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Rot n' Role

Rot n' Role - (various artists)

(various artists)
Double Helix - 1980

Michael Panontin
Like any provincial city worthy of that distinction, Ottawa in the late seventies had its own version of the mods and rockers clashes. When Stuart Smith and Carl Scultz opened the city's first punk club in the basement of the Volare restaurant at the corner of Bank and Frank Streets in 1977, they found themselves on the receiving end of both bomb and death threats, with Smith having his car tires slashed a total of seventeen times.

But for a period of three years, from 1977 to 1980, the Rotters Club (relocated and renamed the 80s Club in the final year) served up punk and experimental music to the nation's capital and helped to nurture a vibrant scene that bequeathed now sought-after discs by the likes of the Action, the Red Squares, the Bureaucrats and Gordie Uranus and the Universe. The pair also recorded hundreds of studio-quality tracks as Double Helix, releasing at least one superb slab of wax in 1978, the Red Squares' long-forgotten 'Ottawa Today' seven-inch.

Buried even further down the pop music trash heap is Rot n' Role, a compilation of ten bands (and one comedian) issued in the spring of 1980, a sort of farewell to those tumultuous years before Smith moved on to Toronto. Listening to it from a distance of some thirty-plus years, one is struck by the sheer diversity of the scene itself, with such clearly non-punk tracks as Vendetta's rockabilly-infused 'Nine to Five' and Ragnarok's Zappa-esque '(Attack of the) Snortin Honkers' among the standouts. Toronto's Drastic Measures are the only out-of-towners in the collection, delivering an early version of their woozy 'Jump in the Lake' from their fine Drastic Measures long-player. Rot n' Role was wisely bookended with a couple of songs from the city's top band at the time, the Red Squares, whose ska-punk rocker 'Dog War' is clearly the best of the whole bunch here.

(Smith finally got around to releasing the devilishly tough-to-find Rot n' Role in digital format in 2014, adding bonus tracks by the Bureaucrats and the Action among others, but curiously omitting those excellent Red Squares tunes.)

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