by Art Chantry:
this was one of those early seattle punk posters that blew my mind. it was wheatpasted (primarily) all over the u-district in mid 1978. i had just moved to seattle (after living in tacoma and bellingham) and lived like a rat in a student apartment next to the UW. so, i spent a lot of time wandering around “the ave” and looking at crap. this poster literally haunted me. i’d never seen anything like it before – outside of possibly an old dada collage or a surrealist dream image from an art textbook. in 1978, guys wore bellbottoms, tightie tshirts, long full hair, platform shoes. basic cornball cliched 1970′s garb. if you wore glasses, they were wire rims or (if you were gay) flamboyant stylish ‘elton john’ glasses. so, this image was creepy and jolting and annoying to see glaring at you on wheat pasted on a wall. “telepaths”?!?! wuzzat?
because it was pasted, it stayed for years, too. i’ll bet it took 3-5 years to rot away entirely from view. so, this startled upset freaked out guy wearing the “birth control” frames kept grabbing attention for a VERY long while. it’s a ‘quickprint’ (offset and cheap) 8 1/2 x 14 (legal size) piece of paper with an image that was obviously designed to be 8 1/2 x 11 size printed on it haphazardly (the sort of thing you often got from quickprint joints – sloppy. the ink is thin and greying. the paper is cheap beyond redemption. this was in a world where disco chrome and neon color!color!color! was everywhere. b&w cheapo was as weird and different and shocking as the guy in the poster image was disturbing and out of time and place. this is what early PUNK looked like (but we didn’t really call it that yet). it was utterly alien.
‘the bird’ (the venue) was the first punk club to open in seattle (officially on march 4, 1978). it was in the old abandoned “john l. bird co.” storefront (thus the name) downtown in the then-derelict area just north of pioneer square. there were other punk shows around town before the bird opened up, though. for instance, tomata du plenty put together the “TMT show” at the old oddfellows temple on capital hill featuring his band the tupperwares (along with the meyce and the telepaths – ‘t.m.t.’ get it?) almost two years earlier on may 1st (mayday), 1976. that was about a full year before the sex pistols ever gigged. there were also punk shows around town even earlier than that as well. but “the bird” was the first actual seattle CLUB to open up and book punk bands exclusively. it was the first “meeting place” of the new underground. on opening night the police raided it and used clubs to break heads and chase all the weirdoes away. some things never change.
this telepaths poster was from a show that was held nearly a month after the official opening. the club lasted maybe another 4-5 months before the fire department closed it down forever (they ended up moving to that oddfellows temple that tomata had booked for the TMT show). but a few months afrter that, that collapsed as well and thus was born a decades-long seattle tradition of punk clubs opening and closing in the blink of an eye. the city police and fire dept. always closed them down immediately. the average lifespan for a punk club in seattle was estimated at three months tops (on average. a couple lasted longer). it was that way it stayed until the ‘grunge scene’ became big money and clubs like moe and the croc stayed open because rich hipster lawyers owned them.
i really don’t know who designed this poster exactly. in my old book “instant litter’, i credited erich werner for some reason. although he was the singer in a later permutation of the telepaths (called the blackouts. eventually the blackouts became the core people in a bigtime band called ‘ministry’. the drummer bill reiflin later worked as the performing drummer for REM). erich werner did some wonderful posters for the blackouts, really powerful stuff. but at this point, i don’t think he was doing artwork for posters.
the other band on the bill – san francisco’s, the avengers – featured a seattle native – singer penelope houston. she was buddies with tomata du plenty and they drove south to the bay area together (and tomata moved on to LA, where he formed the screamers). penelope immediately formed the avengers to great acclaim. his may have been her very first return to her hometown as a ‘famous’ punk rocker.
many people have told me that the lettering on this poster is tomta’s handwriting. so, it’s possible that tomata did this poster. but, it’s carefully cut out and pasted in, so it could easily have been clipped from another poster. in fact, the “telepaths” type was clipped from a poster by FRANKO (frank edie) who was seattle’s first real and greatest punk poster artist. so, this poster is a real ‘frankenstein’.
did erich werner do this? or tomata du plenty? or was it penelope houston (who did amazing posters in san francisco)? or perhaps even FRANKO did this (although it really isn’t his style).
so, i have never been able to trace exactly WHO designed this poster. but, i’ll keep it forever as one of my all-time favortie early punk posters. …