“Bilbo Is Dead”: Not the Hobbit

Joe’s Record Paradise – thankfully – is only moving up Georgia Avenue a few blocks.

Joe’s Record Paradise at dusk

Joe's Record Paradise-bb

On my last visit to Joe’s I picked up The Record Men:  The Chess Brothers and the Birth of Rock & Roll – the lone music history title in W.W. Norton’s Enterprise series that celebrates the virtues and achievements of Capitalism and Free Enterprise.  Rich Cohen, consequently, focuses on Leonard and Phil Chess and the immigrant experience in post-WWII America, as the two brothers carved out an entrepreneurial niche at a time when Chicago electrified the blues during the Second Great Migration.

The success of the Macomba Lounge and its reputation as an after-hours music hot spot (that drew the likes of Max Roach and Ella Fitzgerald) would give Leonard Chess the inspiration to try his hand at recording this new blues sound as a music label proprietor.  In 1947, Chess would buy a minority ownership stake in Aristocrat Records, the label that would become Chess three years later when Leonard and Phil acquired sole ownership of this independent musical enterprise.

Given the renown of Chess, surprisingly little seems to be known about the controversy around Leonard Chess’s first recording foray in September, 1947 with Andrew Tibbs.  Writes Cohen:

“The Tibbs record is a cautionary tale–it shows how everything can go wrong.  A few thousand were pressed.  Side A was ‘Union [Man] Blues,’ a song about the life of a union man, a flat song to everyone but the Teamsters, truckers, and box handlers, who found it offensive, and so–or so the story goes–refused to ship it, letting the records pile up in the warehouses.  Side B was “Bilbo Is Dead,” an attack on segregationist Senator Theodore Bilbo, who had just died.  In those parts of the South where the Teamsters let the record through, it was smashed by angry white mobs.  So started Leonard Chess in the music business:  he sent his record out into the whirlwind–and these things are really no more than totems of the people who make them–and it came back smashed up, and spat upon, and undelivered.”

Note:  1101A means that “Bilbo Is Dead” is the A-side, not “union Man Blues”

Andrew Tibbs 78-aAndrew Tibbs 78-b

Francis Davis in The History of the Blues additionally notes that “Union Man Blues” was a song “that voiced disgust over the exclusion of blacks from labor unions.  Angry truck drivers, upon hearing the content of the lyrics, destroyed mass quantities of this record.”  John Collis in The Story of Chess Records would refer to ‘the Tibbs record’ as the controversial release “which almost killed off Chess before it had even started.”

“Bilbo Is Dead”     Andrew Tibbs     1947

Andrew Tibbs (vocals)
with Dave Youngs Orchestra:
–  Dave Young (tenor sax)
–  AndrewGoonGardner (alto sax)
–  Pee Wee Jackson (trumpet)
–  Rudy Martin (piano)
–  Bill Settles (bass)
–  Curtis Walker (drums)

Robert L. Campbell (et al.)’s history of the Aristocrat label points out that “some of the composer credits on Aristocrat labels are demonstrably bogus.  For instance, ‘Bilbo Is Dead’ was co-written by Andrew Tibbs and Tom Archia.  But the label claimed credit for Chess-Aleta-Archia—whoever Aleta was.  Meanwhile the copyright records at the Library of Congress give Evelyn Aron and Mildred Brount as the copyright owners!”

2120 South Michigan Avenue – Chicago, IL

2120 South Michigan AveAn original copy of the “Bilbo Is Dead” 78 would fetch just under $100 in 2013.

Fifth Zero to 180 item tagged as Labor in Song.

