Nu-Beams – Sterile Swab

Nu-Beams – Sterile Swab // One Step For What? 1981. The Nu-Beams were an early 1980′s Fullerton punk/new wave band. They played parties, the college pubs and local punk venues like Ichabod’s. They were a bunch of former art students, who had been around way before other Fullerton bands such as Social Distortion or D.I., but had never made much of an impact outside of their small but loyal cadre of fans. Their sound was a mix of punk, DEVO, and rockabilly; semi-jazzy fuzzy guitars, occasionally backed by a keyboard or synthesizer. Many of their songs seemed to be about toasters and other kitchen appliances, and their leader T. L. Ary, was the proud inventor of the “Ted Tone” (an electric guitar with a functional blender, complete with rear view mirrors).

Now, The Nu-Beams sound may not be cool enough for you hardcore punks but they definitely sound great to my ears. I literally can’t listen to Sterile Swab without cracking a grin what with the cheesy drum machine, the awesome vocals and lyrics and the analogue synth blips and bleeps. The B-Side, One Step For What? is a little more experimental I guess, and equally as great. Again, try not to grin when the spy-music guitar kicks in and T. L. Ary says “Down in his patio, listen to his radio and dancin’ with his barbeque grill.”

One thing about punk rock and new wave that is rarely mentioned today is its ridiculousness. This kinda stuff was (and is) the perfect antidote to self-righteousness. It’s hard to believe that anyone took dreck like Fleetwood Mac seriously back then. Or is it? I don’t think it’s any better today. Nine out of ten indie bands today are so self-important and smug in their countercultural status. Where’s the Ted Tone when you need it? What the world needs are the Rosta-Mesa Boys that make the big noise! I mean seriously. Have you ever experienced something so ridiculous, it becomes brilliant? And I don’t mean in a smug ironic way. I mean in a transcendent way.

I first heard the Nu-Beams on the Up Another Octave compilation and along with The Detours, they made the album. I remember thinking that their contribution to the LP, Oh Chico was one of the most idiotically catchy songs ever.

This entry was posted in Art-Punk, California, LA, New Wave, No Wave, Punk Rock, Synth, post-punk. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Nu-Beams – Sterile Swab

  1. MRow says:

    Great post, Joe. Never listened to these guys as a kid cause I always imagined it would sound “too new wave” to my oh-so punkrock ears. But as you point out, it’s fun just the same.

    No Nu-Beams yet here, but Dennis Catron has been steadily adding more images/memories/mp3s to his local Fullerton bands section at CHeck it out.

  2. M. Soden says:

    I was the former Bass Guitar operator for the NU-Beams.
    Thanks for the kind words.
    We did play quite a few gigs in Fullerton and I did live there for a four month period. However, most of us lived in beautiful Costa Mesa.

    The flyer on this page was quite a blast from the past.
    To illustrate how low-tech the whole deal was then. I had a discussion with Ivy (of the Eaters) where she was crowing that they had a _typewriter_ there by allowing them to send out press releases! Things have morphed quite a bit haven’t they.

    Thanks again for the kind words,


  3. Chris Oliver says:

    The more I listen to this the more I like it. I really wish there were a series of compilations dedicated to bands like this, all the DEVO-ish sorta-new-wave-sorta-punk bands that must have existed all across America for a couple years.

  4. Joe says:

    Hey Chris…good places to start are with the Atomic Shockwaves series

    or The Anesthetic’s Wearing Off series

    and the Flexi-Pop Series

    A lot of dark wave on this stuff which I am not so into, but there are some gems to be found for sure.

  5. Chris Oliver says:

    Wow, Joe, thanks for the tip. That should keep me busy for the next couple years!

  6. Tyler A. says:

    Heyy NU-BEAMS! My dad was in that. Leader of the band with the blender/guitar! He goes by TL. He’s amazed that I found this lol

  7. TL Ary says:

    Hey Kids! It’s me….Ted aka TL Ary just wanted say to I’m honored and amused to see anything on the Nu-Beams. Some of you may remember the “Ted Tone” and want let all know it has been hermetically sealed and sent off to the Smithsonian.
    I also would like you to know I am currently working on a 7HP lawnmower w/ variable pitch modulators and a octave overdrive repeater. Complete w/ rotating menacing blades underlit to create a strobe like effect. Add in the lawn catcher which spews yard trimin’s onto the unsuspecting audience as the solo reaches it’s creshendo!.
    Should be a real crowd pleaser, now all I have to is start a new band. Later Babies, Ted

  8. Joe says:

    Best. Comment. EVER. Thanks TL Ary!

