Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Marble Bar's "Tone Scale" Zine

Tonescale Vol. 1, No. 2 (Oct. 1982) - cover by Dave Brubaker
In the pre-Internet age the photocopier was king, with primitive fanzines, posters and flyers benefitting from the new, fast and furious cut-up montages of high energy art and stenciled graphics that became a punk rock staple.
- John Robb, "Punk Rock: An Oral History" (2012)

My lifelong-bachelor friend Bernie Ozol is getting married soon and, as part of his pre-nup, he's been cleaning out the detritus from his house in Baltimore's Barclay neighborhood. This modern day equivalent of Hercules cleaning up the Augean Stables (a perennial labor-of-sloth I know all too well!), resulted in Bernie offering me all of his old music mags and zines en masse. One hoarder offering another his bounty of treasures is like a drug dealer offering testers to his junkie clientel: 'twas an offer I simply couldn't resist. So now I have mountain-high stacks of musty and dog-eared Trouser Press and Creem mags from the '70s and '80s.

I loved these publications back in the day, but buried beneath one box of mags was the true diamond in the rough: an assortment of old Tone Scale 'zines - the official music newsletter of The Marble Bar back in the early '80s. The publisher was LesLee Anderson who, along with her husband Roger Anderson, ran the Marble Bar rock club in the basement of The Congress Hotel from 1978 until 1985. (Roger Anderson tragically passed away from a heart attack in April 1984, and LesLee soldiered on for one more year before other parties - including former Marble Bar bartender Robin Stuprich, her husband Ed Linton, Joe Gary, and later Vermin Supreme - tried their hand at putting on shows there, before Supreme moved upstairs to carry on the tradition and add his Jockee Clubbe/Subgenius extravanganzas in the Galaxy Ballroom.)

I think the first Tone Scale came out sometime in 1982, because the earliest issue in Bernie's collection was Vol. 1, No. 2 dating from October 1982. I don't know much about this zine because I fell out of the Marble Bar scene after 1982, but I'm sure it's familiar to area musicians dating from that period.

In her intro to that second issue, LesLee wrote "I'm sure I can speak for all the people who contributed to its production that [Tone Scale] was one of the most rewarding things I've done in my life...For all of us to pull together and cause something to happen for arts sake in Baltimore, is a great feat. Like I've already expressed in the first issue, we're not journalism majors, and we'll admit it. But if you're in France, and can't speak French and really have something to say...I'd just bet you'd find a way to say it. So do we."

Tone Scale was a "'zine" in the true sense of the word. It was a Xeroxed-and-stapled publication featuring photostat copies of typewriter-created articles and local band gig flyers. Copies sold for 25 cents and the name of the zine seemed to change with each issue, the February 1983 ish even calling itself Valentone.

Valentone Vol. 2, No. 2 (February 1983)

Katatonix flyer in same ish touting "Valentine's Day" single

It had regular columns by George Ches, Roxy Berlin (Marble Bar bartender Jackie?), and Donna Diode (aka Donna Stinnett Bowen). Donna was easily the most-accomplished staff writer and the one most interested in all the performing arts (I particularly liked her film reviews). She and Roxy Berlin even wrote reviews of other bars - I liked the one about the old Peabody Book Store & Beer Stube (which has been many things since, including Liam's Pint Size Pub).

Tones Vol. 2, No. 3 (March 1983)

Tone Scale also featured record and concert reviews by Mark Harp of Null Set...

Mark Harp's "A Side" column

...and Adolf Kowalski of Thee Katatonix ('dolf's scribblings were a precursor to his regular Maryland Musician column in the late '80s).

Adolf reviews the Go-Gos/Flock of Seagulls concert at Merriweather

(By the way, I love that Mark Harp's "A-Side" column includes a review of Haysi Fantayzee, a band whose mere mention makes Amy Linthicum gag to this day! Harpo really liked their Battle Hymns for Children Singing LP, which included the singles "Shiny Shiny" and "John Wayne Is Big Leggy," giving it three stars and writing "A cult group with hair and clothes style in U.K., the music is sorta like Bow Wow Wow with cowboys in there somewhere. I like Kate." That would be singer Kate Garner - to which I would add: who doesn't like a leggy Welsh model-turned-chanteuse?)

More importantly, Tone Scale was one of the few outlets available for musicians and fans of the Punk/New Wave scene to talk about their scene and their music. We forget this in today's Internet-obsessed world, where every event is posted, experienced and reviewed on Facebook or other social media channels. Primitive? For sure. But heartfelt and endearing? Totally! It was kids making messy little mudpies - but they were their mudpies to sling around at the world.

"Mickey and Judy at the Marble Bar" by Mary O'Brien

Rereading these missives from the past reminds me of shows and events long forgotten and rekindles the excitement and fun of that era. One article in particular, Mary O'Brien's "Mickey & Judy at the Marble Bar" (a reference to those old Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland "let's-put-on-a-show!" movies), is a time capsule that perfectly recalls the variety of events that took place at the Marble, name-checking just about every underground player in town. Following is the full article (with my highlighted text added):

A rerun of Dead Strippers by Michael Gentile. Genie Vincent stripping to her underwear. Painting and poetry by Gary Wimmer. A chubby redneck in black Spandex pants doing an impromptu Elvis impersonation. Poverty & Spit at CBGBs. Poet Joe Cardarelli proving that the beat goes on. Knights and dragons sculpted from animal skeletons. A band of Dead Heads playing "Fire on the Mountain." Prizewinning films from Steve Estes. Gorgeous Cassandra VonRinteln in a scanty lavendar costume. A collage by Don White, whose erotic art is considered too hot to handle by every gallery in town. Reggae from Tyrice Dixon. Baltimore's punks on Evening Magazine. Richard Sober breaking hearts with pieces of his novel. Graffiti-on-canvas, as SPAM changes into VIET SPAM. Harpo guest-starring with the Casio Cowboys. Videotapes of the last SubGenius convention. Joe Greenbaum launching paper airplanes, Randy Hoffman making red crosses, and D.S. Bakker tying himself in knots while Keith Worz creates a picture right before our eyes. Bill Moriarty's painting of Thanksgiving dinner, with Sonny lunging at Mom across the turkey. Daniel Carney improvising on guitar. Three fist fights.

