Punks weren't the only ones able to experience the Units, though. Besides playing at gay and strip clubs and taking part in an artist "boxing match," the Units were part of a fantastic-sounding performance art event in the window of a JC Penney store in 1979. (Can you imagine some experimental audiovisual gig going down now at, say, Macy's? Dare to dream.) The Units were part of the San Francisco synth scene that also birthed Tuxedomoon, the Residents, and Chrome, but their reach extended to opening for Gary Numan and touring with mainstream New Wavers OMD.

By 1984, though, the system the Units were trying to subvert was feasting on the band. They'd signed to Epic, where Ryser says the group's music was repackaged as "mediocre shiny bullshit." After the death of their manager, rumors of a former roadie being investigated for murder, and general San Francisco claustrophobia, Ryser and Webber moved to Brooklyn, where they started a family and a design business.

The Units performing in 1979 in the window of JC Penney.
Chester Simpson
The Units performing in 1979 in the window of JC Penney.

Now that his kids are grown, Ryser hints there may be new Units recordings, but he's reluctant to make any commitment before gauging support for the History compilation. In the meantime, his collection of electric cool-aided synth tests offers plenty of inspiration for tomorrow's witty tricksters.

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