The Diodes: Crash N Burn Revisted

The Diodes: Crash N Burn Revisted

John Catto has taken a brief time out to from a scrambled Diodes rehearsal to spill the dirt on the band’s latest reunion tour which launches Friday at the Phoenix Concert Theatre.

Having just flown in from England with band lead vocalist Paul Robinson to join up with original bassist Ian McKay, and drummer John Hamilton who is now playing keyboards,( John Andrew is now taking over behind the drum kit), the five-date mini tour is billed as multi-media event to pay tribute to their original Crash N Burn punk night club venue.

Aside from a Diodes’ performance, the night will also feature the showing of Ross McLaren’s 27-minute black and white film of The Diodes, Teenage Head and The Dead Boys performing at what had been billed as Toronto’s first Punk Nightclub along with a photo exhibit from the band’s long-time manager, Ralph Alfonso with rare shots of The Ramones, Blonde, Patti Smith and The Talking Heads on display. Teenage Head guitarist Gord Lewis is also set to perform along with former Teenage Head guitarist Dave Rave and Time Damage IPA beer, a special brew produced by Bowmanville, Ontario craft brewery, Manantler Brewery will also be available.

“I`m terrible, but otherwise, rehearsals tend to go smoothly,” laughs Catto who acknowledges the band has executed a number of reunions over the past few years. “We got back together for The Mike Bullard Show in 1998 and then for our 30th anniversary in 2007 at NxNE. We staged a brief club tour in 2010 and we also performed together in 2011 so things come together quite quickly when we reunite.”

[quote]“Because of the closeness of the Ontario and New York punk music scenes, New York bands were always playing in Toronto and Toronto bands were always playing in New York”[/quote]
Catto is enthused that the theme of this year’s tour reflects on their Crash N Burn venue which only functioned for a couple of months during the summer of 1977. “The place was actually our rehearsal space, we had done a bit of a deal with the CEAC but they kicked us out of the Annex so we said, right, we will use your basement. So we had been there about three days when John Hamilton, the drummer said `I think this would make a great speakeasy. As it turned out we didn’t need to make it a speakeasy as they already had a liquor license, but as a club it didn’t last long.’

Identifying with the punk/new wave movement which was sweeping North America during the mid-seventies, The Diodes became the first Canadian punk band to sign to a major label in 1977 when Columbia Records released a self-titled debut record , the first single being a cover of Cyrkle’s Red Rubber Ball, “A song we had never heard before we recorded a version that is nothing like the original,” allows Catto.

“Because of the closeness of the Ontario and New York punk music scenes, New York bands were always playing in Toronto and Toronto bands were always playing in New York, we were more aligned to New York than we were to England. But unfortunately for us, Columbia had no idea what to do with us,” Catto explained. “We happened to be around when Columbia Canada came looking to sign `one of those bands’! That first album did quite well in Canada and also when it was circulated inAustralia and Europe but the only way it got into the States was via Jem Imports, a shady distribution deal when you consider that Columbia U.S has no accounting of any records being imported – yet we know thousands were exported to New York, California and Texas.”
“Then “Red Rubber Ball” appeared on a CBS US Permanent Waves compilation record CBS U.S and did really well so when they realized we were still contracted to another record, they released “Revisited” in 1979 with “Red Rubber Ball” again on the record,” noted Catto. “That record also had “Tired of Waking up Tired” and we purposely put it out as a pop record which really confused them – they had no idea what to do with us.”

For the band’s third album, The Diodes went the indie route, releasing their 1980 “Action/Reaction” release on Orient Records, produced by the THP Orchestra pair of Ian Guenther and Willi Morrison. And although the band toured Canada with the likes of a young U2, Ultravox and Split Enz, the punk scene had been replaced by the New Romantic movement.

Catto moved back to his native England with former Boston native Robinson in 1981 but the Diodes’ recording legacy continued with the Italian release of a 1978 Time Damage, Live At The El Mocambo concert which is now available on iTunes. A new version of The Diodes with Catto and Robinson and two British musicians toured Canada in 2008 with an outtakes album called “Survivors”.

