Balcony of Ignorance, Plattsburgh, NY, 1985-86

Jim S. writes: Balcony of Ignorance found its start with our drummer Carson, along with friends Jim #1, Ken, and me (Jim #2). We were all music snobs from WPLT-FM, the college radio station at the State University of New York, Plattsburgh. It was the late 1980s, and alternative rock was still called college radio. Our musical tastes were varied, but we gravitated to bands like Suicidal Tendencies, Ism, Black Flag, and Flipper.

The name resulted from a disagreement that played itself out in the school paper, when one of our band members complained about the college concert committee spending its entire budget on one performer rather than bringing in lesser, but more numerous and diverse musicians/bands/etc. An offended committee member responded angrily, firing off a letter to the editor that ended with a classic line "We don't need any comments from the Balcony of Ignorance!"

We started out in mostly tackling covers, taking bubble gum tunes like “Sugar, Sugar”, and putting our own punk retread on them. We also did our best to skewer popular mainstream tunes of the era like Bryan Adam's "Heaven," John Fogerty's "Rock & Roll Girls", and Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust," typically by using a wall of guitar and bass noise, and improvised and often pornographic lyric changes. These were included on a self-published cassette release called "Those Meddling Kids." We did everything from copy the tapes, to design the paper wrapper for the cassettes (including sneaking into the college library administrative offices to make the photocopies). We would drop them off at music stores and ask them to put them on the counter, letting them know they could sell them for whatever they wanted, and then keep the money. Carson sent a couple of tapes off to our favorite magazines in the hope we would get reviewed.

Our second and final cassette was "Time To Make The Donuts" in 1986. This cassette contained a handful of cover songs, but featured primarily original music: "Death Wears Polyester (a spoken word track)," "Psychedelic Jam," "Inbred," "Tell Me That You Love Me," "New Coke Sucks," and the still-offensive "Feed The Fucking Kids." The audio quality of each song varies widely, as our access to quality equipment and microphones varied from recording session to recording session. As evidence, cover art for the cassette wrapper for "Those Meddling Kids" credits our drummer with "drums and boxes" which hints at the fact he had to bang on a large corrugated cardboard box had to make do until we found a bass drum.

We played publicly on only two occasions -- the German Club in Burlington, VT, opening for Mystic Records surfer-punks, Aggression, and local favorites The Hollywood Indians; and, on "After Hours," a TV interview program on PSTV, the Plattsburgh State University student-run TV station. Playing live was simultaneously both exhilarating and nightmarish, like getting shot out of a cannon, though, the thrill outweighed the stage-fright. It was a great confidence builder, in a strange way, with the whole punk sensibility of the era. But the beginning of the end occurred when Ken left the group and transferred to New York University, immersing himself in the New York City music scene and our band dissolved shorly after.

As much fun as I had screaming and singing, and the thrill of working with my bandmates to create something out of nothing, I think I took the band for granted at the time we were together, and realize all that now only in retrospect. The high point for me was finding out from Carson that we actually managed to get reviewed by some of the magazines to which he sent tapes (most or all of them long-since out of publication). Carson quoted one of the reviews for me one day: "Balcony of Ignorance is bad, but what is great is that they know they are bad."

Make your day by listening to the Balcony of Ignorance classic, New Coke Sucks
Tell me, why did Coke change?
Why did they fuck it up?
I cannot stand Pepsi,
I guess I'm outta luck
It used to zap my tastebuds, the flavor was so great!
Now it tastes like goat piss, filtered through a paper plate . . .

Balcony of Ignorance making their only television appearance on Plattsburgh State Television's After Hours.


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