BABYLON DANCE BAND TIMELINE, 1963-1984
by Chip Nold
September 1963: Chip Nold meets Tim Harris in Miss Stratton’s third grade class at St. Matthews Elementary.
September 1966: Marc Zakem and Chip meet in Mrs. Olsen’s sixth grade class at St. Matthews; Tim is in Mrs. Kuhn’s class, next door.
May, 1970: The Quar party: Chip sings, Marc plays guitar in Chip’s backyard. Parody versions of rock songs (“In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” etc.) to promote the release of Chip and Marc’s Mad-styled magazine.
May 1972: Chip, Tim and Marc write “1 in 400,” entry for Waggener Class of 1973 class song. Marc plays guitar, Cindy Raker and Joanne Bridwell sing. Stage-shy Chip ignores Tim’s idea of jumping up to join in the chorus. They lose to the group that has a drummer.
Summer 1974: Tara Key spends the summer of the Year of the Diamond Dogs in New York, wins a David Bowie lookalike contest and hangs at glitter-era joints such as Club 82.
September 1976: Chip and Cindy Read go to New York and see Talking Heads at CBGB. Chip’s introduction to the excitement of original music in a club.
May 1977: Inspired by a Mary Harron piece on the early British punk scene, Chip forms Total Excessive Minimalism with Cindy, Tom Carson, Sam Gruber and Art Schankler. No one in band can play an instrument — well, maybe a few guitar chords — and the group switches instruments after each song as an anti-proficiency principle. Group applies to student government for money to rent instruments. Amazingly, the grant is approved and a gig set up at Terrace Club. Tim, Marc and high school classmate Charley Brown drive up to see the show. Songs include “City of the Savage Agnostics,” "Accidents Can Happen (Even to a Psychopath)” (Tom); “My Week Beats Your Year,” “Christianity for the Brutal,” “I Hate Disco” (Chip); “Pizza Face,” “Pinhead Ballerina” (Sam); “Castration (Presupposes a Condition that Doesn’t Exist” (Cindy*); “I Don’t Like Tan” (song by Tom, vocal by Art). Covers: “Listen, People” (Herman’s Hermits), “Streetfighting Man.” Great fun, but the real news is the next afternoon, when Marc, Tim, Charley, Tom and Chip jam on the instruments in Tom’s dorm room. A seed is planted.
*Reader, I married that girl.
1978 - LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY
Derby 1978: First Louisville punk gig – No Fun plays at Louisville School of Art, with Tara on guitar.
June 1978: Chip comes home for a few weeks after final semester at Princeton, before moving up to New York. Tim and Marc rent a bass, an amp and a drum set. Chip, Marc and Tim spend many evenings at Marc and Tim’s Cherokee Road apartment jamming.
June 10, 1978: Chip and Marc attend No Fun show at the Center for Photographic Studies and are impressed to find such a striking band in Louisville. Particular point of attention: the female guitarist’s attack and individual sense of rhythm.
Mid-June: Robert Nedelkoff hears about the jamming at Marc and Tim’s and comes to believe Marc, Chip and Tim have a band; he invites them to play at a party at his parent’s farm in Floyd’s Knobs. Chip’s desire to sing and disdain for singing drummers – Mickey Dolenz notwithstanding – leads them to call Laura Lehmann, a friend Chip had worked with at Noble Roman’s Pizza. An accomplished classical violinist and bluegrass fiddler (playing with her high school classmate Steve Cooley, later a member of the Dillards), she doesn’t know how to drum and doesn’t especially follow rock music. But she has a friend who plays drums, and he teaches her enough to support the rockin’ vibe Marc, Tim and Chip are putting out.
June 24: No Fun plays in the courtyard at the Cloister; I-Holes open; future Dickbrains in attendance.
July 7, 1978: First Babylon Dance Band show at Nedelkoff’s Barn. Classic image from beforehand: Tara, whirling outside the barn. Dance Band set list includes “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone,” (first in a line of Raiders covers), “Quick Joey Small,” “Sweet Jane,” “Expressway to Your Heart” and “Jailhouse Rock,” which Chip introduces as “The first number one record on the subject of prison homosexuality.” Set includes three TEM songs reworked so as to have actual music: Tom’s “City of the Savage Agnostics” and Chip’s “My Week Beats Your Year” and “Christianity for the Brutal.” Those are the only originals.
