Thursday, November 29, 2007
Because my main job pays me only twice a month, I have taken a number of other jobs to keep the checks rolling in. I'm writing for Viewpoints.com, which has been great fun, even if it has kept the number of BLOG! posts down of late. I start my teaching job at the local broadcasting school next week, instructing my students how to edit digital audio and in basic DJ skills. I'm also doing a couple of nights on Friday Night Lights this week as a make-believe journalist covering a pretend football game. It's chump change, but having caught up with the show's first season on DVD, I'm now a huge fan, so I've got to do it.
Even if it means getting even less sleep than usual, which is more than my wife gets, but never enough to actually refresh me for the following day's labor.
And then there's my weekend job as a product demonstrator for Blue Buffalo holistic dog food, which entails setting up a table at local PetSmart stores and extolling the virtues of feeding your pet something that doesn't contain roadkill. It's only four hours per shift, but this Sunday, it will conflict directly with my desire to kick back with a cold one and watch the Jaguars-Colts game on TV. Of course, the local CBS affiliate is likely to air the meaningless Texans-Titans game, because they still can't get enough of Vince Young, who led the Longhorns to the national title a few seasons back, and is thus a god among men in these parts.
I've got to cut thus short, as I'm late for work and I need to get my coffee on.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Top Ten Classic Horror Movies - jmdobies says "The Greatest Horror Flicks of the '30s, '40s, and '50s..."
Top Ten Horror Movies of the '70s - jmdobies says "A Bumper Crop of '70s Horror Flicks"
THE AMAZING TRANSPARENT MAN - jmdobies says "Not All That Amazing"
THE ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES - jmdobies says "A steamy and depraved low-budget swamp sleaze classic..."
BELA LUGOSI MEETS A BROOKLYN GORILLA... - jmdobies says "The real Bela Lugosi, but not the real Martin & Lewis..."
BILLY THE KID VS. DRACULA - jmdobies says "Mind-boggling Horror-Western..."
THE BLACK CAT - jmdobies says "Supernatural? Perhaps. Baloney?..."
THE BODY SNATCHER - jmdobies says "Karloff multi-tasks as graverobber, blackmailer, and murderer..."
BRIDE OF THE MONSTER - jmdobies says "Ed Wood's Greatest Achievement..."
CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA - jmdobies says "Horror-Comedy Parodies Monster Movies and Cuban Revolution...
DRACULA 1931 - jmdobies says "The first great talking vampire movie..."
FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN - jmdobies says "Two of Moviedom's Most Monstrous Monsters..."
GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN - jmdobies says "One of my all-time favorite Frankensteins..."
HORROR OF DRACULA - jmdobies says "Christopher Lee is the ultimate..."
THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH - jmdobies says "So Bad It's Brilliant - Let's
HOUSE OF DRACULA - jmdobies says "Monstrous Free-For-All at Drac's..."
HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN - jmdobies says "Entertaining Monster Mash-up....."
THE INVISIBLE MAN - jmdobies says "Horror! Suspense! Invisibility..."
SON OF FRANKENSTEIN - jmdobies says "The Original 'Young Frankenstein..."
THE SCREAMING SKULL - jmdobies says "It Will Make Your Skull Scream"
SPIDER BABY 1964 - jmdobies says "An Oddball Masterpiece of Anerican Independent Cinema..."
THE WEREWOLF OF WASHINGTON - jmdobies says "Moonlight Becomes Dean Stockwell's Afro..."
WHITE ZOMBIE - jmdobies says "Bela Lugosi is the screen's ultimate zombie master..."
THE WOLF MAN - jmdobies says "The Gold Standard for Werewolf Movies..."
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
I realize these records were limited editions, and scarce as hen's teeth and all that, but if any of you loyal readers out there have copies, please email scans or transcriptions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I promise I will give attribution when the Chunk Story gets published in MOJO!
Here's a little homage to my sisters Nancy, Meg, and Beth, and the sounds that helped shape my aesthetic. The child is the father to the man and all that. Just like that album by Blood, Sweat, & Tears.
