Peter Aaron moved to Cincinnati (aka ‘the Queen City,’ ‘Cinci-tucky’) from New Jersey as a teenager and quickly found kindred punk-rock spirits. In 1988, he revved up a band called the Chrome Cranks which cut its collective teeth in Cincy, then moved to NYC, where six years of gigging and four albums established them as part of influential noise-garage contingent with Pussy Galore, the Cheater Slicks, and the Honeymoon Killers. Aaron pays tributes to his ‘roots’ with a new compilation We Were Living in Cincinnati: Punk and Underground Sounds from Ohio’s Queen City (1975-1982). He spoke with PKM’s Eric Davidson about a surprisingly vibrant music scene in Ohio’s oft-maligned southern city.
Ever been to Cincinnati? Contrary to cheeky visions from WKRP, sad memories of that Who concert tragedy in 1979, or a quick brain scan telling you, “Weren’t the Afghan Whigs from there?”, that Ohio city has a much wider music history. Hank Williams recorded some of his biggest hits there. James Brown cut his amazing early work there for the influential Queen City R&B label, King Records. And there’s that infamous 1970 Stooges festival performance there that was on national TV.
Surprisingly though, Cincinnati doesn’t have much of a reputation for being a punk rock hotbed. I say surprising, because if you are inclined to believe that potential violence is a central tenet of the genre, Cincinnati ought to be up there with NYC and London.
I played [with New Bomb Turks] in Cincinnati numerous times in the ‘90s, and it was usually a shaky experience. Wide-eyed goons would be milling about, guzzling Hudepohl while glaring; and fights would always break out during the show or outside afterwards while loading up the van. Meaning, of course, the shows were always fun. Growing up in Cleveland, then living in Columbus for a long time, that southernmost Ohio city always had a rep as being quite apart from the rest of the state – “Cinci-tucky” was the usual putdown, as it borders Kentucky and hence includes a combustible mix of straggling townies, university students, and dental care-challenged Kentucky gun nuts. Cleveland might only be four hours north, but to me, Cincinnati might as well have been, well, Kentucky.
Of course, compared to the rest of flat-ass Ohio, Cincinnati has some lovely hills and valleys, a river cleaner than their north coast neighbors, and a growing reputation as a lovely architectural hotbed and film location.
For fans of the gnarliest end of the pre-alternative rock explosion of the early 1990s, Cincinnati carries some hefty weight. While Afghan Whigs soon went in a more lavish direction when they flirted with the charts, their early stuff was in line with mid-80s Midwest basement punk like Husker Du and Squirrel Bait; and bassist, John Curley, started up a studio there, Ultrasuede, that recorded loads of regional acts.
More to the punk point, though, Peter Aaron – who’d moved to the Queen City from New Jersey – started the Chrome Cranks in 1988, ahead of the curve of the garbage can trash rock action that would guide the garage-punk underground into the 1990s. The Chrome Cranks really shifted into gear once they moved to NYC in 1992, and marauded around the dive bar circuit for six years and over four-plus albums, making them one of the queasy quartet of influential noise-garage groups that included Pussy Galore, the Cheater Slicks, and the Honeymoon Killers. (A brief Chrome Cranks reunion happened in 2012, with another album and sporadic shows since.)
After the band’s initial demise, Aaron eventually moved to upstate New York, and has concentrated on a busy career as a writer and reporter, while working on numerous musical side projects.
But that Cincinnati kid still runs around inside him, and he aims to expand assumptions about Cincinnati’s punk pedigree with an amazing new compilation, We Were Living in Cincinnati: Punk and Underground Sounds from Ohio’s Queen City (1975-1982). It arrives via the great HoZac Records label, who in the last few years have become the go-to imprint for furious found objects of the early punk rock era. Culled from forgotten demo tapes and incredibly rare singles, We Were Living… exposes a wild, cranky scene that never birthed a big-name act, but rivals its northernmost Buckeye neighbor for idiosyncratic punk sounds. We caught up with Peter Aaron to get the story on how this comp came together, and Cincy’s crazy punk underbelly.
PKM: So, tell me how the compilation came about?
Peter Aaron: I moved with my family to Cincinnati from Morris County, New Jersey, in August 1982, when I was 16. I’d discovered punk rock a couple of years prior and at the time was involved in the early New York/New Jersey hardcore scene with my first band, Sand in the Face. It was upsetting to be yanked out of that just as it was taking off, but as soon as I landed in Ohio, I began connecting with the punk tribe there. I hung out at Mole’s Record Exchange and Zoo Records, near the University of Cincinnati campus. I’d see fliers for gigs by local and regional bands, and without knowing anybody, I started going to gigs and getting to know the local punks—many of whom are still my friends today.
