Mary Monday

It’s funny how you stumble across things. Especially things that have apparently been there all along …

In 1976 San Francisco was already awake to the first stirrings of the kind of trashy garage that would soon be called punk.  New York, Los Angeles and London were starting to deliver their own versions, but by the mid 1970s in San Francisco, it was bands like The Avengers, The Screamers and an artist called Mary Monday who were all very early to the punk party.

Mary Monday

Mary Monday had arrived in San Francisco from Vancouver, where legend goes, she had been half of a glam rock tap dancing duo called ‘Liz & Ernie’. Relocating  to San Francisco in 1976 she set about forming an all girl punk burlesque group, which soon spun off into the band Mary Monday and the Bitches. They were part of the scene that had kicked off around The Mabuhay Gardens, a venue that mixed up cabaret and punk nights and stood next to the legendary Condor Club that had prided itself on being the world’s first topless bar back in the 1960s.

Laura Havlin writing in describes it like this;

‘The Condor Club’s neighbour, The Mabuhay Gardens, would become equally notorious. The venue in the North Beach area hosted punk nights, vaudeville-style cabaret, and, due to its location in the seedier area of town and its proximity to the stripclubs, became a hangout for off-duty strippers from nearby clubs The Galaxy, Carol Doda’s and The Roaring 20s. The club’s emcee was Dirk Dirksen – another local legend, who would welcome bands on stage with acerbic intros. “In the best tradition of sadomasochism, we proudly present one of the trashiest acts to come along for a long time,” he proclaims in one rare YouTube audio clip.’

Stepping up as the support band for The Ramones at their first San Francisco show at the Savoy Tivoli in August 1976, Mary Monday and The Bitches, seemed destined for bigger things.

On her website Ginger Coyote remembers ‘Mary Monday was fun and knew how to give the crowd what they wanted. With her short crazy coloured, two-toned short hair and her thigh high boots with a sexy leather bustier donned with lots of boa’s, she incorporated it all.’

Getting together with existing band The Street Punks Mary recorded the single ‘I Gave My Punk Jacket To Rickie’ b/w ‘Popgun’ released by the possibly self induced label, Malicious Productions in 1977. It was one of the earliest west Coast singles and arguably the first with a woman on vocals.

Wrapped in a black and white cover, the artwork is raw and xeroxed, with what looks like a version of the coundown typeface spelling out the track names. Inside, the recording is basic but all those insistent vocal hooks and guitar chops mean that it might just be one of the greatest west coast punk singles ever made. With few copies pressed, originals can now change hands for hundreds of pounds. (Discogs £282)

The single is also named on the list of essential records that John Peel always carried to gigs. It’s listed alphabetically between Marc Bolan, and Max Romeo.

With input from Street Punks bass player Donnie Lamb, the single was re-released on 7 inch by Hozac in 2014, and has become something of a cult nugget. With its glam-punk guitars and Mary’s punchy slightly nasal vocal delivery, it’s a slice of classic bubblegum brat that once heard, stays with you for days. Or possibly weeks, even years … will keep you updated.

Mary Monday never joined the ranks of the better-known early punketeers; she never made the charts or the glossy magazines, and her name is rarely mentioned. Even now details on her life and times are scant, but what does seem clear is that Mary died in 1985.

But what Mary .. or ‘Tap dancing Liz’ or whatever she was really called, left on that rare 1977 seven inch is a thing of beauty. Not classic beauty; but the sort of dirty, ill thought out, throwaway, spur of the moment, sleezy raucous beauty that has become a timestamp of early punk. Still no idea who Rickie was though.

6 thoughts on “Mary Monday

  1. I was 15 when I met Mary. She and her Boyfriend David–who was an easy decade younger would “party” with us in North Beach. They were sweet people. At 17, we lost touch– I came out as a lesbian, left my boyfriend, ran off with my manicurist–leaving this part of my life behind. Lol! Good times!

  2. Great article on a great single and personality but I can’t let the story of Vermilion be via Discogs..c’mon.

    So blowing my own trumpet for a change.. put the kettle on and sit down and get yer lugholes around this


  3. Thank you for this post. As someone who thinks they know about west coast punk and has seen a few shows at the Mabuhay Gardens, I had yet to come across Mary Monday. But I am familiar with Ginger Coyote, so I will see what she has to say about her as well. Thanks again!

    1. Thanks for your comment David!

  4. Thanks for the post, Lene! Mary Monday and the Bitches had two singers. Apart from Mary, ‘Vermilion Sands’, not her official name. Vermilion wrote in Search and Destroy fanzine. She moved to London, writing in Ripped and Torn and working for Illegal Records. With ex-members of the Menace, she formed Vermilion and the Aces. I saw them several times in 1979. Story/photo at p. 6-7. Verrmilion, on behalf of Illegal Records, gave me a review copy for Pin fanzine of the 1979 first EP by the Cramps. Last year, I gave that EP as a birthday present to the bass player/vocalist in my band (she’s a big Cramps fan). She has a record player, I haven’t any more, so it is better for the EP to be somewherre where it can be played.

    About Vermilion:

    What happened to her post 1984? I don’t know..

    1. Thanks Herman. You’re absolutely right about Vermilion Sands, but maybe she deserves a post of her own one day soon!! Thanks for commenting x

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