Audio Lore

A Positive Music Blog

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Feelies - Time for a Witness (Out of the Vaults #25)

Every once in awhile ..well you know the drill

Where as most 14/15/16 year olds may have written fan letters to their sports players, actors, or pop music idols, I wrote letters to members of indie rock bands. Yeah, my music geek roots run pretty deep.

I would get the addresses of the LP jackets or cassette inserts, write out carefully handwritten letters, seal them, send them out and wait patiently for replies.

I can't remember exactly how I first heard of the Hoboken,New Jersey band  The Feelies but it probably has to do with R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck co-producing their 1986 The Good Earth album. Soon The Good Earth and 1988's Only Life, the only two Feelies records I was aware of at that time, were two of my favorite albums,always in heavy rotation.

Along with The Feelies, at the time two of my favorite indie rock discoveries at the time were Boston's Galaxie 500 who had just released the awesome On Fire album, and New Zealand's The Chills. One day I decided the three bands would be the next victims of my music geek letter writing.

I never heard back from Galaxie 500 or The Chills, I chalked it up to the
former being busy on tour and the latter's letter getting lost somewhere overseas en route to New Zealand.

But The Feelies actually wrote back. The letter was written by drummer Stanley Demeski  He said that when he joined the band it was decided he would be the one responsible for all the fan mail the band received. He said my letter was their very first one.

In the letter he expressed how thrilled he and the rest of the band were that someone had taken the time to write to them. He included a Coyote Records press release for the band. It was in the press release that I first learned the band was taken from a device in Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I made a mental note to pick up a copy at the Crown Books next to the Kemp Mill Records store in town. I also had no idea the band had actually all but split up in the early 80's , playing together in various musical project, before reforming and recording The Good Earth This was about when Stanley Demeski joined on drums,

The Feelies perforning in "Something Wild"
The press release also talked about the band's close affiliation to director Jonathan Demme. Their song “Too Far Gone” had appeared on the soundtrack to his movie Married to the Mob. The band even made an appearance in Demme's Something Wild as “the Willies”, playing live during the high school reunion. They preformed a couple songs including David Bowie's “Fame”. I would go on to look for an actual recording of that song for years

One of the most important thing the press release informed  me (and plus radio stations and live venues the release was intended for) of was that The Feelies actually had another album. Their debut album Crazy Rhythms was originally released in 1980 but at the point the press release was written it was long out of print. Even then the album was considered a classic. I would go on to try and find a decently priced copy. Finally in 1990 A&M rereleased it on compact disc 

In 1991 I had the opportunity to by my first "new" album by The Feelies when they released Time for a Witness,

The music found on the disc really broke no new ground but
"Sooner or Later" promo 12"
it was by far a disappointment either. Time for a Witness has some awesome revved up songs toward in "Waiting" at track 1, with it's smooth guitar groove during the chorus, "Time for a Witness" with a slight jangle added track, and "Sooner of Later, containing one of my favorite lyrics ("I don't know what's up ahead, Don't think too much, it'll hurt your head") at track 3. 

The band also continues paying tribute to their music
forefathers with the Velvet Underground influenced "Decide" at track 5 and early Rolliug Stones inspired "What She Said", as well what I thought as their totally own sound on "Invitation", a song that would fit perfectly right on The Good Earth

One big surprise of the album is "Doing it Again" at track 6. The song sound very similar to the Jackson Browne classic "Somebody's baby". I'm not sure if this was intended buy the band or just an accidental coincidence. I'm also surprised in all these years no one besides me has ever called the band out on it. 

Continuing to pay tribute to their influence (they covered The Velvet Underground's "What Goes On" on the previous album) The Feelies close the album with a amped up cover of The Stooges "Real Cool Time", which may have been the first time I was aware of hearing the classic but at the time pretty unavailable band 

Unfortunately Time for a Witness would be the last album the band would release, The band went on hiatus, Later reforming for post 2000 to play sporatic shows (I caught them in Battery Park opening for Sonic Youth on July 4th 2008) before releasing their Time for a Witness followup Here in 2011.

But The Feelies hiatus did not leave this now 18 year old music geek too upset because right around the same time both Galaxie 500 and The Chills called it a day too. Galaxie 50 's singer/guitarist Dean Warhem would form a new band with The Chills bassist Justin Harwood,  my old pen pal Stanley Demeski on drums. 

Years later Dean Warhem would retweet a tweet I made about an upcoming Luna concert. I consider it my long overdue reply.

