Welcome to another month of fine music in Monkeyland.
For April we are doing something a little different - a retrospective of our recently departed comrade, George Romansic. In case you don’t know, George was an old friend who played in a bunch of rather noisy or arty or something bands in Seattle in the 80’s, The Beakers, 3 Swimmers, Little Bears From Bangkok, Danger Bunny and other more short-lived stuff. I dealt with George in the record business for long after that (he distributed our records) and George was a fine person to deal with. Straight shooter. Good human. You could not help but like George.
When I think about George, I always think of him as a drummer first. Had the Beakers’ records when they came out in ’80-whatever and paid attention to whatever band George played in next. I don’t even remember how I met George, but it may have been around the time I recorded Danger Bunny for the Monkey Business comp, so around ’85 (George thought I did an inferior job capturing his ride cymbal on the track – true – we overdubbed a tambourine to make up the needed part). More recently, I’d been talking to George casually for a couple years about putting together a “History of George” that I could post as Album of the Month some time. We never got around to it.
When I heard about George’s death, I started gathering odds and sods from various people, stuff like the rather entertaining Planet-Zero recorded at a party in a dorm room at The Evergreen State College in 1978, thinking I would try to pull something together. Then I found out George had made a disc George Romansic In The ‘80s: Drumming For Life! George was ahead of me. Once I got the Drumming For Life! tracks, I felt like – why not just go with that. It isn’t exactly the songs I would have picked (more Beakers!), but it is exactly what George picked and that seemed really good.
So that is what we have this month. April 2015. All George. All good. I asked some folks who played in bands with George to share a few thoughts, which you can find below the song titles.
As a bonus track, if you look in the video box on our home page, you will see a fine P.S. O’Neil video with George on drums that is pretty nice.
PS - Per Jim Anderson's request way back in 2010 or 11, Little Bears From Bangkok is still streaming on our website as long as we are on the interwebs. Click here.
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1. DANGER BUNNY - New Ascension
2. 3 SWIMMERS - The Worker Works to live
3. THE BEAKERS - 4 Steps Toward A Cultural Revolution
4. DANGER BUNNY - Time Stands Still
5. DANGER BUNNY - For This
6. 3 SWIMMERS - Safety for China
7. 3 SWIMMERS - I'll Make the Tea
8. 3 SWIMMERS - Take Me Back
9. 3 SWIMMERS - Behind the Door
10. 3 SWIMMERS - Nietzsche's Birthday (live)
11. DANGER BUNNY - Charity
12. DANGER BUNNY - Paris Loop
13. 3 SWIMMERS - (We Have the) Technology
14. 3 SWIMMERS - American Technology
15. THE BEAKERS - What's Important
16. DANGER BUNNY - Foodeater
17. DANGER BUNNY - Rites
18. THE BEAKERS - Bones
19. LITTLE BEARS FROM BANGKOK - Exile
20. LITTLE BEARS FROM BANGKOK - Dog Pack 202
21. THE BEAKERS - Funky Town (S. Greenberg)
George on drums.
Joan Maneri - guitar and vocals - DANGER BUNNY & LITTLE BEARS FROM BANGKOK
Jim Anderson - (sax & vocals - BEAKERS, sax, bass & vocals - LITTLE BEARS FROM BANGKOK
Fred Chalenor - bass - 3 SWIMMERS
Nancy Clarke - lead vocals, violin & guitar - DANGER BUNNY
Eric Jolley - bass - DANGER BUNNY
Colin McDonnell - guitar & some vocals - 3 SWIMMERS
Mark H. Smith - lead vocals & guitar - 3 SWIMMERS & BEAKERS
Francesca Sundsten - bass - BEAKERS
ALL SONGS RECORDED BETWEEN 1980 AND 1987
Songs used with permission from K Records, Engram Records, Danger Bunny and Little Bears.
Line drawing - George Romansic self portrait.
Photo thanks to - Beth Romansic Calvert, Miro Jugum, Joan Maneri and anyone else we forgot.
STEVE LAYTON played with George in PLANET ZERO a short lived TESC band, prior to THE BEAKERS.
My first year at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, The guy next door in A dorm, George Romansic, was a quiet east-coaster with a phenomenal record collection and an already encyclopedic knowledge of weird pop, classical and experimental music (Every issue of Trouser Press?? Stockhausen's "Mantra"?? You have freaking "MANTRA?!?" I need to listen to Henry Cow? and later, some unheard-of guys named DEVO?...). A friendship was made then that lasted all through that time and well beyond.
When we decided in 1978 to make the first junk-punk band in our happy hippie college, George for the first time decided he could become a drummer; and become one he did, going on to play in all kinds of seminal early-80s bands in the Seattle scene. Moving into record distribution, he was one of those crucial people who helped get the outsiders and innovators into the stores. Always a giver, always an explorer. It warms me to no end to know that Patti Smith herself gave a shout-out on stage to George, at her recent concert here. Loved you, my friend. Your imprint on so many lives is going to echo for a long, long time
STEVE FISK recorded George and played with him in the occasional situational combo.
There's a lot I could tell you about GR but I got to see him live many times. I even "jammed" with the Beakers at the Showbox. He was a snappy drummer. He played with a manic energy that was a big part of any group I saw him with. I don't think he got recorded very well. I screwed some of that up. The Beakers songs I produced were mixed thru the Buchla Synth at TESC, arty but not really good for the music. He was a key part of a short west coast tour for John Foster's Pop Philosophers in the mid 80's and I got to play with him several times. JFPP was never structured and involved really listening to each (other)- a little like jazz. He was very good at that.
MARK HASKELL SMITH played with George in THE BEAKERS and 3 SWIMMERS and maybe even PLANET ZERO.
