Category Archives: Artist

STILL SUPERLATIVE: Marty Stuart Live

Live at Athens’ Foundry Venue on November 9, Stuart and his band schooled a packed house, and then some.

TEXT & PHOTOS BY JOHN BOYDSTON

If Modern Country music annoys you as much as it does me, you’ll really want to go see Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives play live.   Marty and his crack band of veteran Nashville Cats are here to remind you how good country used to be, and to save it if possible.  But it’s more than just that – their show is an astounding history lesson in country, rock, pop, rockabilly, folk, bluegrass, and instrumental surf.   Does it get any better?  (One genre they left alone was metal, but Marty Stuart could go toe-to-toe with Jimmy Page with his mandolin any day, if he hasn’t already.)

During the show I kept hearing glimpses of bands and performers I’ve always loved – The Long Ryders, Nick and Dave, The Bobby Fuller Four, Buck Owens, The Ventures, a flash of Brit pop here and there, and latter-day Byrds.  And there’s Marty playing Clarence White’s original B-Bender, a Telecaster indelibly modified by Byrds’ bandmate and drummer Gene Parsons to give it that pedal steel effect when the player pulls back on the guitar bending that B-string in and out of key. (Ed. Note: Read “A Marty Stuart Story” for some additional color re: the White axe.) Stuart is a walking encyclopedia of country music and has played with everyone who’s anyone starting with Flatt & Scruggs and Johnny Cash.  Look him up if you don’t know.

Indeed, my nickname for this band would be American Rockpile.   Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds fans will get that.  Two guitars, a bass, drums, great vocals and harmonies and a tight tight groove.   Great players and about every song had a show-stopping moment of guitar-pickin’ virtuosity (mostly from blue-fringe vested Kenny Vaughn).  But as good as they are nobody was showing off, just getting it done and having a good time doing it.   That’s Harry Stinson on drums and vocals, and Chris Scruggs on bass and steel rounding out this band of brothers.

The new Marty Stuart record is Way Out West on Sugar Hill Records (a Rounder subsidiary), available now. (It’s reviewed HERE.) These guys are always touring so do yourself a huge favor and go see ‘em and learn to love again.  Tour dates are at Stuart’s Facebook page. here:   Plus it’s a no-earplugs show.  Imagine all those amps and guitars and tone at volume you can talk over.

John Boydston’s photo galleries of things he likes are at jobo.smugmug.com

 

ON HIS OWN TERMS: Remembering Fred Cole (Dead Moon/Pierced Arrows)

“If you want to be part of MY world, I’ll accept you with open arms”: We say farewell to the late Northwest punk/garage legend and lifelong champion of the DIY aesthetic. (Above photo by Michael Passman exclusively for BLURT.)

BY FRED MILLS

When the final chapter is writ, one of my greatest regrets will be having never seen Fred Cole perform live. Sure, I have all the records—from the Clackamas, Oregon, rocker’s ‘60s garage outfits The Weeds and Lollipop Shoppe, through his legendary two-decade run fronting Dead Moon, to Pierced Arrows, which ran from 2007 to 2016, at which point his increasingly poor health dictated that he finally call it quits.

In rock ‘n’ roll, of course, we never say “never,” always holding out hope for another encore, just one more song. With Cole’s passing this week at the age of 69, that hope is permanently dashed. (Go elsewhere on the BLURT site to read our Cole obituary; he’d recently experienced a serious scare involving bleeding in his liver, and According to Willamette Week, despite treatment had remained “still very ill.”) Cole’s passing was announced at the Facebook pages for Dead Moon and Pierced Arrows:

I’m so sorry to have to let you know that Fred lost his battle with cancer & passed away peacefully in his sleep last night, Nov 9, 2017. Thanks you one & all for all the years & memories we all shared together, for being friends first & business partners second, so proud to be a part of your lives.
Fred had that quality of being “immortal” and I believe his songs & recordings will make it so. We can always hear his voice & his passion there and remember it like it was only yesterday & will go on forever. I love you all, Toody
“The last train is leaving
Can’t you read the signals in my eyes
And I’m standing on the platform
Waiting for the ones I’ve left behind”
Fred Cole
Last Train

Losing our musical heroes has become increasingly, depressingly, commonplace, and each of us deal with it in different ways—pulling out the albums, of course, or attending a candlelight vigil at a relevant shrine, or even organizing a tribute concert where other musicians can also work through their grief. In one sense, then, I’m luckier than many fans, because as a music journalist since the late ‘70s I’ve sometimes had the privilege of interviewing the deceased, and as a result, those earlier one-on-ones take on a deeper and richer resonance for me—and additional salve for the grief, a way to pull close to the artist one last time.

What follows, then, is a pair of interviews I conducted with Fred Cole, along with his wife and longtime bass-playing musical foil in both Dead Moon and Pierced Arrows, Toody Cole. The first conversation with the couple, conducted by phone for Harp magazine, to Oregon in July of 2006, was on the occasion of the impending release of a two-CD anthology from Sub Pop, Echoes of the Past, that essayed the trio’s recorded career to date, most of which the Coles had released (in lathe-cut mono, no less) on their own Tombstone label. Concurrent with Echoes was the DVD release of a documentary on the band, Unknown Passage: The Dead Moon Story, so for the story I also talked to Jason Summers and Kate Fix of Magic Umbrella Films, both of whom proved invaluable resources.

One quote that sticks out in my memory from that ’06 interview was from Toody Cole, who spoke of her husband in terms both peer-admiring and industry-defiant: “Fred was going to be great at whatever he did. He’s also the kind of guy that you don’t tell him he can’t do something. If you do – he’s so there. He’s a great inspiration.”

Unbeknownst to me at the time, Dead Moon was on its last legs. A few months after the release of the CD and the film, in December, Fred Cole posted an announcement on the Sub Pop website, writing, “After 20 yrs, Dead Moon is retiring. It has been a journey we will always treasure and feel that a worldwide family has emerged in its place. Dead Moon became much bigger than the band itself, it became a DYI underground hopeful for a lot of people. The candle is still burning!” So that was that. Although it soon became clear that Fred and Toody remained very much a personal and musical unit, because while drummer Andrew Loomis was now out of the picture (sadly, in 2016 he would pass away, from lung cancer), by May of the following year the Coles were back in business as Pierced Arrows, tapping Kelly Haliburton for kit duties. By 2008 there was a Tombstone-issued Pierced Arrows album, with more records to come.

Then in early 2010 I’m on the phone again, this time for Stomp and Stammer zine, with Fred and Toody, getting the state-of-Pierced-Arrows broken down for me. That feature, along with the prior one for Harp, appears below—both stories in, you guessed it, director’s cut/expanded form, as I was able to locate my original interview transcripts. What was once around 3500 words is now nearly 9000.

To any Fred Cole devotees out there—and particularly to Toody Cole, if she ever comes across this appreciation—this one’s for you.

And for me, too.

In 1990, a package with an Oregon return address arrived in the mail: Dead Moon’s third album on Tombstone, Defiance. Included was a hand-written note on brown stationery from Fred Cole, thanking me for the reviews I’d written of his band’s previous records. I still have the LP and, of course, the note. Years later, as our 2006 interview was winding down, Fred mentioned that he’d always remembered those early reviews because of our shared first name, and how nice it was to finally connect directly over the phone.

Then he thanked me profusely for being one of the writers who had stuck with the band over the years. I’ll never forget how he put it to me, simply but sincerely:

“Fred, thank you for digging the scene after all this time, and for being into Dead Moon, for this many years.”

R.I.P., Fred Cole. May the angels of Heaven all sing in mono.

Ed. note: Not long ago a Kickstarter campaign was announced by Mississippi Records about a proposed elaborate Dead Moon book + LP project. It appears now that the campaign far surpassed its goal and that a release date has been set for next April.

***

DEAD MOON: The Whole Story (Originally from Harp magazine, Sept./Oct. 2006, here expanded with previously unpublished quotes.)

Author F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote, “There are no second acts in American lives,” but had he been around in ’87 he might’ve revised that oft-quoted statement. Because that’s when the first stirrings of Dead Moon were heard—and the second stirrings of Fred Cole. Slithering outta the Portland, Ore., garage/punk underground to chart a purposeful trajectory into the Amerindie scene’s consciousness, Dead Moon – singer/guitarist Cole, his wife Toody on bass and vocals, drummer Andrew Loomis – has been in the national and international spotlight ever since.

Jason Summers, of Magic Umbrella Films, which did the 2004 documentary Unknown Passage: The Dead Moon Story, first heard the band around ’91 and summarizes the band’s sonic appeal thusly: “That was back when Nirvana was starting to get big and Dead Moon just sounded nothing like what was becoming college alternative pop — kinda creepy, more rootsy, and somehow having a vein that went way back in history. No matter what style they play, it’s got their signature style. It could be a country song or a ballad or a screaming punk song, but it’s always got some kind of cobwebs on it.”

We don’t care anymore!” cackles Cole, from his home in Clackamas, near Portland, when I ask him what motivates him year after year, but you sense his flippancy’s a self-deprecating ruse. For Cole, he of the leather-lunged, Arthur Lee-meets-Roky Erickson howl, serial killer riffs and outside-of-society lyrics, and a staunch DIY lifer, these past two decades must have been a hugely gratifying second act.

Addressing the rabid core of fans that snap up Dead Moon’s independently-released records and pack punk rock clubs whenever the band tours, Cole adds, “Come see us live again, soon. Come and see a fat old fuck play some real rock ‘n’ roll!”

He laughs again, this time proudly. Yeah, he cares. A lot.

***

Despite his contemporary project’s tenure and popularity, Fred Cole’s first time around in the music biz was in no way an inauspicious one. Born in Tacoma in 1948, as a teen Cole wound up in Las Vegas where he worked with several bands – among them, the otherwise all-black R&B band Deep Soul Cole and Top 40 covers outfit The Lords – before notching some regional success in 1965 as the lead singer for the more garage-leaning The Weeds. The following year saw the band relocate to Portland – to evade the Vietnam draft, they’d headed off for Canada, only to have their van break down en route – and they began gigging regularly up and down the West Coast, sharing bills with the likes of Big Brother & the Holding Company, Seeds, Chocolate Watchband, Buffalo Springfield, Love and the Doors.

The Weeds subsequently changed their name to the more teen-palatable Lollipop Shoppe and, signing with UNI Records, released an album  (1968’s Just Colour) and scored a hit single (“You Must Be A Witch,” which would become an oft-covered staple of the garage/psych genre ripe for rediscovery during the Nuggets milieu). By ’69, though, the band had run its course.

Cole continued to make music in Portland, but meanwhile, he was also enjoying the domestic life. When the Weeds first landed in Portland in ’66, he’d caught the eye of Kathleen “Toody” Connor, a young, dark-haired beauty fresh out of Catholic high school, and intrigued by “this tall, skinny lead singer in the hottest band in town.” Love at first sight?

“Oh God, yeah,” gushes Toody. “Well, it was attraction at first sight. You gotta understand, I was a sweet Catholic girl, and he had a notorious reputation. So it was an oil and water thing. I totally expected him to be the biggest egocentric airhead from hell. But once we actually got together and talked, which we did a lot of, it was like, ‘Oh my God, you’re nothing like I imagined you would be…’ Once you actually get to know somebody…”

“I just wanted to do the ‘please don’t’ with her!” interjects Fred, referring to a certain carnal Dead Moon lyric of his from the song “Poor Born.” “But no, she just knocked my socks off. And she was so arrogant and just thought, ‘Oh God…’ and wouldn’t let me touch her. So every night either before or after a gig she and I would go up to the park and talk and eat red liquorish – I was on a band budget, making about 80 cents a day to eat, and saving up our money to record, so I’d buy a big package of Red Vines, and that’s basically what happened for two months. Everybody would say, ‘Fred – pffftt, forget about it, there’s no way this is gonna work out.’ Her parents thought she was a lesbian because she didn’t hang out with guys. I remember when her dad finally met me, and I stuck my head in his car window and all he saw was all my hair, and his eyes got real wide, like on the Little Rascals.”

Fred and Toody married on June 14, 1967, a little fact they had to hide from Fred’s image- and career-conscious bandmates. Says Fred, “People would’ve freaked. In ’67, if you’re the lead singer in a band and you’re married, you can forget about it!”

The Cole-Connor union (which recently celebrated its 39th anniversary and to date has resulted in three children and seven grandkids) would yield more than just marital bliss. In 1976, on the heels of several underappreciated bands — notably hard rock quartet Zipper, which released an eponymous LP in ’74 on Cole’s fledgling Whizeagle label – Cole, inspired by the Ramones, Sex Pistols and the rest of the punk explosion, put together hi-octane trio the Rats. The band lasted until 1983 and issued three albums on Whizeagle, a Spinal Tap-esque drummer scenario ultimately deep-sixing the popular outfit’s aspirations. But with Toody tapped by Fred for bass chores in the Rats, one of indiedom’s most enduring musical partnerships was forged.

