Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Best of the Naughts: Opposites that attract


Tinhorn and Sullen are opposites from the beginning of the last decade. Tinhorn was a group of grown men at the top of their game, adept and with poetry bursting from every well-groomed pore. Sullen was a group of very young punks who put everything they were right out there raw as dirty diapers. Tinhorn crafted pop masterpieces, Sullen slopped out noisy rock. They were both among the best at what they did.

Tinhorn put out a very fine CD called Stereowide that I admire unrestrainedly. Sullen put out a little home-made CD that I admire guardedly, yet with equal fervor. Tinhorn had the stink of advertising agencies and art directors all over them, Sullen had the faint odor of crayons and spray paint.

I never got to know the Tinhorn people, though I suspect they ran in the same advertising agency circles I once knew. A fellow named Sean Garcia seemed to run this band, and he did the very excellent art direction of the CD, and another fellow named Mike Martin did the production and musical work. If I were a normal guy we would have been friends, since I aspire to do work like them. But I never made any effort to get to know them for whatever reason, perhaps familiarity of my own type.

I got to know Jason and Shanna, the two kids who fronted Sullen a little bit, hanging around the Way Out Club, watching them play various gigs. Shanna was especially nice, and would hang out with Bob Reuter and I. Part of my love for Sullen was my love for punk; the DIY thing, the carelessness, the expression of truth at all costs, the disdain of calculation and pomp.

Bob Reuter also knew Mike Martin from Tinhorn, since he recorded and played on his CD Down In America. Bob knows everybody, I guess, since he is out there playing, night after night, year after year, wherever somebody wants to hear him.

Here are a couple of my favorites of their songs. Stars was also on a couple of local compilations. The Sullen song is just a personal favorite of mine. Shanna told me she wrote it by herself, and the lyrics always got to me. They made me think of Bob.
I gotta boyfriend
I gotta girlfriend
I gotta grandpa
I'll tear your heart out!

No Sleep by Sullen


Stars by Tinhorn

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Best of the Naughts: Larissa Dalle & Getaway Car


Around the same time as Bob Reuter's big CD release I was watching an awful lot of local bands. One of them was Getaway Car, a band with my old friend John Taylor and this genius named Don Williams as the leader. John Taylor was the bass player for the Unconscious, a band I managed to miss almost completely because I was living in Italy during the height of their fame.

Don put out a short CD in 2001 called "First Gear" that this cut, Deep Down, is taken from, and it's a really good collection of songs with great beats and lyrics. Since Don was a bass player himself, John Taylor isn't on the CD. They were a great live band, too. At the time I was impressed by the way they merged beats with a house music sound, though that particular style seems to have passed.

In the early naughts there was a lot of action around a recording studio run by Jason Rook and Chris Deckard called Penny Studios. Jason was a serious, very talented guitarist and Chris was an avant-garde electronics guy who also wrote songs. Hanging around the outskirts of this scene was the beautiful Larissa Dalle, who has one of the most heart-stopping and beautiful voices I have ever heard live.

Larissa would sing and the world would stop. It wasn't just me. I saw her sing at Frederick's Music Lounge one night, and the crowd, normally a drunken, rowdy bunch prone to talking and laughing and clowning around during bands, was dead silent. It was miraculous. Her voice did it. There's really no explanation for it, and I don't know if she ever realized it only happened when she sang; that other people didn't have this same gift.

She seemed to think her songs were simple little things that weren't deserving of any serious consideration, but I always thought some magic touch she had elevated them far beyond the ordinary. So here is one she sang often, Diva, which used to shush the crowds of drunken punks and grunge kids in the early years of the last decade.

I saw Larissa play an outdoor RFT gig in the early naughts with James of Julia Sets (who will be coming up in one of my next posts) and she managed to still an entire street full of people with her voice. Then this siren came up out of nowhere in perfect timing with some silent moment in one of her songs and everyone on the street, including Larissa, stopped in wonder for a second.

Larissa grew up a little, fell in love with Jason Rook, and married him. She now plays with Wormwood Scrubs, and they have toured the world in a small way. The last time I saw them play in 2009, they were doing some very cool acid rock long-form blues jams that were outstanding.

A streaming file of Diva:


A streaming file of Deep Down:

Friday, December 18, 2009

Best of the Naughts: Bob Reuter


The last ten years in St. Louis music came in with a bang and out with a whimper as far as I'm concerned. When thinking over my favorite St. Louis CDs of the past ten years, I have to start with the 2000 release of Bob Reuter's masterpiece, Down in America.

I'd known Bob a little since I saw him at the first punk rock show I ever saw at a house on Forest Park with the Retros and The Camaros. I was there to see his band, The Dinosaurs, and was not disappointed, since they played both sides of their single, (It Might Be) Rose and Rock'n'Roll Moron.

But when Bob released this CD - or whoever released it for him - I was knocked out. The songwriting on the disc was incredible. The band ferocious, on fire, all-consuming. It was country-ish, but it was pure rock. I'm linking to just two songs from this CD below for those who have never heard it, because I think it's sad that everyone in the world who loves rock and roll doesn't have a copy and I'm pretty damned sure it's been out of print since forever. I'm sharing two songs, but, damn, there's so many more.

I'll be posting a few more of my favorite St. Louis CD releases of the past decade in the upcoming week or two, so stay tuned if you like that sort of thing.

Here's Bob's great website, and here's It's Late, and here's Lauri.


Lauri


It's Late

Saturday, December 05, 2009

(Don't Funk With Our) Fame


Jamchild and Rico D. Bool, at the height of their fame in Shorty Long's basement.

One of the most iconic songs of the Change Music songbook, Fame represents both our typical delusions of grandeur and the farcical absurdity that we mixed in our approach to music. Inasmuch as Jambox was a punk band before any of us had ever heard of punk, this song is completely punk in all the ways that I later found appealing in punk.

First, there's the fact that we didn't really have any kind of ear for what we were playing together, and didn't really care. I admit that it perplexed and bothered me that what I heard in my head came out as thunderous chaotic noise when we played together, but I was never the leader type and couldn't tell anyone else in the band what to play or how to play it. Then there's the idea that we were actually making fun of ourselves for playing music and trying to be famous, by pretending that we were already famous in our minds.

This jokey approach to music grew in me to become a lifelong bias towards regarding fame as something highly personal rather than monolithic and universal. After the first hollow chuckles at the stupidity of a bunch of drunken hippies caterwauling about their so-called "fame" die away, the idea behind the conception of fame as something everyone has - a very punk rock idea, to my mind - starts to grow.

The people who are famous to me include a long list of the usual celebrities and geniuses. But the most famous people I know are the ones I actually know. In my world, the local bands I love are just as famous as the Who or the Beatles to me. Fame is actually an elastic and subjective description for anything I choose to give my attention to. When you pay attention to me, I feel the tiny twinge of fame you give me, and when I pay attention to you, you feel the tiny homage of fame from me.

I hope for a day when celebrity and fame become more and more local. I see no reason why we should give the precious gift of our attention to a handful of strangers in far away places when we have so much talent and entertainment right here in our own town. This especially seems truer and truer in these days, because the sheer amount of great stuff out there is almost impossible to acknowledge. In a time of 1,000 flowers, I prefer to give my attention to the flowers closest by, because they are the easiest to see and belong to me.

Download the supremely silly Fojammathon version of Fame to see what I always wished it would sound like. I'm quite proud of my odd guitar solo in this one.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Funkentelechy



When we were young funksters jamming to the sounds of Parliament/Funkadelic night after frantic night we worked as busboys, cooks, and dishwashers in the glamorous restaurants and nightclubs of the fabulous Central West End.

It all started with the late Kevin O'Connor, brother of Annie O'Connor, the most beautiful girl in the world, according to several of us, and disputed by others. Kevin had a beat-up old van and he liked to drive it across Forest Park to the Steak'n'Shake on Hampton to eat burgers in the middle of the night and while he did it, he listened to WESL, the greatest station in the nation for funk, soul and R&B in the 1970s.

