The Reactions, a celebrated but short-lived Miami punk band, disbanded after the release of their 1981 EP Love You, sealing their fate as little more than a nostalgic footnote in the history of punk. The subsequent misplacement of a large chunk of The Reactions’ unreleased material would have seemed to put the proverbial nail in the band’s coffin, but, 30 years later, an unknown label 1,300 miles away made a discovery that could bring The Reactions back in from the margins.
Mike Hooker, a Ft. Lauderdale native and Austin, TX, resident, founded the Austin-based reissue label Cheap Rewards Records with two fellow music obsessives. The threesome shares an affinity for first-generation power pop and punk records, genres that, when announced as a preference, suggest a rare drive to pluck quality from obscurity. The three men began plotting their plan of attack two years ago, drawing out a long list of bands and albums they wanted to see reissued.
But as time wore on, other labels began releasing the material Cheap Rewards had hoped to revive. Hooker watched helplessly as Last Laugh Records released The Normals’ Vacation to Nowhere LP and Sing Sing Records put out a Rip Off Records compilation and Protex’s Strange Obsession LP.
“We decided we better get a move on when [they] started announcing that they would be releasing material that was on our list,” said Hooker, 31. “Being a South Florida native, I naturally levitated towards The Reactions for our debut. Their two EPs were absolutely stellar. And I’d also heard some unreleased demo and live recordings that simply blew me away.”
Boasting the late Miami guitar hero Johnny Salton on bass, The Reactions released just two (now very rare and valuable) EPs between 1980 and 1981. Founded by guitarist and songwriter Isaac Baruch, singer Tony Supa, drummer Joey Maya, and Salton, The Reactions were part of an era ripe with power pop and punk bands, most notably The Eat, Charlie Pickett and the Eggs, and Cichlids.
In 1980, The Reactions recorded 14 songs during a four-hour studio session they’d won in a battle of the bands — beating out The Kids, a band from Miramar with a 17-year-old singer named Johnny Depp — hosted by WSHE radio at the Agora in Hallandale. After plucking four of their favorites for the Official Release debut EP, the Reactions’ session tapes were misplaced, forgotten, and lost — until Hooker starting digging around.
“As a hardcore record collector, I’ve gotten good at finding people who are holding onto the goods,” says Hooker, who used to work at Ft. Lauderdale’s CD Collector before it became Radio-Active Records. “And I don’t reveal my secrets.”
Working his magic, Hooker managed to cull more than 50 Reactions songs from five separate sources: the two EPs, which had to be pulled from the original 7” vinyl as the master source no longer exists; the 14-song Official Release session cassette copy; and two complete live show cassettes, one from an Aug. 30, 1980, gig at the Agora and one from May 8, 1981, at the Balkan Rock Club.
Of course, you can’t just stick a 30-year-old tape in your jambox and hit play. So Hooker contacted Lucky Lacquers, in Middleton, WI, which is run by restoration guru Dave Eck. Eck has salvaged and restored legendary punk music left for dead by The Reactionaries (the Minutemen’s first incarnation), the Minutemen themselves, MDC, Born Without A Face, Maximum Rock N Roll’s 1984 compilation, and countless other must-hear relics.
It took six months while Eck “diligently tweaked every last imperfection,” according to Hooker, and in the end The Reactions’ music was brought back to life in the form of a 17-song LP titled Saturday’s Gone Wild.
For Hooker, Saturday’s Gone Wild pays homage to a time in Miami when punk was king. In keeping with the South Florida theme, he contacted Pickett to write the liner notes and tapped punk icon and acclaimed graphic artist Chuck Loose (Chickenhead, Crumbs, Garageland) to design the art.
Cheap Rewards intended to release the LP this past September, but the shipment of records from the plant came in warped and had to be repressed. The new release date has yet to be determined, but it will be limited to 500 copies — 100 copies in red vinyl, 400 on black.
In the meantime, you can stream the LP in its entirety right here. Thanks to Cheap Rewards, it is available for download on The Reactions’ bandcamp site.