Sometimes some of these people would drop the name of one of these mysterious bands that had existed a couple of years before. That made me really curious. “Everyone knows about New York and London and L.A.,” I thought. “But who was brave enough to start punk rock in a backwater like Cincinnati?” I started asking the elder scenesters about the early days and digging up singles by forerunners like the Customs, Dennis the Menace, and the Ed Davis Band.
I got into booking clubs in the mid-1980s, at CJ’s Downunder, Bogart’s, and the Plaza. I started working with Jockey Club booker, Bill Leist (R.I.P.), around 1988, and then he and I went on to do the Top Hat (followed by Murphy’s Pub and Shorty’s Underground) after that. I did record a lot of the touring bands I promoted at those places. But the music on We Were Living in Cincinnati is all local and comes from 1975-1982, predating my years as a promoter.
In 1987, inspired by the Nuggets, Pebbles, and Back from the Grave ’60s punk comps, I got the idea to do a cassette of late-’70s/early ’80s Cincinnati punk/postpunk/new wave stuff, and I began badgering the old-timers for tapes of the early bands who’d never made records (this was before comps like Killed By Death or Bloodstains existed). Between my promoter duties, day job, and starting and then moving the Chrome Cranks to New York, however, I got sidetracked, and the project was shelved. Until now, that is. Finally!
“Everyone knows about New York and London and L.A.,” I thought. “But who was brave enough to start punk rock in a backwater like Cincinnati?”
PKM: So you got most of the music on this comp from old demo cassettes, right?
Peter Aaron: Yes. Mainly I found them in boxes that I’ve toted around with me for the last 35 years. Live and demo stuff. Some of the tracks are from rare, locally issued singles, and some were newly acquired from band members during the course of assembling the album.
PKM: Any good story of coming across a cache of old fliers, fanzines, etc, while researching the comp?
Peter Aaron: Doug Hallet from the Dents came up with some awesome “period-perfect” photos of that band for the package, one of which adorns the front cover. Doug, who was also in comp stars Dream 286 and Latex Theatre, made an amazing Pete Frame-style family tree of early Cincinnati bands that appeared in a 1982 issue of the local fanzine Obzene. Finding that when I was new in town really got me interested in learning about all those bands, and it’s reprinted on the insert that comes with the album.
PKM: Do you think there was a general “scene sound”?
Peter Aaron: Not really. Actually, I think what defines the early Cincinnati scene is that it was a microcosm. There were exceptions within them all, of course, but Cleveland/Akron/Kent was known for its arty element, Detroit had its hard rock element, and Chicago had its power-pop element. Cincinnati, though, was a mid-sized Midwestern city with a more compact scene in which everything was equally represented: garage/rockabilly rave-ups (the Customs), Ubu-ish art-skronk (BPA), straight-up Stooge-y/Dead Boys punk rawk (the Ed Davis Band, Beef, the Rave-N’s), melodic power pop (the Rockers), Dada-driven no wave (11,000 Switches), synth-propelled, Screamers-style mania (the Dents), scraping ska punk (the Erector Set), postpunk Anglophilia (Dream 286), unhinged noise (Teddy & the Frat Girls), Detroit-damaged protopunk (Bitter Blood), and more.
PKM: I recall — and have heard this from many bands — Cincinnati always being a potentially rough place to play. The crowd always seemed to have a few more violent goons than a normal punk show, fights would break out after shows, etc.. Did you see it that way?
Peter Aaron: Nah, that’s not true. I can only speak as someone who lived there from 1982 to 1992 (with a couple of academic years in Boston in between), but from what I know the dynamic wasn’t much different before then. It was a tiny, tightly-knit scene in the ’80s and ’90s; everybody knew everybody else. The intimidation and violence mainly came from the rednecks who wandered in off the farm or from blue-collar areas like Delhi or certain parts of Northern Kentucky. Or you had to deal with it if you wandered into their domains. Violence in the punk scene wasn’t that much of a thing until hardcore, and even then, from everything I know, the scenes were way tougher in cities like L.A. and Detroit.
PKM: I don’t mean to overstate that, as most shows were a great time! Another assumption was that not only was Cincinnati a border town — and those always have their unique clashes, underbelly secrets, drug trade, etc. – but also that in general, Cincinnati was known throughout Ohio as more racist that the rest of the state. Did you find that to be the case?
