Rocky Mountain Low

A great companion (precursor really) to the Local Anesthetic compilation from a few years ago, Rocky Mountain Low captures the early punk rock days of the Denver/Boulder scene and shares them for posterity. In fact, Rocky Mountain Low presents itself as an exhaustive representation. Every single band from the scene is represented on this recording and/or the accompanying booklet. You get the super rockabilly punko power of the Jonny III, the streetwise sounds of The Front, the new wave noise of The Cells and The Healers and the proto-Velvets power of The Corvairs and The Ravers (who went on the become The Nails). It’s pretty damn cool.

Now these kinds of comps can sometimes be hit or miss. They are usually created by folks who were a part of the scene they are documenting and oftentimes these folks are so enthusiastic to present their town’s legacy that they are unable to have an objective viewpoint of the music. So being an ex-Denverite and supporter of the town in general, I was a little worried when I received this in the mail that it was gonna be chock full of terrible recordings of 5th rate bar bands playing bad new wave. After all, Jello Biafra, (then known as Eric Boucher aka “Occupant” aka “The Wicked Wizard”) fled the area early on and moved to San Francisco. Maybe he did this because the bands in the Rocky Mountain area sucked so bad?

1977 Denver Flyer courtesy of Trash is Truth

Well, I am happy to report that this is not the case. In fact, let me echo Joe Carducci in stating that the breadth of good music that came out of the scene in Denver in the late 1970s is a big fuckin’ surprise to me. And not only were there a lot of great bands but these bands took it upon themselves to record their music on 4 tracks and off of mixing boards. So the end result with this comp is a really good set of well-recorded tunes (mostly) by a pretty diverse set of bands. Take for instance, Lilly Rose and the Thorns with their great song Fun. Try these lyrics on for size:

I wanna rock-n-roll oh yes I do
and I wanna have sex, I wanna have it with you
and I wanna get high any way that I can
yes I wanna rock-n-roll won’t you be my man?

The background music on this amazing little punk ditty sounds like the New York Dolls or something and Lilly is actually a dude. A trans-gendered dude. So let me ask you this….did it ever cross your mind that there would be a gender bending punk-n-roll band in Colorado in the late 1970s? Kinda like a Rocky Mountain Wayne County and the Electric Chairs? That seems pretty wild to me. I bet their shows were fucking CRAZY.

1978 Denver Flyer courtesy of Trash is Truth

Speaking of gender, there are also two all female punk bands in this set. The Guys play some cool punk-n-roll. The Profalactics on the other hand, from Boulder, predate Anti-Scrunti Faction with a more politicized and noisy approach. Like Bold Beginnings, the Louisville punk rock compilation on Noise Pollution from a few years ago, gender did not seem to be an issue to these bands and I think this is an important point. It’s easy to lose sight of it in today’s post-pop-punk world but there was a time when punk rock was, gasp….outsider music. People who played punk rock didn’t fit in. I know this is why it appealed to me. Cuz the cool kids used to try and take my lunch money.

When I look at the photos of these first wave punk rock bands from the Denver/Boulder area what I see is a bunch of social misfits with nothing to lose. They were in the middle of nowhere and they didn’t expect anyone to hear what they were doing. They played their music because what else were they going to do? Go to Broncos games? Listen to John Denver? The fact that we are fortunate enough today to hear this music is pretty damn impressive.

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9 Responses to Rocky Mountain Low

  1. Texas Bell-End says:

    This seems pretty great, I’d love to hear some Pre-Frantix Colorado punk, because all that is coming to mind is the Nails and they were awful. What is their song called “88 lines about 44 women”? Here is the Back Porch Video version of that song.

  2. Joe says:

    Yeah I was never a big Nails fan either. They actually started out as the Ravers who are pretty good on this comp.

  3. roc says:

    This compilation looks amazing. I didn’t know there was any transgender punk besides Jayne County. Did not notice this when “Fun” was played on WFMU radio last year. Its a fun song!

  4. derek says:

    This is funny. I picked this up just yesterday afternoon and I was just randomly going thru various blogs i like and see this review. I agree whole heartedly. It will not disappoint .Definately one should BUY this compilation before it disappears from the scene.
    Cheers, D.T.

  5. troik says:

    if they were or are really punks they wouldn’t care if you put one or two songs for our listening pleasure, i guess money allways comes first no matter what the lyrics say.
    you rock!

  6. Joe says:

    @troik: If that was conveyed in my post, then I did a poor job in the writeup. I totally support these bands getting paid for what they did. If they were playing this music in 1978 in Colorado, they dont have anything to prove to anyone, least of all us. I just think they could sell a few more copies by giving a couple of tracks away to get people excited about the music.

  7. Alex M says:

    Just bought this and gave you a shout for sending me over there. Looks exciting!

  8. Dalton says:

    Let me start by saying I’m humbled by the nice review — thank you Joe! As for not allowing songs to be posted, our reasoning was that we want the listener to take the compilation in as an entire entity. Afterall, it compiles the *entire* late 70s scene here in Colorado and the sounds presented on the comp are quite varied. To put two or three songs up removes them from the intended context, which is all 17 bands along with the accompanying 22-page booklet. I won’t engage the notion that we’re just in it for the money other than to say it’s silly. I will say that putting out a double LP + CD + booklet is pretty darned expensive and, although we have sold roughly half of the 1,000 copies pressed, we still have yet to break even on the cost. Any profit beyond that will be split equally among us and the bands – so, yeah, we have attempted to be as egalitarian as possible. Was I ever a punk? More of a poseur, really…..but I do have an appreciation for good music. Thanks again!!

  9. Tony razor says:

    Although not as good as the local anesthetic comp this bad boy is a smoker to. The standouts being Defex And transistors. I got the transistors R love single and loved it. This is an interesting document in the Denver scene and the booklet is worth the price alone. Dalton Rasmussen I noticed you helped on Henry welds awsome discography of the American new wave page. I’m puttin together a zine to show kids how awsome the Denver scene was. I wasn’t there but iv had some help and if you could contact me that would be awsome.

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