Peter And The Wolves

Adele Bertei's Memoir Of Peter Laughner And The Early Days Of Punk

by Tom Haugen

aledebertei_peterandthewolves_350You won't have to look very far to find books and documentaries about the early days of the New York or Los Angeles punk scene. Cleveland, on other hand, despite being a hotbed of punk activity in the late '70s and early '80s, hasn't seen even a fraction of the attention of the aforementioned cities.

Adele Bertei fills some of that void here with a brief memoir of her time in the underground rock circles of Cleveland, where Peter Laughner (Rocket From The Tombs, Pere Ubu) took her under his wing in an abstract mentor sort of way. The two resided together in a short-lived, dysfunctional but quite inspiring fashion, where the much more experienced Laughner would enlighten, inform, and expose Bertei to the often dark world of rock 'n' roll.

Bertei idolized Patti Smith, and Laughner had an affinity for Lou Reed. The pair hit it off pretty quickly after Laughner complimented Bertei's voice at an early gig. It wasn't long until they were playing in a band together, Peter And The Wolves, and even taking trips to New York City together to absorb the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle they dreamed of.

Bertei and Laughner's relationship was strictly platonic, however. Laughner would teach her about music and art, and though there's little doubt that Laughner was a musical genius, he was also fully engulfed in drinking and drugging. His lack of composure got to the point where he would fire a gun in their apartment just to see if the bullet would penetrate the walls.

In 1977, at the age of 24, Peter Laughner died of acute pancreatitis. He left behind volumes of music that, at that point anyway, very few people had heard. He also left a profound impact on those closest to him and provided Bertei with a musical education that would lead her to playing in the Contortions and singing on albums and live for artists like Thomas Dolby, Tears For Fears, and Culture Club, and penning songs for Sheena Easton, Lydia Lunch, and Matthew Sweet, among others.

At under 100 pages, this is a quick one that's difficult to put down once you start. Bertei's prose is concise, imaginative and touching, and her ability to describe her past with such colorful and descriptive language truly places the reader in the moment.

Somewhat of a companion to Smog Veil's Peter Laughner box set in 2019, Peter And The Wolves places a much deserved spotlight on the fleeting but ultra-creative life of an artist that this book will make you miss dearly – even if you've never heard of him before. For those who admire Laughner, well, you'll appreciate his existence and music even more after reading Bertei's words.

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