The Corvairs odyssey began in Boulder, Colorado in the fall of 1978. Two young University of Colorado students, Phil Gammage and Miles Syken, met on campus and agreed to form a rock band. Both musicians were heavily influence by the current punk and new wave bands on both coasts and in Europe.
Syken had worked with the Boulder band the Mutilators and an early version of the Defex. Gammage had played with Joey Vain and Scissors. The band's first performance was at the University of Colorado Fine Arts Department Halloween Party in 1978 opening up for the Nightflames. Rounding out the lineup that night were drummer Bill Van Dusen (later of the Violators and Defex) and bassist Steve Kulpa (on loan from the Defex).
In the audience that night at the Moose Lodge was former Ravers and Lilly Rose and the Thorns bassist Jon Cormany, back in Denver after a year spent performing with the Ravers (by then The Nails) in New York City. Soon Cormany was on board with the band and performed with them at their next show the Wax Trax! going away (to Chicago) party in Denver with Jonny III.
Soon other dates followed and the band became a regular at Colorado's premier punk venue, Denver's Malfunction Junction. The group also performed regularly at CU Fine Art Department functions and soon developed a strong on campus following. In the summer of '79 two strong shows at Boulder's Blue Note (one opening up for Cleveland's Pere Ubu) solidified the band's live reputation.
The Corvair's sound in their early Colorado days was a hybrid of a 60's pop sound, surf, and artsiness. Featured songs were Syken's "TV" (with it's Munster's instrumental break) and Gammage's "That's What I Like" (originally performed by Joey Vain and Scissors). In the spring of '79 the lineup was strengthened by the addition of drummer Jimmy Frost. In June of '79 the band went into Denver's Freewheelin' Recording Studio to record thier first demo of 5 orginal songs. Songs included Syken's "TV" and Gammage's "Hands of Time". This was the group's first studio recording and was finally released in 2001 on CD as Denver Sessions '79 (along with a couple of Joey Vain and Scissors tracks).
With two New Yorkers in the band the pull of the east coast became strong in the band's ranks and plans were made to relocate to the Big Apple in the fall of '79. In June of that year Cormany and Syken visited San Franciso on vacation and were able to secure several booking for the band there and in Berkeley. In August the group traveled to the west coast and ended up staying in San Francisco till the end of the year becoming regular performers at Bay Area punk venues such as Mabuhay Gardens, The Palms, International Cafe, The Deaf Club, and the Berkeley Square. After having experienced the difficulty of finding live work in Colorado, the vibrant San Francisco punk scene seemed like a breath of fresh air to the band. One of the highlights of their stay there was performing with The Tubes at an exclusive Halloween party in Sacremento. Serious thought was given to staying permanently in California but ultimately the group packed their bags and traveled east.
In New York City the nucleus of the group continued to perform until 1989, releasing two LP's ("Rio Blanco" and "Hitchhiker") and two EP's on American and European labels. A third LP was recorded in 1990 but never released. The first six song EP "Temple Fire" recorded in the winter of1982 and produced by the Ravers/Nails' Dave Kaufman captures the band's sound in all their lo-fi glory. By this time The Corvairs was a trio Syken had left the band. A standout track on the EP was "Hands of Time", a favorite song from the group's Boulder days. Drummer Martin Blazy joined the band in 1986 and the group recorded their Keith Streng (Fleshtones) prouced LP "Rio Blanco" along with the critically acclaimed CD "Hitchhiker" (released only in France on New Rose Records) in 1988. Shortly thereafter the group disbanded. In 2000 the demos recorded in the summer of '79 were released for the first time ever as part of the "Denver '79" CD. This package also included a couple of previously unreleased Joey Vain and Scissors songs recorded in Boulder in 1978.
Gammage went on to release four solo albums and perform with several groups including New York's Certain General, The Scarlet Dukes, and Voodoo Martini. He continues to play music to this day. Myles Syken passed away at age 26 in 1983. Jon Cormany was last seen in 1996 taking the F train to Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York with a brown bag in his hand.
Two CDs of The Corvairs: "Denver Sessions '79" and "Unsafe at Any Speed" (a 22-song retrospective compilation) are currently in print and available for online purchase at the PreFab International website.
Read the 1980 interview with Phil Gammage of The Corvairs.
Temple Fire (Sourmash, USA L' Invitation au Suicide, France EP) 1983 produced by Raver/Nail Dave Kaufman
Sad Hotel 12" (L' Invitation au Suicide, France EP) 1985
Rio Blanco (Cryptovision, USA LP) 1987
Hitchhiker (New Rose, France LP) 1989
Denver Sessions '79 (PreFab International) 2000
Unsafe at Any Speed (PreFab International) 2006