(L,R) Eels John Morton and Dave E. McManus at CWRU's Mather Courtyard, Cleveland, Sept. 20, 1975.
The Electric Eels were active from 1972 to 1975 in Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. The founding members were Dave E. McManus, vocals and clarinet, John Morton, lead guitar, and Brian McMahon, guitar. All were strong personalities and each contributed songs and distinctive points of view, but Morton started the band and his influence, like his physical person, tended to dominate. There were no bassists and the drummers came and went. Playing keyboards as well as guitar, Paul Marotta replaced McMahon from late 1973 to early 1975, McMahon subsequently rejoining. Marotta recorded the group before, during, and especially after his stay in the group. The majority of the Eels' recordings (and the entirety of the eyeball of hell), come from their final months together and feature the three founders along with drummer Nick Knox, later of the Cramps. The few earlier recordings that exist can be heard on Those Were Different Times (scat 45).
In Columbus, at home: John, Dave, Brian McMahon.
There were five public performances, and all were accompanied by some degree of chaos or violence, either between band members, members of the audience, the police, or various combinations. These shows became the bedrock of the budding Eels legend, which included essentially true rumors of the use of lawnmowers, vacuum cleaners and the like as additional instrumentation. Their first gig was in August of 1974 at the Moonshine Co-op in Columbus. McManus adorned himself in rat-traps for the occasion and Morton was wearing a jacket held together with safety pins, earning them the tag "Ratman and Bobbin" from the police they encountered when leaving the bar at the end of the night. Morton took offense and kicked the nearest policeman in the balls as hard as he could, despite being handcuffed at the time. As a result of the inevitable beating that ensued, Morton performed their next show three weeks later with a slide and wrench taped to his broken left hand in order to play his guitar.
December 1974 on Cleveland's near west side: Dave, John, Paul Marotta.
In the fall of 1974, Morton, McManus and Marotta returned to Cleveland and began sharing a rehearsal loft with Rocket from the Tombs and Frankenstein (early incarnations of Pere Ubu and the Dead Boys respectively) in the warehouse district on West 9th Street. According to Morton, Stiv Bators spent a good deal of time studying McManus during Eels' rehearsals and copped many of McManus' mannerisms. Along with Mirrors and Rocket from the Tombs, gigs three and four were the "Extermination Music Nights" at the Viking Saloon in December 1974 and January 1975. After the second show, the band's equipment was impounded by the club owner, seeking recompense for damages. Marotta left the group shortly afterwards.
Dave and John at the Second Extermination Night, January 1975. "SPINACH BLASTERS" MP3 FROM THIS SHOW
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