Possible Self-Esteem Issues

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

:: Offenders – I Hate Myself ::
:: Offenders - Bad Times ::

I was listening to the excellent R Radical Records P.E.A.C.E. compilation the other day after not hearing if for a long time. When “Face Down in the Dirt” came on I was reminded of how much I loved The Offenders when I was a kid, and still do. A thrash band from Austin, TX like R Radical founders MDC, The Offenders put out a pair of LP’s and a two singles between 1981 and 1985. The second LP, “Endless Struggle”, is definitely the one to search out. The bass player and main songwriter, Mikey Donaldson (a.k.a. Mikey Offender), an original member of MDC, later did a stint with D.R.I. and co-founded Sister Double Happiness with Dicks’ singer Gary Floyd. He’s back with MDC on their latest album (Corpses of the Ultimate Dominators) as well as their upcoming tour in the fall.

This single came out on Rabid Cat Records back in 1984, and it’s a celebrated piece of thrash here at Casa de Phil. The vocals are fiery, the guitar ferocious, and the lyrics furious. What more could you f’ing want? Lyrics are here if you want to know what they’re saying.


Early Achievements In Mash-Up History

:: Club House - Do It Again/Billie Jean ::

The kids love their mash-ups, don't they? Christina Aguilera vs. The Strokes, Destiny's Child vs. Nirvana, Kelly Clarkson vs. just about anybody. Hell, just last weekend Phil and I were grooving to Dangermouse's Grey Album (on vinyl of course, we have standards.) Well this here is a mash-up, sort of. Back then, they quaintly called it a medley. Some enterprising DJ or producer realized a similarity in the bass lines of Michael Jackson's then-ubiquitous Billie Jean and the yacht rock classic Do It Again by Steely Dan, and blessed the post-disco club culture with this funky Frankenstein.

It actually works pretty well... but frankly it's rather dull. It doesn't make me want to dance, not even mockingly. It does however make me miss buying waxpacks of baseball cards and opening them in front of the tube while watching Greatest American Hero. My biggest problem with it is that they've recreated the music rather antiseptically instead of combining the original songs. They probably didn't have that technology, or else we'd have surely gotten a controversial mash-up of I Want A New Drug and Ghostbusters. Also, the Donald Fagen dude, while doing a respectable imitation of him, sounds like English is his second language, giving it a surreal quality like it was ripped from a karaoke scene in a David Lynch movie. But hey, it was 1983. People were actually buying crap like Stars On 45, which is even more sterile and less adventurous than this.

I am sure this has likely appeared elsewhere, probably on some aerobic workout club mix that's gone platinum in Europe, but here you get it with all the pops and crackles, as Vinyl Jesus intended.


Had To Get In The Mood

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

:: Liberace – Hey, Liberace ::

Liberace had one of the classiest and most successful careers in music
history. Everything about him was completely over the top. Although he
wasn't such a great singer, and his piano playing was ridiculously
extravagant, he was a great entertainer. His shows were part fashion
show & part comedy routine, with musical interludes that jumped from
classical to boogie then back again. Critics hated him, but he just
laughed and raked in the dough.

The part I don't understand is why chicks dug him so much. They
thought he was the shiznit. The bees knees. Yeah, they wanted to jump
his bones and shit. Couldn't they see he was gay? I guess not. I can
understand this back in the '50s, before some people even knew
homosexuality existed, but even in the '80s, women would go to his
shows and swoon.

The song "Mister Sandman", written by Pat Ballard and recorded by the
Chordettes in 1954 namechecked our hero while describing the kind of
guy any normal, everyday female of the '50s might dream about. "Hey,
Liberace" continues along this vein, but this song was written by the
man himself. Obviously intended as an answer song to "Mister Sandman",
as well as a wonderful piece of self-parody, all rolled into a well
intentioned mocking of country music. It all adds up to a delightful

You may notice "Lee" Liberace addressing his brother and bandleader,
George. George went on to establish his own Song Poem company, George
Liberace Songsmiths
. How's that for class?


Pre-Chipmunk Rock

Monday, August 29, 2005

:: Alfi & Harry – The Trouble With Harry ::

Lately, when I’m not spending my dough on music, beer and cigarettes, I’m buying up Alfred Hitchcock films on DVD. This is what led me to recently pick up this single when I found it in Amoeba’s dollar bin, because the label stated, "Inspired by the Paramount Picture: Alfred Hitchcock's The Trouble with Harry." Turns out it’s the first novelty record put out by Ross Bagdasarian, who recorded three Liberty singles as Alfi & Harry in the mid-50’s, later assuming the pseudonym of David Seville with the 1958 hit single, “The Witch Doctor” (Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang walla walla, bing bang). “The Witch Doctor” is where he first played with speeding up the vocals on the playback tape, which later snowballed into The Chipmunks (and all of our Christmases being forever changed). “The Trouble with Harry” has a bit of Chipmunk in it, too, with Alfi yelling at Harry as a precursor to Seville yelling at Alvin. While this single has nothing to do with the film, Bagdasarian does have a connection to Hitchcock. He played the frustrated composer in one of the many apartment windows that voyeur Jimmy Stewart peeps into in Rear Window.


