Monday, April 23, 2007

Historia de la Musica Tad, vol. III

“Being a part of the TAD experience is like waking up in the middle of a train wreck, or like turning over to slap the button on your snooze bar and realizing you have no arms. Look around you; nothing but ashes and molten slag; you’re in the hypercenter of something big. Something that thinks, moves, and destroys.” --Sub Pop

Even though we’ve already written two chapters in what will surely be the definitive history of TAD, we’re only now getting to TAD’s first full-length, God’s Balls, which Sub Pop released on vinyl all the way back in 1989. I would love to write that this fantastic record completely changed the landscape of music, relegating the glitzy pop of New Kids on the Block and glitzy metal of Motley Crue to the rubbish heap of history, but history didn’t cooperate. Sure, a different Seattle band tried to achieve that goal two years later, but it’s hard not be cynical about the reversion of popular music back to pap and crap. Somehow, Justin Timberlake duped the so-called “alternative” press into thinking that he and his team of A-list producers and songwriters make respectable music, and the emo bands have more in common with hair metal than they do with the Dictators or the Dead Kennedys even the Ramones. Loser, indeed.

But hey, we’re preaching to the choir here, babe. So back to TAD.

By this point, Tad Doyle had built a proper band around himself with Kurt Danielson on bass, Gary Thorstensen on guitar, and Steve Wied on drums. (The one exception was “Tuna Car,” a slightly older track on which Doyle played all of the instruments.) It also bears all of the classic Sub Pop hallmarks from the time: Jack Endino recorded it, Charles Peterson shot the cover photos, and not very many copies were pressed (2500, from what I can tell). Although the small pressing may suggest to some that Sub Pop aimed to bestow immediate collector status on the record, in truth, Sub Pop was a young label at the time, and 2500 copies seems to have been a reasonably sized pressing. All copies of the original LP were on vinyl; Glitterhouse apparently released a CD version of the record for the European market, but I’ve never seen a copy.

Sub Pop’s later released most of God’s Balls on a Salt Lick/God’s Balls combo CD, but they shaved three songs (“Tuna Car,” “Hollow Man,” and the extraordinary “Nipple Belt”) from the original record to make it all fit; those three songs are available here, you lucky, lucky people. I pulled the other two songs from the CD, so you may notice a difference in sound quality.

Reviews for God’s Balls are proving difficult to come by. Only a pair of people reviewed this record—which I consider a classic—on Amazon, and if anybody has archived old reviews from Backlash or The Rocket (or perhaps The Stranger), then I can’t find them. Sub Pop’s history page reprinted Bruce Pavitt’s original Sub Pop USA columns for the Rocket, and although the May 1988 column had good stuff to say about TAD in general, it predates God’s Balls by quite some time. I would compare God’s Balls to the original, grainy Texas Chainsaw Massacre, if the Texas Chainsaw Massacre had been funnier and more literate.

We were on the fence about whether to post the entire record. Even though God’s Balls long ago fell out of print, Sub Pop has linked to our blog a couple of times, and it seems like it would be in poor taste to give away an entire record that may one day return to print. In the mean time, search around eBay for the entire record if you don’t own it already. But you do own it already, right? Right?!?!

Tuna Car
Hollow Man
Nipple Belt

And the songs can also be downloaded via .zip file here.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

How to Chat Up Foxy Record Store Clerks By Casually Namedropping the Crows

Besides the great Big Chief diss controversy, the biggest criticism we get here at Lamestain LLC. is that we are out of touch thirtysomethings whose musical tastes haven’t developed past high school age. While all the other bloggers are hyping up Regina Spektor, LCD Soundsystem, or whatever the latest band that gets the Fall/Joy Division/XTC totally wrong, we spend valuable hours talking about the lost 64 Spiders single or wondering whatever happened to the Blood Circus dudes. But the truth is we also like to keep our fingers on the pulse of today’s rock and roll music. While we find most new stuff to be crap, we also like to be able to impress foxy record store clerks with our hip tastes and vast knowledge of yesteryear’s records. For instance, when we buy the recent Pissed Jeans’ single, we might say something like this: “We totally dig how these guys are doing an Amphetamine Reptile records thing for today’s post-emo generation.” Then, usually, the clerks’ ears will perk up and we’ll start naming dropping as many Amphetamine Reptile bands as possible. After that, we’ll tie in everything by saying something like “Hey, I noticed that you are playing Nick Cave’s new Grinderman project, which kind of reminds me of the Crows, who were a great, dead Amphetamine Reptile band.” Then I would start droppin’ some real mad knowledge like this:

