Bands

MIRRORS

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Jim Crook, Craig Bell, Paul Marotta,
Jamie Klimek, Mike Weldon
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Jamie Klimek, Jim Crook, Craig Bell, Michael Weldon

"...not as bent as the Electric Eels...nor as throttling as Rocket from the Tombs."

– Mark Murrmann, Mother Jones

Mirrors formed in Cleveland in 1971, were "ferociously loud," according to guitarist and frontman Jamie Klimek, and heavily influenced by the Velvet Underground. The rest of the band included Jim Crook (guitar), Mike Weldon (drums), and Craig Bell (bass), with appearances by Paul Marotta (bass and keyboards) and Jim Jones (bass guitar).

During the band's heyday, they only released one single on Hearthan Records, "Shirley"/"She Smiled Wild"(1977).In 1991, Marotta recorded the limited-release album Another Nail in the Coffin. This was followed in 1997 by Scat Records' Those Were Different Times: Cleveland 1972-1976, which included songs by Mirrors, the electric eels and the Sytrenes, and includes Klimek's recollections of Mirrors in the liner notes. Mirrors then released Hands in My Pockets in 2001, a collection of material from the 1970s, studio tracks, home recordings and some live material. Another Nail in the {Remodeled} Coffin, (ROIR 2004) was a reissue of the 1991 album plus a second disc of demos, live tracks, and alternate takes. Then in 2009, Violent Times Records issued Something That Would Never Do, a limited edition album of previously- released material from 1974-1975.

Says Craig: "I was drafted into the Army in 1972 and was away for two years. While away, Jim Jones replaced me in the lineup and upon my return in 1974, he stepped aside and I was again the Mirrors' bassist. Jamie, Michael, and I moved into an apartment on Lorain Avenue and we continued playing gigs and rehearsing. In April of 1974 we went to a studio on the eastside of Cleveland to make our first 'official' recordings. Earthman Studio was owned and operated by Brian Reisner, another high school friend, who would later work with Weather Report. Craig's song, "Annie," along with other songs recorded at this and later sessions were featured on the Scat release. A few Mirrors shows were recorded and some of those songs, along with other studio recordings, including songs from the above mentioned Earthman session, appeared on Overground Records' (UK) Hands In My Pockets (2001). Some of these same songs, as well as others, appeared on vinyl in 2013 with the Violet Times/Hovercraft LP Something That Would Never Do. (All these albums are, unfortunately, out of print and might require some Internet searching to find.)

After Mirrors broke up, Klimek, Jones, Marotta, Anton Fier, and others formed the Styrenes. Craig had left the band in early 1975 and joined Rocket from the Tombs. Weldon began publishing Psychotronic magazine, followed by two Psychotronic film and video books, and now has a record and memorabilia store by the same name. Jones joined Pere Ubu, and formed many other bands, most notably, The Easter Monkeys and Home & Garden; he passed away in 2008. Mirrors reunited in 2008 to play The Beachland Tavern. This show was followed by a couple of appearances in Cleveland, Studio-A-Rama @CWRU (2013) and The Beachland Ballroom (2014). Jamie Klimek continues to perform as Mirrors with different band members.

ROCKET FROM THE TOMBS

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RFTT 1975: Cheetah Chrome, Peter Laughner,
Johnny Blitz, Craig Bell, David Thomas
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RFTT 2015: Gary Siperko, Craig Bell, David Thomas, Steve Mehlman, Buddy Akita

"Rocket From the Tombs is not just the great lost proto-punk band of the '70s. It's one of the best bands of the 21st Century too."

– Greg Kot, Chicago Tribune

"No one else in American rock, underground or over, in 1974 and '75, was writing and playing songs this hard and graphic about being f**ked over and fighting mad. No one else is doing it now."

