Tuesday, November 24, 2015

S.F. Seals - Baseball Trilogy EP

Years ago in this blog, I wrote effusively of my affection for the work of Barbara Manning. A longtime indie music stalwart out of San Francisco, Manning has sadly had little mainstream success in her career. But in indie circles around the world, her name is considered sacred. For more than thirty years, pretty much everything she has been involved in as a solo artist or band member has been nothing more than gold.   And this little EP is no exception; it's a weird and wonderful gem of a release.

Apparently, Barbara Manning has always had a thing for baseball. Note the cover of her first major solo compilation, 1991's One Perfect Green Blanket (a poetic euphemism for a ballfield).  This album includes a sample from the broadcast of the National League San Francisco Giants' 1989 Western Division victory (the same year they were swept by their cross-bay rivals the Oakland As in the infamous "Earthquake Series").   And after working as a solo artist in the early 1990s, her first post-World of Pooh band was named The S.F. Seals, after the famous minor-league team that represented San Francisco in the Pacific Coast League for more than fifty years. So it was only a matter of time, apparently, before Ms. Manning addressed her love for baseball in song.

Barbara's selections for inclusion on this disc are varied and eclectic. The lead song, "Joltin' Joe DiMaggio", was originally released in 1941 by Les Brown & His Band of Renown (fronted by singer Betty Bonney), just after DiMaggio's famous 56-game hitting streak with the New York Yankees ended (prior to joining the Yankees, DiMaggio played for the Seals). Manning and her band faithfully recreate the jazzy, big-band sound of the original recording. It's a fun, funny record for indie alt-rockers to perform, yet they pull it off brilliantly.

For the stomp-rocker "The Ballad of Denny McLain", Barbara cedes vocal duties to bandmate Lincoln Allen. This song is another cover, originally recorded by the legendary and eccentric Bay Area band Mad V. Dog & the Merchants of the New Bizarre. It documents the story of the infamous Detroit
pitcher, the last Major League pitcher to win 30 games in a season (in 1968), but who got involved with organized crime figures and ended up serving several long stints in prison in the '80s and '90s for various serious charges (his first conviction was for cocaine trafficking, embezzlement and racketeering; his co-defendants were Anthony Spilotro (Joe Pesci's character in Casino was based on him) and later John Gotti, Jr.).

The final (and in my opinion, the best) song on the EP, the fuzzed-out psychedelic guitar workout "Dock Ellis", celebrates the Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher who allegedly threw a complete no-hit game on June 12th, 1970 while tripping on a massive dose of LSD.

Soon after finally acquiring World of Pooh's The Land of Thirst in 2000, I went on a big Barbara Manning buying spree, tracking down everything of hers that I could find: much of her solo work, the rest of her World of Pooh stuff, and her collaborations with 28th Day, The Original Artists, The Go-Luckys! and The S.F. Seals - including this disc. I'm glad I did; this is a superb addition to her canon. Check it out and see for yourself.

Here's The S.F. Seals' Baseball Trilogy EP, released by Matador Records on November 1st, 1993. 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:

Send Email

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Various Artists - Virgin Megastore Anatomy of Music: Volume One

A CD music sampler given away for free (with purchase) at participating Virgin Megastores worldwide in 1997. I recall
getting mine when I purchased Bjork's Homogenic in the store at Grapevine Mills Mall in Texas that fall. They just sort of handed it to me at the register; I was happy to receive it (free is always good), but there was nothing on the recording particularly cutting-edge or out of the ordinary.

You can determine that for yourself - here's the track list:
1. One Way Or Another - Blondie
2. Crowded House - Something So Strong
3. We're An American Band - Grand Funk Railroad
4. It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over - Lenny Kravitz
5. Fly Like An Eagle - Steve Miller
6. Thing Called Love - Bonnie Raitt
7. Rock This Town - Stray Cats
8. I'm Still In Love With You - Al Green
9. Hungry Like The Wolf - Duran Duran
10. Locomotive Breath - Jethro Tull
11. What's Love Got To Do With It? - Tina Turner
12. American Pie - Don McLean
13. Behind The Wall Of Sleep - The Smithereens
14. Higher Ground - The Red Hot Chili Peppers
15. The Weight - The Band
I believe that Virgin's goal on this disc was to break down music into its major parts and groups - rock, New Wave, easy listening, R&B, etc. - then provide representative examples of what they considered the best in each type of genre, in order to inculcate listeners who might not have as much familiarity with these different sounds (and hopefully generate more sales in their stores). Fair enough . . . On this thing, Virgin went out of their way to provide something for everyone, in the most inoffensive way possible; there's nothing on here that's going to generate controversy or set your hair on fire. I assume that Virgin planned on making these Anatomy of Music compilation freebies an ongoing thing at their stores, but they only put out one
more of them (Volume 2: Love Songs) before discontinuing the series in 1998.

