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Jr Gone Wild revisited continued November 11, 2015

Posted by sjroby in Canadian content, Music.

I knew Mike McDonald and Ed Dobek from a precursor of Jr Gone Wild when we were all in high school, so I was there for the very beginning of the whole thing. And then my family promptly got transferred a few thousand km across Canada. But a bunch of us stayed in touch by mail, and I got records and tapes in the mail occasionally, so I survived. (This is 1980 and shortly afterwards. Travel across the country is a big deal. Long distance phone calls are horribly expensive. Next to nobody has a computer or a way to communicate with other computers.)

Anyway, I wrote this in 1995:

The Jr. Gone Wild story is a long one, but with a few constants over the years. Mike McDonald, for instance. He’s the only original member of a band that has, according to rumor, at least thirty former members. His core influences have also been constant for the last fifteen years: Bob Dylan, Neil Young, punk rock, folk, and country music.

The Jr. Gone Wild story begins a few years before the band came into existence. It’s hard to pin down the real beginning, because there were several. Here’s one beginning moment that stands out.

It’s a sunny afternoon in the spring of 1980. A teacher and a dozen or so students walk a few blocks east of Archbishop O’Leary High School in north Edmonton, Alberta to the home of Ed Dobek, one of the students. On arriving, they head en masse for the basement, where four of the students gather around some musical instruments. The others sit on an old couch or lean against a foosball machine. The teacher, a “show me” expression on his face, stands and watches.

Ed Dobek sits behind his older brother’s drum kit. Dennis Lenarduzzi straps on a bass guitar, as Scott Juskiw readies his electric guitar. And Mike McDonald stands in front of the microphone.

The band, Joey Did and the Necrophiliacs, starts pounding out a primitive punk rock racket. Ed is, arguably, the only one who knows what he’s doing, but to the friends gathered there, it doesn’t matter. It’s close enough for rock and roll. The teacher can see enthusiasm in the band, and in their friends. He doesn’t quite get what’s going on, it’s obviously not his kind of music. But the small audience is clearly enjoying the racket, some nodding heads, some pogoing. So the teacher, Sam Posteraro, teacher liaison with the school’s Student Union, makes the announcement: Joey Did can do one of the lunchtime concerts during the school’s upcoming Rock Week.

There were other beginnings, too. The band was formed out of a group of students who were working on an underground magazine to be called the S.T. Their first sonic endeavor occurred weeks earlier, when someone brought a tape recorder to 266 1/2, their school storeroom hangout. 266 1/2 had an old piano, empty pop bottles, a typewriter, metal cupboard doors, and maybe a dozen teenagers inspired by the DIY message of punk rock and the Flying Lizards’ cacophonous version of the old song, “Money.” Everything was in place for a horrendous and joyful racket to be made, “songs” of banging, pounding, clinking, typing, bits of melody from the piano, and occasional screams of “The peasants are revolting!”

Another beginning: three or four S.T. students killing time in 266 1/2 making up fake band names, inspired by the likes of New York City’s Richard Hell and the Voidoids and the supposedly real Sid Snot and the Greenies. One suggestion: Joey Dead and the Necrophiliacs. Later, when the band formed, the name was changed, to make it a bit less of a joke.

And yet another beginning: Rock Week at O’Leary. Joey Did and the Necrophiliacs are on the stage of the O’Leary gym. A friend of the band stands before the mic and yells, “Ladies and gentlemen, Joey Did and the Necrophiliacs! 1, 2, 3, 4!” And the band kicks in. Maybe a hundred of the school’s 1800 students are there for the spectacle, but the number dwindles steadily through the lunch hour.

Over the course of the year, the band plays in public a few times, breaks up at least once (Mike briefly starts a new band called the Tory Dinks), reforms, and in December changes its name to the Malibu Kens. Late in 1981, they release a single, Be My Barbie, on an independent Edmonton label. There are two songs: “Crude City” and “Wednesday Morning…” Trivia: the band’s co-producer for the single is Kim Upright of local faves the Modern Minds; also in that band was Moe Berg, best known for his band The Pursuit of Happiness. There’s a poster/lyric sheet by Edmonton punk poster genius Kenny Chinn, soon to go on to greater notoriety with his hardcore band SNFU.

The months following the release of the single see a change in musical direction for the band. Improved musical skill and the influence of bands like the Beach Boys, the Beatles, and the Go-Gos, among others, result in a pop sound. After they’ve been doing that for some time, in 1982 the band records a limited edition cassette under their old name, a cleanly recorded and well-played selection of their old punk tunes and some odd musical departures.

By 1983 there had been frequent disagreements within the band, personality conflicts, occasional breakups, and at least one change of lineup, as Dennis Lenarduzzi left to start his own band. There were also money-making headlining gigs and occasional press coverage in the city’s major newspapers. A demo cassette recorded that year demonstrated the band’s musical growth, ranging from slow acoustic songs to fast rockers to forays into weird pop. There’s also a song that has an early folk/ country influence, Mike’s “High Plains Drifter.” But despite the progress, the end is near.

The Malibu Kens were one of the bands featured on an album called It Came From Inner Space: The Edmonton Compilation. There’s a booklet with the record with bios of the bands, and the Malibu Kens’ bio pretty well indicates that the band is history. The bio, written by guitarist and frequent songwriter Scott Juskiw, doesn’t mention Mike by name; he’s missing from the band photo. But Scott writes, “The Malibu Kens are 3 conniving money-grubbing tunesmiths and 1 grade A, card-carrying, government inspected hog.” The first page of the booklet, written by the album’s compiler, simply mentions in passing that “Mike Sinatra [McDonald] sings lead vocals on ‘Party’s Over’ and ‘421-1111’.”

The Malibu Kens were history. For Mike McDonald, it was time for a new beginning.



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