From The Archives

China/Mars
-Chronology-

(December 1975-December 1978: New York City)
China/Mars 1977
China/Mars (1977): Sumner Crane/ Nancy Arlen/ Mark Cunningham and China Burg. Photo credit: Dan Asher.


Chronology: a chronological overview of known concert dates (some with setlists and/or ads), 
dates of studio recordings, all line-ups, assorted trivia and other tall tales 
related to the American no wave band China/Mars.
Date format is DD-MMM-YY.

-Information in grey italics is uncertain-

1975/1976
The year in which the band,then named China, is founded.

Sumner Crane grew up in Queens, New York and studied painting at the Art Students League of New York, under abstract expressionist Milton Resnick, together with Nancy Arlen, who studied sculpting. Nancy Arlen (born 1942) was from upstate New York or Pennsylvania. Nancy and Sumner were about the same age. Constance -Connie- Burg grew up in Ohio and studied at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida.

School: "I [Mark, ed.] grew up in the New Jersey suburbs and spent my teenage late sixties years tripping out in the Village (NYC) at the Electric Circus and the Fillmore East. From [September, ed.] '70 to '74 I went to college at a freak school [Eckerd College, ed.] in St. Petersburg, Florida that was probably like a lot of other arty type schools of the time. My first day there I met Arto Lindsay [later DNA, ed.], 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 jamming. We had no technique and no rules, worshipped the beats and Miles, Warhol and the Velvets... Later additions to the scene were Mark Pauline [later Survival Research Laboratories, ed.] Connie Burg [later a.k.a. China Burg, ed.], Gordon Stevenson [later Teenage Jesus, ed.], Mirielle Cervenka [Exene's sister from X], and Liz and Bobby Swope [later Beirut Slump, ed.]..."

Move to New York: "In '74 several of us [Cunningham, Burg, Lindsay, ed.] decided to head for NYC [East Village, on Avenue B and Tenth Street,ed.], 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.In '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 [then China, ed.] started really in December '75 but we spent a year playing in a loft before we went public as China". (Mark Cunningham - interviewed by Weasel Walter convolution7.ws )


Line-up (New York City):
Sumner Crane (voice/guitar)/ Mark Cunningham (bass,voice)/ China Burg (a.k.a. Connie Burg) (guitar/voice) and Nancy Arlen (drums)

December 1975
US New York City,Nancy Arlen's loft (on Broadway and Duane Street in Tribeca)

Note: "Connie Burg and I [Mark, ed.] met Sumner Crane and Nancy Arlen in late 1975 [Burg took classes at the Trisha Brown Dance Company and met Nancy, who knew Sumner, ed.] and quickly decided to start a band. Sumner had been playing piano since he was a kid and I trumpet, guitar and more recently bass, but we were for the most part self taught. Connie decided to pick up a guitar and we started jamming in Nancys loft on Broadway and Duane St. where Sumner lived downstairs. For the first few months it was just piano (Sumner), bass (Cunningham) and acoustic guitar (Burg), with some paper bag percussion from Nancy. Our biggest rock influence at the time was Velvet Underground so we started jamming on some of their songs till we found our own. Jody Harris [Loose Screws, later The Contortions] (guitar) played with us in the loft for a couple months until Sumner, for practical reasons- given that no clubs had pianos - decided to switch to guitar, at which time Jody gracefully bowed out." (Mark Cunningham - Liner notes to the "Rehearsal Tapes and Alt-Takes NYC 1976-1978" (Cassette box, Anomia 2012).


Summer 1976
US New York City,Nancy Arlen's loft (on Broadway and Duane Street in Tribeca)

Setlist: Sumner piano solo/ Pale Blue Eyes [Velvet Underground]/ Cry/ Leather Jacket.