Mugs and Nancy's 45s, and later on, their LPs, were the soundtrack of our lives. So when one of my sisters got into "Hot Fun in the Summertime," we all dug it. Especially out at Lake Ozonia in the halcyon days circa Summer '69 - '73.
, God bless 'em both, and Cracklin' Rosie get on board). We also listened to a lot of CFRA 58 Ottawa and a little CJSS out of Cornwall.
I asked my sisters to share their musical memories, and my sister Beth was able to dredge up a few:
's . This is my chapter (and verse) of my sisters' incredible influence on me as artist and human being.
..." Prophetic words from ol' Graham Nash. Honorable mention here for Graham's brilliant "Dear Eloise" from his Hollies heyday. I can still picture in my mind the bold yellow of the Epic label on the 45.
cast recording of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR. Thanks, older sisters. The double-album was a scandal in the Catholic schools and parishes. Was it good or evil that somebody was breaking down the Gospel according to John into easily digestible pop songs?
," in the episode where the Penguin runs for mayor of Gotham City. By the way, "Action" host Steve Alaimo is now a staple of my Florida Rocks Again! shows.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Although he damns Hotel Massachusetts with faint praise, he also provides links to a couple of its tracks, by Zeke Fiddler and Mark Schwaber's old band Home, and to Amazon.com, where you can get the CD used for as little as $1.84.
And worth every penny I tells ya...
The Chunk 45s, however, are harder to come by, and not nearly as cheap.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Living rent-free allowed me to accrue enough capital to start a small business. While I could have started any number of potentially profitable and socially responsible business ventures, I chose to bring Chunk Records back from the grave. Inspired by the rise of Nirvana and the example of Sebadoh's "Gimme Indie Rock" 7-inch, I reinvented Chunk as a purveyor of limited edition 45s. At the time, labels like Sympathy for the Record Industry were doing great things with the format, which at one time had been the dominant medium, until it was surpassed by the LP, and later the CD. I wanted to emulate the Sub Pop Singles Club, but I knew I didn't have enough loot to put out a record every month. I decided to start small, and I had just the right song to relaunch the label.
CH451: THE CHEETAHS:
A Message to Santa Claus/That's Your Problem
After the break-up of the Malarians, I made a point of not starting another band, reasoning that the rock 'n roll lifestyle was just so much wanking into the wind. However, one of the dudes on my baseball team, Ezra Gale, played guitar, as did my roommate, Chris Soucy, and we threw together a band to play at a fundraiser for the team. We called it the Mal Thursday Experience. Having gotten another taste of the joy of kicking out the jams on stage, I was hooked, and decided to turn up the knobs to 11.
Ex-Malarian John Lebhar had started a band called Farmhouse, which was sort of an uneven blend of R.E.M. and CSNY. Although I didn't care much for the music they made (I tended to dislike all of my ex-bandmates' new projects), I did admire their live version of the James Gang's "Stop" and especially their rhythm section, which I stole to transform the Mal Thursday Experience into the rock powerhouse that would become the Cheetahs. Bassist Brent Nielsen was a jazz player, but was capable of John Entwistle-type lead runs, while drummer Nelson Bragg, who now plays with Brian Wilson's backing band the Wondermints, was not only a great drummer, but also sang like an angel.
We worked up a killer set, many of the tunes ("Try It My Way," "Spundalina," "It's All Going By Too Fast," etc.) coming from a rock opera I was writing with Chris, loosely based on my old friend and bandmate Kent Garver's losing battle with heroin addiction. We went into Slaughterhouse Recording in the Summer of '92 to lay down our best stuff. Among the resulting 11 tracks was a profane rewrite of the Malarians' "Get Outta Dallas" called "A Message to Santa Claus":
Fuck you, Santa Claus / You never done nothing for me / Said there weren't no toys / When I looked under my Christmas Tree / Fuck off, Fatso You whacked-out, sad, sick clown / Get outta Brooklyn / Turn them reindeer around!
In October, Chunk released "A Message to Santa Claus" with a naked Bettie Page on the cover and a cover of the Outsiders' "That's Your Problem" on the B-side, in a limited edition of 300 copies on festive red vinyl. It quickly sold out, and Chunk Records was back on the map.
