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Book: Milwaukee Once Had a Strong Underground Punk Rock Scene

Barnes and Noble

If you were in your teens or early twenties in Milwaukee from, say, the late '70s to early '80s, you certainly had your pick of local punk rock bands to follow.

Perhaps your choice was the band, the Ama Dots. The singer’s voice was described at the time as sounding "like a witch in need of a throat lozenge," which could have also described the music a lot of punk and post-punk bands.

If the Ama Dots weren’t your thing, perhaps it was The Oil Tasters, or Sacred Order, or In a Hot Coma, or even Steve Dark Façade.

Milwaukeean Steve Nodine was a member of the latter band, and an active part of the punk and post-punk scene here. But more recently he’s become the scene’s historian, compiling the stories in The Cease is Increase: An Oral History of Milwaukee’s Punk and Alternative Music Scene.

Nodine says even though Milwaukee was known at the time for its blues and rock bands, the punk scene here was a strong underground world.

“Punk was a lot of misfits,” Nodine says. “People who didn’t fit in in school or weren’t listening to whatever everyone else was listening to. They went to Zak’s and they discovered themselves. They could do whatever they wanted.”

What really supported the punk scene in Milwaukee was the radio station, WSME.

“We had support of WSME that came out in 1980, where they would play tons of local music,” Nodine says. “If you were playing that night, you could come on down and say, ‘Hey could we come on the radio? We have a show that night,’ and they would say, ‘Sure! Come on in!’”

Bonnie North
Bonnie joined WUWM in March 2006 as the Arts Producer of the locally produced weekday magazine program Lake Effect.