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The Murr (and Decadence)

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

The Murr, (as a six piece) in all their NEW WAVE glory. 1987?

I mentioned The Murr in my last post about New Wave in Latrobe and Greensburg in the 80s. I absolutely wanted to dedicate an entire post to this band, and to be honest, this has been long overdue. They are an important story in the history of “underground” music in the West PA area both as a band and how Randy…the singer, helped to introduce and disseminate various punk, hardcore, and New Wave music in the area (more on that later).

The Murr was a band that played Danceland often. Their name is on many Danceland flyers that are already posted on this blog (some are here, here, and here). The band went through several lineups over the years but were pretty consistent with their sound thanks to Chris D and David Rupp who were the only two original members in the band and the biggest new wave fans (some of the other members were Prog Rock fans). I always thought they sounded like the Damned’s goth period stuff, specifically, the Phantasmagoria album. Randy’s vocal style sounded very Dave Vanian to me. What I loved about the Murr was that they TOTALLY embraced the new wave aesthetic and sound, keyboards and all. Being a fan of New Wave, I thought it was pretty cool that Greensburg had a band like The Murr.

Chris D

Dave R looking like a guy in some 60’s British Invasion band.

 

Decadence

Before one can talk about The Murr you first have to talk about Decadence, which was the band that existed before and then morphed into The Murr. I don’t think I ever saw Decadence but I could be wrong about that. I did know about them back in 86-87. In preparation for this post, I spent a lot of time trying to find anything related to Decadence…photos, flyers, demos, etc. but I could not find a thing. The only thing I have that is remotely close to a photo of the band is the following (thank you Robin Shaw Hunt for the photo).

This photo is from a lip sync contest at Johnny B’s in 1987 and shows the singer of Decadence, Mike B, and I think a few other members. I have no idea what song they are lip syncing to (anyone know? It would be fun to find out). As always, if you have any artifacts related to Decadence, please send them to me so I can post them to the blog!

Even though I do not have any “artifacts” from Decadence, I do have some really cool recordings from them here:

Someone Somewhere LIVE

Remembering You LIVE

The River

Set Me Free

She Said

Scarlet Clouds (Early Version)

The first two songs are surprisingly good live recordings from Danceland. I say surprising because every recording I have ever heard from Danceland has sounded horrible since it did not have the best acoustics and the recordings were mostly done on cheap boom boxes. The Decadence recordings were from the soundboard and really sound very good in comparison.

“The River” and “Set Me Free” might be from a demo or a planned e.p. I have no idea if any Decadence songs were ever officially released. I think Chris D sings on “Set Me Free” but I could be wrong.

“She Said” and “Scarlet Clouds” are from some home demo I think. “Scarlet Clouds” went on to be a Murr song (posted towards the lower half of this post). Is it just me or does this version of “Scarlet Clouds” sound like it could go on the Guided By Voices Bee Thousand or Alien Lanes record? Not that it sounds like a GBV song but the recording itself reminds me of Bee Thousand sonically.

I guess Decadence were together for a year or so until the singer was kicked out of the band. I think the incident was captured on cassette at a practice AS IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED. Bummer that I do not have that to post. :)

I don’t think it took long for The Murr to form from the ashes of Decadence. They got Randy as their singer and he was actually a really important figure in the early scene in Greensburg/Latrobe.

Randy and Mike.

 

Randy and WCUP

Randy was a student at California State (Cal U), which was about an hour drive from Greensburg/Latrobe and if you were lucky, you could tune into his Sunday night New Wave/Punk radio show on WCUP Cal U’s student run radio station.

This was probably around 1986, so I was around 16 years old at the time. I remember sitting in my room desperately moving my antenna around just right to hear Randy play a bunch of super cool stuff that I never heard before. I heard The Cure, The Smiths, and The Damned, for the first time on his show and many other bands. But more importantly, Randy always set aside about a half hour of his show to play some punk and hardcore stuff.

As I listened to his show, I would also have my hand on my cassette deck recorder so I could record everything and anything he would play. He repeated a lot of stuff from week to week, I guess that was because he only had a limited selection of records at the time but I would be ready to hit record button as soon as I heard anything new. The following week, my friends and I would share what we heard on his show, exchange and dub songs we did not have, and eventually, we would call into his show and request songs. I remember he would say on the air who requested what song and they all seemed to have cool names like “Cali Skate Punks” or “Latrobe Rolling Rock punks” or something like that, so we came up with a cool name. We were the “New Youth Resistance Positive Punks.” Of course we tried to use every cool “punk” sounding term and strung them all together. This name also reflected an early interest in straight edge, which we read about in zines and heard from Minor Threat, but we also heard other first wave straight edge bands like Unity and Scared Straight on Randy’s show.

Looking back, this was one of my favorite time period of musical discovery. Finding that song that just hit you like a ton of bricks was just great (DRI’s “Sad to Be” comes to mind). Sometimes we would go for weeks listening to a great song we recorded from Randy’s show and not even know the band who played it since Randy did not always recap the songs after he played them (or he said the name too fast to hear it if he did, or the reception dropped out at the moment he said the band name.)

One night he even played a few songs off our first demo and that absolutely blew our minds. Good times :)

A flier for a show at Cal U

The Murr playing at Danceland. 87?

