Selections from The Punk Vault [Monitor]

Monitor 7 inch

Monitor – Beak/Pet Wedding 7″
(1979 World Imitation Records)

My introduction to Monitor happened in a rather odd way. I was at a record convention and this one dealer I was regularly buying a ton of records from pulls out this album from a band called Monitor and said, “hey, I know you like the Meat Puppets and they have a song on here”. At first I thought it was a compilation but Monitor was the band’s name and it was their album, yet the Meat Puppets had a song on it. I don’t know of any other example of a band releasing a full-length record of their own, yet having another band put a song on it. Aside from the fact that it was on World Imitation Records, who put out the first Meat Puppets 7″, I didn’t quite know the reason behind it, and really to this day it still doesn’t make any sense.

It turned out that World Imitation was the label that Monitor started, and aside from that LP, there was a 7″ that came out earlier. I was lucky to find a copy at a used record store many years ago for a couple bucks. I didn’t know much about Monitor except they were an art band and put out these two records as well as a Meat Puppets single, and truth be told, that’s really all I still know except one of the guys ended up in The Romans, and Monitor put out a record under the name The Tikis too which was a different sounding band but featured many of the same members.

After doing some digging around on the internet, I came across a little history on Monitor written by a fellow named Antonio Beecroft.

In 1978, thrift shop archeology was still a fledgling science, and computers had yet to conquer the world. Between earthquakes and smog alerts, one could buy the pamphlets of a shadowy organization called World Imitation at boutiques along the Melrose Blvd. strip (then a block long). Drawing inspiration from certain antique notions of the future, and with titles such as Surf Rules, Tesla-Rama, Hula Dance and Computer Buddy, they prefigured the obsessions of today’s retrograde youth.

Next came celebratory Events: Pet and Tiki parties that featured miniature working volcanos and toxiplastic Thingmaker assembly lines, and, finally, the World Imitation Exhibition in October of 1978. This extravaganza boasted collages, paintings, family photos, WI compatriot Jeffrey
Vallance’s wall of glowing Ronald McDonald dolls, and a 20-ft. mural of the human circulatory system with parakeets.

Stumbling from a haunted orange grove in Northridge, WI members Steve Thomsen, Michael Uhlenkott, Laurie O’Connell and Jeff Rankin premiered as Monitor on Halloween of 1978. Following a November concert on Skid Row attended by a handful of drunks, in January 1979 the band appeared on Richard Meltzer’s legendary radio program Hepcats from Hell. Forming ASB (Associated Skull Bands), a conglomerate of like-minded experimental bands including Human Hands, B-People and Nervous Gender, Monitor conducted rare live performances in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Phoenix. Three years later they were gone.

In the space of those three years, with the assistance of Devo’s master sound sculptor Ed Barger, Monitor recorded two discs (45 and LP). The Monitor project occupied the sliver of available space between the rote rebellion of Punk (the folk art of L.A.) and the determined consumer ugliness of New Wave without a nod of recognition to either. Each piece was lovingly chiseled from the void and rigorously orchestrated, drawing inspiration from spiritual forebears as diverse as Martin Denny and Orlando Gibbons. Following the 1978 single, Beak/Pet Wedding, drummer Rankin bowed out and was succeeded by primitive percussion master Keith Mitchell on their eponymous self-produced LP. These facts are known: the rest we must infer from smoke signals and rumors.

The members of Monitor on this recording were Steve Thomsen, Michael Uhlenkott, Laurie O’Connell, and Jeff Rankin. Boyd Rice also appeared on this doing vocal and pinwheel. To the best of my knowledge, none of Monitor’s recordings have ever been reissued on any format. Some members of the band had some involvement with this Museum.

As always if you have any additional information or were in Monitor, please get in touch.

Listen to “Beak” from the record


12 Responses to “Selections from The Punk Vault [Monitor]”

  1. Tom says:

    If you look at the Warning Label releases page, there is a short note implying that they will be releasing Monitor stuff in the future.

    You are correct that nothing has been re-released so far.

  2. fred says:

    Again with the Colorado connection in Boyd! Much of this stuff was bootlegged/resished on a comp called West Coast No-Wave. Boyd sells his copies of the 45 on his website for 50 bucks apiece! That 45 use to be quite easy to find for under 5 bucks.

  3. danny says:

    Monitor is one of LA’s best kept secrets–a band name-checked by many of the late 70s/early 80s underground musicians and bands from that era. WLR does plan a reissue of the LP/45/other tracks, but greatly expanded in terms of including a book about World Imitation, the subversive art collective that spawned Monitor. As you can imagine a project of this undertaking will be a while in the making but will be well worth it.

  4. harry says:

    love the blog….any chance you could post that meat puppets song of the record?

  5. Danny says:

    oh yeah don’t forget the “Tiki’s” single which is Monitor and friends. A few Monitor songs appeared on some LAFMS compilations, and band members went onto afew other bands: The Romans (Michael and Keith); Solid Eye (Steve); Opal/Mazzy Star (Keith); etc.

  6. MXV says:

    I need one of those Tiki’s singles for the vault actually. Sigh – I need a damn job asap.

  7. Droogster says:

    Interesting, I noticed that you didn’t mention anywhere the LAFMS connection, the Monitor 45 with Beak and Pet Wedding is available on the 10 cd box, and is mentioned as a LAFMS project, it’s all so confusing, maybe that’s what they really want, confusion!!!!!
    By the way, I’ll be putting the 45 up for bid on Ebay soon!

  8. mike martin says:

    I worked in a small record store in the san fernando valley (slipped disc records) and knew the members of monitor as customers and we sold their record, single and many of the world imitation art booklets for years. I really liked them and went to the “volcano party” in venice.
    I still have a complete (?) collection of the art booklets along with the album and 45. I just digitized my LP and am removing clicks and pops this week (well used vinyl). Started searching for what ever happened to them and found you. By the way (you probably know) the band invited the meat puppets out to California from Arizona. Once Laurie brought the brothers by the store and asked me to make them a live grateful dead concert tape . I thought that was the strangest thing for a band like that to be into the grateful dead (I was also a dead head and recorded concerts). In fact I have a live monitor concert from the roxy (12/30/1981) that someone gave me years ago (fair recording). My memories of monitor and meeting the meat puppets. You wanted to know.

  9. Michael Uhlenkott says:

    Hello Mike! So great to get this note from you.
    We are working on archiving World Imitation, as you probably know. Not sure if we have a record of everything, so I’d love to know what’s in your collection, besides that live at the Roxy tape. Is it possible to get copies of stuff I don’t have?
    You can email me: [email protected]
    Michael Uhlenkott