Machines - They're Gonna Dig Us Our Graves

Saturday, August 27, 2005

::John Livigni - Machines::

Machines weren't all that advanced in the mid seventies, but they must have concerned ol' John enough that he was moved to write this tribute to the dehumanization of our ever changing world. Or maybe the song was originally about something totally different, and then Jeff Barry got his hands on it. Ironically, this song could have never been put to vinyl, or heard by anyone, without the help of many different machines.

To me, it sounds like a theme to a lost 70's TV show; it’s kind of got that Mike Post thing going on. I can totally picture the opening credits. Sun-washed images of roller-skating girls in short-shorts and Dorothy Hamill haircuts grooving down the Venice Beach Boardwalk, guys dressed like Bjorn Borg doing exaggerated double takes as they pass by. Cut to an even more sun-washed vista of Los Angeles from the hills, etc.

This bouncy little nugget actually cracked the Cashbox Top 100 singles chart in 1975.


When I Get Big, I'm Gonna Be A Queen

Friday, August 26, 2005

:: Barbara Davis (vocals by Linda Lane) - Tears Help ::

I love song poem albums, but most of the time the songs are as mundane
as the names of the people who wrote them. Margaret Coles. Paul Sully.
Jack White. But then when you're about to nod off, something happens
that makes you say, "w-w-what?".

One listen to Tears Help and you'll know what I mean. No further
explanation is necessary. I always wonder if the person who wrote the
poem was happy with the finished product, but in this case I'd be
surprised if Barbara Davis was disappointed.

A lot of times the spoken word sections of song poems are there
because the singer couldn't figure out any way to phrase the words
within the arrangement, but Barbara Davis obviously knew what she was
doing. This song wrote itself.

A fine vocal by Linda Lane with music written by Alex Zanetis and Jim
Ward. The album's title is Hit Songs of Tomorrow, and that may very
well be. The problem is tomorrow never comes. Tears help.


Do It Yourself Delicacies

Thursday, August 25, 2005

:: Wingtip Sloat - M31 ::

:: Wingtip Sloat - Blessed Nimbus, Churning ::

When I lived in San Francisco and had basically no disposable income, a favorite passtime of mine was hopping BART over to Amoeba in Berkeley (back when it was the only one) and buying interesting looking CD's from their massive bargain bins. Not only were many of them only a buck, you got a free one for every three you bought. $10 could easily keep me in happy new sounds for a while, and I never felt too bad when I picked a real stinker, always assuring myself that one was the free one. An extra boon was finding label and regional comps from all over the country; I could hear 15 new bands in one sitting. I discovered Wingtip Sloat on one of these bin-diving trips, on a DC comp called Echos From The Nation's Capital. I'm sure I bought it because Edsel was on it, since I absolutely loved Edsel, but hot traxx from other bands like Tsunami, Candy Machine and Liquor Bike made this disc an instant fave of mine. The Wingtip Sloat offering, Waxing Neurotic, was plenty good, but not necessarily indicative of the genius I would discover later.

It was probably five or six years later when I found this 7" EP, and it completely blew me away. The terse energy of DC bands like Fugazi and Lungfish was comingling with the more classic sounds of Wire and Warsaw right there on my turntable, making it instantly familiar yet totally different than anything I'd heard. Every once in a while you get a sweet poppy melody, and it had the added benefit of sounding loud at any volume. This EP came pressed onto maroon vinyl, and the packaging was all done by hand. Mine came full of pieces of a cut-up crayon drawing, a photograph of a little boy at a birthday party, a receipt from a Safeway store, and a ripped third of a donation solicitation letter from the McLean Volunteer Fire Department.

These fellas were from suburban Virginia, and put out a few tapes, a few 7"s and two full-length CD's. They never made much of a splash nationally, and it sounds like they probably recorded a lot of their stuff at home. This is one of my all time favorite records, so I am putting 2 of the 4 songs up, and even in doing that I had to make tough decisions. Bon appetit.


Channing Rock

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

:: Carol Channing & Jimmy C. Newman - Louisiana Cajun Rock Band ::

Who knew Carol Channing rocked? To me she was little more than an
oddball has-been Broadway actress who occasionally turned up on
daytime TV shows like Mike Douglas and The Match Game. A big mush
mouthed blonde with a voice like sand paper who inexplicably seemed to
have a career. She was born in 1921, so by the time I became aware of
her, she was too old to appreciate as a sex symbol, if she ever was
one to begin with. It was hard to say what it was about Carol Channing
that was appealing.

Most of her fame came from Broadway. She was Lorelei Lee in "Gentlemen
Prefer Blondes," but Marilyn Monroe did the film version. She was
Dolly Levi in "Hello Dolly", but Barbara Streisand ruined the movie
role. She ultimately became known as a strange looking, but appealing
blonde with a huge mouth and an oversized personality. Female
impersonators had a field day with her. So how did it come to pass
that she should make a country album?

Don't know, but here it is. I wouldn't have picked this record up if I
saw it for ten cents in a dollar bin. As it happened, I bought a
couple of records from an old lady on Ebay, and she threw this one in
for free. It's an odd one, to say the least. Recorded in the mid '70s
and featuring some decent country musicians of the day like Hank
Locklin and fiddler Rufus Thibodeaux on the low-budget country label,
Plantation Records. You could do worse. This song is a duet with Jimmy
C. Newman
. Originally known as just Jimmy Newman, he was a straight
ahead country singer who eventually became known as a Cajun-country
singer, thus adding the "C." to his name. With this song, you get a
little country, a little Cajun, a little rock, and a whole lot of
Carol. What more could you possibly want?


