SPOOEE! #3 – April 1979

After the short run of The Antennas, “Tex” Newman – a Dallas-native who hitchhiked his way to Detroit looking for a better rock scene than what was available in Texas – started R.U.R in late 1978 after the name was given to the band by Scott Campbell of The Sillies. The band takes its name from the 1920 sci-fi play which popularized the word “robot”.

R.U.R. was a frequent visitor on the Bookie’s stage, and other area venues, as a headliner as well as opening for larger international/national acts such as Iggy Pop, The Damned, Ultravox, Magazine, Lydia Lunch, and The Jim Carroll Band.

In late 1980, Newman says he found it harder to get on the stage at Bookie’s. So, he started to take the band to other venues and helping to draw punk/new wave fans to the Silver Bird and Nunzio’s on non-weekend nights.

R.U.R. released two 7-inch EPs over its time. The first was in 1979 on Campbell’s Nebula label and the second was in 1980 on the Big City label.

R.U.R. EP (1979)

Due to the strength of the live performances and recordings, R.U.R. was offered a deal with I.R.S. Records at one point, but Newman rejected it seeking a major label deal. After “Go Baby”, from the band’s 1979 EP, received local radio play on WRIF and WABX, A&M and Warner Brothers were scouting R.U.R. for a deal. The Detroit Free Press noted in October 1980, Sandy Pearlman – manager for Blue Oyster Cult and Black Sabbath as well as the producer of The Clash’s “Give ‘Em Enough Rope” LP – was interested. But, a record deal failed to materialize.

R.U.R. was also captured live and interviewed in the Bookie’s scene documentary “Face the 80s”.

Feeling the band had been unofficially “blacklisted” from Bookie’s, and that it did not receive much support from the press in the scene, Newman thought television might help R.U.R. reach a bigger audience. In late 1980, Newman put together some money to film a 30 minute TV show featuring The Mutants, Coldcock, and R.U.R. at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. The show aired on WGPR-TV 62 in Detroit. WGPR, which stood for “Where God’s Presence Radiates”, became the first Black-owned TV station in the United States when it was put on the air in 1975. Newman says the show received press attention in the local dailies as well as calls from confused viewers because WGPR was known mostly for gospel and Black focused shows. But, the station manager was supportive and saw something in the idea of a local video music show for sponsors and viewers alike. This show aired about a year before MTV premiered in 1981 and would become a staple of cable TV and change the game for popular music throughout much of the 1980s and 1990s.

Newman says the “Detroit Bandstand” show, sadly, ended up devolving into a fight between himself and Coldcock guitarist/Bookie’s booker Vince Bannon effectively killing any future episodes of the show.

By 1982, following more frustration with booking shows and personnel changes, Newman packed in R.U.R. and started working on other music projects including goth and industrial groups such as Bill’s Corpse, Shock Therapy, and Danse Macabre. Later in the 1980s, Newman would become best known for the shock country outfit Country Bob and the Bloodfarmers. Former R.U.R. guitarist Rick Mills would go on to form Crayon Killers and The 3-D Invisibles.

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8 thoughts on “R.U.R.

  1. correction:

    danse macabre
    &
    not
    ‘dance’

    the group had
    ex son of sam
    singer
    david landrum
    (nee ragnar) as a front man.
    later dave was vox in cult
    metal / hard rock group
    coven 13.

    r.u.r.,
    bill’s corpse,
    danse macabre,
    country bob & the blood farmers
    and shock therapy
    all had bill mc neil on bass.

  2. So glad to hear Tex’s voice after almost 40 years…and to see RUR. Always loved their song “Nervous Condition”. We (Retro) did a lot of gigs with RUR—excellent band, and I’ll always be grateful to Tex for giving us our first opportunity, at The Silverbird.

  3. I seem to remember the pre-RUR band being the Satellites. My band was Capital Punishment, there we are mentioned on the cover of Spooie! I played bass in Cap Pun, so much fun. the White Noise benefit, the End of the World NYE party, I miss the good old days. When RUR drummer Rudy Martinez turned down the gig in Benny & the Jets, I found my calling. A lifetime as a pro drummer.

    1. The pre-RUR band was called the Antennas, which was Tex Newman singing, Bob Fitzgerald and I on guitars, Billy Mc Neil on bass and Matt Hathaway on drums. We were regulars at Bookies (often third on the bill!),playing there twelve times in the summer of ’78. The last gig as the Antennas at Bookies was Sept. 29, 1978. The first (that I know of) as RUR was Oct. 15. I was only in the Antennas, Bob Fitzgerald made the Go Baby EP with them around this time, but also didn’t go on in RUR. He and Tex were pulling in two different directions all along. Rick Mills and Sarana and some other people also filtered through RUR.Idon’tknow who the Satelliteswere.