The reason I'm posting this recording is as follows: I was looking through my CD racks this evening and came across this old disc. On a whim, I looked it up on Google, and found that this old giveaway - filled with conventional hits easily acquired from other sources - was being sold on Amazon for $50! I'm sorry, but that sort of blatant money-grubbing pisses me off.

So in order to head off the gougers (and the people seriously considering forking over big money for a CD like this), I offer to you for your enjoyment Virgin Megastore Anatomy of Music: Volume One, put out by Virgin Entertainment Group in late 1997. Enjoy this soothing musical pablum 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:

Send Email

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Beatles - Please Please Me (Purple Chick) (2-disc set)

R.I.P. to British musician Andrew White, who died on Monday, November 9th at the age of 85. Beatles aficionados know of Andy White as one of many "Fifth Beatles", although his claim to that title is more secure than other would-be pretenders: he was the session drummer who infamously was called in to replace Ringo Starr on the kit during the recording of The Beatles' first single, "Love Me Do".

White began drumming literally before most of The Beatles were even born, and by the mid-1940s, before George Harrison had started primary school, he was working as a professional session drummer. In the late 1950s, he formed a big-band outfit that was good enough to take across the Atlantic; his group toured the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S., sharing bills with early American rockers like Bill Haley and Chuck Berry. Quickly seeing where the future lay, White abandoned his big band shortly
thereafter, and more and more began working with members of the nascent British rock scene. In 1960, he served as drummer for Billy Fury on his debut album, The Sound of Fury, credited as the first authentic English rock 'n' roll album. By the early '60s, White knew both his craft and his way around the rock genre.

The Beatles, recently signed by Parlophone, went into EMI Studios in London in early September, 1962 to record sides for their debut single, scheduled for release later that fall. The band had prepared six songs for eventual selection as A/B sides, including "Love Me Do", "Please Please Me", and a lightweight Adam Faith-penned song called "How Do You Do It?" (a hit the following year for Gerry & The Pacemakers). At that point, the band's producer George Martin had little confidence is his new charges' songwriting abilities, and for that reason was pushing for "How Do You Do It?" as the debut A-side. But Martin began showing interest in "Love Me Do", mainly due to the wailing harmonica played by John Lennon, a sound that had featured on several British hits that year, including Bruce Channel's "Hey Baby" and Frank Ifield's "I Remember You". After recording both songs, and after much deliberation, the decision was made on September 4th for "Love Me Do" to be the lead single.

However, Martin was dissatisfied with Starr's drumming on the September 4th recording, considering it to be not as "tight" as he would prefer. A rerecording session was scheduled for a week later; Martin was going to be absent from the studio, so assistant producer Ron Richards was placed in charge of the session for that day. The weekend prior to the session, acting on Martin's orders, Richards quietly contacted Andy White and requested that he attend the upcoming Beatles session (George Martin had used White as a session musician several previous times in the early 1960s, and was thoroughly familiar with his style and professionalism).

So Ringo and the band were taken by surprise when, on September 11th, they arrived at EMI to find White behind the drum kit. But Starr took it like a man; as Richards recalled later: "He just sat there quietly in the control box next to me . . . Ringo is lovely—always easy going" [Richards' memory was in error - during the recording, Ringo was out on the floor with the band, but was relegated to playing the tambourine].

