Monday, August 30, 2010

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Erica Viking

Rejoice radio listeners, Albuquerque's favorite Nordic blond is back (no!  it's not Jane Metzler).  Erica Viking is back on the air as the morning host for KOIT 102.5 "The Coyote", Monday-Friday  6am to 10am.  Viking was abruptly dismissed from KZRR "94 Rock" after 12 years as the news anchor and resident hottie.  KZRR morning host TJ Trout reacted to her departure by responding to questions from listeners with a curt "She no longer works at this station."   That was the same answer I received when I called KZRR to inquire about her absence.  In my opinion, as a long time listener of KZRR (since 1986), Erica Viking was the morning show.  Her "Bitch Please!" feature was usually the highlight of the morning.  Erica's news reports were informative and delivered with an attitude that is missing from the current version of the 94 Rock morning show.  
 She now joins the ranks of Morning Show castoffs, like Jer (he stole his routines from other stations, but they were still funny) Capt. Crunch (his Smokehouse BBQ commercials were classic) and Jaxon (who?).  So now we are left with that high volume, brown noser Swami and the much underused Rainman. As for Carmelina Hart  she tries hard but;  "Bitch Please! she ain't no Erica Viking."
What led to Viking's departure?, if anyone knows, please clue me in. I'll guess that either TJ with his distended ego, could not share the spotlight (microphone) or Erica was long overdue to jettison the show and strike out on her own.  Erica, having served her time in radio purgatory (the can't compete clause) has now returned to the Albuquerque radio market, ready and willing to take on Trout and his cohorts.  This reminds me of San Francisco in 1978 when KMEL went head to head with a floundering KSAN.  The KMEL front office was all about attitude, with their station manager prediciting that KMEL would bury KSAN in the ratings. The jaded, half baked hipsters, that made up the KSAN front office were totally out of touch with the public's taste in music, guess who won.?  KZRR's loss is KOIT's gain, as they say in radio "I'll see you in the book" welcome back Erica.
Best Radio Personality
"Erica Viking. She's funny, intelligent, articulate and provides a strong counterpoint to the chauvinism of the blockheads she works with."  Best of Burque  Weekly Alibi  2004

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Saddlesores

Keith Drummond’s rock and roll journey had led him to Albuquerque in 1981. He put together a punkabilly band (The Jet Girls) that quickly became a part of the Dirt City’s brief rockabilly revival of the early 1980’s.  This period was captured on the album “This is Albuquerque not Roswell” (that also featured The Breakers and The Broadway Elks).  Drummond then relocated to California, where he wasted little time in forming another band; Speed Queens. The band would quickly become a fixture of the East Bay punk rock movement.  The Speed Queens 1984 ep (I Wish I Had A Big ****) Like Iggy Pop, hints at the musical path that Drummond would follow. The Speed Queens rework Mott the Hoople’s  “All The Young Dudes”  into “All The Young Dudes Are Dead” the transformation is so complete that it makes you wonder if this is a cover song or an original. This genre bending technique would play a big part in the formation of the Saddlesores. Drummond would later reminisce about the Saddlesores:  “We thought it would be funny if we did rock versions of country songs, and vice versa.” He continued: “We started out with a country version of Juda’s Priest’s Breakin’ The Law and a punked out Merle Haggard song.”
Keith Drummond returned to Albuquerque in 1989 then with John Hastings and Scott Meacham formed the original Saddlesores.  With the untimely passing of Hastings, Cole Mitchell was added as lead singer along with drummer Chris Martin. The Saddlesores made their recording debut on the Ubik Sound compilation   “Carport Thunder” Vol. One.   That epic recording also included groundbreaking local bands such as The Ant Farmers, The Gutterleaves & A Murder of Crows.  The Saddlesores would release their first album in 1993, “Drink,Drink,Drink” which includes some of the band’s best known tunes and concert favorites. The period after the first album was tumultuous as members rotated in and out of the band. Eric McFadden (Angry Babies,Liar etc.) briefly joined the group playing both guitar and drums. McFadden also took part in the recording sessions for the first album and performed live with the band.   The late  Tom Van Vleet (drummer for The Breakers and Broadway Elks) guitarist Allen Appel and Mike “Mo” Rose also played with the band during that time.  A falling out led to Keith Drummond and Cole Mitchell parting ways and not speaking to each other for two years. It took the efforts of 94 Rock’s  T.J.Trout to bring the two back together. During negotiations to include the snarly little ditty “Jesus Told Me To 2 Kill U” on a “Rasta Records” compilation cd. T.J. set up a meeting with the estranged band mates, Drummond would later say: “We had to meet to talk about that situation and we buried the hatchet."
Now reconciled the Saddlesores set about the business of finishing their second album, a project that had taken six years to complete.  Released in 2001 “Beating A Dead Horse” was not as fully realized as their first album.  However it was understandable given the circumstances surrounding the band during the recording process. The album received critical acclaim and was quickly embraced by loyal fans.  The final version of the band (Keith Drummond, Cole Mitchell, Chris Martin, Ben Harrison and Robert Silva) would produce the recording that totally defines the group. “Let it Suck” was released in 2004, the cover sports a tongue in cheek take on The Rolling Stone’s  Let it Bleed album.  However don’t mistake it for a Stones tribute album, instead it’s a grand culmination of everything that made the Saddlesores so damn good.  The songs are fully structured, poetic yet muscular, often building to an arena rock crescendo. Sadly,  The Saddlsores best album would also be their last, with the group disbanding that same year.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Big Hair Chronicles

