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The Backdoor Men

Inner Ring Conspiracy

Terry Hartman

Dan Cook

Paul Nickels

Peter Laughner

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through the backdoors of time:
remembering clevo's rock & roll underdogs.

And so, what becomes of kids who play guitar on sticks before they reach double digits?

The Backdoor Men were first envisioned in the mid-1960s by the childhood friends Dan & Chris Cook (yes, brothers) and Terry Hartman, all of Fairview Park and all in the throes of an obsession kicked off first by the British Invasion and later fueled by the Byrds, Bob Dylan, and both urban and country blues. By the time the boys launched themselves onto Cleveland's original music scene in 1977, they had twisted these influences into a repertoire of a couple dozen originals in the "nuggets" psycho-garage mode to go along with their selection of British Invasion, American Psychedelic, and New York/Detroit "underground" covers.

Initially, the boys in BDM found it difficult to crack the Pirate's Cove, which was the center of a scene that included contemporaries such as Pere Ubu, the Dead Boys, and others. Their solution was to start their own alternative showcase just down the street in a dingy bar called Fitzpatrick's Rainbow. Soon the lads were booking a slew of acts to accompany them in their weekly appearances in the small but perfectly-vibed venue.

Bands like the Kneecappers, Lepers, x-blank-x, Heironymous Bosch, and Public Enemy and more suddenly had a new place to play, albeit mostly to friends and fellow musicians, and to develop their material in a friendly setting.

The boys were also among the inhabitants of cheap rehearsal space in Cleveland's then-moribund Warehouse District. First they shared space with associates of the Dead Boys on West Sixth St.; later, after suffering through numerous break-ins, they took over a huge loft on West Ninth St., which they sublet to several other bands and was the site of much drunken revelry. (It also featured on its first floor a small tavern called the Lakefront, where they would play a few years later.)

Soon Dan Cook, a journalist by the harsh light of day, had launched a publishing venue with the notorious VELAND magazine, his answer to the sporadically published (though informative) CLE. VELAND took the piss out of virtually EVERYONE, from the rotund David Thomas to the geeky Andrew Klimek, and fueled a good battle between Fitzpatrick's and the Cove, which eventually relented and began to book the Backdoor Men.

The Backdoor Men played virtually every venue available between Youngstown and Toledo and all points in between in 1978 and 1980. Never particularly sophisticated as musicians, they compensated with tons of material. Cook and Hartman were extraordinarily prolific. From the neo-psychedelia of Hartman's "Bomber's Moon" and Cook's "Neutralizer," the boys progressed through offbeat pop takes like Hartman's "Handicapped Kids" and Cook's "Bad Girl" to such timeless gems as Hartman's "Life" and "Literary Tradition," and Cook's "Ain't No Magic" and "Club Madrid."

In all, Cook and Hartman, occasionally aided by Chris Cook, generated more than 100 fully realized originals, a number of which were covered by other area bands in need of material.

As 1980 drew to a close, Terry Hartman - a man who took songwriting VERY seriously - was chafing to take full control, and parted amicably with the Cooks to form Terry & The Tornadoes. The Tornadoes were short-lived but critically acclaimed, and were indeed the Cadillac Fleetwood that finally realized fully the extent of Hartman's songwriting abilities. During this period, Hartman teamed with Jimmy Zero and Johnny Blitz of the Dead Boys to record two of his originals for a single on Bomp Records, “Man with the X-Ray Eyes” b/w “Down with the Lonely Boys,” but Bomp foundered and the single was never released.

The Backdoor Men soldiered on, working under a variety of names, self-releasing a 45 under the moniker of “Bomber’s Moon,” and generating even more material. Hartman eventually did return, and with the Cook Brothers and BDM drummer Paul Nickels, formed the band that was to be their swan song, Napoleon in Rags. Cook and Hartman put together a fresh batch of material, honed it to perfection, played out for a year, and then, like so many others of the era, appeared to disappear into the mists of time....

UNTIL 2004, when they released the acclaimed "Mohawk Combover," heralded as one of the great comebacks in Cleveland punk history. Yes, the boys could still write.

 

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