Saturday, August 6, 2011
The Dizeazoes didn't so much break up as fragment. I guess. I don't know, it's weird. Even after thirty some years, it seems to remain a sensitive issue, and, in all honesty, I've been reluctant to write about why the band actually dissolved, partly because I know that it will require me to interpret the situation, which is something I really do not want to do for a variety of reasons. I mean, I don't want these guys to hate me, but when it comes down to it, the break up seems to be due to a clash of personalities, which, really everyone should have seen coming. The Dizeazoes were full of very strong personalities with very strong opinions about music (I mean, come on, it was a band made up of Stooges fans in the early 1970s), and for some bands that's a good thing, and for others it's a really bad thing. The Dizeazoes fall somewhere in the middle - it was good and bad and too much and not enough. I guess. Really,it was, at once, a great betrayal of everything the band stood for and the only logical direction the band could possibly move, and pretty much encapsulates the only great argument rock and roll has ever produced: is it just for fun or is it a business. Or is there a business to be made from having fun? Like I said, I don't know.
A quick side note. The reason I've been writing about early St Louis punk rock bands for so long is that I believe that these bands (The Moldy Dogs, The Dizeazoes, etc) developed an early punk rock aesthetic before any one else in the US. That's why I've been so interested in pinpointing The Dizeazoes as the first punk rock band in St Louis, because, really, in my opinion, they were one of the first punk rock bands in the states. We're talking about guys that heard The Stooges and started bands, not guys that heard The Ramones and started bands, or guys that heard the New York Dolls and started bands, or guys that heard Television and started bands, but guys that heard the very early rumblings of punk rock in the music of The Stooges, The MC5, etc, and started a band. From there a small scene developed which attracted like minded individuals that identified themselves as different from the rest of society and, at least in some way, aligned to this music. And this all happened independently of what was going on in New York or London or Philadelphia or wherever. The most important thing I've taken from my research into the early St Louis punk bands is the fact that none of them say "We were influenced by The Ramones!" or even "We were influenced by The Dolls!". And that's because they weren't influenced by them. They were, at the very least, contemporaries of these bands, and deserve some sort of consideration in that regard.
Really, as with every other band regarless of size or popularity or whatever, there is no clear story - it's always someone's fault and everyone's fault all at once. There's a short story and a long story. If you've read my stuff before you know that you're in for the long version.
"One summer Larry and I got back from Columbia, MO and found that Mike Shelton and Greg Carmack had gotten together and decided that some changes needed to be made in The Dizeazoes," says Paul Wheeler.
"They had decided that they didn't much like our choice of material. They didn't like the oldies that we were doing. Plus, Mike thought we should start doing some originals. Although he had some lyrical ideas, he didn't play an instrurment, and so hadn't actually written any songs himself. We did start playing one of my originals, and we started learning some songs chosen by Mike and Greg. As I remember there were a couple of John Cale songs, a solo Lou Reed song, a Brian Eno song that had been a B-side on an English single. It was all pretty obscure stuff, and seemed to me very somber. I didn't much like it, and I didn't see any reason anyone else should or would. In fact, if anybody did like it, I wouldn't want to have much to do with them."
Larry Dardick agrees that there was some internal strife.
"Paul is right about Greg and Mike advocating for artsier songs," says Dardick. "Mike was a real [David] Bowie devotee. I didn't mind trying different styles and did enjoy having some new material. However, this brought us nearer to 'taking ourselves too seriously' than Paul or I would want."
Paul Wheeler agrees that things with The Dizeazoes were getting out of hand.
"Larry and I had pretty much controlled the band up till then," Wheeler continues. "And nobody had really tried to wrest control from us. Larry announced that later that summer he and his girlfriend were going to go on a cross-country trip/vacation. We kept playing with Greg and Mike, and allowed them to choose the direction for the band, though we continued to rehearse in my basement, mostly with equipment that Larry and I had bought. I wasn't enjoying it much, but I was going along with it."
"I had planned an extended car trip to California with my girlfriend, who probably took herself a bit too seriously, during the last half of the summer," says Dardick. "In the weeks prior to the trip, my Dad developed coronary artery disease requiring bypass surgery. I was also working to earn some cash. So I didn't have inordinate amounts of free time."
And then there was the party. The Toler Brothers, who owned an influential record store in St Louis, had arranged a show at the apartment complex in which they lived. Dardick says that he "wasn't as intrigued or motivated" as some of the other members of the band.
