I am on my fourth Coors Banquet on this Tuesday night in Long Beach trying to summon the courage to write a Cleveland Classic piece for the Offbeats LP 'Evolution of the Stickman'. It would be the first thing I wrote for the blog in about two years. Time flies but nothing changes regarding my horrible procrastination and general apathy. Cleveland to the damn bone.
I decided I am not going to do it. The record player is in the other room, the child is pulling on my leg and there is a spider somewhere just waiting. This is real life. But, before submitting to the inevitable laziness, I looked for the record on You Tube. I only found a few songs. A roadblock for some, but I decided to make a new column...Drunk You Tube. But, literally just now as I typed that, I remembered I did a You Tube based column for Dead Town years ago (it went nowhere). I could never repeat myself and do another one.
I had heard of the Offbeats for years; my older friends may have mentioned them in passing or, just maybe, I met someone who had played in the band during some hazy night at the Beachland Tavern. I knew the name registered but not a single tune. Regardless they had remained off my stereo until about a month ago after buying 'Stickman' off Ebay during a routine search of the keywords 'Cleveland Punk LP'. That simple search brings true treasure.
I played it for the first time in my garage a few nights ago while "doing laundry" which is code for doing jack shit while sipping on beers alone in the dark. I was legit floored; not by expert musician ship or deep, thoughtful song writing but by a familieraty I had never experienced upon a first listen of any band. Two seconds in, time enough for the start of a riff and blast of drums, and I knew this was some true Clevo shit.
It took me back to countless nights on the West Side, mind swirling/head thrashing, getting lost in a local punk band. It was like taking some sort of time travel pill... jolted straight back to my early twenties, ponied up at the Five O 'Clock while Billy from the Vacancies played records on a Wednesday night. Working class, earnest rock and roll comes in many shapes and formulas but, in the rustbelt wastelands of the midwest, there is something that cuts deeper than anywhere else.
"'Knucklehead' is full throttle driving - over the legal limit and unaware of its surroundings - pounding your ears into the damn dirt. It's hard to even fathom this is from 1987 considering what main stream music sounded like at the time...the Offbeats were on another level: these guys would have drunk dialed Madonna while having a one nighted with Tiffany. At the time Cleveland's underground was so ahead of its time; be it the beginning of the hardcore movement that would be such a big part of the cities punk history led by legendary bands like Face Value or the bar room, blue jeans scene of acts like the Floyd Band.
In the mix but off my radar (I was 8 in 1987) I missed out on some cutting edge shit and the Offbeats cut to the bone, man.