Rubber City Rebels

TrackAlbum / Single
KidnappedFrom Akron
Such A FoolFrom Akron
Rubber City RebelsFrom Akron
Somebody's Gonna Get
(Their Head Kicked In Tonight)
Rubber City Rebels
Paper DollsRubber City Rebels
Caught In A DreamWelcome To Our Nightmare
(I Wanna) Pierce My BrainPierce My Brain
Born DeadPierce My Brain
Your Television LiesPierce My Brain
Annoyed, Destroyed, UnemployedRubber City Records RCR-11001

Rubber City Rebels photo 2

 

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Contributor: Calvin Rydbom

Last year, during an interview with Rubber City Rebels former lead guitarist Buzz Clic, he told me the Rubber City Rebels came about because “We were all just sick of being spoon-fed the music of the day and it appeared that the seat assignments were already taken, so when the “punk, new wave” thing came along, well … there was a wide open door and we all just went through it.” As good of a definition of what became known as the Akron Sound as I’ve ever heard. And that wide open door and sound is well documented with the recent release, Punk 45: Burn Rubber City, Burn! Akron, Ohio: Punk and the Decline of the Midwest 1975-1980.

Sure the Black Keys and the Pretenders became hit makers on the international level but when it comes down to it the group that really captured the Akron Sound, or at least the sound of Akron during their lifetimes, was the Rubber City Rebels who lead the pack.

I Love Akron

Rod Firestone, Donny Damage, Buzz Clic were all members of the the top 40 band King Cobra, and had a pretty successful following in Northeast Ohio. Firestone and Clic were already fans of the New York Dolls and Lou Reed, and were closely following the scene that was going on in New York City. But it was the night that Firestone and Clic saw Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers that really changed things for them. After playing by the rules young bands were supposed to play by, they decided, or realized after also listening to the Ramones, there were actually no rules. Along with drummer Stix Pelton and keyboardist Pete Sake, who was a holdover from the King Cobra days, the Rubber City Rebels began to take form.

Luck stepped in one day while talking with the owner of the Crypt, an Akron bar King Cobra had been playing at. The owner was tired of the grind of running a bar and music hall and somehow during the discussion the members of King Cobra, who were already about to become Rubber City Rebels, took over the club and agreed to pay the owner rent and not be just the band. So instead of trying to talk bar owners into booking a band playing originals, they had their own stage to perform on.

Rubber City Rebels photo 1

Their soundman, a guy named Mark Mothersbaugh, had a band called Devo and was interested in playing there as well, In fact The Crypt became the only significant Punk Rock club in the Midwest part of the United States. They frequently played host to Rubber City Rebels, Devo, Pere Ubu, Dead Boys and the Bizarros.

Around this time the band came out with their first album, a split effort called From Akron with the Bizarros. This came out not long after Rubber City Rebels became more than just an Akron band while performing at New York’s CBGB opening for the Dead Boys.

There were some minor lineup changes, as they switched to new drummer Mike Hammer and got rid of keyboards, and as Buzz Clic told me, “really got down to basics and shaped the band into a rock and roll killing machine”.

They were off to Los Angeles not long after that, scoring some success playing at the Whisky a Go Go with bands like the Knack, Dickies, Fear and the Kats. The band did get signed but some disagreements between them and labels caused contracts to be terminated before a second album came out.

Damage and Hammer decided to return to Akron, forming the hard rocking Hammer Damage Band, so Firestone and Clic brought on Johnny Bethesda and Brandon Matheson. Matheson had formerly been in a band with the Knack’s Doug Fieger who became a big fan and was supposedly a big help in getting them a deal with Capitol Records. The eponymous album was well reviewed when in came out in 1980, it just never really sold enough to be more than an underground success.

In 1982 they were featured as the band in club scenes for the movie Tag: The Assassination Game, which was an early starring vehicle for Linda Hamilton and Robert Carradine; and a movie I saw just because the Rubber City Rebels were in it.

Turnover at Capitol caused the band to stop being a priority of any kind. In 1983 Firestone released a solo album and by 1988 the band had ceased to exist, although there was never an official announcement of a break up.

Even though there was no band really after 1990 their popularity kept growing among their fan base. In the mid 1990s one of their songs popped up on an Alice Cooper tribute album, The first of three eventual compilation albums was released in 2001, following 2000’s Live From Akron. It was enough to get the Clic, Firestone, Hammer and Damage ensemble back in the studio to record the 2002 release Pierce My Brain. The title track became a hit of sorts, especially after being featured on the 2003 Skateboarding video game, Tony Hawk’s Underground.

Damage left the band a second time shortly after and was replaced by brother, Bob Clic for the handful of gigs they still play now and again, as well as on a single the band released in 2011.

Buzz still records as the Buzz Clic Adventure, releasing 3 CDs on Smog Veil Records and being a Los Angeles mainstay. He also seems to be the go-to interview for good comments about the Punk Scene that consumed North East Ohio in the late 1970s. A scene that existed because, as Clic once said to me while talking about the Rebels, “We lived/survived in NE Ohio and the weather always sucked and there wasn’t shit to do except grow old and die … well that made us tough and stubborn enough to keep going even when it didn’t make any sense to try.”

This is some of their music, and my favorites.

The Rebels came roaring off the vinyl on the B-side of the From Akron album with the Bizarros. Like any good punk band they started with a 1-2-3-4 countdown before just throwing themselves into Kidnapped. It’s ferocious, it’s attacking, it’s even fun. It does sound like a lot of punk singles but they seemed to be having a good time with their anger. I think the keyboards even worked in this early release. Something I rarely say about punk.

