Last week, the world was saddened to learn of the death of Tommy Ramone, the Ramones’ original drummer and last surviving founding member of the group.
But few knew that just over a week before Tommy Ramone died, the world lost another drummer from an early punk rock band. On July 3, 2014 Mark McKelvey, the original drummer for the band Mmaxx passed away. He was just 47 years old.
You’ve probably never heard of Mark McKelvey or Mmaxx. But that’s OK. The band only ever played four shows. No recordings survive except for one super 8mm film posted on YouTube of the band performing a fairly dodgy cover version of the X-Ray Spex hit Oh Bondage Up Yours! and one really poor cassette of a show they did at a high school drama club party.
But Mark was an important punk rock drummer to me because he was the drummer in my first punk rock band (Mmaxx, in case you didn’t guess). We were together only about a year and, as I said, played just four shows. I didn’t know Mark very well even then. Mike Duffy, the bass player and I — who had yet to see the light and take up the bass myself so I was the guitarist — were old men of 17 when Mark was just a mere lad of 14. So we didn’t socialize much outside of rehearsals and our few gigs.
To say punk rock was unpopular at Wadsworth High School in Wadsworth, Ohio circa 1980-81 would be a massive understatement. I would be shocked if there were even 15 people at the school who were actually into punk or even new wave. It was all REO Speedwagon, Styx and Journey for the rest of the school. Mark was never as committed to the scene as Mike and I. But he was willing to give it a try and that was brave in those days when a guy could get beaten up just for being seen with the likes of us.
The band broke up before I was even a senior in high school and I had not heard anything from or even about Mark since then. I learned of his passing because I subscribe to an email list for news of Wadsworth High graduates. I’ve been meaning to unsubscribe for ages because all it seems to be is death notices for people from the WHS class of 1933 or thereabouts and the occasional news that the football team has won a state championship or something. So I was truly stunned to see Mark’s obituary this afternoon.
It made me a lot sadder than I’d have thought it would to see that he was gone. Like I said, I hardly knew him. I just remember him as a funny energetic kid. His dad had installed a lighted disco floor in the family basement where we practiced. We sometimes turned it on while we played and it flashed colors under our feet. He had a dog that Mike and I always called Fluffy, though I don’t think that was its actual name. We played Ted Nugent’s Cat Scratch Fever in an arrangement that attempted to mimic DEVO’s cover of the Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction but just ended up sounding bad. I think we chose that song because Mark wanted us to play something he’d heard before.
Rest in Rock’n’roll bliss, Mark McKelvey!
* * *
As always your donations are greatly appreciated. You can be a micro-donor now too. It really helps. I’m very excited about the new book I’m writing. But it’s taking up all of my time leaving me little time to devote to anything else.
By the way, this will be the book about Shobogenzo to end all books about Shobogenzo. No one will ever legitimately need another book on Shobogenzo after this comes out. It’s seriously going to destroy absolutely everything out there.
* * *
My on-line retreat at Tricycle.com is still on-going. Check it out!
* * *
Here’s my upcoming touring schedule:
Aug. 2 9:30 AM – 3:00 PM Half Day Zazen at Dogen Sangha Los Angeles in the Veteran’s Memorial Building 4117 Overland Blvd. Culver City, CA 90230
Aug. 16 9:30 AM – Noon at Dogen Sangha Los Angeles in the Veteran’s Memorial Building 4117 Overland Blvd. Culver City, CA 90230
Sept. 5-7 Houston Zen Center
Sept. 9 Austin Zen Center
Oct. 1 Turku Panimoravintola Koulu, Finland- Movie screening
Oct. 2 Helsinki, Finland – Lecture Event
Oct. 3-5 Helsinki, Finland Zen retreat at Helsinki Zen Center
Oct. 6 Movie Screening in Espoo, Finland
Oct. 8 Lecture in Munich, Germany
Oct. 10-11 Retreat in Munich, Germany
Oct. 12-17 Retreat at Benediktushof near Würzburg, Germany
Oct 18-19 Retreat in Bonn, Germany
Oct 20 Hamburg, Germany
Oct 24: Lecture in Groningen, Netherlands
Oct 25: Day-long zazen in Groningen, Netherlands
Oct 26: Movie screening in Eindhoven, Netherlands at Natlab
Oct 27: Evening zazen in Eindhoven, Netherlands
Oct 28: Evening zazen in Nijmegen, Netherlands
Oct 29: Lecture in Amsterdam, Netherlands at “De Roos” bookstore from 19.00-21.00 (P Cornelisz Hooftstr 183)
Oct 30: Lecture in Utrecht, Netherlands at “De wijze kater” bookstore from 19.00-21.00 ( Mariaplaats 1, Utrecht)
Nov 1-2: Retreat in Utrecht, Netherlands
Nov. 2: Movie screening in Utrecht, Netherlands at ACU
Nov 6-8: Retreat in Hebden Bridge, UK
Nov 9: Noon – 5pm Manchester, UK