CH452: THE VERONICA CARTWRIGHTS:
Hey Girl/Mirror Mirror/Everything I Own
One of the crucial elements in Chunk's rebirth was my role as the master of ceremonies and booking agent at the Bay State Hotel in Northampton, which had started with an arts grant I had received to create a live performance series called the Bay State Cabaret, originally intended to be a mix of bands from various genres, spoken word artists, comedians, etc.
The first show, in early '92, demonstrated that the format needed to be tweaked: the female comedian wasn't funny, the spoken word guy was a waste of time and space, and the crowd was anything but. A crowd, that is. By November, I had refined the formula to feature nothing but music, with a show headlined by the Lyres and the Cheetahs that was a rousing success. Another show, in January of '93, headlined by Sebadoh, was packed to the rafters, and the following Monday, I got hired to put on regular gigs at $400 a week, plus a cut of the door. I started getting a lot of demo tapes, and began to put together the next volley of Chunk releases. I had already decided to put out singles by New Radiant Storm King, whose first CD My Little Bastard Soul impressed me mightily (they were also students at my alma mater, Hampshire College), and Angry Johnny, a local artist and profilic songwriter of psycho-billy death ballads and gutbucket, shit-kicking country-punk.
One of the demos that impressed me came from a band called the Veronica Cartwrights, named after a '70s character actress who specialized in playing nervous types, and fronted by Californian Jeff Lloyd, featuring some tasty fuzzbox action (I was always a sucker for good fuzz). I took them into the studio (on their dime, of course), and recorded four songs, three of which comprised their debut EP. Lloyd's quavering voice was off-putting to some, and some critics were unkind to the band's version of Bread's "Everything I Own," but I dug it all. Established local bands like Free Press and the Big Bad Bollocks were probably affronted that I ignored them in favor of an unheard-of little band that had only played a handful of shows, but I was trying to forge my own aesthetic, and besides, Free Press sucked. And the Bollocks wouldn't let me take a cut of the door at the Bay State (which was partly how I could afford to make records in the first place), so the hell with them.
CH453: NEW RADIANT STORM KING:
Subway Token (Save My Soul)/Rival Time (Viral Mind)/Lord Is Coming
As I mentioned earlier, New Radiant Storm King was the real deal. Their first full-length was full of good songs and good ideas, and they had two distinct voices in Peyton Pinkerton and Matt Hunter, and the third, their drummer Elizabeth Sharp, was pretty distinctive in her own right. Sharp created the cover art for their 3-song 7-inch, and the top side, written and sung by Pinkerton, "Subway Token (Save My Soul)," stands as the most accessible number in their 15 years as a band. Their friend Zeke Fiddler would later pay homage by stealing the riff for his Chunk single, "Half Inflated."
Storm King would go on to release several more tracks on the Chunk imprint, most notably the split 7-inches with Silver Jews and Guided By Voices.
For more on this fine band, go to furnacerock.com.
CH454: ANGRY JOHNNY:
Henry (with THE KILLBILLIES)
Ring of Fire (with THE CHEETAHS)
Angry Johnny is indeed a prolific artist, both as a painter of gruesome outsider art, and as a songwriter/performer, with literally hundreds of songs to his credit. His lone 45 for Chunk consists of a typically violent tale of love and revenge about an unfortunate young man named Henry, who meets his comeuppance at the hands of the local cops. The B-side was Angry fronting the Cheetahs' arrangement of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire." His vocals are a little undermixed on the record, owing to producer Sean Slade thinking that it was just a bar-band cover-type throwaway, and not destined for release as a single. He also expressed his distaste for Johnny's pig squeals over the rave-up at the end.
Apparently, it was my last chance, as a message on Johnny's MySpace page states that, "On Saturday December 1st 2007 in Provincetown Massachusetts, Angry Johnny and the Killbillies played their final show. Thank you to everyone who has supported the band over the many years."
Oh well. So it goes.