“I always had a thing about getting up on stage and always thought it would be drama or something like that, but it never worked out,” says Toody. “So Fred did me one of the biggest favors anybody can do: ‘Hey, get your ass up there, I know it’s gonna make you crazy, but…’  It took me a lot of years to get comfortable. But I just love it! So he picked the right time, and started me with something pretty basic. He hadn’t played that much guitar at that point himself. He just kinda wanted a bunch of amateurs to get up there, hammer away, and see what happens. Luckily for me he pressured me into it.”

***

What happened, of course, would be Dead Moon.

After the Rats’ demise Fred briefly indulged a Country & Western fetish with cowpunk trio Western Front, but his garage roots soon beckoned. One night in ’87, while on vacation and driving across the desert, Fred gazed up at a crimson-hued moon and suggested Red Moon as a good moniker for the back-to-basics combo they’d recently been brainstorming. Toody countered with Dead Moon, and the name stuck. Fred remembered a talented Portland drummer, Andrew Loomis, late of a Plimsouls-like new wave combo called the Boy Wonders, then working at local punk club Satyricon, and an audition was arranged.

“Now that was love at first sight,” recalls Toody. “Andrew had been coming to see us when we had the Rats and we didn’t even realize he was a big fan of ours. Instant chemistry. And we’d had so much trouble in the Rats trying to keep a drummer, so we thought, hey, we’ve got something that works, and Fred had been through breakups with the Weeds/Lollipop Shoppe, so when you’ve waited for 25 years to get it back again, you ain’t gonna let it go again the second time. It’s like falling in love, getting married, and then realizing that it’s a working relationship; sometimes things fuck up, but you don’t just say hey, hit the door jack.”

Now, even at their most vibrant, local music scenes can be pitiless towards new bands, even those fronted by a more or less known quantity such as Fred Cole. And Dead Moon definitely paid their dues early on, playing mostly cover tunes and taking gigs at any regional dive that would have them. Remembers Toody, “We played in this one place and came on after the local amateur comics finished doing their spiels – oh my God, it was unbelievable! But in a lot of ways it made us who we are. It was a very humbling experience, and to this day we appreciate it when people show up.”

But with the release, in 1988, of their first couple of 45s, “Don’t Burn the Fires” b/w “Can’t Help Falling in Love” and “Parchment [sic] Farm” b/w “Hey Joe,” and debut album In The Graveyard, both on the Coles’ second homegrown label, Tombstone, the Dead Moon snowball began rolling. Wildly enthusiastic national reviews ensued for this “music too tough to die” (as the Tombstone motto defiantly proclaimed) – primarily from the fanzine sector, where yours truly, writing for The Bob, drooled over Dead Moon’s “incendiary rumble” and “feral yowlps” of “primitive garage-rock fuggit-all.” Ahem.

Hype-laden wordsmithery aside, reviewers consistently hailed the group’s primitive yet incendiary sound and took due note of the band’s steadfast avoidance of effects such as reverb and echo, not to mention their preference for recording in monophonic. For his birthday one year, Toody bought Fred a vintage mono lathe, reportedly the same one the Kingsmen had used years earlier to cut “Louie, Louie”; to the notoriously frugal Fred, saving money by cutting his own record masters was a no-brainer. This turned out to be a telling aesthetic/practicality factoid not lost upon other reviewers, including Spin’s Byron Coley and the influential editor of Britain’s Bucketful of Brains, Jon Storey. Second and third albums Unknown Passage (1989) and Defiance (1990) followed in short order, each to similar underground press raves.

The aforementioned snowball turned into an avalanche upon Dead Moon’s inaugural overseas trek, which came at the instigation of Hans Kesteloo, owner of Germany’s Music Maniac label. Kesteloo, a die-hard garage freak a Fred Cole fan, had met Greg Sage of the Wipers while on tour in Europe; Sage, who knew the Coles from their Rats days and also frequented their Portland instrument store, Tombstone Music, agreed to put Kesteloo in touch with Dead Moon. Kesteloo subsequently licensed some Dead Moon tracks for a pair of Music Maniac compilations, and when the band landed in Europe in 1990, Fred, Toody and Andrew were treated like conquering heroes. (The Music Maniac alliance for Tombstone’s European market continues to this day.)

Fred, devoted to the one guitar/one amp school of touring, still marvels at the reception they got. “Our tour manager over there had toured with all the biggest bands – he had been doing the Lemonheads, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed. He showed up at the airport with this huge fucking van and 14 guitar stands in the back. ‘Dude, I only bring one guitar…’ The van was probably 3 times bigger than what we needed for the little bit of gear we carry!”

Toody notes, of the European market, “They accepted us like gangbusters over there! Same with a lot of different bands, like the Gories, that would go over and the Europeans just loved.” Dead Moon would return to Europe time after time in the years to follow; nowadays both Coles will eagerly single out certain cities where they have the equivalent of an extended family they look forward to seeing on each overseas trek. Meanwhile, having a loyal European fanbase allows them to return home with a profit, which partly explains why U.S. Dead Moon tours, while not necessarily rare, are neither as frequent nor as extensive.

“I always look forward to touring, especially Europe,” says Toody. “You know what hard work it’s going to be, what it’s going to take out of you, and it’s not like those early years when it’s so fresh and new that everything’s a surprise and you’re riding so high on emotion. We used to have this rep for playing three hour shows! But there’s another quality you gain from experience, so you try to give every audience the best you’re capable of every night because you realize that this many people are willing to pay the ticket price to see you.”

Such loyalty to their fans mirrors the loyalty that Fred, Toody and Loomis demonstrate towards one another; long ago it was decided that the Dead Moon brand would be retired if for any reason one of the three couldn’t continue. Fans observe this devotion each night when the band undertakes a pre-performance ritual. With just a candle jammed into a Jack Daniels bottle for illumination, the trio gathers at Loomis’ drum kit, leans in to one another, and firmly clasps hands.

“Fred’s very much into ritual and superstitious stuff, repeating things over and over again. He still laughs how as a kid he’d keep going back and touching the top of the door jamb 20 times just to make sure he had a good day that day,” explains Toody. “So we do The Handshake. It’s like, all is forgiven, whatever happened yesterday is in the rearview mirror and does not matter, let’s just go forward. The Handshake is a way to touch bases and let us all know that we love each other.”

Back home, in between tours, the Coles devote their energies to running their record label, operating a maze of other income-generating businesses (Tombstone Music, their instrument shop; Tombstone General Store, a convenience-type mart; and several nearby rental properties), and of course recording Dead Moon records. In mono, natch.

“Basically,” recalls Toody, “we started Tombstone for ourselves just like we did with Whizeagle Records. Then it became almost like a mentoring thing. Locals would ask us how they could get a 45 out, get gigs and all that, so we pressed up local bands, doing it on the cheap, and we got our street creds, so to speak. Then we had bands from all over wanted to have records out on Tombstone. But we haven’t done anything for quite awhile because we’ve been so busy. But we still have people asking all the time. Fred will have a continual lifelong affair with vinyl. He wants someone to listen not to the first song on a CD, but to listen to the whole first side of the record and want to turn it over to see what happens next.”

And the whole Fred Cole-Tombstone Records mono thing? This throwback touch was partly due to Fred’s steadily mounting hearing loss over the years, but it was also borne out of serendipity, explains Toody.

“That just happens to be the lathe he has, an old ’54 model lathe and that’s all it does. And hey, we all grew up with mono, and for him it’s  like, ‘I’m deaf anyway, so all I’ve got to do is put two signals in one direction and, bam, they’re there.’ He hates effects, obviously, and there’s the old thing about stereo panning and all this other stuff. He figures, ‘I’m a vocalist, I write these songs, I’m not a guitar god.’ It all goes back to that old crunch of Bob Dylan: keep it simple, and let the songs speak for themselves. If the songs are good, it doesn’t really matter.

“So there’s no frills: you either love it or hate it. For a lot of people, mono is irritating as hell, and for the other half, hey, they love it, so it’s great. You hear all that reverb and compression on records from the ‘80s, and that’s his biggest beef. The reason we sing live and on records with completely dry vocals, no reverb, is so you don’t have to compensate for that. Just let your voice do what it’s supposed to do. He’s a pure naturalist, he really is. To him, effects are cheating. When it gets so homogenized, anybody can sound good. But how can you tell what they really sound like?”

***

In September Sub Pop, which along with other indie tastemakers such as Sympathy, Empty and Australia’s Dog Meat has occasionally played patron over the years to Dead Moon’s ever-growing back catalog, issues the two-CD Dead Moon career overview Echoes of the Past. Personally compiled by the Coles, it provides a compelling series of snapshots, stretching back to In the Graveyard and running up through 2001’s Trash & Burn – the most recent release is ’04 studio album Dead Ahead – and with a full Sub Pop roll-out slated for the set, it should also boost Dead Moon’s domestic profile considerably.

“The Dead Moon-Sub Pop northwest connection seemed important and valid,” agrees Toody. “And in a way it’s been a godsend that Sub Pop wanted to do this, because, you know, we think everything’s gonna last forever, but once Fred sent back and started messing with these old tapes – whew, you forget how old tapes start disintegrating after awhile. He was going crazy, having to keep re-cleaning the tape heads in order to go back and get what he wanted. He’s like the absent minded professor, so half the tapes he ever had were recordings in boxes, sometimes labeled with what songs and in what order, sometimes with nothing written on there. So a lot of it was disorganization on our part. And as I said, with the Sub Pop thing now, it’s great to know that in a way all of this is going to be saved if those tapes are at some point completely unusable. And thank god we have the technology to salvage them.

“We didn’t do any true remixing, but there was a lot of balancing and computer programming to try to even out tones, bring out the bass or drums on certain tracks. I mean, our tapes are – cough – sorrily lacking anyway! Between the different eras, and where we were recording and how we were recording it — and because Fred’s deaf as a post, treble frequencies are lost, so when we are recording he tends to mix the treble up really hot so what he hears sounds right to him. We got our copies a few weeks ago and I’m really impressed. Fred and one of his old bandmates worked on it here, and also Sub Pop went in and tweaked it out again, so they really did a nice job ‘given the quality of workmanship’! [laughs] So in a way the stuff sounds dated – as it should! We did this 15 or 20 years ago.”

“Lo-fi and DIY,” says Fred, firmly, a note of satisfaction in his voice.

Favorite Dead Moon records or songs?

“Oh God,” sighs Toody. Even getting the Sub Pop thing together was tough. Same thing going back and putting together a song list for this upcoming European tour. I love the fact that at different points we don’t listen to our own material that often that it impresses me like crazy all over again. But if I had to pick all over again: What we did on Unknown Passage, between “54-40” and “My Escape,” which happens to be one of my favorite songs. And Defiance, I’m especially proud of “Trash & Burn.” At different points it gets really difficult to pick a favorite.

“Trust me, Fred’s biggest fear, growing up in the ‘60s, there was X amount of bands that had one or two songs and you went out and spent your hard earned money to buy this album and you love this one song so you’re hoping the whole album is awesome – but usually it’s that one song and a lot of filler. So that’s been one of his biggest fears as an avid music fan. Just remembering that. And it was a bonus bonanza when the whole album was great.”

I ask the Coles if they encountered any surprises while sifting through their tape archives, or did they find themselves cringing at any of the old stuff…

“A lot of stuff we hadn’t heard in a long time,” admits Toody, “so honestly, the hardest part was having to pick out what would fit on two discs, and we left out a lot of stuff we wished could go on there. We left off [the first 45] because they were cover songs. And our cover songs, we’ve always kind of done them from memory – ‘Oh yeah, I think it goes like this…’ – and we always get it wrong, which is great, so it’s never a true cover song. It becomes a Dead Moon song. As an added bonus, Fred got the title wrong – it was “Parchman Farm,” not “parchment”! But hey, that’s our style! Our version of “Play With Fire,” which I sang, we left a whole verse out – ‘Whatever, it’s our song!’ [laughs] AC/DC’s “Long Way To The Top,” we got that whole rhythm wrong too, so it’s our song and the way we do it.

“And yes, sometimes I do [cringe] personally, to this day. But hey, that’s one of the unique things about us, and that’s why we say we’re ‘entertainers.’ We’re not ‘musicians’; we learned how to be adequate on our instruments with a certain flair and style, and the chemistry just happens to be magical. Name just about anybody and they can play rings around us. But that’s kinda cool. Part of having that constant struggle where it’s not one of these unbelievable natural born talents – you have to work at it, and that kind comes through. And I think people love the fact that it doesn’t look too easy when we do it.”

“We’re not an all-star band,” interjects Fred.

Agreeing, Toddy adds, “And that’s why we’re amazed that we have so many musicians that are fans. At any point at least 30-50% of people out in front of us at shows are musicians. And we are what you see – this is the real deal meal.”

Fred: “And you better not expect a guitar solo that lasts more than two or three bars, either!”

