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Hey, Hey, It's the Easter Monkeys 

Cleveland punk band's only album finally comes out on CD

When the Easter Monkeys formed in 1980, drummer Linda Hudson was only 17. So her recollections of the early days are a bit murky.

"It's a mystery to me," she replies when asked how singer Chris Yarmock, bassist Charlie Ditteaux and guitarist Jim Jones came together to create the group. "The rest of the members were in their 30s. They were friends of my brothers [Pagans Mike and Brian Hudson]. I got into the whole scene through my brothers and friends of their friends. I was asked to play drums through Charlie."

She does, however, remember the band's first gig at the Sports Page, a long-closed sports bar in the Flats.

"It was a weird place to play," she recalls. "There was Chief Wahoo on the back wall. It went pretty well actually. The kids were there and were slam dancing and formed a mosh pit while the sports patrons were watching the TV. It was a mixed crowd, but it was well received. There were some other bands we played with that drew a lot of the people."

Singer Chris Yarmock says the Easter Monkeys, like their punk predecessors, were as much a way of life as a form of musical expression.

"It was just something to do, and it beat boredom," he says. "We were in this decaying city and had to do something. I thought it was a pretty good waste of time myself. Everybody drank together and lived together, and it was a hell of a lot of fun."

For its debut, Splendor of Sorrow, which has just been reissued on the Chicago-based Smog Veil label, the band went to local recording studio Soundstage 25 and adopted what Hudson says was a "professional attitude." You can tell from the tracks that the group was more musically talented than its irreverent attitude would have you believe. The album opens with the noisy "Take Another Pill," an acerbic number about conformity that's every bit as brash as anything by the Sex Pistols or the Damned. The stuttering, constipated vocals on "Monkey See Monkey Do" and the Cramps-like "My Baby Digs Graves" show the band's wide range. "Heaven 357," a moody tune about suicide, is downright epic. And Yarmock's lyrics often provide astute social commentary.

"I was raised Catholic, so I had damage there," he says. "We have songs about everything: religion, suicide, death, the usual stuff. We were all huge Ghoulardi fans. He was an influence on a lot of people. You don't realize how many people bonded because of him. We were mentioned in a Ghoulardi book, and that was the pinnacle of my career. What could be better? I could die in peace now."

Splendor of Sorrow has never been released on CD before. Yarmock says the reissue has been in the works for some time and that Jones was trying to get it out before he died last year. Smog Veil owner Frank Mauceri kept at it.

"I have to admire Frank for his persistence," says Yarmock, adding that the CD features bonus cuts and extensive liner notes with archival photos. "It finally came together, and I'm really happy about the way it turned out."

Neither Yamock nor Hudson recall why the band dissolved in 1984, but each stressed there was never a divisive dispute or blow-up.

"I don't remember why we quit playing; I can't even tell you a good story," says Yarmock, now a Tremont-based artist. "Maybe Jim would have had another take on it. We went on to other things. Everyone went from one thing to the next."

Hudson, a computer analyst living outside of Nashville, agrees.

"I don't know why we broke up, but I can tell you this — the whole band was for fun," she says. "I don't know why it stopped or why we didn't pursue it, but I think it's because we felt if we really tried to work on it, it wouldn't be fun. We went to practice and whatever came out, came out. We didn't work on riffs or structure. We just did it for the fun."

jniesel@clevescene.com

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