– David Fricke, editor of Rolling Stone

The original 1974 Rocket From The Tombs line-up included David Thomas (vocals), Peter Laughner, Chris Cuda, and Glen "Thunderhand" Hach (guitars), Charlie Weiner (bass) and Tom Clements [Tom Foolery] (drums). After a few personnel changes, the 'classic' lineup was set by 1975: Laughner, Thomas [Crocus Behemoth], Craig Bell [Darwin Layne] (bass), Eugene O'Connor [Cheetah Chrome] (guitar) and Johnny Madansky [Johnny Blitz] (drums). This was the band responsible for the covered-by-every-punk-band staple "Sonic Reducer," as well as "Ain't It Fun," "What Love Is," "Down in Flames," and "Never Gonna Kill Myself Again" (Cheetah Chrome took these songs with him to the Dead Boys, retitling "Never..." as "Caught with the Meat in Your Mouth"); as well as "Final Solution," "Life Stinks," and "30 Seconds Over Tokyo" (all reworked by David Thomas in his new band Pere Ubu). RFTT never recorded an album before imploding in 1975, but the 1990 bootleg Life Stinks, culled from live and loft recordings, crept into circulation and stayed there until Smog Veil records compiled the 'official' album, The Day the Earth Met the Rocket from the Tombs (2002), with added live recordings of the band opening for Television. Sadly, Laughner had passed away in 1977.

With interest in the band rekindled by new versions of the old material, the band reformed in 2003, with original members Thomas, Bell, and Chrome, and the additions of Richard Lloyd [ex-Television] (guitar) and Steve Mehlman [Pere Ubu] (drums). After a successful show as part of Disastrodome at the UCLA Freud Playhouse in 2003, the band went into the studio to record the set with the new lineup, dubbed the resulting album Rocket Redux, and set off on the road. RFTT toured again in 2006. Then after a hiatus, they began working on new material which resulted in Barfly (2011). Lloyd, however, was replaced by Gary Siperko (Whiskey Daredevils) for the 2011 tour, and by the end of the road trip, Chrome announced his departure from the band. He was replaced by Buddy Akita (This Moment in Black History) when the band toured the US, Canada, and Europe in 2012. They began working on new material in 2014, and Black Record was released in 2015, followed by a US and European tour.

For merch and more info, go to http://www.ubuprojex.com/ubutique.html#rftt

SAUCERS

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Craig Bell, Mark Mulcahy, Malcolm Doak, Malcolm Marsden
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Mark Mulcahy, Seth Tiven, Katherine Cormack, Craig Bell

Craig related the story of Saucers in a recent interview: I met Malcolm Marsden, Malcolm Doak and Mark Mulcahy and we formed Saucers in late 1977. We found a rehearsal space in an old building off downtown New Haven where we started practicing and writing songs. This went on almost daily for months until one day a couple of guys walking by heard us playing and stopped in to check us out. Tom Hearn and his friend Legs McNeil, of Punk Magazine fame, liked what they heard and offered us our first gig at a strip mall bar along the Long Island Sound shore in Devon, CT. We played with a band they were helping out known as The Survivors (later The Stratford Survivors) who had on drums a young Mike "Mad Mike" Czekaj (who later on gained fame with The Fuzztones). Thus we were off! After awhile more bands playing original music and non-Top-40 covers started either forming or coming out of their spaces and we started doing off nights in a few local clubs, such as The Oxford Ale House, that would let us in, usually on a Monday or Wednesday night. Most of the scene at the time was Top 40 cover and 'tribute' bands. Then we found a bar down by the Yale University campus that became Ron's Place; from 1978–'81, it was the scene of an extraordinary explosion of original music in the city and surrounding region of Southern CT that has lasted to this day. The Poodle Boys, Disturbance, Hot Bodies, Stratford Survivors, Scout House, Subdueds, Baby Strange and many others appeared both on Ron's stage and on the original 13-song LP I put out in 1982 (It Happened But Nobody Noticed) and the CD re-master I made in 2006 (It Happened But Nobody Noticed/Temp Supplementarie with another 13 bands from that era); the recordings are a testament to the diversity and incredible talent that exists there. A documentary about the New Haven scene was made a few years ago, titled after the compilation. It can be found on YouTube (the link is in this website's Media section)