Kevin was a slight, tall boy with elfin features and big blue eyes rimmed with thick black lashes. He was usually smiling, smirking, or laughing at some snide comment he'd just made, living life with the sidelong glances of a pigeon kicker. He had a pronounced Central West End accent, a kind of strange midwestern posh tone that I would find hard to describe any other way than by saying listen to Charlie Leonard for five minutes and you've got it. But his voice was even more languorous and slow, with a throaty rasp to it. I can still hear it.

Kevin had discovered that the WESL DJs, especially Jim Gates and the DJ who would become Dr. Jockenstein, were partying live almost every night from clubs in East St. Louis and that listening to them on the radio was almost as good, if not better, than actually being there. One of the songs they kept playing was an insanely infectious little jam that had some crazy deep voiced man repeating over and over again that we're gonna tear the roof of the sucker, tear the roof over the mother sucker, tear the roof off the sucker! Kevin was delighted with this breach of good taste and refinement in every way, and would crank it up on the car stereo whenever he heard it. Riding along with him, I fell in love with it, too.

Shortly thereafter I discovered that the name of the band was Parliament, and I was the first kid on any block south of Delmar to buy a copy of the LP Mothership Connection. I began to turn on everyone in hearing distance to the Funk, especially Slash Brannon, Geo Ramsey, Linda Fields, Dominic Shaeffer, Fo Jammi, Tracy Wynkoop, and more than I can remember, and we started buying every Parliament/Funkadelic album we could find. From 1975 until 1980 - the entire last half of the 1970s - my musical world was very different from yours, if you were around then. It was all funk. I saw Parliament/Funkadelic live more times than I've ever seen any band, starting from the KC Funk Festival in 1977 (Take it to Heaven in '77) until the tour for One Nation Under A Groove, where the magic paled when I realized George Clinton, the leader, wasn't even in the show anymore.

There can be no disputing my gilt-edged credentials as a bona-fide Maggot Brain of the First Order. So years later, in the early 1990s, I challenged Fo Jammi to create a little funk piece like we always wished we could back in the Jambox days when we thought we were just as good as Funkadelic but were actually more like chaotic noise more suitable for the Dr. Demento show.

So in one night we whipped up this tiny little fragment, Funkentelechy. I always loved the Funkadelic concept of Funkentelechy, and the lyrics didn't get much deeper than one line. We may have both done some keyboards on this, and I hear a little guitar, but you can bet it's almost totally Fo Jammi brilliance. I have a vague memory of Mark Gray playing that guitar solo, supported by the conviction that I never played that good in my life.

Download Funkentelechy.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Believe In Me! (A Foxtrot)


The New Maryland Jug Band was improvised in every possible sense instantly after the noise of the tape recorder signals that I had just pressed record on my cheap boombox. It was composed of Rico D. Bool, Slash Brannon and me, Professor P.T. Lobotomie. Our purpose on Earth was to create this one tiny slice of Jambox, with Rico on bass, myself on harmonica, and Slash on the nearly-inaudible jug. Even the name was invented as instantly as you hear it. Cello the dog got in on this one.

I had just started listening to jazz from the late 20s and early 30s from the 78 collection of Jerry Udell. I remember perfectly the night he first brought out the Bix Biederbeck 78s, and showed me how the numbers on the label put them in a series where it was more likely that Bix was on the record. The first one he played for me was "You Took Advantage of Me," still my favorite Bix Biederbeck record of all time, one that critics and admirers still point out for the uncanny Bix and Tram chase duet/solo right before an audibly astonished and delighted Bing Crosby comes in for the vocal, also one of his best jazz vocals.

The song segues without any effort at all into the common motif of Slash's comedy style, little kids behaving badly and being punished beyond all proportion for it. I cut this one off in a very peremptory manner, showing myself once again that I was a lot bossier than I thought I was at the time.


Download Believe In Me!.

Download You Took Advantage of Me.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Back to Beat!


Alex Mutrux wrote the melody to this song and brought it to the band shortly after Chuck joined the band. I did my best to write a rather lame middle section to give it another part and wrote the words.

Beat was on my mind a lot as a teenager. It intrigued me to think that there was a literate generation of hipsters before the hippies. The only real hippie writer I could think of was Richard Brautigan, who was half beat himself anyway. The second half of the hippie days, the seventies, hadn't really brought about any great minds or writers that I knew of. I surmised that greatness and hipness did not always coincide, and that the culture of beat hipness was more creative and artisitic than hippie freedom from actually producing anything of merit.

In my limitless ambition I envisioned our punk generation as being more like the beats than the hippies, with a vibrant literature (which I would myself provide, of course) and artisitic credibility. I figured maybe creativity just skips a generation now and then. So I proclaimed a movement in my own mind, Back To Beat.

Alex's guitar work on this song is both propulsive and refined. I remember how carefully he crafted his solo. One of our finest moments as a band, it has Kevin Brueseke on drums and Jim Saltsider on bass. Jim sings some backup, and I sing some out-off-key backup too.

She's a modern chick in a modern world
Doing her hair, she doesn't care
He's a modern cat like you see on TV
Cowboys & cars, cruising the bars

Take out your telescope
Put 'em under a microscope
Confess it to the Pope
We're in another world
They're reality and we're not alive
We're shoveling jive
We're in another world
Back to beat

Bangs & mascara & very tight pants
Splittings a chance
Watching her dance
Leather & cool, you're a drug-taking fool
Viewing the jazz with distant romance

Hippies were stupid
But we were smart
We're into Art!
We're in another world
Parker was fine
In the mainline
Tingling spine
Back to beat

The new bohemians - that's us.
It's back to beatnik - or bust.
The cycle of stupidity in the avant-garde will never pass
We've got the best of the past
With which to surpass.


Download "Back to Beat!"

Monday, October 26, 2009

Uberimma Fides


In February of 1990 I worked on this song rather fiendishly with Fo Jammi over several weeks. I was immensely proud of it and we put everything we had into it at the time.

I had written the basic words and melody a very long time ago, probably at least 1978 if not 1977. It was called "Ah-Ha" for a long time because that's what I sang instead of "Immortal" over the choruses. I played around with it for years, and back then people seemed to like it, but I never could knock it up into a proper song. I remember singing it in the bedroom I rented from Homer Townsley on Victor, the P-Funk Playpen Party Room. I remember singing it in summer, on the backsteps, out my seldom-used back door.

I remember that I once played this song for Renato D'Elia, who was my boss at the graphic design studio I worked in when I lived in Italy. He disliked the dirgelike drone that starts it off, without stopping to appreciate that I was going for the pseudo Ambrosian chant effect.

Despite it being an intensely religious song I tried to make it something someone in any faith could agree with. Though the fundamentalist subtext is for the listener to decipher as she pleases.

(Angels:)
We’re getting wrapped in chocolate whispers
We’re getting lost in his phrase
(God:)
Velvet dark-eyed angel transistors
Existing only to praise

(Angels:)
We were raised on his fantasies
Baroque excess through the haze
(God:)
I don’t mind if you say you love me
I don’t mind if you stay

(Angels:)
But now that God is all over modernity
Now he’s all over the place
We can count on our own divinity
Looking straight in his face

(God:)
I can look back until I’m unable to
Getting bored with your praise
I can guess as to why you love me
And why I let you stay

On this planet in these bodies
Longer than the pyramids
We’re living, this much is true
And if you’re living its never through
We are immortal.

You and me together through eternity.

I see you see they see we see
Existing through eternity
A vision, crystalline and true
there is no truth that is outside of you
And we’re immortal.

You and me existing through eternity.

That old time religion
Is good enough for me


Download Uberimma Fides.

