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"