Chicago's vast South Side in the late 1970s wasn't exactly the ideal breeding ground for punk rock, but as evidenced by the output of the prolific Disturbing Records label (Cunts, Meaty Buys, Painterband, etc) and a few shining examples of subversive culture festering in the shadow of the bleak shadow of Midway, such as The Imports from Hyde Park on Circkle Records, most notoriously, the band with the least-known history has always been The Exit. As noted numerous times, Chicago's disorganized, disconnected 70s punk 'scene' evolved on both the North Side as well as the South Side, with the latter focusing on the bands circulating around Harlow's Nightclub on the the 8000-block of south Cicero, and have a far lesser known cast of characters sadly left out of the mainstream historical context. As an area at the time known for its diehard sports fanaticism as well as it's tough, blue collar lifestyle, punk didn't have a fighting chance competing with cover bands in neighborhood corner bars and avoiding the inevitable fisticuffs associated with being anything outside of "normal" in 1979. But this is where a band such as The Exit shines through the debris and really stands out historically as a diamond in the rough.
When doing research for the 2003 'History of Chicago Punk 1976-81' feature article for Horizontal Action Magazine, we were confronted with nothing but blank stares when inquiring about most of the South Side bands, even from some of the Disturbing Records camp, which only further proves the isolation and disconnection effect of playing and recording such polarizing music at such an early time. The lone 7" release from The Exit was a total mystery to even the most vivid memories of not only band members, but also promoters, DJs, photographers, and general punk enthusiasts from the era, and the amount of money the single sold for, if and when it ever even appeared for sale, was often staggering, making this band even more intriguing.
As luck would have it, ten years later, one of the original band members from The Exit casually walked into Permanent Records and introduced themselves, finally forming the connection that had eluded so many attempts to locate the band in the past. If you've heard the two songs on their sole self-released 1979 single, you know the style of snotty atypical Chicago punk this band was capable of crushing down, but to most people of the record buying public, it was still a record very few would hear, let alone ever see or be able to purchase. Even the folks producing the Chicago punk history film 'You Weren't There' had no connection, and were completely unfamiliar with this band, further bolstering the disconnection of a centralized 'scene' primarily based on the massive size of the Chicago sprawl.
Upon meeting the guys in The Exit, the news of unreleased recordings sent chills up the spines of anyone within earshot, so when Permanent got it's hands on these unheard tracks, you could feel the 'missing link' falling into place, and man is it ever worth the wait. What wasn't as evident on the 7" tracks was the raw NY Dolls/Berlin Brats/Stooges/Teenage Lust-style toughed-up glam rock sound the band was hiding in their other tracks, a mean and skull-stomping meat & potatoes thug punk sound that could have been HUGE if it reached the right ears at the time. Sounding much more '1976' than '1979' here with a slight anglo-punk snarl in the vocals and a tight proto-punk back beat, these unreleased tracks by The Exit are going to strip the paint from your ceiling and have you climbing the walls within seconds. You won't know what hit you, but you will continue hitting yourself with it because there's even MORE on the way. So rejoice in this epic Midwest 70s punk archeological find, and be sure to console to all the cocksure 70s North Side punkers, because Chicago underground music history is being completely rewritten right before our ears here, and despite the never-ending rift between the North & South, this time everyone wins.
Be sure to snag a copy of this 7" EP on April 19th for Record Store Day at your local record shop.