Props To Propeller

New Math 1977 Dale Solo, Kevin Patrick, Paul Dodd, Robert Slide and Gary Trainer
New Math 1977 Dale Solo, Kevin Patrick, Paul Dodd, Robert Slide and Gary Trainer

Propeller Recordings releases a collection of early New Math songs today and the band will play at 3 Heads tonight. We won’t be able to make the record release party but we caught the band on Wednesday night at the Record Archive’s back room. The place was packed with familiar faces. We were standing next to Rick Cona from the Chesterfield Kings and Brian Goodman from Projectiles. I was New Math’s first drummer and lasted almost two years, long enough to record this classic with Howard Thompson.

Despite reuniting without the original lead singer, Kevin Patrick, the band sounded great, one song after the next. Gary, the bass player in this lineup was saying something into the mic when Roy, the third and best drummer, cut him off and said, “my friend Gary wrote every one of these fucking songs.” Some great songs for sure but just after that they played “Can’t Get Off the Ground,” the best song of the night. Dale Mincey wrote that gem.

On the way home we caught our brother-in-laws’ radio show, “Magic Records” on WAYO and cruised home to some early Curtis Mayfield..

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Brian Williams was talking about all the gigs he’s done over the years with John Mooney and Bob Henrie. He was saying how he wished he had taken the time to jot down the the specifics of each gig. Tom Whitmore from Watkins and the Rapiers was there. He lives in Geneseo and Brian asked him if he remembered a place called Gentleman Jim’s. I said I had played there with New Math and someone stole Gary Trainer’s guitar after the gig. Brian said he was on that same bill playing with the John Mooney band. It seems like I have always know Brian but I guess not.

Let’s see, I played in a working C&W band in Bloomington, Indiana and then a New Wave band in Rochester called “New Math”. Both of those lasted a couple of years and then I started playing in a band called the Hi Techs which sort of morphed into Personal Effects. Those bands lasted for most of the eighties and somewhere in the nineties we started playing as Margaret Explosion. Time flies. Tonight we play at the Little Theater Café.

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New Polymath

Pale Swallow-Wort, invasive species plant in New York State
Pale Swallow-Wort, invasive species plant in New York State

I hate this stinking weed, an invasive species, called Pale Swallow-Wort, that pops up everywhere. It’s really tough to pull out because in most cases you don’t get the roots when it snaps off just above the ground level but the dry conditions we have now make it the perfect time to rid your yard of this sucker. You can see in the photo above that I was able to get most of the roots. I use two the hand technique and pull straight up with focused concentration.

We have a recording of Hildegard Von Bingen’s music that we play quite a bit but we didn’t realize she was such a polymath. The movie we watched last night about her life, a thousand years ago, hardly touched on her monophonic vocal works. Instead it portrayed her as a dark ages religious mystic struggling with a Catholic church hierarchy that unfortunately still exists today.

Polymath would have been a better name than “New Math”, which was already retro when we called ourselves that back in the late seventies, but anything with the word “math” in there sounds too progressive or soulless which isn’t quite fair too mathematics but . . . I played in the band when we recorded the first single with Howard Thompson behind the glass wall of PCI Studios.

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Paste Up

New Math "Die Trying" cover under construction in 1978
New Math “Die Trying” cover under construction in 1978

I remember the waxer and press type and specing type and stats and rubber cement and benzine and the whole paste up process. And I remember doing the artwork for the first New Math single. I posted it all on the Scorgies site.

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Better Than The Orange Monkey

New Math performing at the Orange Monkey in 1977. Robert Slide - bass, Gary Trainer - guitar, Paul Dodd - drums, Kevin Patrick - vocals, Dale Mincey - guitar
New Math performing at the Orange Monkey in 1977. Robert Slide – bass, Gary Trainer – guitar, Paul Dodd – drums, Kevin Patrick – vocals, Dale Mincey – guitar

Tom Kohn from the Bop Shop asked 4D Advertising to develop a site for Scorgies, the old rock and roll club on Andrews Street. He is planning a reunion for November 21 at the German House and he wanted people to be able to share their memories of the place and the many bands that played there. I wrote this short little piece to to kick off the blog on that site and I’m throwing it up here to encourage people to contribute to the site.

Don Scorgie is obviously the key figure in this whole story but probably not in the way you might think. I don’t think he was much of a music fan at least not like I am or most of you are. When I first met him he was behind the bar at street level on Andrews Street. And that fact that he was on that side of the bar had nothing to do with who was doing the drinking.

I was playing drums with New Math at the time and we rehearsed around the corner in the Cox Building on Saint Paul.  Geoff Wilson from the Bowery Boys was the elevator operator in this building in later years but it was pretty much deserted when we moved in. We got in the habit of stopping in Don’s place after practice for beer. I never drank too many because I had to ride my bike back home.

Don was sort of an old salt like Popeye the Sailor man. Being next to the river he had nautical theme going with rope railings and a fish net hanging from the ceiling that was just beginning to collect the Spanish moss style dust clusters that became such a fixture here. The guy who rented him the juke box when he opened this place was probably the one who picked out the 45s. It was just generic mid seventies crap. I think Kevin Patrick, who was working as record promo guy at the time, talked Don into stocking the juke box with the good stuff. In later years, it seems Danny Deutsch, who now runs Abilene, was in charge of the tunes and at some point it seemed like every time you walked into that place you heard Bobby Darin’s “Mack The Knife”. But it wasn’t Don calling the musical shots.

One night after rehearsal Don took us down to the basement at Scorgies where he had just installed the first section of green indoor outdoor carpeting on the step up section next to the bar. It was the first time we had set foot in what people think of as Scorgies. He had a few picnic benches down there and he told us he was planning on setting up an indoor putting green. This was going to get people down in the basement of a century old building? We laughed at the idea.

I remember us, and it was probably Kevin doing most of the talking, trying to convince Don that what he had here, an empty room with no chairs or tables, was the perfect rock and roll club. All he needed was a stage and a sound system. So Don built the plywood stage and he eventually rented a sound system from Mark Theobald. Mark mixed the bands if they didn’t have their own guy. New Math was the first band to play here but I had already left the band at that point and was playing with the Hi-Techs.

This is just the way I remember it. That doesn’t mean this is really the way it went down.