Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Various Artists - Halloween Nuggets: Monster Sixties A Go-Go (3 Discs)


I pulled together a lot of my Halloween-related stuff last year, fully intending to have a couple of major music dumps here onto the blog prior to last October 31st... but time just got away from me, and I never ended up posting any of that stuff.  I'm trying to make up for it this year, by actually getting up off my ass and getting some things posted well prior to the holiday for the edification and enjoyment of you all... and here's the first offering: the classic Halloween Nuggets set, three discs of spook-centric rock obscurities from the late Fifties and throughout the Sixties, mixed in with audio from classic horror/sci-fi film trailers of the era.  Here's the lineup:

Disc 1 
1. The Mystrys – Witch Girl (2:03)
2. Teddy Durant – The Beast of Sunset Strip (2:25)
3. The Ebbtides – Seance (2:03)
4. Bela La Goldensetin – Why Do I Love You (2:09)
5. The Phantom Five – Graveyard (2:37)
6. Murray Schafe & the Aristocrats – Tombstone No. 9 (3:02)
7. Jackie Morningstar – Rockin’ In the Graveyard (2:38)
8. Alan Smithee – Halloween Convention of Spooks (0:56)
9. Round Robin – I’m the Wolfman (2:37)
10. Griz Green – Jam At the Mortuary (2:54)
11. The Grim Reapers – Two Souls (2:54)
12. The Connoissurs – Count Macabre (2:19)
13. The Madmen – Haunted (2:00)
14. The Vettes – Devil’s Driver Theme (2:07)
15. Terry Gale – The Voodoo (2:26)
16. Glenda & Glen – Voodoo?Doll (1:50)
17. Daron Daemon & The Vampires – Ghost Guitars (2:25)
18. Jim Burgett – Jekyll and Hyde (2:26)
19. Anton Giulio Majano – Atom Age Vampire (1:18)
20. Mann Drake – Vampire’s Ball (2:31)
21. Bobby Bare – Vampira (2:18)
22. Johnny Anderson – Zoola Zooky (2:24)
23. Alan Smithee – Frankenstein & Dracula (1:14)
24. Peter & The Wolves – Mr. Frankenstein (2:55)
25. Frankie Stein and His Ghouls – Dr. Spook Twist (2:02)
26. George Waggner – The Wolfman (0:33)
27. Gary Warren – Werewolf (1:52)
28. The Frantics – Werewolf (2:02)
29. Chance Halliday – Bury Me Deep (2:26)
30. The Weirdos – E.S.P. Theme For Shock Theatre (3:01)
31. Kenny And The Fiends – The Raven (1:57)
32. the Executioners – The Guillotine (1:59)

Disc 2 
1. Invasion – The Invasion Is Coming (1:44)
2. Ed Wood – Plan 9 From Outer Space (0:58)
3. Boots Walker – They’re Here (2:14)
4. The Quests – Shadows In the Night (2:33)
5. Positively 13 O’Clock – Psychotic Reaction (2:01)
6. The Spellbinders – Castin’ My Spell (2:25)
7. Chance Halliday – Deep Sleep (1:42)
8. Vic Plati Quintet – The Chiller (2:37)
9. Teddy Durant – The Night Stalker (2:11)
10. The Graveyard Five – Marble Orchard (3:17)
11. Glenn & Christy with the Adventures – Wombat Twist (2:15)
12. Billy Ghoulston – Zombie Stomp (2:18)
13. Irvin Yeaworth – The Blob (1:16)
14. Johnny Fraser and the Regalaires – It (2:07)
15. Mr. Baseman & The Symbols – Do the Zombie (2:17)
16. The Shandells – Go Go Gorilla (2:53)
17. Ronnie Self – Go Go Cannibal (2:06)
18. Phil Tucker – Robot Monster (0:50)
19. The Shades – Strolling After Dark (2:07)
20. Jericho Jones – Black Magic (2:07)
21. Karl Freund – The Mummy (0:38)
22. Lee Ross – The Mummy’s Bracelet (2:13)
23. The Contrails – The Mummy Walk (Walking Death) (2:36)
24. Fred F. Sears – The Werewolf (0:11)
25. Carl Bonafede & The Gemtones – The Werewolf (2:08)
26. Johnny Eager – Howl (2:12)
27. Herbert L. Strock – I Was a Teenage Frankenstein (1:32)
28. The Keytones – I Was a Teenage Monster (2:17)
29. Lord Luther with The King’s Men – (I was a) Teenage Creature (2:45)
30. Ted V. Mikels – The Astro Zombies (0:57)
31. Sonny Day and the Tony Ray Combo – Creature From Outer Space (2:29)
32. The Sabres – Spider Walk (2:28)
33. The Abstracts – Nightmare (3:07)

Disc 3
1. Ralph Nieson & The Chancellors – Scream (1:55)
2. Bernard Louis Kowalski – Night of the Blood Beast (0:48)
3. Billy & The Dukes – Roland (2:36)
4. Al Saxon – Evil Eye (2:31)
5. Kiriae Crucible – The Salem Witch Trial (2:52)
6. The 7th Court – One Eyed Witch (2:23)
7. Dave Gardner – Mad Witch (2:34)
8. Ervinna & The Stylers – Witch Queen of New Orleans (2:16)
9. Betty Lavett – Witchcraft In the Air (2:36)
10. The Circus – Burn Witch Burn (2:01)
11. Miss L. L.Louise Lewis – Monster’s Bride (1:48)
12. Glenn Ryle – Wolf Gal (2:17)
13. Gary Warren – Midnight Rain (2:33)
14. Jack Arnold – Creature From the Black Lagoon (0:40)
15. Evans Carroll & The Tempos – The Monster (2:08)
16. Billy Taylor And The Teardrops – Wombie Zombie (2:16)
17. Jan Davis – Watusi Zombi (1:59)
18. Terry Teene – Here Comes the Hearse (2:30)
19. Frankie Stein and His Ghouls – Knives and Lovers (2:19)
20. The Blue Knights – Madness (2:52)
21. The Elites – Jack the Ripper (2:09)
22. Larry & The Blue Notes – Night of the Phantom (2:13)
23. The Upperclassmen – Cha Cha With the Zombies (2:35)
24. Bela La Goldenstein – Old Boris (2:14)
25. Chris Kevin – Haunted House (2:03)
26. William Castle – The House on Haunted Hill trailer (0:32)
27. Kenny & the Fiends – The House on Haunted Hill (1:31)
28. Skip Manning – Devil Blues (2:31)
29. The Devotions – Devil’s Gotten Into My Baby (2:42)
30. The Twelfth Night – Grim Reaper (1:52)
31. James Duhon – Grave Yard Creep (2:33)
32. Original Trailer – Godzilla King of the Monsters (1:41)
33. Los Holy’s – Campo De Vampiros (3:12)
34. Richard Rome – Ghost a Go Go (2:12)

Sorry for the abbreviated writeup; just haven't been able to complete a longer form narrative that I was planning.  But no matter; you all are here for the music, not for my long-winded screeds!  

So here you are:  the Halloween Nuggets: Monster Sixties A Go-Go set, 98 tracks of frighteningly good and obscure rock 'n' roll, released on Rockbeat Records on July 18th, 2014.  Enjoy, and as always, let me know what you think.  And have a Happy Halloween!