“Well, after the U-Men broke up in the late 1980’s and Tom Price left to form the Kings of Rock and Gas Huffer, former U-Men singer John Bigley and drummer Charlie Ryan partnered up with guitarist Garth Brandenburg and bassist Greg Stumph to form the Crows. The band debuted with the “Crow Bar” b/w “Low Brow” picture disc single in 1991 and contributed the songs “Capital Hillbillies” to Dope, Guns, and Fucking in the Street volume 6 and “Go Look In The Crisper” to the Ugly American Overkill compilation LP. Their s/t record came out in 1994, but by then, the band was pretty much history. John soon went on to open up some Seattle bars, while Charlie and Greg went on to Bottle of Smoke with Tom Price and former Cat Butt singer David Duet. Charlie eventually left that band and joined up with Robert Vasquez to form the Right On. The Right On recorded a cool single, but not much else before they broke up and Rob started yet another cool band. Garth played in the Nitecaps and Lushy and probably some other bands around town. Yeah, if you like Nick Cave or the Birthday Party, the U-Men, and bands with crazy-sounding singers, I totally recommend the Crows LP. The cd is still in print, and I think you could find the LP fairly cheaply in the used bins.”

After a spiel like that, the foxy record clerks are usually totally impressed by my wisdom and will often give a 10% discount on my purchases. Also, go to the very cool Last Days of Man blog to check out the first, long-out-of-print Crows single.

The Crows -- "I Know Where You Live"
The Crows-- "Land of the Blind"
The Crows -- "Side Show"

The songs can also be obtained via .zip file here.
-- MC Tom

Friday, April 13, 2007

One last bit about 1987

The Telly

Righteous indignation. Though he had an avuncular presence and spoke carefully and calmly, Lou Guzzo reigned as the king of televised indignation. His two-minute commentaries on KIRO’s local news program generally covered two topics: (1) “If it was good enough for me, then it’s good enough for young people”; and (2) “There ought to be a law.” Tom wrote about his most famous commentary—his condemnation of “teenage punk rockers,” in which he stated that it was time “to put our foot down” on punk rock, and that these teenagers “should try the real world for a change”—a couple of weeks ago. Guzzo maintains a blog now with the subtitle “Whatever [sic] happened to common sense.” That’s “what ever,” Lou, not “whatever.” But I understand how somebody with a mere fifty years’ experience in journalism could make such a dunderheaded mistake.

Slightly less indignant was Ken Schram’s Town Meeting (which apparently aired well into the 90s—who knew?), a Donohue-esque talk show set in a dark KOMO studio that covered local issues. I had been prepared to dismiss this show for its tone and subject matter (e.g., the menace that is naughty public access programming), but in truth, shows such have this have largely vanished, only to be replaced with syndicated reruns and Oprah. For example, Chicago still has a couple of local issue chat shows, but they’ve been shunted off to cable and PBS; if a local network airs a regional show like this, they air it well past my bedtime. The death knell for regional programming hasn’t sounded as loudly in Seattle, I suppose: even though Almost Live and Town Meeting are gone, Northwest Afternoon (KOMO) and Evening (KING) still air. Still, Evening favored puff pieces over substance, and I remember Northwest Afternoon mostly for Cindi Rinehardt’s recaps of soap opera developments. (I’d actually like to add more details about Town Meeting, but even though it aired for more than a decade, I can hardly find anything at all about it online.)

Almost Live. Almost Live began in 1984 as a one-hour Tonight Show-esque talk show hosted by Ross Schafer and featuring perhaps the worst band in talk show history. As I recall it, the topics were almost entirely specific to Seattle, with references to Seattle’s (then predominant) Scandinavian population and to long-gone local TV personalities like JP Patches and Stan Boreson. Schafer achieved national notoriety when he led a half-serious campaign to replace Washington’s state song, “Washington My Home.” Why? Nobody knows it, if they’ve even heard it at all. The replacement candidate? “Louie Louie.” It was actually a pretty funny stunt, and he almost succeeded. In the end, the state government feared hurting the feelings of heirs to the “Washington My Home” legacy and designated “Louie Louie” as the state rock song. Way to kill a good joke, Mr. Congressman.

