The Electric Eels
Dave E. - Vocal (lead)
John Morton - Guitar, Vocals
Brian McMahon - Guitar
Dan Foland - Drums
Nick Knox - Drums
The Broken Hand - by Carla Kolchak
The eels’ gigs were always some sort of disastoplex (to use Johnny Dromette’s (John Thompson)) self explanatory term for such things. The very first electric eels gig August 1974 in Columbus, Ohio being a sterling example. Dave E.’s stage clothes were finished off with white Painter Pants in front of his jeans attached by looping his belt through the loops and he had attached several rat traps using the pressure power of the springs. John D Morton was wearing a totally ripped jean jacket that he had “fixed” by using several packs of assorted safety pins.
After the plug was pulled about 20 minutes into the set by the club owner, (an oft repeated occurrence) Dave and John decided to finish out the evening by drinking as much as possible, declining the offer of a ride from band mate, Paul Marotta mostly because they didn’t want to be seen in a Volkswagen Mini Bus.
When they left the Moonshine Co-op at the 2 am closing, John tried to hail a cab on High Street. What pulled up was a white Police Van.
"You’re drunk!" said cop #1. to John. "No, I am not!" He had John walk the white line which John did rather perfectly. Then cop #1 said, "It doesn’t matter, you’re still drunk!" He handcuffed Morton and tossed him into the van where he hit his head on the door. Being the good Catholic that he was, Dave went into the van willingly.
They arrived at 3 a.m. at a dark "cop" parking lot behind the jail where they had to wait for an elevator to take them to the cells some floors above. Two other officers joined the crowd. “What do we have here? Inquired one of the new arrivals.
"We got ourselves Ratman (alluding to the traps) and Bobbin . . ." (alluding to the safety pins). 3 a.m. in a dark hidden cop parking lot with nothing but 4 mean of Columbus Ohio’s finest John made the perhaps regrettable decision to take a stand and knee-ed the cop that tossed him in the van headfirst in the testicles. We should remember that John was handcuffed. John wound up facedown on the tarmac being beaten by the quartet of blue with billy clubs till they broke a finger on his left hand.
Two weeks later and on the second only eel’s gig, John played with a slide taped to his hand, earning his well fought sobriquet, "Broken Hand." By the time this went before a Judge the charges of "Drunk and Disorderly" and "Resisting Arrest" were dropped as the Court Appointed Attorney pointed out that Mr. Morton had suffered enough by brandishing the x-rays of the broken finger. Luckily for John, the judge agreed and John was released only loosing his initial $150 bail money that had been graciously supplied by Jamie Lyons (You know, that guy from "The Music Explosion" that sang "Little Bit O' Soul" The eels had opened for Jamie’s band "Hard Sauce").
Dave E. and I were driving around one day. You know . . . just to drive around . . . like a joy ride like. Out of utter boredom, we picked up a young couple hitchhiking and Dave insisted that they tell a joke. The guy told a horrible jape about rubbing your dick with lard to make it bigger, the punch line of which was "I said lard . . .not shortening!" Dave grimaced, paused, then asked, with a great straight delivery while I am driving in my hulky scariness, "Did you hear the one about the two hitch hikers that were found murdered?" He scared the piss out of them.
In the aforementioned (or perhaps aftmentioned, I am not posting this story) emerald doored eels enclave, there was always a red plastic dishpan full of soapy water in the kitchen sink on the theory that when a various eel would use a plate to eat (and yes we used plates to eat, sometimes) said eel could then dip it into the soapy water, rinse and voila! A clean dish! Fait a-fucking-ccompli!
The de facto was, the dishpan was always full of soapy water and dirty dishes. (I always thought Dave E. would get to them seeing as he was a professional)
One very very very fine proto-day, Brian had cause to usurp the sink (I think he dyed his hair) so he took the dishpan (full of course) and placed it on the back porch. When he terminated his task, he dutifully went to retrieve the dishpan and was met with three thirsty neighborhood dogs, hideously grinning at him from over the dishpan. Very scientifically, he evinced the curs were rabid, as foam was issuing from their mouths I later found him cowering in the kitchen where he related me the tale.
And oddly enough this incident is not where he got his nickname.
