The Colorplates

The Green Monkey history squad is proud to present The Colorplates, starring in the very rocking Agony and Ecstacy. The Colorplates were a Seattle band circa 1979-82, loosely connected with the art/punk scene. They were equally (though not exclusively) inspired by Ornette Coleman and the Dave Clark Five. They started life briefly as an improvisation unit, The Pigments, spent a while as The Adults and switched over to The Colorplates midstream. As The Adults, they had two previous bass players, Adam Woog (now a local author!) and Howie Wahlen.

They mainly played punk joints like the Gorilla Room and the UCT Hall (with bands like Student Nurse, the Pudz and Pell Mell), mostly for friends, but occasionally for sailors. They managed to do a bit of recording (which is featured here) – none of it made it to vinyl, which was the punk rock mark of success back then. In fact, the recordings on this album have never been released – they come from a variety of recording situations with a variety of results. While every effort has been made to capture the best possible sound quality, our first concern was to paint a true picture of this obscure combination. Mission accomplished!

Colorplates review!

THE COLORPLATES- AGONY AND ECSTASY- GREEN MONKEY RECORDS- Subtitled “Post-punk art rock, Seattle, 1979-1982” so there you go. The Green Monkey label has been unearthing some old Pac NW artifacts like this. This goes from straight-ahead rawk (opening title track) to stuff more like no-wave (“Call on Me #1”) and everything in between. 21 songs….interesting.


Jun 17, 2013 “the Colorplates’ legacy will always be defined by their numerous WTF moments, typically when Dyer and fellow guitarist Harvey Tawney break out their sax and clarinet and improv their way into strangulated Ornette Coleman territory” Jeff Penczak

As the subtitle of this comprehensive compilation states, The Colorplates were a “post-punk art rock” combo from Seattle at the turn of the decade, ca. 1979-82. The band were never captured on vinyl, so Green Monkey honcho (and Colorplate singing guitarist Tom Dyer) has collected all known recordings (or at least as many that will fit on an 80-minute CD) for this collection of previously unreleased material. As befits the era in which these recordings were made, there’s a combination of sounds at work, from power pop to punkadelic jams to strident guitar workouts – sometimes in the same song! However, the Colorplates’ legacy will always be defined by their numerous WTF moments, typically when Dyer and fellow guitarist Harvey Tawney break out their sax and clarinet and improv their way into strangulated Ornette Coleman territory – they’ve even written a song called “Ornette” in case the sleeve-wearing influences aren’t obvious enough! Elsewhere, there’re punky renditions of golden mouldies like “My Little Red Book”, a Polkacide-inspired instrumental romp through “Help!”, a why-didn’t-I-think-of-that, sax-driven “Purple Haze”, and a joined-in-progress bastardisation of “Break On Through (To The Other Side)” that suggest the band members have a very cool “classic rock” record collection. Even their Buzzcockian, theremin-riddled blitzkrieg through “It Was A Very Good Year” takes on a poignant air considering the retrospective nature of these recordings! Hawkwind fans will pogo the light fantastic to “Kamikaze Teardrop”, David Byrne’s herky-jerky PTSD delivery hovers throughout the angular Wire-meets-Talking Heads phenomenon that is “Camouflage” and The Beatles unmistakable guitar jangle is all over “Running Your Heart Away” (I’ll leave it to you to identify where they copped the opening riff from). It’s all good-natured fun played with the reckless abandon of The Stooges in a china shop, equally inspired (in the band’s own words) by, among others, The Dave Clark Five and Ornette Coleman. The final four tracks are improvisational jams that are completely disconnected from the fratboy mentality that preceded them and feature a collection of percussives, wooden flutes, music boxes, Jack-in-the-boxes(!), toy instruments, and the oddly-tuned sax and clarinet that incredibly presage the more experimental oeuvre of Kemialliset Ystävät, The Magic Carpathians, Tower Recordings, Jackie-O Motherfucker and other like-minded musical mavericks beating to the sound of their own marching drums. In fact, I would have preferred if Dyer titled the collection after the final (live) track, “Drunk Munchkin Marching Band.” Now there’s a self-referential appellation that perfectly encapsulates the glorious wonders that lie within! So, if you weren’t there to experience their live debaucheries, this nostalgic artefact recreates all the fun – just add a few Jäger-spiked 40 ouncers, sprinkle liberally with sweat and body odor and boogie-oogie-oogie the night away!


