by Jamie Klimek
When I was 15, Jim Crook taught me the D, G and C chords
on this beat-to-hell acoustic guitar he had, and the
rest is a blur...A year later we saw the Velvets at
LaCave. I saw God, Jim saw Sterling (who played just
like God, but was taller and had a mustache) and realizing
that I needed only 2/3 of my vast musical knowledge
to play Heroin, we were off and stumbling. Jim had learned
to play from albums by the Byrds, Ventures, Searchers,
Beatles and the rest of the British Invasion. I studied
the V.U. Sub-Moronic Easy Guitar Book - just the easy
stuff - none of those sus 13ths or dim 23rds. I picked
up a Hagstrom 8-string bass but was so thoroughly inept
(and confused) that I soon switched to guitar. Six strings
are so much easier to play than eight - it's two less.
We hung around and played together for the next two
years, continuing our musical education at LaCave (theVelvets,
the Hello People, Jim and Jean, Phil Ochs, Love, Tim
Buckley, the Fugs) and Music Hall (a great triple bill
of the Blues Magoos in glow-in-the-dark electric suits,
the Who and headlining, of course, Herman's Hermits).
On the turntable were all of the above (except for Herman),
the Beatles, Electric Prunes, Thorinshield, Hendrix,
Buffalo Springfield, Steve Miller Band, Troggs, Pink
Floyd and the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band.
Then Uncle called. I said no, thank you, but Jim couldn't
think of a good excuse and went to blow up stuff and
smoke opium joints - which I heartily recommend, provided
you have straight jacket and an iron lung. handy. After
the army and other unfriendlies failed to kill him,
Jim returned in April '73. By this time, having completely
mastered both the E and the A chords, I was ready (Ha!)
We started to hold auditions. A drummer named Jerry
Moody (?) played with us a few times. John Morton showed
up once to play bass. Paul suggests he may have been
too technically accomplished for the rest of us. Maybe
we had a premonition of him throwing us up the stairs,
or down the stairs, or off the planet. Actually, and
worst of all, he had a mind of his own and I wanted
to nip that sort of thing in the bud.
We'd met Craig Bell at a Doug Yule led Velvet Underground
(Velveteens) show at the Agora and since he was (a)
only semi-employed (b) hot for my sister and (c) showed
no dangerous musical tendencies (little did I know),
we invited him to play bass. He started off by putting
adhesive stickers with the appropriate notes on the
frets of his bass. This was my first indication that
this boy was gonna be trouble. Shortly thereafter Mike
Weldon appeared in a puff of smoke after he rubbed two
drumsticks together. We said, "Hi Mike, welcome to the
band." Mike had started to play guitar while in high
school, so naturally we asked him to play drums. "Sit
there. Play 4/4". He did. Jim and I had begun to write
songs, we'd done some home recording and with the addition
of Craig and Mike, goddamn, if it didn't start to sound
like a band.
It wasn't as if we intentionally set out to teach people
to play, or would have refused any virtuosos as Christmas
presents, but more that we wanted decent, funny, cool
people to play with - no nut cases, assholes, artistes,
and especially nobody that actually expected make any
money. Again, not that we would have refused, but we
knew what we were up against and it was more important
to have people with common bonds and (somewhat) similar
musical interests. Jim and I had been the best of friends
for years, shared apartments and vanilla wafers, acid
and fuzz tones, and God knows what. Craig and Mike knew
each other from Lakewood High School. Craig brought
a love of the Kinks, Fairport Convention and Barrett/Pink
Floyd. Mike brought an encyclopedic knowledge of film,
surf/trash music and the Rivingtons. We'd all grown
up having our pop sensibilities forged by mid-60s AM
radio, WHK, KYW and CKLW. Plus, we all, except Michael,
really liked to smoke dope.
From the start, we rehearsed originals along with Velvets
covers. The point is, aside from loving them, we did
the Velvets because they were easy. We never touched
any of their more difficult material. My songwriting
style had evolved out of fairly simple, basic rhythm
guitar structures. I mnean, I loved the Who, but no
fucking way could we play Pictures of Lily or I Can
see for Miles.
We rehearsed for six years, or six months, thereabouts.
Once we played for an acquaintance of ours and when
we finished asked him what he thought. He paused, looked
me straight in the eye, and said "Get a new singer".
This was the first and last outside advice we ever solicited.
Thus encouraged, we decided that we were ready to play
For me, finding places to play was never easy. Never
particularly outgoing (pathologically reticent would
be more like it) I usually prodded Mike and Craig to
go out among 'em. We played the Lakewood YMCA twice,
to an audience of 15-20 disinterested kids who had wandered
in, including one who accompanied us, uninvited, on
piano. (Hey guys, next time lock that piano up). The
second time the turnout was so poor, the guy who booked
us asked up to play in his rec room later that night
- a bowling banquet party. We said, "OK, what the hell
", and did two sets at the lowest volume we'd ever played.
