Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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PÈRE UBU

By the time punk rock got going in London with the Sex Pistols and the rest, the originators of the term, the garage bands of places like Cleveland and Akron Ohio, were already doing it with more style, wit and skill; Père Ubu were still at it in the '90s without ever having a chart hit. Vocalist David Thomas formed the band '75 in Cleveland, named after a surrealist play by Alfred Jarry, with Allen Ravenstine on synths, R. Scott Krause on drums and various others coming and going; they were influenced by Roxy Music, Captain Beefheart, Can etc; nearly all the music was original, running a gamut from incomprehensible (until you listened closely) to threatening to become pop. They got radio play and accolades from the likes of John Peel but were too eccentric (not bad enough) to hit the big time. Four singles '75-8 on their own Hearthan label became legendary, including '30 Seconds Over Tokyo' and 'Final Solution'; their albums '78-9 appeared on a bewildering array of labels: The Modern Dance (Blank, Mercury, Fontana), Dub Housing and New Picnic Time (Chrysalis etc), The Art Of Walking and The Song Of The Bailing Man '80-2 (Rough Trade). David Thomas and the Pedestrians with Ravenstine, Krause and others variously including guests Richard Thompson, Lindsay Cooper and people from Henry Cow (see that entry) made The Sound Of The Sand And Other Songs Of The Pedestrians '82, Winter Comes Home live in Munich same year, Variations On A Theme and More Places Forever '83-5; as David Thomas and the Wooden Birds Monster Walks The Winter Lake and Blame The Messenger '86-7, all on Rough Trade/Recommended. A more or less original lineup appeared at a concert in Cleveland, and the name Père Ubu was revived for The Tenament Years; Cloudland included 'Race The Sun' and 'Waiting For Mary', and would have been a pop album but did not have enough boring routine. There were also World's In Collision and The Story Of My Life, all '88-93 on Fontana.

Along the way there were singles that did not appear on albums; EP Datapanik In The Year Zero '78 on Radar UK remixed some of the earliest single sides; LP Terminal Tower: An Archival Collection '85 revealed them again and there were two collections of live tracks on Rough Trade: 390 Of Simulated Stereo -- Ubu Live: Volume 1 ('76-9), CD One Man Drives While The Other Man Screams -- Live Vol. 2: Père Ubu On Tour. Wilful in performance and flippant in interviews, Thomas was a true iconoclast: 'If something is popularly held to be true, then my rule is that if you look in the opposite direction you'll find the real truth.' He lived in London and began working with computers and CD-ROM; Ray Gun Suitcase on a Tim Kerr CD was a Père Ubu album and he gigged as David Thomas and 2 Pale Boys in the UK. There were also 'enhanced' (interactive) CDs Folly Of Youth '95 and Beach Boys See Dee '96 on Tim Kerr. Pennsylvania '98 was an official Père Ubu album, on Cooking Vinyl in Britain. Several spinoff groups included drummer Anton Fier's Golden Palominos, with Bill Laswell, Nicky Skopelitis and vocalist Amanda Kramer, with big-name guests on their four LPs on Celluloid.