Please use the email link below to contact me, and I will reply with the download link(s) ASAP:

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Friday, August 28, 2020

Various Artists - Ren & Stimpy Production Music, Vol. 1-3

I watched the new documentary Happy Happy Joy Joy: The Ren & Stimpy Story earlier this week, an amazing, thrilling, hilarious and ultimately deeply disturbing chronicle of the rise and fall of the groundbreaking and beloved 1990s Nickelodeon cartoon and its creator, John Kricfalusi. Here's the trailer for it:

If you're an old fan of the show, I heartily recommend you see this film. I won't give anything away here, other than to say that it will jolt you to your core... but hopefully not enough to displace your fond memories of this program.

I distinctly recall the first time I ever saw Ren & Stimpy. I moved to the Washington, DC area during the summer of 1991, and soon afterward acquired a new girlfriend. During the first weekend we hung out together that fall, she insisted that we get up to watch this manic new cartoon airing on Nicktoons... it was the "Space Madness"/"The Boy Who Cried Rat!" episode, and by the end of it, I knew that I had just seen one of the greatest cartoons of the age.  From then on, I watched the program religiously every weekend, absorbing multiple viewings of the same shows (Ren & Stimpy's production company, Spümcø, was notorious for missing delivery deadlines, leaving Nickelodeon no choice but to air the same episodes over and over again as a stopgap), and loving every single one of them.

As I mentioned in a previous blog posting, one of my all-time favorite Ren & Stimpy episodes is "Rubber Nipple Salesmen", containing what has to be the most disturbing, off-putting - and yet, hilarious - scene EVER included in what was ostensibly a children's cartoon:

By the start of the second season, it was all over. Nickelodeon fired Kricfalusi in September 1992 (for several valid reasons, in my opinion - see the documentary film for details), and Spümcø completed the slate of remaining shows written or directed by Kricfalusi before production of the show was moved by the network to Games Animation. Ren & Stimpy aired for another three seasons, into 1995, but without John K.'s imagination and energy behind it, the later-period episodes were little more than pale echoes of the show in its heyday.

A lot of what made this show great was in its liberal use of vintage "incidental music" from the 1950s and 1960s, that gives every cartoon a certain "throwback" tone to some of the classic animation and studios from that era. Way back in 2006, a great site called Secret Fun Blog and its compiler Kirk D. went the extra mile, and began offering compilations of music from Ren & Stimpy.  To quote from his superb post:

Put simply, these melodies have enriched my life. Play them on your drive to work and you're the star of an instructional traffic safety film, turn it on during dinner and mealtime becomes 80% happier (but be careful.. play the wrong track and you could wind up with a touch of Space Madness). Best of all you can listen and imagine that you live in the world of Ren and Stimpy where the walrus-napping horse is your next door neighbor, where the toy stores are stocked with Log from Blammo, and a visit from Powdered Toast Man is just a complaint away!

The links to Volumes 1 and 2 of this great collection have long been dead on his blog... but fortunately, I took the opportunity at the time to acquire this outstanding music. There was also a THIRD volume of tunes from this show released during that time... this comp was a little harder to track down, and

even harder to sort out, since most of the tracks came without track numbers or composer attribution. But I took care of that, to the best of my ability, utilizing various authoritative sources. So what you have here for Vol. 3 is about as complete as you're going to find out there.

Comedy Central announced earlier this month that it had greenlighted a reboot of Ren & Stimpy, featuring all new episodes, for the upcoming season, to air alongside rebooted versions of old 90s cult hit shows like Daria and Beavis & Butthead. My personal feeling on this is that they should just leave it well enough alone.  These shows - especially Ren & Stimpy - were of a certain time and place in the past, and fondly remembered by those of us lucky enough to see them when they first emerged. Ren & Stimpy (at least the first two seasons) was lightning in a bottle, and attempting to recapture that is a foolish and futile exercise - especially so when John Kricfalusi, the creator and lead animator of the original series, is slated to have no involvement whatsoever in the reboot.  Just let it go, Comedy Central - stop trying to "reanimate" the corpse, as it were.

Enough of that.  Here for your listening pleasure are all three fan-assembled volumes of music from this seminal cartoon, released between 2006 and 2008.  I hope that this post brings you plenty of "Happy Happy, Joy Joy!"

(And as always, let me know what you think.)

Please use the email link below to contact me, and I will reply with the download link(s) ASAP:

Various Artists - Ren & Stimpy Production Music Vol. 1 (2006): Send Email
Various Artists - Ren & Stimpy Production Music Vol. 2 (2007): Send Email
Various Artists - Ren & Stimpy Production Music Vol. 3 (2008): Send Email

Thursday, August 6, 2020

House Of Schock - House Of Schock

For the past couple of weeks, they've been hyping the new Showtime documentary airing this past weekend, detailing the rise and fall of the classic early '80s New Wave group The Go-Go's, "the first all-woman group to write their own songs, play their own instruments and have a #1 hit" (as we've been reminded over and over again in recent days...).  Here's the official trailer for the program:

As I've mentioned here before and just recently, I used to be a pretty big Go-Go's fan. I was speaking with my buddy Camob just last week, and he reminded me of when he and I went to see them at Merriweather Post Pavilion near Baltimore during a break we had in U.S. Naval Academy summer training in July of '84, just before they broke up (INXS opened for them). Heck... I'd forgotten most of the details regarding that show, other than the fact we went (I do recall that tickets were something like $14-15...). As I recall, Jane Wiedlin quit the band shortly afterwards, in the fall of 1984, and after a half-hearted attempt to replace her (moving Charlotte Caffey to rhythm guitar and recruiting Giant Sand's Paul Jean Brown as the new bassist), the group had completely fallen apart by the following spring.

After this initial breakup, the band members scattered. I've already detailed in a previous post the careers of both Belinda Carlisle and Jane Wiedlin in the immediate aftermath.  Charlotte Caffey stayed connected to Carlisle, writing songs for Belinda's subsequent successful albums, and formed a band of her own called The Graces (with future star Meredith Brooks); their sole album, 1989's Perfect View, was critically acclaimed but sold poorly. Kathy Valentine sort of drifted around the fringes of the music world for several years, becoming a member of many short-lived, forgotten bands, before forming the blues rock collaboration The Bluebonnets with bassist Dominique Davalos. This group eventually evolved into The Delphines, and released two albums, a self-titled album in 1996 and Cosmic Speed in 2001.

