Singer David Thomas named the band after the protagonist of Ubu Roi, a play by Frenchman Alfred Jarry. The single, "30 Seconds Over Tokyo" b/w "Heart of Darkness", released in 1975, was the first of four independent releases on Hearpen Records and, along with Television's "Little Johnny Jewel," signaled the beginning of the New Wave. In the early to mid-70s Pere Ubu was part of a fertile rock scene that also produced 15-60-75, Mirrors, The Electric Eels, Rocket From The Tombs, Tin Huey, Styrene Money and Devo.
The group's first album, The Modern Dance, sold only 15,000 copies initially but it was a startling work that influenced an entire generation of bands. Its follow-up, Dub Housing, was the masterpiece, "an incomparable work of American genius." Pere Ubu toured Europe extensively in 1978. Late in 1979 Tom Herman left and was replaced by Mayo Thompson, the guitarist from 60's Texas psychedelic-rock legends The Red Crayola. The Art Of Walking followed, a challenging stew of inside-out song structures. The band stopped playing in early 1982 just as the progressive-sounding Song Of The Bailing Man was released.
In 1981, Thomas recorded the first of two albums with British folk-rock guitarist Richard Thompson. Three more solo albums kept the nucleus of Ubu alive and working together. The last of these, 1987's Ubu-like Blame The Messenger, led to the reanimation of the Pere Ubu projex. The line-up had been Thomas, Allen Ravenstine, Tony Maimone, Chris Cutler and Jim Jones, a stalwart on the Cleveland scene and member of nearly every good band to come from it at one time or another. The clattering Tenement Year, recorded for a British label (Fontana) headed by Ubu fanatic Dave Bates, introduced a two drummers lineup of Scott Krauss and English prog-rocker (and long-time fan) Cutler, of Henry Cow, Art Bears, and Cassiber lineage.