Apr 08, 2021, 06:28AM

Dome Supreme of Higlandtown

More treasures from the essential compilation Baltimore’s Teen Beat A Go Go.

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Dome Records’ in-house studio was located on Eastern Ave. near Baltimore’s Highlandtown neighborhood. It was small, sound-proofed by primitive means, and equipped with nothing more than a mixer, three or four mics, and a two-track reel-to-reel tape machine. When the label’s predominantly school-aged artists walked through that door they knew they weren’t heading into Abbey Road. Producer Ralph Johnson and ex-Bill Haley & The Comets member Joey Welz were Dome’s sonic Svengalis. With their magnum opus Baltimore’s Teen Beat A Go Go they immortalized every youthful, awkward, melodramatic, chaotic spark of inspiration that the greater metro area had to offer them. 


The Amoebas - "Look At The Moon": In the late-1990s Baltimore’s Teen Beat A Go Go received an overwhelmingly bad review from Charmed Times. This music fanzine (a tribute to Baltimore’s mainstream pop sounds circa the 1950s-1970s) branded The Amoebas’ bouncy Everlys-styled rocker as antiseptic “supper club rock.” It sure is smooth when compared to the crunchy Brit Invasion/Link Wray-worship that dominates the rest of this album.

The Amoebas were a group of high-schoolers based in the Pasadena/Severna Park area. Dome committed their song to tape in 1964. It was one of several older recordings on Teen Beat that were made years before the compilation’s 1966 release date. Nonetheless “Look At The Moon” fits in—its minimalist rhythms and cosmic slapback place it somewhere between the innocent rawness of The Del Prixs and the romantic mystery of The Vendors. These kids get an extra round of applause for having the best band name on the album.

Bobby J. & The Generations - "Lost In Time": The best cut on the album and one of the best punk rock songs ever to come from Maryland or anywhere else. This is aggression incarnate, a high-energy meltdown charged by great songwriting, poetic/agonized break-up lyrics, and a dynamite band. The details behind “Lost In Time” and Bobby J. & The Generations’ awesome rock ’n’ roll adventures can be unearthed here.

The Week-Enders – “Rampage”: Like The Amoebas’ cut, this instrumental track has an early-60s feel. Surf music, The Rockin’ Rebels, and the spirit of Link Wray inhabit every note. The tune’s origins are hazy; songwriting credit goes to “Harrison” (no first name listed) and there were 60s bands all over who called themselves The Week Enders. With numerous federal government offices and internationally renowned medical/scientific institutions based in and around Washington DC, a significant chunk of America’s wealth has long been stashed in the mid-Atlantic. Considering that fact, there’s a chance that the Teen Beat Week-Enders might be the same preppy crew who were the house band at Lawrence Academy. Established in the 1700s, Lawrence is a Groton, Mass. boarding school that caters to the educational needs of privileged teens.

In 1964 the hyphen-less/Lawrence-based Weekenders put out the full length LP Spring Weekend ’65 on the Vogt label; its title track is an incredible schizophrenic punker. That vocal-driven monster and “Rampage” share distinct twangy guitar sounds and other neanderthal aesthetics. Unfortunately no musicians directly connected to either recording have been located. Whether or not the two groups are related remains a mystery.

The Vendors - "My Rose-Ann": The Road Runners’ dark track from side A seems like bubblegum compared to this reverberating dirge, one of Maryland’s strangest lo-fi pop works. Fans of early Tav Falco and Suicide, and The Cramps’ cover of “Lonesome Town” will be enthralled by this ghostly love song. The Vendors (often billed as “The Vendors featuring Joey Love”) came from Brooklyn Park in the northern section of Anne Arundel County. The group’s name pops up regularly in the Baltimore News-American’s “Your World” section, a 10-15 page supplement that was written for and by Maryland teens of the Baby Boom age. “Your World” covered the powerful youth culture outbursts that made the mid-Atlantic an exciting place to be during the Vietnam era. The supplement ran for about 10 years from the early-1960s to the early-70s. Other than “My Rose-Ann,” The Vendors’ printed gig ads and promo notices are the only documents of their existence.

The Rysing Suns – “A Third Hour On Forty Eleventh Street”: There are some weird jagged 60s punk cuts and then there’s this angular blasting beast. The Rysing Suns’ unhinged attack is just a hair below the Bobby J. & The Generations level of intensity. Thrashed into life in less than two hours on the night before their Dome session, “A Third Hour…” was the first original song The Suns wrote. The backstory of this Dundalk combo feels like an urban legend, but it was real. You can read all about The Rysing Suns’ wild life and times (and more about the genesis of Baltimore’s Teen Beat A Go Go) in a five part epic that appeared previously elsewhere on this website.

The Chadwicks – “The Only Way To Do It”: More angry punk rock, this time growled out by a crew from Violetville, MD. “The Only Way To Do It” has a relentless Kinks/Raiders-type riff that burrows into the brain. Mental destruction is a perfect way to describe this song’s lyrics, a snotty rant against free love and open relationships. The Chadwicks give their attack a breather once the tune’s understated guitar solo comes in. Its low-key melody would sound just as fine in a song by Buddy Holly or Creedence Clearwater Revival as it would in the hands of The Seeds or The Troggs.

Lou Trimper was one member of this group; the other musicians’ full names are unknown. After winning a 1968 Baltimore band battle they got signed to the major label United Artists. Whether or not they actually released a record on UA is unclear. If they did, it most likely didn’t come out under the Chadwicks’ name.

The Destinations—“Shame-Shame”: One of the most obscure acts on Baltimore’s Teen A Go Go is The Destinations. Little information on this band has turned up, but the News-American’s “Your World” section contains a few clues. The band ran a promo ad in the supplement’s April 3rd, 1966 edition which featured two contact phone numbers: one connected to a “Jim Bartz” of northeast Baltimore’s Cedmont neighborhood and another connected to “Sue” of Halethorpe, MD—a town on the other side of the Baltimore beltway from Cedmont, just minutes away from Baltimore’s western border. As of the early-2000s, one of these numbers had been disconnected; the other is no longer tied to any member of The Destinations. The Baltimore Sounds website states that a combo named The Destinations was active regionally from 1965 to 1971, while Dome’s songwriting credits for “Shame-Shame” are attributed to “Kimmey & Oliver.”

This crude stomper sounds like the work of a very young band. The Destinations offer up an example of the album’s low-rent dance party charm. If you or anyone you know played in the group please come on out of the woodwork, the world would love to know more about your crucial Teen Beat greatness.

Joey Charles Drums – “The Rub”: Joey Charles was the pseudonym for drummer/songwriter Joseph Gross. Two different versions of “The Rub” were issued by Dome—one was a single with vocals from teen girl group The Delighters; the other was an instrumental issued as this album‘s final track. The latter version spotlighted a dissonant sax lead and a lengthy drum solo. Out of tune saxophone was ubiquitous on Dome releases. It can be heard on The Beggars’ A side cut and on excellent singles that the label put out for The Septors and Johnny Soul & The Manchesters. It sounds like the same sax player on each tune, or it could be a variety of musicians using the same instrument. “The Rub” is a weird twang-fest of wacky noise and garage soul energy.


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