Monday, April 1, 2013

crash course on The Diodes!


I added some punk rock albums to my collection this weekend and one, in particular, has been spinning constantly on my turntable, the self-titled debut from The Diodes.

The USA had the Ramones leading the pack and the UK had The Clash and The Sex Pistols up front. While Canadian punk rock did not get the same attention, we sure had a few bands that were holding their own and representing us well. The Diodes were definitely one of these Canadian bands.

The Diodes had Paul Robinson on vocals, John Catto on guitar, Ian MacKay on bass and John Hamilton on drums (later replaced by Mike Lengyell). Formed in Toronto in 1976, The Diodes and their manager Ralph Alfonso opened the first known Canadian punk rock bar in Toronto called Crash ‘N’ Burn in 1977. It was very short lived, closing down in the same year due to complaints from the other tenants in the building. This bar housed many of the great Canadian punk bands in its short life including Teenage Head, The Dead Boys and, of course, The Diodes. You can see some footage of this bar on YouTube from a film released in 1977 called “Crash ‘N’ Burn”. The bar was basically just a warehouse with a stage where punks could rock out and be themselves.

Playing at Crash ‘N’ Burn helped The Diodes get some attention from the media, including many magazines like Creem, Melody Maker, and New York Rocker, all before they even released an album. The Diodes were signed to Columbia records and released their self-titled debut album in late 1977. Regardless of them previously being written about in magazines, this album lacked media hype when it was released. Most of the music press and critiques were elsewhere with their attention focused on the UK and US punk rock scene, so this album did not get near the same praise and recognition. However, in my opinion this is definitely not due to quality. This is a great punk rock album with twelve solid songs, including two cover songs: Shape of Things originally by The Yardbirds, and Red Rubber Ball originally by The Cyrkle. While not becoming huge, they did manage to perform with some pretty huge names including The Ramones, U2, Split Enz and The Runaways.

This debut album really captures the feel of punk rock in the late 70’s. If you see a copy of this at a record store, I highly recommend you pick it up. It was not available on CD (and still technically is not), however they released a “best of” compilation in 1998 combining most of their first two albums. The Diodes only lasted with Columbia for their first two albums, then being dropped as people were just not catching on. Once dropped by Columbia, they released two more albums on independent labels before calling it quits.

The Diodes were a great band that lasted only a short while and released their last studio album in 1982. While they are the not most well-known Canadian band or the most rich and famous, they had left a strong mark in the punk rock movement and had some very strong albums in their short life, which is definitely a reason to be proud.

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