Pere Ubu


Cleveland, 1975 - 82, 1987 - 

Pere Ubu is the most famous band to come from the avant rock scene that briefly flourished in Cleveland during the mid 1970s. The story is well detailed by other sources, but we will post a summary that concentrates on their origin and early era. The band's history has many chapters and at times could be considered a project for David Thomas, the band's founder and lead singer.

When Rocket From The Tombs broke up in mid 1975, lead singer David Thomas (still using his nickname Crocus Behemoth from back when he peformed with the Great Bow-Wah Death Band and wrote for the Scene newspaper) wanted to form a new band that took the avant side of RFTT and push it further. Peter Laughner, RFTT lead guitarist, also signed on. Tim Wright, who been the sound man for RFTT, bought a bass and learned it. At the time, Laughner was living in the Plaza, an apartment building on Prospect Ave in Cleveland in an area that was known to harbor prostitution and symbolic of Cleveland's decline. In other words, a perfect location to create some great rock music. Living with Laughner was Scott Krauss, a drummer who had played with othe bands. Allen Ravenstine was part owner of the Plaza and was audio/electronic geek. He was invited to 'play' synthesizer and other audio embellishments.  Tom Herman was another Plaza resident who played guitar, but like all the other Ubus, did not play in any convential rock style. 

This band took some of the Thomas/Laughner songs from RFTT with them, including "30 Seconds Over Tokyo" and "Final Solution". They changed the sound a bit. The plan was to record these as two sides of a 45 but instead they recorded "30 Seconds" and a new song called "Heart Of Darkness" taking the title from the Joseph Conrad novel. They knew that no one in Cleveland would touch it so they formed their own record company, Hearthen Records (according to Thomas it was to be pronounced "hearpen" but we all called it as it was spelled back then). The group then put a set together for a planned first live gig on NYE 1975/6 but Ravenstine backed out so he was replaced by Dave Taylor who the band knew from his job working at Hideos Discodrome record store (later the Drome). 

This lineup recorded the second Pere Ubu 45, "Final Solution" and another new song, "Cloud 149", early in 1976. It would be interesting to speculate had "30 Seconds" and "Final Solution" been paired on a 45, in the editors opinion, this would be been the best Ohio rock 45 from the post 1960s era and one of the greatest 45s ever. During January 1976, the club that had been the home of many of the bands in the Pere Ubu family tree, the Viking Saloon, burned down, so the band had to find new places to play as they were not going to be booked at the mainstream clubs. One of the places was the Mistake down below the Agora, and the other was the Pirate's Cove in the Flats area on the east bank of the Cuyahoga River.

In June of 1976 Peter Laughner left the band, apparently by the old "mutual agreement". Allen Ravenstine returned. The band recorded one song called at the time "Untitled" (later renamed "The Modern Dance") with Allen Greenblatt on guitar. Greenblatt was the guitarist for the Mr. Stress Blues Band (a position held by Peter Laughner in the early 1970s) and he declined an invitation to join. "Untitled" was not released on 45, only in the 12" EP "Datapanik In the Year Zero". So the band got another Plaza resident, Tony Maimone, to replace Tim Wright.

During the rest of 1976 into 1977, the Pirate's Cove became the home base for Pere Ubu, where they played with other like minded bands such as Devo and Friction, a short lived band formed by Peter Laughner before he passed away in July 1977. They also recorded two more 45s, while maybe not as potent as the first two in terms of groundbreaking, established the band's identity. In the fall of 1977 the band was signed by Mercury records. Mercury had the idea to start an independent label for releasing punk related new music which they called Blank records. Pere Ubu recorded their 1st LP in late 1977 at Suma recording, the same studio that they used for the three previous 45s (the first 45 was recorded at Audio Recording). Blank tried somewhat to promote the band but by the summer of 1978 the LP was in the cutour bins (where the editor bought one at the time).  The band was signed to Chrysalis records, a label that had been interested in the band earlier. 

The band released two LPs for Chrysalis that had the band moving away from the raw rock sounds of earlier to a sound that was a realization of an old tag line for the band - "The sound of things falling apart" - song fragments and noise collages figuted more into the sound. Most of the time they were playing in the UK where they had a larger audience than in the US. They returned to the US in 1979 where Tom Herman left the band. While in the UK, they had toured with Mayo Thompson, the founder and guitarist for the 1960s Texas band Red Krayola who had similar ideas to Pere Ubu but through a 1960s psychedelic idea. The pairing of Thompson and Pere Ubu seemed like a winner, and led to their LP "The Art Of Walking" which became their biggest seller before the 1987 restart.  The band continued to tour, but the original members continued to leave, first Scott Krauss. He was replaced by Anton Fier, a Cleveland native who in the early 1970s played in a glammy/Stoogey cover band called Punk. Tony Maimone left to join Scott in a new band called Home and Garden. The last LP of the original band "Song Of The Bailing Man" was released to mostly indifference. Thomas ended Pere Ubu in 1982, at the time they probably had not played in 6 months. 

In 1987 the band was revived with a tour and new LP called "The Tenement Years". The editor saw the band back then and it was one of the best shows I've seen, intense and rockin' hard with great songs Jim Jones was the guitarist replacing Tom Herman and the rest of the band was mostly the original members. Since then Pere Ubu has continued to play off and on until the present, even allowing for the Rocket From The Tombs resurrection.

Discography