While we’re on the subject of New Jersey garage/mod bands of the 80s, you really cannot forget the Phantom Five. While they never got to play the Dive, the group did play many of the most well-known venues of the time like Tramps, CBGB, and McCarthys/The Strip. In fact, they even ventured as far out as Bethlehem, PA and Nyack!
Started in 1985, by the brothers Grogan, Larry(D), Vince(B) and Chris (G) soon joined forces with pal Bill Luther and recorded a fantastic EP titled Great Jones Street in late summer 1986. Put out and produced by Mod Fun‘s Mick London (in an actual garage no less!) the EP showcased the bands great knack for catchy garage punkers. The Five were also unique in that while many groups strived for a calculated image, these guys were more than content to just let the music speak for itself. They were the very epitome of an actual mid-60s garage punk band. In 1987, John ‘Bluesman’ Rahmer replaced Bill Luther.
Tunes were recorded for a second EP that was to have been released on Stepford Husbands’ Dave Amels label, Cryptovision in 1987. Unfortunately, plans fell though and the EP never came out. The band soon called it quits with the various members moving on to other projects. Chris formed the Grievous Angels, Vince joined Gigantic, Bill the Tea Party (pre-Insomniacs) and Larry returned to doing zines.
These days Larry remains a fan of music, moving into collecting and DJing as well as tending to his fantastic soul and pop culture blogs. Former member Bill Luther also a collector and DJ, maintains his own 60s related music blog as well. —Many thanks to Larry Grogan for invaluable info.
When it comes to discussing the Mod scene in NY/NJ, during the 80s a couple of choice names always seem to come up—Mod Fun and The Secret Service. While those two ensembles certainly lived up to the intense buzz they created, no one back then would have guessed that three of their fans from across the Hudson would form their own group and end up surpassing their idols.
The Insomniacs originally consisted of the brothers Robert and David Wojciechowski who, along with their pal Mike Sinnochi, formed the core of the group for many years. As long time denizens of the Dive, all three were all well aware of and active participants in the mod and garage scenes. Soon after the demise of the brothers’ previous band, The Tea Party, Dave, Bob and Mike began performing newly written material under the name The Insomniacs.
Almost immediately they built up a strong following in the NY/NJ area. That, coupled with the bands incendiary live performances were enough to catch the attention of Estrus records honcho Dave Crider, who signed them to his label in 1994. This 45 produced in 1991 however, is the first single they put out. It showcases the bands strong, hard-edged, 60s flavored pop songs that would garner them acclaim not just here, but overseas as well. Sharp fans will notice that this 45 version is markedly different from the version that wound up on 1994’s CD collection Wake Up! As Dave said “The Estrus version was a totally new recording for the “ghoul” ten inch. It’s much faster as by then we were playing all the time and that’s how we did it live.”
Advance apologies for the snap, crackle, and pop. My copy somehow amazingly managed to survive not only being stepped on, but also having cheap beer spilled on it! A testament to the raucous record release atmosphere at McCarthys Bar that night.
The band still performs occasionally, with new drummer Joel replacing Mike Sinnochi who retired from performing.
I hate to say it, but there are few people I really look up to in terms of graphic design. And, it’s definitely not because of the lack of talent out there. While I was able to carve out a career in publishing in spite of myself, what truly makes my wheels spin is an entirely different beast. One that is entirely at odds to what is generally perceived to be the typical design aesthetic.
Looking back, I guess coming of age during the 60s and 70s nailed directly in front of a B&W television didn’t help. As Joey Ramone said “It’s TV’s fault I am this way”. The tube shaped not just my design appreciation but also my cultural tastes. One that fit perfectly into what was to soon become the 80s punk side of me. From that point on there was no looking back.
It was during these years of discovery that I started running across designer Art Chantry’s work. I couldn’t believe that not only did someone actually think the same way I did, but was able to make a career celebrating lo-fi vernacular art. Suddenly I didn’t feel quite so out if place digging for discarded 50s clipart in my publishing companies trash pile.
As the years went on and Art’s work started becoming more and more well-known outside punk circles, I began to feel like the guy who saw the Stones when they played at the Crawdaddy. Imitators started piling on and pretty soon you couldn’t sneeze without running into some company milking the “nostalgia” bandwagon. Nevertheless, Art kept on doing what he did—like no one else.
Interviews and exhibitions furthered my admiration and respect for the man. It also emboldened me to know that yes, you could do what you are passionate about and be successful. Its a simple thing that pretty often we all lose sight of. Especially in a culture that values self-promotion and loudness over substance.