Hermaphrodite and a dog in a carnival trailer, MD. , 1970


Hermaphrodite and a dog in a carnival trailer, MD. , 1970
Diane Arbus

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“Diner” reference in “The Simpsons: Tapped Out” game

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Crack the Sky Cracks the Video Market (1982)

By Tom Basilan (Baltimore Sun, July 2, 1982)

The hour was late. The auditorium lights in Painters Mill Star Theater were dimmed while the stage lights gleamed.

The 1982 model Crack the Sky, fully equipped with a horn section and a backup vocal trio, was filling the hall with sound.

The Softones vocal group leaned into their mikes and crisply, harmoniously delivered the song’s theme—”Skin, skin, skin, skin, skin, Skin Deep.”

Across the stage, the four bebop gangsters with the horns added the instrumental punctuation marks.

The guitars, drums and keyboards came in on cue, the song surged ahead, stylish music performed with precision and artistry. When it was over, about 30 people clapped.

Only 30 people clapped because that is all the witnesses still around to hear the song. This was illusion, not the real thing. Crack the Sky, initial Baltimore favorites, was easing into the age of video.

A few hours earlier, the band had begun a sold out Painters Mill concert that had the fans in heat. The show had been videotaped by a crew from Sheffield Audios in Jacksonville for assembly into a visual package of Crack tunes.

But there had been problems with the sound during the live set. And the crew needed to capture a few close-ups of the musicians in the throes of intense rock and roll rapture.

So the building was cleared and the Cracksters returned to the stage to recreate the concert magic for the cameras.

When it was all done, John Palumbo was asked if it is hard to capture the feeling without an audience. “It’s impossible,” he said.

Palumbo, born in Ohio but lately transplanted to Baltimore, was one tired rock and roller by this time.

The band is halfway through recording their next album at the Sheffield studio in Baltimore County. The concert had been a high-energy deal. The remedial videotaping had its highs and lows.

The band is also preparing for a concert tomorrow night in Ocean City. They are slated to headline a show at the Convention Center, and will repeat their Painters Mill presentation for a crowd of Fourth of July weekend partyers.

“It should be a good time for us,” Palumbo enthused through his fatigue. “It’s always good for us.”

Indeed, the Baltimore region is probably his band’s biggest stronghold. Crack music, which Palumbo accurately described by saying, “We don’t do regular music,” had found a spot in the hearts of the Baltimore audience, even Cracking the night playlist of WIYY-FM (98 Rock).

The band is prone to do things like throw in a few snatches of “America the Beautiful,” and “All You Need Is Love” during their rendition of their own song, “Surf City.”

It is idiosyncratic stuff, given to sudden stops, starts and shifts, outbreaks of jazz horn riffs and assorted musical doodads. It is music that requires the listeners to put something into it, then rewards them when they do.

And, you can dance to it. Palumbo plays a right funky rhythm guitar, and orchestrated the horns to reinforce the soul.

When the videotaping was finished, Palumbo switched out of his rock and roll judo suit and into some jogging shorts for a brief interview. He revealed he has a low opinion of the video art. It was based, not on the fact that the taping had kept the band around for an extra few hours, but rather on a feeling that the form lacks artistic merit.

Video tapes, though, are becoming an important part of the equipment rock bands need to get exposure these days. Cable music networks, record store displays and video nightclubs all have a voracious appetite for material, giving a band a shot at enlarging its audience.

If ever a band seemed ripe to conquer new fans, Crack the Sky is it. Their concert presentation is elaborate and polished. Their songs are jammed with substance and rendered in pleasing form. Palumbo has been toiling in the vineyards of rock and roll for years.

Click for more Crack the Sky.

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BaltiMoronic: Da Moronics Take On Baltimore

[Tom DiVenti co-founded and played guitar in Da Moronics, Baltimore’s first punk band. He now recalls his days as a poet, publisher, art student, and rock ‘n’ roller in a weekly column for Splice Today (www.splicetoday.com). When not writing, DiVenti can be heard playing with the T.T. Tucker Bum Rush Band. Check out his collected works at tomdiventi.com, which includes a treasure trove of Moronics fliers, photos, videos and memorabilia.- Tom Warner, BOL]

Anarchy and Apathy in Charm City

Da Moronics take on Baltimore.

Da Moronics (L-R): Jamie Wilson, Dave Brubaker, Bill Moriarty, Hoppy Hopkins, Tom DiVenti (Photo by Paula Gillen)

I got my first guitar at 12. It was a Kent hollow body, three-pick up electric, with “f” holes, a Sunburst finish and a whammy bar. It also came with a little Tone King 8” speaker box with 3–D volume and tone knobs for $39.99 from Two Guys department store on Belair Rd. I took some lessons at Geblein Music Studio on Grindon Ave. and Harford Rd. Professor Geblein was an ancient stodgy German conductor whom I was told conducted The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. The very first lesson he said, “So you vant to play like Mister Jimi Hendrixes with a bang and da boom swish de boomda boom, but first you must learn to read and write the music.” “Fuck that,” I thought. I wanted to rock… fast forward to 1976.

