Reflections on 'For Such A Mean Time'

The first thing that made me want to bring this song to The Commandos was the thought that Dave’s original drum style, when I first met him, would be perfect for this number.  

I first jammed with Dave in 1974 when I was still in high school and he and Chris were living in Utopia house, an old dilapidated farm house a couple of miles from my school.  Dave had a large drum kit with two bass drums and was playing in that big, splashy early 70s style.  Brilliant!

Fast forward 40 years.  Feel-wise we got there pretty quickly when we started rehearsing this song.  Dave nailed it.  Just the way I’d imagined it in my mind.  Among all the music we were listening to at the time, The Suicide Commandos loved Cheap Trick, Dwight Twilley Band and Big Star.  We’re definitely getting our Power Pop on with For Such A Mean Time.

The song’s title (and chorus) has turned out to be rather prescient as we are indeed living in an extremely mean time.  As it is, the lyrics are impressionistic, touching on the political, the personal and how hard it is to deal with both sometimes. Had the song been written Post Election Day 2016, there’d probably be a whole other set of lyrics…

 

Time Bomb indeed. The return of The Suicide Commandos

musings on politics, music and life in general by steve klemz  May 5, 2017

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January 1978 –  The Suicide Commandos Make a Record is released.May 2017 – The Suicide Commandos – Time Bomb is released

That is quite a gap between studio albums. There are a few other releases, the songs on Big Hits of Mid-America on Twin-Tone, The KQRS live release, The Twin-Tone live album.

I am a music nut. From Meet the Beatles on, released when I was 10, I was into all things music. Through the 60’s and early 70’s these were all national acts for me. In the mid-seventies this changed. Two bands changed all that. Thumb’s Up (Curtiss A band then) and The Suicide Commandos.

I would see the Commandos at the Blitz Bar, the University of Minnesota and other venues. Then the Longhorn opened. Then it was Flamingo, The Suburbs, The Hypstrz and regional acts like Shoes, Charlie Burton and Jonny III. Music was a lot closer to us then. We knew these guys, we liked them and they sang about things we cared about. Songs like Burn it Down, I Need a Torch and Complicated Fun were anthems.

Those were great originals from the Commandos, but they also knew their music history and covered songs like She by the Monkees and Tent by the Bonzo Dog Band. I had a wide range of musical favorites and so did they. And they were so goddamn much fun.

My first date with my wife was in September 1978. I knew her from the company I worked for, Prudential. I had heard her talking about music (Springsteen of course) with her co-workers. I suggested she might like to check out the Longhorn that week and see the Commandos. They were doing a 3 or 4 night stand. I think it was night two, lumber jack night (the previous night was Armed Forces night as I recall). I was there early, no doubt soaking up several Johnny Walker Red’s at the bar. I spotted Janet sitting with her sister. Her sister left early and Janet asked me for a ride home, after staying for the entire Commandos show (which was of course a non-stop adrenalin fueled smash). We were inseparable from that night on – married just months later. The Commandos forever bonded us together.

They soon broke up, Steve on to other bands and a solo career, Chris in numerous bands, Dave on to playing with Curtiss A and later construction work building recording studios. They never went away, they would get back together for an infrequent show from the 90’s on, but these were just fun celebrations of the past. None of us really thought there would be new music.

The back of Make a Record. Yup, those color photos were taken by me.

2017. Why they changed their mind – I don’t know. Likely it was a thought that stewed for a few years. We are so lucky that they decided to reconvene and second that they had so many terrific songs. I think Thomas Wolfe said something along the lines of “You Can’t Go Back Home”. Yes you can.

Time Bomb starts off with the obvious statement. Hallellujah Boys (were on the road again!!!!). The joy of this is infectious. The band is a democracy and they all sing and write. Chris sings about all those small town gigs of yore in Pool Palace Cigar. All 3 let us know that If I Can’t Make You Love Me (I’ll make you hate me). Sense of humor still intact. Steve creates a pop gem with The Wrong Time, Dave hits his groove with Cocktail Shaker and Chris closes out the record with another anthem, Late Lost Stolen Mangled Misdirected. The energy on the record never lets up.

Time Bomb does another wonderful thing. It has brought back Twin/Tone Records with the involvement of Peter Jesperson and Paul Stark (Sadly Charly Hallman passed away in 2015).

I have never loved a band more (Curtiss A being the exception). They hit a home run here. A rock and roll record for 2017. You need this.

