THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SLUGGO

I recently dug up a treasure trove of punk rock memories from a box in my parents’ attic. Lots of photos, flyers, stickers, vinyl, fanzines, and even my very first spiked wristband. This is all from about 1983-1985. I’ve gone through a bunch of the Sluggo stuff, of which there is sadly very little of. Most of it I include here. Some of the dates below may be way off. I’ll be able to more accurately date stuff after I re-group with these guys in the fall.

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the original 1983/early 84 lineup from L to R:
Karl Meyer – bass
Me – vocals
Andrew Hamilton – drums
Chris Donnelly – guitar

Sluggo was formed in the fall of 1983. I met Chris when I first transferred to Walnut HIlls High School, at the beginning of 9th grade.

I was aware that there were a few other punk kids at school, but I was very shy, and didn’t really know how to meet any of them. As luck would have it, Chris one day reached out to me at lunchtime, asking me what the hell I knew about the band Seattle hardcore Poison Idea. I knew very little about Poison Idea, but I had drawn their logo with a sharpee on the left thigh of my favorite pair of jeans anyway. I had recorded a handful of their songs off of “Search & Destroy”, the only punk radio show within 500 miles. One week prior to meeting Chris, I had gone to see The Necros in Indianapolis, and I had memorized the layout of the Poison Idea logo from a sticker on the Necros’ drum kit. I think my photographic memory for logos impressed Chris, as he was also in to graphic design like me. We became friends, and within a couple of months, he asked me if I’d be interested in auditioning to be the singer in a new hardcore band he was forming. I went down to their practice space in some weird building downtown, where Andrew was living at the time, and I dutifully sang the lyrics I was given. My best friend David Hinsch, also auditioned. I got the gig, and our friendship never really recovered.

Karl, and Andrew had grown up together with Chris in Hyde Park, a neighborhood just a few minutes away from where I lived in North Avondale. I think all three of them had gone to the same elementary school and high school, at least for a time. Andrew was not really a hardcore punk kid like the rest of us, He was just Karl’s friend, and he liked music, so he was game to try anything. I remember he used to listen to a Zapp’s third album in his car a lot, which had just come out. I still love that record. Karl was the real motivational force behind the band. He was organized and determined, he could play the bass, and he had his own car. That’s all you really needed to start a band. He had a quirky quality to him, kind of like an old man trapped in a young kid’s body, but he was incredibly nice to me and I soon became fast friends with all of them.

The photos below were taken at our practice space in 1983. I was 14 at the time. Fresh faced indeed.

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We took this photo as a joke, posing like our heros, Minor Threat, from the back cover of their 1981 EP “In My Eyes”.

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We did finally release a record in 1983: The Contradiction EP. We recorded the 8 song EP on Dec 17th, 1983 at Group Effort Sound Studios. I think it was the first time any of us had been in a recording studio. Karl formed his own record label, Shag Dog, and we printed 1000 copies. We paid for it with money that Karl’s grandparents gave him for his birthday. Maybe it was $600. Or maybe $1000. Whatever it was, it was a king’s ransom to a bunch of 14-16 year olds. The name Shag Dog came from some graffiti that was written on a wall in green house paint just outside of Mt Lookout Square in Cincinnati.

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Christ & Karl wrote most of the songs and the lyrics. I only wrote the lyrics to one song, Suburban Haven, which are still a source of embarrassment to me 25 years later.

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One of the greatest days of my life was the day that Maximum Rock N Roll, the bible of American punk rock in the 80s, gave our record a good review. I saved the issue. You can read the review and a few others below.

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Hard to believe our record came out the same month as Sonic Youth’s first EP. We even had an offer to sign to their label Homestead at one point, thanks to Squirrel Bait going to bat for us. Like idiots, we passed on the offer, because Homestead said our record wouldn’t come out for a year. So essentially, we passed up a chance to be one of a handful of bands on that historic label that is now credited as being the very foundation of modern indie rock. Ah, youth.

Corrosion of Conformity tried to get us signed to Metalblade instead, but the label didn’t bite. I am keenly aware of how radically different my entire life would have been had either of those deals gone through. No regrets. No remorse. Isn’t that a Metallica song?

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After Andrew quit, we found Eric Moreton to take over on drums. He was (is) a super-sweet, very soft-spoken guy, and yet he could play nice and loud, so he was a perfect fit.

For a short period, Karl moved to second guitar and Pete Wegele (formerly Tommy Rott, now Peter Aaron) played bass. Pete was going to college in Boston at the time, so he was never really around for more than a few months at a time. Prior to this, He had lived in New Jersey, where he started a band in 1980 called Sand In The Face. SITF continued to make music after he moved to Cincinnati in about 1982.

Tom Byrne was the former bassist of Human Sufferage from Columbus. I think they had recently disbanded around the time that Tom went to college at Miami University (of Ohio) in the Fall of 1984. I think Chris got in touch with him and he agreed to join the band. He also had a van, which for a punk band was as good as having our own 747. We had met Human Sufferage when they played the all ages show that Karl & Clem had put together at the South Fairmont Community Center in March of 84. I think Squirrel Bait was originally supposed to headline that gig but I don’t remember what happened.

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The second, and longest lasting lineup, Spring 84 – Fall 85 (I think)
clockwise from top
Eric Moreton - drums
Chris Donnelly – guitar
Me - vocals
Tom Byrne – bass
I think these above photos were taken at the Jockey Club in 1985 by David Gonzalez.

A few flyers form gigs. Check the other SLUGGO blog post for my entire collection.

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Sluggo made two additional demos, one with that final lineup, but eventually broke up in the Fall of 1985. I think we just kind of ran out of steam. Chris & I were drifting apart as friends and I was growing increasingly more distracted by my desire to see a real live girl naked.

Chris went on to form The Mimis, and later on Shag – a roots funk band that built a huge following in the midwest and toured the country for most of the 90s. He most recently played with the re-formed Gang Green at last year’s JC Reunion in Cincinnati.

Pete later moved to New York City, changed his name to Peter Aaron, and founded The Chrome Cranks, who made noise all over the world for over a decade, and recently got back together to play some sold out shows in New York. I ran in to him for the first time in many moons last year at the Boris show, at All Tomorrow’s Parties. We had both just come from seeing a Husker Du reunion set with Bob Mould and No Age, so the timing was perfect.

Eric Moreton went on to found the highly acclaimed Middlemarch in the 90s, as well as many other bands since. He’s currently playing in The Readystance in Cincinnati.

Tom Byrne went on to found The Highwaymen in the late 80s. He’s currently playing in Kentucky Overflow in Dayton, which includes Don Thrasher, formerly of Guided By Voices.

So all of these guys have kept at it musically for their entire lives. Yelling in to a microphone with no real singing ability only goes so far, so I became a DJ instead. Go figure.

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An interview from a fanzine

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That’s all I have for now. I will make it my mission to collect more stuff from the other band members in the coming months. I’ll say this much: It’s really cool to look through a box of stuff from 25 years ago and still remember so many details. Thank god I had the foresight (and sentimentality) to save so much of it.

Sluggo rules.

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