With a performance history that stretched from 1973 to about 1984, The Fast were among the most enduring of the first wave of New York punk bands — seminal but largely overlooked by mainstream rock history.
The band, built on the efforts of brothers Mandy, Miki and Paul Zone, made a mark at locations like Max’s Kansas City and Coventry and arrived early to the party at CBGB, playing with bands such as The Ramones, Blondie, The New York Dolls, Johnny Thunders‘ Heartbreakers, Suicide and The Misfits. The Fast is also a testimonial to the LGBT roots of New York’s musical underground in the 1970s, playing an assortment of gay clubs in the city and beyond and eventually trading the Fast name for Man 2 Man.
As Gus Bernadicou writes in Punk Globe, “Paul Zone, with his brothers, created a brand of power pop and dance music that is instantly recognizable and addicting, yet catchy.”
While The Fast’s first single was produced in 1976 by Max’s booker Peter Crowley, its first album wasn’t produced until 1980 by Ric Ocasek of The Cars, for whom the band opened on one of its best-attended tours.
Paul Zone — the last surviving Zone brother — has been fantastically generous in helping fill in the gaps in sister site Sceneroller’s music map. Most recently, he donated scans of flyers representing key moments in The Fast’s career. Here are 5 gigs that shed light on some bands and venues that crossed The Fast’s path:
1. The Abbey Theater, August 4, 1973 (The Brats, The Fast, Shaker). This show is the only musical event I’ve located for this East Village venue, now home to the Classic Stage Company. The gig was one of many matchups between The Fast and The Brats, a fixture of the early-’70s New York scene that featured guitarist Rick Rivets, c0-founder of the nascent New York Dolls.
2. Hotel Diplomat, Feb. 8, 1974 (The Brats, The Fast, The Planets). Another bill with The Brats, this Fast gig took place at the legendary Hotel Diplomat, which hosted a welter of shows in assorted ballrooms. (The wonderful blog It’s All the Streets You Crossed Not So Long Ago notes formative performances by The MC5, KISS, The Buzzcocks, Mission of Burma and The Police at the Diplomat, and it also hosted the “First International Costume Glitter Ball” featuring The Magic Tramps and The Harlots of 42nd Street.)
Opening this evening’s festivities were future CBGB regulars The Planets —who we’ve documented elsewhere — which (while never enjoying a record release during their run) would endure under the leadership of guitarist Binky Philips, author of the rock-‘n’-roll memoir, My Life In The Ghost of Planets: The Story of a CBGB Almost-Was.
3. The Townhouse Theatre, Feb. 23, 1974 (The Fast, Milk & Cookies). The short-lived Townhouse Theatre on West 44th Street is best remembered as the site of Television‘s first gig.
The Fast played a string of shows there in 1974, most notably with Suicide. On this evening, they were joined by Milk & Cookies, a punchy power-pop combo that arrived on the scene at an odd moment: As MTV puts it, Milk & Cookies “were a band in the wrong place at the wrong time. If they’d shown up a few years later, they could have been part of the poppy end of the late-’70s/early-’80s punk/new wave explosion. If they’d made their name a year or two earlier, they could have been part of the glam explosion that inspired them. And if they’d been from Los Angeles or the U.K., they’d probably have found friendlier press. But it was their fate to emerge in Long Island, New York in 1974, where they didn’t fit in with the sound of the day. They had to settle for being an influential and revered cult item instead of achieving genuine rock stardom.”
4. Rockbottoms, June 2-3, 1978 (The Fast, The Blessed, Student Teachers, Beaujack). Fast-forward several years into punk’s national coming-out: The Fast were still going strong, and in June 1978 they headlined a pair of gigs supported by a couple of young bands at the forefront of New York’s first wave of teen hardcore.
June 2. According to an article about The Student Teachers on Bedford + Bowery, “One of our favorite teenage bands was the Student Teachers. They met cute, when future keyboardist Bill Arning sat next to soon-to-be vocalist David Scharff and guitarist Phillip Shelley at a John Cale show at CBs. Actually, Bill had come for the opening act, Lance Loud’s band, The Mumps, in his official role as president of their fan club. They were just 16.
“The three hit it off and soon, Bill introduced his pals, Lori Reese and Laura Davis. They did the obvious thing: they started a band. Lead singer David Scharff recalled the band’s genesis: ‘Bill had been playing this keyboard, this Elka, for awhile so he was the most prepared. I grew up singing in temple; it was the Jewish equivalent of singing in church, but really, I just wanted to be in a band. Lori and Laura literally learned their instruments, bass and drums, so they could be the female rhythm section and Philip wanted to play guitar.’
“Joe Katz joined later as second guitarist, rounding out the lineup.”
June 3: The Blessed played their first gig at Max’s Kansas City on Christmas night 1977, when Howie Pyro (Kusten), Nick Berlin (Petti), and Billy Stark (Stone) were each 15 years old. Photographer Eileen Polk briefly drummed, replaced by Pyro’s Queens friend Brad “BJ” Barnett. Heartbreaker Walter Lure took over from Berlin in 1978.
5. The Hot Klub, Feb. 26, 1982 (The Fast, Quad Pi). The Fast crossed the country many times during their career, and Paul Zone’s flyer collection includes some highlights from the Texas punk scene.
Quad Pi were an enigmatic experimental band from Irving, Texas, whose closest brush with celebrity was portraying members of the villainous band Rapid Fire in Ron Howard’s unlamented 1978 TV movie “Cotton Candy.”
I would be grateful to learn more about this group: They’re mentioned often in passing as an important part of the Dallas scene and played their biggest gig as openers for the Psychedelic Furs, but I’ve yet to find a reliable bio. The best-documented member of the group is bassist and vocalist Mark Ridlen, who went on to work as a DJ and as co-founder of Lithium X-Mas.
- I was a teenage Street Punk: Peter Rossi, NY’s glitter-punk underground and 5 bands you should know about
- Gene Harlot remembers: Glitter punk, Coventry and the Harlots of 42nd Street
- Between KISS and the Ramones: Coventry and 5 bands you should know about