Rocket From The Tombs: The Day The Earth Met Rocket From The Tombs (2002, Smog Veil)
Rocket From The Tombs: Rocket Redux (2003, Smog Veil)
Please excuse me; I'm writing this under the gun. In two days I turn thirty, and I need to get this review article cranked out before they come to take all my punk away. It's what happened to all my friends: a white van screeches to a stop in front of your house at 7 AM on the first Sunday after your 30th birthday, and a team of masked men swarm into your house, replacing your favorite cds with copies of Jim Nabors' Greatest Hits and Josh Groban Sings Songs of God, Country, and Neckties. I'm a little unclear as to whether this will happen before or after I'm injected with the microchip that makes me vote Republican, but I guess I can just wait and see on that point.
You see, I was recently blessed with a visitation from the long lost and legendary punk band Rocket From The Tombs. If you are like me, you spent a lot of years reading about this half-apocryphal group in Lipstick Traces and countless 'zines, wondering if any band making punk music in the days before punk was even a word, much less spirit made flesh, could possibly live up to the breathless hype they've been accorded in the back pages of fanboys-only treatises. Well, guess what: yes it can. Unfortunately, I don't have very much time to spend with the band before I lose them forever, so I will make this brief.
Rocket From The Tombs was a short-lived band that came together in Cleveland in 1974 when a local music journalist named Dave Thomas took the alias Crocus Behemoth and recruited some friends to make music inspired by The Stooges and the Velvet Underground. The band's classic lineup took shape with the addition of local singer, guitarist and Lou Reed fanatic Peter Laughner, bassist Craig Bell, guitarist Gene O'Connor (better known as Cheetah Chrome) and drummer Johnny Madansky (later "Johnny Blitz"). Just eight months after this lineup came together, Rocket From The Tombs would disintegrate thanks to squabbling over artistic direction, the artier camp championed by Laughner and Thomas taking flight in the legendary Pere Ubu, and the hard-rocking wing comprising O'Connor, Madansky, and sometime Tombs singer Steve "Stiv" Bators later founding CBGB mainstays The Dead Boys. For a band whose entire recorded output amounts to a few one-mic radio tapes and a handful of live shows, Rocket From The Tombs' status as one of the first bands to capture the dirty magic of punk has grown over the years out of all proportion with the number of people who have actually heard their music (funny how that happens). In 2002, Smog Veil Records released a set of rehearsal tapes and live demos in 2002 as The Day The Earth Met The Rocket From The Tombs, the first time that the bulk of RFTT's output appeared on CD anywhere. Improbably, Rocket From The Tombs would reform in 2003 for a series of live dates, teaming Thomas, Chrome, and original bassist David Bell with Television guitarist Richard Lloyd and Pere Ubu drummer Steve Melman and producing a live album, Rocket Redux.