Rocksteady: Cowbell Golden Era

Will Ferrell’s inspired sketch idea as a cowbell-wielding member of Blue Oyster Cult named Gene Frenkle may have lost some of its freshness, however Ferrell deserves credit for galvanizing interest in this long-neglected member of the percussion family.   Five years after that Saturday Night Live sketch originally aired, Paul Farhi would reveal in The Washington Post’s January 29, 2005 edition that Frenkle was, indeed, a fiction.  Furthermore —

“According to former BOC bassist Joe Bouchard, an unnamed producer asked his brother, drummer Albert Bouchard, to play the cowbell after the fact.  ‘Albert thought he was crazy,’ Bouchard told the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press in 2000.  ‘But he put all this tape around a cowbell and played it.  It really pulled the track together.'”

How interesting, then, to discover the existence of a cowbell Golden Age just eight years before the release of “Don’t Fear the Reaper” in a parallel musical universe located within the Western Hemisphere – and yet not actually of it.  That’s right, 1968 was a peak moment for the cowbell on Jamaica’s radio airwaves and in their dancehalls — but for most of us here in the States, that fact would only come to light 3 decades after the fact, when CD reissues of reggae and its predecessor, rocksteady, began to appear here.

JA cowbellToday’s piece, therefore, salutes the cowbell in rocksteady’s magical-but-oh-so-brief moment in history.  Zero to 180 welcomes your suggestions to this (incomplete) list:

R o c k s t e a d y   &   E a r l y   R e g g a e   C o w b e l l   C l a s s i c s

Hortense Ellis w/ Buster All-Stars  "Somebody Help Me" 1967 [Buster]
Lyn Taitt & the Jets   "Mr. Dooby"   1967   [Merritone]
Alfred Brown  "One Bourbon One Scotch One Beer"  1968 [? producer]
Alton Ellis   "Bye Bye Love"   1968   [Clifton Bough]
Errol Dunkley  "Love Brother" & "I'm Going Home"  1968   [Gibbs]
The Dynamics w/ Lyn Taitt's Jets   "My Friends"   1968   [Gibbs]
The Pioneers w/ Lyn Taitt's Jets   "Give It to Me"   1968   [Gibbs]
Stranger & Gladdy   "Just Like a River"   1968  [Gibbs]
Shorty Perry & Ken Boothe  "Can't You See"   1968   [Links]
Untouchables   "Wall Flower"   1968   [Enos McLeod]
Desmond Dekker & the Aces  "Mother Pepper" 1968   [Kong]
The Ethiopians w/ Lyn Taitt's Jets "Train to Glory" 1968 [Pottinger]
The Gaylads  "It's Hard to Confess"  1968   [Pottinger]
The Melodians  "Swing and Dine"  1968  [Pottinger]
The Coasters   "Stony Hill"   1968   [Daley]
Black Brothers w/ Lyn Taitt's Jets   "Give Me Loving"  1968  [Morgan]
Cliff & the Diamonds  "Mother Benge"  1968  [Abrahams]
The Pioneers w/ Lyn Taitt's Jets  "This Is Soul"  1968  [Gibbs]
The Overtakers w/ Lyn Taitt's Jets  "Girl You Ruff"  1968  [Gibbs]

“Girl You Ruff” – White label release in JA vs. UK release on amalgamated label

Overtakers 45-aOvertakers 45-b

Related Trivia

= “Just Like a River” instrumentally — “El Casino Royale” & “Last Flight to Reggae City

= Ken Boothe’s “Can’t You See” (esp. ‘blanks’) can easily sell for hundreds of dollars.

= “Mother Benge” by Cliff & the Diamonds – as previously mentioned – not a cheap 45.

= In 2011, someone paid $255 for a blank (Amalgamated) copy of “Girl You Ruff

Lyn(n) Taitt Figures Prominently in JA Cowbell Lure

Lynn Taitt & Comets-aaLynn Taitt & Comets-bb

Mad Mag’s Multi-Groove Flexi-disc

Remember the Las Vegas Roulette record with the “multi-groove” in which the tonearm stylus randomly selects (at least, in theory) one of 38 separate grooves – one for each slot on the roulette wheel – so as to allow partygoers the ability to play roulette from the comfort of home?   That’s right, you, too, can be the croupier.    *(Link to original piece)

Fabulous Las Vegas Roulette LP-jrIn 1980, Mad Magazine would pull off an even more ambitious vinyl feat:  a “multi-groove” flexi-disc!   45Cat’s 23skidoo rightly emphasizes:

“A random groove record.  A different ending (usually) is heard each time the record is played.  Very rare for a flexi-disc to have this feature.”

