Volume 91, Issue 61

Friday, January 16, 1998

Mr. Rogers


Good local punk will never die

©Nick Perry
BEER AND PUNK – THE DEMIC'S FAVOURITE MIX. Keith Whittaker and Ian Staines of the legendary Demics (circa 1977).

By Carey Weinberg

Gazette Staff

London's punk roots start with the Demics and then grow from there. The Demics started jamming in the summer of 1977 with Ian Atkinson on bass, Rob Brent on guitar, Nick Perry on drums and Keith Whittaker on vocals.

They debuted in December of '77 at a Christmas party, doing punk covers of Elvis Costello, Sex Pistols and The Clash. During the course of the performance, people got a little punked up and went down Dundas Street and pretty much caused a small riot. Such was the way of early punk which catapulted this band into punk rock success.

Local artist Marcy Sady took over the beat, while Perry spent some time getting his punk-rock rebellion in check – in the can, for various punk-style shenanigans.

February of the following year saw The Demics make their official debut in The York Hotel (now Call The Office). It was a Thursday night and the band packed the place and sold more booze than any previous performers. The bar's owners were so pleased with alcohol sales that The Demics were given any night they wanted at the hotel and the hype grew and grew.

"The punk rock scene erupted in London in '78," states the 'fifth Demic,' Perry, now out of the can and generally behaving himself. Into '79 London's punk scene was burgeoning because "it was new fresh and different. Stadium rock 'n' roll was getting really boring."

In the summer of '78, The Demics laid down the first recording containing their biggest hit, entitled "New York City."

The first Toronto gig was at the legendary Horseshoe. Keith, in true punk style, got nervous, drank all day and into the night and consequently didn't want to get on stage. Perry literally had to force him on stage – and the night went over extremely well.

The Dents, The Wads and The Viletones played with The Demics that night. Apparently The Viletones didn't want to go on stage after The Demics because of their success. The Viles' lead vocalist Lucky, even more wasted than Keith, did not quite measure up.

The Demics took their brand of angst to Toronto in '79 for better exposure. They opened for big bands like The English Beat and Ultravox. They were successful until the spring of '81 when they decided that enough was enough.

What do punk rockers do when they grow up? Atkinson has a successful video and computer store, Brent's teaching English Literature at McMaster University – and has never been happier.

The recent death of lead vocalist Keith Whittaker was part of the inspiration behind the 20th anniversary punk rock extravaganza Demics tribute happening this weekend. Many local bands and old fans will gather at the place where The Demics landed their first gig – Call the Office.

Catch 12 local bands doing Demics covers on Saturday, Jan. 17, at Call the Office. Cover is only $5.

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department: gazent@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright © The Gazette 1998