Get A Piece Before It Melts Away

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

:: Dick Curless - The Iceman::

Dick Curless was a rich voiced balladeer from Maine who is mostly remembered for his odes to the hard workin' men who drive 18 wheelers. His biggest hit was the fantastic A Tombstone Every Mile, about a treacherous stretch of highway in his home state, and an early classic of the genre. He did a little bit of everything in his life, including a military stint in Korea where he not only drove a truck, but appeared on Armed Forces Radio with the handle "Rice Paddy Ranger." He later toured the country in Buck Owens All American Show. He also had a weak heart, a bad stomach, a serious drinking problem, and one bad eye. This last affliction prompted him to wear an eye patch, which makes him extremely cool in my book. Just look at the cartoon of him on the label; that's how someone nicknamed The Baron should look, right?

This here 45 came out in 1976, after Dick had quit hitting the sauce and his career was starting to peter out a bit. The A side, Hogtown, is a pretty good little tune, but I was definitely more intrigued by the flip side, an "adult party record" cut. Who was making adult party records in 1976? They even marked it Not For Airplay, to really build up the naughtiness. Truth be told, it's not very dirty. Just lots of wink-and-a-nudge metaphors about the local iceman delivering to all the local ladies boxes. I've never heard of Audem records, but their awesome logo should make Boards of Canada very, very jealous. Dirty ol' Dick rolled on into the next life in 1995. Enjoy this salacious salute to a different sort of hard workin' man.


He Can Dig Up The Grass, It's A Fact

Monday, August 22, 2005

:: Billy Edd Wheeler - They Can't Put It Back ::

Who says you can't tell a record by it's cover? I bought this record
simply because I liked the way the cover looked, and I assumed a few
things about it that turned out to be pretty much right on. Stuff
like, "this guy's a square folk singer being marketed as psychedelic
because this record came out in 1967".

I'd never heard of Billy Edd Wheeler, but when I started checking into
it, I found out he's actually fairly well known. For one thing, he
co-wrote the song "Jackson" (as recorded by June Carter & Johnny Cash
AND Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood) which I've definitely heard of, but
best of all he co-wrote "Coward of The County" for Kenny Rogers. That
record enabled Billy Edd to live a comfortable life for the past 25

But there's a whole lot more to BEW than that. Born in West Virginia,
graduated Berea College in Kentucky then served 2 years as a Navy
pilot. Went back to teach at Berea College and played folk music on
the side. Then attended Yale Drama School studying playwriting. Moved
to New York to try his hand at being a playwright and started writing
songs as well. Wrote 2 hits for the Kingston Trio. Became a solo
recording artist during the 60s and 70s with a few hits to his name
and finally retired with his family to North Carolina where he writes
poems, plays and songs, plays banjo in bluegrass bands and has
compiled books of Appalachian humor.

I chose this song because of it's poppy folk-psych sound and
environmentalist message. He may have looked like a square in a time
when all the hipsters had long hair, paisley shirts and flared jeans,
but Billy Edd Wheeler was an achiever who did it his way, and that's
pretty dog gone hip in my book.


It's Not Elvis

Saturday, August 20, 2005

:: Jerry Walker - American Trilogy ::

I never paid much attention to Elvis or his music until the Spring of ’96 when my friend Lovely Rita, a huge fan of the Big E, asked me to go on a spur-of-the-moment road trip to Graceland. Sounded like fun to me, so we loaded up her Hyundai with Pop-Tarts, Slim Jims, and a shoebox full of her Elvis tapes and headed down to Dixie.

We listened to nothing but The King during the 16 hour drive, and yeah, I started to get into it, but I mostly remember laughing at a lot of the ‘70’s era live stuff because there really is a ton of cheesy easy listening in there. But something funny happened between the Jamaican houseplant I smoked in the Graceland parking lot and our photo posing by Elvis’ and his momma’s backyard grave during the headphone tour: I got sucked into it all. The garishness of the gross Americana was the initial attraction, but his voice finally absorbed me and to this day I’m still eagerly buying his music. That’s what it all comes down to, man, it’s his voice. So, going to Graceland was somewhat akin to being brainwashed or indoctrinated into a cult, as I surely came out a believer. I now politely decline Scientologist entreaties to watch their orientation film when I pass by their building on Hollywood Blvd., as this experience taught me that I have an easily susceptible mind.

My Elvis fancy led me to find “Its Not Elvis (But You’ll Swear It Is)” a few months ago at Rhino. I had my fingers crossed that it would be heinous, but Jerry Walker is actually a pretty good singer. “American Trilogy” was a cheesy Elvis staple in his 70’s live shows, and it’s equally cheesy here, with Jerry going all-out and enlisting The Couriers Gospel Quartet for vocal background. There are liner notes on the back from Associate Producer Ron Brady, wherein he explains that Jerry was a huge Elvis fan who sang Elvis songs since 1960. Upon Elvis’ death, Jerry refused for “personal reasons” to sing any more Presley songs. Fortunately for us all, his friends were able to convince him to once again pick up the microphone, and they put up the money for both a tribute show in Southern California and to record this album at Ron’s studio. Ron happened to walk by while the sessions were happening, and couldn’t believe his ears. He took the tapes home to his wife and daughter for the “ultimate test” and they swore they were hearing the real Elvis Presley! Ron immediately contacted several record company contacts and Walker was signed to a Sivelle Records contract – “and the rest we feel will be history.” Indeed.


