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The Action

The Action - TV's on the Blink - 12

TV's on the Blink - 12" EP
Montreco - 1977

Michael Panontin
Ottawa's first punk band - and quite possibly Canada's first outside Toronto for that matter - the Action got their start in April of 1977 when they were pieced together by brothers Paul and John Fenton, picking up vocalist Ted Axe and drummer Rick McDonough along the way. The band would later become virtual residents at the Rotters Club, ground zero for punk around the national capital, but not before taking the short hop over to Montreal in the fall of '77 to record for (sixties Quebecois teen idol) Tony Roman's newly created Montreco label. The sessions were just what you would expect in the early DIY stages of punk, with the Fentons' seventeen-year-old brother Michael filling in on drums and the songs cut live in the studio. "The session was crazy!" recalls Paul. "Tony invited all the Montreal media to it".

The four songs here were released in a gimmicky die-cut cardboard sleeve with a safety pin and the word "punk rock" scrawled across it, though some records slipped out with a black and white photo of the band pasted across the cover. The gloriously raw punk of 'TV's on the Blink', "a song that Axe wrote the lyrics for after his own broke!", loses none of its primal urgency after all these years. Though the song is somewhat forgotten these days, the equal parts New York Dolls and Heartbreakers, with a dash of Stones for good measure, made it an instant classic across the Ontario underground. The band's revved-up 'Waiting for the Man' seems to have beaten out Eater's version by a few months, while the equally manic 'Downtown Boy' kicks off with a blood-curdling scream, only to revert back to some pre-punk cliches.

Alas, things started to implode for the Action in 1979. Songs for a second 12" were in the can, but Montreco's demise put the kibosh on that. Worse still, the band was slated to tour the U.S. with the Ramones - just as sleepy American audiences were waking up to punk and new wave - but visa problems forced the band to stay north of the 49th. Paul laments, "This could have been the big break for the Action...but unfortunately New Wave Management didn't do their homework on the necessary visas and we were turned away from about three border crossings attempting to get into the U.S. and finally we had to cancel our tour. That was the last straw." After a very brief stint in the U.S., the Action finally hung up their guitars in 1981, though Paul Fenton has managed to forge a solid career playing blues and roots-based music around the Ottawa valley.

(Both EPs plus some live stuff are available on Sudden Death's fine retrospective The Action - Complete Punk Recordings 1977.)

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