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pogo2posterFINAL2The Last Pogo Jumps Again studies the evolution of Toronto from small town to big city and it’s pop/counter-culture lifestyle during the early and mid-70s.  It centers around the first wave of Toronto punk rock and new-wave music, from the Ramones playing the New Yorker Theatre in ’76 through the police shutting down Teenage Head and causing a riot at the Horseshoe Tavern’s infamous “The Last Pogo” concert in December 1978.

London had the Sex Pistols, New York had the Ramones, but Toronto had a punk movement all it’s own.  The Toronto landscape by the late ’70s was forever changed with the infusion of the DIY/Punk/Alternative Culture(s) movement.  Six years in the making, The Last Pogo Jumps Again successfully explores the whys and wherefores of what was arguably one of the most exciting but misunderstood movements in Toronto’s history.

The DVD contains the 204 minute documentary, plus over a 100 minutes of added material, and a snazzy 24-page booklet.  Check the Shop for details on where you can purchase it.

The Last Pogo (1978) is the documentary that chronicled the last punk rock show at the Horseshoe Tavern when it was run by legendary Toronto promoters The Garys (Topp and Cormier) featuring The Scenics, Cardboard Brains, The Secrets, The Mods, The Ugly, The Viletones and Teenage Head. The Last Pogo was released on DVD in 2008 to great reviews.  Available at the Shop.

What’s not in 1976

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If you go see The Last Pogo Jumps Again, you’ll see a Toronto that is very different from the one you know today.  There was lots of stuff that just didn’t exist in 1976.

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Like gun violence.  It was rumoured that Ugly lead singer Mike Nightmare always packed a piece, and he was a bona-fide criminal, so that was a legit tool of the trade, I guess,  but most violence was of the punch-you-in-the-nose or the kick-the-living-fucking-shit-out-of-you style.  You could buy a gun at the Paddock Tavern at Bathurst & Queen, but they cost large, and who needed them?  Besides Mike of course.

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Fat punks didn’t really exist.  Everyone was pretty skinny.  Not enough money for three squares a day, and if your cheap buzz for an all-nighter was a Black Beauty or other diet pills — hey, that’s two birds with one stone.

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When we interviewed Cheetah Chrome of The Dead Boys (regular Toronto visitors in 1976 – 1978) he pointed that out to us, and was appalled at how overweight our youth is today.  “Stay hungry,” sang Talking Heads.

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Bottled water.  Tap water was good enough.  Still is.  Stubby 50’s were even better.  Still are.

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Media coverageSteven Leckie of The Viletones was pretty good at getting people’s attention, but the problem with that was that was what the mainstream thought the scene was all about: violence, fast ‘n’ loud music, outrage.  But the scene in Toronto — and elsewhere, especially NYC — was much more nuanced.  Sure there were lots of loud ‘n’ fast bands, and there seemed to be lots of fights in the few clubs that existed, but there were also experimenters like The Scenics and Simply Saucer;  loud tight pop like The Diodes and The ModsTeenage Head, channeling early Alice Cooper and old rockabilly;  and on and on.

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The mainstream media thought it was all a novelty and a passing fancy. And worse — there wasn’t much more besides mainstream media.  Underground paper Guerilla folded years before, and it wouldn’t be until the eighties that Now Magazine would spring up to shout out about locals.   In Toronto there was Shades Magazine which, despite an infuriating 6 point font (hey, we didn’t even know what a font was in 1976!), did a great job covering the local scene;  Toronto Star’s Peter Goddard was a rare supporter, as was Steven Davie, who went on to form the seminal bands The Dishes and The Everglades;  art magazine File, created by avant-garde art collective General Idea dedicated an issue to punk;  and Ugly manager Johnny Garbagecan had the hit and miss ‘zine (we didn’t even call them ‘zines!  Yay us!) Torrana.   That was just paper media.  Forget TV.

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Computers and desktop publishing.  All the handbills made during that original 1976 era were either hand-drawn, or done using Letraset, pictured above, and usually a bit of both.

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The letters for “Viletones” were vinyl stick-ons that would be used for, I dunno, boats or something.  You’d stick them on the page, then take an X-Acto knife (or as the terrorists would prefer, box-cutters) and cut it up.  The lettering for “Heartbreakers” was a stencil kit.  The rest was done with a Sharpie, some time, a couple of runs to the printer, and several joints.  Nowadays, you can find punky fonts on your Mac, and they owe a lot to that era.

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Picking up dog shit.  Yup.  Would never have thought of doing that, worse, paying someone else to do it.  The reality was, every so often you were going to step in a pile of it, so just scrape that shit right off your shoe, Virginia.

Teenagers Dancing to Rock' n Roll

Places to play.  There just weren’t many places that were open to letting bands play this new music.  We had the New Yorker, Crash ‘n’ Burn, Club Davids, the Turning Point, Colonial Underground, and then the Horseshoe, all of which had relatively short runs.  Often there’d be impromptu gigs in flats above stores on Yonge Street.  When owners realized that they could actually get bums in seats, then other places joined in on the fun, but 76, 77 — tough to find a place to play.

google-equality

Instant information and gratification.  Of course you know there were no personal computers back in ’76, and obviously no Google.  We had to think about stuff, and we could wonder about stuff.  You don’t have to wonder anymore.  “Hey, what’s with all the snails on the sidewalk today?” you might say.  Google it and you find out they’re up for air in case they drown, ’cause it just rained.  “Where’s that place The Ugly are playing tonight?”  In seconds you know, but back in the day, it’d be a matter of finding a phone booth to call a friend, or looking for a hand-bill, or just not finding it.  And finding something else.  The stand-up comedian Pete Holmes nailed it:  he was recalling, in the days before Google, wondering where Tom Petty was born.  He asks around, he searches old magazines, but can’t find out.  Months go by.  Then he sees a girl with a Tom Petty t-shirt and approaches her.  “Hey, do you know where Tom Petty was born?”, he asks.  A few months later they get married.

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Kids these days, eh?  For the past week a lot of them have been hunkered in smokey basements playing Grand Theft Auto V.  And I’m sure its a blast.  But back in the day, before video games and a hundred TV channels and smart phones, we had to make our own fun.

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And so if we were bored (can kids even get bored anymore?) maybe we picked up a friends guitar, or took a course, or just hung around and shot the shit. The thing about “punk” was that you didn’t need to know how to play a guitar well to pick one up and give it a try, and you didn’t need to make all your lettering perfect if you were messing around with graphic art.

Tommy+Ramone

When Tommy Ramone was interviewed for our film he said that he was well aware that as The Ramones left a town after playing a gig in ’76, artists would emerge from out of nowhere. The Ramones and punk gave us permission to fuck around, make mistakes, and do whatever we felt like.

So, yea, we had loads of fun in 1976, and I suppose kids have loads of fun in 2013.  We certainly didn’t feel deprived.  Maybe everything is more fun when you’re 21.

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Blogs.  We didn’t have shitty blogs like this to distract us from actually doing stuff.

 

 

 

 

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