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Designs and promotion by Steven Davey

The Dishes mid '77 - No More Tony
L to R:
Steven, Glenn Schellenberg, Murray, Scott, Ken, Michael - they survived one year without me RIP


Scott Tony Mike Steven Ken Murray

Scott Davey and I started playing together in 1974. In '75 we started our band. We built a large Toronto audience and played some great shows. The Beverley Tavern was our home during 1976 but we also did gigs at Ontario College of Art, A Space Art Gallery, and other prestigious little events. Everyone I'd ever met named Beverley was called Bev by her friends, so I called our home bar The Bev. Scott found this very funny - so we all called it The Bev and Steven used it in our promo. Apparently in its earlier days (it had a history) it was called this, but when we found the place, it was pretty empty and there were no "regulars" to tell us that. So we renamed The Bev: The Bev!

When we started playing there it was a silent carcass - a shell - NOT a happening place. We once played a whole Saturday evening to ONE audience member - a friend of Steven's! Inside of a year we were packing the place for every performance. Fondest memories include loading in from the side alley, a few feet from the always-open delivery door of a chicken abbatoir. The view made you feel like a star. In the pic below, you can see the alley to the right of the bar, and THERE'S the chicken truck! Other great memories include the insanely stupid waiters who, when the place became busy for our shows, never quite figured out that the crowd was there for US. They thought business was having an unexpected upswing, and we were simply making it difficult for them to sell beer (!!!), so all through our sets they would regularly pass the stage and yell crap like SHUT UP! or TURN IT DOWN! or IDIOTS! I'm sure these men all have prostate cancer now. They earned it. The Bev made enough off of us in 1976 to redo their stucco! God that was a beautiful moment.

I gradually lost control of the band's direction, as they aligned themselves heavily with a certain Toronto art collective. It was a brilliant move in many ways, but I wanted us to be part of a music scene, not an art scene. My second-last performance with The Dishes was our 3-D Show at OCA on Feb 18 '77 - The Dishes, The Diodes (their 2nd show) and The Doncasters performed for a full auditorium. My final show with them, in March, was sadly to an empty theater - no one saw it except our soundman Neils, and the owner of the place. I told the band after the show that I wouldn't be with them any longer. I helped them move their equipment out, but I left my stuff at the theater, and didn't go back to the rehearsal space with them. And that was that.

After leaving, I continued to pursue the vision I had for The Dishes. I did a solo recording in a small studio, and then started another band immediately. The Dishes were artistically at a peak when I left, so it was pretty painful to leave such a great thing. I had invited Glenn Schellenberg to take my place a month before I informed the band - he was standing by. In this way I made sure they could survive without me. I even sat with Scott and Murray for an afternoon and helped glue sleeves together for their first 45 rpm (months after I left)! I still think the music we made was fantastic, and we were a great collection of characters. It's a shame there wasn't a single music industry clown who knew what to do with us.

This player contains rehearsal tapes (1974-76). Effort was made to restore them to listenable quality, but all I had were very old cassettes. Lyrics will be added here for some of the songs. Because of the low quality of our equipment, the voice is not clear, but Murray is quite fantastic on these takes - if you know the lyrics you can appreciate his performances better. These recordings were made in my parents' basement and in Ken's parents' basement. Tracks from our first demo recording and live at the Beverley Tavern will be added soon. Plus snippets of voices etc.

If I gain access to tapes of the band post-Tony, they will be included here. In the meantime, check out Steven Davey's site, The Real Dishes (therealdishes.com) for a look at their later-period accomplishments.

Scott, Steven, Murray, Ken, Tony, Michael. My last performance with The Dishes.

Scott Davey (guitar) and I (piano) wrote and sang and recorded songs together for almost a year before we started the band.
First addition was my friend from grade school, Michael LaCroix (alto sax). Second was Murray Ball (vocals). Third was Scott's brother Steven (drums and promotion), and finally Ken Farr (bass) joined. Ken had never played bass, but he was the only one of our close circle of friends who hadn't been invited to be in the band yet, so I told him, if you get a bass and learn how to play it, you're in. He got a bass the next day. Steven wasn't a drummer, either, but I really wanted him to play drums, so he did, and both he and Ken got pretty good. Steven was responsible for much of our image, all of our posters, photo sessions, and gigs. He and Murray together were responsible for our public image, seeing and being seen by the hip people at the hippest places, etc. And it did wonders for how quickly our following grew.