Elvis Is Great.

Friday, August 19, 2005

:: Ralph Lowe (channeling Audrey Faye Cuzzart) - Big El ::

Ah, another song poem. Oh well, no such thing as too much of a bad
thing. This one's sung by a guy named Ralph Lowe, a veteran of
hundreds of song poem recordings, mostly for Columbine(!) Records. Song
poems about Elvis Presley are of course very common, especially after
August 16, 1977. So, because of his ill timed death, a vague disco
beat on a song about Elvis is not uncommon.

For me, one of the outstanding features of this recording is the
extended guitar intro. Sounds like this picker was abducted from the
Steely Dan session down the hall. He just can't help but show off his
Larry Carlton-like lickage. I'm not sure his style works on a song
about Elvis, but who cares?. Ralph does his usual stand up job,
somehow making these incredibly awkward lyrics roll off his tongue
like motor oil. Ultimate credit must go to the lyricist, Audrey Faye
Cuzzart, without whom... oh, may I just say her name again? Audrey
Faye Cuzzart. Thanks.


Elvis Christ, Risin' Again

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

:: Death Ride '69 - Elvis Christ ::

I bought Death Ride ‘69’s first release, “Elvis Christ”, purely because I loved Bill Barminski’s ominous and grotesque cover art, both front and back. I didn’t, at the time, really like the music I found inside, so this album has pretty much sat untouched for the last 15 years. In rooting around for something to post to celebrate Elvis Deathiversary Week here at the Robot, I put this on the turntable and was happy to find that my musical tastes have obviously changed since then, because it’s not bad. In fact, I’ve been digging the EP’s primitive, sludgy dirges or “dark industrial psychedelic psycho rock”, as Mobilization Records labels their sound in the band’s bio.

Bassist/vocalist Don Diego and drummer/vocalist Linda LeSabre co-founded the band, after leaving DC post-punk band, Grand Mal, and moving to Los Angeles. The guitarist slot was left open for a rotating cast, Dave Haas being credited on this record. “Elvis Christ” was originally put out by Little Sister Records in 1988 as an EP. In 1989, Flipside released, “Elvis Christ: The LP”, with an additional six songs and completely different cover art.

At some point shortly after the LP’s release, Don Diego left the band. My feeble internet research has left me unclear as to what happened. I’d like to think that Don Diego donned a mask and is swashbuckling somewhere in the hills of California, fighting the good fight, but I think his reason for leaving was that he died.

A new line-up recorded an album called “Penetrator”, but it was never released. Mobilization Records announced that they will release it in 2006. LeSabre also put on one-woman tribal percussion shows as Beatmistress, and toured in the mid-‘90’s under that pseudonym with My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult. She revived Death Ride 69 in 1998, recording “Screaming Down the Gravity Well”, mixed and produced by Kult member, Groovie Mann.


Somewhere, Elvis Is Spinning

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

:: Gabriel – Somewhere Elvis Is Smiling ::

Do you remember where you were when Elvis died? Were you alive when
Elvis died? Is Elvis dead? I remember where I was. I was driving home
from work when they announced it on KROQ. I was like, "Whoa!".

My favorite Elvis death memory came a couple of weeks later when a
friend of mine got an emergency call to fill in for a soundman on an
Elvis imitator gig up at Big Bear Lake. We drove up there not knowing
what to expect. The gig was at the Big Bear Convention Center, which
was about the size of an Elks Lodge. We set up the gear and did a
sound check with the band, which was probably the biggest band we'd
ever worked with - full horn section, the whole bit.

I remember we got cocktails from the bar and waited for the show to
start. The audience started coming in and it looked as though they had
been bussed in from the old folks home. Tons of old couples mostly.
After a while the band came out and started playing. They probably ran
through about 2 or 3 instrumentals, you know, warming up the crowd,
then finally someone announced that The King was in the building. The
old people started to get excited. Suddenly this guy in Elvis garb
(his name was Steve Long) came running from the back of the room,
through the crowd up to the stage. I thought some of the old ladies
were gonna pass out.

The alcohol had begun to take effect by then and I just remember
feeling a bit stunned. It just didn't make sense. Did these people
really believe that the guy on stage doing pelvic thrusts at them was
thee Elvis? He wasn't a bad impersonator, but Jesus! Somewhere toward
the middle of the show he did one of those ballads, "Love Me Tender"
or something like that. He had this big cardboard box full of scarves,
and they had all the old ladies line up in front of the stage. As he
crooned, he'd wipe the sweat from his brow onto a scarf then drape it
around a woman's neck, so you had all these old ladies running back
toward their husbands giggling like 14 year-olds. It was surreal.

I guess I've never comprehended what it was about Elvis that people
simply couldn't let go of. I like his music. I've visited Graceland
and thought it was really cool. I understand that he's the guy who
made rock & roll a popular art form, and thank God for that. But by
the time of his death he'd been a has-been for years, so I guess I
didn't realize a lot of people were still really into him.

This record was made about 11 years after he (supposedly) died. The
singer is not an Elvis imitator, just a Vegas lounge singer with a
thing for the King. The song has 1988 production values all over it,
and the picture of the singer and the recording engineer with their
mullets is priceless. There's a flyer intended for radio program
directors asking them to play the song repeatedly on August 16, 1988,
the eleventh anniversary. I'm sure they were hoping that if just a few
radio stations actually did as they asked, they might have a hit on
their hands, but it wasn't meant to be.