Both musicians are quick to point out that the gig’s the thing and always has been. Toody, elaborating, recalls wrapping up a particularly memorable, extended 2004 tour.

“And when we got back, I had tendonitis in my left wrist. So we took 9 or 10 months off and didn’t play at all. I was in a brace and basically let it heal. So we played a local gig here, rehearsed once, a fly by the seat of your pants thing. And we got up onstage and we basically fell in love with it all over again. Because at certain points, when you’ve done this many shows, when you know you need to stop is when you get to the point of, ‘Oh my God, this is becoming a job and I’d rather be doing anything else tonight…’

“So this show in Portland, we worried if anybody would remember us and show up, but the house packed out, and my mom, who’s 84, came to the show with my three brothers, and we honestly just had one of those magic nights.

“There’s been other shows like that. Shows at Vera, in Groningen, our second hometown, for example – shows where you feel not just the electricity in the audience but when that electricity and chemistry happens to be working between all three of you. It’s like basketball players being in this zone where they make 15 three pointers in the same game. And you know you can’t do that every night. But when you do, oh my God, there’s not a better high than that. And certain cities just work their magic with us too.”

***

One of the more intriguing recent twists in the Dead Moon saga is Unknown Passage: The Dead Moon Story, the feature-length documentary from Magic Umbrella Films, aka North Carolina’s Jason Summers and Kate Fix. The pair initially got the idea to make a film about Dead Moon while working in the film and television industry in New York in the late ‘90s. Fix, who’d attended college in Portland, was already a big fan of Dead Moon and a friend of drummer Loomis; Summers was exposed to the band’s records as a deejay at UNC-Chapel Hill’s WXYC-FM but had never seen Dead Moon live until one night in ’98 when he and Fix spotted a flyer announcing the first-ever NYC Dead Moon gig. After the show, which Summers says “completely blew me away – even Jon Spencer was there in the front row, going nuts,” they invited the band back to their apartment and subsequently kept in touch.

“We’d get these long letters from them on Tombstone letterhead stationery,” recalls Summers, “which seemed to speak volumes about them even before we started broaching the subject [of the film]. We figured if they were that way with us then they must be really genuine.

Fix agrees, saying, “They have such sharp, sharp memories for everything, especially for the number of people they’ve encountered over the years. People are so excited to talk to them and you’re just amazed they can remember meeting someone once for just five minutes.”

Fascinated by both the band’s music and by the musicians as people, Summers and Fix eventually broached the idea of a documentary to Fred; already impressed by some of the Super-8 live video the pair shot of Dead Moon in New York, he agreed, much to their surprise – and delight.

Explains Summers, “We’d become more and more intrigued. Their music had gotten us. But it was the other parts of their lives that really got us. They were so quirky, so eccentric, so many projects going on all the time that it seemed like to them the music was kind of like a derelict hobby. I tend to think that musicians who don’t think of themselves as superstars, there’s something more there to that, about having a lifestyle where you can take all the things you love and build a working life.” Summers mentions the 1969 Robert Elfstrom documentary on Johnny Cash, The Man, His World, His Music, as a “brilliant piece of cinema verite” that influenced him as he and Fix were editing their film.

Indeed, Unknown Passage, while loaded with riveting concert footage, is equally weighted with intimate interviews (including Loomis and the Coles’ three children) and segments showing the Coles going about their daily activities at home and at their businesses, essentially painting a portrait of a couple at peace with the lifestyle they’ve carved out for themselves. A wealth of archival material outlines Fred Cole’s lengthy musical resume – there’s a priceless live clip of the Rats appearing on a Portland cable access TV program in the late ‘70s – while glowing Cole testimonials from the likes of Music Maniac’s Kesteloo, the Kingsmen’s Mike Mitchell and Mudhoney’s Steve Turner add additional context.

One intimate scene has Fred Cole displaying the Dead Moon album masters and casually tossing them around, not heeding the potential for damaging them. Summers says that’s his favorite part of the movie. “It reminds me of William Blake or something etching his little copper plates. Fred looks like Ben Franklin in his dirty robe with his bi-focals on, going through tape after tape after tape, getting these ancient machines working.”

Summers recalls their initial filming sessions of the band as being a literal trial by concert-trail fire. Fred, shortly after giving his blessing to the project, called the filmmakers up and asked them if they wanted to join them, 11th-hour style, on a European tour. The next thing they knew, Summers and Fix were getting off a plane in Amsterdam. “We’re in the parking lot going to get into the rental van,” says Summers, laughing at the memory, “and Fred got us in headlocks and made everybody get into a huddle. He says, ‘All right, if anybody fucks with you, you’re not with us – you’re in Dead Moon now. Do you understand? You’re IN the band!’ Then we broke the huddle and went into our first play – in the van, and go!”

“We tried to stay quiet and out of the way while rolling,” observes Fix. “In fact, our presences made it more fun for them. We felt like we were the honored guests, being shown around Europe, being introduced to all their many friends they’ve made while touring over there.”

Adds Toody Cole, “It worked out great – we loved the film. And we became really good friends with Jason and Kate, too.”

The self-financed film took approximately four years, from inception to final editing, to complete; in 2004 it was screened extensively at film festivals (a pair of memorable screenings in Australia and New Zealand featured live performances from Dead Moon!) and reviews were unanimous in their praise. Fix suggests that ultimately their budget restrictions worked in their favor. “It was just the two of us, no audio person, a real basic run-and-gun setup. But if we’d had a huge crew I think we would have sacrificed a great deal just in terms of the whole feeling and spirit of the project – and the intimacy we were able to achieve with the three of them.”

Hopefully timed to come out close to the Sub Pop anthology is a DVD of the film, most likely as a joint Magic Umbrella/Tombstone release (see: www.MagicUmbrella.com or www.DeadMoonUSA.com). Unknown Passage is not the first documentary treatment of Dead Moon; in 1995 Dutch fan Wilko Bello made the 50-minute You’ll Love Them All the Same, included on a CD-ROM with ’97 album Hard Wired in Ljubljana. But with a wealth of DVD extras, from songs to archival goodies to interview outtakes and ephemera (one priceless segment captures a snooty tour manager for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club kicking Dead Moon off the stage and a subsequent screaming match between him and Loomis), it will undoubtedly stand as definitive.

***

Prominent in the film whenever the Magic Umbrella lenses zero in on Fred Cole is a Dead Moon tattoo, the trademark band logo depicting a deathly, grinning skull protruding from a crescent moon. Not just any tattoo – it’s on his right cheek, a highly visible symbol of the man’s devotion to his band and to his craft.

This will probably preclude the man’s ever taking a job as a Wal-Mart greeter when his senior citizenship beckons, but predictably, both Fred and Toody have no intention of entering their twilight years quietly (although Fred, in a not-unwise concession to the drumbeat of age, recently got fitted for a new, high-tech pair of hearing aids).

The tattoo’s also physical testimony to Fred Cole’s bloody-mindedness as an individual. Ironically, despite the band’s seemingly tireless work ethic and massive musical output (at last count, roughly 13 studio and live albums and 14 singles and EPs), Dead Moon has been its own worst enemy in terms of any huge commercial break-throughs it might have achieved. Fred Cole still stubbornly insists on recording in mono, of course, with the digitizing of a Dead Moon vinyl releases barely an afterthought; and after all these years, Dead Moon remains a self-produced project. (With luck, the Sub Pop release should go a fair ways towards raising the band’s profile.)

Plus, he’s notorious for shrugging off – or outright running from – any overtures the mainstream might cast in his direction. Toody notes that Fred “kinda gets into this deer-in-headlights mode when shit gets intense.”

Pausing for a moment, she then relates an incident in the early ‘90s when the band, on tour in Europe, found themselves courted by Britain’s influential weekly Melody Maker. At the time, anything from the American northwest was blowing up and the paper wanted to send over a reporter and a photographer for a cover story – but at Dead Moon’s label’s expense.

“So Hans [owner of Music Maniac] runs it by me and says it would be a great career move: ‘All we have to do is fly this Everett True and his photographer over here to Europe, put them up in a hotel, and they’ll come and interview you and it’s just going to make you guys.’ Fred was like, ‘Oh, this just so smacks of payola. Ah, no. No, we’re not going to do it that way. If they think we’re such hot shit, fine. They can come over here [on their own] and I’ll talk to them.’

“You know, Fred has been so disillusioned by the music business in general and how it works, he just thinks, ‘If I’m worth the story, I’m worth the story.’ This is important to him: ‘I just want to know I did it on my own.’”

Hearing his wife say that, Fred thinks about it for a moment, then softly agrees.

“That’s right. I mean, hey, we grew up in the ‘60s and found out how the world works then. So, okay, I refuse to be part of it. I’m not gonna go there.

“But if you want to be part of my world — cool. I’ll accept you with open arms.”

***

 

PIERCED ARROWS: “Not Just Righteous, But Right” (From Stomp and Stammer zine, March 2010)

The letter is still here, tucked inside the jacket of a Dead Moon LP, on brown Tombstone Music stationary and bearing a July 1990 postmark. It’s a handwritten note from Dead Moon guitarist Fred Cole that begins, “Dear Fred, thanks for the reviews. You’re one of the core of people who started the ball rolling…”

Only hubris would allow me to think that I really had anything to do with Dead Moon’s rise from unruly Oregon punk/garage trio to international prominence as one of the fiercest, most uncompromising underground bands of the last two decades; by the time Cole formed the band in ’87, he already had enough experience under his belt to know exactly what he wanted to do and how to do it. Just the same, helping get the word out about the band was something I and a number of my fanzine-scribbling peers approached with a missionary-like zeal, and it was gratifying to know that Cole appreciated the effort

In fact, although I never met him or his wife and bandmate Toody face to face (Dead Moon tours rarely seemed to be routed through wherever I happened to be living), we corresponded quite a bit, so when we convened via telephone in the summer of 2006 for Harp magazine dissection of their career to date, the occasion being the impending release of Sub Pop’s two-CD Dead Moon anthology Echoes of the Past, the interview took more the form of a conversation among old friends than a journalist grilling two musicians.

And then the band promptly broke up.

Cut to 2010: “You know, it wasn’t your fault…” Toody Cole lets her words trail off, then chuckles loudly into the phone.

I’d half-jokingly suggested that perhaps I’d placed a curse on the band by publishing the 2006 article; the laughter dies down, and she explains that after doing Dead Moon for two decades, “We kind of got trapped in a box, especially for Fred and his songwriting, and everybody wanted to hear the same 20-30 songs over and over again. But he’s one of these people who’s like, ‘It’s whatever I’m doing now, and not what I did then or when.’”

What the Coles are doing now is the Pierced Arrows, which they put together in surprisingly short order following the demise of Dead Moon. According to Toody (who, due to Fred’s deafness, handles the bulk of interview duties, fielding the questions and turning to Fred for clarification as needed), her husband had actually been thinking about closing the book on Dead Moon for some time; the band played its final gig in Groningen on Nov. 26, 2006. “And I pretty much had to talk him into coming back after that break anyway,” she continues, “because he was done at that point. Originally we were going to wait six months to a year, but it turned out to be about three or four [months] instead — just long enough to realize how much we missed it!”

Outwardly at least, the Pierced Arrows bear such a close resemblance to Dead Moon that some fans may have wondered why even bother with the name change and potentially squander the group’s momentum. Like Dead Moon, the Arrows are a three-piece, with Kelly Haliburton (ex-Murder Disco X) taking DM drummer Andrew Loomis’ place behind the kit; Fred Cole still spews his manifesto-like punk anthems in an unhinged, Arthur Lee-like howl while unleashing furious bursts of serrated riffs; Toody Cole still wields her precision basslines and shares occasional vocal duties with Fred; and just as Dead Moon did, before each gig the trio convenes onstage in a tight semi-circle whose physical closeness signifies both a musical and personal camaraderie.

Yet as Toody told me in 2006, in an unintentional foreshadowing what was to come, “We decided a long time ago that if any one of us three is not replaceable, then that will be the end of Dead Moon. Maybe something else will come up down the line, but it will be a different name.”

Hence, with drummer Andrew Loomis leaving the Dead Moon fold, the Pierced Arrows. The Coles knew Halliburton from his turning up at Dead Moon shows (his father had also played in a band with Fred in the ‘70s), so when they got the itch to resume playing, Fred invited him over for some informal rehearsals. Things clicked, and the Arrows played their first gig in May of 2007 with Poison Idea in Portland on the anniversary of the eruption of Mount St. Helens. “We’d only been rehearsing for about 4-6 weeks,” says Toody, “and we only had about a half hour’s worth of material. But it was just phenomenal, really over the top. We’d figured we’d have to start up the ladder again like we had done in Dead Moon, but that gig went so well things just took off from there.”

