Three Dead in O-Hi-O


Among the many liner notes to the Electric Eels’ The Eyeball of Hell, it is told that guitarist John “Broken Hand” Morton relished punching others—either in his band or on the street—in the teeth in 1975. The Eels picture shows a fellow resembling Fuzzy Thurston, except with chemically white hair-band-from-Hades ‘do—so he was probably quite good at dispensing said shots to the mandible. Morton looks stonily on while the Eels’ frontman, another menacing-looking goon, handles the microphone.

The Eyeball of Hell‘s great, physically demanding hermit-rock is all I thought it might be after reading reviews off and on for years of this Cleveland mid-’70s space-punk practice band—two-minute servings of crunching smash-mouth guitar, recorded as primitively as possible, because it had no reason to be otherwise. The singer dispenses lyrics on a par with the Weasels’ “Beat Her With a Rake” in “Girl,” but the women in the audience don’t know because Broken Hand drowns the guy out, anyway. The Eels perform a Teddy-boy “anthem” called “Black Leather Rock,” nicked from a Hammer film, and immediately follow it with a “Dead Man’s Curve” in which you can hear the singer working on a hiatal hernia as he takes a credible stab at the chorus. There is a song about the band sissy, “Dolly Boy”—a drinker of pink gin. And the riffs get more jagged and insistent on something about “Zoot Zoot.”

Lyrics are included, as well as a literary essay on how to deploy drag queens as a diversion while stealing junk food and liquor from a convenience store—just in case you’re still of the age when the contemplation of this kind of activity crops up. There’s no mistaking that Broken Hand was solicitous of his audience’s satisfaction, and I appreciate it. The band also relished antagonizing college students.

Scat, 5301 Chippewa Street, St. Louis, MO 63109