Monday, October 19, 2009

How to promote your record



When I was a little kid, my favorite little kid rock band was Paul Revere and the Raiders. I liked lots of bands, of course, from the Beatles to the Dave Clark Five, anything on KXOK in St. Louis was usually pretty good for me. But Paul Revere and the Raiders were the best, before the Monkees came along, because they had a show on TV called "Where The Action Is", everyday, at an after-school time of day if I remember correctly. Mainstream pop music used to be naturally marketed to kids, back when it was successful. Seems like the more they strive to position music for adults and college kids, the less of it they sell. Because the music companies are all staffed by brain-dead losers who know nothing about marketing.

Paul Revere and the Riaders had plenty of hits during the short life of that show and another one, plus frequent appearances on all the variety shows that were on everywhere in the 60s, 720 appearances in all. But around about the time of their last few albums they kind of went out of style. A lot of big bands were going psychedelic, and were growing quickly as musicians and songwriters. Mark Lindsay, the front man for the Raiders, had one of the best rock voices on the radio, effortlessly crooning or shouting as aggressively as anyone out there, but their songwriting chops were starting to sound a little weak in comparison.

I recently bought a couple of their later albums, both from 1969, through a reissue record company out of Germany called Repertoire. I bought "Alias Pink Fuzz" and "Hard 'n' Heavy (With Marshmallow)" because I had never heard of them before and became more and more curious the more I thought about them. Repertoire has a bunch of interesting and obscure CDs that you can't find anywhere else, like stuff by Family and a few excellent Spirit CDs, among many.

Both albums have a couple of decent songs and a few surprises, but nothing too insanely great, outside of the forgotten hit "Let Me." But what really intrigued me was the inclusion, in a sneaky way, of two radio commercials promoting the album that show either a desperate attempt by Columbia Records to goose sales on a failing cash cow, or a typical method of promoting an album from a time when record companies actually tried to promote their product, instead of suing their customers for stealing. The two commercials were stuck on the end of a demo song, with no track of their own, and were unremarked upon in the liner notes.

Here they are, for you to hear:

Download Paul Revere and The Raiders Commercial 1.


Download Paul Revere and The Raiders Commercial 2.


There was also, on "Hard 'n' Heavy (With Marshmallow)", this Pontiac GTO commercial:

Download Paul Revere and The Raiders Pontiac GTO Commercial.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sleet at the Urban League November 6th 2009


The man, the symbol, the group.

Thom Sleet has been evicted from his studio. We played one last recording session there and started with an extremely free version of "A Love Supreme", which was played as Coltrane might have liked, with little or no reference to his version at all except the first three notes.

We plan on doing something like this at our upcoming gig at the Urban League on November 6th 2009. Hope to see you there.

Download an excerpt from "A Love Supreme".

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Entombed in the Bozo Galaxy


This crazy little sketch is one of my favorite trifles from the FoJammathon sessions of the early nineties. I felt like I was really singing well on this song. In all the FoJammathon sessions I was determined to pitch my voice in a lower and more resonant key than I had in the Obvious or Jambox. Listening to myself sing this way through Fo Jammi's nice studio mics, with his reverb and eq set in a very flattering way, made me think I could really sing well for the first time.

Like Cicca Bu Pop, this song was written in the studio with Fo Jammi as a series of midi loops carefully crafted and arranged by Fo Jammi as we smeared them across his various keyboards. He would stare intently at the primitive screens of Atari 1040, using the Smpte Track software. It had a dongle that doubled as the MIDI interface.

It was all very arcane and mysterious to me, though I liked watching him delete sour notes and move around good ones with the mouse. He liked to apply a natural sounding correction to the tracks called "Humanization" and I liked the way that sounded.

At the time we created this song I was concerned about the lack of AIDS awareness in popular music thanks to some idiotic article I read somewhere, and had decided to correct this lack all by myself, and save humanity from this terrible scourge. As a result, I wrote and rewrote several songs to be incredibly depressing turn-offs. The only redeeming facet of this theme when I dealt with it was my consistent inability to write anything serious or devoid of sarcastic intent.

Here's the lyrics:
Entombed in the Bozo Galaxy
So far away we just can’t relate
Separate in the workings of fate

I was out on a date, it was getting late,
And we couldn’t communicate, when I said “Figure it out.”

We’re all entombed in the Bozo Galaxy
Misunderstanding it face to face
Discrete in emotional ‘splays

We were lyin’ in bed, gettin’ some head,
When she said “Get on down.” and I said, “Figure it out.”

We’re all entombed in the Bozo Galaxy
Freakin’ on some goofy disease
No longer doing just as we please
So rubberfied we just can’t relate
Separate from a soap opera fate

We were out at a club, living in dub,
And you loved to get on down, and I said, “Figure it out.”

We’re all entombed in the Bozo Galaxy
With you and me and them at the gate
Alive enough to party ‘til late


As with Cicca Bu Pop, I may or may not have contributed some simple hooks to this piece on the keyboards, but most of the awesomeness was from Fo Jammi alone.

Download Entombed in the Bozo Galaxy

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Cicca Bu Pop!


Being ancient in age if not soul, I feel a strange nostalgia for those long-ago days when I would go over to Fo Jammi's little house in South Saint Louis and shoehorn myself into the large closet he had carefully crafted into a studio, using mostly his wits, a determination not to spend a dime more than he had to, and carpentry skills. We did this almost every Monday night for a year or two, and then stopped for some reason, probably paying recording projects that he took on instead of self indulgent projects with me.

My selfish agenda was, and still is, to record every song I ever wrote, and to re-record some of the songs I felt hadn't been done justice to. As time passes I have become more and more convinced that this ambition will never be realized; it's just not important enough to me to take the place of family and work. But we didn't just record Tony Patti songs, thank god. We would also kind of horse around and do little one-off experiments with total freedom, too.

Cicca Bupop is one of those little sketches. As we threw this together, playing keyboards, Fo Jammi would make midi loops on his extremely useful and capable Atari computer. I would play something simple that repeated itself and he would add whatever he wanted, being able to play keyboards with both hands in a rather expert, show-offy kind of way that did little to increase my delusional regard for my own abilities.

The Atari was quite a decent midi editor. I've yet to see a program to surpass it for usability and interface, and think Fo Jammi hasn't yet really found something he likes as much, since he uses midi very little these days.

As we were putting together this mellow little jam I felt the need to interrupt it totally with some kind of harsh punk freak out. So don't turn up the volume on it and hold on to your hats. It lasts just a few seconds, then calms right back down again. Kind of like life.


Download Cicca Bu Pop!

Monday, September 07, 2009

Rio



As soon as I quit playing punk music in disgust after the Obvious broke up I started writing bossa nova songs. I'm pretty sure I wrote this song in 1983, and I remember playing it for Earwacks and hearing Benet Shaeffer, their ace drummer, proclaim it the only true bossa nova beat I'd come up with yet.

I moved to Italy, still playing this song. I played it in The Zantini Brothers back in the 80s a few times. I never felt the need to get any deeper into the lyrics, for some reason. I wanted this song to just exist, as it is, a tiny wistful bossa nova breeze blowing through my brain.

When I got back to St. Louis and started jamming with Fojammathon I felt like I just had to record this song with some nice strings and some approximation, however lame, of the kind of off-kilter yet stunningly precise drums like the guy who played on Jobim's The Composer Plays LP. I sang the strings to Fo Jammi and he played them for me, and recorded this rough sketch, complete with me whacking the drum machine at random intervals, trying and failing to capture the unexpected magnificence of that drummer.

The song just fades out in our sketch, so I faded this cut early so you don't hear all the parts die away, until there's just guitar. It's a pleasant little number. I used to imagine I could sell it as a commercial jingle. How ambitious I am!


Download Rio.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

The Barfy Carson Show



Starting with the P-Funk PLaypen fave "Cocaine Puffs", a 30 second commercial cereal radio spot, the Barfy Carson Show quickly becomes a De Bool tour de force as Rico basically becomes "Barfy Carson" himself. From the sound of this tape I would say that this entire piece was worked out exactly in advance, with names and songs planned and written.

