Albums I Want to be Buried With: ‘63 Mönröe, “Stinkin’ Out the Joint”

In this 4th of July, I want to tell a story about what happens when one participates in a reunion.  Especially a reunion that took me on a journey from Massachusetts to Ontario.

It’s the spring of 1984.  I was in Boston, where as part of my involvement with college radio, I was attending one of those college radio conventions where everybody gets schmoozed with new music and tapes and CD’s by the record companies.  I can’t remember what the name of the club was where the convention took place, but while I was looking for the club, a Volvo with Ontario license plates pulled up to the building.  The car doors opened, and out came four guys – Markii Burnaway, Steven R. Stunning, Pete Dekoker and Jeff “Rooster” Rooth – who looked as if they hadn’t slept for days.

Since the club doors didn’t open for another 15 minutes or so, we struck up a conversation.  I found out the name of the band was ‘63 Mönröe, they were from London, Ontario and had driven all night to this show in the hopes of getting their first record, a punk-pop remake of “I’m Henry VIII, I Am”  into the hands of some enterprising disc jockeys.  I asked them to please let me have a copy of their record – they gave me two.  We entered the club where the convention was being held, but the group and I went our separate ways – I had to get promotional records for my dear old college radio station, WHCL, and they had to find an American record company that would be interested in distributing their indie 45.

After the show, I brought the collection of vinyl loot I acquired from the convention back to Hamilton College in upstate New York, to the radio station that most people felt was actually my dorm away from dorm.  Normally I would listen to all the discs and see what (if anything) was worth playing on the station, but I had a paper due on a comparison between William Faulkner and Eudora Welty, so I barely had a chance to listen to the ‘63 Mönröe song before putting it in the singles rack and hoping somebody would give it a chance.

Did they ever – within two weeks, the speedy version of ‘63 Mönröe’s “Henry The Eighth”  became a hot request item.  I told other college program directors and music directors in the college radio circuit about the record (we didn’t have chatrooms or internet bulletin boards; that’s why those college radio station conventions were so important); I posted glowing responses to the song on the CMJ New Music Report; I sent copies of the playlists back to London, Ontario, showing the group that their song made it big in central New York – for whatever heavy rotation on a 270-watt radio station was worth.

Around December 1984, while checking the radio station mailbox for new releases, I received a package from London, Ontario.  It was two copies of ‘63 Mönröe’s second single, a version of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” with guitars ablazing and a goofy drawing of Santa Claus in bondage.  I took one of the copies to WHCL, but on the way to the station I noticed something on the back cover of the single sleeve – a list of acknowledgments.  Included among all the thank-yous and Christmas wishes was a thank you for Chuck Miller and WHCL.

My name on a record jacket.  Pre-printed, no ballpoint or pencil on this one.

What a wonderful feeling that was, seeing my name attached to the picture sleeve.  To have an artist giving thanks for taking a chance on their record.  Sure it may have been a small band on a tiny independent label, who may never have had another hit in their lifetimes… but to me it was a fantastic moment.  It meant that for all the promises the major record label college reps gave college stations about giving their colleges tour stops and awarding gold records and setting up interviews that never came, somebody out there actually acknowledged independent college radio stations and the people who work there, playing records between their work-study jobs and taking Organic Chemistry pass-fail.

Eventually “Henry the Eighth” ended up on an album called “Stinkin’ Out the Joint” (the cassette version is on the right).  In addition to “Henry the Eighth,” they also recorded some other strong tracks, including “Weekend Punks” and “The Battle” (a high-revved-up version of “The Battle of New Orleans”).  Really great stuff.

And after that summer, I thought that ‘63 Mönröe had faded into the background, just another band we played on WHCL that only the disc jockeys would remember.  I eventually found a copy of “Stinkin’ Out the Joint” on eBay, and I still had my original 45’s of the group’s material.  And that was it…

Until we reach July of 2002.

“Where are you from?” the Canadian border guard asked me.

“Albany, New York.”

“Where are you headed?”

“London, Ontario.”

“Reason for going there?”

What was I going to tell the border guard?  That I had just driven 300 miles from Albany, and was headed another 150 kilometers toward London just to see a concert?  Like they’d really believe me… next thing I know, they’d be ransacking my car, looking for illegal cigarettes and stowaways in my trunk.

But then I thought to myself … why was I traveling to London, Ontario, a city I had never before visited, to see an anniversary concert for a place I never knew about?  Maybe it had to do with the two records stored in my car, kept out of direct sunlight so they wouldn’t warp on the journey.

I’m searching around on the Internet, looking for something to buy online.  Just for a lark, I type in “63 Monroe” in one of the search engines, making sure to remove the umlauts from the “o” in “Monroe”, and figuring I would probably get a Marilyn Monroe tribute site or something.

I instead found that not only did ‘63 Mönröe have their own webpage (, which unfortunately no longer exists), but the three surviving members – Burnaway, Stunning and Dekoker – were reuniting for a concert in London, at a club called “Call the Office,” to commemorate the last concerts at the Blue Boot / Cedar Lounge, London’s most infamous punk club.  Along with ‘63 Mönröe would be a host of other London-based punk band legends of past and present – groups with names like the Napalm Baby’s, the Earwigs, the Crash 80’s, the Dead Rabbits, the 10,000 Screaming Apaches, the UIC and the Terminals.  I had no idea who the other groups were – but if I had the opportunity to hear what ‘63 Mönröe sounded like, hearing more than the two 45’s that were now part of my own record collection, well…

“Just some tourism,” I told the border patrol guard.  She let me pass through.

