Mars (late 70s New York City No Wave band)
Mars was a New York City rock band formed in 1975 when China Burg (née Constance Burg; a.k.a. Lucy Hamilton) (guitar, vocals) and artist Nancy Arlen (drums) brought Mark Cunningham (bass) and vocalist Sumner Crane together to talk about music. They were joined briefly by guitarist Rudolph Grey. The band played one live gig under the name China before changing it to Mars. They played a mixture of angular compositions and freeform ambient noise music jams, featuring surrealist lyrics and non-standard drumming. All the members were said to be completely untrained in music before forming the band.
Mars played live about two dozen times, all in Manhattan. Their first show was at CBGB's in January 1977; their last one was at Max's Kansas City on December 10, 1978. Their recorded debut was the "3-E"/ "11,000 Volts" 7-inch single, released by Rebel Records/ ZE Records. The group then released a single live EP in 1979 or 1980, though they had broken up in 1978. Both recordings were compiled by Lydia Lunch's self-run label, Widowspeak Records, in 1986, as 78; the songs were slightly remixed and tweaked by Jim Thirlwell (a.k.a. Foetus). It was reissued by Atavistic Records on CD in 1996 as 78+.
In 1978, Mars appeared on the influential No New York compilation LP produced by Brian Eno, along with DNA, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, and James Chance and the Contortions, which helped to bring the nascent No Wave genre into the foreground. An All Music reviewer wrote of their controbutions: "Mars creates interesting music out of apparent chaos; the vocals are babbled and the guitars, bass and drums sound like they're weaving in and out of the song while going in several different directions at once, yet the band is oddly compelling in its crazed, cacophonous way."
Due to complaints about Thirlwell's modifications on 78/78+, the full studio recordings of Mars (totaling about 30 minutes) surfaced in 2003 on the Spanish labels G3G and Spookysound. Cunningham ran both Hyrax Records and Spookysound Records. (To clarify: 78, 78+, and Mars LP: The Complete Studio Recordings, NYC 1977–1978 all feature essentially the same half-hour batch of music, but with very slight auditory differences.) After the break-up of Mars, Cunningham was part of the bizarre John Gavanti "no wave opera" project with Crane, Arto Lindsay, and others. He has also worked with the band Don King, and with his current outfit, Convolution.
Crane died of lymphoma on April 15, 2003. Arlen died on September 17, 2006, following heart surgery.