Local Rocket scribe and bald man John Keister replaced Schafer sometime around 1988, and Almost Live dumped the interview segments and band and halved its length. The 30-minute version of the show aired until 1999. Although Almost Live remained very popular to the end, KING’s parent companies thought that the show’s profits didn’t justify the substantial production costs and finally killed it. A relative of mine described the show as “almost funny,” and he wasn’t really that far off the mark. Still, the show had its moments: the half-earnest campaign to change Washington’s state song to “Louie, Louie,” “High-Fivin’ White Guys,” “Ballard Driving Academy,” etc. “The Lame List” sketches even featured Kim Thayil of Soundgarden and members of local metal band Forced Entry. Schafer also gave Bill Nye the Science Guy his first TV exposure, and Bill Nye rules. Most of those skits came much, much later, however, and although KING’s website has several clips from the show, none date from Schafer’s era.

Bombshelter Videos. No 1987 TV retrospective would be complete without a bit about the awesome Bombshelter Videos, which premiered in November of that year. Bombshelter originally aired on KSTW in the middle of the night. The theme music was Naked Raygun’s fuzzy “Bombshelter.” At the start of each episode, host Bill Bored (Frank Harlan) descended into the bombshelter, which was a small room plastered with concert fliers, spray paint, and fallout shelter signs and littered with all sorts of junk. Early episodes leaned heavily on non-Northwest punk and college rock from that time (e.g., Black Flag, Mojo Nixon, Dead Milkmen, Sister-era Sonic Youth). In fact, it wasn’t until the 12th and 13th episodes that Northwest bands like Popdefect, the Young Fresh Fellows, Room Nine, and the Accoustinauts started appearing regularly. This is not a slight on the show; it ruled regardless of whether Bored showed videos by the Minutemen or the U-Men.

The original Bombshelter aired until 1992. Bored later produced a NorthWest Rock show from 1992 to 1994, as well as trading cards featuring the bands from that era. (I’ll swap your Mudhoney and Tiny Hat Orchestra cards for a mint Kid Sensation card and two Gruntruck cards.) Frank Harlan now works as an emcee, stand-up comic, and host of corporate roasts and team-building events.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

It's still 1987 all over again

Radio and Print Media

Emmet Watson. When Watson died in 2001, the obituaries listed “indignation” as a characteristic of his columns. Although Lou Guzzo and other shared this indignation, I have a softer spot for the crusty, curmudgeonly Watson. Watson devoted entire books to chronicles of Seattle’s long-forgotten historical figures, but he led the half-serious Lesser Seattle/“Keep the Bastards Out!” movement (if you could call it a movement) in the late 80s, when literally hundreds of thousands of Californians moved to Seattle, Portland, and elsewhere in the northwest. His concerns mostly regarded the potential for Seattle’s unique characteristics and landmarks to be washed out with the tides of Californian ex-pats. Was he correct? I’m not sure. Seattle isn’t the same as it was 20 years ago, but those changes could have happened regardless of whether the demographics shifted. The Doghouse, Lelani Lanes, and Twin Teepees are long gone, but if I ever find myself in Andy’s Diner, I’ll raise a toast to Lesser Seattle’s biggest booster, Emmett Watson.


KJET. Steve here. For me personally, 1987 was also pivotal year -- that spring I graduated from suburban Kent-Meridian High School, and that fall I moved to Seattle's U-District to start my freshman year at the UW. My musical tastes underwent a similar shift, largely leaving behind classic rock for the more esoteric sounds of postpunk and new wave. Paving the way was Seattle's KJET, broadcasting in glorious mono at 1600 AM.

When KJET signed on in May 1982, it filled a niche on local airwaves as the only commercial station playing college/underground/what-have-you rock 'n' roll. Besides more established acts like the Clash, Devo and David Bowie, KJET spun loads of lesser-known bands: most never broke out of new-wave circles (Romeo Void, Camper Van Beethoven, the Hoodoo Gurus), though some achieved moderate success (the B-52s, Adam Ant, Oingo Boingo), and a couple became monster-ass stars (REM, U2). It was on KJET that I first heard the Pixies, Iggy Pop and the Replacements, all of which would soon rank among my all-time faves. And, most pertinent to this blog, KJET playlists were peppered with great local songs: "Twilight Zone" by the Visible Targets, "I May Hate You Sometimes" by the Posies, "Emma Peel" by the Allies, and the Young Fresh Fellows' "Rock 'n' Roll Pest Control." Of course, KJET also played loads of stupid '80s crap that I never wanna hear again.