Indeed they did. Since that first show the band has toured regularly and scored great press coverage. Yours truly, reviewing debut LP (on Cole’s long-running Tombstone label), enthused thusly:

The Coles are as garage-shock defiant and hell-bent for leather as ever. Yeah, they sound a lot like Dead Moon — Fred Cole’s unhinged, Arthur Lee-like vocals and keep-it-simple chord structures ensure that — with the main break from the past being a shift away from Dead Moon’s signature lo-fi/mono aesthetic by recording in a real studio with a producer. Improved sonics aside, Straight To the Heart is aimed directly at faithful D.M. fans, notably the grinding, malevolent anti-war screed “Guns Of Thunder,” punk thrasher “Walking Wounded” (featuring a nice Fred-Toody vocal duet), a thunderous romp through Neil Young’s “Mr. Soul” and a bluesy slab of alienation (one of Fred’s favorite song topics) rock called “C-U.” Welcome back, Mr. and Mrs. Cole.

For their second album, the just-issued Descending Shadows, Pierced Arrows inked a deal with über-tastemaker Vice Records. Wisely, the Coles and Haliburton don’t fuck with their established formula too much, either; in a mere 11 tracks, the band plows forth with such feral viscosity and velocity that you’re left clutching your chest when the record’s done.

In classic Fred Cole form, the album opens with a manifesto-like anthem, “This Is the Day,” a churning slab of sinewy guitars and rhythm section thud that finds the singer bemoaning all the ugliness he’s seen — and spawned — in the past and trying to find the inner strength to rise above from this point onward: “If only I could change the way I’ve become through all these years/ I wouldn’t be watching you holding back your tears.” The creepy, noirish “Buried Alive” comes next, Fred chronicling a modern-life-is-suffocating-me viewpoint via a science-gone-terribly-wrong metaphor. That’s followed a few tracks later by the even more horrific “Paranoia” that utilizes metronomic bass, abrasive, serrated swipes of guitar, and appropriately unhinged lyric images of “creaking floors,” “evil in the night” and “the sound of blades just before they carve.” And “On the Move” finds the Coles, against a thick backdrop of dark riffage, swapping vocal lines about an impending apocalypse (literal, mental or perhaps both) that’s propelling the two protagonists to flee ahead of the coming storm.

Fred Cole has been compared in the past to Love’s Arthur Lee, and sometimes to Roky Erickson as well, but on this album he sounds uncannily like a cross between late vocal greats Bon Scott and Alex Harvey, moaning and gurgling and blustering and spitting into the mic as if through clenched teeth while reeling from a significant flesh wound. Animalistic, by any measure.

Too, like a radically minimalist AC/DC, the band locks into some of the most primal grooves imaginable, Toody and Halliburton adopting a no-frills approach that’s propulsive yet steady, and this economy of motion additionally frees Fred to unleash a heady mixture of steel-lined riffs alongside psychedelic sound effects. There’s even an unexpected foray into British punk territory, “Zip My Lip,” that has Toody adopting a Johnny Rotten-like sneer as Fred deploys proto-metal buzzsaw licks to great effect.

The net result is a set of tunes simultaneously spilling forth on a chaotic veneer of sonics while remaining powerfully and purposefully focused.

***

In its time, Dead Moon became a Northwest institution, based out of Clackamas, Oregon, and amassing a core rabid fanbase that extended to pockets all across the U.S. and, in particular, Europe. From 1987-2006 the band issued 15 albums (plus the Sub Pop compilation), many of them on their own Tombstone label — official motto for their lo-fi aesthetic: “music too tough to die” — and pressed in glorious mono courtesy Fred’s vintage mono lathe.

Fred’s musical roots, likewise, extended to an earlier era: as a member of Las Vegas teenbeat combo the Weeds and later the Portland-based Lollipop Shoppe, he’d enjoyed some chart success in the ‘60s, notably with the latter’s hit single “You Must Be a Witch.” By 1976 he was fronting a hi-octane punk combo called The Rats, the first in what would a succession of bands featuring Toody (whom he married in ’67) on bass. Dead Moon was the charm, however, and while the band never sold records by the truckload it still built up a huge stockpile of indie cred during its tenure, with fellow NW bands like the Wipers, Mudhoney and Pearl Jam singing the group’s praises. Pearl Jam has frequently covered Dead Moon songs in concert, while singer Eddie Vedder recently composed an endorsement of the Coles for Spinner.com that reads, in part, “In a day and age when authenticity is harder to come by than an honest Republican, legends Fred and Toody Cole deliver on every record and at every show… [They] epitomize the true potential and pure meaning of straight-no-chaser rock ‘n’ roll. Not just righteous, but right.”

Toody and Fred had offered a telling anecdote when I interviewed them in 2006 that illustrates the authenticity and purity Vedder’s suggesting. They were touring Europe at a point in the early ‘90s which coincided with the overseas press going ga-ga for anything remotely Sub Pop-related or Northwest-based. Melody Maker wanted to come over and do a cover story on the band — but on the record label’s dime. Fred, smelling payola, flatly refused, saying, “If they think we’re such hot shit, fine. They can come over here [on their own] and I’ll talk to them.” As Toody explained, “Fred wanted to know that he did it on his own.”

Remembering that part of our earlier conversation now, I can’t help but wondering how on earth Pierced Arrows wound up on Vice, hipster haven to such acts as Chromeo, the Raveonettes, King Khan & the Shrines and, most notoriously, the Black Lips. For 2008’s Straight to the Heart, the Coles self-released, but for the followup, the decision was made to shop for a label. The timing was apt, as around the same time the Arrows toured with the Black Lips.

“That’s how we ended up dealing with Vice,” explains Toody. “We were thinking about asking around, and Sub Pop’s docket was completely full, so we said, well, let’s give Vice a shot and see what happens. We sat down with them to talk about licensing Descending Shadows and they had ideas about promotion, etcetera, so we told them we’d be willing to do that within reason. It’s something we need to do on our part to support all the work they’ve put in, and so far it’s been a really great experience.” She adds that they’re scheduled to do a split single with the Black Lips and that Vice will be flying the band out in April to record it in a New York studio.

Working with a high profile record label isn’t the only thing the Coles are doing differently this time around. Whereas most Dead Moon records were self-recorded and -produced, for both Pierced Arrows albums they’ve opted to record in professional Portland facilities (Straight to the Heart was even done digitally). The yield thus far has been a far more expansive sound and boasting greater clarity than the signature Dead Moon lo-fi aesthetic — although true to habit, Fred Cole still cuts the vinyl masters with his mono lathe.

Of the decision to work with outside producers, Toody says, “I think we’ve gotten more comfortable in the studio, and also at this point Fred’s [hearing] has gotten so bad that he realized that he can’t record and self-mix anymore; he can’t hear the frequencies anymore.  Still, we’re working with first, second or third takes, so it’s also a bit of the same-old, same-old. It was a lot easier this time around and less intimidating than it used to be. And very relaxing from the fact that Fred wasn’t rattled trying to figure out, ‘Okay, which room should we use…’ and trying to roll tape and keep headphones on and play at the same time, stopping the take – it just got too ridiculous.”

Truth be told, the Pierced Arrows, though perhaps demonstrating more complexity in their arrangements than Dead Moon did (Toody also has a greater singing role in the new band), still ooze a primal ferocity that’s instantly identifiable. One detects echoes of everyone from AC/DC to the Sex Pistols to classic NW garageshock, but there’s no question you’re getting Fred Cole & Co. within the first few seconds of hearing a Pierced Arrows song. The net result is a powerfully delivered and purposefully focused sonic collision that’s as thrilling as ever.

“One of the nice things about having this new band is that you’re not so tied down to the regimen of what you’re ‘expected’ to do,” says Toody. “With Dead Moon, everything was always like, ‘It’s just this way. Don’t deviate. Nothing different.’ You know? With the Pierced Arrows, though, Fred is happy as a clam because it’s the natural direction he was leaning in anyway, but for whatever reason Dead Moon couldn’t pull it off.

“We have a whole new energy — a whole new jazz.”

I can dig it, Toody. Just don’t break up before I get to see you play this time. Cool?

 

Below: Fred and Toody Cole by Samantha Marble

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BOOK EXCERPT: Jimi Hendrix – The Illustrated Story, by Gillian G. Gaar

Early last month Voyageur Press published Hendrix: The Illustrated History, the latest book by Northwest-based journalist (and longtime BLURT contributor) Gillian G. Gaar, who has penned volumes on Elvis, Nirvana, the Doors, and more. The handsomely appointed, 224-page hardcover is far more than just an “illustrated” history, although the wealth of images that pepper the book’s gorgeous layout certainly tell the Hendrix tale in vivid fashion, from photos both iconic and rare to reproductions of records both key and obscure (Hendrix collectors are particularly well-served by all the overseas singles pictures sleeves here).

Gaar also submits the kind of detailed, insider’s-view story that makes H:TIH different that most coffee table music books. It’s broken into seven lengthy chapters, each wrapping up a specific period in the late guitarist’s life, literally from birth to death to aftermath—both man and legend are outlined with painstaking precision. Below you’ll read the first section of Chapter 6, “The Wink of an Eye,” which picks up at the dawn of the Seventies—January 1, 1970, to be exact, as Hendrix and his recently-assembled Band of Gypsys are onstage at the Fillmore East.

An essential read for even the most thoroughly schooled Hendrix devotee, Hendrix: The Illustrated History hits all the right notes from cover to cover. And speaking of that cover: The day-glo front is textured with black velvet, giving it a decisive, and literal, ‘60s artifact feel. Nice touch, that. —Ed.

The following excerpt is from Chapter 6 (pp.155-159), “The Wink Of An Eye”. (Text and images used with the kind permission of the author, and Voyageur Press/Quarto Group.)

January 1, 1970, found the Band of Gypsys back on stage for their second night at the Fillmore East. The engagement was well received—promoter Bill Graham called Jimi’s work “the most brilliant, emotional display of virtuoso electric guitar playing I have ever heard.” “It appears Hendrix is finding where he should be at, and he might well emerge as the greatest of the new blues guitarists,” DownBeat magazine’s critic wrote. “I can only hope that he learns that it is not necessary to amplify to or past the point of distortion.” And Jimi had more plans for the Band of

Gypsys. After the final show, he told Al Aronowitz of the of the New York Post that he wanted to take the band “back to the blues” and have Buddy Miles do more of the singing.

But by the end of the month, the Band of Gypsys was no more. In late January, Jimi got into a fierce argument with his manager when Jeffery wanted to fire Buddy Miles and reunite the Experience. When Jimi refused, Jeffery threatened to tear up their contract. Jimi backed down; as much as he complained about his manager and talked about leaving him, he never took any serious steps to do so. He also undoubtedly felt conflicted, as he wasn’t entirely happy with Buddy’s presence in the band himself. Buddy was used to being the leader of his own group, and Jimi didn’t like being challenged. “Jimi truly loved Buddy,” Billy Cox said, “but he was the star. He was the boss.”

In this fraught atmosphere, the Band of Gypsys came together to play what would be its final show, an appearance at the Winter Festival for Peace at Madison Square Garden on January 28. Despite his dislike of the group, Jeffery had nonetheless arranged for the performance to be filmed for a possible TV special. When Jimi showed up backstage, he seemed unwell. “When I saw him, it gave me the chills,” Johnny Winter later told Guitar Player. “It was the most horrible thing I’d ever seen . . . it was like he was already dead.” He watched as Jimi made his way to a couch and put his head in his hands: “He didn’t move until it was time for the show.”

Buddy Miles would swear that Jeffery had given Jimi LSD to deliberately sabotage the show and the band, but that hardly seems likely given that Jeffery had put up $6,000 to film the performance. Jimi himself said that it was Devon Wilson who had dosed him. Nor was there any shortage of intoxicants backstage, and Jimi was becoming increasingly reckless in his drug use. “Drugs were not only screwing him up, they were destroying the environment he needed to create,” said Electric Lady Studios manager Jim Marron. “Hendrix sat through many paternal lectures about his drug use from all of us, but I doubt it had any long-term effect.”

The show ran late, and the band didn’t take the stage until 3:00 a.m. Following another argument with Jeffery, Jimi sent out one of the crew to get lighter fluid so he could burn his guitar, but the delivery was intercepted by Gerry Stickells. It was a wise decision, as Jimi was so intoxicated that he ran the risk of setting himself on fire. Billy and Buddy weren’t sure Jimi would even make it through the set, and their fears were confirmed as the band staggered through the opening song, “Who Knows.” The band then played “Earth Blues,” only for Jimi to abruptly stop playing and announce, “That’s what happens when earth fucks with space. Never forget that.” He then stopped playing and sat on the drum riser until he was helped offstage.

After this debacle, Jeffery fired Buddy—an action Buddy always believed was solely Jeffery’s doing. Certainly there was no love lost between the two, but those who worked for Jeffery insisted that his focus remained on business and that he would not have fired a musician without Jimi’s tacit approval, which, given Jimi’s disinclination to be the bearer of bad news, seemed likely. In any case, it was a dispiriting end to the band, and Billy Cox soon returned to Nashville.