The thriving modern music scene in Albuquerque started around 1979. The first wave of bands featured a handful of  glam metal groups,  most of which never made it out of the local bars.  That scene would peak in 1988 with the national success of Femme Fatale. A local band that went to Hollywood, got signed to a record deal, made it onto MTV and national radio before suddenly breaking up.  Gypsy Rose lead singer Billy Sunday (after changing his name to Billy Brooke) would make his mark on the Hollywood metal scene fronting metal rockers Tragic Romance. Local musician Michael Goodroe  would find success as the bass player for Martha Davis and The Motels. Drummer Randy Castillo, a veteran of the local scene earned  worldwide fame playing with Ozzy Osbourne, Lita Ford and Motley Crue.  
Alternative rock bands also started to pop up at this time.  The Refrigerators rolled out of Taos and took Albuquerque by storm, their 1981 album created a buzz as the local print and television media outlets picked up the story.  The band's brief fling with success quickly ended when lead singer Burton Jespersen left the group.  The remaining band members would then continue as The Magnetixs.  The Philisteens flirted with success at the national level, but somehow never managed to break through (that could apply to most  good bands from Albuquerque). In 1982 they recorded a single with producer Craig Leon at the helm (He had produced hit albums for Blondie and The Ramones).  That single was well received, making it onto the play list at LA rock station KROQ.  They parlayed that good fortune into a three year stint of touring as an opening act. The band then moved to Los Angeles, recorded tracks for an album that was never released. And then with a record deal on MCA Records seemingly on the horizon, they broke up.
 Across the nation rock music was changing, Albuquerque would soon be engulfed by this wave of change.  It was 1989 and Nirvana was leading the grunge stampede into the recording studios and unto the music charts.  Across the country the indie rock scene was spreading like wildfire, that combined with the ascent of grunge rock made this the most prolific of eras for rock music.  The age of genres was also upon us, metal, death metal, industrial, brit goth, punk, post punk, grunge, techno, house, rap, hip hop, classic rock, modern rock, alternative rock…ad nauseam.  Nothing was clear cut and simple anymore, the new bands were complicated, lead singers were the moody, angst ridden products of neglect and  poor parenting, all hell bent on self destruction (ok! so that part hadn’t changed much)  But the real difference was in the music, gone were the songs of debauchery and self indulgence that the hair farmers had hoisted up as anthems for the addle headed masses. Almost overnight the intelligence quota of American rock went up, along with the decibels.  Cherry Pie  had been replaced by dark brooding tales of woe from the outcasts of the popular cliques in high school.
As the metal bands were putting away their cans of White Rain and packing up their high tops and spandex, another wave of bands swept across the Dirt City.  The new kids on the block were musically sophisticated, without any of the rock star posturing of the hair bands. These new bands were evolving into a scene by playing and recording original music. The problem that bands faced, then and now, was the lack of venues.  Not that Albuquerque doesn't have plenty of bars and clubs, sadly most did not feature live music or chose to hire cover bands.  However cover bands were falling out of fashion, the musicians who once bragged "Dude, when we play Dust in the Wind, we sound just like Kansas" now found themselves at the bottom of the food chain.  Thanks to venues like The El Rey, The Golden West and The Sunshine Theater, bands playing original music,  could stay together and prosper long enough to develop their musical visions.