The station was about as low budget as it got, with a weak signal at the far end of the AM dial and just one live DJ (for the weekday morning shift). Its tape-automation system, only capable of playing sub-five-minute songs, often malfunctioned: song titles announced by the pre-recorded DJs wouldn't always correspond to actual songs heard. Then again, the station had the best call letters in radio history (KJET!), and I loved that cool sonic boom always heard during station IDs.

Sadly, KJET abruptly signed off in September 1988, just as the Seattle scene was building steam. However, it no doubt helped calibrate the musical tastes of blossoming Jet City rockers. It certainly did mine.


Brain Pain. Jeff Gilbert hosted KCMU’s thrash/death metal show Brain Pain for several years. I can’t say for certain whether it aired in 1987, because there is nothing about it online, but 1987 sounds about right. Tom discovered it one evening in 1988 while scrolling over the FM dial and coming across Slayer’s “South of Heaven.” Tom and I would listen every week, even though 99% of the material sounded exactly the same, and even though 98% of that material sucked. Sure, he played Slayer, but he also played Wargasm, Possessed, and thousands of other bands never to be heard from again. Still, Gilbert was a huge presence around there, and we’d see him pretty regularly at shows and events. He also featured several local acts, like Forced Entry, Coven, and Bitter End, as well as Soundgarden—who sounded 0% like the other acts. Also, Brain Pain featured angry, despairing music—music for burnouts and losers--that bore no resemblance to the shlock found elsewhere on the FM dial, and that alone made his program interesting. Currently, Gilbert writes for and edits Mansplat magazine, available at finer strip clubs in the Seattle and Portland metropolitan areas.


(And of course, you can still get Lamestain's Awesome 1987 mix tape here.

Monday, April 09, 2007

It's 1987 all over again

A few weeks ago, it dawned on me that 1987—20 years ago—turned out to be a pretty seminal year in terms of the Seattle scene. On that year, Soundgarden released Screaming Life, Green River released Dry as a Bone, the Screaming Trees released Even If and Especially When, and the Melvins released Gluey Porch Treatments; this is not to mention important or well-regarded records by the Fastbacks, the Young Fresh Fellows, and the Accused. Bundle of Hiss holed up at Audio Designs studio to record unreleased (but significant) demos, and Kurt Cobain, Chris Noveselic, and drummer Aaron Burckhard made their live debut at a house party in Raymond, Washington.

This, combined with periodic perusal of Clark Humphrey’s blog and the publication of Humphrey’s book Vanishing Seattle (which I have yet to read) prompted me to take a stroll down memory lane. Thus, for the next few days, were going to write about some of the people, places, and media we remember fondly—or not so fondly—from 1987. We also will post a .zip file containing songs from the aforementioned records. So without further adieu.

Places People Went

Beth’s Café. An online review described meals at Beth’s as being a teenage hipster rite of passage, and who am I to argue? Beth’s opened in 1954 and serves timeless greasy spoon classics, with portions that seem reasonable only after a night of hardcore drinking. (Beth’s is also open 24 hours.) Will a six-egg omelette fail to fill your stomach? Then opt for Beth’s famed 12-egg omelette, complete with hash browns. During my teenage years, it was a common haunt for teens who snuck out of their parents’ houses and who needed a place to eat and smoke clove cigarettes.

The Last Exit. The Last Exit (also called The Last Exit on Brooklyn, in reference to the Hubert Selby novel) was a U-district institution for more than 20 years and a not-so-revered coffee shop for another ten. The original location, on the 3900 block of Brooklyn, opened in 1967 and was a huge, lively room with dozens and dozens of tables; the place would overflow in the evenings with students, chess players, bad writers, radical political zealots, and other bohemian types. Sometime in the early 90s, after owner Irv Cisky died, the Last Exit moved to a nondescript, smaller building on the 5200 block of the Ave, and it shut its doors a few years later. The history of the place is well accounted here.

