Sunday, April 17, 2016

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 36

Yo!, Dirt City Chronicles, trawling (some might say trolling) the internet for music. Back with yet another edition of the only podcast dedicated to local (Albuquerque/New Mexico) music on the interwebs. Don't be fooled by imitations or knock-offs, this is the real thang. An uninitiated listener might consider the local music scene a shallow sea to fish from.... they would be wrong. If you take all 35 previous podcast episodes (this being #36 with #37 queued up) that's well over 37 hours of local music. It wouldn't be that much of a stretch to build a 48 hour plus playlist of nothing but local music with a negligible number of repeats. That's a playlist rotation on par with that of let's say..... Beatlerama, the all Beatles online radio station.

Disclaimer: I snipped and (or) padded some tracks in order to keep this playlist under 60 minutes. Some podcast episodes have clocked in at well over an hour. This resulted in YouTube advising me to trim 'em down in order to keep folks tuned in. An hour plus is asking too much, tune in, tune out... I get it. For $50 Facebook will boost my page allowing me to reach more people in the United States. No guarantees though and I have no idea how much of a bang you get for your bucks. Either way, for a non-revenue producing, labor of love venture.... any amount of money poured results in no return. That's money better spent making a dispensary run or buying tracks/albums online in support of local musicians.

Being liked gives me a sense of enormous well being. In order to drum up more likes, I did kick around the idea of emulating R. Stevie Moore's cassette club with a Dirt City Chronicles cd-r club, what with all those surplus cd-r packages gathering dust on my shelves. However, the cost of shipping nipped that idea in the bud. For those not familiar with R. Stevie Moore, he got his start in the mid-1970s by offering cassette only releases of his music by subscription. I once sent away for a “free”catalog from Floyd's Record Shop in Ville Platte, La. A process which required my mailing them a few postage stamps and a self addressed envelope. I could go that route, but seriously who out there still spins cds?

One Track Mind and Track Marks on His Arm

Few local bands of late have gained as much notoriety as Glitter Dick. Their Tom of Finland inspired record release flyer in 2012, was described by the Weekly Alibi as “borderline pornographic” it caused one UNM student to lose his shit, grousing that “the image caused him to lose his appetite” Deemed tasteless and pornographic by the administration, the flyer was banned from campus. Glitter Dick followed up with a poster featuring Tom of Finland, Robert Mapplethorpe and a few other artists.... which didn't help matters any. Posted around the UNM campus, they were quickly torn down, though the administration denying having anything to do with their removal.

In 2013, Glitter Dick then appeared on the syndicated court-tv show, “Judge Mathis” under the pretense of lead singer Kendoll Killjoy suing guitarist Magnum P. Nye. The band would later reveal that the television appearance was nothing more than a creative way of funding their debut album “Sparkling Richard” The video of that particular episode has since been pulled from YouTube. Johnny Wilson (The Gamits) conducted an interview with the band for his website “For the Love of Punk” he tried in vain to pry the details from Killjoy and bassist Dee Dee Ramen (Kenta Henmi) Ramen cut him off, advising Wilson that his wife is a lawyer while tossing in a curt “Don't Worry About It” True, she's a partner in the law firm of Maruchan, Ramen & Noodles.

Just when the whole Glitter Dick experience couldn't get anymore trite, lead singer Kendal Fortson aka Kendoll Killjoy turned up missing. The situation was serious enough that the band put out an all points bulletin asking fans to keep an eye out for their missing singer. Fortson, who had been booted from Stabbed in the Back prior to the formation of Glitter Dick eventually turned up, though his band mate were none too happy. Magnum P. Nye posting on FB: “Let's go ahead and call the search off and let this fun boy continue his quest for god/meaning of life/hamdingers/cocks/bat boy/the 4th hole/Ray Bolger or whatever it is he's doing now” he closed by adding “It's been real. Magnum P. Nye - signing off for good” Ray Bolger?

Kendal Fortson released a statement of his own: “Having nothing left in Albuquerque, I had decided it was time to move on and thought 'sneaking away in the night' would be a possibility” Amazingly, Glitter Dick was set to play at Edge Fest, on a bill that included The Killers, Cake, Bad Religion and Minus the Bear (a band that included Santa Fe's own Alex Rose) An opportunity kissed off due to Kendoll's ill timed walkabout. Magnum P. Nye now fronts The Russian Girlfriends, an onerous local band that partakes of the sacrament at the Church of The Boss. You know how Dread Zeppelin was once a Led Zeppelin parody band and now they play it straight. Well I'm not sure if Russian Girlfriends are seriously aping Springsteen, a Springsteen tribute band or just a Springsteen parody band.... Note to self: Suzi de Sade, drummer for Glitter Dick served in the same capacity with The Teenage Werewolves.

If music be the food of love, play on

Get Action! play what they refer to as “burrito rock” others may slap them with whatever tag they please... but that works for me. These veterans of 'Burque's music wars take their name from the second album released by those wacky, incomprehensible Japanese punks, Teengenerate. It all makes sense once the needle drops. Scott Brown, Bill Bunting, Ashley Floyd, Ben Levine and Zac Webb cut their teeth with some solid local bands: The Gracchi, Ten Seconds to Liftoff, The Foxx and Scared of Chaka. You know them and they know what you like, crackling garage rock, vented without inhibitions or mercy. Check 'em out May 7th at The Launchpad (w/ Russian Girlfriends) and June 24th at Burt's Tiki Lounge (w/ Dying Beds, Weedrat & Alien Space Kitchen)

Kewl (that's how you spell it nowadays) cover of Tommy James' “Crimson and Clover” from Steve Hammond. He's simply the best Kansas has sent us since Gen. Kearney planted the stars and bars in the Santa Fe plaza. Steve's version of that epic classic comes via Lorchestral Recording Company's “Cover of the Month Series” featuring covers of Miles Davis, Wire, Melvins, Hank Williams, They Might Be Giants, Beach Boys, Kinks and others. Steve Hammond really needs no introduction around these here parts, seeing how he's the man behind Leeches of Lore, not to mention his work in Retard Slave, Tenderizor, Knife City, Filthy Jim, Black Ale Sinners. The man has an extensive catalog to back up my glowing attaboys. Don't take my word, see for yo'self.

I'm not even sure if the Teenage Werewolves “Your Cure for the Cramps” are still active. Though touted as a Cramps tribute band, their live shows went beyond that. The Wolves were (are) fronted by Los Angeles based singer, songwriter, sound engineer, music producer..... Jack Atlantis (the Show) who “has worked in practically every genre of music from 'Qawwali Pakistan Punjabi' to 'Greek Punk Rock” (i.e. The Barb Wire Dolls, who set up shop in Deming, N.M. for a few months back in 2012) Jack produced their breakout single “Revolution” You may just recognize one of the Werewolves as none other than the hardest working man in rock & roll: Billy Miles Brooke (Tragic Romance, The Dirty Novels, Pan!c, Loving the Alien and so much more)

Albuquerque's legendary garage rock combo, The Drags clock in with two tracks of their own and I've also included a cover version of “My Girlfriend's in The FBI” by New Kind of Mambo, a Portuguese duo who sing in English and copped their name from a single by Big Maybelle. How do you like them apples? Given their extensive discography and worldwide acclaim, I must admit that I've sorta taken The Drags for granted (same with The Eyeliners) Not anymore. I recently delved deep into their catalog and fuck me, I love this band, and to think.... I still have a copy of “Dragsploitation...Now! that I've maybe played twice. Charging from the bass knives to the treble, Dirt City Chronicles, keep those cards and letters coming in... all suggestions are welcomed and duly ignored. We're done here, peace out homies.

Instantly Recognizable ~ Get Action
Audiophile ~ Glitter Dick
Monday Night Raw ~ Weedrat
Psycho Punk ~ The Dying Beds
Crimson and Clover ~ Steve Hammond
Cars ~ Bring Back Dad
Surfin' Dead ~ Teenage Werewolves
I Like to Die ~ The Drags
Johnny T's O.D. ~ Glitter Dick
Lucky Boy ~ Alien Space Kitchen
The Scratch ~ Mother Queen Death
Why ~ Red Light Cameras
Life is a Gift ~ Colin Robinson
BTSD ~ Klondykes
Ghost ~ Weedrat
Quitter ~ The Talking Hours
My Girlfriend's in The FBI ~ New Kind of Mambo (Drags cover)
Except You ~ Get Action
Tastes Like Poison ~ The Drags

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Dirt City Chronicles Podcast Episode 35

I knew you'd understand what looks good with a black armband”

First post of 2016.... it being three months into the new year and all. I plead guilty with an explanation. Dirt City Chronicles, after 16 years exiled to the bootheel country of SW New Mexico is now back in Albuquerque. With turnarounds to Amarillo and Deming and a 24 hour motor trek from the Duke City to Appleton, Wisconsin out of the way, I can finally settle back into my regular routine of gutter sniping. From the desolate outbacks of New Mexico to the outskirts of Albuquerque's westside, Dirt City Chronicles is back up and streaming in glorious, compressed stereo. Boy Howdy!