  4. Being that I didn’t own a car at the time,I remember taking a bus out to Dearborn from downtown Detroit to audition for Rick and Bill’s band/they must’ve had an ad in some local arts rag, as I didn’t know them previously, Being originally from Inkster I was fascinated to later discover via the superb Marabel Manning bio that Malcom X had lived in Inkster with his sister for a short time/I’d like to think we crossed paths out on Michigan Ave in the late 50’s hoarding Chubby Checker “autographed” cards from the Thom Mcan shoe store but most likely not! i had been playing in a cover band called Jerboa and the Invincible Gerbils at the Pirates Cove on the East side [legend has it that Iggy was once involved in an altercation there involving multiple broken beer bottles and a horde of unappreciative bikers] Baffilingly many of the patrons there were unaware of Artuads theatre of the absurd! My band was doing songs such as Sweet Soul Music and Friday on my mind. Once the barmaid came out and danced by herself very enthusiastically to our version of the Arthur Conley classic [she had the entire place to herself,hence the flamboyant footwork!) During this time I was eagerly seeking an outlet for my own songs/ I remember calling Rick and Bill from a payphone at the bus station and convincing them to come pick me up. Soon afterwards we descended into the basement on Linden st.[Bill’s mother’s house] into a mushroom cloud of marijuana smoke and the smell of stale beer,similar atmosphere wise to the dank subterranean corridors of old Tiger stadium sans the m. smoke/Before we played I previewed a rough demo reel to reel tape on their ancient Webcor deck of a recent song of mine entitled “Neutron Nitwit” Bill was skeptical,however Rick seemed vaguely intrigued.We then tried running through another one of my tunes about a boating accident/drowning and they were hooked. Note* Mrs. Mcneil would ocassionally show up and serve us chicken and biscuits to bolster our flagging energies ,amidst our ardous 8 hour rehearsals . Soon thereafter we picked up Sean Curran who had his own stack of originals including the great -“Renassaince City” a doom/gloom paranoia laced ode to Detroit night driving post late 70’s Oil bust. Along with a short fellow with a very prominent proboscis named Johnny on drums this iteration of the band,then named the Antennas[before morphing into RUR] was to my mind’s eye[ thanks Steve Marriot] the most interesting looking at least/bookish horned rimmed skiterish Curran/orphaned ex Navy boy gone AWOL displaced Texan Newman/curly headed Ford union sibling Mcneil and me Wayne State art school dropout. It’s all rather small potatoes I suppose, however my highlights from those kinda magical times include the late Michael Davis stopping by our rehearsal once,chatting with my hero Scott Morgan backstage at Bookies about the Rationals take on Chuck Jackson’s “I Need You” and hearing that the late Fred Sonic Smith liked “our sound” I crossed my fingers that was true/ dying and going to heaven would’ve been a whole differnt story./PS MR.. Curran I just played on Go Baby and Corporation’s Ruling[Ricks take on Bill’s grueling shifts at the Ford plant/ not the whole ep…oh the minutia is killing me!