Chubby & Tubby. Although I risk crossing-over too much with Vanishing Seattle, I’ll add another voice to the chorus mourning the passing of general store Chubby & Tubby. It reminds me of how organic the grunge “look” was: the “look” had nothing to do with Urban Outfitter boardrooms or young designers in Manhattan; on the contrary, locals (both young and old) wore flannel shirts because they didn’t cost much and kept a person warm in those damp, dim Seattle winters. And where better to buy flannels than at Chubby & Tubby, where one could also find Converse Chuck Taylors for less than $20, Christmas trees for $5, and all the hunting knives, fishing tackle, rubbers (meaning the boots), sleeping bags, and Carhartt coats you need for your weekend in the woods. Chubby & Tubby’s two locations sold everything cheap, and every aisle was overstuffed with merchandise. It was uncool, unironic, and located in unfashionable neighborhoods, and it’s a damn shame that it’s gone.

Venues. Several of the important venues from that period vanished years ago, sometimes before we were old enough to patronize them. The Off Ramp? It’s now El Corazon. The Central? It still exists, but in 1990, the owners converted it into a “saloon,” and you’re more likely to see Tom Petty and Jimi Hendrix cover bands play there than TAD or Girl Trouble. Squid Row? It’s now Kincora. My brother tells me a hair salon occupies the Vogue’s original space. The OK Hotel? It closed in 2001 after an earthquake. The Backstage (which was more of a touring venue)? Closed in 1998. The Hollywood Underground and Ballard Underground are long gone, too. In fact, I’m hard-pressed to think of many venues from that era that still exist in their same form, other than the smaller theaters (the Moore and Paramount) and the HUB Ballroom at the UW.

So as you mourn the losses of these places, you can play the .zip file of Lamestain's Awesome 1987 Mix Tape, featuring:

Soundgarden “Nothing to Say”
Young Fresh Fellows “Amy Grant”
Melvins "Heater Moves and Eyes"
Green River “Unwind”
Screaming Trees "Transfiguration"
The Accused “Bethany Home (A Place to Die)”
Bundle of Hiss “Rabies”
The Fastbacks “Wrong, Wrong, Wrong”

We'll discuss radio, TV, and print media later in the week.


Sunday, April 01, 2007

Lamestain Saves You from Having to Scour Ebay for that Melvana 7”

At Lamestain Headquarters, we have mixed feelings about bootleggers. On one hand, we have learned about some of our favorite bands through bootlegs or quasi-legit records like the Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk, Back from the Grave, Nuggets, Pebbles, and the first dozen Killed By Death compilations. Really, boots have created a market for obscure music, which, in some cases, has led to proper reissues, reunion shows, and bands getting the recognition that they deserve. A case in point would be any of the hundreds of punk bands that have recently released proper full-length reissues after their lone, 300-pressed-but-250-thrown-away-by-a-crazy- ex-girlfriend, 25-year old single appeared on a Bloodstains Across Uzbekistan compilation. On the other hand, a lot of bootleggers are more interested in making a quick buck than they are of exposing a new audience to forgotten music. These are the jerks that put out the millions of crapily recorded, shoddy packaged, and overpriced live Misfits bootlegs that you regretfully keep buying because you are hoping that this one won’t totally suck.

We also dig how some bootleggers preserve some once in a lifetime event that would otherwise just exist in a few lucky clubgoer’s alcohol-impaired memories. For instance, the one-time pairing of the Melvins' King Buzzo with Nirvana's Chris Novoselic and Dave Grohl at Seattle’s Crocodile Café on January 15th, 1992. If, like me, you were doing something lame that night, you would have never heard this band if it wasn’t for some sneaky scenester recording the show for posterity and maybe a little financial benefit.

The band supposedly did 4 or 5 songs, and two Flipper covers (“Sacrifice” and “Way of the World”) ended up on a bootleg 7” in 1993. Released by the mysterious Teen Sensation Records, the sound quality is actually pretty good for a live boot. Sadly, whoever put together the record didn’t list much information on the sleeve, and nobody seems to know who else played that night. I don’t ever remember any announced Melvins’ shows at the Crocodile, and I am guessing the guys just jumped on stage between scheduled bands, blazed through a short set, and then left like a dust in the wind. Our soon-to-be-fired college interns were also not able to find out what other songs were performed that night. If you were there or know more, please leave a comment to fill in the blanks.

Anyhow, the Melvins later covered “Sacrifice” on the Lysol record and “Love Canal” and “Someday” for a Flipper tribute 5” on San Francisco’s great Slap a Ham Records. Krist Novoselic also filled in for the late Will Shatter on a Flipper / Melvins tour last year.

MediaMax is giving us grief this morning, so if you want the songs, the best way to download them is via the .zip file here.)

Way of the World

-- MC Tom