Note: Above tracks released on the triple cassette box. "Tape one begins with Sumner alone playing over a "Sweet Jane" riff with his own blues styled fills, then goes onto "Pale Blue Eyes", the first song Connie would sing. Our first original song with Sumners lyrics was "Cry", also the only song to make the transition from our acoustic to electric line up. The set ends with a blues jam with Sumner improvising a story about a leather jacket. Here were joined by Jody Harris on guitar. Jody: "Yeah, dim memory, being in Sumners loft for the first time - maybe hadn't met him yet. It would have been with Nancy. He was in a back room, hunched over the piano like a spider, playing great rolling two-handed blues and muttering away in the most sinister voice I ever heard. It was like something creeping up on you. So I thought, ok, Toto, this is the real thing." So we went electric, and Nancy bought a drum set, after we made a ridiculous attempt to find a drummer via a classified ad in the Village Voice. This must have been around September 76, and we practiced a few more months building a set before asking for a Monday audition slot at CBGBs in January 77." (Mark Cunningham - Liner notes to the "Rehearsal Tapes and Alt-Takes NYC 1976-1978" (Cassette box, Anomia 2012).






1977
The year in which they perform their first live shows as China. Four shows in total.
By June they chance name to Mars and record their first single "3E/11,000 Volts".

xx-Jan-77
US NY,New York City,CBGB
Monday audition showcase

Note: First live show, as China. ".. we practiced a few more months building a set before asking for a Monday audition slot at CBGBs in January '77. For this we needed a name so we started off calling ourselves China, for reasons nobody seems to remember. Hilly Krystal seemed to appreciate our quirky approach and put us on monthly rotation, which we pretty much stayed on till August 78." (Mark Cunningham - Liner notes to the "Rehearsal Tapes and Alt-Takes NYC 1976-1978" (Cassette box, Anomia 2012).


07-Feb-77
US NY,New York City,CBGB

Setlist: Cry/ No Idea/ Can You Feel It?

Note: Second live show. Above tracks released on "Mars Archives Volume One:China To Mars" LP (Feeding Tube Records 2015).


New York City,CBGB 13-Mar-77

13-Mar-77
US NY,New York City,CBGB
[with Day Old Bread]

Ad: Scan of ad, taken from Village Voice 14-Mar-77.

Note: Third live show.


New York City CBGB 26-Apr-77

26-Apr-77
US NY,New York City,CBGB
[with Hot Lunch and support for Suicide]

Ad: Scan of ad from Village Voice 25-Apr-77.

Note: Fourth live show.


New York City CBGB 14-Jun-77

14-Jun-77
US NY,New York City,CBGB
[with Lester Bangs, Alex Chilton]

Setlist: Big Bird/ Red/ Look At You/ 3E (early version).

Flyer: Scan of flyer.

Note 1: First live show as Mars (formerly China), because at the time Elton John's backup band was named China too. Davey Johnstone and James Newton Howard had formed a songwriting partnership while on the road as part of The Elton John Band, and the band China was the result. They had recently recorded their first, self-titled, album, which was produced by Elton John and Clive Franks and released on Elton John's The Rocket Record Company in 1977.

Note 2: Above tracks released on "Mars Archives Volume One:China To Mars" LP (Feeding Tube Records 2015).


June 1977
US New York City,Don Christensen's place (on 81 Warren Street in lower Manhattan)

Setlist: Look At You/ Crazy Like You/ Cry/ 3E/ Plane Separation/ Cats/ Don't Be So Sensitive.

Note: Above tracks released on the triple cassette box. "However, as we'd cranked up the rehearsal volume considerably, Nancy's neighbors forced us to find another space. We moved to Donny Christensen's [later The Contortions] place on 81 Warren Street, just a few blocks away [from Nancy Arlen's loft on Duane Street, ed.], where The Cramps and others were already installed. There we met Lydia Lunch and James Chance, who were squatting next door, and soon started playing together there as well, in Teenage Jesus. This period is well represented by a complete rehearsal set on tape 1 side B." (Mark Cunningham - Liner notes to the "Rehearsal Tapes and Alt-Takes NYC 1976-1978" (Cassette box, Anomia 2012).

Don's place is an abandoned old basement storefront with no hot water on 81 Warren Street in the Wall Street neighborhood of Manhattan, which then also served as a rehearsal space (named 'The Hole' or 'Home For Teenage Dirt') for The Cramps.