Though he appeared to hide it well, needless to say Ringo WAS disappointed, recalling later:
"On my first visit in September we just ran through some tracks for George Martin. We even did "Please Please Me". I remember that, because while we were recording it I was playing the bass drum with a maraca in one hand and a tambourine in the other. I think it's because of that that George Martin used Andy White, the 'professional', when we went down a week later to record "Love Me Do". The guy was previously booked, anyway, because of Pete Best [the band, with Best on drums, had recorded a version of the song during their EMI Artist Test session earlier that year in June that Martin was also dissatisfied with]. George didn't want to take any more chances and I was caught in the middle. I was devastated that George Martin had his doubts about me. I came down ready to roll and heard, 'We've got a professional drummer.' He has apologised several times since, has old George, but it was devastating — I hated the bugger for years; I still don't let him off the hook!"
With the Andy White version of "Love Me Do" in the can, work then immediately commenced on the B-side, "P.S. I Love You". White also drummed on that, with Ringo again playing a backup role, shaking maracas in the background.

The version of "Love Me Do" with Starr on drums was used on the early British pressings of the single, released on October 5th, 1962. But the version with White on drums was used on the first American pressings of the single (released on April 27th, 1964), all later releases of the single, and on the Beatles' debut British album, Please Please Me, in 1963.
Most of The Beatles' subsequent albums that included the song used the White version (a simple way to distinguish between the two is that White's version features Starr on tambourine; there is no tambourine on Starr's version).

For his labors at the studio that day, Andy White received a grand total of 10 pounds as payment, plus an extra 50 pence for bringing his drum kit. He received no royalties from, nor credit on, the recording. It was the first and last time White ever worked with the band, but it was enough to get him in the history books as the first "fifth Beatle" whose contributions made it onto an official recording during the band's active life.

White remained a session drummer for the remainder of his career, playing with the likes of Herman's Hermits and Anthony Newley. He did participate on other hit records, most notably drumming on Tom Jones' 1965 smash "It's Not Unusual". He ended up on the cabaret and backing band circuit until his retirement in 1975. In the late 1980s he moved to the U.S.; he married and settled in New Jersey, where he lived until his death, teaching music and working for regional pipe band associations.

In commemoration of Andy White's life and the small but important contribution he made to the early Beatles' sound and subsequent legend, I proudly offer Please Please Me (Deluxe Version), compiled by the good people at Purple Chick in 2006. This two-disc set includes mono and stereo versions of songs on the album, along with various takes of selected tunes. As an added bonus, I've included both the Ringo version of "Love Me Do" and the Pete Best version as well. The latter went missing for years and was assumed lost, but was tracked down in the EMI archives and included in the 1995 Anthology 1 set. See if you can spot the differences in each of the three versions!

Enjoy, and as always, let me know what you think. And on behalf of the band (including Ringo) and Beatles fans the world over, let me say thank you once again, Mr. White.

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

Send Email

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Fall - Masquerade (Single) (Discs 1 & 2)

Most of the stuff on these discs was recorded during the tension-fraught Levitate sessions in mid-1997, studio time filled with financial pressures, band member walkouts (Simon Wolstoncroft) and reentries (Karl Burns), unpaid producers quitting in disgust, and creation of semi-coherent, structureless songs, most of which for some reason vocalist and group leader Mark E. Smith refused to sing (Smith later admitted that, at the time, he was "drinking heavily", "paranoid" and "losing it"). Somehow out of all of this confusion and turmoil (a portion of which I alluded to here), an album was produced, but neither the methods to create it nor the final product were particularly inspiring or pretty.

Levitate was the last in a series of weak and generally unmemorable 1990s Fall albums issued in the wake of 1993's The Infotainment Scan, considered at the time of its release the band's most accessible and commercially successful album (debuting at #9 on the British album charts). As I wrote in an earlier piece I did regarding The Fall during this era:
The 1990s were an iffy period for The Fall, in my opinion. Brix had left Mark E. Smith and the band, and her presence and ear for pop-friendly hooks was sorely missed. Her absence did serve as the inspiration for one of the best Fall albums of that era, 1990's Extricate . . . From there, the albums began a gradual decade-long slide into mediocrity. There were some high spots here and there: Code: Selfish and The Infotainment Scan had many high moments. But other releases like Middle Class Revolt and Cerebral Caustic seemed to lack the imagination and fire of some of the band's best material from the 1980s. And, of course, the infamous onstage punchup in New York in 1998 that led to the departure of longstanding Fall stalwarts like Steve Hanley didn't help either. The Fall really didn't start to get its shit back together until 1999's The Marshall Suite.
At the time of its release in September 1997, Levitate was The Fall's worst performing album since 1979's Dragnet (which did not chart), only making it as high as #117 on the British charts. The tragedy of all this is that even with all of the craziness going on during the recording sessions, there were some great songs produced during that period, that for some ungodly, unknown reason were not included on the album itself.   Instead, these songs were bundled with various versions of album cuts onto a couple of CD singles released in early 1998, shortly after Levitate dropped.

