Pre-Maple Stir-Up

:: Shorty - Hot For Teacher ::

Before Mark Shippy and Al Johnson formed the fantastic spazz-rock band U.S. Maple, they were in a band called Shorty. I love U.S. Maple. I loved Shorty. Shorty put a crying tomato and garlic on the cover of their album Fresh Breath. I love that. But while I don't like tomatoes, I do love garlic. This song is from their 1993 7" Kaput. The song Kaput is also on the album Fresh Breath. This was recorded by Steve Albini. So was Fresh Breath. He's an asshole, but I love the drum sounds he gets. This 7" came with a comic book. I love comic books. Mark Shippy drew a lot of the comics. He was a guitarist in Shorty. Al Johnson helped out creatively on some of the comic, so did David Yow. David Yow was in Jesus Lizard and looks like he would smell like an onion, but not tomato or garlic. Al Johnson looks like the Edmonton Oiler hockey player Ryan Smyth. They make the same faces sometimes, like they'd just smelled an onion.

This song is a cover of a Van Halen classic. I liked Van Halen until I heard Jump. That song kind of made me want to vomit, and I was only 14 years old. I wasn't even jaded yet. This cover of Hot For Teacher is just about perfect. Al Johnson is almost as good a showman as David Lee Roth. David is more athletic. Al is more disabled. I made this into an mp3 for you guys.

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Thursday, October 27, 2005 8:34:00 AM

Hey, there. Cool blog! I came across it via The Hype Machine.

I knew of Mark and Al of Shorty/U.S. Maple when I lived in DeKalb, IL in the early 90s. That is, I didn't know either personally. I just happened to live in the same boarding house as Mark for awhile, so I knew of the bands he was in when they played at Otto's, parties, etc.

Anyway, funny story: One day my friend, Rick, and I were at Otto's (uh, that's a rock club by the way) watching some frickin' band and Al happened to be standing nearby. Although a fine human being, my friend Rick did/does suffer from bouts of extreme lameness, proving it that night when he opted to yell "Free Bird!!!" at the band.

Immediately after he did, Al turned to him and, in a fake European accent, asked "What is this 'Free Bird' you speak of?" My friend Rick -- again, a great guy, heart of gold, really -- then very patiently and in great detail explained the cultural and humorous significance of "Free Bird."

Neither I nor my girlfriend, who witnessed the entire incident had the heart to tell Rick that Al was totally fucking with him. And to this day, whenever I read a review or see a concert listing for U.S. Maple, I think of that incident.

Thanks for indulging my sudden need to share. Uh, by the way, I'm really hoping Mark and Al did indeed live in DeKalb and I'm not confusing them with someone else.    

Thursday, October 27, 2005 9:01:00 AM

hahaha. thanks for the kind words and the story.

I have two U.S. Maple stories. The first time I ever heard them was live, when they opened for Braniac at The Bottom of the Hill in SF. I was up there visiting my then-girlfriend, and even though she didn't like most of the music I listened to, she recognized that I just couldn't miss Brainiac. (Good thing I didn't, because Timmy Taylor died not too long after that)

Anyway, U.S. Maple was the first band and came out and did their thing and blew me away. Since I was thinking they were pretty fucked up, I couldn't imagine what my R&B lovin' girlfriend was thinking. It was funny to watch her look at me as if to say, "You KNEW about this, didn't you?"

After the show, I knew I had to pick up a CD. Al was very nice, even commenting that he had noticed my girlfriend didn't seem to enjoy the show. The drummer was kind of a dick to me, probably because I kept going on drunkenly about how I'd never heard anything like them before. Hey, I wasn't into Beefheart yet, what can I say?

Another time I saw them here in Los Angeles at the Echo, and these very, I dunno how to describe them...I guess normal? girls were there. The kind you'd expect to see clubbing or at a John Mayer show. Anyway, they evidently went to school with Mark Shippy, and were drunk. Throughout the whole show they would burst out every so often by yelling "MARK SHIPPY!!" in a sort of cheerleadish voice. It was just really strange to hear happy shouts during one of their shows.

But really, you should ask Pavement fans what they think of them...    

Thursday, October 27, 2005 9:47:00 AM

Great stories. Hmmm...annoying drunk chicks from NIU. Whooda thunk it? :-)

Now that I think about it, another memory I have of this subject is that, before changing the name to U.S. Maple, the band originally called itself -- and I swear I'm not making this up -- The Beatles.

I saw them play their first gig at the forementioned Otto's and, like you, was fairly mystified, though impressed as well. (I think I considered Nirvana "avant-garde" at the time.) I eventually went on to appreciate Beefheart, too.

Keep up the cool bloggin'!    

Thursday, October 27, 2005 6:12:00 PM


Now i loves me some U.S. Maple, but i'm always fascinated by that one guy at the show who apparently ONLY listens to U.S. Maple. Last time i saw them this guido looking dude was standing right against the stage and just losing his shit - totally enraptured.

Here's where it gets weird - dude kept laying his hands on Al Johnson's crotch! not grabbing it per se - more like it was a holy relic and he was feeling its power. Al is, of course, unfazed by this. No revulsion, no pleasure - no response whatsoever. Motherfucker just rocks on like it's not happening. SOLID.    

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