Peter Aaron: It’s true that Cincinnati has long been known as the most conservative of Ohio’s three biggest cities, the other big cities being Cleveland and Columbus. And, yes, conservatism does breed racism, so that has long been a problem—as it has been for plenty of other places. One thing I will say, though, is that for its size the Cincinnati punk scene has always been pretty diverse—not just racially but also in terms of its female and LGBTQ components—which I remember thinking was very refreshing as a teenager. There hadn’t been a lot of that in the upper-middle-class New Jersey suburb I’d recently come from.
PKM: Which relates to our other assumption, that Cincinnati bordered Kentucky – simply put, especially back then, a fucked-up place.
Peter Aaron: They’re very gentrified now, but the Northern Kentucky cities of Covington and Newport, both just over the bridge, were indeed very rough towns back in the ’70s and ’80s. Especially Newport, which was known as Cincinnati’s den of iniquity, full of gambling, prostitution, etc. But, even still, there were punk rockers over there. You had the Rave-N’s, whose awesome, unreleased 1979 single is on the comp, and later on, the Reduced, and Snare & the Idiots. And of course Newport was home to the legendary Jockey Club in the 1980s. Farther south, in Louisville, Lexington, and even Paducah (the Drooling Idiots!) you had good scenes as well.
In the late ’60s and early ’70s, psychedelic venues the Ludlow Garage and the Black Dome had had the MC5, Alice Cooper, Captain Beefheart, Frijid Pink, Silver Apples, the Flamin’ Groovies, and the Stooges – whose legendary peanut butter-smeared set, as everyone knows, took place during the Cincinnati Pop Festival at Crosley Field in 1970, where it was filmed for TV.
PKM: Can I assume you saw some of these bands live back then?
Peter Aaron: A few, but not most. Again, most of them existed before I lived in Cincinnati. Numerous times I’ve seen 11,000 Switches (in later lineups; recently reunited) and BPA (still going!), both of whose tracks are from the amazing Auto Glamour Sound, a double 7” comp that came out just as I moved to town. Both of those bands were great live, especially BPA, whose gigs were always gyrating sweat fests. I went to the record-release gig for the EP that the Dream 286 tracks are sourced from, and I was lucky enough to catch a rare reunion gig by the Erector Set, which was really fun.
PKM: Got a good Customs story? That’s probably the most well-known band on this comp, given that great Get Hip compilation of their stuff from a few years ago.
Peter Aaron: I never got to see the Customs, unfortunately. They were before my time and I wasn’t able to make it back for the reunion gig they did a few years ago. But when I was going to college in Boston (1983-1985), I saw Peter Greenberg play with the early Barrence Whitfield & the Savages pretty often, and in Cincinnati I saw Jim Cole and Forrest Bivens’s next band, the Auburnaires, tons of times in the mid-to-late 1980s. Because they played some ’60s hits and R&B chestnuts in their sets, they were able to play a lot of the straight bars as well as the punk clubs, and they were always ass-kicking. I remember a gig they did at the Plaza, probably 1986 or 1987. They did “Loose” by the Stooges and their wild-man singer, Vince Grey, smashed a hole in the wall with the mic stand (off stage, Vince was a total teddy bear). I don’t think they played there again after that, haha. For me, getting to sing the Customs’ “Let’s Get It On” with Harambe’s Heroes and Jim Cole guesting on guitar at the Murphy’s Pub “Dirty 30” anniversary this past October was a total blast and a supreme honor. Thank you, universe!
PKM: The Long Gones were a great ‘90s garage punk band, named after that super Customs’ hit, “Long Gone,” of course.
Peter Aaron: Yeah, that band didn’t start up until after I moved to New York, so I never got to see them. Coincidentally, though, their drummer, Andrew Jody, and I are both now in Harambe’s Heroes, a band originally assembled as a one-off to cover a few songs from We Were Living in Cincinnati. The gig we did was such a blast that we—me, Andrew, William Weber from the Chrome Cranks, Chris Donnelly from Gang Green and Sluggo, and Tim Moore from Hellbilly—have decided to keep it going and work up some originals. Watch out!
PKM: Peter Greenberg of the Customs came to Cincy after playing guitar with DMZ in Boston. Was there a further kind of musical pipeline between Boston and Cincinnati?
Peter Aaron: You could say that, yeah. In 1978, after DMZ broke up, Peter Greenberg moved to Cincinnati, where he enrolled at UC and was soon playing in the Customs; by the early ’80s, he was back in Boston and playing in the Lyres and then Barrence Whitfield & the Savages, who now feature Andrew Jody on drums. And in the mid-1980s, another cool Cincy band, the Edge – I’m saving them for volume two of We Were Living in Cincinnati – was based in Boston at the same time I was in college there.