Then Slash Brannon slaps into his classic Steve Mizerany routine. "Caressing tidal waves" and shit.

Then, as if you hadn't already expected it, comes the old Tonight Show theme sung by a small crowd at the Playpen. Slash does his comical fast-talking shtick. Hamilton Jordan is lampooned, then Cathy does Zsa Zsa Cataro from Mesopotamia. "My diaminds on my uh breasts, is..."

Next Slash does his Muddy Racket routine, trying to be the world's worst comic, including his classic cookbook joke, and I remember the crowd had strict instructions to laugh at every joke. Then there's a shameful "Don't squeeze the sand paper."

Slash and Rico play a bickering couple who are recommended Toast Brand Soap because your mama used it and your daddy used and your aunt used it and your cousin used it, etc.

Then we arrive at the lugubrious "Faster than light" boys. We did them as a flipside to Slash's usual fast-talking comedy thing, the faster than light boys talk reeeeeeeaaaaaal slooooooowwww. After a long interview, they "play" a cut from a Mahavishnu Orchestra record played at 78 rpm.

It's all so painfully crude but if you were there, it's funny.



Download The Barfy Carson Show

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Why Don't You Take It Off?


Here's a song from Jambox Tape A, a Maxell tape about thirty years old, maybe more, that we used to record ourselves back when I live in Homer Townsley's P-Funk Playpen on Victor.

In our neighborhood in the summertime we would all sit in front of our turn-of-the-century red brick building as the shadow crept across the tiny hill of weeds with our shirts off, drinking beers. The stoop steps were nice and cool to the touch; I think they may have been marble under the dried-blood-red and cape cod green paint that flecked off to reveal flecks of white beneath. All the other hoosiers up and down the block would do the same thing as us - there was no air conditioning for miles around us. We always had our afternoons free because we worked the lunch shifts at restuarants in the Central West End: cooking, bussing tables, washing dishes. The smell of rotting bus pans would waft up from our caked and faded blue jeans.

This was the way we sounded when we were practising. This song is interesting to the two or three fans of Jambox - mainly me and maybe Rico De Bool only - because it shows we tried to arrange our songs a little bit and it certainly showcases Joe's bass playing, raw but ambitious, like our singing. Another nice thing is you can hear De Bool singin with Patrick and I. This is a song I'd almost forgotten for many years.

The lyrics were my idea of silly seduction lines. I had a bunch of them, all offensive, never used.
Say, isn't that a tear there?
Bare flesh showing through everywhere.
Shame, a tear in that skirt there.

Why don't you take it off? It's only proper, dear.
No need to show fear.

Whaddaya mean you can't see it?
That don't mean that it's not there.

It's right over here where you can't see it, right here.



Download "Why Don't You Take It Off?"

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

You! Me! Dancing! to Los Campesinos! last night


Actually the yous that were dancing with me to Los Campesinos! weren't you, probably, since no one I knew was anywhere near the place last night. But I couldn't help it, Los Campesinos! are just so intoxicating, and far better live than on record, like all true dance bands.

It's so easy to make a bunch of interesting noises on record these days that I hardly notice anymore. But when you have two guitars, a bass, a violin, a kid's xylophone, an ocarina, and some keyboards and drums all going at once right in front of you it's a rich and dense sound. Their strength is their strangulated-sounding front man, who bangs a single drum or the xylophone with the beat you can only get from a frantic youth's flailing natural rhythm. The beats were swinging, dancing, crazy beats, unconfined by computerized counts or mechanical tempo.

They're from Cardiff, Wales, as they remarked last night at one point, and are quite young and beautiful, though not hollywood beautiful. Gareth, the singer who does the least else, sings in a gasping, strangulated yelp that sounds like a drowning boy fighting for his last breath of air to punch out just a few more arch verses. I was fascinated to see he looked very little like I suspected he would, being a strong, fit looking kid with red hair and a pleasant face. He acted like you might think, though, rather shy and maybe even uncomfortable, preferring to sing to the band or the floor at times. He was still a dynamo, wanging on his drums and stuff, flailing around, caught up in the frenzy.

The other singer, Aleksandra, was shockingly thin - I hope not sick, though she did have plenty of energy. Her voice is a little soft for a live show but she sang well otherwise, and played keys and an ocarina.

It was ridiculously easy for them to whip up the rather jaded-looking collegiate crowd, despite the evident inhibitions preventing the cooler sort from succumbing to the bounce. Los Campesinos are very good at dynamics, since they seem to be almost consciously against any mechanical beat. Maybe you can program Pro Tools to build to a crescendo, but a real crescendo has the uncertain pulse of life in it, the barriers of machine being more rigid than the permeable osmosis of a room of people being swept away.

I knew I would find myself dancing, but the kind of wild up and down bouncing and twisting they inspire is something I don't feel hardly ever. It was almost like the old New Wave beats, a little faster than normal, a little more out of control and intoxicating. Plus what they were all playing was dense and so full of ping-ponging counterpoint and swing that it was a frenzy. Dionysius was in the house.

Not every song was killer, but they were all at least novel and interesting. Listen to their live favorite and you'll get a tiny taste of the greatness I saw last night:

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Patty Pravo


I love Patty Pravo's voice, an alto quaver that throbs with suggested desire and obsession. She's like a Nico who sings in key, or a Marianne Faithfull, or even a Dusty Springfield. There's a certain decadent sexuality in her voice that reminds me of the depths of the drug and sex haunted seventies; a certain after midnight on 'ludes growl.

Her biggest hit was the ultra-misogynistic twin sides "La Bambola" and "Se C'é L'Amore". La Bambola means "The Doll" in english. Here are the lyrics:

Tu mi fai girar, tu mi fai girar
You make me spin
come fossi una bambola
as if I were a doll
e poi mi butti giu', poi mi butti giu'
then you throw me down
come fossi una bambola
as if I were a doll
Non ti accorgi quando piango
You don't notice when I cry
quando sono triste e stanca, tu
when I'm sad and tired, you
pensi solo per te.
only think of yourself
No ragazzo no, No ragazzo no,
No boy, no
del mio amore non ridere
don't laugh at my love
non ci gioco piu'
I'm not playing any more
quando giochi tu
because when you play
sai far male da piangere
you know how to hurt me until I cry
Da stasera la mia vita
From tonight my life
nele mani di un ragazzo, no
in the hands of a boy, no
non la mettero' piu'
I won't place it any more
No ragazzo no,
No boy
tu non mi metterai
you won't ever put me
tra le dieci bambole
among the ten dolls
che non ti piacciono piu'
that please you no more
Oh no, oh no -

Tu mi fai girar, tu mi fai girar
come fossi una bambola
poi mi butti giu', poi mi butti giu'
come fossi una bambola
Non ti accorgi quando piango
quando sono triste e stanca, tu
pensi solo per te.

The other song is somewhat the same, except a little more typically italian. The refrain goes "If love exists, there's a tear also" - I love that 'tear' in Italian is lachrima, because I'm a lachrymose sort of mope myself half the time.


Download "La Bambola" and "Se C'e L'Amore".

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Jambox Changezine


I've painstakingly scanned and cropped and paginated my 1979-1980 comic strip promoting the Change Music philosophy.

It's got some humorous moments that are just faint echoes of the comedy tapes I copied them from. Most of the plot was lifted from a Mo-Mo the Monster at Summer Camp tape that Slash Brannon masterminded. This tape has been lost, so the best we can do is read some of the things Slash spewed forth from his uncensored brain.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Heaven's Never Letting Me In


Now that I'm finally learning how to play songs I didn't write, after more than thirty years of just playing whatever chords sound good to me, I've turned my attention to a few obscurities that I admire unrestrainedly. So I'm going to blog abut a few of them, as I have "If You Got To Make A Fool Of Somebody" a few weeks ago. The song I'm writing about this week is "Heaven's Never Letting Me In" by the Webb Brothers.