This leaves drummer Gina Schock.  Like Valentine, Schock had long-term professional experience on and competence in her instrument of choice well prior to joining The Go-Go's; also similar to Valentine, Gina had trouble catching on to another band after The Go-Go's broke up in 1985 - which is sort of odd. In any event, Gina noodled around as a drummer for a couple of years for various obscure mid-Eighties now-forgotten bands, at the same time honing her own singing and songwriting skills. By 1987, she was ready to blaze her own trail. She formed a new band called House of Schock and recruited as its first member a transplanted L.A. by way of LA (as in Louisiana) native on bass named Vance DeGeneres.
Vance DeGeneres was/is a very interesting guy. A former Marine in the 1970s, he returned from his military hitch and settled in New Orleans. A local buddy of his, Walter Williams, was creating stop-motion Claymation comedy shorts on Super 8 film in 1974-75, featuring a character
he called "Mr. Bill", and showing them around town; at William's request, Vance stepped in to assist and began playing a character called "Mr. Hands" in some of the films. It was all just a local thing until late 1975, when the new NBC network comedy show
Saturday Night Live sent out a request for viewers to send in their own home movies, and Williams' were selected. More than twenty episodes of "The Mr. Bill Show" were produced for SNL, and the character became extremely popular nationwide, generating millions of dollars in merchandising sales annually.

In 1979, DeGeneres (who by then had moved on to a gig hosting a punk/New Wave radio show in New Orleans) filed suit against Mr. Bill copyright holder Williams in federal court for payment from the shows and merchandise sales, claiming that he too was a co-creator of the character and was entitled to fifty percent of the proceeds. After a year and a half of litigation, the courts awarded Williams total control over Mr. Bill and related characters (his dog Spot, Sluggo and Mr. Hands). The settlement said Williams was responsible for 'the basic idea in concept' of the characters in the Mr. Bill show, but added that DeGeneres 'participated in bringing that idea' into being.  As a result, the judgment said Williams would have to refile copyrights on the four characters so that they bear DeGeneres' name as co-creator. The judgment also said DeGeneres would receive 25 percent of all net proceeds of articles produced around the four categories. In exchange, DeGeneres relinquished all claims to copyright and trademark to the characters.

During this period of litigation and radio program hosting, DeGeneres honed a comedy act that appeared in area clubs, and also played bass for a beloved local Bayou New Wave band called The Cold, which performed in and around the Southern Louisiana region until the mid-80s before their breakup. With the radio show also ending around that time, Vance moved west to Los Angeles to try his luck out there in the entertainment field.

Oh, and one more thing I should mention - Vance DeGeneres is Ellen DeGeneres' older brother - yes, that Ellen DeGeneres.
Anyway, Schock gathered up a couple more members for her new band (Chrissy Shefts on guitar, and Steven Fisher on drums, since Gina planned on fronting the band and limiting her time behind the skins), and signed a deal with Capitol Records; the label was undoubtedly happy to add an ex-Go-Go to its roster, to hopefully emulate/rival the success Gina's former band mate Belinda Carlisle was having in her solo career with MCA Records. They even teamed her up again with Richard Gottehrer, the veteran producer behind The Go-Go's multi-platinum debut album Beauty And The Beat (along with other classics like most of Blondie's early albums, The Fleshtones' American Beat '84 and Richard Hell & The Voidoids' Blank Generation... at the time, however, it seemed to have been conveniently forgotten that Gottehrer had sort of dropped the ball a couple of years earlier with The Go-Go's follow-up album, 1982's Vacation...).  Ten of the songs Gina had written over the previous two years were released by the band on a self-titled album in early 1988.

I hadn't played or thought about this album in a while, so I went online to do a little research before I wrote this piece. The very first review I read, on, was so spot-on it made me laugh out loud: "This album has "record company interference" written all over it..." Yes, it does. It suffers from the same sort of malady that affected Jane Wiedlin's solo debut, which I wrote about earlier this year - it's WAY overproduced, laden with the by-then cliched '80s shimmering, slick-as-grease pop music effects to make the songs ostensibly more "radio friendly"... which is a shame, because buried beneath the gloss and reverb are some decent little tunes.  The opener and debut single, "Middle Of Nowhere", is actually a great song, well suited for Schock's voice.  Here - have a listen:
Of course, it sounds dated and "Eighties-y" now. However, the tune was a hit in Australia, and could have done well in America as well. But Capitol Records almost immediately disowned this album, putting nary a nickel of money or a line of publicity into sales or promotion, and it sank like a stone, not even charting here in the States. This ended up being House Of Schock's only LP release.

Since that time, Gina Schock has turned her musical efforts more towards songwriting, penning tunes for the likes of Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez, and for various movie and TV show soundtracks. Except for the various Go-Go's reunion tours over the years (the first one was in 1990), she had largely retired from live performance. Vance DeGeneres has moved on to bigger and better things in the comedy realm (he was a writer for various shows, including his sister's first network show on ABC, and later served as a correspondent on Comedy Central's The Daily Show for a number of years) and in production (developing and co-producing some of Steve Carell's recent films), among other pursuits.

Here's House Of Schock, by the band of the same name, released on Capitol Records in 1988. This album isn't by any means a deathless addition to the overall Go-Go's canon, but it's still worth listening to if you can get past the whizz-bangs it was laden with. Plus, it's kind of hard to track down nowadays... so here you go - put this one in your ears, and as always, let me know what you think.

Please use the email link below to contact me, and I will reply with the download link(s) ASAP:

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Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Buddy Holly - The NEW Complete Buddy Holly v. 2.0 (Purple Chick) (14 Disc Set + DVD)

Dag nabbit...

A couple of years ago, I posted what was known as the Holy Grail of Buddy Holly offerings, an eleven-disc set compiled by the elusive, reclusive Purple Chick collective purported to contain every known song, utterance and appearance on vinyl or film of the great rock 'n' roll pioneer Buddy Holly. I assumed, as did many of you, that this set was the be-all and end-all, the final definitive word on Holly's vocal and musical appearances, and I presented it as such, in a post laden with stylish poetic trappings and heartfelt tributes to the man and the mass of music he left behind...

Turns out, however, that the Complete Buddy Holly wasn't as complete as all of us thought it was.

Back in 2017, Purple Chick announced that they had put together an even MORE definitive Buddy Holly set, featuring songs that were inadvertently left out or otherwise unavailable for inclusion in the 2005 version. I didn't get wind of this new and improved set until last year... simply because I hadn't been looking for it, since I'd already assumed I had it all. I went ahead and acquired this new version, and started trying to document the changes between new and old for a possible later release on this blog. But honestly, my heart wasn't in it. It took me FOREVER to sort out the titles and tags on the previous set, and I just didn't have the stomach or wherewithal to go through the drudgery of putting together another writeup on this new set, and/or doing a disc-to-disc, track-by-track comparison of the former "Complete" Buddy Holly Purple Chick set and this replacement one. 

Fortunately, the people at Purple Chick saved me the trouble, and already put one together in a text file attached to this compilation. For the sake of my time and my sanity, I've taken the liberty of "appropriating" their narrative/description below:
The original Complete Buddy Holly remains one of our favorite projects. (Some Purple Chick restorations even made it - via Rev-Ola's "Gotta Roll" which added unnecessary processing - onto the wonderful-but-too-flawed Hip-O Select 'complete' collection).

Because a number of new and improved sources have appeared over the last fifteen years or so, we thought it was time for a Purpler Chick Completer Buddy Holly. We redid the whole set from scratch: almost everything has either been sonically improved from the earlier version or - most of the time - is from a different source entirely.

Even better, now that we have a complete* set of Buddy's undubbed recordings we can ignore the posthumous overdubs and present the absolute complete Buddy Holly on just five CDs.

