Thursday, December 31, 2015

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