[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.
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.
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: “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)
“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)
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)