As a rule of thumb, post rock i.e. emo/screamo/math rock bands drew the ire of local music aficionados. Looked upon as a blight, the boys of angst never received their due nor garnered praises worthy of their respective musical talents and recording output. The locals didn't warm up to them, maybe it was the indecipherable lyrics or the swirling racket over which they screamed. Whatever it was, you can't unring that bell. Oh! Ranger, Kid Crash, Your Name in Lights, Pilot to Bombardier, Dear Oceana, The City is the Tower..... we can sing their praises now, it's ok. As a whole, they combined to create a definitive Albuquerque sound that went shamefully unnoticed. Archabald belatedly carries on that tradition.

Revolving around the talents of vocalist Randy Bowen and guitarist Andy Othing (who moonlights as Lowercase Noises, an ambient music project that he's fronted since 2010) Archabald brings to mind Soular, one of the Duke City's many under the radar bands. Bowen and Othing break much of the same ground. Randy Bowen sounds enough like Marsh Shamburger to cause a trained listener to wonder where they've heard that voice before. If you're not familiar with Soular, search for 'em on YouTube. “Relativity” and “Cannibal Heart” were first released as teaser tracks for Archabald's latest long player, “Relativity” released in Feb. of this year. It's Archabald's third album and their most fully realized to date. Don't just take my word, stream it at Bandcamp and perhaps purchase a copy.

I've also slotted in two tracks from The City is the Tower.... described on as “4 drunk dudes from Albuquerque, New Orleans, Boston and Denver” Humor is in short supply in this genre, The City is the Tower understood this and worked it, tongue firmly planted in cheek. Some members of The City is the Tower went on to form Dead Cousins, a loud band, lacking most of the subtle nuances of its predecessor. “Party Ideas” The City's “chart bending debut” is still available for download at Media Fire as a zip file. The link can be found on the band's Facebook page. By the way, James Whitten, mixed and mastered The City's 2010 split 12” release (w/ Thou) “Dwell in The Darkness of Thought and Drink the Poison of Life”

All this weirdness goes by just like a parade”

A Not Quite Perfect Film” and “Fragile” presented here in modified form, were culled from the “last postcard from Chateau Marmont” aka “Oddities, Obscurities & Obscenities” a well timed retrospective collection from Lousy Robot, partially compiled by Jim Phillips, completed by Dandee Fleming and John Dufilho. Spill no tears, though meant as a tribute to Jim Phillips, who passed away in May of 2015, “Oddities, Obscurities & Obscenities” isn't a solemn affair. It's a joyous collection of long forgotten demos, alternate versions and covers. This addition to the Lousy Robot discography (their fourth album and the first since 2011) brings closure to fans of the band. “You give the longest compliments that I've ever heard, but not me I sing and murder my days one at a time”

Chicharra's “Are You” is arguably the best recording by local musicians this year, my favorite for sure. The same can be said about their just released album “Chicharra” a cassette and digital release that delivers a spongy yet muscular beat that slithers in and out of your headphones. A triumvirate of bass players and vocalists (Mauro Woody, Monica Demarco, Marisa Demarco.... John Butler sits behind the drum kit) make Chicharra unlike any other band around these parts (what with the troika of bass guitars and all) You don't see or hear that every day. Two videos accompany “Are You” (one features dancer Reba Heloise doing the Sand Dance on a sand bar, on a below freezing day) Watch them.

Short bursts of sustained anger are the best form of expression.“Who the hell are you to tell me how to feel?” Weedrat is punk rock distilled in its purest form, as potent as Pappy's corn squeezins “Fuck your stupid job and life, Fuck your dog and fuck your wife” is a mantra that we can all live by. You feel me on this.... Weedrat gets in your face in order to deliver a message. We all take a big bite out of the same shit burger.... but we don't have to like it or keep quiet. Given your turn at the podium, grab the opportunity and fuck things up. If it's too loud, you're too old or already dead. “It's just a bad day, it's not unusual, I just need some sleep” They're preaching to the choir, but no sleep till peace.

A Not Quite Perfect Film ~ Lousy Robot
Worry Don't Worry ~ Jen Olive
Pastel Daydream ~ Azula
The Warnings ~ Sad Baby Wolf
Snacktualize it ~ The City is the Tower
Are You ~ Chicharra
Relativity ~ Archabald
Tectonic ~ Starsky
Don't Tell Me ~ Weedrat
The Quiet Few ~ Beard
Tangled Threads ~ Litter Brain
Bad Day ~ Weedrat
Meeting Monsters ~ Kid Dinosaur
Fragile ~ Lousy Robot
Cannibal Heart ~ Archabald ~ The City is the Tower
Tin Ceiling ~ Starsky

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Dirt City Chronicles, Year in Review: 2015

Year In Review: October 2015

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 29

An old fashioned “battle of the bands” takes center stage on this edition of Dirt City Chronicles, the podcast. The combatants in this instance represent New Mexico's polar opposites. North vs. South. It's an imaginary rivalry for the most part, made up by the state's broadcasters in order to drum up interest whenever the Aggies and Lobos face off in athletics. Other than that, it's doubtful that the average New Mexican gives the idea much thought. The very definition of what divides Northern and Southern New Mexico is not very well defined. New Mexico doesn't always lend itself to a clean North/South division. It's far more complicated than that. For instance, Clovis is further north than Socorro, yet Clovis is solidly in the southern camp and Socorro staunchly sides with the North.

When a community was first settled and by whom, plays a big part on what side these “border” communities identify with. Belen is firmly aligned with the north, though its located just a bit further north than Clovis. Vaughn, Duran and Yeso are south of Belen, yet are culturally Hispano communities that identify with the north. Fence Lake, Pie Town & Quemado are north of Socorro and they're culturally connected to the south. If I were to draw a boundary across the state separating the north and south, I would start at the Arizona border, north of Fence Lake, continue north of Alamo, jot down to include Magdalena in the south, skirt south of Socorro and San Antonio, swing north to include Corona in the south, northeast to Ft. Sumner continuing northeast to House and then east to the Texas border.

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 30

Due to the success of Norm Petty Studios, West Texas got off the starting line early compared to the rest of the region. In 1957, both Buddy Knox and Jimmy Bowen (who had played together in The Rhythm Orchids) hit the national charts with million selling singles. Bowen's “I'm Sticking With You” and Knox's “Party Doll” coupled with Buddy Holly's #1 single, “That'll Be The Day” set off a stampede of musicians headed to Clovis, N.M. As Goldust Records founder, Emmit Brooks put it: "After Buddy Holly and the Beatles, there was a feeling out there that anyone could get a hit and make a million dollars," El Paso caught the fever and before long a burgeoning local rock & roll scene was starting to bubble up from the dusty landscape.

The arrival in 1957 of itinerant blues guitarist, Long John Hunter (who set up shop at the Lobby Club across the river in Juarez) helped to kick things off. Much like Al Hurricane in Albuquerque, Hunter was grounded in another genre, yet still played a part in helping rock & roll gain a toehold. His single “El Paso Rock” released on Calvin Boles' Yucca Records in 1961 helped spark El Paso's pre-Beatles infatuation with instrumental rock. Countless El Paso musicians made nightly treks across the border to the Lobby No. 2 Cafe and Night Club to watch Long John lay down some rattlesnake moan. A disciple of the East Texas blues guitar tradition, Hunter would often allow young musicians who could work up the nerve, to take the stage with him (including a very young and nervous Bobby Fuller)

Star Mountain Babylon

Then in 1963 a funny thing happened... El Paso went bonkers for surf music. No easy way to explain this. The Gulf of Mexico is 700 plus miles away (though the closest beach to El Paso is actually Puerto Peñasco in Mexico...about 500 miles) Almost overnight, every band worth a lick in El Chuco, started playing like Dick Dale and The Deltones. A period well documented by Norton Records' compilation series “El Paso Rocks” Having tossed aside his aspirations towards emulating Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran. Bobby Fuller planted himself firmly at the forefront of this curious turn towards instrumental surf music in the desert. “The Bobby Fuller Instrumental Album” compiled by Rockhouse Records (a label based in the Netherlands) adds further credence to this strange turn of events.