 

Back to The Murr story.

Sorry if all the of the prior stories sound like I am digressing from what is a Murr post but these are items that tell the story of the West PA scene and are connected to The Murr story and I can not leave them out (and it would not make sense to give them separate posts on this blog since they are so intertwined).

So back to The Murr story. As I mentioned, the band played many shows at Danceland over the years from 88 to 90? At that time, there were very diverse bands on one bill. You would have punk, garage, and new wave bands play at the same show (see flier to the left). It was fun but I probably did not appreciate it at the time.

I am not really sure of The Murr’s recording output but here is one of their songs, Scarlet Clouds, for you to download to your IPod. You can hear some of their other songs here.

Scarlet Clouds

The last time I heard, Dave and Chris continued to play and write songs together even though the band broke up in 90. I even heard that they were recently working on a new set of songs for an eventual release, which would be great!

This post is just a general overview of The Murr story. If you want to read a more detailed account, check out their myspace page here.

Thanks to Chris and Dave for letting me grab some photos and fliers from their myspace page (and sending me the mp3s to post). Here are some more photos.

Rockin’ shot of Chris D.

Dave with a super cool shirt!

Randy

Murr T-shirt

Back of shirt

Johnny B’s. New Wave in Greensburg/Latrobe?

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

New Romantics? A typical Sunday night at Johnny B’s. February 1987.

“New Wave” would be the last thing any normal person would think about when visiting Greensburg PA, but it was alive and well in Western PA in the 80s. How and why did this happen in Greensburg/Latrobe PA of all places? There are several reasons.

First, there was a cool Pittsburgh radio station called WXXP, or “Double X,” that played all the fun New Wave stuff from that period and promoted local bands, most notably, the Affordable Floors, which I mentioned in one of my very first posts. You can actually check out a reincarnated version of Double X here.

Second were the actual bands. In the Latrobe/Greensburg area, we had Decadence and The Murr, who were excellent bands that totally embraced the New Wave aesthetic (keyboards and all). I am planning to do a long overdue post on them soon.

The third “embodiment” of New Wave in the Latrobe/Greensburg was a little place called Johnny B’s. Johnny B’s was an important gathering place, club house, and staging ground for a lot of the very early Latrobe/Greensburg scene.

Before there were actual shows with REAL bands at Danceland, there was Johnny B’s (with fake lip sync bands…more on that later). Johnny B’s was an over 21 dance club tucked to the side of Gee Bees shopping plaza on Route 30. Johnny B’s would do an all ages night on Sundays since bars and clubs were not allowed to serve alcohol on Sundays. There were several other “clubs” in the area who did the same thing on Sundays. A place called V.I.P behind what was Greengate Mall (now Walmart) was the rival Sunday all-ages venue. But unlike Johnny B’s, V.I.P was much more “mainstream” and would mostly play lame top 40 music (i.e B-94 fm). It was more a “popular people” and future fraternity and sorority people hangout. A punk or “alternative” person would avoid V.I.P (unless they enjoyed getting harassed and beaten up). All the freaks hung out at Johnny B’s. I was glad to be one of them.

I think everyone who use to go to Johnny B’s would agree that it was a super fun place to hang out. I remember begging my parents to let me go and they finally allowed me after a few weeks of persisted asking. It was worth it! The first thing I noticed was that they played cool music. New Wave! The music and dance party atmosphere was a prototype for what Dave Roman would do later on his Friday Dance Parties at Danceland in the coming years.

Along with the music at Johnny B’s were plenty of New Wave people. Just look at the following pics and see for yourself. They are from some of the a lip sync contests that they would have regularly. Unfortunately, these are the only images I have from those days. A special thanks to Robin Shaw Hunt who was super cool to let me use them from her personal collection and post them here.

Nice suspenders!

What song do you think he is lip syncing here? Kajagoogoo?

I think this photo above was someone doing a song from “Little Shop of Horrors.” A very “alternative” thing to do. I ‘m just surprized it is not a Rocky Horror Picture Show tune

Dave R. Pre Murr?

Decadence dude? More on this one in a coming post

Anyway, mixed in with all the New Wave people were a handful of punks and these were the people I really wanted to hang out with, since I was more into punk than New Wave. But I was just a kid at the time (16 or 17?) and many of these punk guys were older and I didn’t get a chance (or was intimidated) to really talk and hang with them until the Danceland days later that year. That is also when I joined their band! I recognized a lot of people at the first Danceland New Federation show from the Johnny Bs days. This included all the Decadence/Murr guys. The location of Johnny B’s, was right between Greensburg and Latrobe, so kids from both locations would go there, hang out, become friends. This was important for setting up connections when these same kids started to get bands together a year or two later)

I remember seeing a few of the lip sync contests and it was cool to see that a few of the more punk people participated in the “contest” and lip synced to some cool tunes. The Ramones and Dag Nasty come to mind. I think Dave Roman “played” guitar in one “band” that did Blitzkrieg Bop (or as Dave would say “BlitzerKreg Bloop.” Sorry Dave, that one is a classic :).

I think many people have fond memories of Johnny B’s. So much so, that I heard there were a few people from back in the day that pulled together a Johnny B’s “reunion.” I really wish I could have gone. Sounds like a blast.

Anyone know who won the reunion lip sync contest?