Dave E of the Eels did some guest vocals. This was the
first and last time anyone could actually hear what
we were singing. Fortunately, they were drunk and didn't
care and it went over really well. We probably missed
a bet by not tapping into the lucrative bowling banquet
Next thing we knew, goddamn, if Craig don't go out and
get himself drafted. Very patriotic, some of these Mirrors.
When Craig was defending our country (Lord help us -
probably with a little sticker on the trigger saying
"Pull here") Mike said he knew this guy who could record
us and up pulls Paul in his VW mini-bus. Tape recorders,
mixers, microphones and six miles of cables came flying
out. Took us hours to set it up and we never did finish
the recording but we got on well with him - he played
guitar, keyboards, sang - man, he even understood OHMS.
Plus, he liked to smoke dope. Another recruit.
In July of '73 we played a summer mixer at St. Joseph's
High School (proper dress required). Milk (Brian Kinchy/Sands)
played on the big stage and we set up on risers on the
side of the gym. Knowing that Paul played guitar, banjo
and keyboards, we asked him to play bass. We alternated
sets with Milk. Afterwards, Jim Jones approached us
and said "I think you guys are great, how would you
like to smoke some of ... this?" and we said "That's
it, you're in". So we rehearsed for a while at his house,
way the fuck over on the east side, time split evenly
between practicing and getting fractured and listening
to his collection of (mostly stolen) records. After
a while we had to stop going because of visa problems
and the poor rate of exchange on currency.
Back in Lakewood we set the equipment up and one morning
found Craig behind an amp. "Hi, I'm home on leave".
"Nice hair, Craig. Let's record". So, off to Earthman
Studios. Paul came up from Columbus to play awkward,
bad and cheesy keyboards. As per my explicit instructions.
Perfect. We recorded eight songs in a ten hour session.
The usual fun and games ensued, near the end in one
song you can hear the sound of the mic crashing to the
floor. Not loaded, just spastic. Well, both actually,
it had become kind of a tradition.
Craig escaped the army. He and I and Mike got a place
on 65th and Lorain. We played a WLYT battle of the bands
in Berea (guess who lost). It was god awful. A twenty
minute set outdoors on a 30' high stage. Couldn't hear
a fucking thing. Next, a Fat Glenn's noontime audition
at CSU. Nobody even knew we were there.
Next at a club on Pearl Road (Jim Crook speaking) "Yeah,
upstairs over the Karate Institute. Crocus (David Thomas
writing for the Scene) came to see us and was smashed
and didn't write anything about us - so fuck him. People
thought we didn't like the Ubu crowd. Actually, we had
damn good reasons not to".
Paul moved up from Columbus in the summer of '74. He
moved in with us and played keyboards. More Practice,
including a night the sound of sirens drowned out our
noise. "Man, am I high or what?" "Uh, no, I think the
building next door is on fire." Time to move.
We relocated to a house at 52nd and Storer, on the west
side in a brick and aluminum-sided converted commercial
building. Craig and I upstairs, Marotta down, studio
in the basement. We began our most intensive period
playing out, mostly through a semi-residency at Clockwork
Orange, Loose Lounge at 1812 Payne, across from Police
Headquarters. We played once, sometimes twice a week
for a while. The clubs we played in were fairly small.
The Viking Saloon held between 75 and 100 people, Clockwork
Orange had room for 40 to 60. We always played for the
door. They never let us take it. Clockwork was the most
fun. Clockwork Eddie (a hustler then and now) had taped
aluminum foil to the walls for the ultimate in homemade
psychedelic effects, and in that spirit was willing
to try anything (as long as it didn't cost). Free Beer
Night? Sure, buy a keg and we'll take it out of the
We were ferociously loud. I played a Gretsch Tennessean
through a Vox Super Beatle and a Vox Buckingham. Jim
played a Gibson SG through an Acoustic Amp, and a Fender
Top and Bottom, Craig started with a Gibson Les Paul
Bass, but soon got a Mosrite Ventures Model. He played
through a Traynor top, a Kustom top and two cabinets,
one of which had 8-10s...or...10-8s...or 180-1s. Mike
had to set up on the side of the stage on the floor.
Paul set up in front of the stage (with his back to
the audience) with his keyboard array, violin and the
PA mixers. A typical set would include originals, the
Velvets' "Can't Stand It" and "Some Kinda Love", the
Kinks' "King Kong", the Troggs' "Feels Like a Woman"
and concluded with a spiffy medley of "Babys on Fire/Here
Come the Warm Jets".
In October we also played the Berea Fairgrounds with
a slide show/mime dancer Jim described as "a weird black
guy from the Post Office who wore a dress, had his hair
done up like Alfalfa, and sucked on a Tootsie Roll Pop".
Seventy-five cents admission. Sixteen paid. They sat
on tables as far way from the band as they could get.
Alfalfa must have scared them off. Or maybe they valued
Back on Storer things had gone from bad to weird. Craig
moved out to engage in some weird voodoo sex thing with
Charlotte Pressler (months later at one of Pete Laughner's
parties, a totally smashed Pete (hey, sounds like a
good band name) regaled one and all (like it or not)
with the story of Craig shaving Charlotte's pubes in
the shape of a heart. No word on whether they carved
their initials inside).