Now Jeffery could get underway with what he’d wanted to do all along: reunite the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Noel and Mitch were agreeable, a press release was sent out, and the three musicians came together for an interview with Rolling Stone on February 4 in New York City. Jimi called the Winter Festival for Peace concert “like the end of a big long fairy tale” and explained his performance by saying he was “very tired.” But he also didn’t sound completely committed to the reunion, saying that he still wanted to “have time on the side to play with friends. That’s why I’ll probably be jamming with Buddy and Billy; probably be recording, too, on the side, and they’ll be doing the same.”

The interview turned out to be the full extent of the Experience’s “reunion.” On reflection, Jimi decided he had no wish to play with Noel again and persuaded Billy to return to New York. Sadly, no one thought to inform Noel of this decision, and he also returned to New York in March to wait for rehearsals to start. He finally learned he’d been kicked out of the band when he contacted Mitch at his hotel after days of waiting for a call, only to be told that Mitch was off rehearsing with Jimi. Jimi never apologized, but he did drop by sessions for Noel’s solo album Nervous Breakdown, playing on the track “My Friend.” The song, and Noel’s album, remain unreleased.

Jimi was also working with Eddie Kramer in preparing the Band of Gypsys album, and work was completed on February 19. Jimi hoped it would resolve the ongoing legal situation with Ed Chalpin. Then, in March, he learned some news that stunned him: Kathy Etchingham had gotten married.

Since Jimi now spent most of his time in New York City, he’d fallen out of touch with his one-time girlfriend. Kathy knew he saw other women, which bothered her less than the sycophantic hangers-on that surrounded him. She had no wish to be a part of such an entourage, and as she hadn’t heard from Jimi in months, she assumed their relationship had run its course.

Now, he called not only to ask if it was true she had married, but that he was also returning to London to see her. Kathy met him at the airport and was surprised when he took her hand on the ride into town and asked, “This is just a spur of the moment thing, isn’t it. It’s not serious, is it?” Kathy was taken aback at how “completely devastated” he was by the news. Jimi had expected her to be “waiting for him, the good little woman keeping the home fires burning. . . . I realized that in his mind I had let him down just like his mum and dad had before me.”

Jimi tried to persuade her to come back to New York with him, assuring her, “All those people I was hanging out with have gone.” But Kathy refused, not wanting to get caught up again in the “mayhem and madness” of Jimi’s life. To her relief, he eventually seemed to accept her decision.

Jimi found time for a little session work as well, coming by Island Studios on March 15, where Stephen Stills was recording his self-titled debut album (released in November 1970). Jimi played lead guitar on “Old Times, Good Times” and played on two other tracks that as of this writing have yet to be released. On March 17, he joined Arthur Lee at Olympic Studios, where Lee was working on Love’s False Start album. Jimi played guitar on the track “The Everlasting First”; the album was released in December. He then returned to New York.

March also saw the US release of Band of Gypsys, which reached No. 5. The UK release followed in June, with the album reaching No. 6. The US album cover was straightforward, featuring a color-tinted shot of Jimi in performance; the UK version was decidedly odd, featuring puppets created by artist Saskia de Boer—there was a Jimi Hendrix puppet, a Brian Jones puppet, a Bob Dylan puppet, and a puppet of British DJ John Peel. The cover drew numerous complaints, resulting in Track reissuing the album with a new cover, though the new design was just as odd in its own way—it was a picture of Jimi performing at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival, not a Band of Gypsys show. In the United States, the single “Stepping Stone” was released to accompany the album in April, but it failed to chart.

The Woodstock film also had its debut in March, running just over three hours and featuring three songs from Jimi’s set: “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “Purple Haze,” and “Villanova Junction.” With a $600,000 budget, the film went on to gross over $50 million, making it a remarkable success. The soundtrack, which featured the same three songs, was released on May 27 in the United States, topping the chart, while in the UK, the album was released in June and reached No. 35.

Work on Electric Lady Studios was continuing. Michael Jeffery secured a loan from Warner Bros. to help finance the project, which would eventually top $1 million. Jimi went back on the road to keep money coming in but mostly did shows on the weekends, sometimes including a Thursday or a Monday, which gave him a little breathing room. Mitch Mitchell was back, and Billy Cox was persuaded to return as well. Even Buddy Miles was around; the Buddy Miles Express opened for Jimi at the Los Angeles Forum on April 25 and at Cal Expo in Sacramento on April 26.

The band wasn’t officially the Jimi Hendrix Experience, though they were sometimes billed that way. Jimi seemed relieved to put the group behind him. “I’m not sure how I feel about the Experience now,” he told Keith Altham in April. “Maybe we could have gone on but what would have been the point of that— what would it have been good for? It’s a ghost now—it’s dead—like back pages in a diary. I’m into new things and I want to think about tomorrow, not yesterday.”

The group was booked into stadiums and other large halls but returned to a smaller venue for one night, the Village Gate, on May 4. The occasion was a benefit concert for Timothy Leary, who’d been convicted of marijuana possession. Noel Redding was also on the bill, and it was the last time Jimi shared a stage with his former bandmate.

 

 

TROUBADOUR X 2: Tim Buckley

The Upshot: A pair of must-own live albums from the late singer-songwriter that capture him at a performing peak in 1969 and backed by a powerhouse of a band equally at home with folk-rock excursions and fiery jazz jams.

BY FRED MILLS

In terms of mainstream popularity—awareness, even—late folk-rock troubadour Tim Buckley is certainly a minor figure; his son Jeff, who gained prominence during the mid ‘90s alternative rock explosion prior to his tragic drowning in 1997, is far better known. Yet among the singer-songwriters of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, Buckley (who died of a drug overdose in 1975) has been so eminently served, archivally speaking, that the casual browser of the man’s discography could easily get the impression that Buckley was a major star. Though he released only nine studio albums in his lifetime, starting in 1990 with the phenomenal Dream Letter (Live In London 1968) 2CD set there have been no less than 12 titles containing live and unreleased material, rivalling even onetime labelmates The Doors’ similarly-targeted posthumous output (just to use a “major star” comparison), and nearly as many anthologies and repackagings.

Why the near-obsessive adoration of Buckley among fans? Two new live releases, Venice Mating Call and Greetings From West Hollywood, are instructive.

By way of context: Relatively early in the Buckley vault-combing game, in 1994, esteemed West Coast indie label Manifesto, which entered the Buckley picture via a reissue of Dream Letter, unveiled Live At The Troubadour 1969, a nicely appointed single-CD set that collected key performances from an early September ’69 Buckley residency at L.A.’s famed Troubadour nightclub, sourced from the archives of Buckley’s manager, Herb Cohen (Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, etc.), and overseen by reissue producer and legendary industry veteran Bill Inglot. Considered alongside the aforementioned live-in-London set, it was a revelation, palpable sonic evidence that, while Buckley’s studio albums were consistently good, the stage was truly where Buckley came alive, unleashing that high, soaring tenor like a gospel-blues diva reaching heavenward while his band—longtime guitarist/keyboardist Lee Underwood, drummer Art Tripp (from the Mothers of Invention), conga player Carter Collins, Julliard-schooled bassist John Balkin—steamed relentlessly behind him like a jazz ensemble in full improvisational flight.

Fast forward to the present. As the 2CD Venice Mating Call and 2LP Greetings From West Hollywood co-producer Pat Thomas’ detailed liner notes disclose, Manifesto has gone back to the Cohen archives well, issuing previously unreleased recordings from the Sept. 3 and 4 Troubadour shows after meticulously going through five sets from three days’ worth of performances, originally caught on 16-track tape by the Wally Heider Remote Truck. There’s only a two-song overlap between the compact disc and vinyl offerings (“Driftin’” and “I Had A Talk With My Woman”), so if you want all the material—“Nobody Walkin’” for example, is 8:25 on VMC but runs a monumental 12:32 on GFWH and is considerably different in feel—you need to pick up both. In addition to Thomas, Bill Inglot (who, as noted above, produced the original LATT 1969 album) and Dan Perloff co-produced, while Brian Kehew assumed mixing duties for the multi-tracks; in an email, Thomas explained that while they knew of the tapes’ Heider Truck provenance, there was no original live recording engineer listed on the tape reel boxes. By way of consumer note, the 2LP set doesn’t come with a download card, which to me is a notable omission—I want to be able to listen to records at the office and in my car in addition to at home—but both albums are on Spotify, so ultimately it’s a minor quibble.

Cue up the CD or drop the needle, and with the jaunty, strummy “Buzzin’ Fly” you’re instantly seated at a small table so close to the Troubadour stage you can almost reach out and strum Buckley’s 12-string acoustic, his vocal front and center in the mix, the band’s instruments perfectly splayed out behind him and to the sides and abetted by a hint of rear-of-room echo lending a crucial ambiance that at times can seem like an extra instrument. Such is the intimacy at times that the listener can seem transported from a comfortable den populated by beautiful L.A. hipsters (look! There’s Michelle Phillips at the bar!) to a cramped jazz club jammed with musical cognoscenti who dole out their musical approval sparingly, but earnestly.

Favorites on Venice Mating Call? The woozy “Strange Feelin’” is an early high point, Underwood leading the band with bluesy riffs and Buckley answering him in kind. The percussive, kinetic, exploratory “Lorca,” which comes late in the set, is unique as an 11-minute early version of a song that would go on to become the title track of Buckley’s 1970 LP. Lorca would be cut in the studio, in fact, just two weeks after the Troubadour residency—the run of shows featured a number of as-yet-unrecorded songs destined for Lorca and Blue Afternoon, albums released at different times but recorded simultaneously. But the phenomenal “(I Wanna) Testify” never made it onto album, perhaps because it wasn’t a genuine Buckley original—as the Thomas liners detail, it was an improvisation upon an old gospel song—which is a shame, because it’s a true late ‘60s West Coast-style jam that would fit neatly into a set by the Dead, Quicksilver, or the Airplane and seems perfect for the times. (At one point Underwood quotes, intentionally or not, the Airplane’s Jorma Kaukonen’s signature riff from “3/5 Of A Mile In Ten Seconds.” Pretty cool at that.)

How about faves on Greetings From West Hollywood? (The album title of course, is a nod to Buckley’s ’72 album Greetings From L.A.. Speaking of having fun with titles, the song “Venice Mating Call” appears on GFWH but not on Venice Mating Call, go figure.) In downtempo mode there’s folk-blues ballad “I Had A Talk With My Woman,” Buckley singing generally in his lower register to give the tune an additional intimacy. Contrast that with the jazzy, uptempo “Nobody Walkin,” for which Underwood swaps his guitar for Fender Rhodes and the musicians all lock into a propulsive groove, Buckley letting loose with extemporaneous whoops and off-mic asides—that voice is also an “instrument” in the truest sense of the term, at times sounding like the singer is becoming unhinged and leaping into the audience. (In Thomas’ liner notes, Underwood makes it clear that these performances occurred long before Buckley gave in to heroin’s allure, and to his knowledge no one in the band had more than a few beers at the shows; there were two each evening.) The Buckley band pulls out all the stops on another lengthy number, 11-minute closing track “Gypsy Woman,” also a pulsing, improv West Coast jam, right down to the individual players’ solos. Underwood in particular seems inspired, peeling off rapid-fire licks from his fretboard, Buckley responding in kind with yips, moans, and wordless cries of carnal passion

As live recordings go, these two titles immediately join the ranks of the greats. The aforementioned Dream Letter (Live In London 1968) has long been the gold standard among Buckley live releases, of course. But although recorded only a year removed from the Troubadour tapes, it represents a completely different Buckley, who as an artist was constantly evolving and experimenting. I’d venture that had a live Buckley album been released in ’69 or ‘70 his career trajectory might have been completely different, for this was an era during which fans prized authenticity above all else, which of course is why live albums were gradually becoming de rigeur for any “serious” musical artist.

Ultimately, while Buckley is long gone, the wealth of Buckley material available in 2017 helps secure the man’s legacy for the ages. As a fan myself since the early ‘70s, I dearly love every single note, and my hat is off to everyone at Manifesto and everyone involved in this archival project. More, please.

THE GUY IN THE BLACK HAT: Robert Vickers

The erstwhile bassist for the Go-Betweens talks about a life in music, from early days growing up in Brisbane, Australia, to his eventual career as a much-respected independent publicist.(This interview originally appears in the most excellent Dagger ‘zine.)

BY TIM HINELY

To most people Robert Vickers is known as the bass player for Australia’s late, great Go-Betweens, but as you’ll read below he’s done a lot more. The first Go-Betweens record I bought was Tallulah when it came out in 1987, and from that point I worked my way backwards and got their earlier stuff. The cover showed an arty looking bunch of folks in what looked like an old living room—guy sitting on the couch with the black hat is Robert Vickers, almost as if he’s saying “You gonna take the picture or what, dude?”