Looking back, The Diodes’ guitarist has always felt the band had left a special legacy in Canadian music and when the Diodes returned after a lengthy hiatus , they were delighted to find their roots following was still intact.

“It’s fun to do. We like to keep our material out there, its not a great effort and we just have a great time when we do get together,” Catto explained. “The thing that blows me away sometimes when I’m putting a set list together is how strong our material actually is and how many things we have to leave out . There are so many songs off that first album that still hold up.”

Catto confirmed the band is committed to future recording plans with a new record set for release in the near future. Dates for the current tour include their Phoenix date on Friday, a concert at the Manantler Brewing Company in Bowmanville on Saturday September 12th, a date at Hamilton’s This Aint Hollywood on Sunday September 13, the Brantford Station Gallery September 15th before closing out the tour September 17th at the Phi Centre in Montreal.

You can stay connected with The Diodes through their new website
Photos: Ralph Alfonso

[youtube width=”600″ height=”338″ video_id=”i4eS_C5zJIQ”]

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2 thoughts on “The Diodes: Crash N Burn Revisted

  1. nick smash

    well, the next phase after punk wasn’t really new romantic. there was a dirty little scene based in Toronto which would happily call itself ‘post punk’ and we had NOTHING to do with blitz, or goths or a flock of seagulls
    ‘ALONE AND GONE – The Story Of Toronto’s Post Punk Underground’
    ‘Alone And Gone’ is set in Toronto during a time of the worst unemployment since World War 2. There was a nuclear accident in our backyard and a civil war within the North American Continental boundaries. In 1979 Punk Rock had blown itself out and what was left was a dispiriting caricature. When The Edge closed down in 1981 it was assumed that the local Toronto music scene was finished.
    But that is where our story begins.
    In 1980, there was no NOW magazine, no MTV, no CDs and no internet. As a 17 year old just out of high school you got your information about your favourite bands by listening to CFNY, hanging out at The Record Peddler, buying fanzines and going to The Turning Point.
    ‘Alone And Gone’ is a book based around the photographs of Simon and Nick White as seen in their 2010 exhibition, ‘Toronto Calling’. Using original interviews from the fanzines of the day and chasing down some of the surviving protagonistas, ‘A&G’ portrays a city in flux; a city uncomfortable with its staid ‘People City’ reputation. It wasn’t all clean streets and people muttering “sorry” as they shuffled off to their office jobs. There was an underground of youth who were fired by the initial wallop of punk and were inspired by the DIY nature of the music they were hearing on the then just born CFNY, ‘The Spirit Of Radio’. Fanzines; rough photocopied rants and tirades summed up the feeling of the times, and were the only way to learn about our favourite music. Ryerson Radio (CKLN) boosted its signal and became a beacon of the just emerging local music scene, which was unwilling to repeat what the punks had done before.
    This period (1978 – 1983) is widely credited as being the ‘Post Punk’ years. Boy bands such as The Rheostatics, The Vital Sines, Youth Youth Youth and Rent Boys Inc. all released their home produced basement recordings on cassette tape, which was the cheaper alternative to vinyl. There was also a strong contingent from the girl bands such as Toy Box, Naive Freedom and original riot girls, Fifth Column who all made original noise during this period of enhanced perspectives and belligerent indie-ness.
    In any other major city such as London, New York, Los Angeles, this period has been documented, covered, re-hashed, examined and picked over; but in Toronto? Aside from a few vague references and comments online, nothing has appeared to try and understand what was going on. It was an exciting time. Post Punk is about what happened when a vibrant new energy collided with the world wide events of the day. The College radio network was just being born and CFNY had championed acts like The Specials, Bob Marley, Echo And The Bunnymen, XTC, The Cars and U2. This ‘Post Punk’ era laid the groundwork for what was to happen next.
    Using the original ‘cut and paste’ methods as seen in the ‘zines of the day, ‘Alone And Gone’ applies scans, digital methods, rough techniques, bashed up old typewriters and original ‘DIY in the basement’ film processing to tell the story of the post punk underground in Toronto.

  2. Roman

    Nice piece. I remember talking to these guys for Music Express back in ’80. The song ‘Catwalker’ sticks in my head to this day.

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