Masquerade (Disc 1) contains the following track listing:
1. Masquerade (Single Mix)
2. Ivanhoes Two Pence
3. Spencer Must Die (Live)
4. Ten Houses Of Eve (Remix)
Songs 1, 3 and 4 are versions of songs included on the album. The only "new" song here is "Ivanhoe's Two Pence", a shambling, chugging workout of a song set on a strong rhythmic foundation - no wonder, since longtime Fall bassist Steve Hanley co-wrote it (his 100th (and as it turned out, last) songwriting credit with the band). Despite the rudimentary, almost slapdash nature of the song, it's still better than much of what ended up on Levitate.

Disc 1 is OK, but for my money, the real gold of the Levitate sessions is contained in Masquerade (Disc 2). Here's the track listing:
1. Masquerade (Single Mix)
2. Calendar
3. Scareball
4. Ol' Gang (Live)
The first and last tunes here are album track versions. But the second and third songs, "Calendar" and "Scareball", are some of the great "lost" Fall tracks, and probably my favorite Fall songs of the past twenty years.

The circumstances behind the recording of "Calendar" are weird and interesting, as all good Fall stories are: In the early winter of 1997, shortly after Levitate was released, Mark E. Smith went out on the town in Manchester and tied one on. Stumbling out of the Night & Day pub late that evening, Smith jumped into what he assumed was a cab and ordered the driver to take him home. However, it was no cab; it was the private car of a local musician named Damon Gough — aka Badly Drawn Boy — who just happened to be idling outside the pub at the time. Gough was still relatively unknown at the time; his first EP had been released only three months earlier, and he was still two years removed from worldwide acclaim with his album The Hour Of Bewilderbeast. Gough agreed to drive Smith home, but only after getting Smith to commit that the Fall record one of Gough's songs, the instrumental "Tumbleweed", which was reworked by the two in the studio later that month into "Calendar". Badly Drawn Boy even guests on guitar, resulting in an interesting collaboration between two of Britain's leading independent musicians. Just a great song:

As for "Scareball", this song was written by keyboardist (and Smith's then-girlfriend) Julia Nagle; it was based on a demo that Nagle recorded with her previous group, the Manchester-based What? Noise the year before. The tune is essentially a point-counterpoint duet between Smith and Nagle, with some excellent guitar work and a catchy little keyboard riff thrown in for good measure:

I found these discs for sale at the old Virgin Megastore at Grapevine Mills Mall in Texas in early 1998. I noticed the similarities in the design of the singles covers to that of the parent album, which I had purchased a couple of months prior and, frankly, didn't particularly like. But as a longtime Fall fan, I was damned if I was going to leave any band product up on the shelf, unpurchased. I'm glad I did - I find the music on these two EPs superior to the majority of what could be found on Levitate. Apparently, others did as well - the Masquerade singles charted in England significantly higher than The Fall's previous album release. Now, I am not by any means claiming that the addition of these songs to Levitate would have made the album that much more acclaimed or successful. It just seems to me that the disc could have used a bit more of the innovative spirit and "pep" inherent in these sidelined works.

It would be nice to claim that the songs off of these EPs were precursors for The Fall's future success, and pointed the way towards the band's critical and creative reemergence in the late 1990s (sparked by the release of The Marshall Suite) - but that claim just doesn't hold up under scrutiny. After the disastrous 1998 American tour, punctuated by the Brownies on-stage altercation that led to the departure of longtime Fall members Hanley and Karl Burns, Smith was forced to reconstitute the band with all new members, which necessitated a return to basics - specifically to the more simplistic rockabilly-influenced sound of earlier group lineups. The new band members brought a new level of spirit and energy to The Fall's music, similar to what the best of the Masquerade songs offered, but it wasn't as if they were in any way influenced by or building upon that sound.