As you’ll read below, Vickers had gained some notoriety prior to the Go-Betweens when he was playing music as a resident of NYC for the first time. After leaving the Go-Betweens, following the release of Tallulah, he played with a handful of people, including the Hamish Kilgour/Lisa Siegel band The Mad Scene. I first met Rob, in fact, after booking one of that group’s shows in California in 1995. He was a great chap and happily answered all of my gushing questions that night. Since then, he’s worked in the music industry as a publicist for close to two decades, currently running independent PR firm Proxy Media.  He’s a low-key guy—I’m really glad I reached out to him for this interview—who has some great stories, but you’ve got to read the interview to find them out. Take it away, sir.

 BLURT: What part of Brisbane did you grow up in?
VICKERS: I grew up in the Brisbane suburb of Oxley. It was unfashionably working class but not without charm as it still retained a bit of its rural past in late ‘60s early ‘70s. Ed Keupper of The Saints grew up a few streets away. A number of other bands and musicians from that period also come from the general area.

Was your family supportive of your music? Any musical siblings?
My mother played the piano but that was about all the musical activity at our house. The family was very supportive but they would probably have been supportive of any path I took. I was lucky to have fairly open minded parents. My father once welded the tuning peg of my bass back on after it broke off. You can’t get much more supportive than that.

Was Brisbane an interesting place to grow up? Could you compare it to any American cities?
At the time I didn’t think it was interesting. It seemed like the ends of the earth. I couldn’t wait to get out. Provincial didn’t begin to describe it. The N.M.E. took a month to arrive by sea mail. There were no restaurants. Well, maybe one or two in the center of the city but that’s it.  It was a cultural desert. It’s a different place now of course. It’s become a very livable city. I’d compare it to Houston in the US; hot and humid, a cattle town. There are similarities to LA as well in that they are both hilly and car dominated with water close by.

What was the first instrument that you picked up? What bands did you listern to during your teenage years?
The first band I listened to was The Beatles. Our next door neighbors had a wind up record player with steel needles and we played those early singles till they fell apart. I listened mostly to the radio, 60s and 70s top 40, everything from Johnny Horton to David Bowie. When we got a stereo I started buying Bob Dylan’s back catalog second hand. That led to wanting to play the guitar so I got an old nylon string acoustic and strummed away.

Were The Riptdes your first band? How/when did they begin?
Yes, but we were called The Numbers at that time. After I finished High School I spent all of 1976 working at Woolworths and saved enough money to get out of Brisbane. I went to London and travelled around Europe and North Africa in the beginning of 77. When I got back to London I realized this musical revolution was happening and the fact that The Saints, someone from my own neighborhood was at the forefront of it was really exciting. I wanted to get in a band and be part of it but I had to decide whether to stay in London where so much was happening but I knew no-one and had no job or place to live, or go back to Brisbane where I had heard that a good friend of mine from school was in a band. I felt I had a better chance of getting something started with him so I got on a plane. The band he was in was The Numbers and I soon joined playing bass which of course I had no idea how to do. We recorded a single right away and played around Brisbane. This is where I met Robert (Forster) and Grant (McLennan) from the Go-Betweens. The Numbers single ’77 Sunset Strip’ came out around the same time as The Go-Betweens ‘Lee Remick’ and I actually took both singles around the southern states of Australia to distribute them to record stores on my vacation.

Is it true that you moved to NYC when you were 19? Were you terrified? Did you have any friends there? What was your first apartment like?
I had actually turned 20 when I arrived in New York in early 1979. The Numbers had kicked me out because they didn’t think I was up to their level of musicianship. This wasn’t so bad because I was sick of Brisbane again and wanted to travel in America on my way back to London. After some interesting adventures in Guatemala and on Greyhounds across the US I ended up in New York. I wasn’t terrified; I had been in Morocco so I had some experience with dangerous places. I had a place to stay short term and planned to see something of the CBGB’s/Max’s music scene I had been reading about in the NME, then head off to London. The second night I was there I went by myself to CB’s to see the band DNA and by the end of a very long night I was in a band called The Colors and had a place to live. The apartment was a $30 a month storefront without a shower or bathtub on Rivington St just off The Bowery. This was before it was a bad drug block but still a place you had to have your guard up at all times.

Tell me about The Colors? How did they form? Did they have big fan base?
I don’t think The Colors had played live before I joined them, just practiced. The guitarist Paul was technically way ahead of anyone I had even seen play before but ate nothing but Aspirin and Coke-a-Cola and listened to Eno and Kraftwerk. The singer Tommy was from the projects downtown and worshipped The Bay City Rollers. It was a strange mixture. We got a drummer from the storefront across the street and started playing. Paul and I wrote the songs and what came out was pop punk; fast, short and melodic. We developed a fan base of mostly teenage Manhattan girls. They were an interesting bunch coming from families of actors, artists, film directors, diplomats and real estate tycoons.

Did you spend a lot of time at CBGB’s and/or or Max’s Kansas City during those days?
We first played at club called Tier 3 in Soho. We got a couple of shows at CBs and Max’s but then the owner of CBs, Hilly Kristal, took an interest in us. Also the drummer from Blondie, Clem Burke saw us and wanted to produce a record. So with Hilly managing us and Clem producing we soon had an indie label winning to put out a single. We then played CBs a lot and as we got free drinks there it became our second home. I went there almost every night for years and saw literally thousands of bands. As we were one of Hilly’s bands Max’s stopped booking us much but we still went there a lot. It was within walking distance so it was possible to go back and forth on the same night. CBs was a friendlier and more down home, Max’s was the remnants of the New York Dolls scene with a dash of Warhol still wafting around.

What do you remember most about NYC in those days?
Downtown was pretty deserted. Not just Tribeca and Soho but even the East Village was very quiet. Not a lot of people on the streets day or night.

Had you known Grant and Robert before you joined the Go-Betweens?  If so how?
I was there the first night they played in public. They asked if they could play a few songs and a drummer from another band sat in with them. I think they played Lee Remick and 8 Pictures. It was pretty stunning so I had to talk to them. I saw a lot of them around that time and later Grant visited me for a wild month when I was living in New York.

How did you come to be in the Go-Betweens? They were in London at the time, right?
I was playing with the Colors in New York and had brought a friend from Brisbane, Peter Milton Walsh over to play guitar in that band. The Colors were coming to an end and one day Peter said he was going to move to London to play bass with The Laughing Clowns and suggested I should contact The Go-Betweens because they might be looking for a bass player too. So I did.

I’ve seen in interviews where Robert described those years in London as being very difficult. Was it the same for you?
London was tough. We were always short of money and the bleak weather didn’t help. It was a hard life living out of a suitcase for years at a time. We got away to Australia on tour which kept us going and the proximity of Europe was a plus but the living conditions in London were basic at best.

Why/when did you leave the Go-Betweens?
At the end of 1987 we finished the US tour in New York and I stayed. I was worn out by five years of touring and wanted a permanent address for a while. I knew The Go-Betweens was always going to be Robert and Grant’s band, I was happy with my contribution but felt it was time to move on. It was a tough decision.

Was it after you left the Go-Betweens that you decided to move back to NYC? If so when was that?
In my last year in the Go-Betweens I was essentially commuting between London and New York. Whenever we had downtime I would fly one of those cheap ‘80s airlines back to New York. The feeling in the band in 1987 was that we should move from London to Sydney for the next record. I could see the sense in that but my girlfriend was in New York and I couldn’t commute between Sydney and New York

I met you when you were with the Mad Scene. How did you join that band?
I met Hamish Kilgour, the drummer of New Zealand band The Clean and he had a band in New York called The Mad Scene and it just seemed like a good fit so I joined them. We got a deal with Merge and made a couple of what I think are very good albums. It was a good experience with both the band and Merge.

In between leaving the Go-Betweens and joining Mad Scene were you still playing music?
Yes, I had toured with Lloyd Cole and Yo La Tengo and done some recording with various people like Spike Priggen (Dumptruck) and Malcolm Ross (Josef K, Orange Juice). Nothing had been quite right though.  The Mad Scene was more what I was looking for especially as I was getting some of my own songs done. However I may have been spoiled by having been in The Go-Betweens. Robert and Grant were extraordinary songwriters who allowed me a lot freedom in what I played. As a musician to get that kind of freedom to work on songs of that quality was unusual and unlikely to happen again. The other thing was that my songwriting output which had been quite high prior to The Go-Betweens had dropped away to very little. That was a creative problem I wasn’t sure how to solve.

How did you begin doing publicity? Did you think you’d still be doing it all these years?
When I left The Go-Betweens I found that New York had become more expensive and I would have to get an actual job. The only other thing I’d done besides play in a band was travel so started to work in travel part time while still playing with various bands as I have mentioned. After about ten years of this I realized I wasn’t really interested in being a full time musician for hire and I wasn’t going to be able to support myself in an indie rock band so I decided I should work in the music industry where I had more interest and connections than I had in the travel industry. Lloyd Cole had a friend who had a label in New York called Jetset Records and he introduced us. I went to work there and just fell into doing publicity. I liked doing it so eventually I left the label and started my own company. I’ve got to help out with so many great releases over the years I’m glad I have been able to keep doing it even as the money has gradually leaked out of the music industry.

Are you playing in any bands these days?
No, I haven’t for a long time. I did play with Lindy (Morrison) and Amanda (Brown) from the Go-Betweens at an awards show in Brisbane a couple of years ago so I keep my hand in, but nothing regular. I think bands are only great when everybody is fully committed and I can’t do that anymore. I was never very good at the ‘playing in five bands at once’ thing that some people do.

Do you get recognized on the streets of NYC on occasion?
Only by the few friends I have left who still live in the East Village!

What are your top 10 desert island discs?
The Saints – I’m Stranded
Dusty Springfield – Dusty in Memphis
Blondie – Blondie
Sarah Vaughan – Sassy
Bob Dylan – Bringing it All Back Home
Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds – The Good Son
Roxy Music – For Your Pleasure
The Ramones – The Ramones
The Supremes – Where Did Our Love Go

Any closing words/ Final thoughts? Anything you wanted to mention that I didn’t ask?
N
o, I think you covered it! I do want to mention that a feature length Go-Betweens documentary, Right Here, directed by Kriv Stenders [premiered] at the Sydney Film Festival in June.

12 SONGS FOR A SLEEPLESS NIGHT: An Insomnia Mix Tape

Sweet dreams are made of this…

BY DAVE STEINFELD

As we get older, more and more of us experience sleep related issues of some sort. For many people — including a close friend of mine whose condition inspired this piece — this takes the form of insomnia. I myself find it harder to sleep through the night than I used to (oh, to be 20 again when you could blow a building up around me while I was asleep and I wouldn’t bat an eye!). And many people I talk to, of varying ages and backgrounds, admit to having insomnia or some other form of sleep disturbance. Seems you can’t go a week without somebody mentioning Ambien…

Here, then, are a dozen songs for those nights when you find yourself wide awake but not by choice. They are culled from six decades of popular music and the artists range from Cheap Trick to Norah Jones and from Sinatra to Metallica. These tunes may not put you to sleep — but at least they’ll reassure you that you’re not alone while you’re wrestling with your demons.

We’ve created a Spotify playlist for the tunes, and you can also check out video/audio for each track below.

***

1. “Enter Sandman” — Metallica (1991)

Let’s kick things off with a song that’s guaranteed to induce screams and chills! “Enter Sandman” was the lead single from Metallica’s fifth album, a self-titled disc they unveiled in 1991. More than 25 years later, it still stands as the perfect soundtrack for your night terrors. Lead guitarist Kirk Hammett shreds for his life while James Hetfield sings a very dark lullaby. “Hush little baby, don’t say a word/And never mind that noise you heard/It’s just the beasts under your bed/In your closet, in your head…”

Off to Never Never Land we go, with these California thrash-metal kings leading the way….

 

2. “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” — Frank Sinatra (1955)

In total contrast to Metallica, our second entry on this insomnia mix tape is a ‘50s standard by Frank Sinatra. He didn’t write “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” and he’s not the only artist to record it, but there’s no denying that this ballad — the title track of his 1955 album — is synonymous with Sinatra. “In the wee small hours of the morning,” he sings, “While the whole wide world is fast asleep, you lie awake and think about the girl and never, ever think of counting sheep.” Who among us can’t relate to that sentiment?

 

3. “Chasing Pirates” — Norah Jones (2009)

Jumping ahead five decades and change, we find ourselves still wide awake but with Norah Jones picking up where Sinatra left off. The opening track from her excellent 2009 album The Fall, “Chasing Pirates” is a lovely song about being too wound up to sleep. Only Norah could make insomnia sound appealing!