It wasn't long before Saucers looked to record, and in 1978 booked an evening at Trod Nossel Studio in Wallingford, CT with noted engineer Richard Robinson at the controls. We recorded six songs, "Final Solution," "Muckraker," "Annie," "Frustration," "Slow Down," and "Orpheus," a song written by Malcolm Marsden. Only "Muckraker" was released initially, when it appeared on It Happened But Nobody Noticed. Saucers were playing more shows in New Haven and Devon and were looking to expand further. We ventured to NYC to play CBGBs as well as looking to Boston, Providence, and elsewhere.

Saucers returned to Trod Nossel, and Mr. Robinson, in the spring of 1979, this time with a two-guitar lineup as Malcolm Doak was replaced by guitarist Seth Tiven. Six more songs were recorded, "Muckraker" and "Frustration" (again), along with new songs, "Roadmaster" and "I Didn't Get It," as well as two compositions by Malcolm," Take A Chance" and "What We Do." Unlike the previous recordings, three of these became Saucers' first single, "What We Do/Muckraker/I Didn't Get It," which was self-released in 1979 (ORMI 5098).

I wrote both songs on the second single, "A Certain Kind of Shy/She’s Alright," but Mark sang the A side. It was Mark's lead singing debut, and a seismic shift in his career trajectory (he would later form Miracle Legion). There is very little video footage of Saucers, save for a promo video and some short clips for performances at Toad's Place in New Haven as well as Saucers' home stage at Ron's Place. In 2000, Jim Tennyson contacted me and suggested I get in touch with Grand Theft Audio Records in Los Angeles as they had issued some recordings from other defunct CT bands and might be interested in Saucers. Brian at GTA was interested and I took the master tapes I had been carrying around for 20 years to a local Indianapolis studio to have them digitized and remixed. The result was the CD What We Did (GTA 053), released in 2002. This release contained all of the studio recordings of Saucers and a live cut, "Why Me," recorded at The Cupboard as the soundtrack for the above mentioned video made by Monica Thompson the summer of 1980. The only other footage that exists is “She’s Alright” live at Toad’s Place in New Haven; it was shot by Ulf Rassmussen in 1980.

On April 25, 2008, original Saucers, Malcolm Doak, Mark Mulcahy, and Malcolm Marsden joined me in a short set at the release party for the CD reissue of It Happened But Nobody Noticed, which featured reunions of many other bands that appeared on the original LP and the reissue.

In 2010, Malcolm Marsden, Malcolm Doak, and I met at Wildwood Studios in Durham, CT and with assistance from friends Kerry Miller, Ron Sutfin, Sal Paradise, Deb Sutfin, and Amy Ronczka, recorded the five-song Second Saucer CD/EP on Gustav GTEP-2 (2011). We recorded "Tossed A Coin," a song I had written with Lynn Duer in the early days of Saucers, and "Where Have They Gone." Malcolm Marsden brought "Why Say I?" and "Security," the latter written shortly after his departure from the band in 1980, and made popular with his later band, The Fixations. Malcolm Doak made his Saucer songwriting debut with "Half Naked And Dead." This version of Saucers had a CD release show at Cafe 9, New Haven CT, in September 2011.

Future Plan/The Plan/The Bell System

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Future Plan at CBGB's: Craig Bell, Jon March, Mike Barone, Forrest Harlow
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The Bell System: Tom O'Connell, Mike Barone, Craig Bell, Claudia Bell

"You say you want a revolution...well, you know, we just want to see the plan."