Mid-July: While Marc is on vacation, Chip and Tim decide to try to keep the band going and write the first original BDB songs, “Cemetery Rock” and “East End Girls.” Marc returns and agrees to keep playing.
July 21: No Fun plays at the Zanzibar. Chip, Tim and Marc pogo so hard Chip can barely walk the next day.
July 28: Eclectic Art Co-Op show at old Galt House site (131 W. Main St.). A night of farewells – last No Fun and I-Holes gigs, last BDB show with Laura Lehman. A night of new acquaintances – the Sanders sisters show up, Steve Rigot comes to the party afterward. A voice during the BDB set shouts out “Sacrifice the bass!” Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Kenny Ogle.
August 1978: Rehearsals move from apartment to Marc’s parents’ garage. Another female drummer, Debbie Kaufman, joins and plays one show – at Bloomington, IN’s Monroe County Public Library, opening for the Carbites (an offshoot of the Gizmos fronted by a hot female bassist who sang a version of “Love Potion Number 9” for the ages). Booking at Vogue falls through, due to “insurance issues.” (And maybe reaction to No Fun show before “Fritz the Cat” the week before?) Instead, there’s a party at Marc and Tim’s apartment: first Endtables show, only BDB show with Dean Thomas drumming (and only BDB show without a woman in the line-up). New songs: “I’m Happy,” “Will It Be Today?” “Rock Class” (or was it later?), “Edge City Dude.” Tony Pinotti, Bruce Witsieppe and Rick LeTendre leave in the No Fun-mobile for New York. Chip, Tim and Marc come over to say goodbye. Dean Thomas to follow later, after undertaking to accomplish more in a week than most people do in a year. Tara, who’s staying in Louisville, comes over and watches Chip, Tim and Marc with envy in her heart, hating them (as she put it later) because “you guys had a band and I didn’t.” Robert Nedelkoff plays matchmaker, telling the BDB they should ask Tara to join. Chip calls her up; “So what are you doing now?” “Well, I was thinking of asking you guys if you needed another guitarist.” First practice at Nedelkoff’s barn seals the deal.
Fall 1978: Season of whiskey-fueled practices at Nedelkoff’s barn and the search for a drummer. Steven Jan Humphries plays two shows: Willo’s, a bar on extreme east Oak Street (October 15), and a show in Cincinnati. Finally, Gary Grizzle introduces us to Dave Bradley, a 32-year-old who works as a graveyard-shift courier for First National Bank. Rehearsals move to Marc’s parents’ basement. Marc, Chip and Tim go to a U of L basketball game and reconnect with Kenny and Mark Abromavage. Chip, Marc and Tim support themselves as substitute teachers. Marc, Chip, Tim and Tara travel up to New York and see the B-52s at Irving Plaza. (TIM SEZ: Sid Vicious was there after getting out of jail after Nancy’s death and before he died. Suicide played second. Opening was Walter Steding with Debbie Harry on drums.) Chip stays up in New York to hang out with Tom and welcome Cindy back from Africa. Tim and Tara fall in love.
New songs: “Jumpin’ Suburbs,” “Get Those Orphans Rockin’,” “Telltale Heart,” “Ringing Heart,” Bankrupt City” (Carson), “Didn’t I Know You in High School?” (Carson), “Auto Assassin” (a Tara song No Fun had done), “Chemically Fueled Silence” (so roughly 17 originals in 5 months – not bad)
Covers: “SOS,” “If I Were a Carpenter,” “Summertime Blues,” “It’s Alright,” “Dirty Water,” “Hey! Little Girl,” “I Can't Control Myself,” “Talk Talk,” “Eve of Destruction,” “Shape of Things to Come,” “Poison Ivy” (or was that later?), “I Just Wanna Have Something to Do” (Later?), “The Rope,” “Bo Diddley”
Parody songs, only performed in practice: “Selassie Come Home,” “Lady (Say Hey)”
Gigs: Abortive U of L New Wave festival outdoors on a cold, rainy October night, organized by Stu Neff – some in band try to take over a lecture hall to play, but cooler – or less cool? – heads prevail. Zanzibar (Nov. 3 and 4), The Schooner, a biker bar in Portland – Tim got the gig after he went out determined to find a place for us to play; there were signs on the door warning that no liquor, drugs or guns were allowed inside, something we East-Enders were unfamiliar with (the Outlaws motorcycle gang had their clubhouse down the block); band played “Eve of Destruction” during the mop dance. Underage drinking party in an Eastern Jefferson County barn where Chip gets punched in the mouth by drunk teenage asshole (Cindy Read and Georgia Nold’s first-ever BDB show, sometime the week between Christmas and New Year’s); Dutch’s Tavern (New Year’s Eve), where Chip recites the final stanza of “Kublai Khan” – show off! – and says, “I don’t know about you, but I think that’s just a fancy way of saying ‘I Can’t Control Myself’!”