See Section/Racing for Nowhere/Tacks & Nails
Hoolapopper was a short-lived band from Ware, Massachusetts, whose demo caught my ear in late '92, as a nice blend of crunchy, metallic guitar and good ol' "pop smarts." Mind you, this was before bands like Blink 182 forever sullied the term "pop-punk" with their whining wankery. But I digress. I liked Hoolapopper, both as a band, and as good dudes. Tom, Matt, and Garrett were honest joes who could write good songs and rock a room with the best of them.
But like I said, they didn't last long, and soon moved on to other projects. Tom Shea ended up playing drums and mandolin with the Scud Mountain Boys (read all about their skulduggery in Chapter Five, "The Decline and Fall of Chunk Records"), Matt Hebert went on to front Ware River Club and his current band Haunt, while Garrett Fontes had a lengthy run drumming for New Radiant Storm King.
Chapter Three: Salad Days
1993 was what you could call a "watershed year" for Chunk, the Bay State, and the Western Mass music scene in general. The previous year, Billboard had written a story pegging Northampton as "The Next Seattle," prompted by a guy named Dave Blowhair who had a local label called JamaDisc that was the antithesis of what I wanted Chunk to be. Blowhair blew his wad on CDs by the Big Bad Bollocks, Dieselmeat, his own band (the name escapes me) and a spotty compilation of local bands entitled Big Fish in a Little Pond.
I hoped to stay around for the long haul, and build the label at a sane pace. The first step toward establishing the label had been taken. Most of our first wave of 45s had sold well enough to establish Chunk Records as a force to be reckoned with by the major independent distributors (most all of which have since been rendered extinct by the rise of digital downloads). For the time being, I wanted to stick to 7-inches, but ultimately, I hoped to develop artists that would release full-length albums for the label. Then, when they got snapped up by a major label, the buyout money would fund more records for more bands. And when those bands got signed, the buyouts would fund even more records for even more new bands.
Of course, you know what they say about the best-laid plans of mice and men...
One of my favorite bands of all-time is Boston's Lyres, who have churned out an amazingly consistent body of work since their inception in 1979. Formed in the wake of the break-up of Beantown punk legends DMZ, and led by the mad genius of Jeff "Monoman" Conolly, the band has gone through many line-up changes, but thanks to Jeff's obsessive vision (some would call it "tunnel-vision"), they have remained true to their time-worn aesthetic. Inspired by '60s garage bands like the Sonics and the Remains, the Lyres' sound combines Conolly's distinctive voice and Vox organ playing with tremoloed guitar, crash and boom drums, and the fluid bass work of Rick Coraccio.
I approached Conolly about releasing a Lyres 45 on Chunk, and he was receptive, providing I paid him an advance, and use his ace version of Richie and the Renegades' "Baby It's Me" as the A-side. The B-side was an alternate version of the Roadrunners' "I'll Make It Up to You" that I preferred to the version on the Happy Now album on Taang!
The resulting vinyl was one of Chunk's finest hours.
Both sides were reissued a couple of years later on Norton's Those Lyres compilation.
CH457: ZEKE FIDDLER: Half-Baked/Half-Inflated
Zeke Fiddler was a fixture in the Northampton scene. While at Hampshire College, he began to perform his original compositions at shows on campus, and was later adopted as sort of a mascot by J Mascis and the Dinosaur Jr. entourage. When I met him, he had just inked a deal with the indie label SpinArt to release his Waterproof album, which had to be negotiated away from Dave Blowhair, with whom Zeke had signed a criminally one-sided deal in '92. I booked him to play a show at the Bay State, and we became friends. He told me he had hated me for making fun of his name on the air when he had called in a request to The Mal Thursday Show on WMUA a few years earlier, but I assured him I probably just said "Zeke" a bunch of times because it was a cool name. Anyway, at the time, I was recording a lot of the shows with a TEAC four-track, and took a liking to one of his songs, "Half-Baked."
Can't really blame him for that one.
In my case, a lot of it went into the pocket of the late, great Arthur Lee, mercurial genius of L.A. psychedelic/folk rock legends Love.
