P.K. Dwyer and Donna Beck were already an established duo busking around Seattle when new wave broke in the late 1970s. Grown into an electric quintet, driven by Pete Pendras’ spiky guitar figures, they somehow managed to play both the established granola circuit and the emerging punk rock clubs, though they never quite fit either.
At the time they were the first and only cowpunk band I had any reason to know about. It is possible P.K. had caught wind of what X were doing in Los Angeles, and equally likely that the Jitters were simply the inevitable result of a folk guy surfing the new wave. Either way, they were innovators, and a joy to hear mid-pogo.
As the story goes, they recorded their only album in October 1979 as a tax write-off for some medical professional; it was, consequently, a rushed affair, and the band reputedly had to be paid an hourly wage to get them in the studio at all. Twenty years later Dwyer reacquired the master tapes, fixed all the mistakes he heard (remastered, all that), dropped one song (“Alms”) that nobody liked at the time, and resequenced the album.
P.K. Dwyer was the first musician I ever interviewed. He turned me on to Television, and, flipping through my stack of LPs, he was reminded enough of the Sonics to sing “The Witch” as a closer the night the Jitters opened for Pearl Harbour & the Explosions. Damn, they were a great band that night, both of ’em.
I love this record, even though nobody else I’ve given tapes over the years has shared my enthusiasm, even though I’m quite certain it’s not the great artistic accomplishment I’d really like it to be, even though it’s only nine songs long. Yes, it’s true the Jitters were never the great, passionate band that Rank & File and X became — Dwyer’s songs were too gimmicky (“Don’t You Remember That You Are The One That Burned Down The Bridges That I Built Over The River Of Tears That I Cried Over You”) — but it’s also worth noting that the notion of fusing country/folk onto punk/new wave was a little more common than the encyclopedias now suggest.