Jun 04, 2013 “a musical masterpiece” Leslie Snyder The color plates by leslie snyder Posted on June 2, 2013 by elephanttalkindie “Agony and Ecstasy” Post-Punk Art Rock, Seattle 1979-1982 By Leslie Snyder Anger boils over in Seattle, Washington from a former independent post punk/art rock quartet called The Color Plates. The Color Plates formed in the late 1970’s and disbanded in the early 1980’s. This raucous quartet had a large following in Seattle’s underground music scene singing songs about living the life of a punk rocker. The Color Plates sound similar to The Ramones with their “snarling” vocals and loud, “gritty” punk rock riffs. The previously unreleased CD “Agony and Ecstasy” Post-Punk Art Rock, Seattle 1979-1982 was finally released on May 1, 2013 featuring twenty one “bone rattling” tracks that are definitely relevant to today’s music scene. The ominous journey begins with the first track “Agony and Ecstasy.” This track features “groaning” vocals and “gritty” punk rock riffs. This track is an obnoxious tale about people partying all night then, paying for it later. Meanwhile, fun turns into darkness in the fourth track “Ornette.” This track is a dark instrumental track featuring “thunderous” drums and “snarling” post punk melodies. This track sounds like a huge monster “growling” and “stomping” through the streets of Seattle on a stormy night. Finally, the ominous journey ends with heartache in the seventh track “Bye-Bye Johnny.” This track features “snarling” vocals and “thunderous” punk rock riffs. This track is a heartbreaking tale about a man who is upset because his girlfriend is leaving him because she is tired of being mistreated. However, the angry man feels like he is being mistreated. The Color Plates were a great post punk/art rock quartet who lived the life of perfect punk rockers. The Color Plates did not care about pleasing the status quo this quartet only cared about making great music. The CD “Agony and Ecstasy” Post Punk Art Rock, Seattle 1979-1982 is a musical masterpiece.

Jun 04, 2013 “never very pretty, but pretty can be overrated.’ Jack Goodstein Music Review: The Colorplates – “Agony and Ecstasy” By Jack Goodstein | Tuesday, June 4, 2013 Filed under: Album Reviews, Jazz, Music, Reviews, Rock Tags: art rock, Ornestte Coleman, post-punk, Seattle, The Colorplates Front cover sq 320How a band I had never heard of that has music more than 30 years old could have made me feel nostalgic is a mystery I’m not sure I understand. But those feelings of nostalgia were dominant while listening to The Colorplates’ collection of previously unreleased tracks from 1979 through 1982, Agony and Ecstasy. Of that, I am sure. A Seattle based band who describes their music as “equally (though not exclusively) inspired by Ornette Coleman and the Dave Clark Five,” The Colorplates rock with the passion of youthful rebellion, using their music as a sonic metaphor for the absurdity of the world they find around them. Fast-forward 25 years. One member of the group winds up fronting his own record company, there are these old, never released recordings laying around going to waste, and who says there are no second acts? Agony and Ecstasy may not make them champs, but if it evokes for others the same nostalgia for lost youth that it evoked for me, it will make for a lot of happy campers. The album’s liner notes explain that the band began as an “improvisation unit” called The Pigments. The Pigments begat The Adults. The Adults begat The Colorplates. They played mostly in punk joints around Seattle, “mostly for friends, but occasionally for sailors.” Now you take some of that improv genetics, put it in a punk environment when punk itself is moving on, and you get some idea of what The Colorplates are doing on this release. It’s what the album calls “Post-Punk Art Rock.” It is anarchic chaos—free jazz on steroids with a shot of the Talking Heads. It is never very pretty, but pretty can be overrated. At its best, it can be electric. At its worst, noise. Most of the album’s 21 tracks are original compositions by two of the band’s members, multi- instrumentalists Tom Dyer and Harvey Tawney, and bassist Bob Blackburn is also credited for one tune entirely. The fourth member of the band is drummer Deanne Tawney. There are five covers: “My Little Red Book” (Bacharach/David), a wild take on the saccharin Ervin Drake song “It Was a Very Good Year,” The Doors’ “Break on Through (To The Other Side),” “Help!,” and a really exciting version of “Purple Haze.” A video of the latter is available at The disc ends with four improvisations on which the band is joined by a gaggle of other musicians. The sound quality varies, but it is usually acceptable. That The Colorplates, like most local bands, never made it to the larger stage is less a commentary on the quality of their music than on the kinks and quirks of the music business. You listen to their music and it is clear that with a little luck, they could have been a contender.

May 18, 2013 “an old 70’s act that never really made it”

When I removed the cellophane from this cd I was confused as to what this band was all about because the inside pic looked like an old time rock show poster….upon reading the liner notes I suddenly realized this entire cd WAS a pressing from an old 70’s act that never really made it and the band itself is/was an improv/art rock/punk/hard rock explosion of weirdness. The bands cover of “Purple Haze” features the main guitar parts played on trumpet and the music is a mix of King Missile meets Ween…it’s lo fi and the recording quality varies from song to song with the core values of the songs remaining in tact despite the age of the recordings on this disc.


May 11, 1981

 press quote

“The Adults (Colorplates) are very strange by commercial rock standards.”

“The Adults are very strange by commercial rock standards. Their style can be best described as punk/art fusion. … The Adults amps were too loud for the room, still these four folks are playing for the fun of it.” Jef Jaison . – Bellevue Journal American

Tom Dyer

Guitar, Vocal, Saxophone, Keyboards, Composer

Harvey Tawney

Guitar, Vocal, Clarinet, Keyboard, Theremin, Percussion, Composer

Bob Blackburn

Bass, Vocal, Composer