– band postcard, 1983

Future Plan formed in the wake of Saucers, with Craig (guitar/bass), Forrest Harlow (keyboards/autoharp), John March (bass guitar/keyboards), and Michael Barone (drums). They played a few shows as Plan 9 before they became aware of a band in Rhode Island with the same name (and a record out), and changed it to Future Plan in 1981. They found a basement spot in Westville, continued playing around Southern New England and NYC, briefly adding a sax player, Mark Brown. They recorded their set at CBGBs on November 22, 1981 as well as a late-night appearance on the Yale radio station WYBC in the spring of 1982. That summer, they recorded a few tracks at a studio in Milford, CT, Forrest's "Vicious Circle," "I Love New York I Hate New York," and Craig's "'62 Hawk" and "It's Over."

John March was replaced by Claudia Bell (then Chapman) on bass guitar in December of 1982, and the band name was truncated to just The Plan. Claudia's debut got off to a busy start, with a show at Toad's Place opening for Lords of the New Church, as well as a visit to Audio West, where they recorded a 1983 Gustav single, "I Love New York/I Hate New York" b/w "When It's Too Much," both compositions of Forrest's. They also recorded "I Hope It's Not Our House," a song co-written by Craig and Forrest, as well as another track, Craig's "Shit City."

Forrest Harlow departed the band in the fall of 1983 and they continued on as a three-piece until the brief addition of second guitarist Carl Gandarillas, to be followed by guitarist/songwriter Thomas O'Connell in early 1984. And the band changed their name again, to The Bell System.

Though this lineup never made it into the studio, they were videotaped by fan Bill McKenna during a live broadcast of their set for WPKN radio in Bridgeport in 1985. Bill subsequently assembled a video for "America Now" which merged the live performance with carefully-edited stock footage. Due to the lyrics' timeless thread of frustration with government seemingly beyond the people's control, it has enjoyed popularity on social media and YouTube. McKenna updated the images based on current events in 2007. When Barack Obama was elected President in 2008, Craig changed one lyric about racial injustice to a more general observation of social class, but this version has only been played live so far.

Rhythm Methodists

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2002: Rehearsing "Pretty Picture": Phil Kitchel, Craig Bell, Claudia Bell, Joe Guidone


This side project with Craig, Claudia Bell, and Kerry Miller (Hot Bodies, Astrobeats, Valley of Kings, Peacock Flounders) first formed in CT where friend Ron Sutfin was building a studio and needed a band to provide some music. The recordings were preserved, some now on aka Darwin Layne ("You Be You" and "I Think I’m Falling"). The name became synonymous with Craig's other one-off endeavors in Indiana, such as a track on the Furors tribute Let's Get Furious ("Pretty Picture") and a Dave Davies tribute, The Songs of Dave Davies ("This Man He Weeps Tonight"), as well as occasional shows with a revolving set of musicians such as Joe Guidone, Nevard Tellalian, Phil Kitchel, and Holly Butler. The latest incarnation, the original three plus Malcolm Doak (Saucers) on keyboards, has just finished their version of the Stones' "Hand of Fate" for a compilation album on Whiplash Records to be released soon.

The Down-fi

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2008: Clockwise: Craig Bell, Jason Bambery, Mike Theodore, Sam Murphy
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2012: Blane Slaven, Sam Murphy, Craig Bell
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2016: Sam Murphy, Craig Bell, Phil Kitchel

After relocating to Indianapolis, Craig formed a new band, The Down-fi, with Sam Murphy, Mike Theodore, and Jason Bambery in 2008. Craig met Sam at North Street Media while putting together the re-release of It Happened But Nobody Noticed/ Temp Supplementarie, discovered he was in a local band, the Dockers, and after seeing him play live, asked him to join. They recorded the America Now CD in 2009. After some personnel changes, Sam and Craig continued, with Blane Slaven on drums. They recorded an EP, Beehunter, (Gustav GTEP3) in 2012 and a couple of singles, "Santa's Pissed Off" (2013) and the dual A-side "Roadmaster/Why Me," recorded completely analog for Cavetone Records (2014). The Down-fi played quite a few live shows, as far east as New Haven, CT and as far west as Texas. RFTT's David Thomas once joined them on stage at the Phantasy in Cleveland for "So Cold" and "Final Solution." In 2015, the Craig fulfilled a dream of recording his version of "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" with Phil Kitchel, Sam Murphy, and Alex Kercheval providing music and many others on sound effects. Phil Kitchel replaced Blane Slaven on drums in 2015. The Down-fi released a download-only collection of recordings Conclusion in the Fall of 2016.

