Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Gary Nervo and Armin Hammer’s Recollections about our early 80’s New Wave Band “the Jars”

You've seen mine & the Rev Marc Time's names on the boards for quite awhile now. Here's some of our early work together that we've been threatening to put up.
From '78-81, The Jars were considered part of the top 3 Berkeley bands along with The Mondellos & The Young Adults. We put out an EP through Subterranean (1 of their 1st releases) & a single on our own Universal Records (Time Of The Assassin, which got international airplay). In '81 we spent the summer with free recording time doing a 12" EP for Fantasy, which never got released, as well as a proposed live flexi-disc of instrumental covers, which also never came out.
Though all this got massive airplay on UC Berkeley's KALX-FM at the time, this is probably the 1st time it's been heard in nearly 25 years. It's never been re-issued, though we heard that the bootleg series Killed By Death was thinking of booting it a few years back . Yeah, there's some official releases, but they're ours - we own the rights!
I put probably too much info in the info files, so check it out. There's also promo & live pics & artwork including early stuff from Grammy-winning artist Hugh Brown. Feedback is appreciated.
So lets get back to the days when New Wave was fun & not a business!
Original Masters - released & unreleased
Berkeley CA 1980-82

Mik Dow (Mikkel McDow) - guitar, vocals
Gary Nervo (Gary Mollica AKA GaryM) - Farfisa, keys, pedals, synths
Armin Hammer (Gary Hobish) - bass, vocals
Marc Time (Marc Gunther AKA The Rev Marc Time) drums, percussion, hadnclaps
added in '80 -
Mike Montalto - guitar, vocals (currently in Red Meat)
This could be a book, or maybe a website, so I'll try to do the short version
I'd grown up with Marc in Connecticut, with early bands being Leak & The Columbian Fathers (approx '69-'72) - I went to Cleveland, Marc went to Berkeley. In '78 Marc was in a band The Beauty Killers (formerly SST), with legendary artist Irene Dogmatic, when the guitarist, bassist & drummer (Marc) decided to start another band with a young singer Johnny Savior (Jeff Buhl) called The Saviors, which Irene re-named The Jars cuz they were so poor they used old jars as drinking glasses. Marc got me to move out (78 was one of the coldest in Cleveland history) 11/78 to play keyboards. I played with the band at a party the day I arrived, & the next day we had our 1st rehearsal. We started getting notoriety in Berkeley & was offered free time at Fantasy Studios to do a demo. Soon after, Johnny was jettisoned, so the band was a 4 piece. With Mik now lead vocalist, the band did a 3 song EP recorded at Subterranean Studios with Mike Fox of The Tools/ Code of Honor producing. This was our 1st single, released through Subterranean.
I took a shoddy Berkeley record shop called Music Faucet & turned it into a punk rock haven & hired Marc, who had been working at the legendary Rather Ripped Records. We turned the business around that we moved "up Telegraph", 1/2 block from UC Berkeley campus & renamed the store Universal Records. The owner Ron Blakeman, wnated to put some money into us, so we did a 2nd 45 on our own Universal label, Got near the top of the charts on UC's KALX.
In the summer of '81 we again got time at Fantasy to record a 12" EP. Mike Curb was running for governor on an anti-drug platform, so we did 2 of his pro-drug songs from his hippie days, Teenage Rebellion & Make Love Not War, got to play with all Fantasy's equipment & came up with a great 12". Fantasy passed & gave us the tapes back.
Another project we had - all in the band loved surf music & instrumentals - one time we did an all-instrumental gig at The Mabuhey as a surf band called The Dow Tones. Our final project was going to be a live instrumetal flexi-disc EP with mostly covers. which again never came out. We were offered a long-term contract from a new label started by the local club Berkeley Square, but the day we got the contract we broke up the band!
Here's's our legacy on vinyl, most of which got heavy airplay in Berkeley, in SF (Jar Wars was Howie Klein's radio theme before it was even released!) & on the SF Rotten Record Charts. Please note that even though the 1st 5 tracks are "official releases", we own the rights to them.