It's still an open question as to which direction The Fall would have moved in if the pre-1998 members had stayed in the band - whether they would have followed the Masquerade singles trend, or just continued to simply crank out uninspired, half-assed albums like Cerebral Caustic and Levitate. Who knows? All I can say is that, in many ways, the New York bustup was a blessing in disguise, and may have saved the band.

But enough of all that. Here you go - The Fall's two Masquerade EPs, released by Artful Records in January 1998. These discs are fairly hard to come by now - Artful went belly-up more than a decade ago, and all of their releases are currently out of print. So 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:

Send Email

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Various Artists - Dr. Demento's Demented Halloween (28 October 1984)

Howdy, all.

I hope you'll pardon me, but I've been slack as hell regarding posting new offerings to this blog. I know I've started at least a dozen over the past few months, but for reasons including inattention and lack of free time, I just haven't had the wherewithal to finish them up. I DO feel bad about it, and I'm endeavoring to make an effort to complete and backdate many of these prospective posts before the year is out. I greatly appreciate the continued visits and requests from you all. Suffice to say that this blog is still up and running, and music links are still being forwarded to all who request them. I just need to get myself up and running again.

With that, here's an offering for this Halloween; a recording of Dr. Demento's Halloween show from October 1984. I used to listen to Dr. Demento every Sunday night when I was in school in Annapolis; it was part of WHFS's regular weekly lineup, and you could always expect to hear something weird and wonderful on it (apparently, the Doctor and his show are still going strong - however, I know I haven't heard it in at almost 30 years). This particular show was no exception; here's the song/track lineup:
Trick Or Treat - Elvira
Haunted House Of Rock (a cappella version) - Whodini
Goblin Girl - Frank Zappa

Let's Twist Again (Mummy Time Is Here) - Zacherle
The Addams Family Theme (excerpt) - Vic Mizzy
Whatever Happened To Eddie? - Butch Patrick (Eddie & The Monsters)
Mr. Ghost Goes To Town - Jon Schwartz & Group
Halloween Spooks - Lambert, Hendricks & Ross
Main Title From Night Of The Living Dead (excerpt)
Dead - The Poets

Werewolves Of London - Warren Zevon
The Vegas Vampire - Jim Parker/Bruce Popka
Human Fly - The Cramps
The Spider And The Fly - Bobby Christian & The Allen Sisters

It's Halloween - The Shaggs
Casper The Friendly Ghost - The Peter Pan Players
Haunted House - Jumpin' Gene Simmons
The Headless Horseman - Kay Kyser
With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm - Caryl P. Weiss

Spook Opera - The Hawaiian Pups
Skeleton In The Closet - Louis Armstrong
The Lurch - Ted Cassidy as Lurch
The Laughing Gnome - David Bowie

I Only Have Eyes For You - Spike Jones & The Band That Plays For Fun
I Want To Bite Your Hand - Gene Moss
Harry, The Toothless Vampire (short version) - SuLu
Please Mr. Gravedigger - David Bowie

Cemetery Girls - Barnes & Barnes
#5 The Blob - The Five Blobs

#4 Vampire Beavers - Joe Hall & The Continental Drift
EXTRA: Dracula soundtrack (excerpt) - Bela Lugosi & Dwight Frye [misannounced as Boris Karloff]
#3 Dinner With Drac - Zacherle
#2 My Old Flame - Spike Jones & His City Slickers

#1 Monster Mash - Bobby (Boris) Pickett & The Crypt-Kickers
Up until a couple of days ago, I completely forgot that I had this in my collection. I think I found it years ago, and just filed it away. In any case, it's the perfect scary, silly, spooky, fun soundtrack for your festivities tonight!

So for your listening pleasure, here's Dr. Demento's Demented Halloween, syndicated show #84-44 aired Sunday, October 29th, 1984. Enjoy, and as always, let me know what you think. Happy Halloween!

(And more to come, hopefully sooner than later . . .)

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

Send Email

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The B-52's - Debbie 12"

Found this one over the summer at a hole-in-the-wall vinyl record store in Mystic, Connecticut, situated in a side alley
midway between the town's river drawbridge and the original Mystic Pizza location, namesake of the famous Julia Roberts movie. I was in town for the afternoon, taking in a few of the scanty sights and browsing the tourist trap shops along Main Street, when I recalled the existence of this record store, Mystic Disc, from a previous visit many moons ago.