Order it here:     http://www.twintone.com/projects/89403.html

This just in from Minneapolis:

WHEREAS The Suicide Commandos formed in 1975 and began to play a new kind of music that would eventually spawn a Minnesota Music Scene that produced The Suburbs, The Replacements, Husker Du, Soul Asylum, Babes in Toyland and many other MN bands; and

WHEREAS The Suicide Commandos carved a path where there was none before.  They created a national touring circuit out of whole cloth that many Twin Cities bands followed and created national followings; and

WHEREAS The Suicide Commandos helped shape a rock ‘n roll renaissance by peeling back to the basics with a sense of humor and rock history, alongside bands like The Ramones in New York City and the Sex Pistols in London; and

WHEREAS The Suicide Commandos helped propel the commercial viability of new, independent labels by taking risks on non-major labels and meeting a hunger in the market for a new rock spirit among fans and music entrepreneurs alike, thus creating a market for labels such as Minnesota’s influential Twin/Tone Records and others to follow; and

WHEREAS The Commandos, as they were known fondly by fans and media alike, indulged in consistently producing entertaining nights out in the now-legendary Longhorn Bar in Minneapolis and Kelly’s Pub in St. Paul, as well as CBGB in New York City, The Whiskey A Go Go in Los Angeles, etc; and

WHEREAS This loud, fast trio was among the earliest subjects of pioneering rock video filmmaker Chuck Statler (Devo, Elvis Costello, et al.) with its song “Burn It Down,” where they played in front of their notorious headquarters, Utopia House, as it burned down in 1977; and

WHEREAS Drummer Dave Ahl, bassist Steve Almaas and guitarist Chris Osgood have continued to contribute to music culture through their professional careers by teaching (Almaas), building state-of-the-art recording studios (Ahl) and working with musicians and artists at Springboard for the Arts and students and McNally Smith College of Music (Osgood); and

WHEREAS The Suicide Commandos continue to ROCK live shows and events “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People” 40 years after their initial reign!; and

WHEREAS The legendary Minnesota label Twin/Tone Records has come back to life to release its first new album in 23 years with The Suicide Commandos first studio album in 39 years, Time Bomb, which releases worldwide today; and

WHEREAS The Minnesota Historical Society is simultaneously releasing Cyn Collins’ “Complicated Fun- The Birth of Minneapolis Punk and Indie Rock 1974-1984” which borrows the Commandos’ song title from Twin/Tone’s “Big Hits of Mid-America Vol. III.”

Therefore I, Betsy Hodges, Mayor of the great City of Minneapolis do hereby declare Friday, May 5th, 2017 to be a day of extreme pride in Minnesota, and I encourage our citizens to join me in recognizing the achievements of The Suicide Commandos, Minnesota’s Music Scene and our cultural contributions to the world.

and this from the Minneapolis Star and Tribune Last Week

After 40 years maybe the world will finally recognize the Commandos for their contributions. They formed before the first Ramones record. They were among the leaders of the Punk Revolution of the 70’s. They deserve all the attention they are getting and it is due to the release of their great new record Time Bomb.

Welcome back The Suicide Commandos and Twin/Tone Records! Never thought those words would come out of my mouth in 2017.

A really great day.

 

Kenny Vaughan Reviews 'Time Bomb'

Kenny Vaughan and Steve Almaas, NYC April 2017

Kenny Vaughan and Steve Almaas, NYC April 2017

I remember my first encounter with the Suicide Commandos back in 1978 as if it were last week. Three intense characters hit the stage and shook the building like a terrier shaking a rat by the neck, attacking every song like a swat team. They were serious, but they had fun. They were intelligent, but played real, raw, rock n roll. They owed as much to The Stooges and the MC5 as they did to The Ramones or The Pistols, and they delivered every tune off of their first album, "Make A Record", as if their lives depended on it. 

Now, 40 years down the road, those same three individuals have come together to write and record a second studio album for the Twin Tone label. "Time Bomb" is an unlikely record. The Commandos took almost 4 decades off, and no one saw this one coming. These guys are not cheeky music biz insiders. They are a direct continuation of what they were doing in 1979, a time when you didn't hear things like "demographics"," target audience ","soft ticket sales", and "sponsorships." These are the guys that rehearsed in the garage, toured in a crummy van, wrote their songs from personal experience, reflecting their politics, and always remaining true to their commitment to what they believed to be right. Time Bomb by The Suicide Commandos is, in every way, a better record than their first one. Explosive, articulate, intelligent, and unhinged. That they have survived and managed to deliver it is one of the greatest things that has happened in a good while. Real rock n roll, made by three real individuals, completely free of the normal, self conscious, predictable confines of the music biz. A triumph of unbelievable proportion. Crank it up, you're in for a wild ride.

-Kenny Vaughan, lead guitarist, Marty Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives

Where the Hell is FrogTown?

Contrary to what some may think, The Suicide Commando’s “FrogTown” is not in Saint Paul, it is an imaginary city, a film noir sort of place, in the underworld tradition of “Sin City” and Batman’s “Gotham City”.

FrogTown” is ruled over by the women’s prison escapee from “Milk of Human Kindness”. The Will-Hop Inn from “Cocktail Shaker” is located there, as is Heartbreak Hotel, which is on Lonely Street, but not down at the end.

FrogTown” has all of the amenities one would expect from a Film Noir city; deserted wind-swept boardwalk, closed amusement park, derelict factories, corrupt police department and lots of dive bars.

The premise of the song “FrogTown” is the aftermath of one night’s bitter argument between two lovers, in the mold of Harry and Gloria from Charles Bukowski’s “Bring Me Your Love” (Black Sparrow Press, 1983)

The story starts in the middle, looks back at the unexplained incident, and no resolution is reached that we know about, other than that He is looking for Her.

“She could still be in FrogTown, but she might be on Mars”.

The part of Her is played by Phyllis  J. Wright, singer and comedian.

 

-Dave Ahl