New York City CBGB 22-Jun-77

22-Jun-77
US NY,New York City,CBGB
[with Fuse and support for Suicide]

Ad: Microfilm image from the Village Voice November 22-Jun-77.


New York City CBGB 24-Jul-77

24-Jul-77
US NY,New York City,CBGB
[with Bitch, Spicey Bits]

Ad: Microfilm image from the Village Voice November 25-Jul-77.


New York Village Gate 26-Aug-77

26-Aug-77
US NY,New York City,The Village Gate
New Wave Festival
[with Richard Hell & the Voidoids,Helen Wheels Band]

Ad: Microfilm image from the Village Voice August 1977, courtesy of Jonathan Luftig.

Note: Two shows, at 9:30 and at 12:00. Cunningham "remembers chairs being thrown at us halfway through the set".


New York City Copperfield's 1977

xx-xxx-77
US NY,New York City,Copperfield's (on 8th Street between 5th and 6th avenues)

Photo: Mark Cunningham archives.


New York City CBGB 18-Sep-77

18-Sep-77
US NY,New York City,CBGB
[support for The Feelies]

Setlist: Cats/ Cry/ 3E/ Plane Separation/ Compulsion/ 81 Warren Street.

Ad: Taken from the Village Voice 12-Sep-77.

Note: Above tracks released on "Mars Archives Volume One:China To Mars" LP (Feeding Tube Records 2015).


September 1977
US New York City,Vanguard Gate Theatre (71 West 23rd Street): recording sessions for the "3E/11,000 Volts" single, engineered by "Arden Delarco" and "Ray Deluxe". Produced by Jay Dee Daugherty [Patti Smith Group].


New York City Max's Kansas City 16-Oct-77

16-Oct-77
US NY,New York City,Max's Kansas City
[with The Geeks]

Setlist: Plane Seperation/ 11,000 Volts/ 3E/ Compulsion.

Flyer: Scan of flyer.

Ad: Taken from the Village Voice 03-Oct-77.

Note: Above tracks released on "Mars Live" CD (Les Disques Du Soleil Et De L'Acier 1993).


New York City Max's Kansas City 11-Dec-77

11-Dec-77
US NY,New York City,Max's Kansas City
[with The Accidents]

Ad: Taken from the Village Voice 12-Sep-77.

Review: Xerox from New York Rocker January/February 1978.


December 1977
US New York City,Don Christensen's place (on 81 Warren Street in lower Manhattan)

Setlist: 11000 Volts/ 11000 Volts/ Cats/ 3E/ 11000 Volts-jam.

Note: Above tracks released on the triple cassette box. "Summer 1977 was another turning point, as our sound matured we started to experiment more with song forms, dissonance and disassociation, the first example probably being 11000 Volts, several versions of which are on tape 2, side A, from towards the end of that year. We were still playing some of our earlier songs in mutated versions, but moving further and further away from our leftfield homespun NY 'pop' to some darker unexplored place, guided as always by Sumner." (Mark Cunningham - Liner notes to the "Rehearsal Tapes and Alt-Takes NYC 1976-1978" (Cassette box, Anomia 2012).


New York City Max's Kansas City 29-Dec-77

29-Dec-77
US NY,New York City,CBGB Theatre
[with Patti Smith Group, Richard Hell and the Voidoids]

Ad: Photo of ad. Another ad from the Village Voice 12-Dec-77. One more ad.

Flyer: Scan of flyer.

Note: Opening weekend of a second, yet short lived, CBGB on 2nd Ave in the East Village.






1978
The final year for the band, in which they record for the "No New York" album and their own "Mars EP".

xx-xxx-78
US NY,New York City,Mothers @ 267 West 23rd Street


New York Max's Kansas City 02-Feb-78

02-Feb-78
US NY,New York City,Max's Kansas City
[with DNA, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks]

Flyer/Ad: Reproduction taken from DNA's "DNA on DNA" CD (2004). Microfilm image from the Village Voice 06-Feb-78, courtesy of Jonathan Luftig.


