Thee Exploding Clocks
and The Sniffs

This blog first published June 2008 on

I first met Wade at a Rock bar in Pompano beach, South Florida, in the summer of ‘89. He had a kind of cowpunk look about him, very modern post punk, post Hanoi Rocks – cowboy style but definitely punk rock. For the most part his guitar sound sucked, but his playing was real good. He had a strange old Fender combo. It was cream coloured, just like Jed’s Band Master amp that I used with the Accidents. Wade had two guitars, a Gibson Les Paul and a cranky old Fender Jaguar – which he’d drag out to play this whacked-out surf instrumental.

I liked his whiny Johnny Thunders type voice, and his grand rock’n’roll vision. I think we must have had a number of influences in common – the Ramones, the Cramps, and the New York Dolls most certainly, tho’ I can recall him asking me about English music of that era. And in common with the few other punk types I knew at that time, he loved the Cure. By the Summer of 1990 I had turned the whole band onto current English music, a favourite of mine being Swervedriver.

Wade also had the most beaten up car I’d ever seen, a ‘73 Camero. Every time he drove over a speed bump or a pot hole, the drive shaft disengaged! He also turned me onto drinking “Fireballs” – which were a concoction of Tabasco and schnapps.

When I arrived back in FLA in January 1990, he asked me to join the Thee Exploding Clocks and play at another Rock club in Pompano beach. I had to learn all the songs in four days – a challenge I couldn’t resist! Shortly after my first gig with the band, we sacked the bass player – mostly cos we hated his look and his playing, but also because he was bald! He used to wear a bandana to cover the fact, which we hated too. So it came about Bob Adams joined the band. Bob was a great all round musician. He also became a dear friend of mine.

The whole band adored UK punk music, so it must have been a great novelty having me in their ranks. And of course I showed them the appropriate nuances. For me it was a great experience. As I say, the Bobs rocked out – we were a cranking unit live. Bob Jacobs was a seriously kick ass drummer. He could easily play US hardcore type drumming, and he also had a pretty good voice. He did a lot of bvox live, and I seem to remember he sang lead on a cover we did –  “You got me covered” (I can’t remember who did the original). After a number of gigs in and around our part of South Florida, it became impossible to work with Wade. His idea of a pre-gig drink was a litre of Wild Turkey. Plus, he became increasingly  dependent on Xanax, a heavy duty tranquilliser.

So it was with heavy hearts we sacked Wade. I switched to bass, Bob Adams switched to guitar, and the Sniffs were born! The name came about when Kat Young and I were driving out to a restaurant one evening. I put a tape in the player – “This Charming Man” by the Smiths. Ever keen to musically educate, I asked Kat if she knew who the band were that we were listening to? “Yay-ah” she replied, “it’s the Sniffs!”

I can recall a few gigs we did as a three piece, the last one being at the Ambassador club, in Deerfield beach, in December ‘90. It was a grand old bar, with a huge sign above the entrance – four foot high red neon letters spelling out its name. After we’d finished our soundcheck, we went into the main bar for a beer. The locals, mostly good ole boy rednecks, were having a heated conversation about the situation in Iraq. It looked like the first Gulf war was about to kick off. “Say Buddy, you’re English, right? Wadda you think we should do?”. “Nuke ‘em!” I replied.

The L7 studio, where both bands recorded, was off of Martin Luther King junior boulevard. I always thought it was very sad that such an area of deprivation was named after a noble fellow like Martin Luther King. The whole of that area was literally the “wrong side of the tracks”, or as the white Americans called it, Crack town. Peter the engineer operated  rigorous security as a result of being attacked in the studio late one night. Along Dixie highway, the old North/South interstate road, small gangs of Afro-American women roamed in search of punters to offer cheap sexual favours. These women were known as “Chicken Heads”, as oral sex could be obtained for $10, or a crack rock. A small gang of these women managed to break through the perimeter fence one evening. They got into the studio and offered their services to Peter, but when he refused to give them money, they set upon him with baseball bats. Before the security guard could call the police they’d managed to give him a nasty beating. That whole sleazy, dangerous vibe probably helped put an edge on those recordings.

I can’t really remember why or where ( probably via one of the local rehearsal studios) – but early ‘90, I discovered Crate amplification. The feedbacking guitar sound on the Clocks’ CD is my old ‘74 Telecaster, going through a 100 watt Crate combo. I think it was a valve amp – it certainly had dual rectifiers in the pre amp. You could get a sound that can only be described as a cross between the classic overdriven Marshall amp with serious Mesa Boogie overtones. It was lovely!

I also used my 12 string Rickenbacker that Paul Sullivan had played on stage with the Gene Tryp. It was a ‘66 vintage, so I was told. It had a thin, solid body, with a shape similar to the small bodied Ricks that the Beatles used prior to the hollow bodied models. I think some one once told me the model number was 366. But it was actually this: Through the Crate amp, it suddenly became very Pete Townsend, particularly on “Time for Confusion”, which I tried to give Who and Husker Du overtones.

Pete the engineer played in an excellent country band. Their staple was traditional country, but they also played country rock in the style of the Burritos or the Chris Hillman band. Pete was an exceptional pedal steel guitarist. Their lead guitar player was no slouch, either, and had done sessions in Nashville. At the time of the Clocks recording, Pete’s band had a residency at Club Elvis, in Hallendale. The guys asked me to go down and jam with them and as I was a mega Elvis fan, it was an opportunity too good to miss! So Kat and I took a trip down to Club Elvis one night…..

I was bitterly disappointed, because I expected wall-to-wall Elvis memorabilia and 50’s style decor, but what we got was a fairly shabby, glorified roadhouse bar, jam packed with cowboy rednecks! I sang a few Elvis songs with the band, which the audience enjoyed. I have a recording of the evening, but sadly most of the music is obscured by some big cowboy harassing Kat to dance the two step with him!

You listen to and download the ‘Clocks/Sniffs demos here:

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and The Sniffs”




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