"The way it felt in those early years is that it was an us-versus-them sort of thing."
"I think we just came out of a void, you know? We all just hated the stuff that was around us that was being issued out of WMMR and all these other commercial stations."
"A station like WMMR was really good till 1976. That was the year it all went bad."
"Everybody played the Hot Club. It was the punk place. Elvis Costello, the Talking Heads, Devo, anybody playing New York would play there. It wasn't much of a circuit yet, so anybody coming to the States and touring would definitely play the Hot Club."
Lee Paris: Champion of Alternative Music Remembered
As DJ, promoter, publicist, manager and record honcho, from 1978 until his suicide in January 1986, Lee Paris introduced Philly to punk and New Wave and oversaw a vibrant, if marginal, local music scene. Paris came to town from the University of California at Santa Cruz--where, as Lee Salmons, he'd earned a degree in alternative media--and worked toward his master's in communications at Penn by literally creating alternative media. He co-hosted Yesterday's Now Music Today, the area's first significant new music program, on WXPN with Roid Kafka (real name: Steve Pross). Paris quickly became the dominant half of the team, thanks to his hyperactive patter, a gleeful jumble of enthusiasm and irreverence punctuated by his trademark "Hey, hey, hey!" Soon, Paris and Kafka started spinning records at clubs like Omni's, where they also booked bands like the Dead Kennedys and the Fall, and they started the Go-Go label, which released vinyl by Crash Course in Science and other local groups. Money matters eventually split the pair, and Paris made a game but doomed attempt to fit within the restrictions of WIFI's short-lived commercial "Rock of the '80s" format. Nevertheless, he remained a star on WXPN and at the Kennel Club, and started another cool label, Meta Meta. Paris' giddy public persona couldn't entirely mask Lee Salmons' personal insecurities as an adopted child and confused bisexual, which led to too much drinking and drugging and, ultimately, his untimely demise. But his stature as Philly's pioneering champion of alternative music endures.
"In the beginning, punk was fringe, but then it became huge. I remember booking the Ramones into my club Stars for the first time in 1979. It was packed. It was still a restaurant. It was originally a comedy club/cabaret, but always had music, too--novel compared to what comedy clubs are now. We'd have two comedians and a musical act. That was the deal. The first time the Ramones played, people were throwing their baked potatoes and their filets across the room."
"Most of the shows were at the Hot Club, or you might get to see the Ramones at the Tower, or maybe Blondie would play the Walnut Street Theatre. If you were underage--or from the suburbs or wherever--you were pretty much shut out."
"We thought we invented originality. And a lot of times, originality was prized over a lot of other things--like accuracy and stuff. But that's what made it really fun: When you did something, there was the possibility you might be the first person to do it."
"I was primarily a painter. A friend of mine from art school and I started messing around, making up songs. He had like this wild, extemporaneous spirit. One night we saw some punk group, and we were like, we can do this. We ended up starting a band called the Boneheads."
PW's 2015 Philly Spring Guide