Fall road trips to Cincinnati to see the Ramones and an amazing Dictators show; also Marc and Chip go to Columbus to see the David Johansen Group.
Jan. 31: Finally, an indoor New Wave festival at U of L – BDB, the Blinders and the Endtables. Dance Band poster features a photo of Darrell Griffith dunking and the box score from U of L’s victory over Maryland. (Doug Maxson: “Such devotion, there were times when I thought they should've been named the Basketball Dance Band.”)
February 9-10: Woody’s Tavern. Marc meets Ann Cassidy. Chip sings so hard (and gets so dehydrated) he runs offstage during an instrumental to puke.
Feb. 13: Band makes pilgrimage to Cleveland to see Clash at the Agora on their first U.S. tour.
March 8-10: Dance band plays three nights at Headrest (latterday site of Mom’s Music); Blinders open Thursday. Filmed for KET documentary series by Walt Lowe, who also interviews Chip. (New cover Chip remembers from this gig: “Volunteers.”) Drunken St. X grad whom Cindy calls Chip’s doppelganger (Chip actually worked with him on a temp job a year or so later) stands at edge of stage and says to Chip, “When Tara sings ‘Hey Little Girl,’ that’s the way it used to be.” Tim plays bass so hard he has to apply artificial skin (some sort of synthetic foam) to his forearm; blood spatter and gouges in the wood mark Gibson as his. Chip gets a weeklong gig substituting at Ballard starting the Monday following; first period, opens his mouth and discovers he has no voice whatsoever. Interesting week.
Spring 1979: Marc moves out of Cherokee Road apartment. Dave Bradley goes to dinner at his parents’ and afterwards drives by a small club on Brookline Avenue. Punk rock has its new home – the Iroquois Hideaway. (First poster I find is for March 23-24.) Club’s clientele enjoys the noise – famously, a motorcyclist drove onto the floor as we started one set, then vacated his bike so Chip could jump on and finish singing “City of the Savage Agnostics.” Another set ended with Chip jumping from phone-company-spool table to phone-company-spool table. The Hideaway (later the South 40) wanted us to fill up a whole night, so we played three or four 15-song sets a night (once we played 5 sets).
Sometime this spring, after the KET show aired, Chip was walking on the Douglass Loop and this nice, soft-spoken kid came up and said something like, “Am I losing my mind or are you the lead singer of the Babylon Dance Band?” It was Alec Irwin, future Dickbrain. For the next year – until they formed a band, and could be on the bill – nearly every gig was shadowed by concern over whether Alec, Doug, Cathy Irwin, Chas. Schultz, Margaret Lowen, Jenny Catlett and others would be allowed in the door. (Not a problem for the equally-underage Kenny and Mark.)
Other songs from this era: “Cherokee Road” (Tim’s lyrics); “TEM/Real Cool Time,” a tribute to Chip’s first band, with “minimalist” lyrics (“Na na, na na, na na na na!”); a few phrases from P-Funk (“Psychoalphadiscobetabioaquadoo-loop” “Tear the roof off the sucker”) bridge the way to the Stooges cover. Also: “I Don’t Know What to Do,” hard-rocking ambivalent equivocation.