  9. King-O-Mac says:

    I was there too! And I have the tapes to prove it. I used to bring my high powered Cassette Deck to the practice sessions at the “Nest”. Still have them and break them out for a listen every once and awhile! Those were the days! Gin and tonics for everyone! It was more then just the music, the show was wild and the flyers were great! I used to have them all but lost them in a move sad to say. I wish I could go back in time to video tape all those shows. Do you have a license to dance? Win a Date with the Nu-Beams? Do you remember “Vicki Vinyl”? She managed the Nu-Beams for a while.

  10. Alec says:

    wow…this brings back some memories…Randy, Terry, Zan, Sabrina…wish I could find some Suburban Lawns stuff like this…

  11. TL Ary says:

    Some Lyrical Favs:
    “Spawn now a Ruth with hormones and vermouth…..(so Fake it’s Real)

    “Life can be so casual, ask Sueno Guavera, like a gland irritated by constant scratching, he keeps on painting, like a gland he keeps on painting” (Villa del Rey)

    more to follow soon…..TED

  12. Stephanie says:

    Gawd bless you for doing this! I’m from Fullerton (born and reared) and now live in the midwest. I recently took my kid to the Mall of America and Buzz (!!) was there signing books and I was singing “One Step for What?” for her in honor of the occasion…

  13. Randy says:

    This is so cool! I saw the nu-beams dozens of times and even had the honor of singing back-ups on staqe and on a video (Hey There Little Frankie).
    The top non hard-core OC band of the 79-81 scene.
    Faves included: Boots, Natalie-Neolithic Pulsar Man, Work, Andrea’s Party (remaned Abigail’s Party at Abi’s house), Bargain Basement Girl, She’s A What.
    Their alter-ego band was killer-the Flesh something???
    Their cover of Sunny was great-Thanks for posting this!

  14. TL Ary-"Ted" says:

    Why Mr Randy Bird! 1/3 of “Classy Pat and da Welcome Mats” A Timeless thankx fer your efforts on “Hey ther lil Frankie’ and of course the dance squad leader! Alter ego band * mandatory 45 second song-move on next! Well that be the Flesh Failures. Interesting note, when we first stared with the alter ego band we’d double book ourselves, in other words the Flesh Failures would open for the Nu-Beams :) LOL we even got paid twice…..till they caught on! Good Times!

  15. Rod Treece says:

    Hi Everyone!
    Paul Wook turned me on the site. Take’s me back to all the fun times with a really great group of people. So many laundry mats. We all w and T.L. for letting me be apart of your dream.It was truly a wonderful time.

    Rod Treece

  16. KZ says:

    More coffee Ruth?

  17. Abigail Johnson says:

    I remember Abigail’s Party, I was there! It was a “surprise” party, and will have been 31 years ago come the end of this May…damn, those were good times!

  18. Chippy says:

    Anyone have a setlist for Hong Kong Cafe 1-10-1980?
    this is what I’ve got so far…

    1. Barefootin’
    2. Sterile Swab
    3. Oh Chico
    4. (1st name basis with my cleaners)
    5. Work
    7. Andrea’s Party
    8. Bargain Basement Girls
    9. Sweet Jane
    10. She’s a What?
    11. Men Like Pie
    12. Steppin’ Stone
    13. Louie Louie

  19. Dana Royal says:

    I played guitar in the Nu-Beams.
    I met TL in the 6th grade.
    Greetings to TL,Randy,Paul, and anyone else who stumbles upon this obscure site!)?(

  20. Dana Royal says:

    Who is this Mark Soden guy?
    I remember the bass player of the Nu-Beams.
    He played thru a Dumont Duo-throb bass cabinet,with an Ampeg amp on top.
    He was good friends with little ricky, and he used to have a dog named “stumpy”)?(
    I remember getting drunk at the Fling with him and Ted.
    How time flies.
    if anyone is interested,
    I am now living at Villa Del Rey

  21. Dylan says:

    crazy about nu-beams and i’m 17!

  22. Paul Woock says:

    For those of you that have not heard our beloved friend and Appliance leader TL has gone to that great thrift store in the sky. Alas he is searching for that pink Ice-O-Mat to complete his collection. TL passed away on 11-12-2011 leaving loads of friends and fans searching for the lost Ted Tone! A Face Book page has been created and you are all invited to join, Friends of the “Ted Tone”.

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