PKM: Did bands hang down by the banks of the Ohio River much? I assume it might’ve been akin to the oily mess that was the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland at that time, trash on the banks, dying industrial buildings, etc.
Peter Aaron: I’m sure the river was dirtier back then, but I don’t think it ever got anywhere as bad as the Cuyahoga did; Cincinnati wasn’t as much of an industry port, and its own largest industrial centers – the meat-packing area and the Proctor & Gamble facilities – are farther inland. In an infamous 1980 incident during the annual Riverfest Fireworks celebration sponsored by WEBN, the big local classic rock/AOR radio station, 11,000 Switches and some other bands used a bolt cutter to get access to an electrical outlet on the floodwall along the Kentucky side of the river. They plugged in their gear and set up atop a concrete piling to play a guerilla gig down there—which the afternoon festival goers didn’t dig, to say the least. People started throwing eggs and other stuff at the bands, who kept playing anyway. The fracas made the local TV news, and a portion of the report, featuring 11,000 Switches, survives here. The Switches are seen first; (it’s unclear who the second band is).
PKM: Just to double-check, you were not on any of the recordings on this comp, right?
Peter Aaron: No, but the bonus download (15 cuts, in addition to the LP’s 18) do include Chrome Cranks guitarist William Weber’s first band, the Spaztiks, doing a ripping Dead Boys cover.
PKM: How do you think most of these bands were recorded? I know Cincinnati had a history of soul/funk acts that recorded down there, King Records, and all that. So were there old usable studios left over from that era?
Peter Aaron: Absolutely. Besides the city being home to several pressing plants, there were the QCA, Group Effort, and Fifth Floor recording studios. The latter is where the Ohio Players’ “Love Roller Coaster” was recorded. For years, there was a story going around that the screams on the song came from a woman being raped and murdered outside the studio that were picked up by a mic during the recording session, but this has been debunked. Group Effort, in Northern Kentucky, was where infamous soft rockers Exile recorded their hit “Kiss You All Over,” but it was also known for being the local commercial studio that was the most sympathetic to the early punk/new wave acts. The Ed Davis Band recorded there, as did BPA, 11,000 Switches, and other bands associated with the Hospital Records label.
PKM: Do you think these young punk bands were aware of Cincy’s soul music history?
Peter Aaron: To some degree, yes. Especially the Customs, who covered a lot of early R&B stuff and whose members went on to be in the Auburnaires, who once opened for James Brown! A lot of the people in these bands were art students whose tastes were pretty catholic. And then you had Davis Lewis of 11,000 Switches, who was into everything, and could see the commonalities between various disciplines. Being around people like that had a profound effect on me.
PKM: What were the main clubs the bands would play? And was there a house show scene that went on?
Peter Aaron: There was Bogart’s (still there!), as well as long-gone (pun!) clubs like the Pit/Tomorrow’s, Shipley’s, and Mon Petit. The Cincinnati Contemporary Art Center hosted some landmark shows, and there were legendarily wild gigs at the Ed Davis Band’s downtown loft and photographer Fred Burkhardt’s loft on Calhoun Street, across from University of Cincinnati.
PKM: Did some of these acts get out on the road much?
Peter Aaron: With exception of the Erector Set, who toured with Texas punk greats, the Skunks, most of them only played locally or regionally. Although, as I learned after putting the album together, the guys in the Rockers had been based in New York for a while and toured as members of Genya Ravan’s band.
PKM: What were the regional towns or clubs that Cincinnati bands would travel too?
Peter Aaron: Generally, they stayed within a 100-mile radius: Lexington and Louisville in Kentucky; Dayton and Columbus in Ohio; and Bloomington and Indianapolis in Indiana. But all of those scenes, though small, were pretty active as well, so there was a healthy amount of gig trading. Dementia Precox or Toxic Reasons would come down from Dayton a lot, maybe the Thrusters or Red Interiors would come up from Lexington, or the Zero Boys would come down from Indianapolis, and they’d get the Cincy bands on bills in those towns.
PKM: “Official” settled history took a while, but it’s generally assumed now that Cleveland had an active proto-punk scene in the early ’70s. Did any of those bands or sounds make their way down to Cincinnati? Or, similarly, was there a decent pre-punk explosion scene in Cincinnati?