“It’s a Super Spectacular Day” [all 8 endings]    Frank Jacobs & Norm Blagman    1980

45Cat lists Mad Magazine flexi-discs from 19611981

I am grateful to have had a neighbor growing up who allowed me to borrow freely from his 1960s collection of Mad Magazines — the best educational supplement a kid could ask for.

Mad Mag-sing along-a+Mad Mag-sing along-b+

Check out the hyper-minimalist animation video that Casey Killingsworth created for the 1980 disco update of Mad’s 1961 belch-rock hit, “It’s a Gas!”

The “Rock Revolution” as seen through the lens of Mad Magazine:  1965-1968

Mad Mag-guitar-a+Mad Mag-beatles 68-a

In 2011, someone would fork over $100 for a vintage copy of Mad’s debut (and only) LP.

     Beatles                            vs.                         Stones, man

Mad Mag-ringo+Mad Mag-jagger+mag

Beatles vs. Stones:  1-0

On February 7, 2014 Mad Magazine would post the following announcement:

“Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ arrival in America!  And in order to thoroughly commemorate, celebrate, salute and pay tribute to this historic event, we present the only time that all four Beatles appeared on our cover [September, 1968 cover above with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi] — which is still one more MAD cover than the Rolling Stones ever had!”

Mad Magazine’s Don Martin gets in on the act

Mad Mag-beatles 65+

Management requires that I insert a plug for Zero to 180‘s Facebook page – like it or else!

The Bill Doggett Centennial Begins Now!

Podcasts are great and all, but nothing compares to the magic & excitement of live radio!

A recent exchange with WPFW radio’s Andrea Bray – at Andrea’s Fine Hats in DC just over the line from Silver Spring – unexpectedly resulted in an invitation to join her on the air this past Saturday to celebrate the musical legacy of Bill Doggett, whose career spans the more traditional blues, jazz, and swing eras into the new R&B and funk ushered in by his King Records labelmate, James Brown.  Bill Doggett’s spirit turns 100 years today, and Doggett’s nephew, Bill Doggett II, joined us on the “The Andrea Bray Show from the west coast to inform WPFW listeners how an improvisation started by Bill Doggett’s bandmates in a Lima, Ohio hotel room became “the most important and first R&B instrumental of the early rock & roll era to cross over” into the pop market.  “Honky Tonk” would show remarkable staying power as it entered the Billboard Top 100 chart on August 18, 1956 and – according to those fine folks at Ace UK – “stayed in the national pop listings for 29 weeks, peaking at #2 (naturally it went to #1 R&B).”  Keeping it from the top spot, unfortunately, was that dastardly Elvis double A-side “Hound Dog” b/w “Don’t Be Cruel”!

#1 in zero to 180’s book

Bill DoggettWhat great and glorious fun it was to chat up Ms. Andrea about King Records history, as we played “Honky Tonk,” examined the Bill Doggett legacy, and then followed the song with its funky ‘re-boot’ from 1969 (produced by James Brown) on which Doggett is backed by The J.B.’s – “Honky Tonk Popcorn“:

 “Honky Tonk Popcorn”     Bill Doggett     1969

Doggett II would point out that Nathan was initially opposed to releasing “Part 2” – a jukebox favorite, interestingly.  According to the liner notes in Ace UK compilation, Honky Tonk!  The King & Federal R&B Instrumentals:  “The late Jim Wilson (King’s branch manager in Detroit) insisted, however, that [King A&R director, Henry] Glover must take credit for convincing Syd Nathan to release the record in two parts.”  According to Greg Evans, in the June 1986 issue of Cincinnati Magazine, “[Doggett’s] biggest hit, the song his audiences still request, remains ‘Honky Tonk, Part 2.'”

