Formed in 1975 with Sumner Crane, China Burg and Nancy Arlen. Originally called China but changed to Mars soon after first gig due to a short lived but well publicised group of same name. Played around 30 gigs in Manhattan between january 77 and december 78. Recorded first single with help of Lenny Kaye and Jay dee Dougherty first released as a 7" in Paris on Rebel records and later as a 12" on ZE. Then with other so called no wave bands (Contortions, DNA, Teenage Jesus) recorded the No New York Lp, organized and produced by Brian Eno. Shortly before dissolving as Mars recorded a final session released as Mars EP on Lust/Unlust.
Since then several collections of these tracks along with live material have been released. First, on vinyl, a mixture of live and studio cuts (Mars 78) was released on Lydia Lunch's label "Widowspeak" in 1985. As at the time we didn't have any true masters, this was mastered from assorted vinyls and cassettes, with "treatment" by J.G Thirlwell mostly consisting of added effects and EQ. This collection with a couple of editions was rereleased on CD in the 90s and remains available as Mars 78+ (Atavistic), and continues to be unique for Thirlwell's contribution and the live cuts. A live CD compilation from cassette masters was released as "live Mars 77 - 78" (DSA France) in 1995 (download MP3)
In 2004 we made a definitive compilation from recovered masters of the complete studio tracks. This is available on CD from Spookysound in collaboration with G3G records "Mars LP, The Complete Studio Recordings". A limited vinyl edition has also been released on Important in the US.
Excerpt from an interview with Weasel Walter on the no wave:
WW: o.k. Here are the dates for mars shows I have. If you have any others that I'm missing, I'd love them. Do you have any interesting stories about any of these gigs in particular or any comments on any of the other bands you played with?
MC: Wow, Weasel, I'm impressed. Is this from going through old ads or what. I have almost no memory of most of the bands we played with, except for Suicide, Bangs, Hell and Patti, the Feelies (it was after they played with us that they loosened up a bit) and of course the shows with other no wavers. This list is not complete, the first show was a cbgb´s audition in january 77, followed by the first official gig there on feb. 7th. another on march 13th at cb´s. then there were probably two more before the Bangs show. The gig in may 78 was at the artist's space as part of a no wave festival with all the no new york bands plus Theoretical Girls and several other soho groups. and I remember a club called Mother's where we played probably in early 78. I have almost all of these shows taped, but as you can tell from the Mars live cd, the quality is minimal. the real Mars sound was our live and I still have hopes that some tape will be unearthed with good quality. I know that the artist´s space was taped by various people, including the organizers, but I've never been able to track it down. also Dan Graham used to tape a lot of concerts and I could swear he got some mars, but I've never contacted him about it and have no idea what he ever did with them.
>Tues 6/14/77 Lester Bangs/Alex Chilton/China CBGB First Mars Show? good old Lester, he was a great supporter and I'm sure I've got his voice on tape somewhere yelling between songs.
>Wed 6/22/77 Suicide/Fuse/Mars(China) CBGB: This was probably right after we changed our name, due to an idiotic pop group that came out with full page ads in NME calling themselves China, Ii think they were elton john´s backup band. we changed it to Mars cause I had a dream that we were playing at a theatre with Patti Smith and on the marquee it said Mars. I don´t mess with fate.
>Fri 8/26/77 Richard Hell/Helen Wheels/Mars Village Gate(Bleecker/Thompson) all I remember are chairs being thrown at us halfway through the set.
> >(Irving Plaza, 17 Irving Place at 15th "Outside Africa", "PRGhost", >"Fractions", "ich bin squat" "nnend" from Mars Live CD, with Rudoph Grey on guitar: This concert was taped by Eno on some kind of fancy cassette machine that had built in effects, he started messing around during nnend and you can hear the results on the cd.
>Sun 12/10/78 DNA/Mars Max's Kansas City Last Mars Show? Yes, although the last time we played together was a few weeks later for the ep session.
WW: One thing I'm particularly interested in is people's perspectives on the environment in NYC at the time and how this influenced and made the underground/weird music scene into what it became between 1977 and 1981.
MC: I could probably fill my own book with stories and thoughts about this but I´ll try to be brief. tho i have to start from the beginning, and use my own story as a microcosm of the moment. I grew up in the jersey suburbs and spent my teenage late sixties years tripping out in the village at the electric circus and the fillmore east. From 70 to 74 I went to college at a freak school in st. pete florida that was probably like a lot of other arty type schools of the time. my first day there I met Arto Lindsay, this strange kinda nerdy looking kid from virginia who had grown up in brazil, We immediately conspired to get rid of our assigned roommates and roomed together for the following four years and soon hooked up with other like minded music and word freaks and started jammin. we had no technique and no rules, worshipped the beats and Miles, warhol and the velvets... Later additions to the scene were Mark Pauline, Connie Burg (aka China, etc), Gordon Stevenson (Teenage Jesus bassist), Mirielle Cervenka, (Exene´s sister), and Liz and Bobby Swope (Beirut Slump)... in 74 several of us decided to head for NY, like so many other college grads and dropouts of the time. We knew something had to be happening there. It didn't take us long to find cbgb´s. We hit it for one of the first Television shows and it blew us away. We became regulars and saw the beginning of that whole generation of bands.Iin 74 and 75 it was really just a local underground scene but as Talking Heads and Patti Smith, The Ramones and Television released albums it started to get a lot more popular and the bands lost some of their original energy going for whatever formula they felt they had found. So at this point we all started thinking we could give that new blast that the scene needed. Then on the one hand you had the burgeoning punk scene which included a lot of boring rock bands and on the other this new bunch of very amateur groups looking for any sound that was different and cool. Mars started really in december 75 but we spent a year playing in a loft before we went public as China. Sometime in 77 we started sharing a rehearsal space with Teenage Jesus, the Cramps, and later DNA and the Contortions. So there was a lot of mixing and jamming and feelings in common, but we never decided to be a movement. My own feelings were that the bands before us had stretched rock to its limits and that punk wasn't offering anything new musically, that there wasn't anything new possible in the rock formula so we could only try to break that down and fuck around with the most primitive raw elements of the guitars and electricity and rhythms, which led us to the noise thing. At the same time there was the soho scene with a bunch of other bands following a similar evolution but with a more conceptual outlook and even more of an art school background. A lot has been said about tensions between these two scenes but all I can remember is that they were fairly separated by neighbourhoods.
WW What were the circumstances surrounding the disbanding of Mars.
MC Another long story of which I could probably give at least three different versions, all of which would be true. The least personal is that our end coincided with the end of the underground scene that existed around cbgb´s and max´s. Between jan 77 and august 78 we had been playing between once and twice a month alternating mainly between these two clubs, with enough of a following to make it work. In june 78 No New York came out, and we figured that now we would be famous and be able to play where we wanted and maybe even get out of Manhattan. Well, the next two months were pretty hot, but after the irving plaza gig in august which had been our biggest and most fervent audience, we weren't able to find another gig for months. A whole new scene was forming around the Mudd Club which was the beginning of the underground dance scene. It seemed like nobody gave a fuck suddenly about any bands that didn't fit in with this new aesthetic. Also cb´s had decided we were too radical or something for their now mostly bridge and tunnel crowds and were only booking pretty straight rock and punk. Finally we did a last gig at Max´s in december, which closed soon after. So instead of trying to fit into a new world we called it quits. Now, still without getting too personal, musically we had, in sumner´s words, started out at ten and gone backwards down to one. that is, devolved from a quirky pop band down to primitive noise. Where were we gonna go from there? so we chose to leave it at that and go forward in another context, which eventually became John Gavanti.