It's not a storied scene like the ones that thrived in London, New York, Los Angeles or Washington DC, but Milwaukee was, like most cities in the late 1970s, a hotbed of rebellious musical activity, spurred on by the old-school likes the MC5, The Stooges and The New York Dolls and the new wave of Americans like Patti Smith and the Ramones and Britain's Sex Pistols and Clash.
So, while "punk" bands like Green Day shift millions of units, Milwaukee's punk past has been relocated to a few dusty 45s in the basement. Until now, that is.
Veteran Milwaukee scenesters Clancy Carroll, Scott Krueger, Jeff Menz and Dave Luhrssen have spent the past few years scouring the city for tapes of the best Milwaukee bands of the era for "History In Three Chords: Milwaukee Alternative Bands, 1973-1982," a double-disc set that gets its official launch, Thurs., May 31 at the Cactus Club, 2496 S. Wentworth Ave., in Bay View.
At the free party, which starts at 7 p.m., the landmark double-disc set, which collects 51 rare and/or unreleased tracks by 43 bands, will be played in it's entirety and "The Prosecutors," Milwaukee's Super 8 punk rock classic film by P.P. D'CaCa will be shown at 8:30 p.m. At 9, a "History in 3 Chords" video companion will be screened. This video includes archival video footage of a number of the bands represented on the CD compilation, and was assembled by Ron Faiola of Push Button Gadget Inc.
"History In Three Chords" opens with the Death's surprisingly upbeat 1973 recording of "Depression" and closes with "All White," a 1982 track by Die Kreuzen, who were one of Milwaukee's contributions to the "hardcore" scene of high-speed punk bands that emerged at the dawn of the '80s. Along the way are lo-fi rockers from lesser-known bands like Arousing Polaris, Dominoes and Soko, alongside legendary Brew City bands like The Haskells, Oil Tasters, Einstein's Riceboys, Red Ball Jets, Ama Dots and even nationally-signed bands like Yipes! (Millennium), Colour Radio (A&M) and Violent Femmes.
An eight-page booklet, in punky black and white, splashed with blood-red and a single grainy color photo contains an essay by Luhrssen, founder of the X-Press fanzine that lives on in the Shepherd Express.
Look for an OMC interview with the creators of this great set in the coming weeks. In the meantime, be sure to check out the disc and the release party.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.