Saturday, January 24, 2009

Supertouch Pt. 1

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The last time a hardcore band was my new favorite band was Supertouch, back in the late '80s. Their records maybe fell a bit short on different levels, but you almost cannot believe the power they had in those first couple of years ('87-'89) if you didn't actually get to see them back then or at least hear the live WNYU tape.

What was awesome about Supertouch was that they took the melodic D.C. hardcore sound (Scream, Marginal Man, Kingface, Bad Brains) and added their own NYHC twist to it, which made it harder and even better. Mark Ryan smoothed out his words like an MC, giving his singing a flow that no other hardcore frontman could pull off at the time, except for maybe Richie Underdog, though Mark was way better at it.

Mark was sort of a spindly guy, all arms and legs, and he had dance moves like no one had ever seen, including his "chicken mosh", where he'd keep his hands down by his side while picking his knees way up in the air. To me and the rest of the suburban Ct. kids who would travel down to CB's for Sunday matinees, Mark's credibility was almost untouchable. He'd been in the NYHC scene for longer than anyone I'd ever met, and was known for supposedly having a dozen copies of "United Blood" (which turned out not to be true), and for his band, Death Before Dishonor, being on the Agnostic Front/7 Seconds flyer that hung on almost every Youth Crew kid's wall back in the '80s. Mark also never bothered bending his will to match what everyone else was doing, and he would openly speak out against white power skins and write lyrics knocking the straight edge scene, which was sort of unheard of within the circles we traveled (again, except for Richie Underdog), but Mark didn't really give a shit. He was going to say what he thought was right, and who cares what everyone else thinks.

I got to hang out a bit with Mark during the summer of '86, when Supertouch hadn't really formed yet; Mark had a lot of ideas, though, and you could tell that he was up to something big. I remember him also saying that he wanted to record a rap song, too -- "a real one, and not a fake one like the Beastie Boys." When Supertouch finally played their first show, at the Anthrax in '87, it was friggin' immense. You gotta remember that this was when everyone was trying to be just like Ray Cappo, jumping around a lot and wearing a hoodie on stage with nonstop chirping going on between every song, and then Supertouch came out and they were just smooth. It was like a different gear from everyone else. Their songs were great, they had all these great stomp parts in 'em, and I remember going home thinking, "God, this band is awesome!"

I remember one time when a new issue of Flipside was out and I started flipping through it, hoping that someone else was writing about how great Supertouch were, and the funny part was that everybody in Flipside was raving about this new band called Superchunk instead. I was like, "Superchunk? They've got the wrong fucking band!" That's when I knew that things were getting fucked up, as far as people really starting to not like hardcore anymore.

By the time the Supertouch album came out, even I had slowed down listening to hardcore as much, and I didn't even buy the CD until years later. Too bad that a lot of the songs that I used to love early on, like "True Colors Don't Run", never made it to this recording, because as good as the CD is, it's not really like the band I remember those first few times I saw them.

All of the photos here are from the various times I saw Supertouch at the Anthrax; I saw them a few times, in '87, '88, and '89, so I've lost track of which specific year the photos are from. I'm pretty sure the photos with Mark in a light-colored t-shirt are from the Jan. '88 show that also featured Underdog on the bill, and I'm thinking now that the rest are from either '89 or '87.

At the bottom of this post there's also a video of a full Supertouch set from '88 at what looks to be the Anthrax, which someone just posted on YouTube a few months ago. Not only is it pretty great, but it really gives a good idea of what those early Supertouch shows were like.





Supertouch -

"Engine"

"Anything It Takes"

(these files are now listen-only)


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14 comments:

Sean said...

The personal history made me enjoy this post tenfold...I saw them definately at the Anthraz once, up at UCONN with Jawbox & Holy Rollers, in NYC on bills I also forget, and most recently and pleasantly at the 108/Snapcase benefit show for Callum Roberts in NYC this past year. I still have a few fliers from them in the big box of memories, as well as some photos from the NYC show that I'll have to put up the same place as the Obits pictures. They absolutely blew me away (as did Snapcase, who I never really liked on recordings!)

Brushback said...

I just made it up in my head yesterday that Pearl Jam totally ripped off "Alive" from Supertouch ("Engine").

I'm half-serious about that, really.

Sean said...

