Thursday, June 23, 2011

Earwacks Discography

Most of these records will be available for sale at the Earwacks concert at the West End Bar and Grill, Saturday, June 24th, 2011.

For the vinyl fetishist, especially those who collect Saint Louis releases, Earwacks is beyond all others both in output and the quality and historical significance of their releases. Three LPs, two singles and a flexi disc is quite a bit of material to collect and listen to. Here's my list of their releases, in chronological order.

Lauren Garbo b/w The Trouble With My Treble Is the Space In My Bass

Dominic Schaeffer's Lauren Garbo was the first song they released on this thick slab of 33 1/3 rpm vinyl. It was engineered by Oliver Sain, the St. Louis R&B legend, at his studio. The b-side was Dominic and David Udell's The Trouble With My Treble Is the Space In My Bass from the same studio and engineer. The classic Earwacks lineup of the 1970s were all here: Dominic and Benet Schaeffer, David Udell and Tracy Wynkoop. The cover reads: Behind the scenes: Mark Gray (who used to roadie and run live sound for them and now owns the Famous Bar on Cherokee), Tim Maue (who helped move gear, too) and Danny (aka Fo Jammi, who was in Jambox at the time). The photographs were by Matt O'Shea. It also says produced by Wax Theatrix (sic). The label number is WTI-1. I bought my copy as a 99 cent cutout at Streetside shortly before they closed. God only knows how long it had been sitting around in there.

The Scrape! b/w Oliver and This Kid's Perspective "Dim"
1980 and 1978
David Udell's tricky and complex The Scrape was a hugely popular song for Earwacks. The 33 1/3 rpm vinyl is slightly lighter than Lauren Garbo, but still quite heavy. The b-side is an aural collage featuring the band sitting around bullshitting with producer Oliver Sain, who claims that "Disco music will eventually drown in it's own puke." and the complex and emotionally-charged David Udell piece "Dim". The photography is again by Matt O'Shea, and engineering by Oliver Sain.

An extremely rare LP, one I only saw back when it was new and never since, and one I currently don't own. Some of their best compositions of the 1970s are on this album. David tells me that less than ten LPs have been found and will be sold at their show at the West End Grill on June 24th, 2011. They are plain sleeved albums without covers or liner notes, but better than nothing. An essential Earwacks disc.

Noisy Paper Flexi-Disc
Songlist: The Magic of Fear, The Motion Song, and Ronald Reagan. Clear flexi-disc inserted into Noisy Paper No. 8. This disc was censored in the mastering process by the persons producing the disc, who even censored non-objectional words that sounded suspicious. Recently seen selling for over $40 on eBay. This was when they changed their band name from Earwacks to Wax Theatricks, though the disc was produced by "Earwacks Inc", though I'm quite sure they never legally incorporated a damn thing.

I'm unsure of the order the next two LPs took, though I'm sure that Wax Theatricks came out in 1984, Fo Jammi's Name Magic (featuring the entire Earwacks lineup) has no date. I'll assume that Name Magic came first, for convenience. Both of these albums are relatively easy to find, as quite a few copies are still in the hands of the artists. Lucky for us, since these are some of their most well-recorded songs.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Steve Pick's Cock

For years I've had a cracked and silly idea that all my favorite melodies of a certain kind were actually a song, and that I wanted to call it "Steve Pick's Cock". It's not a song about Steve's cock, though I'm sure a song about anyone's cock would be an amusing and peripatetic tale if done right. I wanted to call it that because there was a moment, long ago, in Webster Groves, right before I left St. Louis, when all of my new wave and punk rock friends of the early 1980s came together in an unprecedented orgy of creative energy and fun.

Dana Ong started going to Webster, and Duwann Dunn, and the punk rock scene of the 80s was turning dark and destructive, but the fun 100 was still running all over the city being fired up with various happenings as sweet and unusual as Duck Feedings and White Castle Weddings, to the usual deathless musical achievements. Everyone was Rene Spencer's best friend, and we all did the Lizard with Tony Renner while dancing to Get Smart at Blueberry Hill. We all knew Alex Weir was really Ed Eno, of course, and Riot Act changed players almost every practice as things veered crazy out of control down in Jeff Roth's north side schoolhouse. Hangouts were walls, next to the Tivoli, across the street from Duff's.