July 13: Punk rock summit day: first time Louisville bands play in Lexington, at Mark Cascio’s farm. Dance Band is back within a month, playing at pass-the-hat bar Halle Lou’s August 11 (poster – “Punk Rock” Theatair X ad) and August 31 (poster – “Where the Fans Are”). I believe 8-11 is the famous night when we spent the night at someone’s apartment and Kenny Ogle – who had never been to Lexington before, and had a bandaged foot and only flip-flops on his feet – walked back from Versailles, where Mark A. had been jailed for a traffic violation, and found the apartment where we were sleeping so we could go bail Mark out. The enthusiasm – and sheer numbers – of the Lexington scene were a shot in the arm. Other Lexington gigs from this era include one at UK with DOA, where the take at the door was supposedly stolen, and one at a gay bar called Jezebel’s. That night the band hardly drank, but at the end of it our free tab showed up more than a case of beer – nearly all of it drunk by our roadies, Kenny and Mark. Good help doesn’t come cheap!
Sometime over the summer, Dave and Marsha had bought the Iroquois Hideaway and renamed it the South 40, but they kept the punk rock. The first night Dave and Marsha owned the place, Tim recalls, we called them up to put on a spur-of-the-moment Dance Band/Endtables show, set up to impress no-show Leee Black Childers – Bowie and Patti Smith photog, Heartbreakers and Wayne/Jayne County manager, Shively native. Tim remembers Ricky Feather falling backward across one of the tables, a Sanders sister in each arm, beer glasses flying everywhere. Chip introduces a song with a parody of “Land:” “And you were there in the lock-ah room…. And I said ‘Lee Black’… I said ‘Lee Black’… I said ‘Lee Black’… We gotta go get us some East End Girls!”
BDB poster for the weekend of August 3-4 suggests what a home base South 40 had become: “Back to Business,” over a black-and-white shot of the band’s equipment in the Zakems’ basement.
August 16: Lexington Herald-Leader, Page D-12: “Babylon Dance Band Gives Lexington Its First Taste of Punk Rock.”
Fall 1979: Party at Nedelkoff’s.
Late-period Mach 1 songs: “Living at Home,” “Eaten Up By Hate” – the point where Tara begins writing music for Chip’s lyrics, rather than Marc. When she plays him “Eaten Up By Hate,” Chip realizes there’s no way he could sing it as well and – magnanimously, don’t you think, since it’s one of his best lyrics? – offers it to her to sing. Another song from this era: “Govern Me.”
November 1979: First BDB tour of the East – Boston (on what seemed to be “audition night at the Rat”) and Philadelphia, playing in front of a very few people as opening act for Robin Lane and the Chartbusters (which included Leroy Radcliffe, the guitarist for the Berserkley Chartbusters-era Modern Lovers; Neil Young fan Tara is impressed to be on a bill with the woman who sang on “Round and Round”).
December or January: Marc, saying that some people seemed more into doing the band than others, quits; so does Dave, but he agrees to stay on while the band looks for a new drummer.
Chip, Tim and Tara begin writing new songs: “Golden Days,” “Everything’s the Same.” Tara’s cat attacks Chip while he’s singing one of them.
Early in the year, the band – no longer having the use of the Zakem parents’ basement – begin sharing practice space with Blinders, upstairs in the house Sandy Campbell shares with a young lady named Tari Barr – 1069 Bardstown Rd.
Still believing the band needs a second guitarist, they invite Karen Vance to join. Early Mach 2 song: “Up in Alaska” (instrumental).
Jan.-Feb.: Band posts handbills:
BABYLON DANCE BAND
FAST, ENTHUSIASTIC PUNK DRUMMER
MAKE IT YOUR FIRST PRIORITY!
An 18-year-old U of L freshman picks up a handbill, thinking it’s a poster for the next gig. Sean Mulhall has seen several punk shows more or less by accident – he was in the audience for No Fun at the Vogue, having come to see “Fritz the Cat;” he was at the Zanzibar to drink the night the Dance Band played there.
Sean calls the number on the poster (Chip’s); Cindy takes the message; Chip doesn’t call back.