It's any Wednesday at the Marble Bar, a poetry series, amateur night, art exhibition, comedy showcases, old Uncle Tom Cooley and all.

MC Tom DiVenti haphazardly rehearses his comedy routines. He also trades insults with hecklers. Four campus cuties got the better of him in a recent exchange, but he bounced back to con the customers out of $7 by staging an off-the-cuff benefit for victims of "spina bifida memtosa." (The beneficiaries turned out to be bartenders at the Club Charles.)

Stephen Parloto hangs paintings, tends bar, schedules acts, bouonces drunks, reads poetry, and dodges ashtrays. In February, he hung one of his own paintings, a huge scary portrait of what might be a man attacked by dogs or a beast attacked by demons.

Some artists fret about showing their art in a bar, but so far nothing's been dented and a hell of a lot has sold right off the walls.

Those performers who call around to their friends beforehand have managed to pack the joint. Other nights it's been like Death Valley. But a small crowd can sometimes produce a big burst of excitement. Maybe an unknown poet, tired of hearing a latter-day hippie drone on, will mutter, "I can do better," grab the mike, and put the planned reading to shame. Maybe a lounge singer will be boring everyone with his rendition of "Feelings" till the boys on the barstools sing back at him and drown him out.

If you want to play Mickey and Judy put on a show in the Marble Bar."

Dead Strippers photo collage

I love this review because I was at that Dead Strippers screening - that was the 16mm film Michael Gentile and John Ellsberry - later to achieve fame as The Dork Brothers - worked on in 1979. Gentile and fellow MICA student Brian Donegan directed the film, with John Ellsberry serving as director of photography.

Dork Directors: Michael Gentile and John Ellsberry

They shot it down on The Block at the Oasis Club...

...with painter (and latter-day Moronics singer) Don White dressing up in drag.

Don(na) White discovers his feminine side in "Dead Strippers"
(photo by Alan Petrulis)

Don White in "Dead Strippers" (photo by Alan Petrulis)

Don White gets jiggy wid it in "Dead Strippers" (photo by Alan Petrulis)

Dead Strippers also played at more upscale venues, including the Charles Theatre, MICA, and several festivals. It even got the thumbs up from John Waters who, in the September 1981 issue of Baltimore magazine, cited the film as one of five local examples of “good bad taste.”

It seems everyone was making movies back then; I was even in one with Adolf Kowalski that I think was called Chocolate Asphalt. (It was directed by our pal Wendy Wallach.) I remember my scene had me being "raped" by a bunch of Manson Girls somewhere on York Road near the Senator Theater. I recall walking to my car in nothing but a pair of tighty whiteys covered in ketchup (i.e., low-budget "blood"). Anything for art.

The same article mentions model Genie Vincent stripping down to her underwear. (Wish I remember that!) I do recall that Genie was a very young, very tall, very attractive girl who started modeling in high school, went overseas to do Italian fashion covers, and even appeared on the cover of some New Wave band's 12-inch. Didn't she go to Towson High?

Regardless, I gotta find that Evening Magazine profile of Baltimore punks that Mary O'Brien mentioned!

And here's a "Domestic Affairs" music news report that mentions Marble fixture Tommy Reed being aquitted on drunk driving charges! (It's all coming back to me now!)

"Domestic Affairs" music news column by Pepper

Marble Bar Flea Market flyer

The flyer above reminds me that what goes around comes around. Today's Station North Flea Market (do they still hold these?), attracting the Station North and Ottobar hipster crowd, is just the latest incarnation of the Marble Bar flea market.

Following are some more pages I scanned in that are representative of Tonescale's typical content. And, if anyone has any more Tonescale info or issues, please let me know!

Null Set Marble Bar Premiere: October 1982

More Mark Harp SubGenius graphics

Typical Marble Bar monthly calendar

G. Ches' Magazine review

Thee Katatonix flyer retooling Elvis Costello's stance

George C.'s "Livin' in the City" comic strip

George C.'s 1982 Music Poll article

"Domestic affairs" column citing Boy Meets Girl 45

The Click with Kidstique flyer

"Say Hon!": Chick's Legendary Records ad

Chick's "A-Side and B-Side" record reviews

Roger Anderson interviews Adolf Kowalski

Haute (or 'Ho) cuisine? Renaissance Room menu

Flyer for Ventures & Slickee Boys show at Marble Bar

I was at this great show! (See Jack of Hearts' Flickr photo set of this historic February 19, 1983 gig.)

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Anonymous Janet Ramsay said...

Hey Tom - "Chocolate Asphalt" was Wendy Wallach's film.

8:18 PM  
Blogger Tom Warner, Almost Hip Guy said...

Thanks Janet! Whatever happened to Wendy? Where she at these days?

10:46 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Wow, a Halloween show with KTM, the Kats, and the Alcoholics. I have no recollection of that, big surprise.

8:40 PM  
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