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Formed in Cleveland OH in the summer of 1974, Rocket From The Tombs existed for less than a year, never released a record, played fewer than a dozen shows, and was heard and/or seen by no more than a few hundred people.
One of those few was Television guitarist Richard Lloyd. "Rocket opened for us in Cleveland," he said. "We were walking around after soundcheck saying, 'That's one scary group!' And I was saying to myself, 'I want to be in that band.'"
Rocket From The Tombs blew apart in August 1975. David Thomas and Peter Laughner went on to form Pere Ubu, taking along rock classics such as "Final Solution," "Life Stinks," and "30 Seconds Over Tokyo." Cheetah Chrome and John Madansky formed the Dead Boys, taking "Sonic Reducer," "Ain't It Fun," "Down In Flames," and several others.
Through word of mouth and a frenzied trafficking in bootlegs, Rocket From The Tombs acquired an international status out of all proportion to its brief existence. (A band in San Diego even co-opted the name, calling themselves Rocket From the Crypt, and went on to have some commercial success.) Finally, in 2002 a cd of live radio and concert tapes from 1975 was released as The Day The Earth Met The Rocket From The Tombs (Smog Veil Records).
The Wire said of it, "Blazing amazing trails, they deserve to be celebrated, not consigned to a historical footnote."
Les Inrockuptibles said, "A record of great historical importance, envisaging the Punk-Rock revolution..... Furious songs full of tension and of a surprising modernity that deserve being regarded alongside the best songs of the MC5, Patti Smith, The Stooges or VU on the list of the seminal non-mainstream rock bands."
Billboard said, "It's flabbergasting stuff"
The Village Voice said, "The darkest, most desperately unforgiving sound."
UCLA scheduled a three day festival devoted to the music of David Thomas for Royce Hall, Los Angeles, February 2003. Thomas named it "Disastodrome" so nothing would go wrong. Rocket From The Tombs would open for Pere Ubu on the last day.
"We needed someone to complete the two guitar format," David Thomas said. "We kicked some names around but Cheetah was adamant that Richard Lloyd was the only man for the job. And as it turned out, Cheetah was right."
"An explosive, revelatory set," reported the Los Angeles Times.
RFTT Concert Poster
In June 2003 Rocket From The Tombs took to the road for the first time, playing in 6 cities to great acclaim.
David Fricke, editor of Rolling Stone, wrote, "No on else in American rock, underground or over, in 1974 and '75, was writing and playing songs this hard and graphic about being f**ked over and fighting mad. No one else is doing it now."
Greg Kot in the Chicago Tribune wrote, "Rocket From the Tombs is not just the great lost proto-punk band of the '70s. It's one of the best bands of the 21st Century too."
A cross-country tour of 26 dates was organized for November-December 2003. A live-in-the-studio album called Rocket Redux was recorded as a concert-sales-only merchandising item. (A commercial release followed on Smog Veil Records in February 2004.)
From the beginning Rocket From The Tombs has been a volatile union of incompatible individuals drawn together like moths to flame. The tour was fiery and excruciatingly intense. True to form when it finished in a snowy parking lot of a Red Roof Inn outside Washington DC. Everyone vowed that this was really the end of the band, period, forever, and don't-call-me... but committed to an appearance at the Punk Kongress in Germany in September 2004 all showed up and all was forgiven... again. Individual projects delayed further planning but in 2006 Rocket From The Tombs got together in Cleveland for a writing session and played a series of dates over the summer. Then another flux of incompatibility intervened and nothing happened for awhile. And then there was another writing session but another flux and then more nothing happened. Etc.
Rocket from the Tombs is:
David Thomas: singer
Cheetah Chrome: guitar
Richard Lloyd: guitar
Craig Bell: bass
Steve Mehlman: drums