I realize that historically, El Paso has ties to Cali, specifically Los Angeles. But this is fucking nuts. If not for the British Invasion, who knows how far this “sand surfing” craze may have gone. One thing for certain, this odd mix of borderland bands produced instrumental surf music roughly the equal of what was streaming out of SoCal at the time. Bobby Fuller's “Thunder Reef” “Our Favorite Martian” “Wolfman” and “Stringer” The Pawns “South Bay” The Sherwoods “Tickler” The Impostors' Surfaris spoof “Wipe In” Four Dimensions “Sand Surfin” The Four Frogs “Mr. Big” The Chandelles “El Gato” The dichotomy of “surf in the desert” was resurrected in 1978, when for some strange reason “Big Wednesday” John Milius' coming of age surf movie filmed several scenes in El Paso.

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 31

Frogdeath Records definitely reflected the personality of Steve Crosno. From the label imprint which depicted a bullfrog listening to a phonograph (ala RCA's Little Nipper listening to his master voice) with a heavy boot looming overhead, to the puns and mispronunciations printed on the label. It all added up to the work of a smart ass genius. Frogdeath had a limited run, probably no more than a dozen known releases. Working on the fly (and on the cheap) with Crosno wasn't easy as Danny Parra (Danny & the Counts) recalls: “ We recorded “For Your Love” b/w “It’s All Over” in a single live take in Steve’s home without a drummer! Unbelievable! The recordings were meant to be a dry run but Crosno decided to put them on vinyl since he could promote them on KELP”

After that initial haphazard session, Danny & The Counts butted heads with Steve over the direction their music was taking. “We ultimately made it clear to him, that we wanted to pursue the English music trends as a group and abandon R&B. He wasn’t happy about this because his whole market niche was R&B …. so we had an eventual parting of the ways.” said Parra. Crosno's radio show and “Crosno Hops” a mobile sock hop that hit every podunk burg within driving distance of El Paso, revolved around r&b/soul numbers. Fuzzy, hyper, garage be bop don't cut it on the dance floor when you're looking to rub up on a gal. The homies in Segundo Barrio pined for Tex Mex Soul, James Brown and golden oldies... Steve Crosno delivered the goods and in their eyes he could do no wrong.

The Plural of Aggies

In the early 1970s, bags in hand and tongue firmly planted in cheek. Calvin Boles closed up shop in Alamogordo and took off to Nashville with the idea of recording and promoting country artists. He already had one client... his son-in-law, Robyn Young (Faron Young's son) To mark his arrival in the Mecca of country music, Boles released a novelty single that will forever rank as one of the rankest, musical endeavors of all time. First a little background info. Break-in records, were made popular by Dickie Goodman with his hit recordings of “The Flying Saucer, Pts. 1 & 2. The basic premise has an official sounding interviewer (Goodman) asking questions, which are answered by brief snippets of POPULAR songs (note the emphasis on popular) Even at its best, it's pure cornball.

For “Calvin Boles in Nashville” b/w “Calvin on Stage” Boles hired Johny (Single N) Caraway, who Paul Pearson of Dead Horse Radio points out “was no Dickie Goodman” Caraway in a serious “radio voice” asks a series of questions to which Calvin answers with break-ins from his own vast repertoire of “unknown to the world” songs. It's cringe worthy right up until Ernest Tubbs breaks in at the end with “Go on home, you don't belong here with me” followed by a round of canned laughter. Paul Pearson: “A break-in comedy record featuring nothing but Calvin Boles tunes as break-ins....probably wasn't the most effective strategy” Calvin's Nashville venture flamed out quicker than Kingsford Match Light briquets. A thousand guitar pickers in Nashville and Calvin wasn't meant to be one of them.

Year in Review: November 2015

Dirt City Chronicles_Cassette to MP3: Best of, Bobby Fuller Four

Throughout the Mustang recording sessions Bobby Fuller agonized over what was becoming of his music. Accustomed to calling the shots, he found himself butting heads with Bob Keane. This ate away at Bobby's self confidence. The egocentric Fuller had always plotted his own course, now it dawned on him that by signing with Bob Keane, he had conceded that right. The most glaring example of this was the band's new name “The Bobby Fuller Four” changed at Keane's insistence. “Let Her Dance” the band's near breakout single was also a source of friction. Bobby felt that Keane had taken liberties with his original composition “Keep on Dancing” when in fact Bob Keane had transformed Fuller's clunky original into a pulsating, bass propelled radio friendly ditty.

Next, Keane's A&R man, session musician, arranger, producer Barry White (the make-out music maestro) was brought in to work the sessions for “The Magic Touch” and “I'm A Lucky Guy”, John Barbata (of The Turtles) sat in on drums, replacing DeWayne Quirico who had been unceremoniously shit canned. Bob Keane felt that lacking a strong follow-up to “Let Her Dance” song mills such as The Brill Building were his only viable option. Written by Brill Building veteran Ted Daryll, “The Magic Touch” was an Motown-esque number that should have been a big hit. It failed to launch. Bobby was unhappy with the final mix, which he deemed as “too thin, with not enough oomph” He bitterly vented to his brother Randy "It doesn't even sound like one of our songs"

Your Ever Loving Punks_The Standells

Though touted as the “Godfathers of 60s punk” The Standells lineage stretches well beyond the “garage rock” era. For starters, though The Standells helped launch a thousand garage bands, they weren't a “garage band” at all. By the time “Dirty Water” hit the charts and made them the standard bearers for U.S. 60s punks, The Standells had put in work and were in fact, accomplished professional musicians who knew their way around a studio. The band clearly went through two phases during their prime, the pre-Dirty Water period and the post Dirty Water, 60s punk period. Almost overnight, The Standells went from being a talented plug 'n' play rock & roll combo to snarly trend setting raconteurs. Though in truth, their punk persona was as fake as the hippies & beatniks on “Far Out Munsters”

Larry Tamblyn, co-founder of the band is the younger brother of actor Russ Tamblyn. Russ had worked in movies since 1948, he was nominated for an Academy Award in 1957 for his work in “Peyton Place” He's the father of actress Amber Tamblyn and is still active, having appeared in relatively recent movies, “Drive” and “Django Unchained” Larry had been active in music since 1958, having released a string of doo wop singles on Faro and Linda records. In 1962 he formed The Standels along with Tony Valentino (Emilio Bellissimo, who had arrived in the US from Italy in 1958) bass player Jody Rich and drummer Benny King (aka Hernandez) Larry came up with the name “Standels” as a tongue in cheek take on the long hours spent standing around waiting for auditions at record companies.

Dirt City Chronicles Cassette to MP3: Best of The Standells

Another exemplary compilation from Rhino Records. As I've mentioned before, nobody does it better. Audio quality, liner notes, track selection... it's the bees knees. Not everyone feels the same way about Rhino's efforts. Larry Tambyln, who coined the name “Standells” and co founded the band has voiced his displeasure with Rhino's description of the band as “a clean living fun bunch of bananas” Larry likes to point out that The Standells were indeed hip and happening. They were after all, the first SoCal band in the 1960s to have long hair (which they promptly cut in order to land a gig at PJ's, notorious for its “no long hair” and matching suits dress code) Larry doth protest too much, the band's pre-Dirty Water recordings and publicity shots do present a clean cut, albeit lame bunch of bananas.

Larry Tambyln especially had a bone to pick with Harold Bronson, who researched and composed the liner notes. Stating that Bronson never met with him or any members of the band to verify any biographical info. Bronson noted that “The band included one guy who spoke with a very unhip broken Italian accent” That would be Tony Valentino, fresh off a pasta boat and as evidenced by Dick Clark's interview after The Standells performed “Help Yourself” Valentino spoke in a monosyllabic manner that brought Balki Bartokomous, Bronson Pinchot's immigrant character on the television sitcom, Perfect Strangers to mind. Harold Bronson also pokes at them for having “a Mouseketeer in the band... that's Dick Dodd, though Dick was cool, upping the band's “cool” quotation by a 100%

Year In Review: December 2015

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 32

“May we never part” was the rallying cry. The search for one true love, the crusade for which all were destined. In Southern New Mexico nobody wrenched a heart like the goosestepping maestro of teener heartache, Frank Thayer. A Senior at NMSU, Thayer in collaboration with homespun producer and music engineer, Dennis Adams recorded a series of teener pop ballads that distilled sadness in the same manner that a bootlegger distills spirits from sugar and corn grain. Standing atop the burning pyre of unrequited love, Thayer pined for the women that he obviously scared off with his moody and obsessive nature. Frank is fascinating “partly truth and partly fiction” a man ahead of his time and yet hopelessly stuck in the past. Which is why, in my opinion Frank Thayer defines teener pop so well.