That there is remix mash-up talk! Press it as a 7" and sell it to the kids in Germany for sacks of euros. I've had this 50 Cent/Devo bastardization in the "guilty pleasure" folder for awhile and it never ceases to make me laugh, sometimes out loud. Supertouch/Pearl Jam mash up doesn't seem that Bizarro alternate universe to me, but I really shouldn't encourage such wayward ventures.

It wouldn't surprise if a riff or two was borrowed..I've had stranger cross-genre incidents...I was talking to Kristen Hersh from the Throwing Muses when she came to Cafe Nine, and it turns out her pals in high school were all in Verbal Assault, and we had both been at the same Swiz show at the Blue Pelican in Newport. Cue "It's A Small World After All" and cut the frozen husk of Uncle Walt his royalty check!

Brushback said...

I'd actually be surprised if anyone in Pearl Jam was cool enough to listen to Supertouch. Particularly Eddie Bedwetter.

A couple of Verbal Assault guys ended up playing in Belly. Not as if that's any worse than Rain Like The Sound Of Trains, though.

Sean said...

Oh yeah...I had kind of suppressed that the Gorman brothers were in Belly! All I know is that I saw Rain Like The Sound Of Trains live twice in Providence and they just turned my head around. I don' think I ever picked up anything other than the demo tape..it had hand written lyrics and a copy of a circuit board on the cover, so I was won over.

The second time was with Sevens, a post-Soulside Bobby Sullivan project..but the first show was one for the folklore books. It was at this space called either The Cooler or The Freezer, basically an unheated warehouse space on the wrong side of the tracks. It must've been 30 degrees inside. Into Another was on the bill, and they were total buff flex metal shred ahoy..and seemed to be looking at RLTSOT with a little bit of laughter..like "who are these rubes?". I'm not sure they knew they were dealing with ex-Verbal Assault/Beefeater/Fidelity Jones/etc...and live at least, it was a lock-step atom bomb rhythm and it was really gratifying for some reason to see the Into Another collective jaw drop. Ego dismantling with a backbeat.

Brushback said...

I once spent a day or two in a van with Verbal Assault, they were playing reggae and Metallica and you could definitely tell they weren't the usual "Youth Crew" type of band (good or bad)...

Not sure if I liked any of the post-VA outfits, though, or even any Verbal Assault records after the first two...

Sean said...

Yeah, it's an acquired taste...although the "Tiny Giants" 7" comes out of the crate a few times a year still.

Brushback said...

Ha, I've got "Tiny Giants" -- I haven't decided yet if I wanna post it, though. I've got photos of V.A. at the Anthrax to go with it, so I probably will.

I should clarify that hearing Metallica in Verbal Assault's van was around '85 or so, when such things weren't as common (or "acceptable") as they are today.

I ended up seeing Verbal Assault in more places than just about any other band: CBGB's, The Rat, Anthrax, Albany, Providence...

Sean said...

You've got my ultra-biased vote for a VA post! Just make sure it's Verbal Assault, not Verbal Abuse!! (sort of like when I bought the WRONG Inside Out 45 in the Anthrax parking lot..it was the NY band, not the Revelation one, though in hindsight..I think I liked it better).

What band DOESN'T have weird van listening habits? I had to suffer a ride to Maine in the mid-90s with a band from NC called Hellbender (future members of Milemarker on Jade Tree and Les Savy Fav). They had like..Chaka Khan, Dio...and I seem to remember there actually being a Small 23 tape case with the tape missing and me cursing the fates.

Brushback said...

Funny you should mention a missing Small 23 tape, because I've been looking for my copy of "True Zero Hook" for a solid month now and I still haven't found it.

Must be the gods telling me to post something else from Small 23 instead.

Verbal Abuse supposedly had one good album. Don't ask me which one, though.

d. said...

Very interesting post. I always wanted to like SuperTouch, such a cool name, but had a hard time gelling with the singer's voice. These songs resonate a lot stronger in my mind today. Thanks for the post.

Brushback said...

Hey, you're welcome!

Brushback said...

I've seen something where Mark Ryan is DJ'ing at a Reagan Youth/Kraut/Antidote reunion show in NYC in May... not that I'd go to anything like that.

Brushback said...

The mp3 files on this post are now listen-only (non-downloadable) files.