Saturday, December 6, 2008

Come On (New York City, 1976-80)

One of the greatest albums of the 1970s, Television's 'Marquee Moon' (1977) went practically unheard in the United States.  It took the music scribes of Britain to point out to the rest of the world Television's near brilliance.
30-something years later, publications such as Bowling Stoned and Entertaining Weakly hail the album (and band) as, 'Regrettably Unknown, Yet Vastly Influential'. 

I Hate Disneyland.  Mickey didn't shake my hand.  
Mickey Mouse is a Rat.  Mickey Mouse is a Rat!

- Disneyland

In the case of New York's Come On, I doubt anyone is going to ride out and save them from obscurity anytime soon.

Which only goes to show you: For every one highly regarded band in the mainstream or on the outskirts, there will be ten equally talented unknowns lurking to be discovered.

Top, L-R: Page Wood (Drums), Elena Glasberg (Guitar), George Elliott (Guitar)
Bot, L-R: Jamie Kaufman (Vocals), Ralf Mann (Bass)  

If you happen to stumble across reviews of Come On, you'll inevitably run into Talking Heads comparisons.  So many, in fact, it is no wonder so few have heard of them.
Why bother with wannabes?  We've already got Mr. Byrne and The Rest!

If that doesn't cause you to turn your head and cough, perhaps the genre-tagging of Come On by reviewers will: Angular Art-Rock, No/New Wave, Post-Punk, minimalist, New York Punk, Underground Pop, Asexual White Soul Dance Music, blah, blah, blah...

Old People.  Get out of the House.  Get out in the Streets.
Turn over Cars.  Elbow Young People.  Set Garbage on Fire.   

- Old People

Do not get me wrong - the comparisons to early Talking Heads are valid.  
Both feature spastic lead singers/lyricists.  Both feature women in prominent, yet not quite front-of-stage roles.  Both feature homages to the Verlaine & Lloyd duel guitar tapestry.  Both feature nervous lyrics that wallow in the horrors (and humor) of the banal.  And both took the stage in intentionally subdued 'Every Man' attire.

What many reviewers fail to mention is that Come On were contemporaries of Talking Heads, having first recorded demo tracks in 1977.  The lazy slobs.

That is not to say that Byrne and Company did not influence the direction that Come On were to take in the next three years of existence.  However, it can be argued that the similar approach to presentation and stripped-down sound were nothing more than a coincidence of similar artistic expression.

And what an expression it was...

I'm five.  Five years old.  When I'm seven, I'll get to smoke.
Secretly, I already do.  In the bushes.  With the girls.

- I'm Five

The Come On Story: New York City, 1976-80 - a compilation of material recorded between 1978-1980 (???) presents the case that Come On deserved a much better fate. 

If anything, you'll be left wondering why you are the only one in your crowd to have ever heard of them.  

Notable Cuts:

* Howard After Six -- Mom knows why Howard doesn't like making coffee after six, but she's not telling.  My favorite cut on the album; a propelling and compelling rhythm section courtesy of Ralf Mann and Page Wood, atmospheric guitar interplay between George Elliott and Elena Glasberg, and Jamie Kaufman's whispering observations on poor Howard's tedium.  It blows me away every time.  

Housewives Play Tennis -- Middle-class housewives are such a bore. Except for their weak backhands and underthings.  Mmmm.... underthings.  Besides 'Howard After Six', this song may be their strongest.  And like Howard, you'll swear you've heard it before.  

* Old People -- As if their love of Susan Lucci and Alex Trebeck weren't enough.  Now we have to worry about old people rioting, looting, and elbowing young people in the sides?  Gee, thanks Mr. Kaufman.

* Mona Lisa -- Television had Venus de Milo.  Come On had the Mona Lisa.  Great.  Here come the Television comparisons.  'Mona complains.  It seems she doesn't like it, but what can she do?  She just has to smile.'

Physical ed.  Don't get physical, Ed.
Push Up, Sit Up, Get Up, Shut Up...
Physical ed.  I'm a physical wreck.

- Physical Ed

Physical Ed -- Superb wordplay.  Where the hell did Jamie Kaufman go after Come On broke up, anyway?  The guy was far too talented to have dropped off the pimpled face of Show Business.  Obviously he was smart enough to.  

* Don't Walk on the Kitchen Floor -- The B Side to the only 7" single (self)released by the band during their lifetime.  'And I want to live all of my life.  Not just the weekends.'  Yeah... me, too!

* I'm Five -- Who would have thought five year olds were so worldly?  

My Neighbor Makes Noise -- I love the slow build.  Towards the end, drummer Page Wood throttles the cut like a slightly out of control go-kart racer.   

* See Me -- George Elliott is a superb guitarist.  His lines are subtly complex - and the weave between he and Elena Glasberg typically end up making most of the songs interesting enough to come back to.      

* Businessmen in Space

Quirky, witty, bouncy -- all the things that made early Devo so great.


Damn it!

Links of Interest:

* Come On: New York City, 1976-80 (Punk Not Profit blog link)


  1. yeah fuck Christigau. Lou Reed said it best: "can you imagine working for a year on an album to get a B+ from some asshole in the Village Voice?"... or a few years in this case.

  2. WELL Thanks!
    a swell put-together appreciation...
    Fortuitously there exists some footage of C.O. in action aqui:

    -G E / C.O. guitarist

  3. hello dere---george from this band rementioning the existence of rare footage at my youtube page

  4. Replies
    1. Thank you for the link, Mr. Elliott.

      I am floored that this is your first interview. Of any kind? Amazing lack of respect by those cool kid music magazines.

      I liked the interview (because you deserve it), but find it unfortunate they were a tad too interested in name dropping; I'm still waiting to hear the Come On Story.

      By the way... what color shoes did David Byrne prefer, anyway?

    2. he had a closet full of Hush Puppies in various shades

  5. Aww jeez, I'm just absorbing this material for the very first time. Forget about the Talking Heads comparisons. I hear a totally original sound that was a subset of that time. Similar to to all of the hardcore punk that was produced. This spastic, eccentric, work is essential listening. Slowly also discovering that finding the physical recorded artifacts is looking to be a challenge: the facebook page for Heliocentric is broken, the myspce has not seen a login for 2 years, so now it is off to ebay / amazon/ soulseek.

    1. The continual TH comparisons was my way of poking the various reviewers I have read over the years. Every single one of them went that route, in one form or another.

      The more I listen to them, the more I dig Come On. It pleases me considerably that I could point someone else in that direction. Thanks for the comment, Anon.

      And it just so happens that Amazon has a physical copy for sale.

    2. Hola ...
      if anyone needs an actual CD w/ booklet
      [not an amazon clone, which I oughta order just to see what those feel like]
      get in touch....even got some 45s in original cardboard sleeve...
      save 'em trade 'em collect 'em!

      hey thanks for the '+' remarks
      [[the Mice Pace page was a fan's and she disappeared]]

    3. Oh... I'd love to get my hands on anything you may be offering, Mr. Elliot. Those 45s would be particularly swell.

    4. oh i see there's no way to email via one's profile shoot me a message [w/ email addy] at youtube my man

      --- anon above too! [dont go the ebay route, who knows where their merch is from...]

  6. * Cleaned up some stupid spelling errors; Elliott v. Elliot.

    * Due to a bad edit, I had listed Ralf Mann as go-carting drummer.

    Thank God no one reads this stuff. I'd have been called out long ago.