The full, total horror of what the music business has become is perfectly displayed in the obscurity of the Webb Brothers, as it is in many other artists scattered throughout the fringes of our culture today. They've done three full-length CDs, each one better than the last, each one a deathless, timeless expression of pop magnificence, perfectly performed by artists who have more talent in their little finger than fashionable artists such as The White Stripes or Little Jeezy have in their entire bodies.

Jimmy Webb, their father, wrote some of the greatest songs of the 20th century, so it's true that maybe they should have to try a little harder or something. But their songs are incredible works, the kind of thing you'd expect from kids who grew up immersed in music in such a way that all the finest skills and tools that it takes most of us decades to achieve are present at once.

I wish I knew all the lyrics to this song, but this is the best I could decipher it:

No business at the venue, no mischief on the menu
On a bender and it’s bound to bend you tonight
I’m so uncomplicated, underground and underrated
Seeing feeling was reciprocated, let’s give all the people a fright!

California here we come again take this bore and make it fun again
I’m so tired of trying to be good, Heaven’s never taking me in!

I’ve taken all your babies, I’ve pumped em full of rabies
Pulled a carcass through the gates of hades better lock your children up tight

California here we come again take this bore and make it come again
What’s the point of trying to be good, Heaven’s never lettin me in!

Oh oh can’t you hear the whistle blow? California here we go
Never thought you’d hit so low, no, you were much too slow

When I was a boy I pulled the wings off pigeons, now I’m causing class divisions
I’ll start my own religion, oo you’ll never stop me, oo you’ll never stop me
Cause I say I’ll fast my dominion I’ll rule this whole dominion
Run my face on every television till everybody weeps at the sight

California here we come again take this bore and make it fun again
I’m so tired of trying to be good, Heaven’s never lettin' me in!

Oh no Heaven’s never lettin me in

Anyone who's ever read Paradise Lost will recognize the sophistication of the way this song deals with choosing evil over good. It gets right to the heart of the idea of forgiveness, which is seen as impossible because of the sinfulness of the singer. The singer boasts of his sins, and is proud of being unforgivable. The rejection of forgiveness is central to his belief that heaven's never letting him in. The one truly unforgivable sin, as I read it in these lyrics, is the disbelief in the possibility of forgiveness.

And the song rocks so incredibly hard, and goes from circus-like whimsey to slamming power chords behind the wails of the self-damned. This song has haunted me since I first heard it in 2003, and last night I stayed up all night - looking over in astonishment at 4:20 a.m., trying to figure out the lyrics and play it. That's something I've never even done for a Blind Idiot God song!

Download "Heaven's Never Letting Me In", then go to the iTunes store and buy everything they ever recorded.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Hoochie Coochie Poochie



Slash and I loved his dogs Topaz and Cello, who were also David Udell's dogs. Topaz was the stray from nowhere, a medium yellow dog with gold eyes and short fur, tough and wise. He was the alpha dog, but he ran to East St. Louis when Fojammi and Slash had their famous accident on the old MacArthur Bridge going for beer at 4 o’clock one drunken morning. Slash rolled the VW bug with Fojammi riding the roof on one of the dangerous curves entering the bridge, and when Topaz heard the ambulance sirens he took off for the East side, never to be seen again. Fojammi, who should have been killed - legend has it that he lifted the entire car himself - ended up in the old City Hospital. We searched for Topaz for weeks.

But we loved Cello as much, and wrote this song for him long before Topaz split. Slash wrote the melody, and I put the chords to it, which are the same as Big Noise From Winnetka, Hit the Road, Jack, or (I’m not your) Steppin’ Stone. He wrote most of the lyrics, too, though I helped a great deal.


In the kitchen you will find
Strongheart dog food is always on your mind.
A bass, a string, a chord, a thing
Splattering into your brain
Brewed for you a Cello stew
Plain-tasting canine strain
My ears erect, my nose just blew.
Hoochie Coochie Poochie

When we spell O-U-T
He heads straight for the nearest alley
Splashing his smiley face all over the front page
of everyone’s reality
Cello’s my man, you know he can
Show all the world his master plan
Funky Butt Mutt

Cello was a medium dog, mostly a German Shepard of some kind, black with a brown face and Cleopatra eyes with black rings around them that led off toward the back of his sleek head like mascara. He loved to eat ice and once I saw him chew up some broken glass he thought was ice. He must not have eaten it - though it sure looked like he ate it - because he never got sick. He did suffer from flea and skin allergies, though, hence the Funky Butt Mutt appellation.

The only thing in the kitchen at our hippie crash pad was a refrigerator with an empty cardboard bottom or two from the cases of beer we drank each weekend and a pantry with several cases of Strongheart canned dog food piled high. Slash always made sure there was dog food, and we all worked in restaurants, so there was little or no need for any other kind of food.

This song was always one of my favorite Jambox songs. It was the one song I felt always came across well, without as much of the uncontrolled and chaotic meanderings that characterized the Change Music style. But the vocals were always little better than the dog howls that inspired them. Slash’s girlfriend Lisa remarked that she thought we were going to pop a blood vessel singing this song.

The line about ears erect, nose just blew always charmed me, since a dog sneezing and putting it’s ears up is an image that you really don’t find much outside of the tiny Change Music catalog. I’d like to think it was one of my lines. Slash and I wrote songs the way we imagined Paul McCartney and John Lennon wrote their songs: he’d write a couple of lines, I’d write a couple, and in singing them, rephrase them until they worked. Now, over thirty years later, I can’t really claim to remember who wrote what, even though I remember writing this song very well.

I remember Slash came home, and started playing the melody right away. He’d been jamming somewhere, maybe Jeff Golde’s house, and he had seized on the melody and kept it going until he got home. I loved it so much I learned to play it, too, and made it the start of my big guitar solo in the beginning of the song. This recording has several keyboard parts layered over the top of my guitar, which I didn’t like very much. Fojammi will forgive me this opinion, I hope.

Here's a Fojammathon version of this song I like a little better, and the original EP version.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Stuttershark SLEET


Thursday, May 21,
from 8-11 pm
at the Sci-Fi Lounge,
6010 Kingsbury Ave.:

SLEET:
Improvisational percussion performed by William Morris, Tony Patti and Thomas Sleet. With abstract video by William Morris.

Admission: $2

Bill, Thom and I will be doing our improv percussion-based art performance music live with video by Bill. I might throw in some video to the mix, too. We'll attempt to explore the creative side of music, pushing ourselves to sync up and still explode outward in new and unexpected ways well outside of any structure or form that we can't immediately destroy while still presenting beauty.

This is the kind of music that is best live, for some reason, so come and listen. Here's a short piece to give you some idea of what to expect when we gel and flow:


Download "Stuttershark"

Saturday, April 25, 2009

If You Got To Make A Fool Of Somebody


Me, Simona, and her punk rock boyfriend in the Italian night.

Here's a post about a song I have neither written or performed, and high time it is. That's why this blog has variety in the title. So I can blog whatever I want.

When I lived in Italy in the late 80s I went nuts over Italian rock and roll from the sixties because it was like a whole new world of nostalgia was opened up to me. My friend Richard Wachter had once described me as being nostalgic for a past I never knew, which is pretty insightful. Two of the artists particularly appealed to me, Adriano Celentano and Mina. Both of them hugely popular, incredibly talented, and with the charisma of true stars in their own culture. One unforgettable afternoon I chanced on their movie "Blue Jeans" on RAI, the Italian national TV network, and it made a huge impression on me - a group of kids rise up against the Mayor of Rome when he bans Blue Jeans in the city. Corny but cool.