The Feelies performing "Doin' it Again" on David Letterman in 1991

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Out of the Vaults # 24 - SUGAR -File Under Easy Listening (Deluxe Edition)

My wife dives into our CD cabinets (The Vaults) and randomly pull out one of the thousands of  CDs. The chosen album will then be given to me and I will talk about the CD for awhile no matter how good, bad, obscure or embarrassing the chosen disc is. Where did I buy it, when did I buy it, what was my first reaction to hearing it, do I still listen to it today etc, etc, etc

One of the things I dislike the most in the world is when people say "Thanks Obama". After 11 years it's just not funny anymore, Whenever someone says it, I cringe. It wasn't too funny to begin but when all those years ago the expression first began popping up it would always give me a little laugh, reminding me of something that happened many years before, 

It was 1992, Husker Du's singer/guitarist Bob Mould had new band called Sugar. I hated them so much. Hated them with a passion.And this was before I had even heard a single note.

The reason why I hated Sugar so much was because I wanted Bob Mould to make up with drummer Grant Hart, grab bassist Greg Norton and do Husker Du reunion. Over the past couple of years Bob Mould had released two solo albums, Black Sheets of Rain and Workbook. They were okay albums but didn't have the buzz saw sound of Husker Du, who's back catalog was always in heavy rotation on my stereo.

Bob Nould (Center) with drummer Malcolm Travis (left) and bassist Dave Barbe (right)
Sugar was going to play the 9:30 club in Washington, D.C. and they didn't even have an album out. Their 7" on Bob's  Singles Only Label (S.O.L.) may have been released already but I can't remember. I planned to go to the show but would be doing so “under protest”. I was hoping they would slip in a Husker Du song or two.

The show was so loud. I don't mind loud but this show was so loud if Sugar had released any recordings it would have been  impossible to tell what song was being played anyway. Still I was pretty sure there weren't any Husker Du songs performed that night. When the show was over I managed to grab one of the set lists. There weren't any Husker Du songs listed on it.

Usually after concerts my ears would clear up within an hour or so. This Sugar show was so loud the next day my ears still had a muffled buzz going on.

"Your Favorite Thing" single
At the time I had a summer job  at a warehouse counting maps.The maps consisted of random things from highway trucking routes to electrical systems in buildings all over the United States   A team of two people would have a list of maps they needed to retrieve ("pick") for an order. Once they had them they would bring them over to me and this other guy who would count them out, wrap them in rubber bands, and box them up to be sent out. About half the warehouse was filled with workers from the temp agency. It was a monotonous job but we made the most of it by having rubber band battles, talking about music and telling each other jokes and stories.

Each day at lunch time there would be a ring over the loudspeaker to let everyone know it was time for lunch. Then after a half an hour there was another ring  saying it was time to go back to work. The day after the Sugar show my boxing partner had called out of work so I was working by myself and honestly getting more stuff done than if I was chatting away with my absent coworker.

That day my ears were buzzing so loud from the show I missed both of the rings.
Flier from a show just a few days after the one in D.C.
When I saw the other workers coming back from lunch  I realized  I would now have to wait until the end of the day before I could get something to eat. Ten minutes later when one of the picking teams brought over an order of maps, one of them asked where I had been during the lunch break. I told him what had happened and ended the story with "Thanks Bob Mould".

Soon that became the catch phrase of the summer. Whenever something went wrong we would say "Thank you Bob Mould".

A couple month later Sugar released their first album Copper Blue. Although it was a very good album I still wasn't over my desire for a Husker Du reunion. Almost immediately after Copper Blue Sugar released a mini album called Beaster. This was more like it. Buzz saw guitars all over the place. Then in 1994 Sugar released their final album File Under Easy Listening before Bob once again decided it was time for the band to call it a day. F.U.E.L was more of a continuation of Copper Blue. Good music with full of hooks under Bob's guitars.

 But it still wasn't Husker Du. 

Eventually I traded the discs back to a used CD store. They also released a collection of b-sides called Besides which I am pretty sure I never picked up. 

File Under Easy Listening Deluxe Edition
In 2012 Merge Records released two deluxe Sugar CD collections. The first was a triple disc containing Copper Blue, Beaster, and Live at the Caberet Metro.The second  a double disc containing File Under Easy Listening with some b-Sides, and The Joke Isn't Always On Us, Sometimes, a live disc which was originally included with the first 25,000 copies of Besides.