February 27: Marc-less Dance Band makes debut at Second Annual New Wave Festival at U of L’s Red Barn. Mary McCarthy – on crutches after she tried to thaw frostbitten feet in a fire – asks Chip if she can dance with the band. Chip says “Fine.” Band opens with “Up in Alaska;” Chip is off-stage, waiting to make an entrance. Mary gets up onstage – with crutches, knee-high yellow boots, blue pants and a red top – and takes her top down. Red Barn officios grab her by each arm and zip her offstage.
Sean is visible in front row in some photos. He comes up to Chip, whom he recalls because Chip wore his Waggener letter jacket (JV football, man) at the Z-bar and Sean, too, is a former Wildcat letterman (tennis). Cindy says, “This is the person I told you about.”
Sean auditions, and in short order is asked to join.
March: New direction – Karen leaves the band and BDB assumes its “classic” formation.
New bands emerge – Kenny Ogle, Mark and Chris Abromavage and (temporarily) Dave Bradley make up Malignant Growth; Tari Barr, Alec and Cathy Irwin, Doug Maxson and Charles Schultz call themselves the Dickbrains. Most of these practice at 1069, necessitating a well-worked-out practice schedule that starts in the early afternoon.
New songs: “See That Girl,” “Baby Boom,” “Comes Change,” “My Friend Roger,” “Bold Beginnings,” “We’re Pulling Away” – the core songs of classic Dance Band – and others that don’t last – “Come to Florida,” “Texas.”
April: The Blinders discover a new venue – The Windmill, one of the surviving clutch of Main Street rock clubs. They begin having a Monday “New Wave Night.” Dance Band’s ambivalence about the new spot is captured in a poster advertising shows “AT HOME” – Saturday at the South 40 – “and abroad” – the following Monday at the Windmill.
May: Tom Carson comes down for the Derby and hangs out at 1069 and at various gigs. Someone – the Dickbrains? – books a Derby Eve party at a house on Hull Street. The Dickbrains play with Charles and Doug in drag. A great Dance Band gig that seems to represent a moment when the band is breaking through to a new group of listeners is interrupted when someone falls off the roof. Kenny Ogle maintains that Quaaludes saved the guy who fell, seeming to ignore their possible role in his falling.
Tom’s winning Derby bet on Genuine Risk – the second filly to win the Derby paid $26.80 on a $2 ticket – nets him $86 and allows him to stay for another week. He conceives the idea of writing a piece for the Village Voice about the Louisville scene as an example of rock now coming from the suburbs rather than the gritty urban streets. Chip encourages him in this endeavor every chance he gets for the next half year.
The Windmill goes all-new-wave. We’re taking over!
May 16: “Come Get an Education in American Democracy:” BDB, the Endtables and Strict-9 play a dance at Waggener High – present school or alma mater of over half the players (Chip, Tim, Sean; Alex and Albert Durig; most of Strict-9).
Dance Band appears on local cable-access show, interviewed by some woman Tim knew at IU.
Nashville band, the Actuals, plays the Windmill. Relationship with them will be crucial to BDB gigs in Nashville, which begin this summer at Phranks ’n’ Steins.
Late May: Woman Sean knows hires us to play graduation dance for St. Albert the Great’s 8th graders. We suggest she watch cable access program to see if we’re appropriate. She doesn’t; we aren’t. “Don’t you know any Billy Joel?”
June: The Windmill suffers the inevitable fate of a punk/new wave bar in Louisville and closes.
Hot as hell summer – band often gets through only 3 or 4 songs at 1069 (upstairs windows are blocked by sound-proofing mattresses) before quitting for the night and going to play basketball (favorite venues: St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Crescent Hill; Hogan’s Fountain; Waggener parking lot).
July: New practice digs: a loft in the 700 block of West Main Street, which by day is the headquarters of local anti-nuke group, the Paddlewheel Alliance.
Songs from this era: “State of the Nation;” “When I’m Home.”
July: Band sends demo tape to CBGB, Hurrah, The Rocker Room, Club 57 at Irving Plaza, Max’s, Studio 10 (“lowest priority – run by yippies”), Maxwell’s (“might be cool 2nd place to play”), Tomato (“Less punk, more rockabilly”) (Notes from Chip’s conversation with Tom).
August 13: The Pit in Cincinnati (Wednesday “new wave night” at Tomorrow’s Disco) with the Action, from Akron.