America’s Bicentennial celebrations had a lasting effect on me, just a scrawny, freakish, 19-year-old art student with a rebellious nature. There was no escaping the red, white, and blue patriotic symbolism bombarding every aspect of life in the USA that summer. Living was easy. Peace and prosperity seemed like it was just around the corner. Baltimore was still a sleepy little burg by the bay. The high-tech world was in its embryonic stage, auto-erase typewriters and cassette tapes were all the rage. We were middle class, dissatisfied, young and dumb. The world of possibilities was limited to the traditional 9-5 drudge of a dead end, meaningless routine for the next 40 years, becoming a bum, or a rock ‘n’ roller.

Moronics frontman Billy Mo (Bill Moriarty)(Photo by Paula Gillen)

A spring afternoon in 1976, Billy Mo [Bill Moriarty] and I were sitting around scheming, drinking and thinking up our next “poetry performance” piece when Piggy arrived with a new album hot off the record shelf. He put it on the turntable, cranked up the volume, and our lives were instantly transformed the moment we heard, “Hey! Ho! Let’s go!” The Ramones had arrived to save the day. Of course we already had Iggy Pop and the Stooges, The New York Dolls, Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Captain Beefheart, T Rex, even the dinosaur bands like Pink Floyd, Zeppelin, Sabbath, The Stones, Bowie and Eno, but in some primal way this was different… three chords and almost three minutes of the truth and a prayer that you could survive anything with the right music. That was the day Da Moronics were born. Shortly after that, The Sex Pistols invaded with the release of Never Mind The Bollocks and away we go. Our band name Da Moronics came from a combination of the name “Baltimorean” and the moronic idiocy we saw around us daily in America, very much like the scene today. Also the fact that the lyrics to many Ramones songs were moronic too.

Continue reading “Apathy and Anarchy” at splicetoday.com.

Tom DiVenti (Photo by Jamie Wilson)

Moronic Quotes:

Tom DiVenti: “In 1978 we finally made it to CBGB’s in NYC. The punk rock mecca of the times. It was a great gig that was recorded and will be released later this year to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Da Moronics.” (Yeah!)

Adolf Kowalski: “[Our} first show at the Marble Bar in Baltimore, Md., was with Da Moronics, who supported Thee Katatonix for playing worse than they did.”

Tom DiVenti: “A show we performed one night at the Towson University Student Union Center was met with fierce opposition by the Towson Tigers football team. During the song “Clean American,” Billy Mo grabbed an American flag that was near the stage and started dancing around with it. The football jocks pelted us with cups full of beer, plastic beer pitchers and ashtrays. Eventually they stormed the stage and wrestled the flag away but we kept on playing.” [I was at that show – it changed my life! Da Moronics became the inspiration for TSU’s Thee Katatonix. Blame it on them! – Tom Warner]

Tom Warner: “Da Moronics were the headliners and played a lot of new material, not surprising since this band is always fresh with ideas. Bill Moriarty sang a few songs after returning from a self-imposed exile, splitting the vocals with his summer replacement Don White. The Moronics have an incredible drummer in Hoppy Hopkins, an excellent new bassist, Chuck F [Freeman] (from Scratch ‘n’ Sniff), a happily married percussionist in Jamie Wilson, and a guitarist Tommy (Dog) Daviniti, who advocates disco as a means to economic and moral depression. It is no wonder that they are Baltimore’s best New Wave band (despite what all those Bludgeons fanatics think).” – from “Marble Bar Hosts Gala Punkfest” review in The Towerlight (Towson University’s student paper), 1980. [Sorry, Tom – I spelled DiVenti as “Daviniti,” making you a deity!]

tENTATIVELY a cONVENIENCE: “…Punk Rock was saved by a few obvious things: a sort of fuck-it! attitude that encouraged DIY raw flying-by-the-seat-of-yr-pants. & Da Moronics exemplified this. For me, they were Baltimore’s 1st punk band…Da Moronics probably did songs about the most miserable shit, like cancer, w/ a great deal of irony & fuck-it!-that’s-the-way-it-is! frankness. They were totally ragged at 1st but, as w/ most punk bands, they didn’t let that inhibit them. They were fun.” – from BANNED IN DC by Cynthia Connelly, Leslie Claque, Sharon Cheslow

Moronics Music Discography:

“Flying Saucers” – The Best of Baltimore’s Buried (Balto Weird Records, 1979)

“Mr. President” – :30 Seconds Over DC – Here Comes the New Wave! (Limp Records, 1978)

Moronics Videos:


“Flying Saucers” – from The Best of Baltimore’s Buried LP  (YouTube)

“Mr. President” – from :30 Seconds Over DC LP (YouTube)

“Neutron Bomb/Sub Shop” (YouTube)


“Cancer/Perry Mason” – Live at CBGBs 1978 (YouTube)


Rod Misey WCVT Interview, Part 1 (6-17-79) (YouTube)

 

More Moronica:

Da Moronics pose in front of Odorite (Photo by Paula Gillen)

Tom Diventi Collected Works (www.tomdiventi.com)
T.T. Tucker and the Bum Rush Band (CD Baby)
Bill Moriarty – “The Expectation of Deliverance” (CD Baby)
tENTATIVELY a cONVENVIENCE Remembers Baltimore’s Punk Scene (Baltimore Or Less)
Rod Misey Interviews Da Moronics (WCVT, 6-17-79)

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