So, if you want, you can completely forget the other discs, depending on how interested you are in their various themes. For example, you might not care about our (completely redone) selection of Buddy's record collection or the experimental stereo extractions and synchronizations. In particular, the "Peggy Sue Got Married" and "Crying, Waiting, Hoping" stereo tracks need more work but we wanted to get the set out before doomsday.

(*NOTE: we believe the so-called 'lesser dubbed' versions of "Wishing" and "Reminiscing" are actually undubbed versions. Even if that is not the case, any overdubs are so unobtrusive that it shouldn't prevent them from being the sole exclusions from the 'undubbed' section).

AND, here's the thing. Maybe you're not a CD person anymore. Maybe you just like the files. Well, they're all named so you can copy and paste into one folder and have them run chronologically, with session recordings and interviews all mixed with the studio sessions (you'll have to remove the 'i' prefix for the interviews. (You probably want to leave the 'BRC' and 'S' prefixes alone for Buddy's record collection and experimental stereo recordings.)

So here's what we have:

DISCS 1 - 5 - The Complete Buddy Holly
All of Buddy's studio recordings, live appearances, home recordings, and interviews.

Everything comes from the best available source; with many significant sonic upgrades including, for the first (*or second) time anywhere:
- Sonic improvements to the 'first four' recordings;
- An in-line "I Guess I Was Just A Fool" without the acetate skip;
- Un-composited alternate "Don't Come Back Knockin'" take fragments;
- The complete live Maybe Baby from Off The Record*;
- "Drown In My Own Tears" without the wow and flutter;
- A new, upgraded source for the KLLL promos; and
- Many more surprises...

DISC 6 - The Completer Buddy Holly

Outfakes, songwriting and a tribute

This disc collects the important outfakes (complete takes created from incomplete sources or edits patching audio errors); all of the songs Buddy co-wrote but never recorded; plus Buddy's friend Snuff Garrett's radio show from the day the music died.

DISCS 7 - 8 - Buddy For Others
All of the circulating sessions featuring Buddy as a session guitarist, vocalist and/or producer

Featuring numerous additional session recordings compared with our last set. It seems the only significant tracks now missing are Lloyd Call's "Little Cowboy" and Carolyn Hester's "A Little While Ago"

Caveat: some of the session appearances might not include Buddy after all. We excluded tracks that definitively did not include Buddy but otherwise took a 'when in doubt, leave them in' approach (while noting any questions about Buddy's contributions).

DISCS 9 - 10 - Dick Jacobs and Norman Petty overdubs and mixes

All of the posthumous releases from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

DISCS 11 - 12
The rest of the posthumous overdubs - from the 1980s right through the 2010s.
(You'll have to buy the recent Philharmonic Orchestra CD and slot in those tracks.)

DISCS 13 - 14
Buddy's record collection; and stereo Buddy.

The original versions of the songs Buddy recorded, plus a selection of Buddy's songs in synchronized stereo and/or digitally extracted stereo.

(Most of these are Purple Chick creations but some we grabbed from the Internet and, unfortunately, did not keep attribution notes at the time. Sorry!)

OK, this is just the old DVD. We couldn't face redoing it just for about a half-second of additional HighTime footage; and to change the mistaken "Clear Lake" caption. Then again, we improved the sound of some of the 'live' recordings on the CDs so maybe we should have fixed that on the DVD as well.
So, while I am leaving the old post from 2018 up (I hate taking posts down), I am retiring the request link for the music there (the 11-disc version) in favor of the one provided below (the 14-disc-plus set). I still have the old and now apparently obsolete 11-disc version; if you're still burning to have that one as well, let me know.  Just know that everything on that set is present here as well.

Once again, I proudly offer to you all Purple Chick's new and expanded The Complete Buddy Holly v. 2.0 from 2017, in the hope that this will be the final time they modify this huge collection. Take a look, have a listen, and as always, let me know what you think.

Please use the email link below to contact me, and I will reply with the download link(s) ASAP:

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Friday, July 17, 2020

Don Dixon - Most Of The Girls Like To Dance But Only Some Of The Boys Like To

For some odd reason, an old post from ten years back, Marti Jones's Unsophisticated Time (her solo debut), has been getting a lot of views this week. With that, I thought I'd take the opportunity to pen a few words regarding her future husband's first album, also put out later that year.

Don Dixon was born in South Carolina in 1950, later moving to Charlotte, North Carolina. He got into music while in junior high school there, starting with bass guitar (a cheap Danelectro Silvertone from Sears department store), which he played in a pickup band he formed with some school friends.  Later, while in high school, he moved to upright bass, and began playing with a local jazz band as an established member.

After his high school graduation, Dixon attended the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, where in 1969, with a number of other UNC freshmen, he formed the band Arrogance. Arrogance started out as a covers band, doing versions of songs by The Beatles, Mountain, Cream and Black Sabbath, but soon began penning and performing their own original tunes. The band gained a huge following in the Piedmont area, but despite several attempts to broaden their reach and audience (including a couple of major label releases on Vanguard Records and Warner Brothers Records) and changes in their musical approach (from straight-ahead rock, to early '70s folk, late '70s New Wave/power pop and early '80s post-punk), they never managed to break out nationally. After a final series of local North Carolina concerts, Arrogance disbanded after fourteen years in 1983.

However, in late 1982, with the band obviously on its last legs, Dixon was contacted by an old friend and fellow musician, Mitch Easter, who wanted his assistance in producing the debut album by a band from Athens, Georgia who Easter had worked with the year before, a four-member combo called R.E.M. In 1981 at his small studio located in his parents' garage in Winston-Salem, Easter had produced the band's first single, "Radio Free Europe", an independent release that put R.E.M. on the map and led directly to them being signed by industry giant I.R.S. Records. The group had begun recording their first album with this major label in Boston in the fall of 1982, but the sessions had not gone well, so the band pleaded with I.R.S. to allow them to travel back to North Carolina to let Easter try his hand at producing once again. The label granted conditional permission to R.E.M. to record one song with Easter, that I.R.S. would then assess and determine if it was good enough to allow the rest of the album's recording to take place there. Easter knew he was under a lot of pressure to deliver, and therefore called upon Dixon and his trusted ear to assist him in this tryout.