The second song on the album, Such A Fool, features some really slick guitar work and even what comes damn close to guitar solos. It is also one of my favorite Firestone vocals. You can’t help but alternating between realizing you are listening to flat out classic sounding punk and that you are also tapping your toes.

And how could they go wrong with a song called Rubber City Rebels? It starts out with Clic on his guitar just sustaining before the drums and bass just attack you, and it goes on for two and a half minutes before there is a break of sorts and the song just sort of changes genres before it starts building back up to a great punk song. Or proto-punk, or whatever. I never really got all those labels.

By 1980 they had a much cleaner sound, as they were on their third lineup and had seemingly added some other influences to their punk sound. Hammer and Damage were definitely hard rockers and perhaps their departure and replacement changed the sound a bit. Their second album started with a cover of the early Fleetwood Mac song, Somebody’s Gonna Get (Their Head Kicked In Tonight). Firestone definitely has a rockabilly sound to his vocals and the band had become a really tight sounding quartet as opposed to wild sounding quintet from just three years earlier. It’s two and a half minutes of fun. They were a bit different, not better or worse, just different.

The second song on the album was another cover, Paper Dolls by Jack Lee. It was another great effort. They again had seemingly drifted away from their earlier growling punk attitude, although punk was still certainly there. But it was one tight unit. Sometimes people think of punk as sloppy, not here. This is one tight rocking and on point band.

Caught In A Dream was another great cover. In fact it was good enough to show up on an Alice Cooper tribute album (Welcome To Our Nightmare: A Tribute To Alice Cooper) years after the band’s first break up. By this time Clic had developed into a first rate guitarist and really gets to stretch it out and show it on this song. They were a band hitting their stride, about to become huge stars, except they didn’t. They more or less went their separate ways.

But then a live release and a compilation album, which was actually the songs from the 1977 effort along with some live cuts, and a remastered version of the 1980 album came out in 2000 and 2001.

And people wanted more Rubber City Rebels.

I Wanna (Pierce My Brain) could be a bit tongue in cheek, hard to say. But it certainly sounds like the Akron Rebels more than it does the Los Angeles Rebels. Much more punk than the slick sound they developed in LA. In 2005 two more compilation albums came out. One covering the Akron years and one covering the Los Angeles years, So it isn’t just me who noticed a big difference, But this was real punk being played in 2002. And punk was needed in 2002.

Born Dead launches in what we think of as classic punk as well. Three minutes of power and aggression. I can really imagine being in the mosh pit slamming around to this number. Hell, given when it came out, I probably did. At least at the very end of my mosh pit days.

Your Television Lies might be my favorite late effort by the Rebels. Both energetic and a little pissed off, it’s what Punk is supposed to be. With even a little bit of a message snuck in there.

In 2011 the Rebels released the single Annoyed, Destroyed, Unemployed. It proved punk is about attitude, not about age, amd it’s a great tune. Full of the fire they first showed 34 years earlier.

When it came down to it, the Rubber City Rebels didn’t have any hits, and never became what you’d consider stars. But they were a great band that represented Akron well, and perhaps without their drive the whole Akron Sound would never have happened. They just didn’t go through the door, they led they way through it for other Akron bands during that era. Maybe Devo and The Waitresses became more popular, but nobody was like the Rebels.

 

Rubber City Rebels facebook

Buzz Clic Adventure facebook

The Akron Sound Museum

“It’s Everything, and Then It’s Gone” (2003) – documentary on the Akron, Ohio scene from the 1970s

Devo Toppermost #438

Pretenders Toppermost #252

Rubber City Rebels biography (Wikipedia)

This is Calvin’s 28th Toppermost. His third book “Modern Images of Akron” was recently released by Arcadia Publishing. In it Calvin spends a good deal of pages covering the history of music in Akron with images and commentary on the Black Keys, Devo and Pretenders among others. He has also recently signed on to be the Archivist and Contributing Author for the proposed Akron Sound Museum, which will celebrate the history of Akron Music from the early 1960s to present. In the meantime he is working on his 4th book before starting a fifth on the history of Akron Music.

TopperPost #498

7 Comments

  1. Keith Shackleton
    Jan 19, 2016

    Brilliant. Never heard them before.

  2. Calvin Rydbom
    Jan 21, 2016

    Glad you liked them Keith

  3. David Lewis
    Jan 23, 2016

    Really enjoyed this one. Thanks Calvin. One of the things from coming outside of the USA is that the regionalism of the music gets somewhat lost. Akron seems a place I should examine closer.

  4. Andrew Shields
    Jan 24, 2016

    Calvin – agree with David that your excellent series of posts on Akron bands (and others) has opened up a whole new area of music for exploration… Also liked the line about ‘I Want To Pierce My Brain’ being ‘a bit tongue in cheek’. So there is a possibility that he means it…

  5. John Shockley
    Feb 15, 2016

    Have a hearing problem but I’m glad my nephews are doing good.

  6. Rod Firestone
    Feb 24, 2016

    great article . would the museam be interested in some rubber city rebels trash , I mean memorabila ? How about the infamous diy rubber pants worn by Rod Firestone at the Wiskey in ’79 . Hand tailored from actual inner tubes and rubber cement. includes an air nozzle and Firestone logo. some other shit too if you want it…

  7. Calvin Rydbom
    Feb 25, 2016

    Hey Rod, great to hear from you. And I really am glad you enjoyed the article. I’ve got some pictures of you guys, mostly at JB’s though. And Buzz did send us some stuff about a month and a half ago. But we could use a lot more Rebels in the Akron Sound Museum. I’ll email you soon.

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