the Scientific Americans  

This, of course, was a band and we played Boston, New York,
Toronto, New England generally and south as far as Washington DC.

How many bands opened a bill in NYC with Suicide? Ha! We did.

 The band played live a few hundred times but might be most famous for sponsoring scads of bands at a club called RAHARS in Northampton Massachusetts and giving the town a kick in the musical ass. To make the finances work, we would open the shows and use the Sci Ams' PA system. Back in those days clubs in NoHo would not have sound. Things are different now.

 Let's see. Pere Ubu, the Raybeats (& here), Eight-Eyed Spy, the Bush Tetras, DNA. Those were some. The Slits. I'm still hopelessly in love with Viv. Steel Pulse, the Stranglers, Psychedelic Furs, Pylon (incredibly nice folks, we had a cookout). Various snotty and/or smelly bands from Boston who usually did not appreciate the effort on our part. Tris Loszaw and Someone & the Somebodies being the signal exception.

 There were five Sci Ams releases in various formats plus a handful of projects executed by Sean Elias and Craig O'Donnell in Chicago in the mid-1980s and lots of four-track stuff which was never released or performed live.


 The band's first gig was Halloween 1978 at a seedy roadhouse-cum-disco, the Dial Tone, in Hatfield Mass. It included the legendary song "I'm Sick of Kostek". The last live performance was, I think, around March 1983, and probably at the Rusty Nail in Sunderland, Mass. Sean thinks it was a video shoot for the WGBH at The Hangar in Hadley.

 Band members included a whole bunch of characters and I will enumerate them some other time. Peter Poulous, a very short guy called Mr Big, was one standout on roaring Marshall guitar in the early days. The three long-run members were Sean Elias alias Alias, Craig O'Donnell and Jim Whittemore (below). Chris Vine, from England, played demonic noise guitar in one of the finest iterations of the band. There are still live cassettes of almost every lineup, but the other archival material including all but one or two master tapes was destroyed in a fire in Chicago. NOT on purpose.

Photos by Tobey

 The first record release was an EP, 7-inch, 33rpm, called Beyond Rational Thought. The cover introduced the "Sci Ams Man" shown at the top of the page on a promotional button (Sean and Chris did 99% of the artwork later but Craig did this first cover; these two also did cool promotional buttons/passes for various RAHAR'S shows, which would be collectible if they weren't so totally obscure). I'll find a some and scan 'em.

 This includes the first known cover version of the Jetsons' rocker Jet Screamer's anthem. So there.

Date: Fall 1978

Eep Opp Ork (w/voice of engineer Leon Janikian)
Get it for Les
(i.e., Lester Meyers)
Empty Hole
(first song we wrote)

All by Whittemore and O'Donnell, published by Dadadata Music, BMI; plus a bonus track by a fella who wanted so bad to be either John Cale or Iggy Stooge. I never figured out which.


Next came a flexi-disc EP, one-sided, 10", 33rpm called Beyond Fiscal Distress.


 Date: 1980


Call Home

Taking Time

Service Dub


Cover & insert (right) by Chris Vine. Photos by Ile d'Neil Hammer, RIP.

Drumming on this EP was Jim Square, but shortly after recording these tracks we decided to go with the cheap, original, awful Roland Dr Rhythm. One track here was recorded to a percussion track generated on Jim's Synthi AKS.






So. Who invented the word Tekno, anyway?

  Next release (1981) was a limited-edition, real-time cassette album called Some Dumb F**ks, in honor of a fanzine reviewer who didn't much like our second EP and sank to personal invective. There were something like 100 copies made, each with an individual cover done by Sean. This is hard core Cassette Culture a few years before it became widespread. Maybe I can get a scan of one of the covers.

 A lot of our recorded output was done in different fragmentary bunches. Jim owned the recording equipment, I owned the mixers and effects, and generally it was open studio for band members to record. Jim often collaborated with other musicians like Elliott "E#" Sharpe, etc.

 Tekno Tunes was a kinda cooperative record label. We made our mailing list was available to anyone who wanted to use the label. Local bands The Paper Dolls and Puppet each put out a record on Tekno Tunes. There were four of five others. The idea was that it would look like something was going on in Northampton with an actual small label there.



 This is the ROIR album Load & Go which is essentially the material from the limited-edition cassette. It's shorter, a couple tracks differ. This came out in 1982, or actually, very early 1983. Liner notes by Orchid Spangiafora.