  5. Being that I didn’t own a car at the time,I recall taking a bus from Downtown Detroit over to Dearborn to audition for Rick and Bill’s band.they must’ve had an ad in some local arts rag as I hadn’t known them previously. I figured it was a longshot. Opportunities to gig doing original music were few and far between around this time so I made the trek. I always had mixed feelings about Dearborn having lived through the Orville Hubbard era,Hubbard was arguably the area’s most openly racist politician bar none. Having grown up in nearby Inkster and hearing regularly of knife fights at Robisheau High, you could sense even as an 8 year old something wasn’t right in the area. I was gobsmacked much later to learn [through the excellent Marabel Manning bio] that Malcom X was living right there in Inkster for a while with his sister around this time. i’ve fantasized since that Mr.X and I surely must have crossed paths out on Michigan Ave. at some point,more likely he was planning his next incarnation and I was stuffing “autographed” Chubby Checker cards grabbed out of the Thom Mcan shoe store into my pants even though I’d never had the faintest desire to Twist.[ well maybe just a little] Fast forward to the mid seventies I was playing in a cover band called Jerboa [a small rodent like creature] on the East side at the infamous shithole called the Pirates Cove.Legend has it that Iggy was in an altercation there involving multiple broken beer bottles and a hoard of unappreciative bikers. Perhaps not surprisingly many of the patrons there were unaware of Artuad’s theatre of the absurd and hence were likely to take the Stooges antics personally. Maybe if the Asheton brothers had ground out a few bars of “Born to be Wild” those unruly bikers would’ve curled up fetal position style on the floor, ordered some warm milk, then roared off on their Harleys into squalid summer evening.[no not a discarded Roger Corman screen play] Jerboa’s short run at the Cove was much less eventful. We were doing songs such as “Friday on my Mind” and “Sweet Soul Music”.Whenever we trotted out the Arthur Conley classic,a rather slinky barmaid [I think she felt sorry for us] would jump onto the empty dance floor and groove by herself,much to the disapproving eyes of a club manager who bore an ucanny resemblance to Frankenstein. As you might guess, shortly thereafter we were unceremoniously canned.Compelled by a sinking feeling that my career as a cover band guitarist was tanking quickly,I scrambled to find an outlet for the half a dozen or so songs I had scribbled on hamburger wrappers from late night dinners during the Summer of 78.Fast forward again daydreaming on the bus to the audition, the image of Victor Borge exiting frantically from Baby Jane’s house into the night and the childhood memory of seeing the bloodstained chair Lincoln was shot in at the Ford museum mixed inexplicably in my mind as I became more convinced by the minute this whole audition thing would be a collosal waste of time.From a pay phone [remember those?] At the bus station I convinced Rick and Bill to come pick me up. Shortly thereafter we descended into a basement [Bill’s mother’s house] met with a mushroom cloud of marijuana smoke and the smell of stale beer my earlier premonition was being verified. I tried to cheer myself up by reminiscing on the dank subterranean corridors of old Tiger stadium then that burst of sunlight! Instead here were a few shadowy figures sprawled out on a dilapidated couch grasping bongs and some Troggs Lps. Before we played, we listened to a tape on their ancient Webcore deck of my latest composition entitled “Neutron Nitwit”. Bill seemed skeptical,however Rick appeared vaguely intrigued. Next we attempted a run through of another upbeat tune of mine about a boating accident/drowning and they were hooked. In the next couple weeks Mrs. Mcneil would show up ocassionaly and much to our delight would serve us all chicken and biscuits to bolster our flagging energies amidst our ardorous 8 hour rehearsals prior to our Bookies premiere. In the meantime guitarist Sean Curran had entered the picture with his own stack of originals including the excellent “Renaissance City” a dark paranoia laced ode to Detroit night driving,with a late 70’s oil bust theme/Before Matt Hathaway took over on Drums our drummer was a short fellow with a prominent probiscus named Johnny. The reason for his
    departure as well as Sean’s not too long afterward bounced around in that same mushroom cloud, never explained. It became obvious that ex Navy boy Newman was running a tight ship indeed./I remember Vince Bannon taking in that first incarnation of the Attennas [later to morph into RUR] standing there in an empty [afternoon sound check] Bookies his head slightly cocked [no pun intended] looking like he was about to burst into either tears or laughter or maybe both.Other pleasant memories include bumping [literally] into Patti Smth in the Bookies basement, chatting with my hero Scott Morgan backstage about the Rationals take on Chuck Jackson’s “I Need you” and hearing a rumour that Fred Sonic Smith dug our sound/I crossed my fingers and hoped that was true,dying and going to heaven would be another story altogether!

  6. RUR’S story is clearly illustrated in the difference between their first and second ep’s. The first, spiky, angular and irreverent,a clear nod to NY’s Richard Hell and the Voidoids[especially the late Robert Quine’ s guitar playing] and the cold icy glare of Tom Verlaine’ crew Television. The “Go Baby” ep is the sound of a band attempting to push the barriers of what was then contemporary American rock with nary a nod to what might play on commercial radio or be palatable to a more mainstream audience.The second EP is the sound of a band perhaps unconciously, trying to tone down the dissonance in its aspiration for music industry/ major label acceptance.If Punk’s chief legacy is it’s do it yourself ethos,then Rur’ s subliminal message on their second offering was/were tired of being holed up on the outskirts of LA eating Raman noodles so pleeeeeeeeese Herb Alpert come down from your Belair bungalow and have your minions do “it”for us.The truth is any of the Punk/New Wave bands on the Bookies scene would have been thrilled to score a deal with IRS ,RUR included. [*see band bio within] If grit,intensity and wild abandon is what always defined Detroit’s best Rock music ,maybe the lesson to be learned is be careful what you dream for it might not come true.

  7. Trivia–Bill’s Corpse had a 2nd guitarist named Duane Denison who would later
    Play in notable bands Cargo Cult, The Jesus Lizard, Hank III and Tomahawk.

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