Mystic Disc is exactly what you would expect in a classic, longstanding record store - a ramshackle space about the size of
a living room in a building that has seen better days, with old-fashioned wooden album racks taking up every possible square foot of floor space conceivable to display the voluminous wares but still allow the minimum amount of free space required for customers to actually move around, and the walls jammed to the ceiling with album covers, concert posters, t-shirts, photos, and other music paraphernalia. The air in the shop is close and semi-humid, with a low, latent scent of dust, the nearby river, armpit sweat from the hippie-fied proprietor, and that 'old record' smell - a staple of old stores like this.

Now, while that description of Mystic Disc may sound a little condescending and depressing, that was not my intention in the least. I LOVE old records stores like this, and whenever I come across one, wild horses can't drag me away until I've had a thorough look through what these places have to offer. I'm always hopeful in my searches through these stores that somehow, someway, that rare overlooked gem that I'd been searching for for years will magically appear and justify the hour or so I spent churning through crusty old Olivia Newton-John and obscure early '70s prog-rock albums. Of course, that very rarely happens . . . but I'm an optimist, and therefore hope always springs eternal.

I wasn't exactly looking for B-52's music that day, but I came across this disc anyway during my peregrinations. "Debbie" was one of two new songs the band recorded for the release of
their 1998 single-disc compilation Time Capsule: Songs For A Future Generation (the other one being "Hallucinating Pluto"). Being a big Bee-Fives fan, I of course bought the comp when it came out all those years ago, but to be honest neither of the two new songs did all that much for me. In my opinion, the sound of both of those songs veered dangerously close to the overall sound of their 1992 album Good Stuff, a disc I've reviled for years (as I've mentioned before in detail). However, of the two, I guess that if I had to choose, I would have to favor "Debbie" over the other one. Here's the video:
[In addition, I consider Time Capsule to be a flawed compilation. Again, it's only a single disc, with fully half of it weighted towards the later-period B-52s songs off of Cosmic Thing and Good Stuff. In doing that, they leave off some some group classics, like "Give Me Back My Man", "Dance This Mess Around" and "Devil In My Car". I 
think that even the band themselves realized what a half-assed job Time Capsule did in summarizing their legacy; it was less than four years later that the vastly superior (in my mind) double-disc Nude On The Moon anthology was released. Anyway, I digress . . . let me continue:]
The factor that tipped me towards purchasing this EP that day was the price; Mystic Disc was practically giving it away. Here's the song lineup:
1. Debbie (Edge Factor Club Mix)
2. Debbie (Edge Factor Instrumental)
3. Debbie (Tea Dance Dub)
4. Debbie (Album Version)
There's nothing particularly essential here in these remixes for B-52's fans; this offering is basically for completists (like me) who want every note, burp and gurgle associated with one of their favorite groups.

So here you are: The B-52's Debbie 12", a promo copy of dance remixes released in the wake of the band's 1998 compilation album, burnt off of glorious vinyl. 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:

Send Email

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Last Hard Men - The Last Hard Men

I heard about this band in early 1997, as I was finishing up my final year of grad school in Virginia. The movie Scream (directed by the great and recently departed Wes Craven - God rest his soul) had come out just before Christmas 1996, and was doing boffo box office across the country. I personally didn't go to see it; slasher films of that ilk were not and still are not quite my bag. But the presence of the film (which went on to gross more than $170 million worldwide and spawned three sequels) was everywhere during the winter of 1996-97, including the airwaves. The movie soundtrack album, featuring alternative and post-punk tunes by the likes of Moby, Nick Cave and Julee Cruise, had been released the week after the film opened, and while the album itself didn't chart, a number of the songs featured on it received some fairly significant airplay.

In the movie (semi-spoiler alert), after a number of teenagers are murdered, school is suspended while the authorities hunt for the killer or killers. Students gleefully leave the now-closed high school while Alice Cooper's classic "School's Out" plays as background music. For a song so prominently featured in the film, you would expect that it would be on the official soundtrack album, right? Wrong . . . instead, the original was replaced by a cover version done by The Last Hard Men, a short-lived alt-rock "supergroup" of sorts, instigated by former and current Breeders guitarist Kelley Deal.