New York Max's Kansas City 02-Feb-78

05-Feb-78
US NY,New York City,CBGB
[with DNA]

Poster: Photo of poster.


March 1978
FR Release of "3E/11,000 Volts" 7" EP (Rebel Records). Rebel was the label of (Frenchmen) Michel Estaban, who went on to found ZE Records with (Englishman) Michael Zilkha.


New York Max's Kansas City 28-Mar-78

28-Mar-78
US NY,New York City,CBGB
[with The Invaders]

Setlist: Helen Fordsdale/ Tunnel.

Ad: Ad taken from the Village Voice 27-Mar-78.

Note: Above tracks released on "Mars Live" CD (Les Disques Du Soleil Et De L'Acier 1993).


New York Max's Kansas City 24-Apr-78

24-Apr-78
US NY,New York City,Max's Kansas City
[with The Contortions]

Ad: Ad taken from the Village Voice 24-Apr-78.


New York Max's Kansas City 25-Apr-78

25-Apr-78
US NY,New York City,Max's Kansas City
[with DNA]

Flyer: Photo of flyer.


New York Artist's Space 02/06-May-78

06-May-78
US NY,New York City-SoHo,Artist's Space,5 day benefit festival (2 sets)
[with The Contortions, DNA, Mars and many many more..]

Setlist: Set 1: 3E/ Cats/ 11000 Volts/ Helen Fordsdale/ Cairo/ Tunnel/ Hairwaves/ Puerto Rican Ghost// Set 2: 3E/ Cats/ 11000 Volts/ Helen Fordsdale/ Cairo/ Tunnel/ Hairwaves/ Puerto Rican Ghost.

Note 1: Above tracks released on "Live At Artists Space" LP (Feeding Tube Records 2011). First set recorded by Perry Brandston on a Nakamichi 550 Portable Cassette Recorder, using three mics. The second set by Charles Ball (Lust/Unlust Music) using a binaural dummy.

Note 2: Brian Eno [Roxy Music] arrives in New York on 23-Apr-78. Initially he plans to stay for only 3 weeks to master Talking Heads' second album ("More Songs About Buildings and Food"), but he ends up staying for about 7 months. Eno attends this festival (02/06-May-78), likes the music and convinces Island Records to release an anthology album ("No New York"). He reportedly considers ten groups for inclusion on the album: The Contortions, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, Mars, DNA, Theoretical Girls (with Glenn Branca), The Gynecologists (with Rhys Chatham), Tone Death (also with Rhys Chatham), Boris Police Band, Red Transistor and Terminal. The final album features only four bands performing four songs each and is released on Antilles (a sub-label of Island) in November 1978.

Flyer: Reproduction taken from "No Wave", a book by Thurston Moore and Byron Coley (Abrams Image 2008).

Ad: Robert Christgau's choices from The Village Voice 08-May-78. "[Mars and Teenage Jesus] have struck me as arty and empty.."


May/June 1978
US NY,New York City,Big Apple studios,Greene street,recording 4 tracks ("Helen Fordsdale", "Hairwaves", "Tunnel", "Puerto Rican Ghost") for the "No New York" compilation album. Produced by Brian Eno. Production advisor Diego Cortez.


June 1978
US New York City,Delancey Street (above an abandoned Chinese movie theater)

Setlist: R T M T/ Cairo/ Cairo Scorn/ Tunnel/ Hairwaves/ Untitled.

Note: Above tracks released on the triple cassette box. "Sometime in Spring '78 we moved again, to a duplex on Delancey Street where Lydia [Lunch, ed.] was living and rehearsing, and our sound continued to evolve, or devolve, with detuned guitars and bass, warped rhythms and more of Sumners unique words and madness. Tape 3 begins with the period right after No New York, with some of the same songs, and others, like Cairo, which were never recorded in studio." (Mark Cunningham - Liner notes to the "Rehearsal Tapes and Alt-Takes NYC 1976-1978" (Cassette box, Anomia 2012).

