Chapter One


The seeds of the Raybeats were planted in the soil of the Contortions, a forerunner in New York’s No Wave scene. The band’s best-known line-up, pieced together in the winter of 1977-78, consisted of James Chance (formerly of Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, featuring a young Lydia Lunch) on saxophone and vocals, Jody Harris on guitar, Pat Place on slide guitar, Adele Bertei on Acetone organ, George Scott on bass, and Don Christensen on drums.

George Scott and Jody Harris live, 1980

The Contortions became popular pretty quickly, first appearing on the No New York compilation, released in November 1978. Shortly thereafter, the group’s alter-ego, James White and the Blacks, a No Wave disco band, made their entrance. As James White and the Blacks, they recorded one album, Off White, and as the Contortions, they recorded Buy; both albums were released in the fall of 1979 on ZE Records.

In the spring of 1979, while recording Buy, tensions flew, and George Scott left the band.

“One of my big regrets at the time was that I didn’t walk with him,” Christensen recalled more than a quarter century later. “But, in retrospect, I’m glad I stayed, otherwise those records might’ve never been made, and there’s some stuff there that I really like.”

The Contortions continued with David Hofstra (an old friend of Jody Harris’) on bass; George Scott, meanwhile, hooked up with John Cale, doing a series of gigs that would evolve into Cale’s live Sabotage album, issued in 1979.

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