December 2: The night before our picture appears on the cover of the Village Voice, we play at a gay bar in Dupont Circle. MC says, “They’re going to be on the cover of Village Voice, which I guess is some gay publication in New York…”
December 3: Village Voice article appears. Carmichael’s orders and reorders the issue.
December 19: First gig in New York at Peppermint Lounge with Strange Party. Chip performs for the first and only time wearing glasses. Great crowd reaction represents total vindication.
December 20: Peppermint Lounge w/ Immune System.
December 27 (I think): At Trax w/ Human Switchboard. Debra Rae Cohen tells Chip the New York critics loved the band. Chip and Sean leave their suitcases in van parked in front of the Dakota. The thieves loved the Cowger shirts.
January: Back in Louisville. Gig at Armando’s Palace. Made $60.50. Had to pay for water.
Chip gives his account of early NYC gigs to Kathryn Callahan in Main Street: The Voice article “created a lot of interest, then it was up to us to back it up. The first time we played the crowd was lively and really got going. We never had as lively an audience again, although both other nights people said ‘This is a real live New York crowd’ and we thought, ‘God, what a bunch of dead asses.’ At the second and third gigs, the NYers said ‘You got a really warm response. That anybody danced was incredible. I get the impression people in New York are really spoiled…."
Concerning the idea that the group is “a product of the suburban middle class”: "We don’t try and hide our origins… But we don’t make a big campy deal of it like the Talking Heads."
Another Jan. gig: Alternative Jam??
Sometime in this era – maybe?? – Chip drafts a press release: "We have been together in the present lineup – Tara, Tim, Sean and Chip – since Feb. 1980. Chip, Tim and Tara were together for a year and a half before that in a band with the same name but a different lineup, different material and a different approavh [sic] The changes: Tara took over all guitar duties and started to develop as a lead player; the bass came into greater prominence (often the bass lines are what people walk away humming); and the general energy level picked up when we changed drummers from a 34-year-old… to an 18-year-old that played basketball a lot…
January 29: Gig at Private’s, NYC, with V – Robert Christgau lead pick in the Voice Centerfold with another James Hamilton pic (the band standing on the steps outside Tim and Tara’s apartment on Rufer: “Lexington, Kentucky’s pride – remember Tom Carson’s suburban rock piece – have to be seen to be believed. I mean, who would figure Carson’s ex-roomie to lead a hot, weird, ingratiating rock and roll band? I didn’t until I caught them opening for (and cutting) the Human Switchboard at Trax Christmas week. Because I believe miracles can happen twice, I intend to try them again.” Michael Rosenblatt of Sire Records gives Chip his card; the morning after the gig, the yet-to-sleep band goes to see him at his office.
February 4: In Pazz and Jop poll, Christgau picks Trax show as one of his three favorite club memories of the year (alongside Material at Tier 3 and DNA at Irving Plaza).
February 28: BDB play Peppermint Lounge with the Suburbs, from Minneapolis; same show plays March 3 at Blitz on Long Island. Pep Lounge show is the BDB’s largest payday to date, mostly in tens and twenties; Chip takes large wad of bills back into dressing room, spies Tim sitting at table in earnest conversation with someone, and throws money into Tim’s lap, where it explodes. Tim has early premonition of the heart attack that will kill him.
March 13: Show at Princeton’s Terrace Club. Back to the womb.
March 14: Show at Trax with Nervus Rex. Voice preview: “The Babylons are a tuneful post-Ramones band with the best female guitarist this side of the Atlantic.”
Band heads up to Boston, spending a week in Cambridge with Tara’s cousin Carl. Lots of good eating – cheeseburgers at a Greek place! Szechuan food! Middle Eastern pastries! – and plays poorly attended weeknight gig with CCPTV (St. Patrick’s Day?). Returns to NYC area for first-ever gig at Maxwell’s with Love Tractor.
March and April gigs at Club-au-Go-Go. April gig playing for USY convention. Requests for “Rock Lobster.”
May 22: NYT story by Robert Palmer on female guitarists features Tara, Joan Jett, Pat Place, Adele Bertei.
May 23: Peppermint Lounge, opening for Madness; May 24 at Maxwell’s.