By the Summer of '93, word had spread that there was finally a hip venue in Northampton for touring rock bands. One of the booking agents I worked with called to see if I had an opening on a Monday night for Arthur Lee & Love, who were doing an East Coast club tour.
Unfortunately, Monday was the one night of the week I couldn't book, as there was a pre-existing condition known as "Blue Monday," where Bid Ed Vadas & the Fabulous Heavyweights played the white man's blues every week. I tried to persuade Big Ed to let me have one night -- I even promised to pay his usual guarantee for not playing -- but he wouldn't budge. I then tried to negotiate with Jordi Herrold, the owner/manager of local folk/jazz club the Iron Horse, and a notorious dickhead. He said that the date was available, but that he was disinclined to give it to me. Same thing at Pearl Street, the mainstream venue next door to the Bay State.
Undeterred, I booked the show at the Northampton Center for the Arts. Long story short, lacking the publicity arm of the other venues, and the hipster cachet of the Bay State, the show drew only about 50 people, and I took a bath. To add insult to injury, the next day, when I took Arthur out to lunch at the Northampton Brewery, he hit me up for another grand for songwriting royalties and the use of his trademarked logo on the Unloved double 7-inch. When I showed him the artwork for the record, which was a sketch of him by New Radiant Storm King's Peyton Pinkerton, he was livid, saying, "Who's that Ubangi-looking motherfucker? Is that supposed to be me? Looks more like Hugh Masakela!"
At considerable expense, the artwork was redone, and the following year, Arthur played the Bay State to a full house. I almost broke even on that one.
Here's a record that I can remember very little about. I don't remember the song titles, or much about the band. I remember their singer was named Todd. They were UMass kids, I think, and they paid for the pressing. This was another record that Zeke counseled me against putting out. I figured, hey, the more the merrier, right? My distributors were suitably unimpressed, and I think we sold less than a hundred total. Unfortunately, there was another equally nondescript but slightly less obscure band by the same name from the Pacific Northwest, and also a fairly good one from Australia who are still around.
Still, I must have liked them, because I wouldn't have released it regardless of whether or not they were footing the bill.
The Lumber who made this EP have since vanished. Into the woodwork, you might say.
CH4510: SILVER JEWS/NEW RADIANT STORM KING Split 7-inch
The best-selling title in the history of the label, this one came about because of the fact that David Berman of the Silver Jews was an MFA student at UMass, lived in the same apartment as Zeke Fiddler, and had a mutual admiration for New Radiant Storm King. The Jews were originally a lo-fi art project by Berman in collaboration with Steven Malkmus and Bob Nastonovich of Pavement that found a home on the ultra-hip Drag City label. The band evolved into a vehicle for David's brilliant imagery and proved itself capable of musical depth and beauty, with or without Malkmus. At the time, Pavement was totally hot shit, indie rock gods of the moment, and that certainly didn't hurt sales of the record.
The tracks: "Sabellion Rebellion" and "Old New York" by Silver Jews; "Rocket Scientist" By NRSK.
"Half Baked" – Zeke Fiddler
"Phone Call" – New Radiant Storm King
"Sunday" – Home
"Hooked" – Lumber
"I'll Make It Up To You" – Lyres
"You're No Boy Wonder/Nothing You Can Do" – The Unband
"Traces Of Alignment" – Skinner Pilot
"Miss America" – Tizzy
"I Love You, Girl" – Queer
"Falling Down" – Ray Mason Band
"Frog" – The Veronica Cartwrights
"Nuclear Man" – Angry Johnny and the Killbillies
"Four Wheeled Friend" – Fuzzy
"Alone At Last" – Steve Westfield
"Stolen" – Hoolapopper
"Miami" – The Dots
"Ten Long Years" – The Maggies
"Believe You Me" – Miss Reed
"I Should've Sued" – Squeek
"I Like My Life" – Philth Shack
Though I haven't listened to it in many years, I was proud of Hotel Massachusetts, which was intended as a musical snapshot of a time and place, and certainly succeeds on that level. I know I regretted some of the choices in terms of which bands made the cut, and looking at the track list now, I cannot recall some of them at all (who were the Dots?). The cassette version contained a few more artists, like Mother Holly and a couple of others, but we didn't make too many of 'em, as I recall. Also, the printer really fucked up Eric Talbot's great comic book cover art. The major accomplishment was that Chunk was now dealing in full-lengths, not just singles.