Live radio is an improvisational dance, and the joint really got jumping when another former Cincinnati boy – a caller named Benjamin who grew up around the corner from King – phoned in and regaled listeners with stories of Cadillacs pulling up to the King studios, famous sightings (Ruth Brown, Johnny Ace, Hank Ballard, Tiny Bradshaw, JB, of course) and most of all, stealing items from the “pink ashcan” – rejected/warped King vinyl that played like new after attaching a silver dollar with a rubber band to the turntable’s tonearm!

Honky Tonk compilation CDGreg Evans would write his Cincinnati Magazine piece while Doggett was still performing (even though, as he playfully observed, “baby, that organ gets heavier every year”) and include numerous quotes from the Hammond master himself about the “tremendous operation” of Syd Nathan, who – according to Shad O’Shea (or ‘O’Shay’) “was the one single man who can be credited with bringing black music to the masses.”  Doggett, for example, would note that “When I recorded for King, you could do a session at 2 in the afternoon, finish by 5 or 6, and have the records on a truck to the distributors by 8 the next morning.  It was a complete, total operation.”

Zero to 180 with DC community fixture & national treasure, ms. Andrea Bray

Soulsteady Kid on The Andrea Bray Show

Also worth emphasizing that Doggett’s relationship with James Brown in the 1960s was not strictly a one-way affair, as Geoff Brown would write in his biography of James Brown:

“Not surprisingly, after the success with ‘Mashed Potatoes’ in the guise of Nat Kendrick and the Swans, [King Records label owner, Syd] Nathan relaxed his views about recording the band on instrumental releases.  ‘Hold It’, credited as James Brown Presents His Band, was the first, and a riff from the Bill Doggett hit would form the link he used to segue between songs in the breathless, non-stop Revue that seared across the States as he forged his reputation as The King of the One-Nighters.”

Bill Doggett - Honky Tonk Popcorn LPSays UK’s Ace Records, who put out a compilation in 2012 bearing the same title as the 1969 funk track:

“The most obvious manifestation of [Doggett keeping pace with contemporary music trends] was his collaboration with James Brown and his JBs, who were incredibly tight on the top-side of the super-rhythmic ‘Honky Tonk Popcorn’.  The popcorn was Brown’s dance rhythm of the year:  he had made #1 R&B with ‘Mother Popcorn’, #2 with ‘Let A Man Come In And Do The Popcorn’.  The B-side of the single was Doggett’s funk update of ‘Honky Tonk’, which worked even better than Brown’s own 1972 remake.

King then gathered up a bunch of recent Doggett recordings to make the “Honky Tonk Popcorn” album.  It was marketed as a James Brown production but, other than the two single sides, it contained no cuts produced by Brown.  Instead it featured a fascinating mix of grooves that evoke smoky clubs and juke joints. ‘Mad’ and a scorching version of Edwin Starr’s ‘Twenty Five Miles’ were released as singles.”

Hip hop fans might be intrigued to know that Pete Rock would sample the “Honky Tonk Popcorn” – JB’s scream, specifically – for 2004 “One MC One DJ.

Bill Doggett II invites you to join the Bill Doggett Centennial celebration at his new website, where you can hear his uncle’s music, absorb some history, and sign the Guest Book:

www.billdoggettcentennial.com

Andrea's Fine Hats - DC

The Free Design Have Found Love

My son Nick really wishes I would stop playing this song, although his sister Vivian readily agrees this song is an earworm of epic proportions:

“I Found Love”     The Free Design     1968

What a perfect way to celebrate Valentine’s Day, as there can never be too much love in this fractured world and in these fractious times.  “I Found Love” by The Free Design is such an obvious choice for an A-side release (which it was in June of 1968), although I respectfully disagree with Dave Meritt — Music Director & DJ for Chico, California’s KPAY — who deemed this instant classic a ‘Leftfield Pick’ in the July 13, 1968 edition of Billboard.  Later that year, Billboard would select “I Found Love” as a ‘Special Merit Pick’ in their December 14, 1968 edition, noting that “Chuck Dedrick, a member of the group, has written some compelling material in ‘I Found Love,’ ‘Daniel Dolphin’ and the title tune.”

