Satisfaction Guaranteed: Meet The Overdrive Five

As a teen, I sort of had a feeling things were heading in the wrong direction. Although I was weaned on AM radio, like most of my peers, I eventually drifted over to the FM side of the radio dial. During the mid-70s this meant you were often subjected to the likes of terrible milquetoast supergroups, sprinkled in with the quickly fading guitar-based bands. Even all these years later, the word “supergroup” sends a slight shiver up my spine. Salvation, though, was just around the corner — and for me it couldn’t have come soon enough.

Despite that awful term, I do have to confess that it is fun to see driven, passionate musicians share that connection with others who chase the same muse. A point confirmed by the reunion of (certain) older groups, such as The Monks, The Sonics and The Remains whose shows made me wonder if it was indeed them or just kids in septuagenarian costumes pulling a fast one on us.

Well, these guys are not septuagenarians. Far from it. But, between them, they also share a similar deep, intrinsic passion for music. One honed only after many years of weathering the ups and downs of a typical career in music. It just so happens to be our good fortune that the music they love is 60s garage punk.

The Overdrive Five brings together Elan Portnoy, Ira Elliot, John Carlucci and Sam Steinig and came to be in much the same way most bands come about: a shared desire to keep playing the music they love. What makes this combo unique, however, is how each member effortlessly taps into the mojo that made them stand out in their previous groups. It’s like hearing the best of those bands times four (or “Five”).

Guitarist Elan Portnoy did his time in such combos as The Fuzztones, The Headless Horsemen, Bohemian Bedrocks and The Twisted as well as performing on stage with a vast array of legends such as Screamin Jay Hawkins, Mark Lindsay, Roy Loney, Hilton Valentine and Tony Valentino, to name a few. Drummer Ira Elliot not only played with Elan in The Fuzztones, Headless Horsemen and Bohemian Bedrocks but has also been an integral part of well-loved indie combo Nada Surf for the past 25 years. Currently, he also moonlights in the Hamburg-era Beatles cover band, Bambi Kino. Bassist John Carlucci was a member of the legendary 70s power pop band, The Speedies. In the late 80s, he joined the West Coast version of The Fuzztones and afterward found himself playing with the likes of Sylvain Sylvain, Lemmy, Dave Vanian, Nikki Corvette, Palmyra Delran and a slew of other acts. Rounding out the quartet, vocalist Sam Steinig and his trusty Vox organ started PA’s Mondo Topless in 1992 and continued for 18 years before forming the soul-tinged GTVs. Nowadays you’ll find Sam returning to his garage roots in Philly’s Kiss Boom Bah.

Not too shabby.

But don’t take my word for it: Below is the band’s take on The Shadows of Knight classic “I’m Gonna Make You Mine,” graciously provided by Elan, showcasing the power of the new band. To say this tune is exhilarating is putting it mildly. And this is just a studio demo. The band is currently in the process of setting up a few live gigs (and a European tour) in the months ahead. Stay tuned!

NY Garage Heads North

Given its proximity to the northeast, Canada has always provided (and still provides) a way for local musicians to perform outside of the country. In the heyday of the garage revival, bands like The Gruesomes, Les Breastfeeders, and King Khan (among many others) continued the legacy that mid-60s bands like The Haunted and The Ugly Ducklings began.

What Wave fanzine, based in London, Ontario, was one of the handful of fanzines that sprung up in the wake of the 80s revival up north. Besides offering the latest on live gigs and LP releases, What Wave was unique in that it also provided limited edition cassette tapes in issues.

I’ll let editor Dave O’Halloran take over here and explain how his fanzine came about:

“What Wave zine was started by Al Cole in the late 70’s/early 80’s and he did the first 4 issues. He was burnt out, needed a change or something. He offered it to us in the fall of 1984.

Issue of What Wave #10 1986. Courtesy of the What Wave Archives.

I was reluctant as it sounded like a lot of work. My wife Rena, an English teacher, though was all for it. We had just come back from NYC and were just amazed at the bands we’d just seen; The Fuzztones, Pandoras, Tryfles, Slickee Boys, Fleshtones (we were HUGE Fleshtones fans and still are!) and so many more. I remember going to Venus Records and Midnight Records and just flipping out over the 60’s comps and 80’s garage combos. We felt like we were in a wasteland in colonial London Ontario Canada.

So, with a bit of convincing from Tony and Gerard of the Montreal band Deja Voodoo, Rena and I took over What Wave. We started with issue #5 in the fall of 1984 and went right through to 1996 with issue #22. Starting with issue #10, almost all came with either a cassette or a 7″ record. It was our way of getting the music out to the fans. Once we started including cassettes, the zine started to sell quite well for awhile.

Whenever we went down to NYC, we’d bring a full suitcase of WW zines and trade them at Midnight Records for records. The suitcase would always come home full of vinyl!! Records we couldn’t find in Canada as owner J.D. Martignon used to bring in all kinds of cool stuff.

Once we had kids though, starting in April 1990, things really slowed down….just not enough energy, and time. Additionally, a lot of the bands were moving towards grunge and CD’s began taking over. The few issues that we were able to squeeze out between our daughter Erika’s birth and 1996 began having longer and longer breaks between them.