But as this success went to everyone's heads, certain members became confident that that they could make certain decisions without any concern for my opinion - or even for letting me know about it. When musical or technical decisions were made that I strongly disagreed with and which I felt weren't right for us, yelling fights became a regular occurence and I realized I would not win. So I decided to go.

A few months later, Drastic Measures was born. In fact, I met How'rd Pope, who would be the first member to join, at a Dishes show. They played the Crash 'n Burn, it was a truly excellent show (their first great performance with Glenn) and I was cheering them on. How'rd was surprised by this, but I was quite proud of them that night. It wasn't threatening to me - I knew I was going to blow them away with my new band.

It is fascinating to me that The Dishes have been referred to as "Toronto's first punk band".

[See? Anyone can write for wikipedia, and they're immediately an expert. Read the section "Second Wave", subheader "North America". I guess if you weren't there you can only rely on what you've heard. At least we're remembered!]

We were far from punk. We were cutting our own path in Toronto's non-existent scene a year before punk was born, and our music didn't resemble it it all - but we definitely were DIY. We had shit equipment, we promoted ourselves and did everything the opposite of how the corporate slobs insisted it had to be done. We hated the standard Canadian commercial rock sound and everything we did was to spit at it. But beyond that we shared nothing with the punkers. And I know some punkers HATE the fact that we were ignorantly given that title by certain uninformed self-appointed historians.

So here - OFFICIALLY - please punkers take that mantle away and keep it for yourselves. We made something totally original - there is no column to file our music under. I have no interest in being "Toronto's first punk band" because that would mean we were following a fashion out of Britain and New York. It is preferable to me to create something original - ALTHOUGH - it can be pointed out that NEITHER the punkers NOR my very original bands received their due. Can a tiny bit of fame ever be called a 'career in the music business'? Everyone here got screwed by the "Canadian Music Industry" - a bunch of limp blockheads who loved to get into everyone's shows for free and desperately pretended that they were capable of doing something for us. It doesn't matter who got screwed first. We were all victims of an artless, visionless, backwoods, coke-addled outpost of losers who liked to meet the big stars when they came into town and devoted their lives to making sure the new Aretha Franklin compilation coming out this Xmas will be properly promoted. Waytago, guys! I'm still impressed.

We must unite against our common enemy. Keep downloading, kids!

I have now even heard The Dishes referred to as a "gay band"! Oh dear. Now I realize that it's cool to be gay now and all that, and maybe the people who WANT to think of us that way consider it a compliment. But The Dishes weren't political. A few members of the band were gay and didn't hide it, but it was never the point of our music, it was never mentioned onstage, and it was not our reason. We did play a gay nightclub once, but later so did a bunch of local punk acts. The owners of the club thought midnight rock shows were the coolest and cutest thang. None of the bands who played there got labelled gay for doing it. We did it a year before the punkers, BTW. I do feel that the applications of General Idea, the art collective who were taking control of The Dishes' image when I left, were partly to blame for this perception. However, though The Dishes' image became part of an arty underground scene that was brimming with outcasts and deviants, they retained their integrity as a musical band, thanks to Scott's leadership.

It would be more appropriate for the new historians to acknowledge these things: the climate toward gay people in the '70s in Toronto was ugly. Beatings were common and considered no big thing. To associate yourself with "fags" could wreck some or many of your regular friendships. There was a deep respect in the band from the gay members toward the straight ones, first for their acceptance, and second for their bravery to go out and perform in such a flamboyant setting. There was a solid agreement that the straight members should never be labelled or implied to be gay. They were cool enough just for the fact that they were in a band with queers and didn't care what you thought about it, just as long as you didn't assume that they were gay too. And for the members who were gay, perhaps a pat on the back is deserved for their bravery too, that they went out and were themselves and also didn't care what anyone thought.

When I led The Dishes with my friend Scott Davey, a heterosexual, all we cared about was making great original music. Everything else was adornment and entertainment. We wanted our music taken seriously and we wanted to make great records. Dreams of youth. No label required. We weren't Toronto's first punk band and we weren't a "gay" band. We were the first and only The Dishes, we didn't sound like anyone else and no one ever sounded like us. Ta-daaaa.