Live gigs had been sporadic at best, but we had a couple
lined up at the Viking - The Extermination extravaganzas.
Craig had been eager to keep busy and play with other
bands, and I didn't think anything of it until he started
up with that darned eastside Plaza crowd. He was in
(with Mirrors) for the Extermination gigs, but between
them I wrote him a very nice, reasoned, thoughtful letter
asking the musical question, "Are you nuts? Whyfore
you wanna play play with those clowns?" It didn't seem
to bother Craig any, but I got the nastiest letter from
Pete Laughner, which accused me of violating the joys
and camaraderie of musicianship, being close-minded
and an all-around bad egg, and which concluded with
his fervent hope that I would accomplish something worthwhile
before my bad vibes poisoned me. Hey Pete, nobody died.
Lighten up. Which was impossible for him; careening
passion and the spur of the moment ruled. Pete was a
suburban kid from an upper middle class family. I'd
met him at La Cave and had a sporadic relationship with
him. I'd gone to see his band, Mr. Charlie, play at
Bay Village High School, and had come away semi-impressed.
Pete could play. No question. The problem was that it
was very hard to find HIM in the various projects he
undertook. Let's see, there was Sonny Boy Lightnin'
Pete, Peter Lou Laughner, Pete Thomson, Pete Verlaine,
and more, but where was Pete? He hardly ever played
his originals and even those seemed swallowed by his
influences. I always wanted more from him. C'mon Pete,
where's YOUR stuff.? No reason not to try. We were playing
the same places and at that time, if you weren't a mainstream
FM cover band you weren't going to play a lot or make
any money. So who gives a shit? Let's see your stuff.
Mr. Charlie turned out to be his best band. He was in
Rocket From the Tombs when we did the first Extermination
Night and we were all amused/aghast to see him before
showtime pulling out a pair of brand new jeans, and
proceeding to cut holes in them for his stage outfit.
Very "with it", Pete. What a jerk. A lost soul, but
still a jerk.
Extermination Night. The big show. Three bands. Seventy-five
cents. Mirrors, Rocket From The Tombs and The Electric
Eels. Paul was playing in both Mirrors and the Eels.
Dave E didn't object to Paul playing with us, but he
didn't want him so visible. So a curtain patterned with
the PHILCO emblem was hung to conceal our phantom keyboardist.
Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Jim
Crook muttered, "This is bullshit" and tore the curtain
down before we went on stage. We did our usual excruciatingly
loud set, Rockets did their comedy routine and cut holes
in each other's clothes, and the Eels (gas-powered lawn
mowers, chain saws, meat cleavers, blow torches) exterminated
one and all. That's entertainment.
When Craig left to moonlight as a barber, we recruited
Jim Jones again. We played the Viking a few more times,
then began serious rehearsals for recording. We drove
to Owl Studios (1"-eight track) in Columbus and laid
down ten songs over a three day period. Craig even showed
up (clean-shaven) and we did a song of his called "Frustration"
after we taught it to him, of course. The recording
was the usual disjointed scene. Basic tracks (with Paul
way the hell in the back), overdubs, including tympani,
theremin, backwards guitars, vocals and, lest we forget,
triangle (my original instrument) and lots of pot. Paul,
Jones and I even managed to record two of Paul's songs.
During the summer, rehearsals continued in a more and
more desultory manner. Jones lived on the east side,
so transportation was a drag; Jim Crook had married
and had one or two kids (still does) so his attention
was split; and Mike was taking a correspoondence course
from the Roger Corman School of Low-Budget Thrills.
Paul and I had been recording in the basement studio
and Jones began to play with us more and more, alternating
between bass and drums. I'd begun to write some (slightly)
more demanding tunes, and had become stymied (alfalfad
too) by the band's (and Mike's in particular) lack of
progress. I wanted to work with another drummer. (Be
careful what you wish for - I got Tony Fier) The changeover
continued throughout the summer, culminating in a job
in a Case Western Reserve University Courtyard on September
18, 1975. The end of Mirros, the birth of The Styrenes,
and the revenge of the Eels.
It was time to move on. I'd become tired of the material,
and weary of the grind. We'd done all we could and it
had pretty much run it's course. Besides, I was the
world's laziest boy. Have guitar, will travel (as long
as it's not out of the basement). Paul's enthusiasm
and encouragement shad kept us (and the Eels) going
for the most productive period in the band's history.
I'd always liked his songs, the piano/guitar interplay
worked really well, plus he had really good pot. On
to worldwide fame and fortune with The Styrenes.
My thanks and appreciation to all the boys in the band.
I miss playing with all of you (even Craig). I wouldn't
have missed it for the world.
I'd like to apologize to any reader who finds any accuracies
in any of the above.
MIRRORS USES BIG MUFF FUZZ TONES