May gig at Crazy Al’s in Indy.
June 6: BDB and Monsters play St. Matthews Potato Festival. In the audience: John Bailey and Wolf Knapp.
Song from this era: “Summer.”
July 3: Condescending review of our recorded oeuvre from Laurice Niemtus in the Scene mentions forthcoming Allen-Martin single, which is available for her to hear.
July 17 and 18: South 40 has lost its liquor license and is now an all-ages club, Backstreet Games. BDB plays with Strict-9 (Fri.) and the Maligs (Sat.) Friday night, Chip almost pulls an unintentional Iggy Pop by forgetting he hadn’t put on underwear with those overalls. Backstreet Games, indeed.
August: Local alternative paper Main Street prints the weirdest thing ever written about the BDB: a screenplay by Centre student George Pruitt Wethington called “The Death of the Babylon Dance Band: You can’t miss if you don’t aim” which depicts the BDB gunned down by three NYC record executives.
August 4: BDB plays at Cantrell’s in Nashville, with Factual – attendance 226.
Circa August 11: Band drives east to play three shows in NYC and Hoboken and to spend a semi-vacation as guests of Steve Fallon. (Yay! Manhattan in August!) Lemon ice expenditures top $20 some days. Fallon turns bar (and apartment next to Sean’s sleeping bag) into fireworks venue.
August 11: BDB plays at Folk City as part of the New York Folk Festival (no shit!) on a bill with Mark Johnson, “a tough and winsome Southern rocker” (program notes) and the Wild Alligators; and the Noise, hot off their single “Smokin’ in Bed.”
The program argues strongly for our inclusion in a folk festival: “Four of the straightest-looking punks ever to come out of Lexington, Kentucky [sic], the Babylon Dance Band are purveyors of what the Village Voice calls ‘The most vital, energetic and lively American Rock and Roll.’ Their honest, enthusiastic, hard-driving music recalls the freshness and spunk of early rock and roll. If New Wave in its most straightforward and expressive form can be seen as the folk music of the 80s, the Babylon Dance Band are true folk performers… ‘Folk’ dancing will accompany all three bands.” Other Folk Festival acts (none of whom we meet): Oscar Brand and sons; George Gerdes; David Amram; Buffy Sainte-Marie; Odetta; Meg Christian; Richie Havens; Tom Paxton; the Persuasions; Rosalie Sorrels; Suzanne Vega; Christine Lavin; John Hammond.
August 21: BDB plays its third show at Trax with Hoy Boy and the Doys opening.
August 22: Band plays Hoboken River Festival.
Sept. 11: Show at Cantrell’s in Nashville.
Oct. 10: Too bad girls, he’s married! Chip weds Cindy Read. Wild party night before at Kon-Tiki apartments with Maligs, Chinese, BDB. Mary McCarthy takes her top off.
Nov.: Zachary’s in C’ti; Nov. and Dec. shows at Second Story in Bloomington (with Dancing Cigarettes).
Nov. 6 show at Princeton’s Terrace Club (w/Rick Derringer’s sound man) and next night at Maxwell’s (with the Cyclones).
Dec.: KO Jams, Murfreesboro.
Dec. 31: Maxwell’s, with the Human Switchboard.
Unslotted shows (don’t know dates) – Philly, the Dirt Club in Trenton, Chicago.
BDB played 10 times in 1981 at Club Au-Go-Go in Lexington.
In Musician, Van Gosse choose BDB single among the year’s best independent records, along with esg, Richard Lloyd’s Stones single and Pylon’s Gyrate:
"These guys came from nowhere (Louisville) to dazzle New York’s critics. They play genuine punk with all the sincerity of an Andy Hardy movie: no leather jacket crap. Here an urgent vocal hook upfront contrasts with distant, mournful clangor from a yearning guitar over great drums – upon first exposure required four times daily."
Jan. 9 in Record World’s “Single Picks” (along with new discs by Emmylou Harris, Dr. John, Duran Duran, Sarah Vaughan, Judy Collins, Anne Murray, Jermaine Jackson and Mary Wells): "The Louisville, Kentucky-based quartet plays no-frills rock 'n' roll that may be a bit too raw for some programmers, but exudes a compelling sincerity that stands up and out after repeated listening. Lead vocalist Chip Nold cries from the heart, and guitarist Tara Key plays from her soul."
