Tuesday, October 25, 2011

City Slang ... Sonic's Rendezvous Band & Show # 375


From 1975 to 1980 a band existed in Ann Arbor, Michigan known as Sonic’s Rendezvous Band. The band was composed of Fred “Sonic” Smith (previously of The MC5) on guitar/vocals, Scott Morgan (previously of The Rationals) on guitar/vocals, Gary Rasmussen (previously of The Up) on bass, and ex-Stooges drummer Scott Asheton. Although relatively unknown while they were still active by the mainstream, Sonic’s Rendezvous Band has now elevated to legendary/cult-like status. During their time as a band they only ever released one single "City Slang". The "City Slang" single had the same song on the A side and the B side, although one side was labelled as a mono version and a stereo version, the single contained the exact same song on both sides. “Electrophonic Tonic” was recorded to be the B side of the "City Slang" single, but due to lack of funds the band could only afford to put the one song on the single. Original copies of the "City Slang" single, originally released in 1978 now go for hundreds of dollars.

The band essentially formed from the ashes of The MC5, and The Rationals. Smith and Morgan became friends and prior to the forming of Sonic’s Rendezvous band, Fred Smith contributed lead guitar to Scott Morgan’s first solo single (1973's Take A Look/Soul Mover). The two then decided to form a band, which would go through many line up changes in the rhythm section. The band played their first gig as The Orchids which featured Ron Cooke of Mitch Ryder’s Detroit Wheels on bass. The gig was poorly attended due to a large blizzard that occurred during that night in the bands early incarnation. Shortly after Cooke was out as Scott Asheton came into the group as their new drummer and Gary Rasmussen of The Up signed up on bass. The line up was now complete and the band changed their name to Sonic’s Rendezvous Band and began playing more gigs around the Michigan area starting in 1975. They tried to veer away from playing songs from each of their respective musical pasts instead opting for new original material, but slowly built up a following. The band combined the high energy Rock style of The MC5/The Stooges, with the soulful Garage ethics of The Rationals, but at the same time took a step into a new direction. Several songs were longer songs, evolving from jams that the band had together during rehearsals. Major labels seemed to avoid interest in this band, despite their local following and talent, but things were different then. It was around 1978 that the growing tensions between Smith and Morgan reached greater levels. Eventually the band faded to a stop in 1980.

The bands legendary status was maintained by their fan base through bootlegs released in the 80s of band demos and live shows. Sonic's Rendezvous Band gained international attention during the late 70s Punk scene, which despite the band no longer being together, their fan base grew. In the late 90s, the studio recording of the song “Electrophonic Tonic”, the intended B side to “City Slang” was released by Alive/Total Energy Records. This generated a new interest in the band and two albums were released titled Sweet Nothing (in 1998) which compiled a good quality live recording of the band from Ann Arbor in 1978 and City Slang (in 2000), which followed due to the success of Sweet Nothing. City Slang combined live recordings with the bands 1978 City Slang single, both albums are now currently out of print and were released by Mack Aborn Rhythm Arts. In 2006, Easy Action a UK record label released a six CD box set of Sonic’s Rendezvous Band material. Simply titled Sonic’s Rendezvous Band Box Set, the six CD’s compiled demos, rehearsal recordings, studio material and four live concerts. In 2007, another live recording was released from when the band played The Masonic Temple in 1978 in Detroit.

Following his time with Sonic’s Rendezvous band, Fred Smith married musician Patti Smith in 1980. In 1986 he worked with Patti on her album Dream of Life collaborating as a songwriter, producer and guitarist. This would be one of Smith’s last recordings, in November of 1994 Fred “Sonic” Smith passed away due to heart failure. Scott Morgan continued to tour and record as a solo artist and with groups such as Scots Pirates, Power Trane, Dodge Main, and The Hydromatics. Gary Rasmussen continues to play music as a studio musician and Scott Asheton currently plays with the reunited Stooges. The band reunited as The Rendezvous Band in 1999 featuring Deniz Tek (of Radio Birdman on guitar) in place of Smith at The Magic Stick in Detroit, it was released in 2000 under the titled Getting There is Half the Fun. More info on The Sonic's Rendezvous band can be found at http://sonicsrendezvousband.net/.

This Week's Play List:

1. Teenanger - Too Nice To Say No
2. Ghost Knife - Omnipotent
3. Rock 'N Roll Monkey & The Robots - I Should've Stayed In Detroit
4. Flamin' Groovies - High Flyin' Baby
5. Guage - I Saw You On The Telephone
6. Johnny Jaws & The Sharks - Out of Love
7. Pointed Sticks - Part of the Noise
8. Joy Division - Interzone
9. Crocodiles - Soft Skull (In My Room)
10. Mode Moderne - Radio Heartbeat
11. Colleen Green - Green One
12. Hoa Hoa's - Going Out With Her
13. Dog Day - What She Says
14. Empire - Him Or Me
15. The Only Ones - Re-Union
16. XTC - The Rhythm
17. Blue Orchids - The Flood
18. Models - Man of the Year
19. Magazine - Sweetheart Contract
20. Laughing Clowns - In Front of Your Eyes
21. Indian Wars - Old Hotel
22. Sonic's Rendezvous Band - Sweet Nothing (Live)
23. Sonic's Rendezvous Band - City Slang (1999 Mix)

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for October 25. Or subscribe to Revolution Rock as a Podcast.

3 comments:

RetroKimmer said...

GREAT ARTICLE! SRB did cover a couple songs that the MC5 did though. Believe to my soul and Empty Heart for examples. This is a very accurate story and I will share it will my readers and friends! Retro: Kimmer

Dave said...

Thanks Kim. I appreciate it. I fixed the thing about not playing songs from MC5/the bands past.

Michael said...

This was an interesting read. Always liked the MC5 (and was stoked to see the remaining three back in 2004), but had never checked out the SRB. Should rectify that...