Peter Aaron: Definitely. There’d been a healthy ’60s garage scene, and the Velvet Underground had come through in 1966 and ’67. In the late ’60s and early ’70s, psychedelic venues the Ludlow Garage and the Black Dome had had the MC5, Alice Cooper, Captain Beefheart, Frijid Pink, Silver Apples, the Flamin’ Groovies, and the Stooges – whose legendary peanut butter-smeared set, as everyone knows, took place during the Cincinnati Pop Festival at Crosley Field in 1970, where it was filmed for TV. The big local acid/theatrical/heavy psych band of the time was Bitter Blood Street Theatre, who were buddies with the original Alice Cooper band and would let them crash at their place – and, according to legend, unwittingly gave the Coop ideas for some of his later stage schtick. In 1987, while working as a gig runner, I drove Alice around Cincinnati and asked him about this; he seemed happy to talk about that period, but he wouldn’t admit to copping anything from them. Bitter Blood Street Theatre made two albums of insane hard psych/freak rock as well as a 1975 single under the name Bitter Blood, one side of which is on the compilation: a raging, MC5-sounding track called “Picnic.”
PKM: Was there a solid college, or any, radio station around that would’ve supported these bands?
Peter Aaron: Cincinnati has been incredibly blessed to have community-supported radio station WAIF, which has been on the air since 1974. WAIF has always been incredibly supportive of the local underground/alternative scene, serving as an invaluable outlet for these types of bands, and offering other non-mainstream programming. And the support has been mutual, with many local bands giving back to the station by performing at WAIF benefits. The first local gig I attended was a 1982 WAIF benefit featuring AK-47 and the Rituals, who mutated into, respectively, SS-20 and the Libertines. I was a DJ myself on the station myself for a few years.
PKM: Got any good stories of heading over the border and seeing bands or just hanging out in fucked-up bars in northern Kentucky?
Peter Aaron: Outsiders may not be aware of it, but from early 1982 until 1988, there was the Jockey Club at 633 York St. in Newport, Kentucky. It was a rundown, former casino/supper club owned and operated by a squat, retired, gun-toting, cigar-chomping gangster named Hallman “Shorty” Mincey, and his tall, epically bearded brother named Hayne “Tiny” Mincey. It was the center of the punk rock universe, an anything-goes-in-here venue deserving of status equal to that of any famed punk room you care to mention. Bands that played there include the Ramones, Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Discharge, Minor Threat, Lords of the New Church, D.O.A., Vibrators, UK Subs, G.B.H., Violent Femmes, and on and on and on. The greatest gig I’ve ever seen, the Cramps on the Date with Elvis tour in 1986, happened there. When Hüsker Dü came through the first time, on the tour for Everything Falls Apart, they blazed through their set and then let me and the 10 or so other kids who were there come up and play a couple of tunes using their instruments. That was pretty amazing.
Like I said before, Newport was an insanely rough place then. A friend and I were jumped by a van full of rednecks one night while walking the two blocks to the club from the White Castle – always a compulsory stop during a Jockey Club outing – and my buddy got his jaw broken.
Toward the end of the club’s existence, I started working with the first booker, Bill Leist, on doing shows there. After Shorty sold the place to a taxi company, Bill and I started booking gigs at the Top Hat, an erstwhile strip club around the corner. Newport was full of strip clubs then, and the Top Hat was right next to another one. I booked the Didjits at the Top Hat once, and after their soundcheck they went to hang out at the neighboring joint. “It’s great to be here in Kentucky, I’ve heard about your horses,” [Didjits frontman] Rick Simms told the audience during their set. “I just saw one of them dancing in the bar next door.”
PKM: Tell me how the Chrome Cranks started? And did you feel Cincinnati was still a good town to have a band in by that time (latter ’80s into ’90s)?
Peter Aaron: Right before the Cranks started, William and I had a band called Mona Lisa Overdrive (not to be confused with any of the several other bands with that name; I believe we had it first). MLO was a noise band that only played a few gigs, all of them out of town. William and I did put out a very limited cassette of that stuff. We played two gigs in one night in Columbus, talking our way onto a bill with the Gibson Bros. at that Gyro place on High Street, and then playing a loft party in a building downtown that was later demolished. That was a fun band. I played bass through a huge Acoustic cabinet, William used a ton of pedals, and we had a poetic singer and a drummer who stood up and played a snare/floor tom/ride cymbal setup. Very loud and completely improvised.