January 19: The band begins distributing the “When I’m Home/Remains of the Beat” single.
February 19: BDB at Danceteria with Method Actors; same bill plays Boston (Streets) next night.
February 27: Band plays the final night of the Club Au-Go-Go. Cincinnati’s Obzene: “After two songs, the crowd was cheering, stomping, and rushing the stage to bestow their affections on Babalon’s [sic] lead guitar player, bass player and singer. It looked like old film clips of the Beatles’ concerts. Babalon handled their fans’ reaction with humor and without condescension. They invited the crowd onstage to dance, which broke the barrier between performers and audience. It was wild. During ‘Wild Thing,’ the front row and stage dancers shouted out all the lyrics, and the singer just hung back and danced with a huge charismatic grin.” (As was his wont. – Ed.) “They reveled in the bedlam, kept putting out a spiraling energy level of tight music, and no one could count the encores.”
March 12: Gig in Murfreesboro largely attended by Middle Tennessee students; Chip’s stage patter includes some (chemically-unaided) hallucinatory rap about a song arriving in a vision in which “I saw the Lamb… and your parents.” Band drives home after gig in time to see Cards beat MTSU in NCAA 2nd round game.
April: New York Rocker readers’ poll, Favorite Unrecorded (Non-Album) Band:
Babylon Dance Band
Finishing below the BDB: The Individuals, Rank and File, DNA, Mission of Burma, Mofungo.
Songs from this era: “All Radical and Shit,” “Someday,” “ABC,” “Resources,” “The Two-Part Song,” “The One-Part Song”
May (?): Gig at the Cage, Cincinnati, with Dream 286
July 2-3: Lexington gigs at the JDI
Summer: Gig in Knoxville; trip to Athens, where the band opens for REM at some large venue; hangs out with the amazing Maureen McLaughlin; and plays at the 40-Watt Club.
Late period songs: “Air War” (Tara wrote and sings), “The Latest,” “Boomtown,” “Rookie,” two songs that nobody but Chip seems to remember: one had the lines “I’ve got a love so big and strong and” – not sure of the word – rich? hard? – “they have to bring it in on a special train/coming in by train/coming in by train” – and one that Chip had sketched out this way:
Dream about relation – desire for irrational union, fear of unnatural alienation – with animal/natural world
Dear God! I saw a tree
And oh, dear god, it had fish for leaves
Dear God! I slept in a crib
And it was fashioned from orangoutang ribs
Watch out! There was a plant with teeth
and a vine on the ground that crept toward me
What’s that? My hand full of dirt
Squirmed and teamed like a madras/paisley [I hadn’t made up my mind] shirt
You think that’s weird? Last year there was a guy here with a chicken.
There’s at least one more New York trip around this time — Chip remembers playing “Air War” at Danceteria.
October: Single reviewed in Goldmine (joint review w/ the Embarrassment’s EP): “While hardley [sic] legendary, the Babylon Dance Band is intelligent, experimental (to a degree) and keenly committed, and they know very well how to sound good on a record, despite their obvious weak points. In short, they may live up to the (unintentional but well-intentioned) hype they’ve received, but for now they produce credible, jangly Bowery rock from a Midwest perspective, a small but honorable feat.” This reminds Chip of how he used to ask the audience to patronize the bar: “It’s a nice little bar…”
Short reunion before T&T head off for NYC.
October 1 show at Tic Toc Inn: The Porch Cats, Your Food, BDB, Little Elvis.
Nov. 5 show at Lexington’s Pralltown Café with smoking version of “I’m a Man” (Chip: “I think I can say without fear of contradiction, this song is the credo of every single person in this band.”)
Band records two new songs with Howie Gano: “Shively Spleen” and “The Reckoning.”
Sat. June 30th Our D-I-V-O-R-C-E Becomes Final Today. First Antietam show at CBGB begins with Chip onstage, singing “Shively Spleen” and “The Reckoning.” Then he jumps offstage and watches the rest of the show from the audience.
babylon dance band history | history main