DEEZEN

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At Birdy's: Mike Rippy, Craig Bell, Dan O'Connell, Kelsey Simpson, Sam Murphy
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Opening for the Gizmos: Mike Rippy, Craig Bell, Kerry Miller, Kelsey Simpson, Sam Murphy

Craig joined friends Sam, Mike Rippy (The Dockers), Kelsey Simpson (Wait til Wednesday, 9 Foot Worm), and Dan O'Connell in Deezen in 2009. For Deezen, Craig revived stage name Darwin Layne, Rippy and Sam did the same with their Dockers monickers Aztec Kotex and Thee Reverend Dr. Doomtone, drummer Kelsey became Cupcake and vocalist O'Connell was Thee Reverend Dan, who utilized a cordless mic to interact with/terrorize the audience.

Deezen wrote and performed "I Love You Eddie Deezen," written for the short film of the same name in 2012. The actor (best known from Revenge of the Nerds) both inspired the band's name and is the subject of the film.

In 2013 Deezen, along with special guests Cheetah Chrome and Gary Siperko, headlined a benefit in Indianapolis to help Norton Records after their business was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.

Kerry Miller filled in on vocals for Deezen's appearance at Tonic Ball 2013, and continued fronting the band into 2014.

THE GIZMOS

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Eddie Flowers, Rich Coffee, Kenne Highland, Kelsey Simpson, Craig Bell, Sam Murphy, Ted Niemiec

Craig and fellow Deezen members Sam Murphy and Kelsey Simpson were asked to serve as rhythm section for the original line-up of The Gizmos, who played a few shows (including Goner Fest) in 2014. They also played a few live shows with Gizmo guitarist/songwriter Ted Niemiec as Teddy and the Mofos, and joined the band again in the studio to record the 5-track 7" EP 21st Century Gizmos Fans Can't Be Wrong (2016).

For merch and more info, go to http://gulcher.bigcartel.com/product/the-gizmos-21st-century-gizmos-fans-can-t-be-wrong

X___X

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Andrew Klimeyk, John Morton, Craig Bell, Matthew Harris
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Craig Bell, Andrew Klimeyk, Lamont Thomas, John Morton

"The music is best appreciated as the continuation of two distinct traditions, both begun in utter darkness, without actual audiences, as virtual acts of dada-art-terrorism that had no truly functional musical precedent."

– Byron Coley, liner notes to Albert Ayler's Ghosts

"The [electric] eels were an extremely loud, controversial assault on their audience. They were also very entertaining." wrote Michael Weldon (Mirrors) in CLE. After the unholy noise of Cleveland's electric eels (lowercase ala e. e. cummings) was muted with their breakup in 1975, frontman John D. Morton formed X___X, the 'blank' to be filled in as needed, or not, depending on the occasion. Morton was heading for New York, and recruited guitarist Andrew Klimeyk, bassist Jim Ellis (publisher of CLE), and drummer Anton Fier (later of Golden Palominos) for an intentionally-temporary band. After six months, the band broke up, but released two singles anyway, "A/You're Full of Shit" in 1979 and "No Nonsense/Approaching The Minimal With Spray Guns" in 1980. The Finnish label Ektro dug through the vaults in 2012 and subsequently released X Sticky Fingers X, which included both of the singles, live recordings and rehearsal tapes. With an album out, a tour was in order. Klimek and Morton recruited Craig on bass and drummer Matthew Harris, who toured the US in 2012.