The other side of the record has an interview with a
"parapsychologist" who visited Elvis' grave at Graceland and "didn't
feel anything", so he concluded Elvis' body wasn't in the grave. The
interviewer informed the parapsychologist that Elvis had been recently
sighted in Kalamazoo, MI driving around in a red Ferrari. There's also
an interview with a comic who worked at a casino in Vegas in the early
'70s and actually hung out with Elvis. He also didn't believe he was
dead, and did very good impersonations of Columbo and Jack Nicholson.
I'm beginning to think maybe that guy I saw at the Big Bear Convention
center in 1977 ("Steve Long") really was Elvis, or at least I'd like
to think so.


Notes From Ground Control

Monday, August 15, 2005
Hello, Robot Readers. Starting tomorrow, on the 28th deathiversary of Elvis, we'll be celebrating his tacky and unfortunate demise with the posting of some equally tacky and unfortunate songs. You won't want to miss that. In fact, if you have a laptop, you might want to listen to them while perched on your toilet.

Additionally, anyone who liked the Underground Soldier song Phil posted, and specifically the one dude we know did, should check out that post, as we've tossed up another mp3.

I hope you read the above in a vocoderized robot voice, because that's how I typed that shit.


Swinging Safari!

::Billy Vaughn - Swinging Safari::

I was born the year Elvis hit the big time, but I wasn't much into
rock & roll 'till I saw The Beatles on Ed Sullivan when I was about 7.
Before that I was mostly into instrumental pop music. I guess the
stuff that passed for rock & roll in the early '60s just seemed cheesy
to me, probably because my older sister liked it. So I went for stuff
like the Baby Elephant Walk and the theme to Bonanza instead.

Swingin' Safari is one of my earliest records I still own. I don't
remember where or exactly when I got it, but I probably talked my Mom
into buying it for me at Sears or someplace like that. I played it to
death on my record-player-made-for-a-five-year-old, as you can hear.
Now, mind you, I wasn't a total freak. I liked kiddie records too. But
my Dad was a record collector, so naturally I liked a lot of the stuff
he liked, which was mostly swing era stuff from the '30s and '40s.

Billy Vaughn was the musical director, or A&R guy for Dot Records back
in the '50s and '60s. He was good at taking a cheesy, uncouth rock &
roll song written by some savage like Little Richard, and turning it
into something a decent, God fearing, white, American family could
allow into their home (as sung by Pat Boone). He also made
instrumental, easy listening records on his own. Swingin' Safari was
written by another monster of instrumental pop, German sensation Bert
. About the same time this single was released, Kaempfert was
busy recording The Beatles with singer Tony Sheridan in Hamburg. Their
recording of "My Bonnie" was brought to the attention of Liverpool
record store owner Brian Epstein, which of course started a chain of
events that eventually caused me to stop listening to stuff like
Swingin' Safari.

Some of you oldsters might say, "hey, I know this song!". And you
probably darn well do too, for it was the original theme for The Match
Game. Pretty swingin', eh?


How I Learned Indian Bingo

Friday, August 12, 2005

:: Indian Bingo – Big Rock ::

Indian Bingo created one of my favorite albums of all time, Scatological. When I chanced upon this 7" in Seattle, I was tickled beige. Beige? Bruce Licher's signature earth tone printing press style tipped off that these were probably songs from the same sessions that produced Scatological. The liner notes proved this to be the case. To my delight, its contents were just as good as most of the album tracks, however I can see where the songs might not have fit into the flow of the album. This 7", as far as I know, was the last thing they put out.

Discovering this band was a total fluke. At the beginning of 1995, the house I was living in got flooded out. Most of my clothes were carried off by the Russian River, and I was pretty much down to an outfit and a half. While at a mall picking up some fresh new duds, I popped into a Camelot Records and bought a stack of 50¢ cassettes for something to listen to in the hotel room until we found new living arrangements. Most of them were utter crapola, but Scatological I played to death. It's pretty melancholy stuff, reminiscent of The Smiths and Chameleons UK, and I've always found that music where it sounds like the band is sadder than I am makes me feel better. There's no doubt the album helped me through a pretty cruddy time.

A few years ago, I located the singer, Mike Boul, and talked to him a bit. He was doing a bit of graphic design for some magazines, and he still sounded sadder than I was. He told me the band's guitarist, Phil Carney, had gone on to play with Red House Painters, and when I asked if he had the lyrics for Scatological, he told me they were included with the vinyl version and that he might even have one laying around he could send me. Real nice guy; I wish Indian Bingo had gotten the attention they deserved at the time. If you like what you hear, I know you can still find used/unloved copies of Scatological on the web, including the cassette version for just a buck. As a matter a fact, Tone Vendor seems to carry most everything they ever did, including this single (check the link in the last sentence.)



This morning's post ("Machines") had to be taken down, due to the fact that the mp3 I linked to wasn't the right one. Sorry for any confusion, it'll be back up once I have access to the correct song. I'm putting up something else instead.

As long as I am blabbering, I should give a shout for one of my favorite blogs, a guy who's addiction to audio ephemera is eerily close to ours, Scott at Crud Crud. If you read our blog, you've got no excuse not to check out his.

And I'm not sure if anyone's noticed our L.A. area record store write-ups page, but it's been updated to include a few more places. It's just over there, to the right. See it? Cool.


