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I'm the co-host of THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO with Dana & Carl (Sunday nights, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org).  As a freelance writer, I contributed to Goldmine magazine from 1986-2006, wrote liner notes for Rhino Records' compilation CD Poptopia!  Power Pop Classics Of The '90s, and for releases by The Flashcubes, The Finkers, Screen Test, 1.4.5., and Jack "Penetrator" Lipton.  I contributed to the books Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, Shake Some Action, Lost In The Grooves, and MusicHound Rock, and to DISCoveries, Amazing Heroes, The Comics Buyer's Guide, Yeah Yeah Yeah, Comics Collector, The Buffalo News, and The Syracuse New Times.  I also wrote the liner notes for the four THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO compilation CDs, because, well, who could stop me?  My standing offer to write liner notes for a Bay City Rollers compilation has remained criminally ignored.  Still intend to write and sell a Batman story someday.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

1.4.5.: 3 Chords & A Cloud Of Dust

These are my original, unedited liner notes to the 1.4.5. anthology CD 3 Chords & A Cloud Of Dust.  As the notes indicate, I really liked 1.4.5. throughout its many incarnations.  The one constant member is 1.4.5. frontman Paul Armstrong, best known as guitarist for The Flashcubes, the single person most responsible for bringing punk/new wave sensibilities to the Syracuse club scene in the late '70s.  Buy yourself a copy of this CD here:  http://www.amazon.com/Chords-Cloud-Dust-Armstrong-Flashcubes/dp/B00I1R57HK

                      3 Chords and A Cloud of Dust ft. Paul Armstrong of The Flashcubes


I’ve always been a big fan of The Flashcubes, the Syracuse-based power pop powerhouse that flashed briefly and brilliantly in the late ‘70s.  But when The Flashcubes broke up in the summer of 1980, it was okay; by then, they really weren’t The Flashcubes any more—not to me, anyway.  Guitarist and founding member Paul Armstrong had left the ‘Cubes a year before that, and while Flashcubes Mark II was indeed a wonderful pop group, they were not the same group to whom I had declared my allegiance.  When The Flashcubes ceased in 1980, Syracuse lost one great band, but gained two new great bands:  Screen Test, comprised of the other three original ‘Cubes, and 1.4.5., starring Paul and cohorts Dave Anderson on bass and Ducky Carlisle on drums, all fresh from their stint in Paul’s first post-‘Cubes outfit, The Most.

1.4.5., named for the basic I-IV-V chord progression that is the foundation of rock ‘n’ roll,  became known for their hearty-party gusto, as the band spent many a happy hour rampaging through ferocious sets of rockin’ pop played loud, proud and (frequently) plowed, sorta like The Replacements before anyone heard The Replacements.  But 1.4.5. wasn’t just a great party band (as if that wouldn’t be enough to canonize ‘em right then ‘n’ there); they were a terrific rock ‘n’ roll group—uncluttered, unpretentious and solid as the motherlovin’ Rock of Gibraltar, armed with cool tunes and the God-given ability to compel anyone with a pulse to move the ol’ feet, clap the ol’ hands and raise the ol’ voice in willful, joyful abandon.  Call it urban rockabilly, like Eddie Cochran without the twang, or maybe The New York Dolls without the blush, or even Chuck Berry without the violation of the Mann Act (though perhaps not for lack of trying).  A 1.4.5. show was a guaranteed good time, for all the right reasons.

The original lineup of 1.4.5. released only one record, a magnificent four-song EP called Pink Invasion.  Another EP, Sex Machine, was recorded but never released. 1.4.5. later relocated to Boston, went through personnel changes and eventually morphed into The Richards, with Paul the only remaining original member.  I only saw the original 1.4.5. a mere handful of times, including two gigs with Screen Test (both of which culminated with Paul joining his former ‘Cubes buds on-stage for a roof-killing rendition of “Got No Mind,” his signature tune with The Flashcubes), and an incomparable show at a tiny closet of a bar called Squires East, where my consumption of vile Genesee Cream Ale (urgh!) may have rivaled the band’s own legend.  I moved out of Syracuse, and never saw 1.4.5. again.

I  missed so much.  Like the time 1.4.5. changed its name, for one night only, to Decent Pizza, and reportedly played a show of all the covers they’d ever wanted to play, just to get ‘em all out of their system.  1.4.5. also indirectly inspired the pop music career of Maura Boudreau, now one-half of The Kennedys; music-theory student Maura saw a 1.4.5. poster, dug the musical joke of the band’s name, and became involved in the Syracuse new wave scene as bassist for a punk band called The Antics.  It was a magic time to be a young rock ‘n’ roll fan, a time just before the state raised the legal drinking age, the last days of such vibrant Central New York nightspots as The Jab, The Firebarn, The Insomniac, The Merry-Go-Round, Poor House North, etc.  And 1.4.5.--even more than Screen Test, perhaps even more than The Flashcubes before them--was at the center of that scene, helping to make it all happen.  What a band.  What a great, great rock ‘n’ roll band.

I have never, ever forgotten how much I loved 1.4.5., and even today just thinking of those few 1.4.5. shows I witnessed will still bring a smile to my face and a tap to my toe.  For all this time, I’ve only had four songs on one lone EP to help me remember.  Now, at long last, we all have a bit more.  I’ll drink to that.