Ralph Darden-4454 WEB
Joseph A. Gervasi continues his excellent interview series Loud! Fast! Philly! with a very candid conversation with Ralph Darden. There are no words that could describe Ralph’s importance in my life and the value, exploration, insight and humanity he brought to the experiences we shared together personally and creatively. This interview, however, reminds me that we are all always and at all times desperately trying to learn from (and understand) those we surround ourselves with and this challenge is central and never ending. Ralph continues to work as a DJ under the name Major Taylor and splits his time between Chicago and Los Angeles.

If you have some time, enjoy this one.

Photo of Ralph by the talented Karen Kirchhoff.


Here are some random shots of Random Children playing at J.C. Dobbs on South Street. There are no details on the backs of these photos as to the date these were taken or which show, but judging by the length of Ralph’s dreads and Greg’s rather impressive two rack tom set-up, we’re looking around mid 1991.

In the first picture, it’s Greg doing his thing while wearing his, now legendary, blue and grey Swatch watch. Next to him you will see my first major musical instrument purchase. A Peavey, 2×15″ bass cabinet that I bought from the folks who ran Rave Records (remember the Rave warehouse?) The cabinet cost me $150 and featured a blown lower speaker cone and more beer/puke? stains on it than one could ever imagine, but it got the job done. I remember driving home with that speaker in the back of my 1982 hatchback Honda Accord and thinking that with this impressive speaker NOTHING would be impossible.

This photo features my back rather prominently. A back that would go on to be featured at many a Franklin show due to a belief that looking forward to the audience who had gathered seemed elitist and too rock and roll.

Again, notice Greg’s kick-ass double rack tom action. Sick.

Lastly, we have TJ mid-jump displaying his patented “falcon-claw” finger posture for the ultimate in power-chord perfection and Ralph in his ever so stylish Christ on Parade t-shirt, 7 to 8 mini-dreads and a sweet fade.

Behind them, a myriad of framed photos that covered the side wall at JC Dobbs. I never did look closely at any of those photos to see if they were of anyone (or anything) interesting. Truly, the only time I made any sort of mental note of them was when Nation of Ulysses played and Steve Gamboa, bass player of NOU, took the head of his bass to several of the photos, smashing them. I assumed, rightfully so, that someone was gonna be upset about that.


In 1990/1991, there was really only one way to let the world know that your city ruled. That would be the Maximum Rocknroll scene report.

Established as a way to let kids know about the music communities that were thriving in other areas of the country (and around the world), the scene report was like a note from the edge of space telling other astronauts, “fear not, there is life out here!”

More simply, a scene report consisted of a kid from any particular city with enough patience sitting down and typing up a letter that described the recent happenings in their hometown as it related to the local music community. These reports would detail shows that had happened or would happen, local spaces that were putting on shows or local spaces recently shut down by the police, newly formed or now defunct bands. It was one of the only ways for kids to communicate. Sure, the communication was one-sided, but the goings on in one area would be an inspiration for another.

Several cities with thriving scenes (and dedicated writers documenting their scenes) would frequently be included in the monthly section of MRR. Smaller, less active cities (with less active contributors) not so much. Thus, Philadelphia, I believe, only ever had a few scene reports during the run of the segment.

Amazingly, Atom had a copy of the one scene report I wrote up and sent in to MRR featuring a very direct, straight forward account of the goings on here in Philadelphia at the time. While completely biased towards the areas of the music community I was actively participating, what can one expect? I was 16. I just wanted to see Philadelphia represented in MRR and the things we were doing at the time validated and counted.


ELBOHEAD No.1 – 4 ‘N 3 IS 7″

Honestly, I’m not even sure how to begin this post. For me, so much history stems from this little 7″ that I find it rather difficult to wrap any meaningful net around the hundreds of thoughts that stream forth from seeing it and hearing it again.

