Whatever happened to Romeo Void?
It’s really just a rhetorical question, a gateway to somewhere else actually. So don’t feel the need to respond to that question for me, because I actually already know what happened to them. I’ve got this thing called Google and in less than a millisecond you pretty much find out whatever it is you need to know.
The reason Romeo Void is on my mind is because it was Mother’s Day and we drove south near the border for some genuine Mexican and my wife asked that we pick out some music that she likes for the ride. Which is to say much different then the music I like, my older kid likes or my younger kid likes. So the older kid says “leave it to me” and picks out a handful of compilations on the CD shelf of early eighties tracks when my wife was still a teenager. One of which was Sedated in the Eighties, which had the Romeo Void song “Never Say Never”.
In the sixties when I was the teen, I listened to a lot of music that was played on underground radio…either low watt college stations or the FM component to some AM giant. They had a lot of names for the non-formatted format, but it would be best described as free form. And as hardly anyone listened, there weren’t many ads to cut into the music, so you’d have long blocks of songs strung together by some strung out DJ who would only pop in to give you the time on the half-hour in a deep, breathless underground DJ voice. “That was Cat Stevens right before Pearls Before Swine, followed by John Coltrane and Mississippi John Hurt. Next up is Bela Bartok, Ultimate Spinach and the entire second side of Hot Rats. A little later I’ll be debuting Paul Krassner at the Hungry i. Oh yeah, it’s 11:30.”
By the time the seventies rolled around my musical taste zigged and zagged. I was heavy into what I call the early Americana bands (Youngbloods, Spoonful, Moby Grape, Earth Opera, Tuna, Dead) as well as English bands like Family, Barclay James Harvest, McGuiness Flint, Brinsley Schwartz, Soft Machine, Mott the Hoople and Germany’s Amon Duul…both 1 and 2. Space rock, art rock, pub rock, hickory dickory rock…I had no distinctions other than it sounded good to my ears. And this was a time where you’d find Stevie Wonder opening for the Stones, and jazz guitarist Gabor Szabo playing with some San Francisco long hairs. Music was music.
When the Sex Pistols exploded or imploded, I was solidly moving into Deadhead territory and completely missed about five years worth of new music. It scared me to be honest…all this leather and thrash, screaming and needles. The Dead were natural and granola, spiced with lysergic and mushrooms…but natural nevertheless because they were just suburban kids with long hair in cosmic cowboy costumes like the rest of us. A band you could bring home to mom and dad for a Sunday night dinner, just as long everyone kept an eye on and drank from their own bottles.
The last time I saw the Dead, about my 45th time I’d guess, was in Berkeley in 1980 at the Greek Theater. I’d been living in LA for a few months and flew into Oakland for the weekend to hang with an old friend I hadn’t seen in years. She didn’t have tickets but said not to worry. Sure enough, when we walked up to the gates someone just came over and just handed us a pair. I don’t recall them even asking us for money. The Dead in the West was very different from the Dead in the East. This was the home field advantage, the crowd being moms, dads and kids, students and beatniks, old hippies and freaks, mellow and groovy. By that period, the East coast gigs were more bikers and speed, teenyboppers and stoners. It was the perfect concert, the perfect ending. I retired after that night, never to see them again.
In the early eighties, KROQ-FM was the center of the world or so it seemed in Los Angeles. 106.7 FM had Jed the Fish, Richard Blade, Freddy Snakeskin, Dusty Street, Rodney on the Roq and surf reports from the Poorman. They played what was called modern rock and new wave. Really…they actually called it that. MTV was doing 120 Minutes, and boys wore makeup. Some wore dresses. I didn’t get a lot of it, especially the synth pop dance music stuff from England, but I liked X and Oingo Boingo and Wall of Voodoo and the Chili Peppers and Blasters.
And Romeo Void.
I might like you better if we slept together.
But there’s somethin’ in your eyes that says,
Maybe that’s never…Never say never.
Romeo Void’s “Never Say Never” was the second track we listened to on Mother’s Day. Right after the Ramones doing “I Want To Be Sedated”. By the time the Psychedelic Furs’ track came along my wife says “You know, when I was a teenager I barely listened to KROQ. I was more into the Mighty MET and KLOS.”