One of the Celentano songs that came to haunt me - one of many - was Il Problema Piu' Importante, which I didn't know in it's original version. The amazing vocal arrangement blew my mind. Take a listen:


Il problema piu' importante per noi
(The most important problem we face)
e di avere una ragazza di sera
(is who will be our girl tonight)
se restiamo da soli, soli tutto male
(if we find ourselves alone, alone in misery)
non si puo neanche cantar
(we can't even sing)

Forse non ci crederete ma e vero
(perhaps you won't believe it but it's true)
la malinconia ci prende di sera
(depression hits us at night)
con la barba gia fatta
(with our faces freshly shaved)
soli, senza nessuno,
(alone, with nobody)
ce ne andiam per la citta
(we go out into the city)

Gira e rigira, fra le balere
(going round and round, among the balere)
ci sara pure un anima buona
(there might be some good soul)
che si accompagna con noi
(that will accompany us)
anche perche
(also because)
non la troviamo mai, MAI!
(we never find her, never!)

One fine day I came to hear a version of this song by Bobbie Gentry, from the same album that brought us the song "Fancy", a typical 1960s song about a young poor girl being turned out to a life of prostitution by her own mother. Further investigation revealed that this song had been a minor hit called "If You Got To Make A Fool Of Somebody". So I had to dig up the original James Ray version:



I mean no disrespect to Rudy Clark, who wrote this fine song, (in addition to "Good Lovin'" and "Everybody Plays The Fool") but I have to give the edge to the Italian lyrics, since the theme of going out looking for girls in the soft Italian night speaks more to me than being made a fool of for no reason by someone. But you can see that this song is just one delirious arrangement, complex and mysterious, in any language. Check out the unprecedented combination of tuba, banjo and harmonica. Where did they come up with that?

Download If You Got To Make A Fool Of Somebody

Download "Il problema piu importante per noi"

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Slow Drag aka The Sunglassed Masses


Me on Delmar when I hung out with the cool kids.

I was honored to be included among the hippest kids in St. Louis, despite being an ancient old man to them, since they were all teenagers going to Clayton or U City high school and I was old enough to drink, though I still felt too young to actually hang out in bars. Instead, I spent my time messing around with my teenaged girlfriends and going to teenaged parties in various apartments and houses when the resident fossils left town and the kids held parties.

The kids I remember the best were Gabe Katz, who shared my love for Beats and who was just endlessly fascinating, Darren O'Brien, then LeDeen, and the mighty mighty Mark Higgins. Known universally as Higgens, he played the bass sax in Riot Act and cracked wise with a certain lordly demeanor that was impressive and magnificent. I won't go into the girls, for reasons of discretion, but I loved them all unashamedly.

I got to sing on one song with Higgens, a Don Green blues he called "Slow Drag"

I don't remember laboring over these lyrics or the singing of them, and they certainly sound dashed off and improvised. I can tell they were written down and that I was singing them from a piece of paper, because some of the phrasing is rushed and awkward, indicating that I've lost my place. The highlight of this long song was Higgens honking away on his sax, and I, for one, mourn the loss of the low end on the mastering of this song.

Skyscrapers fallin' down
Radiation all around
Suicide will end this mess
I'll buy my wife another dress
It's a slow drag
We need more ghetto blasters in the city

Longer unemployment lines
Dizzy astrological signs
Goofy kids be making noise
Excited girls be chasing boys
Don't beat me, they say
And turn around and run away
And all this time you get fed up
And listen until you shut up
Are you ready to bop? Step up and blow, it man!

Riding around like you got it made
Brilliant colors made to fade
And facts and rumours merge with tact
Let morals and manners make a pact
We need more ghetto blasters in this town

Society girls in gowns around
The sunglassed masses downtown bound
The sunglassed masses east and west
The sunglassed masses off your chest
The sunglassed masses know no crime
The sunglassed masses dance in time...

This is the other song I wrote lyrics for and sung on the After Hours LP, and it shares the same credits, though only Nick Georgieff knows for sure, and he ain't tellin'. It's a longer song than usual, but worth it, if you like hearing someone singing under the influence of Johnny 'Guitar' Watson and a heritage of true gangster inflection from North Saint Louis.

Download Slow Drag.

Friday, March 27, 2009

PKG. LIQ.


Cover by Jeff Roth, baby!

Nick Georgieff played keyboards in Riot Act, if I remember correctly, and he had some kind of half-assed studio set up in his bedroom in an apartment in University City. He was a very cool guy, and friends with Don Green, who wanted me to make up some lyrics and sing on a couple of songs he'd written.

So sometime in 1983, shortly before I left for Los Angeles with Don, we sat around in Nick's studio and knocked off this song, which I called PKG. LIQ.



I loved the guitar licks on this song. The R&B turn that Riot Act was taking this year inspired Don to create some tiny little tricky licks that repitition could only enhance, rather than weaken, like all great R&B figures. I even regret that this song isn't twice as long. Every time I hear the last part, I wish it would go on and on.

Don and I were both South St. Louis white trash with some limited experience in the trashy side of St Louis, North and South, and he knew what I meant by the title - those cheap little neon signs you'd see on the lower class dives that sold beer on Sundays back when - listen up, children! - back when it was illegal to sell beer on Sundays unless you had a special license they mostly gave to restaurants and taverns.

What we were really thinking of was the greatest of these Sunday Liquor store substitutes, though, the popular Regal Sports on Olive. You could barely drive down Olive, a six lane street, on Sundays, thanks to the dozens of cars parked up and down the block, often double-parked near the door. The wino stuff might have been based on some actual encounter with a wino somewhere.

Listening to it, I felt the love I have for all my U City punk rock friends, Darren, John, Gabe, Higgens, and the gorgeous girls like Lisa, Tracy, Angela, and the rest of the crowd of that time. They were all at least five years or so younger than me, and they thought I could sing. I remember lots of the teens thought these songs were funny.

I don't remember the lyrics to this song, so your guess is as good as mine. The guitar is Don Green. The drums and synth lines are Nick Georgieff. The vocals are probably Don, Nick and me.

Download PKG. LIQ.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Introducing Don Green



Don Green was the guitarist for one of the first punk bands in St. Louis, The Retros. When the Retros broke up - why I don't really know, except that I do know that his band mates Chuck DeClue, a bass player named Paul and the remnants of the Oui Oui Twins formed The Obvious right afterward - he ended up playing R&B and Ska with Riot Act and was damned good at it, too. Everyone agreed that Don was a freaking machine on the rhythm guitar.

Don was one of the guys who moved into the apartment upstairs from the OP-P Club with me after I opened the club. We all played guitar - Jim Saltsider, Don Green, Brian, and Paul Beasly. Shortly after they all moved in with me I came up the stairs one night and everyone was sitting on something - a mattress, an old couch, a box with a lamp on it, and playing solid body guitars of one kind or another, and the sound of fingers needling away at almost imperceptible strings was like a distant insectile buzz, so I decided to call us Don Green's Guitar Army.

Despite the fact that I was the landlord, I felt like Don was our leader, since he was the only one of us with a job.

Don dated Alissa Feinberg, the lost Oui Oui Twin, and we were pals. Long after the club closed up and I was at loose ends, mourning over the loss of a punk rock girlfriend who I should have never gone out with anyway, Don and Alissa asked me to come with them to California in Don's rebuilt Volkswagon.

I test drove the Volkswagon before we went on the road with it and noticed that the steering wheel had a quarter turn of play in it, and told Don he had to get it fixed before we drove it across country. Don refused flat out because he had just spent over three hundred dollars getting the engine rebuilt and that was a lot of money back then.

Soon after we hit the road the car started shaking violently on the highway. Somewhere outside of Springfield Missouri a high wind caught us as we were crossing an overpass going at least 60 and I smashed the car up on the median, tearing my side of the car completely off. Luckily we both walked away from the accident unharmed, but we had to take a Greyhound bus the rest of the way to Los Angeles and while Don forgave me, I'm not sure that ever really forgave me, if you know what I mean.