Well, the rest is history: R.E.M. recorded "Pilgrimage" with Easter and Dixon producing, a song that I.R.S. subsequently flipped over, and the rest of the album, titled Murmur, was OKed for recording with the producing duo. Murmur was a huge critical success, eventually reaching #36 on the Billboard Album charts, and the reputations of both Easter and Dixon were made. From then on, a steady stream of bands came through North Carolina to have their records produced by the pair, or by Easter or Dixon separately, including Guadalcanal Diary, The Smithereens, Chris Stamey, Fetchin Bones, Game Theory, Pylon, The Connells, The Waxing Poetics, and many, many more. The sound being produced by the pair - characterized mainly by minimal/no guitar distortion and "dry" drumming - was described/celebrated as "jangle pop", and in the mid-'80s, it was the sound of college and independent alternative radio nationwide.
[Dixon's mid-eighties work in particular with Fetchin Bones, a North Carolina early proto-grunge band, almost paid big dividends for him a few years later, as he was a top choice to produce the sophomore album by a Washington State group on the verge of superstardom. As Dixon tells the story: "Fetchin Bones was definitely an early, quirky grunge band, you know, pre-grunge, because this was all in the ’80s. I got called to do that Nirvana
record [Nevermind]. Went out to spend some time with them before ”[Smells Like] Teen Spirit.” They were playing some version of it, but it didn’t have any real words yet. That was ’91. We actually worked out a deal, but they ultimately thought I wanted too much money ... Butch Vig was going to engineer, I was going to produce, but they came to their senses and didn’t give me all that money I was asking for. Butch ended up making the record and did a great job ... It only increased my respect for them that they didn’t want to waste money, because they didn’t need me. They really didn’t."
In 1985, Dixon was assigned production duties by A&M Records for Marti Jones, who had just come off a disastrous stint with Color Me Gone and was looking to establish herself as an individual artist. Her first solo album, Unsophisticated Time, was a great critical success; although it didn't make any big waves commercially, it got her noticed in certain areas (I mentioned before how songs from this disc were in heavy rotation in the Washington, DC area in 1985-86). And it began a longstanding professional collaboration between Jones and Dixon (he produced her next four albums) that blossomed into a romance; the pair married in 1988.

But in 1985, on the strength of his reputation as a producer and residual word-of-mouth praise for his work with the now-defunct Arrogance, Enigma Records gave Dixon the opportunity to release his own solo record. His initial outing, titled Most Of The Girls Like To Dance But Only Some Of The Boys Like To, contains recordings and reworkings of songs from his personal music stash of demos and singles written and performed over the previous five years.  Some dated back from his Arrogance days, others were 4-track home recordings and one had been recently recorded at Mitch Easter’s garage studio (a cover of Nick Lowe's "Skin Deep", featuring Easter on lead guitar).   But all of them showcase Dixon's clever, sometimes biting wordplay, vocal adeptness, and affection for ’60s pop and R&B. I found the entire disc to be pretty good.

This album did practically nothing on the mainstream charts (reaching a high of only #162 on the Billboard Album rankings).  But it was championed by alternative and college radio; the disc's lead single "Praying Mantis" was played constantly on DC's WHFS for weeks in late 1985/early 1986.  Here's the video:

Dixon recorded prolifically for the next three decades, mostly between producing duties, releasing eleven more albums either individually or in collaboration with other artists, including his wife.  He hasn't put out a record of his own since 2013's High & Filthy & Borderline. But he still occasionally performs, usually with Marti Jones, and they are both still beloved and appreciated by generations of music fans, myself included.

Despite containing one of Dixon's most popular, enduring songs, his debut album has long been out of print, and rather difficult to track down online.  Therefore, here it is for your enjoyment: Don Dixon's impossibly hard-to-find solo debut album, Most Of The Girls Like To Dance But Only Some Of The Boys Like To, released on Enigma Records in the latter half of 1985.   Enjoy, and as always, let me know what you think.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2020

The Beatles Book (1963 - 1969)

Here's something that's a bit of a departure from my usual music posts (although it IS music-related).  I still think that this offering will be warmly appreciated by a broad majority of readers here.

Beat Monthly
was a pop/rock magazine that began being published in Great Britain in May 1963. As indicated in the title, the magazine focused on the country's burgeoning beat music scene and the popular groups emerging from it: The Shadows, Gerry & The Pacemakers, The Tornados, Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders, Peter Jay & The Jaywalkers, The Big Three and the like. Beat Monthly was put out by Sean O'Mahony, a young publisher and entrepreneur, and his target audience wasn't music fans, but the musicians themselves, the emphasis being on instruments, production and equipment in its articles. The mag gained a small but devoted following, changing its name from Beat Monthly to Beat Instrumental Monthly in the fall of 1964, then simply to Beat Instrumental in 1966, and it continued being published regularly until 1980.

The Beatles were featured on the cover of the second issue of Beat Monthly in June 1963, shortly after their second single "Please Please Me" had been released in the UK and climbed to #2 on the charts, a significant improvement over the performance of their first single, "Love Me Do", which only made it to #17. The band's album of the same name (Please Please Me) hit the music shops in late April of that year, and by late May it was the top-selling album in the nation, where it would remain for the next six months (until replaced by another Beatles album, With The Beatles). O'Mahony sensed early on that The Beatles were going to be huge, bigger than just being a featured artist in his beat magazine. So he reached out to the group's manager, Brian Epstein, and asked if he could publish a magazine solely focused on and devoted to Epstein's band. At the time, Epstein was dependent upon the releases of the group's press agent, Tony Barrow, to keep The Beatles' names and activities in the public eye. So he welcomed O'Mahony's exclusive offer.

The first issue of The Beatles Book (also known as Beatles Monthly) came out in August 1963, in an initial print run of 80,000. The magazine was an immediate smash, the go-to source for Beatles fans for up-to-the-minute information on the group. By the end of 1963, circulation in Britain had more than quadrupled, to over 330,000 subscribers, with hundreds of thousands of issues being sold overseas. O'Mahony retained control over Beat Monthly and other magazines (such as the similarly group-dedicated Rolling Stones Book beginning in 1964 and Record Collector) under his Beat Publications corporate umbrella, but he began devoting most of his time and energy to editing and overseeing the Beatles mag, penning opening editorials in every issue under the pseudonym Johnny Dean. Tony Barrow also became a regular contributor, writing articles under his pen name Frederick James and ghostwriting columns presented to readers as being written "on tour" by Beatles roadies Neil Aspinall and Mal Evans.

In O'Mahony's case, on being admitted into the band's trusted inner fold, he occupied a very rarified and privileged perspective in Beatleworld, and he knew it (the following is taken from John McMillan's book Beatles Vs. Stones):
O'Mahoney operated from a special vantage; awarded the sole and exclusive rights to publish their profit-oriented fan magazine, he became thickly intertwined in a socio-professional relationship with Epstein... and how the group [was] managed. Whatever O'Mahony's private knowledge or feelings, his acquiescence was complete. [For example] in 1964, when journalist Michael Braun released his book Love Me Do! - a gossipy account of his travels with The Beatles during the first flush of Beatlemania, which rather contradicted the group's "squeaky clean" image - its publication was not even mentioned in The Beatles Book. Nor was O'Mahony eager to reveal that John Lennon was married, since Epstein feared that the knowledge would adversely affect the band's popularity with teenage girls. When publishing photos of The Beatles, O'Mahony often turned to retouch artists who would fix any splotches or blemishes on their faces, thereby making sure they were "the sort of pictures Brian wanted to see".

In other words, O'Mahony in this period closely resembled a Madison Avenue flack. Whatever inside information he had, he would never have wanted to print anything truly relevatory about John or Paul... Instead, his magazine was merely [a] platform... meant to promote the Beatles' carefully considered "brand" meticulously.
Along with O'Mahony, staff photographer Leslie Bryce also gained exclusive and unrivaled access to the band in both their public and most private moments. He traveled the world with John, Paul, George and Ringo and took literally thousands of pictures, a multitude of which adorned the magazine during its run but the vast majority of which have never been seen in public.