 

4. “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” — Warren Zevon (1976)

In this writer’s humble opinion, the late Warren Zevon was one of the finest singer-songwriters of the 1970s. The rocking “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” appears on his 1976 self-titled outing. It features wailing harmonica, improvised bits of Spanish from Jorge Calderon and some of Zevon’s most twisted lyrics. To wit: “I got a .38 special up in the shelf/If I start actin’ stupid, I’ll shoot myself…”

It’s worth noting that Zevon released a song called “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” 16 years before pop-metal poser Jon Bon Jovi did….;)

 

5. “Up All Night” — The Boomtown Rats (1981)

Before he became known for Live Aid and other projects, Bob Geldof led The Boomtown Rats, an eclectic band that stormed out of Ireland in the mid ’70s armed with a bunch of great tunes. This song, like the one that follows, is called “Up All NIght” — but that’s about all they have in common. The Rats’ “Up All Night” — which appeared on their 1981 album Mondo Bongo and got some AOR airplay back in the day — features an appealingly off-kilter arrangement and Geldof’s Bowiesque vocals.

 

6. “Up All Night” — The Records (1979)

The Records were an English foursome best known for the great hit “Starry Eyes,” from their self-titled 1979 debut. “Up All Night” is an ethereal, Beatlesque ballad which demonstrates the underrated songwriting genius of Will Birch and John Wicks. The best line is probably when Wicks sings, “Six o’clock and the town is waking now/Workers are on their way, don’t ask me how/They have to take their daily ride/I hear the paper boy outside…”

If insomnia has a moment of pure pop magic, this could be it.

 

7. “(Last Night) I Didn’t Get to Sleep At All” — The 5th Dimension (1972)

Our next entry is a soft-pop classic from the early ‘70s. “(Last Night) I Didn’t Get to Sleep At All” scored The 5th Dimension a top 10 hit in 1972. Written by Englishman Tony Macaulay and featuring the velvet-voiced Marilyn McCoo on vocals, it ruled the AM airwaves. Who couldn’t appreciate the line, “Maybe I should call you up and just forget my foolish pride/I heard your number ring and I went cold inside?”

 

8. “I’m So Tired” — The Beatles (1968)

“I’m So Tired,” from The Beatles’ self-titled set (AKA ‘The White Album’) wasn’t a hit but it remains one of their great album tracks and is a fearsome slice of insomnia in two minutes and change. John Lennon expresses a similar sentiment to Marilyn McCoo but in strikingly different terms! “I wonder should I call you but I know what you would do!” he screams. Ironically, Lennon had written the beautiful “I’m Only Sleeping” a scant two years earlier. My, how things changed for the man in a short time!

 

9. “Overkill” — Men At Work (1983)

“Overkill” was the biggest single from Men At Work’s sophomore album, Cargo. It was released at the height of the band’s popularity and the video became deservedly popular on MTV (this is back when MTV played videos, for you young ‘uns). Despite its infectious melody, “Overkill” features dark lyrics such as “I can’t get to sleep/I think about the implications,” “Alone between the sheets/Only brings exasperation” and the great refrain, “Ghosts appear and fade away.” Men At Work would fade away themselves a couple of years later but when this song was released, they were arguably the biggest band on the planet. Frontman Colin Hay has said that this is his favorite song from his days with the Men — and it’s easy to see why.

 

10. “I’m Not Sleeping” — Counting Crows (1996)

It’s no secret that Adam Duritz of Counting Crows is a notorious insomniac; several of the band’s songs deal with night terrors or the inability to get to sleep. The one I’ve included is “I’m Not Sleeping,” from the Crows’ sophomore set, Recovering the Satellites. It’s a ballad but it’s tortured as opposed to tender. And that torture builds to a crescendo that includes a Psycho string section and Duritz screaming lyrics about a woman who won’t let him get the shuteye he so desperately needs.

 

11. “Dream Police” — Cheap Trick (1979)

Cheap Trick had a nice run of hits between the late 70s and the late 80s but this one — the title track from their 1979 album — may be the most dramatic. Lead singer Robin Zander was known as “the man of a thousand voices” early in the band’s career. On this rock and roll ode to nightmares, he shows us why.

On a related note — Rockford, Illinois’ finest is currently in the midst of their most prolific period in decades and is gearing up to release a Christmas collection (their third album in two years!).

 

12. “Insomniac’s Lullaby” — Paul Simon (2016)

Our final song is also the most recent track of the 12. “Insomniac’s Lullaby” finds the great Paul Simon in quietly existential mode. “Oh Lord, don’t keep me up all night with questions I can’t understand,” he pleads. But by the end of the song, he concludes, “We eventually all fall asleep.” “Insomniac’s Lullaby” closes Simon’s 2016 album Stranger to Stranger — and it’s also a great way to end this mixtape.

Pleasant dreams…

BACK TO THE GARDEN: Pearls Before Swine

The dark, mystical, poetic first album from Tom Rapp & Co. continues to fascinate in the form of a new 50th anniversary edition.

BY BARRY ST. VITUS

It’s not a stretch to proclaim the ‘60s as a dazzling renaissance of musical creativity and exploration that covered a wide spectrum of genres. A pie chart would show large portions of the sound rooted in blues and folk music, the rest in pop, R&B or garage. Pearls Before Swine started out in Florida, made a demo, sent it to Brooklyn label ESP-Disk, and were welcome aboard the label. The band headed north in the spring of ’67, and laid out the One Nation Underground album in three frantic days with the label’s in-house producer, Richard Anderson. It dropped in October of that year. Unfortunately, the band, like others on the label, like Holy Modal Rounders and the Fugs found out, were paid practically zero for the album. Somehow, their second album, Balaklava, also ended up on ESP, but they moved on to Reprise and Blue Thumb in later years.

One Nation Underground is now reissued by Drag City as a 50th anniversary, mono-restored remaster; Anderson himself was responsible for this remastering and he has vastly improved the sound. At the time of its original release, it was a rather arcane oddity, even in an era of unbridled musical experimentation, with moody, atmospheric songs in a new, acid-folk genre, and played with odd-sounding and exotic instruments that sounded like they came off of The Garden Of Earthly Delights cover art by Hieronymus Bosch—guitar, bass, drums, mandolin, autoharp, vibraphone, English horn, harpsichord, clavioline, finger cymbals, celeste, organ, oscillator, sarangi, and the Swinehorn that multi-instrumentalist Lane Lederer created. Plus a banjo.

The music was dark, mystical, penned with much poetic license, and conjured an aural mustiness of medieval wooden objects in a museum. Many of leader/troubadour Tom Rapp’s future themes featured references to Jesus, but not quite in His current, familiar persona, but, rather one that presented Him more as a metaphysical and mystical being, separate of later church dogma and commercialization. Rapp’s lyrics are sagacious, vivid, and hallucinatory. His imagery redolent of olden times, velvet, lace, harps, harpsichords, lisping lepers, hunchbacks, and fair ladies.

Some of the music tread alongside the compositions of Dylan, Donovan, and the Incredible String Band, to some degree, but, was wholly in its own dimension. The ten tracks are each diverse enough to make the album sound more like a set on a radio show. “Another Time” is straight-ahead folk; the very Dylan-ish “Playmate,” with its top-heavy Farfisa and plinking banjo; the “Ballad To An Amber Lady”; and the gentle lushness of “Regions of May”—all are moody and hypnotic. “Drop Out!” shifts into sixties sentiment, with its suggestion of casting off society, again back to the folk mode. There’s also the oddball “(Oh Dear) Miss Morse” (which actually does have Morse code in it that translates to “FUCK”), plus the raw, raging, anti-war, proto-punk “Uncle John,” and the mesmerizing psych of “I Shall Not Care.” The album finishes up with the aptly named, swoony, druggy (mostly) instrumental, “Surrealist Waltz.” (You can download a live 1998 version of “Miss Morse” HERE.)

Oddly enough, for all of its acid-flavored ambiance, Rapp had never done any drugs, mostly just riding high on tobacco—Winston cigarettes, to be exact. The album grew into a cult favorite, drawing in a wide audience of people as diverse as Iggy Pop and Leonard Cohen, whose cover of “Suzanne” the Pearls made their own on Balaklava, still my preferred version to this day. I was a teen when One Nation Underground was released, and I recall buying it based mostly on the cover art, but, soon fell under its numinous and haunting spell, and played it regularly. I eagerly snatched up Balaklava when it was released the following year, and was even more blown away by that sophomore release. Hopefully, there are plans in the works for its half-century anniversary release next year.

PBS had four final albums together before Rapp went solo, supporting acts like a young Patti Smith in ’76, before retiring from music for a while and entering a legal career as a civil rights attorney. He emerges occasionally for rare live shows, and has appeared at several Terrastock festivals, including the 1998 event San Francisco. He was a guest of mine on KALX Berkeley then, along with Nick Saloman of the Bevis Frond and Country Joe McDonald. And he also returned to the recording studio in 1999 to cut A Journal of the Plague Year for Saloman’s Woronzow label.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OH GOD, COULD SHE SING: Jackie Shane

Numero Group offers up an odd, beautiful, powerful monument to one of the craziest stories in popular music, that of a trans pioneer operating as a full-blown soul diva, and possessed of jaw-dropping vocal talent.

BY JENNIFER KELLY

In photos, Jackie Shane radiates an unearthly poise and elegance, whether dressed in suits with only a slash of mascara to indicate her femininity or in full-blown soul diva mode with a long wig, elbow-length gloves and shimmery ball gowns.  Born in the south in 1940, Shane knew from early teenage-hood the two things that would set her apart: that she was a woman trapped in a man’s body and that she could sing (oh god could she sing).

Shane made her way in a culture not yet equipped for gender ambiguity on sheer talent, drive and charm and got surprisingly far, flourishing in Canada for a few years in a much loved soul revue and notching a regional hit in her cover of William Bell’s “Any Other Way.”  There was drama, the usual (song-credit stealing, racism, money troubles and drink and drugs among band members), as well as exotic (she was kidnapped once by a Montreal gangster eager to make her a star and his mistress), but also the hard, ordinary work of building a career, perhaps not as illustrious a career as if Shane had not been trans ahead of her time, but still remarkable for the 1960s.

A new two-disc set from Numero Group collects, for the first time, all Jackie Shane’s singles, as well as sessions from a near legendary set of shows in Toronto in 1967. The first disc of Any Other Way makes the case for Shane’s lasting resonance as a soul icon, fronting a superbly tight band led by Frank Motley. The second reinforces the case for Shane as an artist, provides a glimpse of her mesmerizing on-stage persona and perhaps even draws the curtain on the real person behind it.

Disc One, containing substantially all of Shane’s professionally recorded material, runs from sublime to raucous, with the former exemplified by her biggest hit “Any Other Way,” a saxophone-swaying ballad with bright flares of brass. Shane’s voice is gorgeous, a woman’s voice in its flute-y flourishes, but with the shadowy ambiguity of lower timbres in the refrain.

No one was talking about non-binary pronouns in the 1960s, so gender becomes rather fluid in these songs, sometimes CIS male, sometimes ambiguous, sometimes female. The covers were, of course, written for more conventionally oriented performers, but Shane manages to put a subversive spin on them. Her toughness and resilience is heartbreaking in the title track, when she confides to an ex-lover’s new flame, “tell her that I’m happy, tell her that I’m gay, I wouldn’t have it, any other way.”  Yet she was also the center of one of the best party bands in Toronto during her day; you can get a real sense of the sweat-soaked, euphoric abandon of a Jackie Shane show in cuts like “Walking the Dog” and “Shot Gun.”

Disc One demonstrates how well Jackie Shane fit into a tradition steeped in gospel, spiked with soul and jacked on James Brown-style funk, but on the live Disc Two, recorded in mono during two nights of shows at the Sapphire Tavern in Toronto, and it is here that you begin to get a sense of what was different about Shane and her band. The live version of “Money (That’s What I Want),” composed by Barratt Strong but reconstructed here, is a revelation, as Shane unspools a monologue halfway through about difference and self-respect, family, fame and money that makes her personality pop right out of the record grooves. She’s not an easy person, clearly, as she asserts her right to looking good, giving (and receiving) satisfaction, living life her way and getting paid for the privilege, but she is formidable, a force of life not afraid to compare herself to Jesus Christ.

Shane quarreled with her band leader, Frank Motley, soon after these songs were recorded, and spent a couple of years fronting other ensembles. (Funkadelic tried, and failed, to get her to sing for them.)  She disappeared from music entirely in 1971, and rumors flew that she had been murdered. She had, in fact, gone back to Los Angeles to care for her mother, and lived as a recluse for decades before Numero found her and convinced her to release this music. Any Other Way is an odd, beautiful, powerful monument to one of the craziest stories in popular music; it’s a killer record without the back story, but all the more jaw dropping when you know the history.

 

STILL ALIVE & WELL: Buffalo Killers

With a new, self-produced album just out, the Cincy outfit aims to keep rockin’ “whether or not anyone gives a shit.” Pictured above: Zach and Andy Gabbard.

BY JOHN B. MOORE

Cincinnati’s Buffalo Killers tried things a little bit different with their eighth album. Going it alone without a producer, they holed up at their Howler Hills Farm recording studio and just let the songs roll out.

