A new wave fashion show from 1982
Here's a recently-unearthed document of the early 1980s in St. Louis new wave.
My friends Ed Mantels-Seeker, who had helped by doing almost all the work on Surf's Up, Gang! had been shooting super 8 movies for a while using the single-frame technique he had picked up from Roy Zurick. According to what he told the interviewer on the program Airtime, which aired this movie in 1983, I told him his footage would work as a music video with this song. So he shot some extra footage of me and spliced it in with the footage he had been shooting of girls dressed in new wave clothes.
Lights, Camera, Action!
You're the kind of girl
who takes all the film
my camera's got
Get your lens in focus
open up your eyes
what a bop shot
Turn a little to the right.
We're gonna do this all night.
Your beauty's rooty-tooty
and a little snobby snooty
I hope you know
You've really been a pest
but you've passed my test
and done all my snow
You're such a high fashion girl.
It's such a high fashion world.
You're a walking groovy movie
and you know you always prove me
you're really hot
I've directed what's expected
and the chances are a thriller
is what we've got
I got the film on TV.
Next time you better believe me.
You're a leaning tower of Pisa
with a screaming Mona Lisa
in a danger zone
We're gonna take the image
and rotoscope it
Cartoons. Comics. Hitler.
Make up. Violence. Hit her!
My band The Obvious recorded this song at our second recording session in Illinois at some studio in Collinsville or Belleville. It was one of the last songs I wrote for the band, as I can tell by the reference to "getting the film on TV", which is about the hollow triumph of getting Surf's Up, Gang! on the Airtime program on the local PBS affiliate in St. Louis. So this song was probably written in 1982 sometime, and in retrospect I can see some dark undertones about the direction punk/new wave was taking.
I started off my new wave musical career high. I got together with two really beautiful and sex-crazed 16 year old girl friends who called themselves The Oui-Oui Twins and my dad bought an abandoned building on Olive just West of Taylor in the West End of St. Louis. I moved into the legally uninhabitable building - it only had one working toilet, in the retail space at the bottom, and in the trashed-out apartment I squatted in there was just a reeking toilet that didn't work but which had been used by accident a few too many times.
Many friends popped up, eager to help and encourage me in my dream of opening St. Louis' first punk club. First and foremost among these friends was the amazing artist Mort Hill. He attracted a goodly crowd of art twits and hipsters and we went at making a club out of an empty room like Our Gang in an old Mack Sennet short.
There was a small crowd of punk fans in St. Louis at the time, and it was pretty open and close-knit, because we were all there were. We had all spent our door money on renting bowling alleys and VFW halls up until now, and we were all desperate for someplace to play.
After about six months I closed the club for a variety of fascinating reasons that I will address later, and spent the summer, filming Surf's Up, Gang! Closing the club was a huge blow, but I was never cut out to be a club owner and only half-heartedly pursued the idea of opening up another one, mostly because people would always tell me I should do it again.
I find it interesting how difficult it was to actually film something back then compared to now. Look at Ed's technique and you'll see he did an enormous amount of work - much of it edited in camera - to make his frantic little pieces. Nowadays we have digital video with instant results and it's hard to find anyone who will even bother.
Over the year we gradually fell apart as a group, first losing our bass player, Jim Saltsider, the night that Surf's Up was broadcast on TV. The hardcore punk scene started changing the attitude of the local punks, people became more hateful, and The Obvious and my attitude became hopelessly unhip. I tried to hardcore myself up a little, like in the last verse of this song, but nobody was buying it because anyone who knew me knew it wasn't real.
Watching this video after Surf's Up is like watching me go out of style before your very eyes, yet, at the same time, I'm almost amazed at how much effort went into what was a decent song and a decent stab at a New Wave video. I've seen much worse from national bands dating from the same time. And it makes me wonder if I hadn't been falling apart and under funded, could I have gotten some positive record label response if I had been able to send a copy of this video out to them?