CalArtian’s ’70s Proto-Punk Band Jack Ruby Gets Retrospective Release

In late April, London/Berlin-based record label Saint Cecilia Knows released a retrospective, Hit and Run, of the ’70s proto-punk band Jack Ruby. The legendary ‘lost’ New York band (named after the man who infamously murdered Lee Harvey Oswald) included former CalArts faculty Randy Cohen on Serge synthesizer.

The band recorded and gigged sporadically from 1973 to 1977, incorporating the Serge—among other less traditional punk instruments—adding a noisy, experimental edge to their sound.

Cohen taught at CalArts in the early ’70s where he developed the synthesizer along with former faculty member Serge Tcherepnin. Read more about Cohen in a recent review of the album from The Quietus:

Multi-instrumentalist Randy Cohen’s contributions to Jack Ruby included the Serge synthesiser, with musique concrète sounds patched through. Cohen helped develop the Serge, an analog modular synth, at an early 1970s electronic workshop at California Institute of the Arts, while on the teaching faculty along with the device’s namesake, Serge Tcherepnin. The second disc of Hit And Run is devoted to Cohen’s 1972 and 1974 Serge pieces. Cohen’s work is especially notable on the final track, the 16:51 ‘Ghost Note,’ where the Serge explores the same wild frontiers as Morton Subotnick’s Buchla on his Silver Apples Of The Moon. The very short tracks, such as the interstitial ‘Parietal Cha Cha,’ have their own sci-fi appeal.

None of the band’s music was officially released until now. According to Cargo Records,”They have existed solely as a word-of-mouth legend among peers.” 

Hit and Run also received attention from Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, who wrote about Jack Ruby and other bands from the era for The Guardian

Jack Ruby were young and wild early ’70s rock’n’roll intellectuals. They knew the real deal of emotional expressionistic text was in the underpinnings of the avant-garde – the NYC lineage of William Burroughs and the Velvet Underground, the poetry and radical high energy of Detroit’s John Sinclair and the MC5, and the questioning neo-noir visionaries of European art-house cinema.

Above is the title track from Hit and Run, which includes vocals by Robin Hall, guitar/bass by the late Chris Gray (who died on March 19), Serge synthesizer/drums by Cohen and viola by Boris Policeband. The song was written by Cohen in 1974.

The album is available for purchase here.

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)


One Comment

  1. Thomas Lawson // //

    Boris Policeband (Boris Pearlman) also passed through CalArts.
    And Randy Cohen went on to conceive and write The Ethicist column for the New York Times Sunday Magazine.