WREX was established in Belltown, Seattle by Michael Clay, Wes Bradley, and Aaron McKiernan in the early Fall of 1979. The venue, at 2018 First Avenue, was formerly a leather gay bar called Johnny’s Handlebar, located on the ground floor of a former brothel. Johnny’s Handlebar, at the time it closed was said to be the oldest, continuously open gay bar on the West Coast. For the first few months of it’s life WREX remained a typical 70s/80s gay bar, catering to local gay men. The unique décor inside WREX included old car seats in the back, old airplane seats in the side area, and Seattle’s first music video system curated by Ted Ladd. A DJ spun the popular music found in thousands of gay discos around the nation (and in Seattle) which also included a handful of the poppier “new wave” hits that most gay bars also included among their playlists. As the novelty of the new gay bar wore off the gay clientele retreated to many of their previous haunts around town. The Brass Door, Neighbors, The Park Avenue, and a plethora of other LGBT venues that were popping up with regularity. WREX was still viable as a business, but they needed something more to bring in customers. One of the targets WREX had not yet tapped into was the growing popularity of punk in the LGBT community Many who came of age during the punk era rejected the “clone” culture that pervaded the gay scene at the time. Not only that, alot of younger straight adults interested in punk barely regarded a difference between themselves and their queer friends. They all gravitated toward punk as an alternative, so they were all one tribe. It’s not surprising that gays bars were regularly part of the punk scene of the late 70’s and early 80’s. They were always ready to allow punk rock in their midst because it represented the same kind of outsidership, and it’s no wonder so many gay youth were willing to embrace more outré artists that had emerged from gay disco-artists like Sylvester and the iconic Grace Jones.
Seattle’s punk and gay communities have often mingled together, and the subcultural mise-en-scène at WREX was no exception to that general rule. Occasionally, former Johnny’s Handlebar clientele would drop in after WREX’s opening, not yet knowing about the change in management … Read more›
Helena Rogers-Lead Guitar, Vocals
Allen Evans-Rhythm Guitar (1979-1980)
William Adams-Bass, Synth (1979-1980)
Eric Muhs-Bass (1980-1984)
Tom Boetcher-Guitar (1981-1984)
Disco Dog b/w Lies/Snow (7″)-Spunkrock Records (1979)
As Seen On TV (EP)-Rug Records (1980)
Discover Your Feet-Seattle Syndrome Volume One- Engram Records (1981)
Recht Op Staan b/w Electronic Pop Smash (7″)-Pravda Records (1982)
By the early 1980s Student Nurse was a mainstay of the alternative Seattle music scene. Their angular. slightly dissonant and dance-driven sound set them apart from the darker, punkier and heavier bands they shared bills with. Bands like Audio Leter, The Fags, Red Dress, and The Refuzors. Like the best of their contemporaries they honed-in on their particular, unique sound and the band expanded outward, sending them on a trajectory somewhere between subversion and art-damage.
Student Nurse started as the brainchild of married couple John Rogers (drums) Helena Rogers (guitar and vocals) along with bassist Joe Harris and rhythm guitarist Al Davis. In 1979 the band self-released their first single, (“Disco Dog b/w Lies). The songs stood perilously between weirdness and pop-exactly as the band had anticipated. One other song from this line-up was included on the ground-breaking “Seattle Syndrome” compilation released on Engram Records in 1981. By that time Harris and Davis had left the band and the jittery guitar leads of Helena Rogers were accompanied by new members guitarist Tom Boetcher and bassist Eric Muhs. Helena’s vocals were disjointed, pointalist and determined. John’s jazz-influenced drumming and rhythms were the perfect foil to the rest of the band which left the impression the music had fallen on it’s face-in the best possible way.
Their next vinyl outing was the one-sided 12″ “As Seen On TV” with individually hand-screened artwork by Helena on the cover-as had been the case with the first single. This is the kind of stuff collectors drool over nowadays, but Helena and the rest of the band weren’t interested in collectors of the growing market for oddball packaging that would later cater to a pre-manufactured market for Seattle music, and the rest of the alternative/independent scene. For Student Nurse it was all about the aesthetics and ethics they held.
In 1981 Student Nurse entered Triangle Studios-later to be renamed as the famous “Triad Studios” where so many other successful bands would record. The choice of the material for their next single may have seemed odd, as they chose two of their more accessible songs, the Dutch-lyriced “Recht Op Staan” (“Stand Up Straight” in English-a song referring to the importance of good posture). The B-side was an instrumental called “Electronic Pop Smash”. Both choices were designed to catch listeners and fans off-guard. Maire Masco, one of the heads of Pravda, the label that released “Recht Op Staan” … Read more›
Bald Tires In The Rain – Nocturnal Records (1990)
Painful Days – Glitterhouse Records (1995)
Askew – Belltown Records (1997)
Consolation – fin-rosa (2008)
The Center For Disease Control Boys
Gary Heffern & The Beautiful People
Gary Heffern began his career the late 70’s singing with San Diego punk band The Penetrators alongside Country Dick Montana. Heffern’s done poetry readings with everyone from John Doe, to Nina Hagen, The Art Ensemble of Chicago and Henry Rollins. His first two solo albums ‘Bald Tires in the Rain’ and ‘Painful Days’ have featured some of the incredible cadre of his admirers. John Doe, Mojo Nixon, Country Dick Montana, The Walkabouts, Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam and Mark Arm of Mudhoney.
Heffern spent a good part of his career as part of the Seattle music scene, but his muse has taken him to Finland, living near the Arctic Circle where an incredible video of his song ‘La La Land’ was shot in 2008. It’s an epic, sad, beautiful, and reflective observation of the fading away of a parent…It’s touching without ever slipping into the sentimentality one would expect.
His album “Consolation” featured a who’s who of American roots music; Steve Berlin of Los Lobos, Alejandro Escovedo, Peter Case, Mark Lanegan, Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows/R.E.M.) Chris and Carla of The Walkabouts, Jim Roth from ‘Built to Spill‘, and on and on. The depth and breadth of Heffern’s friends and admirers who join him on Consolation and currently as “Gary Heffern And The Beautiful People” and is a continuing testament to his position as an important songwriter whose work rises to the top of the heap.
Seattle rock critic and well-known author Charles R. Cross writes:”In Heffern’s own songs there is a constant struggle between darkness and light, between failed dreams and reckless prayer, between a world where all hope is lost and one where a consoling friend offers a sliver of deliverance. Even on a song as haunting as “(I Am Your) Destroyer” from the album “Consulation” sounds like Iggy Pop could have written it. There is still a core of sweetness among the ruins. “That’s the Beauty (Of the Little Things in Life)” truly rings with a ghost: It was written in Seattle’s Comet Tavern on the very night that Gits’ singer Mia Zapata went missing (and later turned up murdered). Not only a remarkable timepiece, “That’s the Beauty” demonstrates Heffern’s skill at creating a story arc that celebrates the fragility of life at the same time it bemoans it. It’s the kind of re-framing that is uniquely Gary Heffern”.
Aside from his songwriting, albums. online music and … Read more›