In my next post I'll put up some of the Don Green songs I have lying around, which would be the two cuts from After Hours that we did together right before we took off for L.A., and a few of the Hollenbeck tapes of the Retros.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Last of Jim Saltsider



These songs were pretty famous for being daring, bold explorations of the seamy underbelly of our cultural landscape. Either that or they were snickered at by the less analytical among us for being dirty. When I first realized what he was doing in these songs I was pretty amused.

It's pretty ingenious to take your lyrics entirely from alternate sources of verbiage like bumber stickers and graffiti on bathroom walls. Especially because he follows through on the concept completely, without dipping into editorial comment or any kind of judgement. However, these songs aren't safe for work, or home environments where children might be encouraged to engage in antisocial behavior of a sort unbecoming to the standards of those who wish to take our children from us and put them in foster homes for the licentiousness these songs exhibit, far fetched as it might seem.

But they are some funny, simple little country songs, and they would've been huge hits for Jim and Buddy Ebson if they had done something elementary like a lo-fi youtube video of them, because this is just the kind of humor people love to circulate via email to all their buddies.

Download Sh*thouse Walls.

Download Honk If You're Horny.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Jim's dark side.


I can feel love for just about anyone but still be fully aware that they have faults. I'm not a black or white person, I don't deal in dualities, but see the world as shades of gray, as points on a continuum rather than guilty or innocent.

Here are a couple of Buddy Ebson songs that are supposed to be knee-slapping hilarious but which are also painfully heartfelt. They are both firmly within the country vein; the white trash St. Charles old-school country tradition Jim grew up around. When St. Louis went alt-country in imitation of the stunning success of nearby local boys Uncle Tupelo, most of my friends took to the country sound without the slightest hesitation. These two tracks show what many of them reverted to, turning their backs on pop, new wave and punk.

This alt-country turn started right before I moved to Italy, with my friends Mort Hill and Carol Crudden's brilliant band Diamond Stud, and when I came back to St. Louis it surprised me how country all the old punk rockers had turned. I had grown up associating country music with conservative, racist, intolerant assholes and it took me quite a while to get over these prejudices and appreciate country music at all.

These song titles are my guesses:

Download Let's Start With The Lawyers.

Download Going Postal.

Download Dope Smokin' Hippy.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A short addendum about Jim Saltsider

In my last post I mentioned "Fantasia For Strings" and a nameless 60s sitcom theme that were two of the mainstays of my repertoire of sarcastic guitar licks; the kind that musicians throw out when practicing or showing off. I have recorded two short examples of me playing them quite badly on the guitar so that you can hear what I was writing about.

I did a cursory search on iTunes for "Fantasia For Strings" and found nothing that sounded remotely like it, so the title of it is just a fossil of my unreliable memory. Here it is:



This snippet was once the subject of furious debate. Exactly which 60s sitcom was it from? I heard many people swear it was from "My Three Sons," though the music played over the titles of that show was completely different. I call it the Fred MacMurray Museum of Modern Art Anthem. The 60s sitcom theme:



Download Fantasia and or 60s.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Whatever happened to Jim Saltsider?


Did you ever really love somebody for no good reason? You just love them, and whenever you see them, you get all happy and excited and ready to start some shit? Start a band, write a song, hit the bars, anything? Jim Saltsider was a guy like that to me, though I wasn't nearly as bat shit crazy as he is.

I miss that rat, and he's been gone to parts unknown for quite while now. Dave Winklemeyer claims that he went to the Northwest about seven or eight years ago, maybe longer. But I haven't actually seen Dave for many years now, so that's pretty vague. The last few times I did see Jim he was playing with his new band, Buddy Ebson, at Frederick's Music Lounge, and that place has been closed a long time now.

Bloody Ebson was the brilliant, virtuosic joke-band answer to a previous virtuoso joke band Jim had called Jethro Bodean. Jim had become one hell of a guitarist. Back when we were in the Obvious together, I was the one who could play Great American Classics such as "Fantasia For Strings" for laughs, along with a tiny little melody line that was universally recognized but heatedly debated - was it "My Three Sons"? or some other sixties sitcom theme? By the time I saw Jim play at Frederick's, his mastery of the cheesiest of KEZK Klassics was incredible. It bespoke of hundreds of hours of intense study of what he liked to called "Great American Songs."



Fred Friction was nice enough to burn me a copy of a recording he had of Bloody Ebson, and it has been a prized possession since. I'm pretty sure that it was recorded live, but I don't hear any audience noise, but it's definitely a recording without overdubs or studio trickery. I assume that it has Mike Burgette on bass, since he played with Bloody Ebson. I'll be posting a few of these tracks if anyone wants to hear them. I'll start with these covers, and next I'll post some of his original tunes, which will not be safe for work, children, or the easily offended.

I'm tired of waiting for Jim himself to actually release this stuff one way or another. Maybe if I put this music up on the web, he will appear out of nowhere to kick my butt for doing it. I hope so. I miss that crazy rat.

Kaya Ungu Mala!

Download Bloody Ebson Track 3.

Download Bloody Ebson Track 4.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Pharmaceutic Rock Again

This time, with Jeff Hess, KDHX DJ and local rock god, on drums and backing vocals. He also lent me the fuzz-tone guitar you hear that makes this piece such a wall of punk noise. Recorded at Soft Sound Studios with FoJammi on the mix, and on the elegant keyboard motifs, with an additional vocal overdub and a sleazy guitar lead thrown in at my basement studio.

Read my note about this song, and even listen to the demo version, here.



Download the new improved version of Pharmaceutic Rock.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Erotic


I brought this song to Soft Sound Studio in the early nineties, and FoJammi and I worked on it for a couple of weeks to get it as finished as it is now. Since we couldn't track guitar and vocals at different times, FoJammi and I made several short samples of the guitar line and synched them with midi to the rest of the synth tracks. This freed me up to sing this with all my heart, putting a great deal of effort and thought into the actual performance of the vocals, instead of doing whatever I could to deliver both at once.

I've loved to sing since I was a kid. My family was a singing family, one that sang when we got together for birthdays and picnics and whenever my grandma got out her little plastic ukulele. But when I heard my voice going through FoJammi's nice studio microphones and through his banks of reverb and EQ effects and compression and whatever else he had going I fell in love with my own voice for the first time. And this song was one of my best vocal performances of this time, perhaps the one that convinced me that I really could sing, if I pitched my voice right and worked hard enough at it.



I gave a great deal of thought to Erotic. First, I wrote it with all minor chords, as an experiment. Then, the words, which are about my post-pubescent relationship with eroticism, forced me to become allusive and vague instead of painfully obvious, as my lyrics almost always are.

Right after we recorded this version of this song, which is probably the final version, I wanted to redo it. The guitar solo was good, but had a couple of glitches that I can't hear any more. And many years later, I wanted to rewrite some the lyrics to reduce the unconscious assumptions of male privilege I now heard. But I've resigned myself to leaving it as it is, since experiments with resurrecting the ancient midi files have been nothing but a lot of hard work for very little good.

Plus, I'm unwilling to sacrifice the incredibly beautiful keyboard work FoJammi did on this song. The keys come in on the second verse, with pleasant counterpoint and harmonies, and then soar on the French Horn arrangements. I'm sure he could do it again, but is it worth the time, when this version is so good already? Better to live with the flaws.
Let’s get one thing straight—I never use imagery.
I’m not that kind of boy; I believe in honesty.
It’s an image with weight; it makes you circumvent
Circle around all the things that you might have meant.

And it doesn’t hurt anyone
And it isn’t real dangerous
And when you want it bad enough
You can even think it up on your own.

It’s just a little vice, and it shouldn’t shock anyone.
Between you and me, it’s acts of unlimited love.
It’s a fever that builds—it comes and it goes, you know.
You’ve got to admit that it’s all in our minds by now.

