• Barfly
  • I Sell Soul
  • Birth Day
  • Anna
  • Butcherhouse 4
  • Romeo & Juliet
  • Sister Love Train
  • Love Train Express
  • Good Times Never Roll
  • Six And Two
  • Maelstrom
  • Pretty


RFTT barfly ART

Rocket From The Tombs Barfly

Released October 11 2011.
Produced by David Thomas.

Fire Records FIRECD197
(ROW) Sep 5 2011 cd.
(US) Oct 11 2011 cd.
(World) Sep 5 2011 vinyl.

Smog Veil SV104 (N. America) Sep 13 2011 vinyl.

Order RFTT physical product from here.

Release Notes

This is the first full studio recording in 37 years from the band that scared the members of Television in 1975, wrote classics such as "Ain't It Fun," "Sonic Reducer," "Final Solution," and "30 Seconds Over Tokyo," and spawned both Pere Ubu and the Dead Boys.

Think about waiting for 37 years. Standing at a bus stop. Sitting by the telephone. Looking out the window. Waiting for the postman. Day after day. Year after year. Thirty-seven years...

The legendary Rocket From The Tombs, born in 1974, flamed out in 1975, have finally recorded a studio album, delivering "Barfly," and closing the circle on an incredible journey.

The received wisdom (at least in America) goes that punk rock was invented in New York by the Ramones who reconfigured midwestern hard groove rock and 60s garage singles into a formula that defined punk: short, fast, catchy, and unstoppable. But in some weird parallel universe, punk might have traced its roots to Rocket From The Tombs, a Cleveland band that lasted less than eight months and never made a studio recording.

Three things went wrong for Rocket From The Tombs: a level of drug and alcohol abuse to worry even Keith Richard; a band volatility that rivaled that of The Troggs; and a turnover of drummers that would've flummoxed Spinal Tap.

One thing went right: in those eight months they wrote songs that would become punk anthems: "Ain't It Fun," "Sonic Reducer," "Final Solution," "So Cold," "What Love Is," "30 Seconds Over Tokyo," "Amphetamine." And they played them like there was no tomorrow. There was no tomorrow. They'd used up tomorrow. The band blew apart in July 1975 after an apocalyptic soundcheck that scared the bejeebers out of headliners Television. One faction went on to create the avant-garage rock group Pere Ubu, the other punk stalwarts The Dead Boys.

That might have been the end of the Rocket story except that over the next 25 years a frantic international trading of bootlegs bestowed on the band a legendary status. An album of live and rehearsal tapes, "The Day The Earth Met The Rocket From The Tombs" (2002), led to a nervous reunion in 2003. The core of the band - David Thomas, Cheetah Chrome and Craig Bell - remained from the old days. They were joined by Television's Richard Lloyd who replaced Peter Laughner (died 1977). Pere Ubu's drummer Steve Mehlman was drafted.

The fire still burned. For good and bad. Two tours produced extreme, brutal concerts, but also plenty of late night dust-ups in the parking lots of cheap roadside motels.

"We got that bad attitude thing in our blood," singer David Thomas said. "Can't shake it. But at least we're not young, loud and snotty anymore. We've moved on. Now we're old, loud and snotty."

Taking that attitude in the studio produced "Barfly," an unreconstructed, unapologetic re-affirmation of the power and glory of guitar rock: guitar solos traded between two masters of the craft, an inventive rhythm section devoted to midwestern groove mania, and a singer who learned all there is to learn from channeling Rob Tyner and Don Van Vliet. "I will amblify you," Thomas growls in the middle of the album's fierce opening track "I Sell Soul." And whatever that might mean... he means it.

The bitter irony of "Romeo & Juliet," the Cleveland / Detroit nexus of "Sister Love Train" / "Love Train Express," the manic-obsessive drive of "Maelstrom," the Robert Calvert sci fi dystopian romance of "Butcherhouse 4," and the Bukowski grunge of "Pretty" reflect the 70s revisionism that is at the heart of the album's production.

"Barfly" delivers a sound that's not dated or restricted to any passing fad or marketing infatuation. These men are ugly, old, and have not mellowed in any conceivable way. They've devoted their lives to raging against the boundaries, and they have been willing to pay the price. "Barfly" dismisses the last 37 years as a waste of time. Cuts it away without a second thought. That, in itself, makes "Barfly" worth the wait.

N.B. Strictly speaking the 2003 release Rocket Redux was a studio album in that it was recorded by Richard Lloyd in his rehearsal studio but it was essentially a live recording of old songs as performed by the new band.

Production Notes

Produced by David Thomas. Mixed by David Thomas and Paul Hamann. Engineered by Paul Hamann at Suma, Painesville OH. Recorded January 10 - 11 2009, June 28 - 30 2010 and August 8 - 13 2010. Band photo by Kathy Ward Thompson. Package design by the combined efforts of John Thompson (www.idrome.net), Bad People Good Things, and Alex Hornsby. All songs by Bell - Chrome - Lloyd - Mehlman - Thomas ©2011 Hearpen Music / Old Loud and Snotty Music / Basement Music.

Rocket From The Tombs (v.6.0)

David Thomas
Cheetah Chrome
guitar, piano
Richard Lloyd
Craig Bell
Steve Mehlman
drums, organ

Guest Players
Andy Diagram
trumpets on Sister Love Train
The Snot-ettes
Backing vocals

NB. The 45rpm vinyl and audio download release of "I Sell Soul" / Romeo & Juliet" on Smog Veil in April 2010 were different mixes and "I Sell Soul" was partially re-recorded for "Barfly."

Press Reaction

Greg Kot, Chicago Tribune "Rocket From the Tombs is not just the great lost proto-punk band of the '70s. It's one of the best bands of the 21st Century too." David Fricke, Rolling Stone "No one else in American rock, underground or over, in 1974 and '75, was writing and playing songs this hard and graphic about being f**ked over and fighting mad. No one else is doing it now." Jon Pareles, New York Times, July 31, 2006 The standard story goes that punk rock was invented in New York by the Ramones... But in some alternate realm, punk might have traced its genesis to Rocket From the Tombs, a Cleveland band that lasted less than a year (1974-5) and never made a studio album. One of its songs, "Sonic Reducer" - with lyrics like "don't need no human race" - was as straightforward a punk song as anything the Ramones were devising in 1974.

Smog Veil US Vinyl release

ISS cover
I Sell Soul / Romeo & Juliet

Tour Poster

Tour Poster in French

Tour Poster #2