On a whim I picked up both of the reissues and discovered a new fondness for the band. I guess I had finally come to terms with the idea there was never going to be a Husker Du reunion. To this day both deluxe disc sets remain in my regular rotation. It's also great to finally be able hear a Sugar live show without my ears buzzing for days. 

Thanks Bob Mould

Here is the video for F.U.E.L.'s "Gee Angel"

Friday, July 15, 2016

Beatles (For Sale)

 Over the years that I owned a record store in Historical Ellicott City, Maryland, there were a few regular customers that stood out. The first one would be the kid who worked as a dish washer across the street  at the Phenix who would come in every other Wednesday to order a tape so it would be there when he was paid the upcoming Friday. Then I would put it on the store stereo for him and together we would bang our heads (not literally of course) through a few songs. The tape was always the heaviest of the heaviest Christian bands such as the 80's thrash metal band Believer or Barren Cross. The kid told me he did not necessarily believe in the Christian stuff the bands were singing about but it was the only way his parents would let him listen to such loud music.

The second would be the Pappa John's pizza delivery guy who worked
around the corner on Route 40. Every couple weeks he would stop
at the store while making a delivery and order tapes by Jazz Fusion artists. I would see him in his convertible stopped at the light on Main Street while he delivered a pizza; he would be blasting whatever Chock Corea, Stanely Clarke, or other tape he had recently purchased,, When he saw me he would give me a thumbs up, turn the music up even louder, and continue on his way.

I  have to say my favorite regular customer was the Beatles guy. The guy was  probably in his late 30's to early 40's. The second time he came in we got to talking. He told me how when he 

was young he had been a patient at the mental 

hospital Taylor Manor (now Sheppard Pratt) up 

the street. He had“graduated” and officially 

released but ended up living nearby, so he went 

back later and got a job working in the cafeteria.

The guy told me how he just recently discovered the Beatles, falling instantly in love with their music. He said he did not get paid a lot at his job but would put away a little of each paycheck so at the end of the month he could purchase one of The Beatles albums on CD, The catch was he wanted to make sure to pick them up in the order they were released and would need my help in achieving that.

In order for the guy (and myself) to not become too confused with all the different UK versus US versions of each album, I decided we should concentrate on the North American discography. In 1998 Introducing The Beatles and  a few of their other early releases were  not yet available on Compact Disc so Meet The Beatles was going to be the designated starting point. When he picked up his copy the smile on his face went from ear to ear. He told me how he could not wait to give it a spin.

A month later when the guy showed up I had a brand new shrink wrapped copy of the next album that was available on compact discovered; Hard Days Night, waiting for him. Before he left with his CD the guy told me how he played Meet The Beatles over and over again at home and while at work. At one point he even had the whole cafeteria staff singing along to “I Saw Her Standing There”, “It Won't be Long”, and of course “I Want to Hold Your Hand”
Every month the guy would show up like clockwork
to claim his prize for month of hard work he put in just up the street at the Taylor Manor cafeteria just up the street from my store. It was HelpRubber SoulRevolver, Sgt Pepper, Magical Mystery Tour, which he confided in me was not his favorite of the Fab Four's recordings, The White Album, and so on.

When I would order the CD's for the guy I would also make sure to order a few copies for the store

too. Soon I realized as I was ordering the Cd's for the guy to discover, I was listening to them too,

gaining a whole new appreciation for these albums I had not listened to in full since I was in my

teens and my parents lent me theirs.

Sure I remembered all the hits but this was the first time in years I was hearing so many of the great Rubber Soul, “And Your Bird Can Sing” and “I've Just Seen a Face” as well as “For No One” off of Revolver.
album cuts like “I Need You” and “Another Girl' off of Help.
When we reached The White Album. I totally forgot about such great songs like “Happiness is Warm Gun”, George Harrison's “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and the wacky out of nowhere songs like “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill” and “Rocky raccoon”.

But then it happened. After months of coming in to pick up compact disc copies of Meet The Beatles to Abbey Road , the guy came in to pick up his copy the last  Beatles album: Let It Be. He had his usual ear to ear smile on his face. As he was about to leave with the final piece of the Beatles puzzle, the smile briefly left as he turned to me and said, “I guess that's it”.

I said back, “What do you mean”. 
The guy shrugged and said, “ That's all their albums”. Then he looked at the ground and said, “There are no more to get”.

There was a brief moment of silence.

Then I said, “Now you can work on getting all the solo albums”