SINGLE #1 - Subterranean Records #3 early '80
1) Start Rite Now (Jars)
2) Psycho (The Sonics)
3) Electric 3rd Rail (Jars)
SINGLE #2 - Universal Records RON 1 late '80
4) A SIDE- Time Of The Assassin (Jars)
5) B SIDE -Jar Wars (Jars)
6) Make Love Not War (Mike Curb)
7) Turn Out The Lights (Jars)
8) You & I (Silver Apples)
9) Boys Night Out (Jars)
10)Jar Wars (with overdubs) (Jars)
11)Teenage Rebellion (Mike Curb)
12) Munster's Theme (TV)
13) Nervo's Tune (including The Liquidator) (Jars/Harry J Allstars)
14) Untouchables Theme (TV)
15) Time Is Tight (Booker T & MGs)
16) Jar Wars(Jars)
The tracks were put onto CD by Gary Hobish, who became a professional engineer due to the time at Fantasy & has worked on numerous projects at Fantasy including the OJC's early Creedence CDs, & currently works for Water Records where he's done many things including the recent Pearls Before Swine re-issues & is currently working on Can't Stand The Rezillos. The 1st 2 45s were done from copies of the 45s (you can hear some vinyl crackling), the Fantasy EP was taken from an actual Fantasy test pressing. & the EP was from the original cassette.
Mike Montalto, '80-81 guitrist, is currently in alt-country band Red Meat - they wrote music for the film Monster's Ball & won an Academy Award!
Gary Nervo

Not to challenge Mr. Nervo's recollections, but there are some items in the info file that I remember slightly differently.
Most importantly, the source of the 2nd single ("Time Of The Assassins/" "Jar Wars" ) here is not from vinyl, but from the original master tapes, which I transferred to digital back in 1988. I'm glad I did, because so many analog tapes from that era now resemble that melting guy from RoboCop I. The source for the "Start Rite Now" EP is indeed vinyl, as the original master tapes were erased for re-use by Subterranean, a not-unheard-of practice for indy labels back in the day. I have better tools available to me these days for restoration, so you can expect an improvement to be uploaded soon (now that Nervo has thrown the gauntlet!)
As to the pre-Jars history of the band, I actually played rhythm guitar with the Beauty Killers; the bassist, I believe, was Matt Markham. (That band also included Jim Goodwin, later of Sparks and The Call.) It was said that the Jars got their start "opening for the Beauty Killer's rehearsals." Marc Time and I did some early recordings around this time as the Vinyl Junkies, one of which was a cover of "Interstellar Overdrive" played on a home-built PAIA synth and some tupperware. The song (sans kitchen equipment) remained a staple of some of the longer Jars' sets.
The 12" EP (engineered by me and produced by the band) was never a demo for Fantasy; we were allowed to record there as a courtesy of the fact that I had joined the staff there soon after our original demo sessions (which were produced by Richie "Dr. Schnozz" Corsello and engineered by Danny Koplelson; these sessions yielded "Time Of The Assasins" ). We always had control of those recordings and I was always disappointed they were not released. I'm happy they're available to you here!
As far as our "big contract" was concerned, as I recall it was such an immensely one-sided document that we quickly rejected it. Before we could negotiate something that wasn't so, well... stupid, the record company (unnamed here to protect the principles, wherever they are now) went out of business. "Internal forces" tore us apart soon after.
Nervo mentioned Mike Montalto (as noted, currently with Red Meat). Before that he was with the Movie Stars, who made 2 great albums you should be looking for. Before Mike officially joined, he had been a member of our Berkeley contemporaries the Young Adults, and also served time in ex-Jar J.D. Buhl's band, The Belivers. He had done the occasional gig with us throughout our history- including the historic "phone burning in the fireplace" first ever gig (which was that first appearence GaryM refers to).
Jeez, I guess we really DO need a website!

Tanx Armin for refreshing my memory--yeah and I also remember that not only did you play bass but also played some guitar on the Fantasy sessions. And that sax break on "Boys Night Out" was me.
I wonder if anyone out there remembers Gary and myself in the Art Faggots 82-83, or in the late 80's-90's at Gilman Street as Bo?(Or even Armin's bands like Pimpslap, Highball and True Margrit.) I have plenty of that stuff on tape as well. Bo played punk- blooze and opened for acts like Rancid, Green Day,Crimpshrine and Offspring,and even got played by John Peel on the BBC
Marc Time


Shawn @ Entroporium said...

I pieced together the clues from the single covers, and i would swear that Mik Is Dead.

Soooo, will these be available on MP3 soon? My original autographed versions -- probably the ONLY autographed Jars singles in the world? -- are long MIA.

Gary said...

That guy floating upside down in the already filled mason jar? That's me, Armin.

And yes, I'm dead, but I'm trying not to let it slow me down too much.

MP3's will be posted when the website goes up, let us say, "sometime."

Anonymous said...

Just read you blog. Tell shawn @ entroporium that I am not dead. Mik Dow (Mikkel McDow)

Anonymous said...

The Jars also appeared on the B-side of J.D. Buhl's "Five O'Clock World" 7". Check here.