Bawking Heads

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

:: The Fools – Psycho Chicken ::

This 7" record was included with the album "Sold Out", The Fools major
label debut in 1980. It had already been a huge regional hit in the
band's home town of Boston, and basically overshadowed what would
otherwise have been a respectable career.

The song's a very obvious parody, but it wasn't far from what the band
was all about as there were always elements of humor in their music.
They were all about fun, fun, fun, but they were also very good
musicians. They opened up for all the big bands that came through
Boston, and one night when opening for Blondie, their outrageous stage
show won them a record deal with EMI America Records. They toured with
The Knack, Van Halen and everyone else in between.

One interesting thing about Psycho Chicken is the name-checking of
Frank Perdue. Who the fuck is Frank Perdue you ask? Well, if you lived
in Boston (or just about anywhere on the east coast for that matter)
in the last 40 years or so you would know all too well that he was the
chicken king. Owner of Perdue Farms, Inc. and a TV pitchman who's tag
line, "It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken" made him a
household name. Mr. Perdue just passed away this year, so this one
goes out to you Frank. BA-GAWK!


Underground Soldier Unearthed

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

:: Underground Soldier – Headaches ::

:: Underground Soldier – Riot At Safeway ::

I picked this album up as a youngster for two reasons: it had Ian Mackaye’s name on the back as the producer, and a Philly label, Speed of Sound, put it out. There was a point in my life where, even if I wasn’t old enough to schlep around Philly at night on Septa to see shows, I would try to buy up Philly-related music (though some bands never garnered my support). Underground Soldier wasn’t a Philly band, however, they were from D.C., which, with Mackaye producing, makes it odd that they weren’t on Dischord.

As far as I can tell, this 1984 release, “fun before profit!” is the only album they put out. It’s a shame, because this is a decent collection of tunes and more would have been a good thing. The album cover would lead you to think that music inside is brutal, but they really turn out some melodic stuff. They even do a cover of Golden Earring’s “Radar Love”, credited as “Raid. R. Luv.” I can’t bear to hear that classic rock radio staple anymore, but it’s enjoyable here with vocalist Helen Danicki’s voice singing it out (‘cause, you know, female vocals always makes things better). You guys don’t want to hear a cover though, so check out my favorite song from the album, “Headaches.”


Making Out With Some Icky Boyfriends

:: Icky Boyfriends – Cuckoo ::

I first heard the Icky Boyfriends through my friend Raj, an impeccable source for garage, retardo and trash rock recommendations. This 7" was the only thing I ever found. Well, I did watch the movie they made about themselves, I'm Not Fascinating, which separates me from approximately 99.9% of the world's population. Not enough ears were assailed by this band's smart and sloppy output, and they stopped doing their thing ten years ago so they could do grown-up stuff. Well, I have some good news. The unpretty SF rock mutants have finally put out a compilation, one that spans a ridiculous 57 tracks. This song is on there, as well as the rest of this 7", and presumably everything else they ever did. If you dig this song, you'll have a field day with the CD. I know I'm gonna.


Beam Me Up, One Last Time

Monday, August 08, 2005

:: Terry McGovern – Beam Me Up, Scotty ::

Ok, if you're a Dr. Demento fan I'm sure you know this song, which is
kind of disappointing to me because when I found this record I thought
it was probably self released and totally obscure. But what the heck?
It is a pretty good little song and a very nice sentiment actually. I
couldn't find any information about Terry McGovern, unless he's the
same Terry McGovern who's appeared in many George Lucas films, but if
he is he's not copping to this record. The other obvious reason for
posting this song is the passing of actor James Doohan a couple of
weeks ago. I'll spare you any further "beam me up" references.


Note from Tony: The arranger, wacky band leader Dick Bright, whose name I remember seeing about 400 times in the SF Weekly when I lived up there, had a hand in more than one Dr. Demento record.

Is You Is, Or Is You Isn't A Song Poem?

Sunday, August 07, 2005

:: Dane Jenkins – Weekend Wino (Wine-O) ::

I know it’s been bugging you for years. What would happen if you were somehow able to combine the smooth country-pop stylings of The Oak Ridge Boys with the fanciful beach bum musings of Jimmy Buffett? I think I have your answer. Weekend Wino. Part of me suspects that between the hokey name of the label (Star-Gems Records??) and the no frills appearance of the record itself, this is really a song poem. I found some Dane Jenkinses on the web: a sports memorabilia dealer, a sheriff’s deputy, and an apparent Scientologist; but alas no Dane Jenkinses who have a music career. Throw in a chartreuse label that’s as putrid as the rhymes in the chorus, and an anonymous P.O. Box in Santa Monica, and the whole thing just reeks of song poem. Well, I love song poems. Even if this isn’t one, it might as well be, and I relish every awkwardly crammed-in word.


The Cautionary Tale of Pete and George and The Music Biz Weasel

Friday, August 05, 2005

:: Chopper – Eddie ::

This is a story about a rock & roll band. Chopper. I actually knew
these guys back in the fabled '70s. I'm actually in a band right now
with the lead singer. So it's kind of a personal story, but I'll try
not to drool on my keyboard.