Morton describes what happened next: "So while we were on tour, Craig said that we'd become a 'real band,' and on the way back from Detroit, Andrew told us he made arrangements for us to record. So knowing we were going to stay together and record, I thought about "Ghosts," and I tried to work it out to see if I could do it. I don't know the scales on purpose, and sax has different scales anyway, but I was able to learn it. And I knew that doing it was audacious, and it had to be really good if we did it, otherwise it would be laughable, embarrassing. It had to be right. Some songs are great, but some bands shouldn't do 'em. I got through the first three melody parts that make up the piece and got to the free jazz part, and 20 seconds in to that, I knew I could do it. Teaching the guys to play it, they were looking at me kind of askance, like "We're really going to do this?" and Craig said "Oh, this could kill us." But part of the basis of Smog Veil's interest in releasing the album was the cover of "Ghosts," so it had to be there. We met up in Cleveland like five days before the recording to practice, we hadn't been together since the tour. We got through "Ghosts" and I said "We got it, we can do it," and they all looked at me like "I don't know if we played it right." I said "You can't play it wrong." But after we recorded it, we all agreed it was the right thing to do. The fact that Ayler's from Cleveland, I feel a debt and affinity there. I'd heard free jazz by Coleman, and others, but Ayler was the ghost that spoke into my ear." X The Jazz Destroyers X released Albert Ayler's Ghosts Live at the Yellow Ghetto on Smog Veil in 2015. In true eels homage, the music is jarring and confrontational, and one track features only a variety of power tools. With Lamont 'Bim' Thomas (OBNOX, This Moment in Black History) on drums, they toured the US and Canada in 2016, power tools and all.

For merch and further info, go to http://x--x.co.uk/wow/home.html

SOLO SHOWS

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2016: Solo at Used Kids, Columbus, OH

Solo appearances by Craig were rare prior to the release of aka Darwin Layne in 2016. An appearance at a benefit in Cleveland, OH for the UFW in 1974 where Craig sang Eno's "Baby's On Fire" with Peter Laughner's group, Cinderella's Revenge, was followed by an acoustic set in 1979 at Ron's Place in New Haven, CT (recorded by Ernst Webber from which the B-side of Craig's "America Now" single was culled).

Another solo acoustic appearance followed in 1984 at The Grotto, along with a home studio recording released the following year on a compilation LP for German electronic music label Priapismus, "Die Orgasmus Bigband" (1985).

In 1997, Craig was invited by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum to appear, along with Jimmy Zero of the Dead Boys, for a discussion of the early years of the Cleveland punk scene. Following the hour-long talk in the fourth-floor theater, Craig and Jimmy performed a number of songs from the Dead Boys & RFTT, backed by Barbara Eckles, Dave Cintron, and Frank Vazzano, all (then) in Downside Special, plus Craig's "America Now" (with Craig on guitar and Claudia Bell on bass). The band was introduced as The Atomic Bombs.

Craig Bell and Band 2017

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Craig Bell and Band 2017: Craig Bell, Dusty Privette, Nick Pryor.

Craig assembled a new group of musicians for an April tour in 2017; Dusty Privette on drums and Nick Pryor on guitar. Dusty and Nick also play behind comedian Donnie Baker as The Pork Pistols. Along for these shows was original Saucers synth master and keyboardist Malcolm Doak. The band did eight shows during April in the Midwest, hitting Cleveland, Detroit, Lafayette, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Louisville, and Columbus. Craig had performed shows in September 2016 with Tyler Watkins, bass, Alex Kerchival, keyboards/guitar, and Nick Vote, drums, on the East Coast: New York City, New Haven, Boston, and Jersey City.

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Craig Bell and Band - New York City 2016: Adam Kuhn, Alex Kerchival, Nick Vote, Tyler Watkins, Craig Bell.
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2016: Alex Kercheval, Craig at State Street Pub, Indianapolis, IN