Most people don’t think of George as a gritty, tough-as-nails, street fightin’, hard rockin’ kind of fellow. Most people know him as a gentle enthusiast with a sly sense of humor. Even when he took a punk rock stance it was a pose, always with an ironic twinkle in his eye. Except for one night in Vancouver, Canada.
The 3 Swimmers were the support act, opening for the Gang of Four on the west coast leg of their tour, and Vancouver was the first of four or five cities we were playing with them. We took the stage at the Commodore Ballroom and, for reasons that are still unclear, Colin walked up to the microphone and shouted, “It’s hockey night in Canada!”
I guess the Canadians found that insulting because what followed was a constant barrage of beer bottles and cans. I wish I could say that the cans and bottles were empty. But it seemed that the crowd, who were irate, were throwing projectiles that were half full -- or half empty, depending on your point of view -- heavy enough to pack a punch and then spill their contents on the stage. The Molsons and O’Keefes hit our guitars, the bass amp, the wall above our heads. Beer bottles exploded against the cymbals, spun wildly off mike stands, and ricocheted off the monitors. We didn’t stop playing.
Colin stood at the front of the stage and dared someone to plant one on his forehead.
Beer rained down for forty minutes.
And then someone launched a Jack Daniels bottle that appeared to be filled with urine. Whoever threw it had an arm, because it whistled across the stage like a line drive and caught George square in the chest, blowing him off his drum stool like he’d been shot. I looked back and could see that he was hurt, he’d had the wind knocked out of him at least. (Later he felt that he’d bruised a rib falling off the drum riser.) I thought we were done -- he’d sustained a serious blow -- and started to unplug my guitar. Colin turned on the audience, screaming at them. But George got up, set his drum chair back, sat back down, and started playing. For me, that was as rock and roll as Ozzy eating a bat. It was rock and roll as contact sport and George was playing through the pain. In fact, he played louder, maybe better than he’d ever played before.
By the end of our set there was a good quarter inch of beer in a standing pool on the stage. We hustled off, feeling lucky that none of us needed stitches or a trip to a Canadian hospital. And then something strange happened. The crowd called for an encore. They were applauding and hooting for one more song.
We went back out.
The barrage resumed.
JIM ANDERSON played with George in THE BEAKERS and LITTLE BEARS FROM BANGKOK and some other miscellaneous bands like SUPERSHAFT.
Long before I met George Romansic in 1978, I loved music. I remember seeing my north Portland grandparents playing the mandolins, guitars, fiddles and saws before I could stand up in 1956. I later played in school bands, marched in small-town parades playing my sax, sang in grade school performances, and then drifted far away from giving two hoots about sax or any kind of school-related music as I moved through my adolescence. Then the urge to play returned, just before moving from Portland to Seattle in 1977, There on one exciting/embarrassing evening I joined my piano playing friend Andy in doing a piano-sax duet at the old-school Nobby’s Tavern in NW Portland. Andy was a regular, but after playing for about 30 seconds, the juke box was restarted, and we stopped our racket making, getting a pat on the back from the locals who knew Andy who said “that’s OK. They just don’t get it.” And I was pretty sure that they didn’t and maybe neither did I.
Fast-forward to Seattle, where I met George and we quickly identified a shared passion for the new punk music. The only difference we had is that he knew something about it, knew the bands, and all I knew was that I was thirsty for some new music. George didn’t judge me, but instead helped me move along and learn about the music, free of condescension or patronization. I’ll never forget him sitting me down in his bedroom in the Red House in Ravenna, quietly putting the needle down on God Save the Queen by the Sex Pistols. I was ready for it, in fact hungry for it, and it completely reset my musical compass. But George’s mentoring was free of pretention or any notion that he was smarter than me.
I wanted to sing in a band, and when we listened shortly after to Shot on Both Sides by Magazine, and when I sang along, George said “you can do this. You can sing, you get this. You can do this.” And I did, right or wrong, “do this.” When I was lucky, it was with George on drums, Joan on guitar, Tracy on bass, and in front of friends and family who were in sync with whatever the hell we were trying to do. And it was George who led me there.
Our finest moment was setting up at a forested curve on Interlaken Blvd in 1978, Geo on drums, me on sax, with giant firs behind us, as we honked, squeaked, and rocked on a gray fall day. People stopped and stared as they drove by, and when we were done, we packed up his drums in his old VW, shook hands, felt warm all over. As we parted, George said “that was really something.”
NANCY CLARKE played with George in DANGER BUNNY, George’s last band.
It's a little hard to talk about playing with George, just cuz...It was the most, most fun, let's start there. He was encouraging, playful, hardworking, sensitive, and a great self-promoter! Relentlessly goofy, and stinger-prone. Since we last played Bumbershoot (1990? 91?), we continually returned to the topic of Danger Bunny and how amazing we were. And young. All of those songs belong to all of us, we made them together. He's still there in the music.
Regarding the PIGEON HOLLER video
Pigeon Holler released 1987 By Velvetone Records, Ellensburg Washington. Featuring the Gloria Dei Singers: Donna Beck and Kelly Harland. PS O'Neill Guitars, Vocals. 2WD ( Rhythm Section ): George Romansic Drums, Eric Jolley Bass. Steve Fisk, Keyboards, Samples, Loops.
Bonus Track Tomorrow's Waiting Reprise. Al Katz Various Guitars including a Vinnie Bell Electric Sitar and a circa 1966 Fender Twelve String Electric. 2WD Rhythm Section. Steve Fisk Keyboards. PS O'Neill Rhythm Guitar.
Copyright 1985, 1987, 2005, 2014 ©PS O'Neill/Stimcointernational. It is forbidden to use any of this original content without the express written consent of the author, © PS O'Neill/Stimcointernational 2014.