From the Vaults: Noise in My Head

November 19th, 2009 by

The Tenants
“Submind/Noise In My Head” 45
(Rent’s Due 001, 1981)

This stunningly great 7″ is a mystery of mysteries.


When I happen across unfamiliar records with Tim Yo covers* in the MRR library, they usually turn out to be something good, or at least interesting. But this one is by far my favorite “discovery.” The Tenants played slow- to mid-tempo punk/post-punk that is both dark and melodic (think Wipers, Zounds, or more recently The Estranged). With its driving rhythms, the jangly, layered guitars and clever vocals (both in execution and lyrically), I’m surprised this record isn’t more well known and loved.

But don’t take my word for it. Have a listen!
Tenants – “Submind” MP3
Tenants – “Noise In My Head” MP3

I can’t find any info on the band itself. They were from San Francisco, but I haven’t met anyone here who ever saw them. There was another band called the Tenants around the same time — from Canada maybe? — I saw their LP in Amoeba and got excited until I figured out they weren’t the same. The only other tidbit I know is that “Noise In My Head” appeared on a comp tape that Calvin Johnson put out with the same title a few years ago. Maybe ol’ CJ could fill in some details for me…


*Tim Yohannan, MRR’s founder, used to modify some of his record covers by adding his own artwork — usually, it seems, for bands he particularly liked, or when the original cover art was just too boring. (Note that every record in the collection has the green tape, so that’s not a special for this cover.) The back cover on this Tim Yo mod features a clipping from the San Francisco Chronicle‘s article on the eviction of the International Hotel in 1977 — not far from the Mabuhay Gardens, aka the Fab Mab. You can read more about that event here. The front cover has a photo of the band that could’ve been from any number of local music rags at the time: Another Room, etc.

Of course, anybody with any info on this band or record should leave a comment here. Cheers!

11 responses to “From the Vaults: Noise in My Head”

21 11 2009
edu (02:35:07) :

hi there,

great to see a post of the tenants. submind is a very great song – it appears on H2D homework #102 CD, by the way.

so, yes, the tenants were from san francisco, “where their members had previously mixed with folks from Negative Trend, the Avengers and –according to rumor– the Residents (singer Mark O’Brien has yet to be cleared of this charge). Chris Burns was in the Weeds, and Dave Kockinis now plays with Grace Alley”.

hope this helps a bit.

all the best,

21 11 2009
Paul (12:08:14) :

Yes, that helps greatly. A lot of those folks are still around, so I can try to hit them up for more info — maybe even a copy if I’m really lucky.
Thanks Edu!

21 11 2009
edu (13:38:23) :

you’re welcome, paul.
glad it helped you. now, best of luck in finding a copy! ;)

23 11 2009
Mike Beer (15:53:14) :

Good post Paul. Thanks for sharing.

16 01 2010
Mark O'Brien (00:10:04) :

Hi – My name is Mark O’Brien and I was the lead singer and song writer for the SF based Tenants. Thanks for the write up. I got the link because my 16 y.o. nephew who’s becoming a big punk fan found it and asked if it was me.
So, that was the first (and only) Tenants single we recorded. We sort of broke up in 1982 and myself and guitar player Chris Burns formed a band called Domino Theory which had a single on the MaxR&R compilation “Not So Quiet on the Western Front”

16 01 2010
Paul (02:22:09) :

Great to hear from you, Mark — a reply straight from the horse’s mouth! Hearing about a 16-year-old nephew discovering his uncle’s punk band just warms my heart to no end… It’s mind-blowing that The Tenants became Domino Theory, and not the other way around. Domino Theory was great, but so much more primitive sounding… So, no more recordings at all by the Tenants? Well, at least I finally scored my own copy of this record, thanks to MRR’s Fred Schrunk. This blog post paid off in spades, huh? Thanks, everyone!

14 05 2010
Dave Kockinis (16:17:54) :


My name is Dave Kockinis and I played bass for SF based band, The Tenants. Thank you for the wonderful review of the single, ‘Sub Mind.’ Your write up was brought to my attention recently by a few younger, local musicians who know me from my current project. The originality and musicality you found on the ‘Sub Mind’ recording is due entirely to Mark O’Brien. Mark is one of the most talented musician/composer/performers I’ve ever known. Should you have the time and opportunity, please forward Mark’s email as I would enjoy getting in touch with him.

21 05 2010
Mark O'Brien (22:48:53) :

Hi Dave – and thank you for the compliment but have to disagree. Both you and Chris Burns played a huge part in the Tenants sound with your unique playing styles and talent. Perry our drummer also played a big part.

30 10 2010
Yannina Yang (16:13:18) :

Hi… I’m Nina, Chris Burns’ girlfriend. I’m trying to get in touch with Mark & Dave & Perry and anyone else who was a friend to Chris. Sadly, he was taken from us just last weekend in a hit & run accident. If possible, please forward their emails to me or mine to them. Thanks.

1 04 2014
sasha (22:09:06) :

Found out about this band through the Calvin Johnston mix tape and now I’m trying to find a record on ebay. Will be combing through records shops for this album! I’m really glad I was introduced to them.

26 07 2014
Lynne Taylor (01:29:57) :

I was a friend of Chris’s and Mark’s back in the old punk days. It was after the Tenants broke up but while Domino Theory was together. Chris gave me a copy of the Tenants single and I remember Chris laughing and asking if I wanted more cus there were tons of them and he didn’t know what to do with them. I wonder what ever happened to those singles. Hello to Mark if you ever look at this. Nina, I’m so so very sorry about Chris. Don’t know if you’ll remember but we met at WonderCon in SF shortly before Chris passed. (I was in a batgirl tee shirt and pigtails) I’m so glad I was able to see him and meet you, it warmed my heart to see my old buddy so happy. He was a wonderful person.

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