According to Deal, the genesis of this band came from an article regarding hair metal bands she read in an issue of Spin magazine in early 1996. The article's low regard for and generally condescending, dismissive tone for this genre of music apparently pissed Kelley off:
". . . here they were making fun of these bands, but what were the interviewers wearing? Grunge flannel? Baggy pants? I was bothered that Spin made fun of style because everything is style, and it was done in a really mean way . . . It just didn't seem fair."
In response and reaction to Spin's article, Deal made an effort to seek out vocalist Sebastian Bach, who had just parted ways with his longtime band Skid Row; she considered him one of the best hair metal band singers out there. The two finally connected in New York City in the summer of 1996, backstage at a Kelley Deal 6000 gig, and made plans to record together later that fall.

The original idea was for Deal to recruit one additional alt-rock member for their one-off recording, and for Bach to get one of his metal friends to join in. For a while, there was talk that Motley Crue's Tommy Lee would be that member, but those plans fell through, and in the end Deal gathered the remaining group members from the alternative spectrum, namely Frogs guitarist Jimmy Flemion and former Smashing Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin (Chamberlin had been fired from the Pumpkins the year before, due to his involvement with the heroin-related death of keyboardist Jonathan Melvion in New York while the band was on tour; ironically, The Smashing Pumpkins finished the tour with new hires, Matt Walker on drums - and Jimmy Flemion's older brother Dennis on keyboards . . . so I'm sure the two Jimmys had much to talk about during their time together . . . )

Word of the formation, which had yet to be named, got out to certain quarters, and the producers of Scream quickly requested a song contribution from the group for the soundtrack. The four got together in a Minnesota studio in the fall of 1996, just to record their version of "School's Out". But the song and the session went so well that Deal extended the studio time, and in four days the group (now dubbed The Last Hard Men) hammered out an additional dozen or so songs.

And that was that; the members of The Last Hard Men immediately went their separate ways. Sebastian Bach started a solo world tour a month of so after the Minnesota sessions and took Jimmy Flemion along; a couple of Last Hard Men cuts were added to his set list. Deal went back on tour as well with her band, but the momentum behind The Kelley Deal 6000 was petering out, and it was only months later that the group went on permanent hiatus. Chamberlain reconciled with Smashing Pumpkins founder and front man Billy Corgan and was reinstated in the band in the fall of 1998. He continued his association with Corgan (in both the Pumpkins and Zwan) for the next decade.

As for the recordings, Kelley Deal began shopping the tapes around to various labels, but found little interest. Atlantic Records made mouth noises about a possible release at the end of 1997, but in the end they declined their option. Finally in 1998, Deal scraped together enough funds to press about a thousand copies of the album, and quietly released it under her own Nice Records label. Due to its limited availability, it was an extremely hard-to-find disc. But in 2001, a small independent producer out of Long Island negotiated to give the album a more widespread release under its own label.

I purchased this disc during a visit I made to DC in 2002, at Olsson's Books & Records' Georgetown store, shortly before that location permanently closed its doors (the remaining branches of this beloved and venerable independent bookstore chain shut down in 2008, a tremendous loss to Washington's cultural and retail presence). When I went into Olsson's at that time, I wasn't actually looking for this album; back then, you could count on the bookstore having unusual/hard-to-find music buried in its stacks, and I whenever I visited the store, I always took the time to thoroughly browse through their CD racks. As I mentioned above, I'd heard of this project years earlier, so when I came across the disc, I just had to pick it up.

To me, this is sort of a weird record. Musically, it's all over the map - some songs, like "Sleep", are straight out of the hair metal playbook; others sound like cuts left off of Kelley Deal 6000 albums ("The Last Hard Men"). There's acoustic pop ("When The Longing Goes Away"), punk ("Spider Love"), and alternative tunes ("Candy Comes") interspersed between band member interviews - there's even a cover of "I Enjoy Being A Girl" from Rodgers & Hammerstein's 1958 musical Flower Drum Song! I can't say that this disc holds together as a coherent album. But there are pieces and parts of it that are interesting and superb, which is I guess the best that you can hope for from a one-off band. I can't say that I highly recommend it . . . but I recommend you give it a listen nonetheless.

So here you are to hear for yourself - The Last Hard Men, the only release by the group of the same name, put out by Spitfire Records fourteen years ago today, on September 4th, 2001. Run it past 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:

Send Email