Teener pop was a conscious attempt by the record industry to turn back the clock. To white wash the negroid influences of mid-1950s rock & roll with a sparkling double coat of copacetic conformity. Teener was so chock full of loneliness and despair that it's a miracle American teenagers didn't hang themselves en-mass. La douleur exquise. “I miss someone who isn't mine to miss. I dream about someone who isn't mine to dream about. I love someone, who isn't mine to love” Turn off the water works baby, that don't move me no more. U.S. teeny boppers had to grow the fuck up and two forces were combining to drag them kicking and screaming into adulthood, Vietnam and Beatlemania. The words of love fade like darkness itself at the coming day. “She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 33

Being the inquisitive type, I like to compare the regional scenes to one another. At the time most of this music came out (1959-63) Albuquerque's local scene didn't amount to much other than The Knights and Al Hurricane. By comparison, El Paso was blowing up. A couple of factors were in play. With Ft. Bliss shuttling in draft era troops by the thousands for basic training, there was always a demand for entertainment and literally speaking, the music would never stop. (Long John Hunter was working 13 hour shifts at the Lobby Club) As far as the number of venues available to local musicians, El Paso, had the Duke City beat by a country mile. El Paso also fostered a long reputation as a rough and tumble “bordertown” while Albuquerque in the early 1960s was basically Des Moines, Iowa with Mexicans.

Ooh! I meant to say Hispanos, my bad. The rocking side of the border gets the Dirt City royal treatment on this go-round. This episode comes fully loaded with both the familiar and the obscure. The fifth installment in a six part series covering the local scene in El Paso, Las Cruces and beyond.... but no further north than Clovis N.M. Call me provincial, call me archaic, I don't really care. Let's see what the cat drug in: It's a shame that Lloyd Nash's “The Quiver” didn't start a national dance craze, sounds much sexier than the Twist or The Mashed Potato. I did manage to sneak one Albuquerque band in,The Knights' “Cut Out” made the cut, mainly because I couldn't fit it into any of my other playlists. It's a rocking little number that I want my jockey to play...

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 34

Chuco got soul..... that sweet soul music, enunciated by the disciples of James Brown, powered by horns sections that washed away the gloom. Beautiful friend, this is the end.... of a six part series covering the El Paso/Las Cruces, borderlands music scene in the 1960s. I feel like a time traveler, having been deeply immersed in 60s culture for weeks on end.... Farfisa organs rattling 'round my brain. I thought that I knew 60s rock and soul music, but I knew nothing. “Can't see a thing till you open your eyes... clear my eyes, make me wise” and a tip-of-the hat to YouTube, our great, infinite smorgasbord of musical gluttony. Nothing expands your musical knowledge like knowing where music has been. “The end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time”

For reasons lost to time, El Paso Mayor Judson Williams declared July 9th 1967 “Steve Crosno Day” A high honor for a young man at the very pinnacle of a career that would span six decades. Indisputable evidence that Steve ruled the local airwaves, broadcasting on KELP, El Chuco's Top 40 juggernaut. Local entrepreneur, Bernard Tanchester, perhaps sensing an opportunity to make a quick buck, lured 4,000 loyal Crosno fans and “the seven hottest R&B bands in the area together under one roof” to a steamy El Paso Coliseum for the landmark event. The evening's proceedings were recorded for posterity and resulted in an iconic album “Steve Crosno Day, July 9th 1967” a veritable time capsule of a time and place, long ago, but not so far away. “The best thing I can do is shut up and play music”

Dirt City Chronicles, Year in Review: 2015

Year in Review: August 2015

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 25

I'm a miner searching for that mother lode of 'Burque's rock & roll gold. I've searched the world wide web, compiling a playlist that includes every 1960s Albuquerque/New Mexico band that I could dredge up. It's a fairly comprehensive look at an under appreciated period of 'Burque musical history. This is good stuff... fuzz laden garage punk rave ups, teener bop and moody sixties psychedelia. All products of homespun Albuquerque record labels, Lance, La Vette, Hurricane, Delta, Mortician. Mid-Sixties garage bands are now most often described as "garage rock," sometimes as "garage punk," "'60s punk," though at the time it had no specific name.

It wasn't until the release of the 1972 compilation album, Nuggets, compiled by Lenny Kaye, that music fans and collectors began to define the style. Garage rock peaked commercially and artistically around 1966-67, which coincides with the period most of 'Burque's garage bands thrived. Gilesi over at the amazing music blog “Cosmic Minds at Play” once mused about the Duke City garage band scene in 1960s: “I have no idea what Albuquerque, New Mexico was like as a place to live in the mid 60s but it certainly seems to have had more than its fair share of top class garage bands, so I can only assume that there was a wild scene going on among its young denizens.”

'Burque Garage: Original Artyfacts from Albuquerque's First Rock Era 1964-69

The term “garage band” (not to be confused with Apple's music making software Garageband) grew out of the notion that many of these groups started out rehearsing in the family garage. While true to a certain degree, that wasn't always the case, many were formed by professional musicians who had already cut their teeth playing varying styles of music. Frat rock's city cousin and the precursor to psychedelic rock. Garage was characterized by a snarly vocal delivery, distorted guitars and carefully cultivated rebellious posturing that was in reality.... mundanely conformist when compared to flower power and the hippie culture that eventually supplanted it.

Garage rock peaked commercially and artistically around 1966-67, which coincides with the period most of 'Burque's garage bands thrived. Gilesi over at the amazing music blog “Cosmic Minds at Play” once mused about the Duke City garage band scene in 1960s: “I have no idea what Albuquerque, New Mexico was like as a place to live in the mid 60s but it certainly seems to have had more than its fair share of top class garage bands, so I can only assume that there was a wild scene going on among its young denizens.”

Burque Garage: Original Artyfacts from Albuquerque's First Rock Era 1964-69

Had it not been for “We're Pretty Quick” a certifiable monster 60s garage punk classic. The Chob could have easily slipped into oblivion. Written by bass player Keith Bradshaw and lead guitarist Quinton Miller, “We're Pretty Quick wasn't a chartbuster, it didn't resonate with the teeny boppers at the time of its release. It didn't go national and rocket The Chob to fame, no major labels clamoring for a bit of the action, no inquiries from Brian Epstein. What is arguably one of the best songs to come out of New Mexico in the mid-sixties failed to rise above the regional level. Yet today, “We're Pretty Quick” is one of two songs (the other being “I Wanna Come Back, From the World of LSD” by The Fe Fi Four Plus 2) that garage punk fanatics worldwide identify with Albuquerque. (“No Silver Bird” is a distant third)

If you thought that Española rock & roll didn't exist before Electricoolade/Frankie Medina/The Dirty Hearts... guess again. The Morfomen also known as the Movin Morfomen were repping España long before Frankie was but a glimmer in his daddy's eyes. The band consisted of multi-talented Dave Rarick, Danny Gavurnik, Eddie Valdez, Anthony Martinez and Rudy Maestas. The Morfomen recorded on Lance, Nel-Ric, Goldust, Delta, scoring a handful of regional hits including their version of “Try It” (originally recorded by The Standells) which they called “We Tried, Try It” produced by R.C. Nelson, engineered by John Wagner on the Nel- Ric label.

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 26

Disclaimer: I know no more than the guy that knows next to nothing who knows less than the guy that knows everything. The band info and recordings I've compiled are from various online sources: Dick Stewart and The Lance Record website. Vintage Bands of Albuquerque's Facebook page, Vinnie G's YouTube channel “mrmusico1000”, the curiously named YouTube channel “puppetmastertoday” Vic Gabrielle who was there as it happened. Garage and Having spent countless hours scrolling through microfilm archives and digging through bins searching for “local” music. I can attest to the fact that the internet makes the job much easier. Visit these sites, subscribe, comment, or in Dick Stewart's case... buy something.