Delancey Street was a small two story building and the bands have the entire second floor. Its back door opens onto an abandoned Synagogue, and much of their furniture comes from there. Lydia Lunch [Teenage Jesus] and Sumner Crane set the loft up as a practice space for many of the 'no-wave' bands.


New York Max's Kansas City 12-Jul-78

12-Jul-78
US NY,New York City,Max's Kansas City
[with The Poles]

Ad: Ad taken from the Village Voice 10-Jul-78.


New York Max's Kansas City 25-Jul-78

25-Jul-78
US NY,New York City,CBGB
[with The Rozz]

Ad: Ad taken from the Village Voice 24-Jul-78.


New York Max's Kansas City 25-Jul-78

04-Aug-78
US NY,New York City,Club 57 @ Irving Plaza
[with Blinding Headache]

Setlist: Outside Africa/ Puerto Rican Ghost/ Hairwaves/ Fractions/ Immediate Stages Of The Erotic/ NN End.

Ad: Ad taken from the Village Voice 07-Aug-78.

Note Released on the " Live At Irving Plaza" LP (Feeding Tube Records 2012). All but "Hairwaves" also released on "Mars Live" CD (Les Disques Du Soleil Et De L'Acier 1993). "NN End" with Rudolph Grey [The Blue Humans] on extra guitar. "This concert was taped by Eno on some kind of fancy cassette machine that had built in effects, he started messing around during "NN End" and you can hear the results on the recording. 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." (Mark Cunningham).


November 1978
US New York City,TriBeCa,American Thread Building (260 West Broadway)

Setlist: N N End/ Scorn/ Monopoly/ Immediate Stages Of The Erotic.

Note: Above tracks released on the triple cassette box. "Tape three side B is from our last month or so of existence, probably just before we played our last gig at Max's Kansas City in December, as well as our last recording session for the "Mars EP", soon after. By then we had made our final migration, to an office in the American Thread Building, back in Tribeca again still some time before gentrification. The building was empty at night and inhabited by ghosts of dead garment workers that we channeled in our final electric gasps. Please excuse all abrupt endings, lo-fi sound and dropouts, it's what was left on the tapes once I dug them out of various boxes after years of hibernation. Keep in mind almost all were recorded on pre walkman desktop mono cassette recorders, which nevertheless had a warm condensed sound, faithfully transmitting the atmosphere of those turbulent long gone but thankfully not forgotten times in late 70s Manhattan." (Mark Cunningham - Liner notes to the "Rehearsal Tapes and Alt-Takes NYC 1976-1978" (Cassette box, Anomia 2012).


New York Max's Kansas City 10-Dec-78

10-Dec-78
US NY,New York City,Max's Kansas City
[with DNA, The Blue Humans]

Ad: Ad taken from the Village Voice 24-Jul-78.

Note: Final Mars show.


December 1978
US New York City,Vanguard Gate Theatre (71 West 23rd Street): recording sessions for the "Mars EP": "N.N. End", "Scorn", "Outside Africa", "Monopoly", "The Immediate Stages Of The Erotic". Engineered by Charles Ball using binaural mics placed in the center of the stage of the empty theatre, surrounded by the group and the amps. Produced by Arto Lindsey [DNA] and Charles Ball.






Aftermath

March 1979
US Release of the "3E/11,000 Volts" 12" EP (ZE Records).


1980
US Release of the "Mars" 12" EP (Infidelity Records).


In spring 1981 Mark Cunningham, Lucy Hamilton (a.k.a. Connie Burg) and Arto Lindsay [DNA] form Don King, that lasted until 1987. In 1984 Burg records with Lydia Lunch "The Drowning Of Lucy Hamilton" album. She last worked in music with Jim G. Thirlwell on his Steroid Maximus' "Gondwanaland" album in 1992. In 1991 Mark Cunningham moved to Barcelona (Spain) forming Raeo, and later Bèstia Ferida. His current band is Blood Quartet.


15-Apr-03
US Sumner Crane dies of lymphoma.


17-Sep-06
US Nancy Arlen dies following heart surgery, at the age of 64.



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