I was in Lehigh Valley, PA once, for my brother-in-law's* graduation. It seemed like a typical college town and on that chilly spring day, the smell of the off campus apartments in which we congregated were proof of the veracity of frat party war stories heard over the prior years. On our way to the football field where children would become unemployed adults, we drove past the frat houses, not quite John Belushi but not terribly far off. The town was just isolated enough from any metropolis to make driving out for a show on a school night a minor pain and so I wondered, as I usually do when running my mental metrics on a given town, what kind of punk scene it could sustain.

And to this day, I don’t know the answer but suspect the regional PHANWIG** discography does not go nearly as deep as that of Montana State University-Havre. But I do know that a couple of big names in the 60s Garage Revival scene sprung from the Valley and served as mentors for a cadre of rockers who'd spend the better part of the late 80s and early 90s playing in a rotating cast of bands that logged studio time but never realized a proper release while active.

It started with St. John's Alliance, Lehigh legends who released a handful of locally circulated cassettes and a single that received a moderately positive Jeff Bale review in Maximum Rocknroll. They were short lived but inspirational***, proving the cornerstone of a 60s retro garage scene with members going on to form The Creatures and The Original Sins after their dissolution. While those bands were busy churning out cover versions of deep cuts from obscure 60s comps ("Scum of the Earth," "Sin Alley," et al), their rival/brother band Several Species crept onto the scene. Several Species stuck around from about '87-'90, mostly gigging locally, although they did manage to get up to New Hampshire and beautiful Portland, ME, tagging along as openers on some of The Creatures out of town gigs.

Several Species were, like so many bands in so many towns, a staple on the scene that called it a day without leaving much evidence that they were there in the first place. But there is proof, barely, that the gods smiled upon Lehigh Valley with this combo. 100 of us, give or take, have their lone vinyl release. Recorded in 1987 and released as a micropressing on the Trash Aesthetic imprint in 1992 by an alumnus who had witnessed the genius and was not willing to let it go with him to the grave, Several Species' “Fight!” b/w "Up on Two Wheels" (ed. - click on the songs for audio) single is the ultimate too-late-for-the-trend gem.

An undeniably catchy, aggressive rocker with more recycled one-liners than the Catskills on a Friday night in July, “Fight” is an all-time great. You can picture the band delivering this to a crowded room full of pre-med dweebs—“boy, I’m gonna sink you like a three foot putt”//“I’ve got a friend Gladys that’s bigger than you are.” This tune embodies the Killed by Death aesthetic two years before it was codified and you're left wondering if they were early record collectors or just had the same sensibilities as the folks who wrote those raw rare punk rock ’77-‘82 records. Where did the influence come from?

Pink Floyd, clearly. When I tracked down one of the band members about a decade ago his initial reply to my inquiry was along the lines of, “If this email was intended for a member of the Pink Floyd cover band Several Species, you’ve got the wrong guy.” Apparently they had not prepared for rabid fans to hunt them down. But despite their lack of a laser light show and 11 person band dedicated to giving you the ultimate Pink Floyd Experience™, our Several Species were, indeed, rabid Floyd fans.

Although inspiration may have sprung from Floyd, their pals in The Creatures, and perhaps The Ventures or Flamin' Groovies, Several Species occasionally tapped into their inner delinquent and delivered thuggish gems. As I was told by drummer/guitarist Alan Troxell, "The raunchier stuff that I did was I guess a faze that I went thru for about 5 years,” which produced some of the harder edged songs during the runs of Several Species and related groups. "Fight" was the ultimate song from this subset. You might suspect that in the chronology of a mischievous night, “Up on Two Wheels” was the chronological predecessor of “Fight”. Sung by a maniac on a bender, the song may not have the unbeatable hooks or berating vocals of its flipsde but is nonetheless a solid rocker full of snotty vibes.

After Several Species folded like a card table, members went on to play with Psychotics, Demonics, Altoids, and more before reforming as Several Species again in the mid-90s. All of these groups spent time in the studio but never managed a proper release in their time, although word on the street is that Psychotics were killer. The aforementioned Mr. Troxell was the common thread to all of the above and released a compilation CD-R under his own name that included tracks from several of his groups. Most notable was The Demonics, who he noted were a combo of surf/Ventures styled songs with some of his “raunchier” tracks mixed in. Likewise, there was a full CD-R release of Several Species split between the two incarnations of the group and full of cuts that could've hit big in the college radio circuit with fans of 'Mats/Nils/Mice.

But alas, demos and CD-Rs aside, the vinyl output remains at just that one, brilliant single. 100 copies pressed with different colored sleeves, if only to increase the "collect 'em all" factor. You can stick a fork in you, boy, cause you’re done.

* Brother-in-domestic-partnership, I guess, cuz weddings ain’t punk
** Punk, Hardcore, Alternative, New Wave, Indie, Grunge (etc)
*** "But have you heard the St. John's Alliance demos?" I was asked many, many years later by one fellow who thought they were ripe for reissue.

When I’m not studying the accuracy of little league baseball stats in predicting Major League success, I’m probably putting off updates to the following sites: Savage Aesthetic, No Stages, Track The Nubees, Sex Bomb, and Frat Cars.

To catch up on past Cheap Rewards go here.

Get in touch:
Dave Hyde
PO Box 1407
NY, NY 10163-1407
E-mail: cheaprewards-at-gmail.com