PREVIEW: PRIVATE SCHOOL – “I Wanna Know” from the 1979 EP “Lost In Action”

Back in the late 70s Vancouver was the wild west musically speaking. Musicians in the city were somewhat isolated from the big corporate machine that was running things in cities like Toronto. But they were not immune to the allure of punk rock. That year alone saw the formation of the legendary DOA, Subhumans, and Pointed Sticks to name a few. It was a vibrant and influential scene as one listen to the venerable 1979 compilation “Vancouver Complication” will attest.

Private School was also formed in 1978, and was a brief but memorable fixture on the Vancouver scene opening for the likes of The Police and the Dead Kennedys before they parted ways in late 1979.

Similar to contemporaries Talking Heads, Private School was labeled an “art school” band, but listening in 2018 conveys top-notch power pop leaning punk rock with chugging riffs and catchy sing-along choruses; albeit with a few twists like a wailing saxophone, keyboards and even viola. Their track “Rock And Roll Radio” appeared on  “Vancouver Complication” and they released the EP “Lost In Action” in December 1979 after they had already called it quits. Members of Private School went onto play in DOA, Magic Dragon, The Flames, and Warsaw.

Supreme Echo is now releasing the EP on 7” vinyl, professionally remastered from the original masters and combining the “Lost In Action” 7” EP with “Rock n Rock Radio”.  A bonus deluxe yellow 7” flexi featuring unreleased songs “Bad / Stay Up” makes it a Double EP!  Also comes with a 12 page booklet with flyers, photographs & the story of the band.

Limited to 500 copies. RELEASED NOVEMBER 2018.

 

Some background from Jaime Clay – saxophone:

About the formation of Private School

Private School was a loose concept of a band in the spring of 1978. It was almost a complete band by the summer, but didn’t gel until early fall with the recording lineup.

Inspiration:

The music and scene that was happening right at that moment in Vancouver was very attractive. As musicians that wanted to play their own songs, their way, there were no venues or outlets for it. What we were hearing on records out of New York and England was what everyone wanted to play. Forming a band was the easy part. Getting venues to play the hardest. Also, getting the general public interested, instead of just the friends and other band mates in the audience was a challenge, but we loved what we were doing. The fact that we were underdogs made it attractive as well, in the sense we had to work harder to be noticed, and we could also thumb our noses at establishment.

About the song “I Wanna Know”:

Tony Falk wrote the song. In fact, he contributed two songs to the EP, which was a surprise to me because we had hardly played them live up to that point. Anyway, Tony was determined to contribute to the scene at large with his writing abilities. His bass playing was established from the time he auditioned. But being black in a punk/new wave band in Vancouver (much less anywhere else) had its difficulties with acceptance. He was such a nice, kind guy with a wicked sense of humour. We all loved him. And he was short, too. He would wear platform shoes to increase his height. And he had some really tough stories about growing up in New York City. He didn’t have time for crap, and if he sensed a person or persons walking his way were trouble, he would hop to the other side of the street and continue walking. He was missing a few teeth. Tough Tony! So his songs are angst-ridden. Songs like “Fuck You” is really getting back at all those that done him wrong and their mental state. His lyric “You don’t wake up, you just go on” is a pretty powerful observation.

 

“It wasn’t until great local music critic for the free press paper the Georgia Straight wrote an article on us, with the headline “Fast R+B” that it clicked. We were Punk R+B”

 

Impact on the city’s music scene:

Private School was different from the other guitar bands. Most were in the punk vein, some were a little more pop oriented, and then there were the quirky art bands. We didn’t fit into any of these categories at all. Because we had a sax, there were comparisons to X Ray Spex from England, although we didn’t sound like them at all. Then there were comparisons with other sax new wave bands like the Blockheads, Graham Parker, and even the E Street Band, which Ron loved, because he was a fan of Bruce Springsteen, and he liked being compared to him. However, none of these bands sounded like us, nor we them. It wasn’t until great local music critic for the free press paper the Georgia Straight wrote an article on us, with the headline “Fast R+B” that it clicked. We were Punk R+B. As far as influencing the local scene our parts were greater than the sum. Once musicians left, all went on to form great bands: fist bass player Tony Bardach went to The Pointed Sticks, singer Ron Nelson and violin playing partner Maddy formed Magic Dragon then settled into Courage of Lassie. Guitar player Dave Gregg went on into the best DOA version ever, and (I) Sax player Jaime Clay went on to form Warsaw, then PAZ. Drummer Walt did well Ska band The Invaders and later teamed up with ex-Trojka guitarist Michael Richards to form The Flames. Sadly, we’ve lost touch with Tony, who we’ve tried to contact over the years to no avail. He could’ve gone on to great things, too. Alas Drummer Walt and myself tried to get him to jam and he would have nothing to do with it.

About the reissue:

It’s about time! No, seriously, with all the other local bands that have had their reissues in the sun decades ago, Private School was always the missing link. The original EPs were going for pretty pennies on eBay years ago, and some rips of the songs appeared on bootleg compilations. So this is a fine issue to rectify all this, being official and including all the recorded work the band did. There is a live tape of us out there somewhere, and I hear it is fucking awesome. Jason at Supreme Echo has done a fine job, in keeping with the creative concept of the bands practice and artistic approach.

 

 

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Cribs

One foot in the door
The other one in the gutter

3 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Gene, I don’t know of a specific book about the Vancouver scene but Perfect Youth by Sam Sutherland covers a lot of it. Also the documentary Bloodied But Unbowed is one of the go to sources for sure
    https://www.thepunkmovie.com/

    Jason Flower from Supreme Echo should probably write the book!

    Thanks for the comment.

    • Flowers is righteous for the reissues he has done, but is unfamiiar with keys bands form the first wave Vancouver punk era, such as House OF Commons and most importantly Los Poplularos. Victoria sounds like his area of expertise.

  • Has anyone written up a good history of the Vancouver scene? I remember that the New York Dolls all thought that Vancouver was the best audience they played to on the west coast, and that was 1973.

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