I'm saving up to buy the Lance Records newsletter collection on cd-rom for $39 U.S. Dollars or 800 Mexican pesos at the current rate of exchange. Not one aircheck from any Albuquerque radio stations in the 1960s seems to have survived to the present day. Forcing me to substitute 1966 radio excerpts from Danny Clayton at Denver AM rocker KBTR and British born, Tommy Vance on KOL, Seattle's AM powerhouse during the mid-1960s

From 'Burque to Blackpool, The Classic Era of Duke City Soul

This was a different scene, one that the displaced mid-westerners of the heights could never get hip to. Down here the music was emotionally charged, majestic in scope, musically supreme. The music communicated a will to escape the limits of ordinary life and the constraints of a city built on the false premise that if you're white, you're right... If you're brown, stick around and if you're black, get back! “Pride in the face of prejudice” is how the Austin Chronicle's Margaret Moser describes the brown eyed soul that flowed out of the American Southwest in the 1960s. Self expression in the face of oppressive racial prejudice in a city where whites make up just over half of the population... it comes like fire. It becomes something that you summon from deep within your soul.

Once a man reaches that boiling point, you hand him a horn, guitar, drumsticks or a microphone and stand back to marvel what is man. This would explain why James Brown was deified in the barrios of Albuquerque. Brown's raw emotive pleas such as “Please, Please, Please” “Try Me” “I Won't Plead No More” “I Want You So Bad” were tailor made for Hispanic audiences. Kenny Burrell on guitar, George Dorsey on alto sax and Clifford Scott on tenor sax essentially invented the sound that would become the inspiration for every brown eyed soul band that ever played. James was all in, no half measures, he was relentless and that somehow struck a nerve among 'Burque Chicanos, because there's just no quit in the Duke City hustle. Hit Me!

Year in Review: September 2015

Viva Las Vegas!

For all its glitz and glamour, Las Vegas is a factory town. It's a city of clock punchers, everyone from dishwasher to horn player is a working stiff keeping one eye on the clock and one foot pointed towards the door. “Lost Wages” “Sin City” “Vegas” whatever your sobriquet of choice is, you're talking about the entertainment capital of the world... Las Vegas. Thanks to a questionable “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” marketing scheme and that shitty trilogy of Hangover movies, a Vegas vacation without self degradation and scandal is no vacation at all. So you would think. That's the Hollywood version of course. In reality the average visitor drops a few hundred in the casinos, drinks too much and fends off time share salesmen at every turn. Every solo artist that hits Vegas needs a band as does every dance troupe and revue. Not everyone playing on the strip travels with their own band like Elvis did. Most have to rely on the venues to supply musicians capable of playing that artists' songs and music exactly as recorded.

Elvis had been scorned and lambasted after his very first Vegas appearance in 1956 "He stands up there clutching his guitar, he shakes and shivers like he is suffering from itchy underwear and hot shoes," wrote Ralph Pearl of The Las Vegas Sun. "For the average Vegas spender or show goer, [Elvis is] a bore," wrote another of the Sun's critics, Bill Willard. However, “Viva Las Vegas” in which Elvis co-starred with Ann Margaret changed all that. Two years hence, Elvis would play his first sold-out Vegas show at the International, where he would hold court, posting a record 837 consecutive sold out performances over seven years, drawing a total of 2.5 million paying customers to his shows. Over that seven years, Elvis is said to have sold $43.7 million in tickets alone. Cue..... Also sprach Zarathustra, the dawn of a new era was upon us.

The Decline and Fall of Prince Bobby Jack

Prince Bobby Jack's purported association with the Ink Spots opened doors for him, though upon closer examination, his claim to fame was paper thin. Bobby Jack would tell folks that he was an “original” member of The Ink Spots as opposed to being a founding member. It's a fine line that hundreds of “Ink Spots” impostors have walked upon going back to the World War II era. The history of The Ink Spots is well documented, perhaps more so than any other musical act prior to the “rock” era. The Ink Spots formed in the early 1930s in Indianapolis. The founding members were Orville “Hoppy” Jones, Ivory “Deek” Watson, Jerry Daniels and Charlie Fuqua.

Near the height of their popularity, Hoppy Jones collapsed on stage at the Cafe Zanzibar in New York City and died in October, 1944. This ignited a series of disputes over the rights to use the Ink Spots name. The original group was a partnership, not a corporation, thus Hoppy Jones death effectively terminated the partnership. Over the next ten years, various founding members found themselves locked in court battles for control of the brand. This led to a succession of impostors striking out across the country. By the time Prince Bobby Jack came along in the mid-1950s, The Ink Spots were several degrees removed from the founding members and bore little resemblance to the real Ink Spots other than the fact that they performed some of the same music.

Acid Visions: Best of The 60s Texas Punk & Psychedelic_Vol. 2 _ Cassette to MP3

Acid Visions: Best of The 60s Texas Punk & Psychedelic Vol. 2 was originally released as part of the Priceless Collection on the Collectables label. A series of low budget compilations, that true to their nature, could be found in cut out bins at music stores across the country. Collectables is a reissue record label founded in 1980 by Jerry Greene. It's the largest independently owned reissue label in the U.S., maintaining a catalog of over 3,400 active titles, mostly on compact disc, but also available on vinyl.” The CD versions usually combine at least two volumes on each disc. Collectables releases have been criticized for their poor recording quality and Acid Visions Vol. 2 is no exceptions. The audio is heavily processed, which gets rid of the pops inherent with 60s vinyl, but it renders the music dull as dishwater in the process.

Since the mid-1990s Little Walter DeVenne has remastered and restored many of the label's reissues to good results. (Acid Visions Vol. 2 was released in 1991, pre-Little Walter) A popular Boston radio personality, Little Walter DeVenne was also the host of the syndicated oldies program “Little Walter's Time Machine” on Clear Channel “Real Time Oldies Channel” The Acid Visions series clocks in at a half dozen volumes with diminishing returns. It's a strange and spotty collection of tracks. A few gold nuggets salted into a slag heap of dubious material. Not for the casual listener for sure. However, it you have a thing for trashy 60s garage/psyche/punk from Texas, this will surely punch your ticket.

Plastic Fantastic Vinyl

The third installment of 'Burque Garage, clocks in with twenty five tracks designed to keep your Tote-a-Tune portable stereo bumping for well over an hour. Have those D-cells handy, these tunes will have you cutting a rug like a Veg-O-Matic. You'll slice and dice like a Feather Touch Knife, you gotta hear these songs. They'll change your life, I swear. Albuquerque's music scene in the mid-1960s was prolific and what's even more amazing is that a high percentage of what was recorded is actually pretty damn good. I'm three installments in and there's been little drop off from the first installment. Albuquerque, while lacking a big “breakout” act during the 60s nonetheless holds up well when compared to other cities in the region during the same time period.

As is my custom, I've interspersed DJ platter throughout the mix. In this case the interruptions come courtesy of Tommy Vance, The Monkees (appearing on Bob Shannon's show on KRUX in Phoenix, Az.) and Steve Crosno doing his “Cruising with Crosno” thang on KVLC in Las Cruces. “all accordions all of the time, night & day, day & night” The Monkees work their shtick, improvising a farm report and commercials for Beeline Dragway while keeping the wackiness to a minimum. At one point Mickey Dolenz reminds listeners to come out to their concert the following night, adding a snarly aside “and if you don't believe we play our own instruments, come and find out”

KOMA Oklahoma City Jan 5th 1964 (restored audio)

This aircheck was originally posted on YouTube by Ryan Scriver, whose description reads; “recorded on to reel to reel off the radio in South Shore, South Dakota on January 5 1964” In its original form, frequent signal drops render it largely unlistenable. Not one song is spared the wrath of static, signal pollution and volume drops. Nonetheless, the original aircheck is amazing, as it was surely recorded during daytime hours under less than optimal ionospheric conditions. For KOMA's signal to reach South Shore, S.D. Located in the northeastern corner of the state, near the Minnesota border, wasn't out of the ordinary. KOMA had a tremendous reach with its directional antenna array and 50,000 watt transmitter. To do so during the day, was in fact quite impressive.

Music and radio were both undergoing a number of changes in 1958 when Storz Broadcasting Co. bought KOMA, Todd Storz, owner of Storz Broadcasting, was of course the man who invented the “Top 40” radio concept. He introduced the same format at KOMA that he had used at all Storz stations, though two other OKC stations beat KOMA to the Top 40 format, (KOCY and WKY) leaving KOMA the odd man out. In 1961 KOMA went to a totally automated format. This January 5th. Aircheck in all likelihood captures an early moment during KOMA's return to “live” programming, which would have taken place on or about New Year's Day 1964

Friday, December 25, 2015

Dirt City Chronicles, Year in Review: 2015

Year in Review: July 2015

Dirt City Chronicles Rock & Roll pt. 1

The definitive history of American rock and roll from 1955 to 1964. Presented in a loose chronological order over six comprehensible segments. An epic tale that begins in 1954, just as rhythm & blues finally merged with Hillbilly Boogie (a combination of country vocals and instrumentation with a boogie woogie beat) creating one of America's most endearing musical genres: rock & roll. A series originally conceived as a last ditch effort to secure a passing grade in my sophomore English class. Rock and Roll saved my ass then and it shall save your soul now.

