45 Friday: Jumpers -You’ll Know Better (When I’m Gone)

45-Friday_4

By Elmer Ploetz

The Jumpers weren’t just one of the first and best bands of Buffalo’s punk rock era, they were one of Buffalo’s best ever.  Here’s a bit of sonic proof.

The band came out of suburban Hamburg, but not necessarily the prissier village area. They were Frontier High School grads (who started playing together while still in school in the early/mid-’70s), coming from the Ford Stamping Plant/Bethlehem Steel worker area of the town. Lead singer Terry Sullivan can tell you how seeing the New York Dolls along with Mott the Hoople and Aerosmith at Kleinhans on Oct. 17, 1973, changed his life. Scott Miklasz added killer guitar, Craig Meylan was on bass and Roger Nicol played drums.  Then the secret added weapon was Bob Kozak, a killer song writer.

Kozak and Miklasz had gone out to California for awhile after graduating and caught some of the rougher rock vibes there, then came back. The band was reassembled. They hooked up with some supporters like Bernie Kugel (one of Buffalo’s first punk/garage punk revivalists with the Good), Bruce Eaton (the totally obscure but wonderful Blue Reimondos), and Steve Ralbovsky (their manager and later the A&R guy associated with breaking the Strokes).

Their first single was this slab of vinyl, released on #1 Records in 1978 and distributed by Greg Shaw’s Bomp Records. It’s a classic piece of American garage rock, with all the tension, angst and power pop hooks anybody could ask for. Between Sullivan’s charisma, Kozak’s songwriting, Miklasz’s guitar and Meylan and Nicol’s relentless energy, the band had it all.  Except for the connections to get it heard on a wider scale, that is.

The flip side was (also written by Kozak) was “I Wanna Know.” which resurfaced on the lone album by the Restless (an early ’80s supergroup that also included Sullivan).

The band went on to record another single in 1979  (“This Is It”/”Sick Girls”) equally as good as the first and contributed one song (“Hello Girl”) to Bomp’s 1980 “Waves” complilation. The other band members proved they could write as well.

The band tried moving to New York City, but with a new drummer (the late Brian Hudson), but didn’t see much success. Truth be told, they were actually more out of the Flamin’ Groovies rough-edged power pop tradition than what was going on in the city at the time anyway (Teenage Jesus & the Jerks, anybody?)

The band broke up and the members scattered. Kozak ended up in New Jersey (where he continued to write killer power pop songs), Miklasz went to San Diego (where he made killer roots/rock music), Meylan ended up in the Dallas area and Sullivan came back to Buffalo, where he’s been performing with some of the city’s best musicians ever since (look up the Celibates, the Headhunters, the Dollywatchers and his Low Lamp Sessions). And I’m sure I’m leaving out a few of them.

There have been some Jumpers reunions since, with the group giving the name to Bob James’ “This Is It” series of reissues and live compilations, with some of their performances featured prominently (for example “South of the City,” a nod to Hamburg recorded in 1979 and not released until the first release in the “This Is It” series in 2002.

These days you’ll find Kozak and Miklasz back in Buffalo, playing with groups like the High Flying Babies (name taken from a Flamin’ Groovies song) and occasional shows by the Enemies (without the late Joe Bompczyk, of course), and often playing with Nicol. They usually do this song.

The other people on the credits? Well, “You’ll Know Better When I’m Gone” was recorded at Select Sound, with “production assistance” from Dick Bauerle and engineering by Rob Konikoff. The sleeve design was by Andrew Elias and cover photo by Maurice Narcis. Dave Meinzer, Nancy New Age and Stu Shapiro got thanks, and Bruce Eaton and Bob James were credited with the remix on this song. The song later resurfaced on the lone album by the Restless (an early ’80s Buffalo supergroup that also included Sullivan, Bob James, Joe Bompczyk, Guy Pelino and Frank Luciano)

This YouTube version isn’t the best fidelity, but until somebody else digitizes a cleaner copy, it will have to do.

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