And if you try to examine it
And you take all the measurements
and read in between the lines
You’ll find out that you’re missing the point.

You shouldn’t ever judge an act of creation.
The myths that inflame our highly volatile brains.
The mystery of the act of attraction proves
you can never disprove what happens in solitude.

I don’t care about morals
I don’t care about prudity
But here is the way it is
Resplendent in nudity:
I want you to use your brains,
Now what do you think about that?

Download Erotic.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

My Bird Eats Turkey


Slash Brannon was a poet much admired in Jambox circles. His brother David and all the Earwacks cats dug his words, too. I copied a few of his poems in one of my oldest notebooks in the hopes of preserving some of heir mad frantic glamour. I knew I couldn't rely on Slash himself to preserve them, since he was hell bent on self destruction from birth.

One of our first projects together, after we decided to start recording every Monday night, was My Bird Eats Turkey, a poem by Slash Brannon that came up one way or another, perhaps by browsing through my old notebook.

We used the first line of the poem as it was, to set the rhythm of the lines to follow, which the poem didn't, more meandering than song. Then Fojammi went nuts on it, in a process that I think I contributed to as much as I could, but since I don't really play keyboards, in ways that probably either resulted in minor structural parts or else chaos.

I worked on adapting the lyrics, throwing as much of myself into as I wanted to. We recorded it a few different times before we made the take you hear below, with George Crider and Peter Wood helping out with the Low chorus:



The lyrics go something like this:
Lillian slipping within crisp whirlpools gripping within concern
Lazily beans aligns with the main screen thinks about the curves

Low low low
That's about as low
As a fellow ought to go

Everything's happenin' and everything's changing and every thing's going by
I don't know nothing that I can't remember and I can't exactly remember

Patiently patiently waiting to awe the carnivore of all time
My bird eats turkey for breakfast every day
Never asks for bacon, I know just what she'll say
She'll say:
This was perhaps the best of all the pieces we did together at this time. Fojammi totally knocked it out of the park on this, and I was really happy with some of my ideas for the vocals, though it was never really fully realized, since I could never get it quite right in one live take with no overdubs.

This poem was written for a waitress at Duff's restaurant in the West End, where we all worked off and on in the late 1970s. She was a beautiful crazy blonde named Kate Brune, and we were partying over at her apartment one night when Slash heard her say "My bird eats turkey."

We were all in love with her, she was so incredibly cool and smart and older and sexy. She was like Dorothy Parker to my romantic young eyes, and if I had been older, or had even looked as old as I was, I would have tried to get together with her. But we were all teenagers and she was at least 21 or 22 years old, so it was like howling at the moon to even think of such a thing.

Download "My Bird Eats Turkey"

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Rendered Pimpless


This song was one I contributed very little to, but Jambox was a band, so I helped as much as I could. Slash Brannon wrote the brilliant misogynist lyrics. Rico wrote that blistering bass line and I love that much of it. Fo Jammi considers this piece Jambox’s finest moment. In this song I tried to do guitar parts that reflected the jagged intelligence of the bass, but I always felt I fell fall short of doing good work.

It's the least pop of our work, that's for sure. It was recorded on the vinyl Jambox EP, which I named this blog after, The Change Music Variety Show, Featuring Jambox.
She earned herself a loveless life
She worked so hard with her painless lies
She was rendered pimpless
She got so ripped

Rendered pimpless rendered loveless
Rendered lifeless in her eyes
Rendered stiffless instead of gripless,
Rendered a mess, she thought I tripped!

The morning bolts truth in paradise
The lady fried as I told her she lied
She was blitzed in shitsville
She got so lipped

Blitzed in pimpless, witless, loveless
Her fires just cinders, she’s paralyzed
Rendered stiffless instead of gripless
The Change just jammed on in her eyes
Way back in the late seventies Jambox had a whole pimps and ho’s world going that was making me increasingly uncomfortable. At first it was shocking and funny, and also ghetto, which we knew we were. Slash in particular had a strange success with girls who liked to be treated with a certain indifference that was close to contempt at times. This success emboldened him.

He delighted in calling girls bitches and ho’s, and god forgive me, I did it, too. But I doubt that it was something I ever liked much, even though who knows how much you can lie to yourself over thirty years later? I remember it was a cheap giggle to me that never came easily to my lips. From ho’s to pimps is an easy leap, so he came to this song. Nowadays such casual misogyny is commonplace in hip hop, but back then you’d never hear such crap except in secret party tapes and Redd Foxx records.

All I did on this cut is sing dreadfully off key and play some frenetic lead guitar. I also did the vocal arrangements, such as they were. Rico wrote the song and played it with monster abandon. I kind of like the music. I thought it was a creative and unusual bass line, especially for the seventies, when most bass lines weren’t nearly this punk.

I was also blinded by my uncritical love and admiration of Slash Brannon, of course. His poetry never failed to thrill me, even when it was degrading to women. Rendered stiffless! Blitzed in shitsville!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Down at the Studio


Down at the studio we're still making serious noise. Enjoy this out take from one of our Sleet-Morris-Patti creations. It seems a better mix came with my tiny five-watt amp, more suitable for the small room we play in.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Overgrown & Undesexed

After showing last week what a sweetheart I can be, now it's time to confess what a dick I once was.

I started "Overgrown & Undersexed" with the urge to write a put-down song, like the Blondie song "Rip her to shreds", but without the drag queen subtext, since I was oblivious to the appeal of a drag queen subtext, and thoroughly immersed in my own little world of teenaged girls who liked punk rock boys like me. These girls fancied themselves little tough stuffs, ready to take on the entire world of sex, punk rock music, and find a personal mix of sex and autonomy that I couldn't even begin to fathom because I was inclined to regard girls as mysterious beings, vastly different from me, who seemed to like what I liked, and then suddenly didn't, and I refused to think through why.

I had the mistaken idea that these girls were just as tough as they pretended to be, even though they were all between 16 and 18 years old and couldn't have known what they really felt anyway, since none of us were examining critically our sex roles through the lens of gender bias and shared humanity. When a beautiful teen girl would let a tear drop from her huge blue eyes, telling me her father was threatening to put me in jail for violating the statutory rape laws that everyone constantly flouted openly back then, there was a moment of profound disconnect between the punk streetwise front and the little girl just underneath. A disconnect far more worthy of profound exploration than the crap song I wrote instead, but hints of this conflict can be sniffed out by those sympathetic to the situation.

The lyrics of this song have many weak spots, and when you are already a weak lyricist like me, it can get pretty stupid pretty fast. I liked my songs to be fun, and that meant bad jokes when I failed, and below we can see not only bad jokes, but mean spirited and smug lyrics, too. But set in this bright sunny pop frame, I was trying to deliver an amusing contrast, and by ripping off a tiny bit of "Bus Stop" by the Hollies and then nosediving into what I called a middle-eastern scale based on a half-step repetition, I tried to mix it all up the point where it could become interesting. So take a listen:

Overgrown & Undersexed
You don't realize that you are a mess
Overgrown & Undersexed
You're about to climb out of your dress

You're the kind of girl
Who turns around when flashbulbs pop
You've got plenty of mirrors
To show you who's on top
If you want my opinion
I'll give it straight to you
You've had it too easy girl,
It will come back to you

You know I like to watch your
Curves and fleshly swells
But underneath all this
We find funky smells
As long as you're living,
Why don't you join us in some tea?
You're so independent,
You can do without me

This song was recorded at the second big Obvious recording session somewhere in Illinois, when we recorded and mixed five or six songs in one long day. It has the usual Obvious lineup on it: Alex Mutrux on guitar (I remember teaching him the scale to use on his solo, which was a struggle for him, but much better than mine), Kevin Brueseke on drums, Sally Barnes on Arp, me singing, and my brother Augustino playing bass and singing. 

Download "Overgrown & Undersexed"