As much as O'Mahony appeared to be co-opted by Beatles management, the man still showed flashes of independence in his coverage of the band.  In its later years, The Beatles Book did not hide from controversial subjects, such as whether songs should be credited to Lennon/McCartney or McCartney/ Lennon, and the nature of the relationship between John and Yoko Ono. And on the one occasion when The Beatles and their representatives pushed the publisher too hard, he showed that he too had real teeth and could push back even harder than they could. Also from Beatles Vs. Stones:
...In 1966, The Beatles decided they'd had enough of their silly fan magazine, and so they stopped providing Sean O'Mahony with the access, interviews, and photographs he needed to keep The Beatles Book afloat. But O'Mahony would not be deterred so easily. In response to The Beatles' new attitude, he phoned his lawyer and called for a meeting. Epstein likewise showed up with his solicitor, plus two more advisors, and he matter-of-factly told O'Mahony it was time to wind down the publication of The Beatles Book. Asked for an explanation, he replied, "They feel you don't tell the truth. You're not reporting them as they are..."

"O'Mahony exploded with anger," said Epstein's biographer:
The truth? What do you mean? Do you mean for example when we were in Blackpool, John Lennon flinging open the window of the dressing room and shouting to the fans below: "Fuck off and buy more records?" Was that the level of revelation Epstein and the Beatles expected from their authorized mouthpiece? Should the Beatles be reported as they really were? Or were there no-go areas?
A brief silence fell over the room... after which the two parties were able to proceed amicably enough to reach an agreement.
The Beatles Book
continued to be published for another three years, until December 1969, when it was then obvious to all that the end of the group was nigh. This final issue (#77) contained a long and remarkable article by O'Mahony regarding the circumstances behind the rise and fall of the publication. In it, he levels pointed criticism at the band for their drug use, disassociating himself from that aspect of their lives (Golly, it only took him six-plus years to finally come out and condemn it, but still...).

Although the original print run of The Beatles Book ended in the late '60s, in 1976 O'Mahony revived the magazine, reprinting each of the old issues every month surrounded by eight to sixteen pages of new Beatles-related material. When after six and a half years, he ran out of material to reissue in September 1982, O'Mahony kept the magazine going with new articles and information for another twenty years, finally throwing in the towel with issue #321 in 2003. By then, circulation had dropped to below 10,000, a decent number for a fanzine, but not one to make a publisher economically viable.

I personally have never had much interest in the reissued format of this magazine that started coming out in the mid-70s, and neither have many fans. However, the original Sixties run is highly sought after and celebrated by Beatles aficionados, who eagerly sell and trade old copies on sites like eBay and Amazon. A few years ago, I found an offering of the original seventy-seven issues digitized in .pdf format, and moved quickly to acquire a copy. I can't remember for the life of me where I found these; I'd like to give the compiler the props he or she is due. But in any event, here they are for your Beatles reading enjoyment: the entire original print run of The Beatles Book, from 1963 to 1969, formatted for viewing on your computer or printing, if you're so inclined.

This one's for the legions of Beatles fans out there! Download, have a gander, and as always... well, you know.

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Sunday, May 31, 2020

The Fall - Cerebral Caustic (Expanded Edition)

By May of 1995, my military tour in Christchurch, New Zealand was winding to a close.  I'd already moved out of my rented house in Casebrook at the end of March, and all of my household goods had been crated and were aboard a cargo ship somewhere in the Southern Pacific Ocean.  The command had 
moved me back into the Airport Gateway Motor Lodge on Memorial Avenue, a short distance away from the airport and the command headquarters of the Naval Antarctic Support Unit (NASU). The Airport Gateway was where I lived for the first few weeks after arriving in country; I was placed right next door to the original room I'd occupied a couple of years earlier. So my New Zealand adventure definitely seemed to be coming full circle.

I'd already gone back to the States in early April, for a week-long "Officer Transition Seminar" being held at a base in San Diego. I didn't want to go, since I considered it a total waste of time and travel resources. The course was ostensibly for junior officers who were leaving the service, but who were still relatively undecided as to what they wanted to do out in the civilian world. By that time, I'd already received word that I had been accepted to the several graduate schools I had applied to, and had already locked in on the University of Virginia as where I'd be commencing my MBA studies that coming fall. So my immediate post-Navy future was all set for the time being, and as I predicted, the course was a boondoggle and of no value to me. I spent the mornings and early afternoons of that week striving to pay attention to career advice and strategies that really didn't apply to me, then running out to my rental car and driving two hours north to Long Beach to hang out with old friends, having fun with them every night, capped off with an epic Vegas run that weekend with my friends before I flew back to Christchurch. Life was going pretty good for me at that point.

Back in New Zealand, I still had
my car, my gold Porsche 928, there with me.  I was planning on having that shipped back with my other furniture and other belongings earlier that month, but an unusual opportunity arose.  A local film production crew had put out a casting call for local Americans to appear as extras in a film being shot in nearby Lyttleton.  The director Peter Jackson, fresh off of his breakthrough critical success with the 1994 film Heavenly Creatures, was tapped by Universal Pictures to helm his first
big-budget movie, The Frighteners, starring Michael J. Fox.  Jackson was allowed to film in New Zealand, just so long as he made the setting look similar to a Western U.S. locale (this involved mainly switching around/transforming a lot of the local road signs and driving on what, for New Zealand, was the "wrong" side of the road). With the majority of local Yanks being involved with/employed by NASU, this meant a large group of us went in to audition for walk-on roles, at a space the production company had established in downtown Christchurch. I went in, hoping for one of these stand-in-the-back supplementary parts, but to my surprise, the crew asked me if I'd like to have a (very) small speaking part, which I happily accepted. The producers were also looking for American-style left-hand drive cars to feature in the film; when they discovered I owned a Porsche of that kind, they got very excited, and started making inquiries into featuring my ride in some of the scenes.

On the day that I and several other local Americans were slated to shoot, we gathered under a cold, wet mid-fall April sky (remember, the seasons are reversed in the Southern
Hemisphere) in the parking lot of the Wunderbar, a funky, quirky little bar and local concert venue in Lyttleton.  The Wunderbar's parking lot had been commandeered by Jackson's crew, and covered with trailers containing costumes, makeup facilities and electrical equipment. I was there for two days... and in all I can say that my first experience on an authentic movie set was a miserable one - a lot of sitting around, eating whatever Craft Services put out in terms of food for the cast and crew, then being herded around here and there like the inconsequential cattle the staff regarded us as, and enduring endless reshoots. I never came within spitting distance of Michael J. Fox or any of the other principal actors, and my much-anticipated speaking part was removed before filming even began. I made it into a couple of background shots, but apparently these ended up on the cutting room floor. Seeing the film after it came out, I didn't see or recognize any of my other local compatriots in any scenes either. It seems that they really didn't need us after all.

After all of the initial hullabaloo about my Porsche, the production company never got back to me about using it in the movie. I waited a couple more days to hear from them, then gave up and made arrangements to put my car on one of the last ships that would get it back to the States so it would be there waiting for me when I got there in early June. For the remainder of my time in Christchurch, I used one of the NASU vehicles to get around, a a beat-up old right-hand drive pickup truck decidedly less eye-catching than my own car.