We can argue until the cows come home about when rock & roll actually came to be. R & B artists such as Louis Jordan, Big Joe Turner, Roy Brown, Johnny Otis, Smiley Lewis, Billy Wright, Willie Mae Thornton, Arthur Crudup, Jackie Brenston etc. were all precursors to rock 'n' roll. You could say the same for the purveyors of Hillbilly Boogie... Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith, The Delmore Brothers, The Maddox Bros. and Rose (Fred Maddox is credited with inventing the slap bass technique, a definitive feature of rockabilly music) Merle Travis, Bob Wills and Moon Mullican, a piano thumping Texan who boldly declared “We gotta play music that'll make them goddamn beer bottles bounce on the table”

Dirt City Chronicles Rock & Roll pt. 2

The concept of rockabilly as a style distinct from mainstream rock and roll simply didn't exist in the mid-1950s. Southern musicians considered the term an insult or as Barbara Pittman of the Experience Music Project points out: “It was their way of calling us hillbillies” As long as there's been music, there have been genres. Slotting music into categories made it easy for artists, record labels, radio stations and music stores to market their products to a specific audience or demographic. Sometimes it's easier said than done. When rock & roll first broke, the style really didn't have a label. Someone would have to invent a name for this raucous hybrid. D.J. Alan Freed is generally given credit for coining the term “rock & roll” though its true origins are unknown and the subject of much debate. What is known however, is that once Freed took to calling the music he played rock & roll, it stuck.

Jerry Lee Lewis saw it a little different “I had created rock & roll before they ever thought about having rock & roll, he said. “When Elvis come out, he was rockabilly. When I come out with Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On, that was rock & roll. That's when the name rock & roll was put in front”

It seems that once the Benzedrine buzz wore off, the music lost its edge. Rockabilly was fueled by fast cars, fast women and bennies by the handful. Years later, still holding out like it was 1955 instead of 1965, "The Killer" Jerry Lee Lewis was busted in Grand Prairie, Texas for having in his possession a prodigious amount of prescription pills. The cops found 700 pills, which J.W. Whitten, Jerry Lee's road manager explained as “Two hundred of 'em for the boys and the rest were Jerry's.” Stoked on pharmaceuticals, these hillbilly cats put out a dangerous vibe. They also crafted amazingly innovative music that has held to the test of time. More so than the so called “popular” music of the day.

Dirt City Chronicles Rock & Roll pt. 3

For a short time rockabilly was king, but by 1958 it had lost all its momentum. The last true hope for the genre was Eddie Cochran, a guitarist and vocalist who also wrote his own songs. Eddie resurrected the tales of teenage angst first popularized by Chuck Berry, injected them with the speed freak energy of the early rockabilly cats to evolve into what can best be described as Post-Rockabilly. Cochran was a good looking though diminutive man, features that he purposely accentuated with jittery mannerisms and an exaggerated slouch. (best exemplified in the motion picture, Untamed Youth in which he starred alongside Mamie Van Doren ) That perception would change as soon as he strapped on his trademark orange Gretsch 6120 and took the stage.

The curtain would rise, Eddie standing center stage, with his back to the audience would let the shrieks grow to a full crescendo before whipping around and jumping straight in to his first number. He held Elvis like command of his audience. Cochran was poised to carry the flame on into the 1960's when sadly he was killed in a car accident while touring in England. Gene Vincent and Eddie's girlfriend, songwriter Sharon Seeley were traveling in the same vehicle, both were seriously injured but survived. Eddie however struck his head on the roof of the car and was flung out of the vehicle as it slammed sideways into a lamp pole at a rate of 60 mph.

Dirt City Chronicles Rock & Roll pt. 4

Much has been written about February 3, 1959 being the day the music died. That simply wasn't the case. In fact the ill fated Winter Dance Party continued on for another two weeks following the tragic events of that winter day. Dion & The Belmonts as well as the ersatz “Crickets” (Waylon Jennings, Tommy Allsup & Carl Bunch) saw the tour through to the bitter end. (Dion Dimucci was offered a seat on the doomed plane, though the idea of paying $36 for the ride, more than his father spent on rent, led him to reject the offer. Bobby Vee, Jimmy Clanton, Fabian & Frankie Avalon were brought in to headline the remaining shows)

Though the day is forever immortalized as “The Day the Music Died” it wasn't until Don McLean's song American Pie topped the U.S. Charts for four weeks in 1972, that the phrase started to take root. American Pie is not specifically about that fateful day, though it does touch on the tragic events in the intro verse as McLean makes reference to Feb. 3rd. 1959 with the line “February made me shiver with every paper I'd deliver” which alludes to his claim that he first learned about the plane crash while folding newspapers for his paper route.

For the longest time McLean remained cryptic about the song lyrics and their true meaning. Stating instead, “It means I don't ever have to work again if I don't want to” When the lyrics and notes for the song were auctioned off for $1.2 million in April of this year, he coyly revealed that the song was meant to convey a feeling of “things headed in the wrong direction or life becoming less idyllic” Though, I'm pretty sure it still means that the son of bitch will never have to work again if he don't want to.

Dirt City Chronicles Rock & Roll pt. 5

A nation "giddy with prosperity, infatuated with youth and glamour, and aiming increasingly for the easy life” welcomed the age of Camelot with open arms. By the narrowest of margins, John F. Kennedy had turned back Sleazy Dick Nixon's attempt at commandeering the American dream. “We stand today on the edge of a New Frontier” Although, not where radio program directors were concerned. Popular music had grown every bit as dull and drab as it had ever been before the rock & roll era. One need only glance at the U.S. popular music charts for the years 1960-61 to realize that rock & roll wasn't much of a factor on the American music scene.

The vapid period following “the day the music died” was truly rock & roll's dark age. A sad parade of prefabricated teen idols rang up sales while hammering out their sad little songs. Novelty tunes and one hit wonders dominated the airwaves. Instrumental groups were suddenly in vogue. It seemed that Americans had grown tired of trying to decipher the innuendo they imagined was implied in every single rock & roll song and simply given up on vocals altogether. America which had just elected into office the youngest and hippest president ever had suddenly elected to go lame as well.

"Don't let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment, that was known as Camelot...... there'll never be another Camelot again… It will never be that way again."
Jacqueline Lee "Jackie" Kennedy 1963

Dirt City Chronicles Rock & Roll pt. 6

In late November, KOIA in Des Moines, Iowa started playing I Saw Her Standing There and I Want to Hold Your Hand from a copy of “With the Beatles” owned by a student. Dec. 18th. Carroll James at WWDC in Washington D.C. Played a copy of “I Want To Hold Your Hand” that was hand delivered by an airline stewardess flying in from London. Capitol Records having just obtained all future rights to Beatles recordings, ordered WWDC to stop playing the song, then reversed the order and started rushing production in a push to have some vinyl out before Christmas day. Footnote: Del Shannon's 1963 cover of “From Me to You” has the distinction of being the first Lennon & McCartney song covered by an American artist... many more would follow.

The bombora of British Invasion bands that followed in the wake of Beatlemania pitted everything that had come before it. By the summer of 1964, the musical landscape of the U.S. was radically different from that of the previous summer when baggies and huaraches were in vogue. Brian Wilson inspired by Lennon & McCartney, shucked his trunks, dusted off his hands and declared surf music dead to him. It wasn't of course, even without the Beach Boys, surf music kept rolling in just like the waves at Haggerty's and Swami's. Surf music stuck around until 1966 when the advent of flower power pretty much killed it. As everyone knows; Hippies don't surf. Surfing culture was suddenly the very definition of square, although those shoobies just loved them some Sha Na Na......

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Dirt City Chronicles, Year in Review: 2015

Year in Review: March 2015

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 16

A high fueled melodic roar, audio octane for speed heads and gear jammers who keep hearing police sirens above the music. Perfect for hanging out in parking lots, smoking schwag, sippin' Schnapps and cranking Ant Farmers out the speakers in the old Ford ...... till some fuckin' old-timers put the kibosh on the party by calling APD. Hands up, don't shoot!