Ultimately, it would be our undoing.
In Part Three of "The Chunk Records Story," Mal releases some of the most popular titles in the Chunk catalogue, but begins to regret not having taken any business courses in college, as his attempts to grow the label are thwarted by naivete, stupidity, and alt-country effrontery.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
I was concerned, not wanting my wife and kids to get blown up, which I'm sure you can understand. When I got home from work, there were four cop cars in the parking lot and crime scene tape in the foyer. Not good.
Turns out the smell wasn't a gas leak after all, but was caused by the putrefaction of our downstairs neighbor, who apparently had been dead since sometime around Halloween. Whether it was suicide or an OD, we don't know. I asked one of the cops what exactly had transpired, but he was "not at liberty to say."
Tonja put some cinnamon oil in a pot of boiling water to mask the rising stench of death from downstairs, while I left to attend a party for those of us who had worked on this year's Austin Film Festival. At the party, I told my friend Jeter about what had happened. He said he'd been looking for an apartment, and wondered if the management at our apartment complex might offer a "dead guy discount" if he rented the place downstairs.
Life goes on.
I just got back from an enormously frustrating experience. A few weeks ago, I responded to an ad on Craig's List seeking someone with a "loud, booming voice" to dub another actor's lines in an indie film. I sent in a sound clip of a radio spot I had done for a St. Augustine pawn shop that was fairly booming, and promptly forgot about it. Last week, the film's director (I believe his name is Eric Foreskin), emailed me asking if I wanted to audition. On Sunday, I went to the guy's house, gave a good reading, and seemed to have been given the job, which only paid $100, but seemed like a pretty easy gig. I was scheduled for a rehearsal on Wednesday, then a recording session two weeks after that.
Tonight, I get there, and the guy's being a little weird, telling me he's not sure I've got the right tone for it, and that I need to come back for another audition, after I've done some more practicing. I told him that he'd wasted enough of my time, and basically, to go fuck himself.
That's show biz, I guess.
On a brighter note, I got a good gig writing reviews for a website that pays some decent money, and gives me free reign to write on a number of different topics. I also got a $50 kill fee for a piece I wrote for a local publication concerning the Round Rock Planning & Zoning Commission and their approval of several Planned Urban Developments, or as they like to call them, PUDs. Apparently, the story I submitted wasn't quite what they were looking for.
Too many dick jokes.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
I usually try to avoid writing about the vacuous pop culture of today, choosing instead to focus on the slightly less vacuous pop culture of the '60s and '70s. But even though I don't spend a lot of my time thinking about the misadventures of Lindsay, Brit-Brit, and others of their ilk, I must say I was amused by Alison Jackson's naughty PhotoShop fun seen above and here.
The WGA Strike
The writers' strike is going to mean a lot of really bad television in the weeks to come. More shite reality shows and other unscripted trash to keep the Lowest Common Denominator anesthetized. No Daily Show or Colbert Report. It's ugly and it's going to get uglier.
Brian K. Vaughn, one of the writer-producers of Lost, explained the whys and wherefores thusly:
"Because writers believe we deserve a fair share of the revenue generated by the stuff we helped to create, crazy as that sounds. But basically, writers are looking to negotiate modest residuals and protections for use of our TV shows and movies on the internet, where most of us will likely be getting the majority of our entertainment from in the not-too-distant future. We're are also asking for a share of about 8 cents -- that's eight stinkin' pennies -- for every DVD of our work sold, as opposed to the criminally insane 4 cents we receive today..."
"I got to hear firsthand how hard the Writers Guild worked to negotiate a fair deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, but after more than three months of talks, the AMPTP still hasn't come close to even meeting the WGA halfway on its most important proposals. It sucks."
Yeah it does, but I've got a lot of reading to catch up on, anyway.