I met Peter Bunch when I was about 18. Pete was a friend of a guy I
was in a band with, and he was quite a bit older than us (I guess he
was about 25 at the time). Pete had a songwriting partner named George
Lulejian. They had been trying to get a record deal for a few years by
then and had made some connections with influential industry types. My
friend Steve and I started hanging out and going to their shows doing
roadie and sound mixing duties.

Pete and George started a band called Avril and they hooked up with a
manager named Bob Davis. He had been an executive at MCA Records and
supposedly signed Olivia Newton John before being fired for being an
overbearing coke freak (in other words, a perfect rock band manager!).
One of Bob's other clients was a guy named Johnny Cougar, and we got
to go see him play at the Whiskey once. He sucked big time, but the
band he opened for, The Jam, rocked!

Anyways, Avril rented a small theatre in West LA for a week and did
showcases for record labels. This was really fun because they had
catering, and the theatre was also being used by Al Franken and some
other Saturday Night Live writers to test material during the summer,
so I got to hang out with Chevy Chase one day. Avril cut some demos
with a producer named Michael Chapman who was soon to hit it big with
Blondie and The Knack, but none of this went anywhere and Avril broke

One of the music biz big wigs who came to the showcases was legendary
music biz big wig, Jeff Barry. Pete and George were putting another
band together when Mr. Barry contacted them and expressed interest. I
wasn't familiar with the name Jeff Barry at the time, but it was
explained to me that he wrote Chapel of Love and Sugar Sugar by The
Archies. I wondered if the guy responsible for that kind of stuff
would be a good fit with Pete and George, but they were so desperate
by then they would've done whatever it took to become rich and famous.

George told me recently about the time Jeff Barry sat him and Pete
down and told them his plan. The band's name would be Chopper, and
they would build this special drum set that looked like a badass
motorcycle, get it? George just sat there with his jaw dropping and at
one point he looked over at Pete who seemed to be agreeing with
everything Jeff Barry was saying. George saw his little pop group
being remodeled into some kind of arena rock joke, and knew it was
all over at that moment.

They got signed to an independent label called Ariola America (home of
the Sons of Champlin), and commenced recording the album with Jeff
Barry at the helm. It was bad enough that they were forced to present
themselves as bikers, which was ludicrous, but now in the studio Jeff
Barry was suggesting they change their songs around too. Ultimately,
he got them to change a word or two here and there and took a
co-writing credit on every song on the album, thereby guaranteeing he
make some money on royalties.

Pete and George's best song was called "Every Little Thing". Jeff
Barry felt it had promise, but then re-wrote the lyrics entirely and
re-titled it "Eddie". It was about a young man who felt like he didn't
fit in, but then one fine day he met a girl and suddenly realized he
did fit in after all. Isn't that nice? Pete and George hated this
idea, but of course they went along with it anyway.

So the album came out and I knew as soon as I saw it and heard it that
it was destined for the cut-out bin. Another nice thing JB did was to
change George's last name to Legion (to make it easier for the throngs
of teenage girls to pronounce his name). That's George standing in the
field with his shirt open and Pete with the plaid shirt (pre-grunge!).

Pete and George pretty much gave up on their aspirations for rock
stardom after that, though they've both stayed active in music ever
since. Pete became a lawyer, got married and moved to the Pacific
Northwest. These days I play drums in a cover band with George on
rhythm guitar and vocals. We play parties and corporate gigs and we
don't play any Chopper songs, but George still writes and we do play
his new originals. I recently saw a magazine interview with Jeff Barry
so I saved it to show to George, but he was like, "no way" and didn't
even want to look at his picture. I guess I didn't realize just how
much George felt like he was screwed over by Jeff Barry. He said he
got really depressed after the whole Chopper fiasco and didn't want
anything to do with the music business ever again. After seeing what
happened to Pete and George, I didn't either.


I Like Monkeys

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

:: Swollen Monkeys – Ghost In Hollywood ::

You know what? I like monkeys. And for that reason alone, albums by some bands that wouldn’t normally deserve my second glance instead get undivided attention, even when they are horribly named. You’d be hard pressed to come up with a worse band name than Swollen Monkeys, or a title less appealing than “After Birth Of The Cool”, but that didn’t stop me from purchasing this.

Thankfully, the album is chock full of interesting people, and horns. Lots of friggin’ horns; five horn players playing a kitchen sinkful of brass and woodwinds. Their ringleader was Ralph Carney, a prolific multi-instrumentalist who was in Tin Huey, The Waitresses, and has appeared on scads of other people’s albums, from the B-52’s to Tom Waits, in addition to his solo projects. The other eight members of Swollen Monkeys have various incestuous musical ties to each other, and all appear to have kept busy over the years, with the exception of Bill Ylitalo (Billy Litalo?), whose name I can’t find anywhere, and sounds like an alias anyway. Mars Williams went on to toot his horn with the Psychedelic Furs, and Mark Kramer would later just be known simply as Kramer, of Bongwater and Shimmy Disc fame. Here he’s credited with “noisy tape loops and some singing.” The album was produced by Hal Willner, a man possessing a long and eclectic list of credentials, among them putting together The Carl Stalling Project for Warner Bros., and a long tenure in the 80’s as music supervisor for Saturday Night Live. The latter might explain the appearance of Charles Rocket of all people on this album as a guest accordionist.

The track I’ve selected, “Ghost In Hollywood” captures their zany sound in all
its Muppety glory, and is probably the easiest listen on the album. To give you an idea what I mean, the cut just before it is entitled “Elephant Sex,” and is a series of flaccid and somewhat gross deep horn noises. See, coulda been worse.


