Rick Thomas was mowing his front lawn a few years ago when a car pulled up beside him. "These three Devo-looking guys shyly got out and approached me. 'We're from Dallas,' they said, 'and we're on a tour of the Midwest, so we drove to Lafayette because we wanted to see the studio where Dow Jones and the Industrials recorded. They're our favorite band. Is this the place?' I took them down to the studio and let them take pictures of the moldy basement where all this mayhem shook our foundations so many years ago."
Some 30 years after the band recorded in Thomas's basement studio, Dow Jones and the Industrials have become known as one of the midwest's seminal punk/new-wave bands. Dave Blood, the late bassist for The Dead Milkmen, counted Dow Jones and the Industrials as a major influence. Yo La Tengo routinely covers "Can't Stand the Midwest" on tour.
The band's recorded output is limited to two records released in 1980: an LP split with Bloomington punk band The Gizmos, Hoosier Hysteria, and an eponymous EP. Both records have become the stuff of folklore and are hotly fought for on eBay. Family Vineyard Records, a West Lafayette micro-label that specializes in experimental rock, re-released the EP in March on audiophile vinyl and plans to release Hoosier Hysteria this fall. The EP's initial run of 600 copies sold out shortly after its release, followed by an additional run of 250 copies to meet demand.
"Everyone needs to hear this record – plain and simple," explains Eric Weddle, owner of Family Vineyard Records. "And for 30 years, no one has been able to find this record and spin it for a turntable. It's really a public service to music fans. Because Dow Jones only released two records, which have been out of print since their release, audiences have not been able to grasp how significant their music was. We've been very patient to get the sound of the EP perfect. When you crank up the new record, its exhilarating."
Zero Boys vocalist turned producer Paul Mahern is re-mastering both Dow Jones recordings. "The project had been a real labor of love, and I think anyone that hears the re-mastered EP will agree that we really improved the sonic quality," he says. "They did a great job of making some very amazing recordings at Zounds Studios in the late '70s and early '80s, but it was in the basement and not the best mixing environment. We tried to make this record jump while keeping the original intent."
Mahern remembers the first time he saw the band, in 1979, a year before his Zero Boys would play a concert with Dow Jones. "I was 16 at the time, but the person running the door was always cool about letting me and a handful of friends in. It was heaven.It really hit home that a small club show could be every bit as amazing as a huge show at MSA."
In the beginning
Dow Jones and the Industrials came to life when Chris Clark met Greg Horn on the Purdue campus around 1977. "We hung out together for some time and just talked about music, had beers, I threw up on occasion," Clark remembers. "I was very happy to learn about punk rock and Iggy from Greg. I was already an Eno fan."
Clark began playing in high school. "There were really bad bands around in Indiana," he says. "Our favorite joke band was Roadmaster. Anyway you kind of get the feeling you just want to show everyone how it should be done."
The duo paired up with drummer Tim North, a friend of Clark's from his hometown, and then started off modestly, playing before a tiny audience at a house party held near their practice space. "The cops came and shut us down after two or three songs because it was really loud and we were baiting the audience," Horn says. "But, it was really good too. I remember we were just bursting to expose Indiana people to new music."
It was around that time that Clark attended a performance by Horn and another future Dow Jones dude, keyboardist Brad Garton. "The guys were standing out in the field of weeds playing tape loops on a reel-to-reel deck and Greg played ambient, sort of Robert Fripp-like guitar. I don't know where they were plugged into." Garton soon joined the trio, taking on the moniker Mr. Science.
And the lineup was complete: Horn on guitar and vocals, Clark on bass and vocals, North on drums and Garton on keyboards and electronics.
One of Garton's first performances with Dow Jones was at the Family Inn, which Clark describes as a "sleazy campus motel." "Someone decided to promote a show with this 'new punk music' or some such nonsense," Garton says. "The thing that was astounding was the crowd that turned out for it. We did our soundcheck in the afternoon, and when we came back we could barely get into the room! People were literally on each other's shoulders; the energy was insane."
Clark became student body president at Purdue in 1980, drawing a large turnout of voters. "It was originally a media event to publicize Hoosier Hysteria. We got a good PR boost and definitely got more gigs."
His presidency was known for its irreverence.Clark reorganized the Purdue Student Association and added two departments. One of these departments, Funstuff, sponsored "Vegetable Awareness Week," took over the Armory for a giant Fli-Back contest and a Halloween party, and sponsored the infamous "Ganja Giveway," which raised the collective blood pressure of the campus cops and school administrators, though it turned out to be a contest to win a trip to Jamaica.
Horn remembers the Halloween party fondly. "The Armory was a massive warehouse filled with confused Hoosiers," he says. "We came in through the industrial doors, parting the crowd in Tim's dad's Lincoln Continental. People were going nuts; maybe it was the first time they had the opportunity to. The show made me realize that if you throw bags of vegetables at the audience, they will throw them back at you and hit you in the face while you are trying to play. Eggplants were the worst; it's a good thing we didn't give out the pumpkins. We all got killed at the end; we had fake blood packs in our shirts that we burst when Billy from the Gizmos jumped on stage and murdered us all. Guitars got broken that night. It was great, except for the broken guitars."
Zounds Studio, the now-famous basement where the band recorded all of its works, was also home to Garton and Rick Thomas. Clark thinks the space ought to go "on the National Register of Historically Subversive Places."
"Our basement was a 24/7 place of constant noise and experimentation," Thomas says. "A lot of DJI practices and recordings, but also, a never ending place of experimentation, where anyone that was hanging around that day or night would get involved in some sort of wacky experiment. I remember coming home one night and finding Brad and Greg had set up 'the world's longest tape delay,' running a tape loop around mic stands placed in every corner of the studio several times. There are still reel-to-reel tapes and cassettes floating around, but a lot of that has been lost."
In the end
Clark's presidency, freewheeling though it may have been, hastened the breakup of the band. "I spent too much time on it, and it accelerated our demise because everyone was pretty exhausted at the end," he says.
The four original members played as Dow Jones and the Industrials for the last time at a reunion party in a Boone County barn in 1993. In 2003, drummer Tim North died of stomach cancer. Just a few weeks later Clark, Horn and Garton reunited to play a memorial concert for North at Radio Radio.
The late LonPaul Ellrich played drums in North's place. "It was freaky and puzzling when we met drummer LonPaul Ellrich, and he knew all the songs for Tim's memorial at Radio Radio," Clark says. Ellrich, in grade school when the band recorded Hoosier Hysteria, was yet another musician steeped in the Dow Jones legacy.