The new Supply officer who was to take over my duties had arrived in mid-April, and by early May I had pretty much transitioned most of my duties to his responsibility. I still had some final work to do, but I was feeling a bit at loose ends. Before I left the region, I wanted to make one last run over to Sydney; I'd been to Australia a couple of times already for some R&R, and always had a good time there. I went there the year before with my buddy Tim, who ran the NASU Navy Exchange, and we had an excellent time - attended an Aussie Rules Football match, went to the top of the thousand-foot high Centrepoint (Sydney) tower, and visited several of the pubs and venues in the Rocks district, the city's Party Central. When I asked him if he'd like to go back with me on my farewell trip, he quickly agreed. We booked accommodations, the command cut our travel orders, and by the early morning of May 17th, we were over the Tasman Sea, en route to Sydney International Airport.

Our arrival later that morning was somewhat of a disappointment.  The hotel we booked sight-unseen overlooked the water at Circular Quay and looked swank in the advertisements, but when we got there to throw our bags down, we found that it was minuscule. To this day, it remains the smallest fucking room I've ever stayed in that managed to squeeze in two beds, a desk and a TV. We were both pissed, but sucked it up, since we figured we weren't going to be spending too much time in it anyway.

The first thing we did in town that afternoon was jump on the Sydney Harbour Tours ferry out of Circular Quay for a swing around the length and breadth of the waters surrounding the city.  The boat took us right
under the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge and past the Opera House (where I had attended a show almost a year earlier), and out almost to the entrance on the Pacific.  While on board, we began chatting up these two twenty-something Dutch girls who were also visiting the city.  While their final ferry destination differed from ours (we were going to get off at Taronga Zoo), they seemed pretty receptive to our dialogue, and elicited promises from them that we would all meet up later that evening at a bar on the Rocks that Tim and I had found during our previous visit.  We were both feeling pretty large by the time we walked through Taronga's gates.

Initially, I wasn't all that jazzed about spending my first hours in Oz walking around a menagerie.  But the zoo, the largest in Australia, turned out to be incredibly cool, full of (what was for
us) exotic animals like emu, platypuses, wombats and koalas.  We spent hours wandering around the place, taking everything in; it turned out to be a highlight of the trip, and highly recommended, should you ever find yourself out that way.  But as fun and interesting as it all was, as the afternoon wore on, Tim and I were anxious to get back to our shoebox hotel room and get ready to meet up with those chicks from Holland later that evening...

...which, of course, turned out to be a bust.  The girls never showed; I'll assuage my pride here, and charitably assume that they got lost and couldn't find the place we recommended (yeah, I'm sure that's what happened...).  No matter; there was booze available there, along with music and madness, so Tim and I settled in for an extended drinking session that concluded with us stumbling out of a cab back at our shit-ass hotel in the wee hours and drunkenly passing out in our beds.

We woke up late the next day, close to noon; the combined effect of drink, our extended walkabout and the time zone difference between Australia and New Zealand doing us in.  I wanted to get some shopping in while I was there, to pick up some souvenirs for myself and for people back in the U.S.  So we went into the city for those retail errands.  During our excursion, I happened to walk by a local record store, so I popped in to see what was new.  I was very surprised to find a brand-new CD by my favorite band, The Fall, in the bins - a new work titled Cerebral Caustic (In hindsight, I guess I shouldn't have been THAT surprised, as The Fall tended to put out a new album every year or so...).  Anyway, I immediately bought the disc, intending to listen to it later, and brought it with my other purchases back to the hotel in the late afternoon.

Tim and I were looking forward to heading out again that night and seeing what was what with the local female population, but we had to get something to eat first.  We ended up at, of all places, the Hard Rock Cafe's Sydney location (probably because it was something semi-familiar, and we couldn't be bothered with coming up with something different).  We spent the early evening eating burgers under a display case featuring what was purported to be Sid Vicious' actual leather jacket, which was kind of cool.  Then we headed out, walking the streets around Darling Harbour toward the Rocks once again.  En route to the
district, traversing down George Street, we came upon what appeared to be a wild, crowded bar called Jacksons On George, and decided to stop in for a gander.

I walked in to this jam-packed venue, and instantly met the eyes of an absolutely lovely woman standing halfway across the large room.  Not to say that I'm "all that"... but for whatever reason or vibe I was putting out, she froze in her tracks and seemed to completely lock onto me.  To me, she was... well, I've used this Raymond Chandler quote before, but I'll use it here again to describe her: "Whatever you needed, wherever you happened to be—she HAD it."  Her laser-beam eyes never left me as I played it cool after meeting and acknowledging that first glance.  I walked across the room towards the bar on the far side with Tim in my wake, passing close by her - but not TOO close.  Didn't want to appear overeager!

Ordered a couple of beers for myself and my buddy, all the while keeping a sideways look in her direction; she remained locked onto me.  Excellent...  Our drinks arrived, and after a couple of minutes of chat, I told Tim I was going to go out into the crowd and "mingle" a bit.  And SOMEHOW, I ended up right next to this girl, and we began dialoging.

Her name was Viv, and she lived in a distant suburb of Sydney, but was there in the city spending a long weekend of fun and clubbing with a girlfriend.  I told her my deal as well, then brought both her and her friend over to where Tim was holding up the bar for an introduction.  My buddy quickly sussed out what the situation was and assumed the role of 'wingman' in regards to Viv's friend... not that it helped my cause; the other girl was not about Tim AT ALL.  However, Viv and I were hitting it off like gangbusters.

We all spent a couple of hours together at Jacksons On George before moving down the street to a couple of other local pubs, with Viv and I enjoying each other's company more and more... in inverse proportion to her friend, who began to grouse about the hour, how tired she was, etc.  It seemed that any further progress would be blocked for that night.  Viv told me that they had plans the following night to visit Reva, a dance place in central Sydney, and asked me if I would meet her there.  I said that I would, all the while thinking "Try and stop me!"

The next day, the 19th, was pretty much a blur to me - I was looking forward to the evening.  I'm sure that Tim and I did some stuff around town, and I think I might have listened to my new CD; I simply don't recall.  What I DO recall is arriving at Reva slightly after the appointed time (my buddy had begged off, preferring to do his own thing that night) and finding Viv there with a couple more of her girlfriends.  Once again, she seemed very happy to see me; as such, she and I didn't stay at Reva for very long.  I spare you the details; suffice to say that we had a fun night together.

The next morning, I made my farewells to Viv, and staggered/dragged myself back to my Circular Quay hotel for a couple of hours of shuteye before Tim and I had to catch the flight back to Christchurch later that day.  All in all, I was pretty pleased with the way my final visit to Oz turned out...

...Except that as it turned out, it wasn't my last trip to Australia while I lived in that region.

Before I left Sydney, I'd provided Viv with my phone number in New Zealand (remember, cellphones weren't really affordable or widely available yet in the mid-1990s), and shortly after I returned there to my motel room in Christchurch, I began hearing from her.  Apparently, she had REALLY enjoyed my company there in Australia, and was eager to see me once again, so much so, that she was willing to foot the entire bill on a swank weekend for two in downtown Sydney, including a round-trip flight from where I was and a room at the Four Seasons (she had come into more than a little money recently, and was amenable to splurging).  Needless to say, she didn't have to lobby me very hard... six days after getting back from Sydney, I found myself running to board another late-night plane going back in that direction.