Grab-Bag O' Dicks

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

:: Dicks – Little Boy’s Feet ::
:: Dicks – Lost and Divided ::
:: Dicks – Kill from the Heart ::

The Dicks were a Communist punk band fronted by a brash, overweight, cross-dressing homosexual, and their take-no-prisoners music has always stood out to me as what punk could be when at its best. These guys were up there in the same league as Dead Kennedys and MDC, in both political awareness and just flat out, in-your-face rocking, which makes it all the more frustrating that their complete output is out of print. Yes, Alternative Tentacles did put out an extremely essential compilation several years ago, 1980-1986, but it can’t be considered great as far as retrospectives go because so much is missing. Two things must happen before there is fully any justice in the world: first, a comprehensive, 2-disc set containing every Dicks song from every Dicks record must come out, accompanied by a thick booklet of lyrics and photographs, and second, Sarah Silverman must make passionate love to me. Alas, it appears we will continue to exist in an unjust world for quite some time.
There were two incarnations of the Dicks. The first grew out the back bar at Raul’s Club in Austin, Texas, where vocalist Gary Floyd first met Glen Taylor (guitar, R.I.P.), Buxf Parrot (bass), and Pat Deason (drums). This is the line-up that left an indelible imprint with their first single, “Dicks Hate Police”, the title song being one of the most breathtaking examples of political rage and fury ever pressed onto vinyl. Mudhoney covered this song on one of their singles, and Mark Arm confesses (in the A.T. comp. liner notes) that it “remains the most shouted-out title at Mudhoney shows; eclipsing any of our own songs.” The original line-up is also found on the split with The Big Boys, “Recorded Live at Raul’s Club” and the Spot-produced SST classic, “Kill from the Heart.” The Dicks side of “Raul’s” is crucial, capturing their live intensity, as is “KFTH” for putting them on the map as barrier-smashing, raving performers of anti-homophobe, anti-cop, anti-bourgeois, anti-hate anthems.

The Dicks joined MDC, The Crucifucks, DRI, and Crucifix on the Yippie-sponsored Rock Against Reagan tour in 1983, and the three months of touring took its toll. Prior to the tour, the band had moved to San Francisco. Afterwards, Gary Floyd returned to that city, but the rest of the band decided they wanted to move back to Austin. Floyd held rehearsals and the second incarnation of the band began, with Tim Carroll (guitar), Lynn Perko (drums) and Sebastian Fuchs (bass). This edition recorded, “These People”, produced by Klaus Flouride and put out by Alternative Tentacles in 1985. There are some that deride this album, but I think it’s in the same league as “Kill from the Heart.” It’s a little cleaner, more straightforward, definitely more melodic and bluesy, yet still savage and uncompromising. And Floyd’s vocals remain soulful and passionate, even if subtly less angry. Floyd cites the reaction to their new direction as being one of the main reasons for the Dicks breakup: “we were starting to play a few slower-type songs and people were, like, "play faster" and it's like, fuck you, I'll play what I fuckin' want to play. I realized I was being put into a corner here by something that's supposed to be liberating. I'm out.”
Search your favorite record stores for the recent re-issue of their 7”, “Peace?” from 1984. It contains No Fuckin’ War, I Hope You Get Drafted, and Nobody Told Me. This ep is indispensable if you’re jonesing for anti-war songs in the War on Terra Era.

I’m putting up three selections not offered on 1980-1986 compilation. Little Boy’s Feet is a raunchy and twisted little ditty about pedophilia off of “Kill from the Heart.” Lost and Divided is just as relevant today as it was when it came out in 1985 on “These People.” Lastly, a gorgeous version of Kill from the Heart, off of a Selfless Records 2x7” issued in 1990. That set had three songs apiece taken from the original “Recorded Live at Raul’s” album, and they threw in an additional song per band, recorded at the same shows, that didn’t appear on the original release (KFTH being the Dicks additional song).


Ol' Onie

:: Onie Wheeler – John's Been Shucking My Corn ::

Sounds like Johnny Cash? Yeah, but maybe Onie earned the right to. He
was on Sun Records in the mid '50s. Played with Elvis and the rest of
'em. Never was terribly successful on his own, but that's ok. He made
a decent run of it. Basically he was a hard working, touring son of a
gun. John's Been Shucking My Corn was probably his biggest hit, and it
came pretty late in his career (1973). He died on stage at the Grand
Ole Opry in '84.


Shake My Fanny, Gonna Be Your Dandy

Monday, August 01, 2005

:: Monda – Boogie Till My Brains Fall Out ::

Dick Monda has one of the more out-there resumes you’ll find. He produced the music for the great 70’s Saturday morning cartoon Groovy Goolies, and enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame with a charting single actually written for that show, Chick-A-Boom, which he performed under the nom-de-plume Daddy Dewdrop (backed by a group of session dudes named…The Torrance Cookers.) In addition to this, he apparently was in a Troma movie about dismembered strippers (natch) called Body Parts. More recently he worked on a Ringo Starr Christmas album. Like I said, out there.

So of course this song is positively goofy. In fact, it’s outright ridiculous, both lyrically and musically. The line about tacos is one of the biggest what the fucks ever. Normally, I like the idea of a song ending in a methamphetamine-fueled hoedown, but here it’s just the exclamation point on how hard this song tried to be weird.