We did do a last edition (#24), The History of London Ontario Combos, that came out in 2012 in conjunction with Graphic Underground: London 1977-1990, a celebration of the posters, zines, and ephemera of London Ontario up to 1990. This was an actual curated museum exhibit and brought a lot of attention to that era of music and art. There is even a museum gallery book by curator Brian Lambert called Graphic Underground: London 1977-1990 in which there is a chapter on WW zine….some of our posters are in there.”

While going through some old cassettes I actually found a few tracks from one of Dave’s compilation tapes, labelled “Live in London“. The song that caught my attention was a Headless Horsemen track with none other than future journalist Celia Farber on drums.  According to HH bassist Peter Stuart, this show was during the band’s first tour of Canada. Dave was kind enough to send a few images from his archives  as well as a few additional thoughts.

Ticket from The Headless Horsemen 1986 Canada Tour

“That whole show was recorded at Key West, London Ontario 7/25/1986 and yes, Celia was on the tubs!! I was told it was a great show by my wife Rena who attended, took pics and did the recording. Also playing on this show, Link Protrudi and the Jaymen! The next night, the HH were in Hamilton (between London and Toronto) where I finally got to see them for the first time and Rena the 2nd. I distinctly remember meeting the band before the show and one of them remarked (I think it was Peter) that I looked just like a guy from the Creeping Pumpkins….musta been my bowl haircut!  There’s a live recording from that night as well, but I don’t see any images in my files and don’t remember Link Protrudi playing that night either.”

So, here is the Headless Horsemen from back in 1986 playing the Flamin’ Groovies classic, Shake Some Action. Many, many, thanks to the What Wave Archive and What Wave editor Dave O’Halloran and his wife Rena.

Can’t Help But Get Older: The Headless Horsemen hit 30!

To people familiar with the history of the NYC garage scene, its hard to not know about The Headless Horsemen. The band, which began as an loose supergroup of Fuzztones and Tryfles members have been a mainstay of the NYC 60s beat scene for, well, about 30 years. In fact their histories are so intertwined that in a future 2-part post I will cover the genesis of not just the The Tryfles but also the Headless Horsemen.

Art by Greg Gutbezahl

For now though, I urge anyone in the NYC vicinity to head over to Brooklyn Bowl this Sunday November 5th to take part in the bands 30th Anniversary celebration. Among the special guests are The Animal’s guitarist Hilton Valentine, and the great Roy Loney from the Flamin’ Groovies. Opening are Orlando, Florida’s The Belltowers, making their very first NYC appearance. To commemorate the event, former Dive denizen, photographer (and now  creative director) Greg Gutbezahl created an astounding flyer. You can see some of his early work in the flyers section of this site.

Here is a clip from the vaults of The Headless Horsemen playing the late, great Continental Divide on February 9, 1997. A mere 10 years into their 30 year stint. And let me tell you…they STILL sound like this. Everybody shake.

I’ll Take Paris: Philippe Marcade and his Senders

The New York punk scene has long roots. There’s the stuff everyone knows about like CBs, the Ramones, Blondie, Television…etc., etc. Then are the things that totally fly under the radar for all except a lucky few. The Senders were one of those things. Living, loving, and performing alongside all the hottest bands of the time, one could not have been faulted for missing them. That is, until you met lead singer Philippe Marcade or saw his group play.

Thankfully, Philippe recently released a fascinating and amusing book chronicling his early punk years called Punk Avenue. Amongst the really hairy tales (that you really have to read to believe) Philippe narrates with an equal amount of tenderness and sincere affection for the characters in his past. Part chronicle, part confessional, the book radiates the sort of warmth and good humor that Phil was always known for.

This was very evident at the book release party at Poisson Rouge in downtown Manhattan on May 2nd. It seemed as if every friend Phil ever had was in attendance, as well as many others whose lives also centered around the punk scene in the late 70s.

Legs McNeil and Philippe Marcade.

The evening started with a small discussion moderated by Legs McNeil that discussed Phillipe’s music career and touched on a few amusing recollections. But the main draw was the musical lineup. Starting off with Brooklyn’s Daddy Long Legs, the night continued with The Waldos with guests like Andy Shernoff, Dee Pop, Danny Ray, J-F Vergel, and Shige Matsumoto. Closing was of course Philipe doing the “Sender thing” with The Rousers backing him up. When Philippe came onstage toting a bagful of colorful party streamers to hand out, it was obvious this show, was going to be a memorable one.  Aided by guests like Lenny Kaye and The Willys’ Lynne Von, it did not disappoint.

Outside the Continental Divide 1989. As seen on the back cover of the Live at The Continental Divide LP. Photo: Frank Linder.

The Senders left a small footprint on the NYC garage scene as well. When they reformed for their second run in the late 80’s, their hard-driving R&B rock was naturally noticed by New York’s garage rock aficionados. The Monday residency at the then-new Continental Divide quickly became the place to be on a Monday night. Not only did they host an amazing assortment of supporting acts such as the aforementioned Waldos, but veteran scene bands like The Headless Horsemen and the Raunch Hands also made appearances.

I wholeheartedly encourage anyone interested in NY’s punk scene to pick up Philippe’s book. It deservedly belongs next to your copy of Please Kill Me and New York Rock. Keep tuned to this space, interview coming up!