Veteran KOB anchorman, Tom Joles got into a verbal/physical altercation shortly before a broadcast. According to an eyewitness, “Joles interrupted while a young reporter was being counseled by News Director Michelle Donaldson. Reporter Stuart Dyson intervened, Joles traded F-bombs and punches with Dyson and photographer Joseph Lynch” After order was restored, Joles packed up his belongings and left the station. Donaldson gathered the news staff and told them how her heart breaks for Joles and that he’s having a tough time adjusting to the modern era of TV news. KOB then issued a statement explaining Joles absence from the newscast as a “cool down period

This is just damn fantastic. Look out – Howard Beale, Tom Joles is gonna getcha'. The online comments (not surprisingly) leaned towards Stuart Dyson more than deserving a punch in the face. Not a fair assumption by any means. Tom Joles (for reasons we'll never really know) had a cleansing moment of clarity and a wicked roundhouse right.... since Stuart did not take a knee, I will score that round 10-9 Joles.

Dyson as many of you may not know, was once a member of the Gutterleaves, an early 1990s cow punk outfit. This was long before he honed his skills as an investigative reporter at K-Circle-B in Albuquerque. Stuart is a much better reporter than musician as his KOB bio states “He plays guitar and sings with a wandering herd of local musicians who are much better than he is, although he makes up for his ineptitude by writing murder ballads and songs about cowgirls and moonshiners”

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 17

I was aware of a growing buzz around a local band, Angry Babies. Nonetheless, finding a review of the band's 1992 album “Mr. Toyhead” in Creem magazine (briefly reincarnated as a glossy after its initial demise in 1988) was an unexpected surprise. The gist of the short review being: Strange things happen out in the desert and there's a an “odd” music scene taking shape in Albuquerque. Someone at Creem had their ear to the ground, listening for hoofbeats.

I'm tying up some loose ends after a three episode flashback to the 1990s. Man I loved the 90s, best five years of my life followed by the worst five years of my life.... Hoo-ah! Truth be told, while I'm well versed 90s music, I have no clue as to the drug culture of that era. See, I was clean and sober for nearly the entire decade. No shit, from July of 1989 until Nov. of 1998, I walked a straight edge.

My steadfast perseverance was finally broken by an unexpected find. While rummaging through the cabin of an airliner parked on the Sunport tarmac (I worked for a Lufthansa subsidiary, Sky Chef) I came upon a small baggie stuffed full of purple bud, apparently abandoned by a panicked passenger.
It didn't take long for me to drain a can of Canada Dry Pale Ginger Ale and fashion it into a rudimentary Steve-O (UNM 96-97) certified smoking apparatus. Damn near ten years of clean time, up in smoke. That's how I kicked the 90s to the curve.

“If I was Young, I'd flee this town” Hold on as I double clutch this beast and slip it into cruisin' gear. Let's set the controls for El Quinto Sol..... the heart of that forsaken outpost on the very edge of Mesoamerica known as New Mexico. Mayan Prophecy be damned, we still bask under the fading light of Nahui-Olin. Give me some heat, man, give me some heat over here.... Namaste Ya'll.

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 18

Recording software that allows users to capture online streams as they ooze from the speakers, combined with broadband servers, totally turned the world around. Music downloads, once queued up round the clock on Audio Galaxy or KaZaa became a thing of the past. I could argue over the semantics, but I won't. Just don't give me that look.... we all did it.

The main drawback to Napster 1.0, Audio Galaxy and such, besides the shady legality of “Free downloads” was the absence of local musicians and bands (unless you happen to call NYC, Los Angeles, Minneapolis or Seattle home) My Space not only fixed that, it also allowed you to tag and search for music by locale.

If MySpace music was the 800 pound gorilla in the room, then YouTube quickly became the 12,000 pound elephant. Once YouTube to mp3 software was added to the arsenal of sound capturing apps, all hell broke loose. Quasi-legal downloads using quasi-legal software.... who saw that coming? Not the record labels, for sure.  Archive the fuck out of this era, because the internet as we knew it back in 2000 is long gone and the web as we know it now, will soon be gone. To be replaced by some over regulated, homogeneous version of the networks that made television no fuckin' fun what so ever. Here we are now, entertain us.

A Brief History of Local Music

Meanwhile back on the ranch, Joe Bufalino and Associates, a booking agency, still had a firm choke hold on local live music venues. Nobody could play anywhere in the Duke City without signing a one year contract with Bufalino and paying him up to a 15% fee for his “services” Cookie cutter cover bands (known locally as “Buff bands”) were losing their appeal. The emphasis now was on original compositions, stripped down instrumentation, no more glam rock bells & whistles.... come as you are. Local bands started finding alternative venues, sidestepping Bufalino while playing to a more experimental group of listeners than your average inebriated barfly.

You could say that in fact there were numerous variables at play in Albuquerque in 1990. The DIY, Indie, LoFi movement was sweeping across the country. Arena rock was waning in popularity and some Seattle based bands were starting to make some noise. It was rock and roll's last big wave, the one before the world wide web became a matter of fact and a way of life. Between 1990 and 1999 there was an explosion of bands on the local music scene, more than ever before. The size and scope of that timeline is mind boggling, so it'll have to wait for another day.

Just as Internet Explorer is the browser that you use to download a better browser, Albuquerque is the city where musicians hone their skills before moving on to bigger and better things. Eventually the same trail that led local musicians to the Golden State, forked to the northwest as San Francisco, Portland and Seattle became more desirable launchpads (along with Austin, Tx. and to a lesser extent, New York City) Despite this continuous exodus of talented musicians, the music scenes in both Albuquerque and Santa Fe keep right chuggin' along. Enduring, self sustaining and never boring. Coming from the most humble of starting points, Albuquerque now garners a well earned reputation as a “hip music locale” I must say, that both 'Burque and Santa Fe wear it well.... oh yes they do!

Year in Review: April 2015

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 19

“Men haunted by a vision of great achievement, who cannot be bothered with conventional success, because they reach for transcendence”

It's delusional, I know. It's a New Mexican condition, the desperate need for validation from the rest of the nation. The need to join the major leagues. UNM athletics (men's basketball in particular) pursues this as an act of sheer folly and quixotic madness, resulting in a sense of gratification equivalent to that of drilling a dry hole in Little Texas.

Just before Flake Music segued into The Shins, 'Burque's music scene was caught in a quandary brought about by the numerous stops, starts and near misses that had raised hopes that one day soon a band would bust out of Albuquerque. Only to see those hopes dashed, time and again.  Who would be the first penguin reckless enough to break the ice?

After Nirvana broke, every Seattle band wearing flannel (which is to say most of them) suddenly found themselves entertaining offers from corporate Satan. Why wasn't that happening in Albuquerque? The music industry insiders working the business end, men with nothing creative to offer, yet deemed important to the process  had dropped the ball. The system let everyone down, which is fine because that system is fucked up beyond all recognition now.

The garage band model is out, replaced by visionary bedroom savants armed with an encyclopedic knowledge of the current indie rock scene, working their magic at home before springing their twisted tweaker tunes on the masses.  New is back, because newer is always better, that's the American way. And the Hits just keep on comin'....

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 20

Anne Tkach died in a tragic house fire in Webster Groves, MO. April 9th, 2015. The cause of the fire is currently under investigation. Unless you followed Albuquerque's music scene through the mid to late 1990s you're probably not familiar with Anne and her prolific musical legacy.  I didn't know Anne, though I was fortunate enough to have caught a couple of Hazeldine's live performances before their local concerts grew sparse.

One could be excused for not noticing Anne playing bass on stage during her days with Hazeldine. Tonya Lamm's achingly endearing vocals and Shawn Barton's seductive radiance got all the attention. Even Jeffrey Richards had a je ne sais quoi about him. Not that Anne wasn't beautiful nor lacking in stage presence (a friend of her's Ryan Adams, wrote this on Facebook about her: "I'll never forget watching Anne Tkach play bass for Magic City, duck walking across the stage, putting her foot on the monitor, playing the most badass bass lines in the world, all while wearing a dress”

Anne was a consummate professional musician with a distinctive style of her own. This becomes readily apparent as you listen to the extensive catalog of recordings she participated in. Anne could hold her own regardless of genre (case in point; check out her work with Magic City, available on YouTube)  A native of Webster Groves in the St. Louis area,  Anne followed the trail west to Albuquerque, where she became part of a band that many local music aficionados consider the best to ever come out of these here parts. ~ Anne Tkach, que en paz descanse ~

CW Ayon Blues Redux

Much of what I do is retrospective and with seven well received albums under his belt, it's time to revisit New Mexico's native son,  CW Ayon. If the blues are epitomized by an image of the itinerant musician making his way from one juke joint to another in search of an audience then Coop fits the bill. Keep in mind, unlike many New Mexico musicians who moonlight as musicians while holding down day jobs.... CW Ayon to my knowledge is a full time musician.