If that meant the levels were a little off or the feedback a little loud, so be it. It was going to be their record, made their way. And it’s hard to argue with the results. Alive And Well In Ohio (Alive Naturalsound Records) though very much like their earlier albums in spirit—the group’s been together since 2006—has a little more organic feel to it. There’s still that psychedelic, stoner rock vibe, with snatches of blues and pop, but the feel is a bit rawer, as well.Singer/guitarist Andy Gabbard spoke with BLURT recently about the making of Alive And Well In Ohio, flying solo in the studio and what lies ahead.

BLURT: You took a little more time than usual following up Heavy Reverie and Fireball of Sulk (both released in 2014). Was that a conscious decision?

Nope. Not a conscious decision. We just worked on one or two songs at a time. We were recording it ourselves so were learning a lot of things along the way. We wanted to keep going and make a double LP but we realized we were taking too long (laughs).

 You guys recorded this at your studio on Howler Hills Farm. Was this your first time recording there? How did that experience compare to going to just a standard recording studio?

First album we’ve recorded ourselves at the studio, yes. It’s a lot different. It’s your own gear and resources, your own time, you’re not paying by the hour (laughs).

It was a different experience as far as creating our songs as well, because we could do what we wanted. Didn’t have to follow the rules. Recorded things in the red and left feedback in the song. It’s a bit more work but the final result is more satisfying.

 In writing and putting together Alive And Well in Ohio, was there a specific sound or vibe you were going for?

We never have a vibe in mind. We just have the songs and we try our best to give them as much life as possible. We try to make our instruments and vocals complement each other. We always keep the take with the best energy and try and make the songs flow well throughout the entire piece.

Is it tougher working without an outside producer?

Working without a producer is a lot easier, actually. Having an outsider tell you what to do with your song kinda sucks unless it’s someone you really trust and respect. But you can learn a lot from a producer I guess?

Were you guys listening to anything in particular around the time you started working on this new one that had an influence on the record?

Nothing really had a direct influence on the music we were making. I mean, we love the Beatles. Those albums are something we listen to as inspiration on how to play and record amongst other things.

I can’t recall exactly what I was geeking out on at the time. Probably Once And Future Band or Thundercat.

What’s next for you guys?

We’re gonna play and promote this album for the rest of the year I assume. Beyond that we’re just gonna keep doing our thing. As long as the songs keep coming, we’ll keep playing and making albums whether or not anyone gives a shit (laughs).

 

LONG LIVE SKEGGIE! Greg “Skeggie” Kendall

From Lifeboat, Tackle Box, and beyond, the indie rock auteur spills the beans. (This interview originally appeared in Dr. Hinely’s most excellent Dagger ‘zine.)

BY TIM HINELY

I had met Greg “Skeggie” Kendall as a person before I even knew about his music. Sort of. He was road managing The Chills  when I saw them in about 1989/1990 or so. I was backstage doing an interview with The Chills’ Martin Phillipps (for my zine, DAGGER) and Skeggie brought him a big salad (not “the big salad” like on Seinfeld but a big salad nonetheless) and faked this posh British accent when he put it down in front of Martin and stated, “Your dinner sir.”  I laughed and Skeggie and I chatted  bit that evening. He seemed like a real friendly, jovial type, completely unlike some other road managers types I had met throughout the years.

So I’d already missed the boat on his band Lifeboat though I’d heard of them and was sure I’d heard some Lifeboat songs. Then missed his next band, Tackle Box until my pal Jeremy Grites told me I had to hear them which was in the late 90’s or maybe 2000. I picked up copies of those cds, On and Grand Hotel (both released in 1993, if I have my story straight, and both on the Rockville label. They also released “The Wheat Penny Single” 7” the same year on Rockville. Fun fact: his rhythm section on those records,  Brian Dunton and Sean King Devlin went on to work with Mary Timony in Helium) and both are filled with the kind of at times loud/ at times soft rock music that too many people missed but really should have heard. As you’ll read below he’s done plenty of other stuff, musically speaking.

You know I like to dig a little deeper, go for some more obscure folks to interview, and it was on a whim that I’d reached out to Skeggie to see if he might want to answer a few questions. Thankfully he did and by reading below you’ll learn about the long strange trip that Mr. Greg Kendall has been on all these years. Long live Skeggie!

Where were you born? Did you grow up in the Boston area?

I was born in Norwalk, CT. In the three years following, my family moved to as many states: from Norwalk to Santa Barbara, CA.; Santa Barbara to Red Hook, in upstate NY; Red Hook to Huntsville, AL. I mostly grew up in Huntsville, but our family did weird satellite missions to other places for awkward fragments of school years. There was half of third grade in Atlantic Beach on Long Island, and before that, a 1968 Cocoa Beach summer at the Del-Ray Motel that stretched beyond the first day of school because my father worked for the space program at Cape Canaveral. Eight months for eighth grade in Gaithersburg, MD, then washing up in Middletown, RI in 1973. So, to answer your question, no, I did not grow up in the Boston area. I moved there in 1981, when I was 21.

Do you remember the first record you ever bought?

I was lucky to have an older brother who was way into music, so I was exposed to scads of great music from very early on. Simply, AM top forty radio WAS my childhood. I tried, but didn’t buy the first record I wanted to buy. There are many tales of the infamous Columbia Record Club. Our family returned from a vacation in what, 1968?, to find a package at our front door I’d ordered from the back of a magazine. “The Birds, The Bees, and The Monkees” is the one I remember. My parents were pissed and had to undo the bad deal and returned that record and the other two that were delivered. I eventually bought that album, and of course loved it. The Monkees are the best band ever.

When did you first pick up an instrument? Was it a guitar?

5 years old. Ukulele. Soon after, the guitar. Cat gut string. My first gig was in kindergarten in Huntsville singing “My Old Kentucky Home” with my brother and sister. There are some uncomfortable lyrics in that tune for three little kids to be singing in 1965 Alabama. (It was only recently that I discovered the origin and intent of the song. Interesting history.)

Was Tackle Box your first band? If not tell us about bands prior to it.

Lots of bands before Tackle Box. That was like 1992-93. It’s hard to list the catalogue without supplying background in order to provide fun context. You gotta understand that back in the day we were in the middle of the suburban punk rock expansion explosion, jumping off of what we were gleaning from the CBGB’s scene of the late 1970s and the Detroit thing of MC5 and the Stooges, and also Blue Oyster Cult’s early stuff, not to mention most importantly Lou Reed. I worked backward from “Rock n Roll Animal” to the Velvet Underground in 1975-76. It was mind-blowing. It’s impossible to encapsulate in a brief answer. I moved into the upstairs of a nightclub in Newport RI in 1978. I lived there for two years. I was like 18 and 19 years old. I saw a load of wild shit, ingested a ton of drugs, and had a lot of fun. Johnny Thunders was a regular. I hung out with Sonny Terry and Brownie Magee, J.B. Hutto, and Max Romeo. I held court with Carl Perkins. I played regularly with Jonathan Richman, Mission of Burma, Human Sexual Response, and The Neighborhoods. What else can I say, except that I’m sure there’s a bunch of cool stuff that I can’t remember, plus can’t believe I don’t have Hep C or some other nasty affliction. Our band, Bob Lawton’s Boots —look it up—we were there from the git-go of punk rock. Just sayin’.

Tell us about seeing bands in Boston the 80’s? With the amount of amazing talent there back then you must have had some magical nights!

Yes. Some great nights were involved. “Magical” is a good adjective. I moved to Boston in 1981. It was an exciting time in local music to be there. “Magical” because one had to invent one’s scene if you didn’t dovetail easily into an existing one. A Boston rock scene was in full play, with the ‘Hoods, Mission Burma, Lyres, Neats, Del Fuegos, etc, etc., but to bust into that world required stamina and songs, particularly if you were in a jangly pop band like mine —Arms Akimbo, which became Lifeboat. We had much more in common with the North Carolina and Georgia music scenes than the grittier Boston sound. We had to work hard to prove ourselves, and we pretty much did. That band broke up in 1987.

How did Tackle Box come about?

The Brothers Kendall were a thing after Lifeboat’s varied successes and failures. My brother Bobby and I wrote a bunch of songs and played a bunch of gigs in 1988-89, maybe 90? I don’t know. We made a record for Bar None with Peter Holsapple from the dBs that never came out, mostly because the record sucked, (through no fault of Peter’s). But, tell you what, I loved that band. We made some music I’m quite proud of. The core of that band became Tackle Box. Shawn Devlin is an amazing drummer I’ve been playing with since the Newport days; Mike Leahy is a genius guitarist (he’s played with Juliana Hatfield, Buffalo Tom, and Pell Mell, among others); and bassist Brian Dunton, (with Devlin, the original Helium rhythm section) are great to work with.

When I (briefly) met you back then you were a tour manager for The Chills. Had you been making your living doing that? If so what other bands did you tour manage?

Wow! Where/when did we meet? That was a goofy gig. If anyone ever asks you, “Hey, should I consider a cross-country tour that requires road managing, driving the van, being the sole roadie and — get this—opening solo act?,” you’re answer should be, “No, definitely don’t do that.”

I also went out as a roadie for the bands Big Dipper, The Feelies, and for the longest stretch, Throwing Muses. I love all of them, very much. So many tales to tell.

How did the deal with Rockville Records come about? Who ran that label (I only knew about Homestead back then).

Jeff Pachman signed us. It just happened I guess because he heard our songs and liked us. I honestly don’t know any other reason.

When/ why did Tackle Box end? Did you have any bands after that?

We all got busy with other stuff, and honestly I was becoming ambivalent about what had started to feel like asking people if they liked me through music. After all those years, I guess hit sort of a mental roadblock. I had a new family, with back-to-back sons, and that had an impact I’m sure on my commitment to touring and other time-consuming aspects of being in a band. But I found a new musical outlet when I fell into scoring film. Doug Macmillan from the band the Connells introduced me to director John Schultz, who enlisted me to write songs for his film Bandwagon, and then asked me to score it. The film screened and was bought at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival, which eventually led me to score Schultz’s 1998 Drive Me Crazy for 20th Century Fox. It was a fun, exciting and satisfying time, despite the steep learning curve.

Who are some of your favorite current bands or musicians?

My son’s projects are what I’d like to talk about.

DJ Lucas https://soundcloud.com/djlucasma

Weird Dane https://soundcloud.com/weirddane

They’ve got a whole lot stuff going on. Their collective, called Dark World, is knee-deep in music making, video projects and fashion design.

Care to tell us your top 10 desert island discs?

It’s hard to get it down to ten, but let’s go with…

Velvet Underground (self-titled third album)

Velvet Underground “Loaded”

New York Dolls “New York Dolls”

New York Dolls “Too Much Too Soon”

Jean Jacques Perry “The Amazing New Electronic Pop Sound Of Jean Jacques Perry”

Yo La Tengo “I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One”

Joni Mitchell “Blue”

Chet Baker “ Let’s Get Lost”

David Bowie “Hunky Dory”

Brian Eno “Music For Airports”

(Plus any and all releases from Gram Parsons)

Tell us about the reunion gig that Tackle Box recently played. Will there be more?

That was super-fun. I hope for more. I love those guys, and I think we rock real nice together. We fell into playing together as if we hadn’t taken over twenty years off.

What is it that you do now? Something in the film industry?

From 2002-2012, my wife Connie White and I booked documentary films into cinemas as Balcony Releasing. We distributed over twenty films in that period. Currently, I’m working with my wife’s company Balcony Booking. She’s the film buyer for eighteen independent art houses and three film festivals.

Check out our new site here: https://www.balconyfilm.com/

Any closing comment? Final thoughts? Anything you wanted to mention that I didn’t ask?

It’s been a long and interesting trip, including my recent graduation from college in May 2016. With all that music stuff going on, I completely forgot to go to college, so I entered in 2012, and graduated four years later from UMass Amherst with a self-designed BA in Historical New England Documentary Studies.

Also, I’m about to embark on a new musical adventure— or I should say, a potential adventure. I’m going to Raleigh, NC to hang with my buddy Doug MacMillan from the Connells. If it works out, we’re thinking about planning a two-hander that explores the odd lives we’ve led in the music business, including stories and songs in a fun and reflective show. We’ll see. I hope it happens. I love those Connells songs.

BONUS QUESTION: Did you ever hear from Mark Lindsay about the song “Mark Lindsay’s Ponytail?”

I have a signed copy from Mark Lindsay of the Tackle Box “Wheat Penny” single that has “Ponytail” on the B-side. He says he liked it. I’m proud to say that one of my songs, “Eeenie Meenie Miney Moe,” originally recorded with Tuffskins, (a fun post-Tackle Box mini-project) was rehearsed by the fantastic Los Straitjackets with vocals by Mark Lindsay for consideration on an album. Alas, a release was not to be. But still, that feels really good, and the song was eventually recorded and released as a single by Rochester, NY garage-rockers Ian and the Aztecs. So, all’s well, that ends well.