But before I left, I took the opportunity that week to unwrap and listen to my new Fall CD.  Cerebral Caustic marked band leader Mark's ex-wife Brix Smith's return to the band after a five-year hiatus (a situation I detailed in a previous post).  Brix immediately brought her music aesthetic back into the group; half of the songs on this album were co-written by her.  But, in my opinion, I can't say that her return infused the band with a shot of innovation or energy.  Cerebral Caustic was the second in a series of mostly "meh" albums that The Fall put out in the mid-90s, in the wake of 1993's
critically acclaimed and commercially successful (Top Ten on the British charts) disc The Infotainment Scan.  There were flashes of brilliance on Cerebral Caustic, particularly in songs like "Rainmaster", "Life Just Bounces" and "Feeling Numb".  But all in all, to me, the album just felt like sort of a generic and by-the-numbers Fall release, without any real drive or inspiration behind it. 

Perhaps this was due to band turbulence and stresses on Mark caused by Brix's quasi-return (she didn't move back to England, but stayed mostly in her new home in Los Angeles, flying in for the group's recording sessions and gigs).  Already a heavy drinker, Mark began hitting the bottle big time during this period, leading to periods of incapacitation, warped judgements and angrier-than-usual outbursts.  He unexpectedly fired keyboardist Dave Bush just as the recording sessions for the album were being completed (for years, there were rumors that he wiped all of Bush's contributions to the record and had them rerecorded).  And later that year, he booted stalwart guitarist Craig Scanlon, who had been with the band since the late '70s, for equally unknown reasons.  Releasing an album in the midst of this turmoil was probably not a good idea... but Mark was going to do what he was going to do, and no one was going to make him do otherwise.  But this instability remained, and was carried through the next two lackluster Fall albums,
1996's The Light User Syndrome and and 1997's LevitateAs I wrote before, The Fall didn't really get its shit back together until 1999's The Marshall Suite, recorded with almost an entirely new band after the remaining early members quit the group after the Brownies punch-up/debacle during their American tour the prior year.

In any event, that was my take on the latest Fall album as I arrived back in Sydney that Friday night and found Viv waiting for me at the airport.  The next three days were excellent; we had an amazing time running around the city and canoodling back in our gold-plated hotel suite.  Dining out, dancing, shopping, seeing the sights, checking out the high- and low-lights of Sydney, all the places that she knew about that I had missed on my earlier visits - it was just nonstop fun.  When Monday rolled up, far too quickly for us, I was very unhappy to leave the place, and her.  But, regretfully, duty called, and I got back on the plane that morning, heading back to Christchurch.  I will say that I flew back home to New Zealand with a big smile on my face...

That smile quickly faded upon my arrival at Christchurch International.  I sauntered off the plane and into Customs for what I figured was going to be another routine "wave me through" check-in... but I was stopped as the desk by a steely-eyed Customs officer, who demanded to see my official documents.  It was only then that the realization struck me: I'd spent so much time in New Zealand - living in the neighborhoods, going to the shops and pubs, learning all of the side streets and short cuts - that I essentially considered myself a local.  As far as I was concerned, Christchurch was my home.  But in the eyes of the entities running the state there, we were little more than official long-term guests, representatives of the U.S. government traveling on American passports.  As such, we required authorized documents - official travel orders - from a recognized U.S. facility there (such as an embassy or a military base) in order to leave and return to New Zealand without any undue hassle. 

In my zeal to get back to Sydney to hang out with Viv that weekend... I kind of forgot to get that sort of documentation from the NASU Administrative Department. So without that official OK, the airport official regarded me not as a fellow Kiwi, but as an undocumented scumbag trying to slip into the country.  He starting making noises about "deporting me back to Australia", which wouldn't have been good at all.

I tried explaining to the guy that I wasn't a tourist, but I actually lived there, and showed him my New Zealand driver's license and Bank of New Zealand ATM card, among other items, as proof.  But that cold-blooded bastard wasn't buying it.  Finally, I told him I could clear this situation up with one phone call, and used the phone at his desk to call the NASU Main Office.  Oddly, there was no answer... so I tried again, with the same result.  It was then that the realization struck me - it was Monday, May 29th... MEMORIAL DAY - and the office was closed for the American holiday.  Damn.  I had no idea what the home phone numbers were for anyone from NASU who could assist me.  In a word, I was screwed.

It was only then that the Customs official's attitude softened somewhat; I guess he figured out by then that I hadn't been
BSing him about living there.  Instead of sending me back to Sydney on the next plane, he would provide me with a ten-day Visitor's Permit, to get me back into the country and give me time to get things straightened out.  This was the perfect solution for me - especially as my last day in New Zealand was scheduled for June 8th, only nine days away.  I gladly accepted the stamp in my passport, and made my way out of the airport as quickly as possible.  But I spent my last few days there as a "visitor" in my own country, as it were.

That's how that situation ended... but it wasn't the end for Viv and I.  After I got back to the States and entered grad school, she and I stayed in touch constantly through letters and the occasional phone call.  During the break between my first and second years at UVA, we decided to meet somewhere mutually convenient for both of us... so in the latter part of the summer of 1996, we reconnected in Maui for a week, which was as epic and awesome a trip as I've ever had, even surpassing my last sojourn with her in Sydney a year earlier.  After that vacation, I didn't see her for many years, although we remained constantly in touch.  She still lives near Sydney, and got married a couple of years later to Joseph, a local Aussie-by-way-of-New-Zealand, a staunch and outstanding guy.  And I got to see them both a few years ago, when they came over to New York City for a visit and I met them there.  We're all great friends now, and any such feelings I may have had for her - longing, lust or whatever - have long since fallen by the wayside.

She's still piping hot, though... and on occasion I think back on the days when we first became acquainted, twenty-five years ago this week, and smile a secret little smile of remembrance.  These occasions to reminisce occur more often then not when I hear a song off of Cerebral Caustic, which I've been playing slightly more in recent years and starting to semi-appreciate, even if my initial mediocre assessment of it hasn't changed all that much.  It was all great fun, way back when, but that's life... and like the man, Mark E. Smith himself, once said:

" just bounces so don't you get worried at all;
And life just bounces so don't you get worried at all."

No worries indeed.

And to alleviate your worries - yes, I AM offering up this album for your listening pleasure! 

Here's The Fall's Cerebral Caustic, Castle Music's 2006 expanded edition of the 1995 release originally put out on Permanent Records on February 27th, 1995.  The first disc contains the original album lineup; the second disc includes a four-track Peel Sessions recording from December 17th, 1994 (hence the prevalence of all the Christmas songs; however, the Peel Sessions version of "Numb At The Lodge" crushes the album version ("Feeling Numb"), IMHO...), ten early mixes/rough tracks from the album (which prove that the rumors regarding Dave Bush's contributions being wiped were unfounded), and a couple of promo items, including a brief interview with Mark and Brix.  Enjoy, and as always, let me know what you think.

Please use the email link below to contact me, and I will reply with the download link(s) ASAP:

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