One of the best completely Webster Groves bands was the mighty, mighty, mighty Oozkicks. Yes, three mightys worth. They were among the youngest punks around, supposedly all 16 and younger when they first played at some VFW hall or something and blew all of us old twenty-somethings away with their relentless, incredible energy as they bopped and bobbed in furious punk lockstep with their fractured and unusual beats. The minute they played their first song in front of me I realized they were exploring, with great urgency and depth, melodies and themes I loved that I had never taken seriously enough to develop as fully as they had. I had only gone so far as to allow myself a signature interval as a taste of this more advanced musical thought, which in my continuing ignorance of even the most basic idea of music theory, I called diminished fifths, since it was a love for the note a half step down or up from the fifth of any note. This is why my song "Surf's Up, Gang!" is rooted in a two chord modulation from A to F, a half step up from the fifth of A, which is E, of course.

From the earliest days of Jambox I had been developing tiny melodic fragments that explored this affinity I felt for this diminished fifth idea. When I lived and worked in a medical fraternity house next to Compton Hill Reservoir park on South Grand I taught myself as much piano as I could figure out for myself by spending my lunch breaks playing an old piano I found in their outbuilding across the small yard from the basement kitchen where I cooked them meals. The piece I composed that showcased my primitive ideas I have always called "Diminished Fifths", and it's a pretty standard exploration of the interval with some really basic counterpoint. That's the only real piece of music I ever composed that fits into this idea that isn't included in this rough recording. All the other pieces and snatches are either in my as-yet unrecorded long instrumental piece "18th Street" or here in "Steve Pick's Cock."

The song section of this piece was sketched out after The Obvious dissolved away, so I never really developed it as a song. I can play a song I write over and over to the point of ridiculousness (because what is more ridiculous than singing songs no one knows but you to yourself?) but this song always needed parts that are more like bare melodies than a series of chords, so playing it alone wasn't satisfying to me. I always wanted to put the other parts in there somehow, the tiny little mathematical diminished progressions and scales that make up the rest of the song, and the intro and outro were also Jambox sketches I'm sure Geo Ramsey would easily remember.

A few days ago my buddy Gabe Katz threw up an Amun Duul II youtube of a song he thought remembered featured what he called whole tone scales, and when he was telling me about it on his new iPhone 4 I thought about "Steve Pick's Cock" and the vague plan I had to finish it some day. I thought the intro and outro were maybe whole tone scales, and was hoping he might be able to tell. I realized that now I could record a crude version of it myself at home, at least to preserve the ideas in some form, even a crude form. I revisited the song as I had last revised the lyrics, and changed a few words again, and noticed it was a rare lyric that was a poetic series of impressions about all my Webster Groves punk rock pals from back in the day.

I wondered why I thought the phrase "Steve Pick's Cock" was significant enough to me to be a song title, and I remembered the first time I ever heard the phrase, falling from the rose-petalled lips of the most beautiful girl in the world, as she told me about some famous photographs taken on a wild night at the cemetery with the gang when I wasn't there. It was a turning point for me, because now I saw myself as a point along a continuum, rather than good or bad, strong or weak, but merely as fuzzy and indistinct placeholder that means I'm as good as I can be, but never more, and never less only if I managed to cling to what I have and keep it all as good as I can be. Plus it was funny, the whole idea that such a thing could be the stuff of normal lazy conversation, on the telephone on a school night, homework open on the bed behind her, lights burning in the soft Webster Groves air. And if you love Steve Pick as much as we do, you know that you can laugh about some things because they can't be diminished by anything but time and age, and even then, the eternal reality of the indestructible and immortal past still lends them a strength other things will never have at all.

Download this song if you want to hear it.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

It's my birthday again, but...

Let's get one thing straight! Beneath all the lies of my fleshly disguises, I'm still not old.

Here are the words:
The time has come, and I just don't know how
To sing of when it wouldn't ever be now
Go back against our wills in time
Remember when you were mine

'Cause if you gaze deep into my dark brown eyes
You're gonna see back behind a thousand lies:

I'm not old

I'm still a rock'n'roll star
I'm back in love with you
The fans are going wild
There's only one thing to do

Now that I'm not old

You say you're in a fit
You're getting ready to cry
You're such a nervous girl
There's only one thing to try

And that's the very same thing
I once did with you
Download "I'm Not Old"

I played this at my 50th birthday party, and I had a fun story about that in this old post.