So I started Chrome Cranks with William in 1988, first as a bass-less quartet with a different singer; I was just playing guitar. It took a while to figure out what the style would be. At first it was more noise pop, along the lines of the Jesus & Mary Chain. We played our first gig that year, opening for Pussy Galore and Tar at the Top Hat.
Interestingly, Pussy Galore drummer, Bob Bert, would become our drummer later.
After a while, I started to feel more drawn to the darker, bluesier end of things (Stooges, Scientists, Doors, Suicide, etc.), and the singer we had – Bill Alletzhauser, a fine gent who later played guitar in the Ass Ponys, and now co-fronts the Hiders – didn’t really have the feel I was seeking in my head. I reasoned that I was going to have to sing, which I hadn’t done before. We added a bass player and went through a couple of drummers – Including Kendall Davis from Dennis the Menace, one of the early bands on the comp – but we were never able to maintain a steady lineup. The drummers and bass players we had either didn’t get what we trying to do or, if they did, were playing in other bands at the same time and couldn’t put the time in. The vibe in Cincinnati then made me and William feel like we were spinning our wheels in a tar pit. We recorded some stuff, but it felt like no one in town got the blues-punk thing.
“It’s great to be here in Kentucky, I’ve heard about your horses,” [Didjits frontman] Rick Simms told the audience during their set. “I just saw one of them dancing in the bar next door.”
In 1992, William decided to move to New York to go to recording school, and a few months later I followed him up. I knew Jerry Teel from his band, the Honeymoon Killers – I’d booked them in Cincinnati – who had just broken up. The three of us started playing together as the Chrome Cranks, and went through a couple of different drummers as we started to get attention and release singles. We got Bob in the band just before our first album was released. The rest is, as they say, hiss-story.
PKM: What are you doing these days, musically or otherwise?
Peter Aaron: Musically, I’m really psyched about Harambe’s Heroes. It’s wonderful and amazing to be in a band with simpatico guys I’ve known for close to 40 years (Chris and William) or who make me feel like I’ve known them that long (Andrew and Tim). We’re already planning some Midwest gigs and a recording session for February 2020. I play around the Hudson Valley, where I now live, in duos and trios with fellow guitarists Bill Brovold and Mark Ormerod, and occasionally in a free noise duo with Yeah Yeah Yeahs drummer Brian Chase. Recently, I’ve been in Young Skulls, which released a single on Slovenly, and an instrumental trio called APR (me, drummer Bobby Previte, and bassist/guitarist John Rosenthal), which recorded the soundtrack for a horror film called The Furies Inside Me. The music was released on cassette by Eh?/Public Eyesore this year.
Lately I’ve been trying to challenge myself more, musically, by doing one-off improv or solo things, or sitting in, as best I can given my limited, autodidactic abilities, with others. It feels good to venture out of the comfort zone and not always only do what people who just know me from the Chrome Cranks might expect me to do.
Otherwise: My third book, Richie Ramone’s autobiography, I Know Better Now—I’m the coauthor—was published in 2018 by Backbeat Books, who also published my previous books, 2016’s The Band FAQ and 2013’s If You Like the Ramones…. Since 2006, I’ve been the music/arts editor at Hudson Valley arts/culture/lifestyle magazine Chronogram, and I’m a freelance writer and contributor to other publications as well as an editor at large. I host a weekly show called “Go Go Kitty” on Radio Kingston (www.radiokingston.org), and I do a lot of DJing at local and regional clubs.
PKM: Can you tell me what “Elvis Wine” is? Is that a Cincinnati thing I missed?
Peter Aaron: You’re referring to the 11,000 Switches song “Drinking Elvis Wine,” which was originally released in 1982, and is the opening track of We Were Living in Cincinnati and whose lyrics the album title is taken from. As I understand the story, circa 1978, some low-rent vintner produced a commemorative “Elvis Presley vintage” wine to cash in on the King’s recent death. The Dents’ singer, Vivien Rusche (then Vivien Pinger) found a bottle and gave it to Switches front man David Lewis as a gag gift. Late one night, David and the Switches’ bassist, Robert “Lamb” Lambert, were so bored and desperate to get drunk that they decided to open the bottle and drink it. Only thing was, they had no corkscrew and were too broke to buy one. So they ended up driving around town until they found a restaurant that was still open and would lend them a corkscrew. To me the song perfectly evokes the stifling, post-industrial isolation of that particular city during that particular time, which is why I chose it as the opening track and why its lyrics inspired the title. Desperation and the need to create their own reality is what drove the people in the bands on this album to get off their asses and make something happen. So, yeah, I guess it is a Cincinnati thing.