Not that he's riding in boxcars or hitching rides in the back of pick-up trucks, come on, it's 2015 a man's gotta have a place to plug in his phone, tablet, laptop etc. A bluesman better have Expedia bookmarked and some plastic handy if he wants to stay on the road. CW stays busy and over the past few years he's expanded his range away our lonely corner of the state, across this great land and beyond. Case in point, Coop just returned from a successful turn at the Terri' Thouars Blues Festival.

If you judge a man by how well he's received when he's far away from home, then without a doubt CW Ayon is the real deal. Here in the sticks of New Mexico we already knew that. Now the world wants in on the fun. The French refer to CW as “Le Chant/harmonica/guitare du Nouveau Mexique” which sounds a lot cooler than “guitar picker” Not Coop's first international foray, three years ago he sallied forth to Australia with Old Gray Mule (CR Humphrey) blues picker extraordinaire out of Lockhart, Tx.   Well, Well, Well.

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 21

Mitch Hedberg once said “My fake plants died because I did not pretend to water them”
Greetings from the land of the big mañana.... The hissing of summer lawns signals a change in the weather. We've been blessed with a March that came in like a lamb and went out like a.... lamb. April has been borne of the Zephyr. Gentle and serene.

The lack of southwesterly haboobs has given us a much needed respite from the usual sandblasted spring weather pattern. You don't need a weather man to know that even under optimal conditions, New Mexico is dry as a bone. Unlike Californios (or future New Mexicans as they're known in Santa Fe) we figured out (more or less) how to get by on meager rainfall and below average runoffs.

All day I've faced the barren waste without the taste of water... cool, water. The Gaia Theory observes that species thrive which live in harmony with their natural environments, while those that do not are eliminated. Humanity is the dominant species and we're living in disharmony with our environment.

These crackers are making me thirsty. “Hold mighty man, I cry, all this we know. He spreads the burnin' sand with water, he's the devil, not a man” I'm here to tell you now each and ev'ry mother's son, You better learn it fast; you better learn it young, 'Cause, the big monsoon it never comes and It's a hard rain a-never gonna fall.

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 22

From its humble beginnings as a single rock station in Dallas, Tx., Z Rock (owned by the ABC Radio Network, now Cumulus Media Networks) grew to anchor the network's 24 hour satellite format, also known as “Satellite Music Network” Programming features such as Blistering Leads, Wounded Radio, Back Rockwards, Bad Ass CD Side and Old Stuff For an Hour, kept the dweebs locked in. Loud and obnoxious personalities were the norm, with on air hosts such as Crankin Craig, Sharkman, Dave Bolt, Loud Debi Dowd, Madd Maxx Hammer and Scorchin' Scotty crammin' it down your throat on a daily basis.

You may recall Z-Rock's slogans “If it's too loud, you're too old!” “Lock it in, and rip your knob off” “Flip us on and flip them off” Albuquerque's Z-Rock was based in the studio complex at the corner of Edith and Baker Lane NE in the North Valley. At the time I lived at the north end of Edith NE and every so often I would come across some random hesher wearing a black leather jacket in 90+ heat, trudging up Edith towards the station on a pilgrimage to collect some free shit or to loiter at the gate, as if hoping to catch a glimpse of Loud Debi herself.

Z-Rock of course broadcast via satellite from their flagship studios in Dallas, Tx. See race fans, Z-Rock was America's first coast to coast rock network (i.e. radio version of TBS & WGN) marketing nationally for local broadcast with local ads inserted. Z-Rock's network became the template de rigueur for modern over-air broadcast media. So, while these loudmouthed knuckleheads were rebelling against everything we had..... they were also clearing the path for the sanitized, dull as dishwater radio stations that most of us hate so fucking much.

Year in Review: May 2015

The Josephine Street Yacht Club

Rolling Stone magazine described them as, “post-punk power pop” though I like to think of them as “pop-punk nerdcore” No matter... Lousy Robot defied being pigeonholed into any one genre. On 'Burque podcast, Ten Drink Minimum, Phillips described Lousy Robot as “me and Dandee Fleming with revolving keyboard players (primarily Jack Moffitt and Ben Wood) and five thousand drummers. (the actual count is six with Joey Gonzalez being the latest)

Life is such, that along the way we lose the ones we love. The cruelest loss of all is when those blessed with creative vision are taken from us. Jim Phillips was such. The guiding force behind popular Duke City alternative rockers, Lousy Robot, Phillips passed away on May 12th, 2015 at his Albuquerque home, which he referred to as, the Josephine St. Yacht Club (named after a song by I Love Math) Jim was born in Golden, Co. raised in Memphis, Tn. and moved to New Mexico after college. Phillips was also an accomplished writer (Weekly Alibi, Local IQ, New Mexico Compass) and an aspiring urban farmer who successfully cultivated backyard crops in the heart of Old Town.

Behind every successful band (regardless of genre) is an exceptional person (or two) of exceptional talent willing them on. For Lousy Robot Jim filled that role. Jim's perpetually muted vocals brought life to the band's calculated beats and poetically cynical lyrics. Laid out in a series of three minute primers on love and life for those living in a permanent state of quiet desperation. Wry anthems that dwelled on finding liberation in being nothing special.

Year in Review: June  2015

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 23

Slackeye Slim (Joe Frankland) a musician from Wooster, Ohio with stops in Colorado, Montana and Wisconsin along the way. Now relocated to Tijeras N.M. he's described as “a musician from the desert usually, but sometimes he lives in the woods in a gigantic bird's nest” Slim takes the whole “gothic country” thing a step further.... “cubist country” perhaps. Frankland paints with a broad brush, recreating a wild west that is strictly a product of his own vivid imagination. Zombies, gunslingers and other nefarious western characters come to life through Slim's stylized drawl and sparse instrumentation. Cliches and conventions be damned, Frankland gets away with being goofy as hell... because cynicism made audible is a taste that we never get tired of.

Finding one's self a thousand miles from the nearest beach (Tingley not withstanding) doesn't necessarily impede a love of surf music. New Mexico's affinity for the genre is just one of those enigmatic things that can't be readily explained. Self proclaimed purveyors of “high desert surf noir” Phantom Lake consists of Bud Melvin, Jessica Billey, Clifford Grindstaff and Roger Apodaca. All talented veterans of 'Burque's music scene, they're more authentic than Kahuna's beach shack. The Surf Lords revolve around Tom Chism's pipeline licks.... they're so so authentic that you'll be scanning the radio dial for surf reports.

Bryce Fletcher Hample's sound project, Reighnbeau is similar in style to Jeff Mettling's ELU and Joey Belville's Pristina. Ambient dream pop that builds around breathy sugarcoated female vocals. A pleasant milquetoast distraction that ultimately leaves you high and dry. Great background music for stroking the cat or putting on the dog.

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 24

Luigi Russolo was a man ahead of his times. Russolo's essay L'Arte dei rumori (The Art of Noises) published in 1913, explores the origins and evolution of man made sounds. Russolo notes that while early music tried to create sweet and pure sounds, it progressively grew more and more complex. Luigi envisioned a world dominated by industry and he saw no reason why this industrial dissonance couldn't be forged into aesthetically pleasing music. It goes without saying that Signore Russolo never gave a listen to Contact High with the Godz, otherwise he may have had a change of heart.

Paul Hegarty, music writer for The Guardian poses the question: “So what do we seek if we are drawn to noise music? How and why would anyone want to be assaulted by it?” The overwhelming human desire to stave off boredom combined with our need to differentiate ourselves from the mob would be my best guess. Which leads us back to Russolo, who in the age of gramophones proclaimed “music has reached a point that no longer has the power to excite or inspire. Even when it is new, it still sounds old and familiar, leaving the audience waiting for the extraordinary sensation that never comes”

With that in mind, Russolo devised noise-making machines that he called “intonarumori” from which he drew a clamor of sounds that was music to his ears only. Others may have liken it to the hideous bellows emitting from Perillos of Athens barbaric Brazen Bull. There's no accounting for other people's taste and in all likelihood, Luigi probably had no fucks left to give. A performance of his Gran Concerto Futuristico (1917) had met with strong disapproval and violence from the audience, as Russolo himself had predicted.