"When it turned out that I didn't have to play, I was very comfortable attending the party and ultimately departing at a half reasonable hour," says Dardick.
Here's Wheeler's take, which includes his story about joining The Moldy Dogs.
"As I understood it, Mike had gotten Dennis Toler to throw a party that would feature this new version of The Dizeazoes... One night I went out with Jeff Rosen, who, as I remember, was no longer involved in the practices, because of the changes. We had heard about this duo called The Moldy Dogs who were doing some very cool songs, including a bunch of oldies and some Stooges songs, and who some friends of mine had recommended for us to check them out. They were playing a night at a local University City place called The Pastrami Joynt, and we went and checked it out. Besides Wolf and Paul (who was referred to as “Killer” at the time) there was a guy dressed up in an old brown, leather, pilot's cap, with a strap that went under his chin, and some kind of protective goggles. He was called 'The Human Wah-Wah”, and during Paul's leads on electric guitar, “The Human Wah-Wah” would jiggle the knobs on Paul's amplifier. One of the things that Wolf would do to entertain the crowd at The Pastrami Joynt was to ask the small crowd rock 'n' roll trivia questions. That night our table, mostly Jeff and myself, were able to answer almost all the trivia questions. After their set, Jeff and I went over to talk with them, and I asked them if they had ever considered putting together a band, and let them know that I played bass guitar and would be interested in playing with them. They invited me to come over and play with them in the next couple of days. We hit it off well, and I was added to their group.
"I first called up Larry and let him know. We agreed that we would continue rehearsing with The Dizeazoes and would play Dennis Toler's party, but shortly after that he was going to take off for his summer vacation, and I was going to quit The Dizeazoes and join The Moldy Dogs. Larry was fine with that, and completely understood why I was unhappy with the new direction of The Dizeazoes. I don't think he was terribly happy with it either. I certainly was not interested in continuing to rehearse with Mike and Greg without Larry there, and I'm sure that was a big reason I considered finding a new situation. After having informed Larry of my plans, and gotten his OK, I called up Mike Shelton and informed him that I was planning on leaving The Dizeazoes and joining The Moldy Dogs, but that Larry and I would still be willing to rehearse The Dizeazoes and play Dennis Toler's party as we had planned.
"As I stated previously, we were rehearsing in my parent's basement, with equipment that was almost completely owned by Larry and myself. For me to leave The Dizeazoes meant pretty much that I was disbanding The Dizeazoes. By the by, I believe that Garth Tyson was living and working in upstate New York at the time, and wasn't involved in the group at all at that point. I don't think we had a drummer at that point. I believe that Mike Shelton understood the effect that my leaving The Dizeazoes would have, and considered it a total betrayal. When he told Greg Carmack, he did not mention that Larry and I had offered to go ahead and play Dennis Toler's party. His response to me wanting to leave the band was to cut ties completely. I believe it was through Jon Ashline that The Moldy Dogs were invited to play Dennis Toler's party. When Mike found out he demanded that we not be allowed to play. In fact, as it turned out Mike Shelton sang some songs for The Moldy Dogs at that party, as did Jeff Rosen. I spent most of the party hanging out with Larry Dardick
and Mary Meyer. Oh yes, and it was at that party that I was asked by Bruce Cole to play bass on The Screamin' Mee-mees first EP (left). I said yes. I also talked with Greg Carmack at that party. He was pissed, until I explained to him that Larry and I had offered to continue to rehearse The Dizeazoes and play the party. The plan was for him and Mike to get up and do a performance, just the two of them, but Mike started singing and improvising with Jim Maresca's band, which was probably called Candy at the time, or became Candy shortly after that, and Greg Carmack grabbed his guitar and amplifier and left in disgust. I didn't want to inflame the situation, and I don't think I said a word to Mike Shelton that entire night. I don't think he said a word to me either. Several years later, though, in 1980, I hitchhiked to Chicago to see Iggy Pop perform a show in what he was calling his Nightclubbing Tour. Mike Shelton was living in Chicago at the time and we met through the mutual friend, Carolyn Horyn, who I was hitchhiking with. He told me that he now understood the choices in material that Larry and I had made in The Dizeazoes. In fact, many of the songs that The Dizeazoes had been playing were later covered by various punk bands. Possibly as an act of reconciliation he patted me on the back, and took an Iggy Pop button off his shirt and pinned it on mine. I was shocked and very much saddened to hear about the horrible traffic accident that tragically killed Mike and his family."
There are no more Dizeazoes stories. There are thousands of Dizeazoes stories.