After making the rounds of the local record stores (Speed City and Dr. Disc Remastered), I learned that there are fans of punk music that go far beyond collecting the Sex Pistols, the Clash and the Misfits.  These punk music fans look for independent artists, many of whose total output might have been one single on a do-it-yourself pressing, with 50 copies of that 45 still in the lead guitarist’s garage.  One store owner even alerted me to punk compilation albums like Killed By Death, Hyped To Death and Powerpearls, albums with rare and hard-to-find punk songs suddenly available for the masses – in essence, K-Tel for the Doc Maartens set.  ‘63 Mönröe had a track on one of the Killed By Death compilations, and the dealer told me he does a very brisk business in rare punk albums and 45’s, both in his store and over the Internet.

In order to make this a profitable trip, I arranged with a London bookstore to hold a book signing of my record collecting guide “Warman’s American Records 1950-2000.”  The bookstore arranged with the book’s Canadian distributor to ship copies to the store so that I wouldn’t get nailed for importing copies over the border; and I arranged some interviews with the London Free Press so that I could get some free publicity.  The signing was well-attended and I sold quite a few books.  I also ended up in a documentary about ‘63 Mönröe’s influence on the Ontario punk scene, a docu by Mario Circelli called “”Stinkin’ Out The Joint.”  The entire documentary is available on YouTube; here’s a clip.  I show up at about 8:39 of the clip, and yes I have lost a considerable amount of weight since that interview.  And yes, that’s an Albany Firebirds T-shirt I’m wearing.  Real Firebirds – the Eddie Brown / Mike Pawlawski version of the Firebirds.

That Friday night, I walked into Call The Office for the first time.  What an atmosphere.  Call The Office may have looked like any other club in any other major metropolitan city, but there was an aura there that weekend that I had never seen before.  People from different generations were gathered in that small space, in a celebration of the raw musical energy that was born at the Blue Boot.  Groups with names like the Demics and the NFG were tossed around with as much reverence as one would mention the Beatles at the Cavern Club.  Fans showed off their original buttons and T-shirts.  One person even flew in from Fort Worth, Texas to be part of the audience.  Bandmembers who hadn’t seen each other in years eagerly swapped stories about how their lives have changed.

And from the first power chord issued from the lead guitarist for the 10,000 Screaming Apaches, I knew this was not just another club night.  Every band took that stage with a mission – to play their best gig ever, to charge up the crowd and make them dance and sing and mosh and scream, just as if it was 1982 all over again.

The Crash 80’s, who had just reunited a week before the shows, actually performed three or four new songs, getting the crowd dancing to their proto-funk sound.  Danny Napalm, the lead singer of the Napalm Baby’s, showed the receptive audience his high-energy performance, having not lost a step in time (including performing a rewrite of the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” as “Here Comes the Bomb,” even imploring Michael Jackson to sue the band if he could).  The members of UIC (Unemployment Insurance of Canada) found an old banner advertising the band, that had been left in storage at Call the Office many years ago, and displayed it proudly on stage as if they had found a long-lost Stratocaster.  For the members of the Dead Rabbits, it was as if they had played their last gig the week before, not 20 years and marriages and births and mortgages ago.

Then came the headliners – the band I drove 9 hours from Albany to see.

‘63 Mönröe took control of that crowd and that stage, and from the first power chord from Markii Burnaway’s guitar, through all the band’s greatest hits like “Hyjack Victim” and “Teenage Punks” and “Twist My Wrist,” to the final chorus of the Demics’ classic “I Wanna Go To New York City,” they were on fire.  And when they broke into a round of “Henry the Eighth,” I belted out the lyrics along with the rest of the crowd.

I had always wondered what happened to ‘63 Mönröe after 1984, and after I showed the band members my old 45’s, they filled me in.  In 1985, they released an album, Stinkin’ Out The Joint, which today sells for about $25-$50 in the punk collecting world.  They broke up shortly afterward, yet still kept in touch.  Dekoker and Burnaway, for example, continue to perform today as part of another band, Osterberg.  Sadly, Jeff “Rooster” Rooth passed away a few years ago, and during the Call the Office concert, singers mentioned his name in tribute as they took the microphone.

Even on the way home from London, I was still humming many of the tracks I heard that night – “A Hundred Miles an Hour” by the Crash 80’s, “Here Comes the Bomb” by the Napalm Baby’s, a rendition of “Tell That Girl to Shut Up” by the Dead Rabbits…

“Citizenship?” asked the border guard on my way home.


“Any purchases to declare?”

“Just some souvenirs,” I said, showing off a T-shirt from the event.

“Hope you enjoyed you stay in Canada,” he said, raising the guard rail to let me pass.

A few miles later, I pulled over at a rest stop and checked through my “souvenirs” – and found my 20-year-old 45 of “Henry the Eighth”, which was now autographed by Markii Burnaway and Steven R. Stunning.