In 1990, I was a Sophomore in High School. My musical career had been shared by a small group of friends who, like myself, were delving deeper and deeper into a sub-culture. We had already decided that music was for us as a creative outlet and had ditched trendy fashions and bought guitars and amplifiers swearing that we were punks. However, we were fueled by what we saw happening in cities like Washington DC and Olympia Washington. Our punk was not smash ’em up, but change ’em up and stand on our own feet as we decided (at the very least) what we didn’t want to be.

We formed a band. Originally called The Tazmanians. We went thru changes, learned our instruments a bit more and spent hours practicing in our parents basements, garages and friends houses. We played shows in those same locations for no one other than ourselves. We were a gang.

Then we decided that we needed to put out a 7″. It’s what bands did at the time. Something that documented your music that you could send to clubs to try and get shows. Something that you might also be able to trade for financial compensation making you feel a bit more legitimate as a band, doing it yourself.

However, being 1990, producing a 7″ was a mystery. An absolute, no idea, what are we doing mystery. So, like so many kids at that time, we wrote a letter (yes, a letter!) to the women who ran Simple Machines Records.

Located in Arlington, VA, Simply Machines was a sister label to Dischord Records. They had been releasing numerous 7″ singles and had a distinct style to how they approached their business. In addition, Kristin Thompson and Jenny Toomey had taken their experience learning how to press records and compiled it into a handy insert that they would happily send to any kid who asked for the reasonable price of one postage stamp. Which, at the time, was $0.25 cents.

We devoured this handy pamphlet and before long, we were off and running. We decided splitting costs with another band would be the most logical idea. None of us had any money and this thing was gonna cost some cash. Thus, we decided to split the 7″ with another local group called The Mad Planets. Featuring our friend Haim and his buddies Max and Bunky, they were playing a mod-revivalist sound and were the most prepared to record some songs.

We spent an afternoon recording at our friend Niles Martin’s house in Wyndmoor. As mentioned before on this blog, his father had some archaic recording equipment and it was free so we went for it. Obviously, the recording is pretty much horrendous on this 7″ but at the time it was the best we could do. I think we had some fantasy of what “mastering” was and believed that maybe that’s what would make it sound better when being cut to vinyl.

When we received the test presses, that wasn’t the case.

As for the cover, Max (the drummer for The Mad Planets) was a photographer. In fact, he had taken some amazing photos of Fugazi playing the Drexel parking garage in 1990 which I wish I still had but I digress. Max had shown me this photo of a plunger. I’m not sure why, but I liked it and so I decided that it would be used on the cover of the 7″. Being the defacto organizer and leader of Elbohead, our newly invented record label, I think I felt that I could make that decision. Definitely a little presumptuous on my part that’s for sure.

The cover art was compiled in my bedroom with some sharpie markers and photocopies. Again, not remotely understanding the process of off-set printing or how to get something to look professional for printing, I fumbled ahead and worked with a printer at the top of my street. It was a small little place that stunk of ink and chemicals and looking back now, the guy probably only ever printed place mats for restaurants and business cards. I’m lucky he was even willing to work with me on such a crack pot idea.

None the less, we printed the covers, xeroxed the inserts at Springfield High Schools Library copier (for free on the sly) and printed 300 copies of this little baby.

With that, Random Children and The Mad Planets had documented themselves, Elbohead had started, and we could actually consider ourselves on the path to leaving some sort of mark.


Fail To See

Fortune Cookie

Olde City


I figured I should keep the photo train rolling. Again, thanks to Jeff Vaders for this supply. Hopefully, I’ll be able to scan some myself this weekend…

Ah, the mighty Invid playing at Dobbs. Jamie Mahon on bass who many folks still know and see regularly.

Greg from Random Children (however, we might still have been the Tazmanians here)

Fernando playing the drums with Up In Arms after Rob Bell left the band.

Dizrythmia playing at Dobbs.

CUT SHORT! Amazing name.

Chris and Jeb in the early days of Fracture.

Atom and Chris outside the Oreland super market.

Your author and host playing in Matt Lieberman’s basement.

Atom, TJ and Matt Lieberman

Up In Arms