roadies, and TELLS us that WE broke the mic and THEY ain't payin' for it. Now, considering that the three of us probably weighed in at a combined 400 pounds- equal in weight to 1 1/2 of those fuckers, they got right up in our faces and were like "YOU guys broke that fuckin' mic!". Sigh. Fearing for our lives, we "admitted" to it. Considering that the cost of an Shure SM58 in 1983 was probably as much or more than we were gonna get paid that night, we didn't get paid. Oh well, the gig was still fun .
In late(r) '83, SA hits the road again to play a show in Toledo with The Necros and, I think, The Offbeats. On the van ride there, and during the set and soundcheck period, everyone in our crew was becoming obsessed with a gigantic, honkin' zit on the bridge of my nose. I mean, it *was* ridiculous. Shit, now I'm 38 and I still get 'em. Stupid acne... Anyway, after the soundcheck, some of the people in our contingent decided they just couldn't take it anymore. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, I'm gang-tackled, held down, and I believe it was Michelle Munchkin that did the honors, driving her razor-sharp cat claws into my Mount St. Helen sized pimple. It exploded with such force as to bloody her t-shirt! ...ok, then we proceed to play our set, as did the Offbeats, but before the Necros could take the stage, a fight broke out on the floor. Next thing you know these jock assholes are everywhere, pummeling the shit out of punks and vice versa! Show's over folks! No Necros. Then, on the way back, in the van, I was sitting next to Jim Krane's hot bass-playing sister Kara, and decided, with the fresh crater on my nose, that now was a good time to put the moves on. My hand slowly found it's way onto her leg, and after sitting for a few awkward minutes, she finally was like "Don't". Oh well, can't win 'em all.