 It is still available. Neil Cooper still runs the label and from the same address. (We suspect he owns the building). We suggested a different cover, but got this one.

ROIR Online 

 Comments from fans are here. We have two, anyway:

Other Releases.

 Sean (indicated thusly) has corrected my faulty memory with the following comments.


Inspiration Series No.1

•  I believe first out of the box was the remix of Eep Op and The Gang of Two's Five Rules. This was on Inspiration Series No.1 from Ding Dong Tapes and Records based in Holland, released '82 or '83. Interesting in that it contains a track by our soon-to-be (Chicago band) friends Get Smart, and collectable in that it contains one from The Legendary Pink Dots. The OP flexi probably came before the Inspiration cassette.

OP Magazine

Free flexi-disc (Craze-y-Pop and Cellblock Rock; the first a dub version of Eep Opp from the first EP, and the second a spacious noise remix of Jailhouse Rock from 1982 sessions for an unreleased album); about 1984. Flip side is Craig Anderton. C-Y-P mashed & mixed by Craig, CBR by Sean & Craig. Produced and recorded at Acme Recording Studios, Chicago -- Craig worked there for a couple years -- which was owned by Mike Rasfeld, RIP.

The G-String Murders

•  Next up, I find Cellblock Rock on the compilation The G-String Murders from Calypso Now, out of Switzerland. I don't remember authorizing this one, though I may have. There's a letter from the guy in the pamphlet apologizing for the fact that I had to pay for a copy of a compilation I was on. (As I remember it, I saw an ad listing us as contributors and wrote, requesting...)

•  Quote from the back cover:

"Together with Craig Anderton from Polyphony Magazine the kings of sophisticated homerecording in the US -- why, I forgot Stevie R. Moore? Well, he never answers my letters, so no mention here for him... Sci-Ams have a great tape out with ROIR -- you definitely should get this gem! 'Cellblock Rock' was released on a flexy-disc that came with the magazine 'OP' -- there should still some copies be available from the band's address." The letter is dated '86, other artists include Costes and Vito Ricci.

Objekt #3

One track: Weird Streams, which was first recorded in 1980 on 8-track. A redub and remix with Sean (noise, mixing), Craig (guitar, mixing) and Todd Colburn, engineering and guitar; about 1985. Order this from Ladd/Frith.

•  Last out of the gate, I believe, was "Weird Streams" on the Objekt 3 compilation. I can't blame you for blocking out that Hitlerian remix session (12 hrs. if I remember correctly). I love the track and remix -- I think it's probably our best work -- Todd laid in some great guitar and you were a wonder at punching and sliding.

I hope I was punching buttons and not musicians. I think we had to sneak into Acme coz Mike was mad at me.

Weekend Statistics EP

Sing & Play (live 1979) EP 1985 or 86, unreleased.

This was recorded in part in Northampton Mass on 8-track and finished in Chicago at Acme. Sean produced, Craig played guitar, bass, and some fake sax, Daniel Marcus (now "Dr." I might add) played real sax and sang. Dan was an original 1978-79 Sci Am who had the sense to quit and go to grad school.

S & P was added because it was funny, improvised stuff.

We also recorded a tune called Slithery Dee with Todd Colburn on guitar and vox and Craig on other stuff. This might be a cover of a Smothers Brothers tune, or else Craig wrote it. There is in addition a pile of unreleased Chicago Noise Monsters stuff from this general era by Sean and Craig.

About the Music & the Written Word.

What's interesting is how 'far ahead of its time' the band was during the days when everyone wanted to be the Cars. Devo, the only point of comparison in commercial music, cropped up a lot -- that was a lazy reviewer's way out and in the long run Devo was, of course, just another Tubes. The rock writers were never comfortable any of it but we got respect from musicians we played with. The Sci Ams were not a pop band. We were unafraid to mutate, didn't dumb ourselves down, and would not worship at the punk shrine of loud guitars or the pop altar of perky love ditties. We eschewed primitivism and, umm, angstism, and kids, it was all analog.

More some other time. Ditto gear, ditto cast of characters, ditto articles if we can find 'em, etc., and maybe we can find more photos and add some to the Rahars saga.

The Cheap Page, where else?

1.0 01/05/00