There used to be a fantastic radio show during the mid-80s in Santa Barbara called "Strictly Disco" which was hosted by a guy who owned just about every amazing 45 to ever hit the presses. One night he had Henry Rollins on his show to shoot the shit and spin some favorites. That's where I first heard "Agitated", and it was one of those "Holy Christ, what IS that?!!" moments.
Immediately called the show to inquire. Turns out Hank had brought it down to the studio himself, and had long been enamored of the Eels and the raw power of this landmark 45. Who'd have thought? The Electric Eels were a quartet of socially alienated nihilists from Cleveland in the mid-70s. Their inability to neither win friends nor influence people gave vent to a twisted, confrontational take on "art" that had more in common with guerilla theatre and urban psychodrama than with 70s punk. The fact that it was occurring in a cultural near-vacuum adds exponentially to their lore.
Make no mistake, however, these songs are as primitive and high decibel as anything ever released. Obviously semi-live recordings, "Cyclotron" and "Agitated" have been mixed past the point of bleeding and are still a couple of levels in volume above any other records of mine.
Electric Eels gigs often ended in violence, sometimes with imposing guitarist John Morton having beat up an audience (or band) member. The Eels vocalist was a developmentally delayed young man named Dave E., an idiot-savant with a genius sense of the absurd who put it to wise use in his lyrics ("Sometimes I think I'd be better off dead / Just like my cousin Fred"). Later he purported to start a record label called "Christmas Pets". It's also worth mentioning that the drummer on these recordings is Nick Knox, who would soon keep the steady, primitive beat for The Cramps.
The world's indifference to such brilliance initially kept these songs from the public, until Rough Trade released them in 1978 under the moniker "Die Electric Eels" & with all credits in German(?).
A minor bone of contention I have with the outstanding posthumous Eels collections 'Having A Philosophical Investigation With The Electric Eels' and 'God Says Fuck You' is that both say they include the 45 version of "Agitated", while neither actually does. This record will live in infamy as an out-of-time, mindset-destroying masterpiece.
Jay Hinman editor/writer of Superdope 'zine
Master, Master, this was recorded through a fly's ear . . .
When in Columbus, the entrance to the Eels enclave . . .( wait . . . I'll make it better ) . . . When in Columbus, one evinced that egress into the erstwhile eel's enclave, was through an elegant and evocative emerald-coloured door, fenestrated its full length with plate glass in the manner of doors to the "olde shoppes" and "conveyance stores" that one would find along the breadth of quaint North High Street.
One particularly mournful spring morning, Dave E. decided he needed a break from the monotony of drinking infinite long neck Rolling Rocks and watching monster movies on Paul's black and white Zenith with the rest of the eelings. So he ventured out on to the boulevard for a constitutional.
Unbeknownst to us, that very afternoon the totally poncified "Ohio State Fuckeyes" were to engage in a competition with another school (If I had known, I would have proudly held aloft my thyrsus). The game was deemed of such import that the Goodyear Corporation had sent aloft their aerial ambassador, the USS Shenendoah, in order to commemorate the event.
I had just expressed my desire (for the fifth time) to have sex with both Emi and Yumi Ito, the diminutive chanteuses of the cine we were watching, when, after a deafeningly loud crash, Dave E. appeared in front of us covered in blood. thrashing his arms about yelling, "The Blimp! The Blimp! . . . It's the Blimp!" ( it should be noted that there was only one zealous zeppelin in the entire world in 1973 )
In the extreme urgency of his mission to appraise us of the flying behemoth (not to be confused with Crocus Behemoth), Dave had neglected to open the door. And being the stalwart soldier he was, he would not allow us to minister his wounds till we went out and saw the semi-rigid airship for ourselves.
I.Q. 301-Man - by mary shely
In one of his many jobs, Brian worked as a trailer hitch installer (being a spectacular growth industry given the number of nomadic ohians displanted from west virginia that wanted to move to a new trailer park)
This was no slouch occupation, one had to wear a uniform to work! All three of Brian's new blue official trailer-hitch uniform shirts came back with the name tag on the pocket (A nifty affair of a white oval with a red-stitched border and scripted red stitched name) spelled "Brain."
We (the rest of the eelings) were all so proud of Brain; he looked so handsome in uniform.