Hey, I just learned that The Free Design would collaborate with labelmate Tony Mottola on a fun and fresh near-instrumental arrangement of “I Found Love” that was also released in 1968 on Mottola’s Warm, Wild and Wonderful LP:

“I Found Love”      The Free Design & Tony Mottola     1968

Gary James’s interview with The Free Design’s Sandy Dedrick reveals “I Found Love” to have been used on The Gilmore Girls television show.  On a related note, I remember how delighted I was when another television show – Nickelodeon’s Yo Gabba Gabba! – honored the song with a contemporary cover by Trembling Blue Stars in 2008:

“I Found Love”     Trembling Blue Stars     2008
[Animated by Bran Dougherty-Johnson]

Zero to 180 is puzzled why more hasn’t been written about this beautiful song but pleased, nevertheless, that Yo Gabba Gabba! and The Gilmore Girls soundtrack have drawn new attention to The Free Design, who set the gold standard in “sunshine pop” although they may not have received enough credit as such.

By the way, have you checked out the intriguing catalog of reissue label par excellence, Light in the AtticClick here to buy “I Found Love” – or the You Could Be Born Again album as a whole, if you dare.

Free Design 45Q:  Is it a stretch to categorize this song as “God Pop“?

Brian Jonestown: Anti-Google

Once upon a time, kids – this might be hard to believe – the world’s second most valuable brand had the following naive-and-somewhat-puerile corporate ethos:  “Don’t be evil.”   Honest.  This private firm then went public and promptly went back on its word in the course of doing business with more repressive regimes around the world and responding to shareholder pressure to maximize return on investment.  Tax Justice Blog reveals all:

“In 2012 alone, Google dodged an estimated $2 billion in income taxes by shifting an estimated $9.5 billion to offshore tax havens.”

Google, no doubt, has better uses for this money and is in no way planning to keep all the money for itself.  Most fascinatingly, when you Google (ironic?) the phrase “don’t be evil,” the search results show the Wikipedia summary blurb for “Don’t be evil” in the present tense (i.e., “…is the corporate motto”), but when you click on the Wikipedia entry itself, the statement suddenly becomes past tense:   was.

Too Late!  already evil

Google = Evil [Tax Justice Blog]

Fortunately, Anton Newcombe and The Brian Jonestown Massacre have never felt pressured by any do-gooder mandate — if anything, quite the opposite.  The guiding principle from the band’s inception has been clear and unfaltering:  “Keep music evil.”  Would you be surprised to learn that the Brian Jonestown Massacre has its own Super PAC – The Committee to Keep Music Evil?

        Evil, yes.                                               Shoegazers, too?

Keep Music Evil-aKeep Music Evil-b

Despite the overt Stones and Beatles references, Brian Jonestown Massacre represents a generational shift in modern rock where Velvet Underground-style drone – not blues (as noted in my earlier piece about DC-area modern rockers, Gist) – is the lingua franca for many of the up-and-coming beat groups here in the new century.  Anton and the boys would make explicit this musical approach in the title of their first long-player Methodrone, issued by the very visionary Greg Shaw (who left us much too early at the age of 55) on his Bomp! label.   Newcombe would write and engineer “That Girl Suicide” along with the fourteen other tracks on this album – although the comments below would strongly seem to suggest some inter-band grumbling:

“That Girl Suicide”     Brian Jonestown Massacre     1995

Anton himself would attach the following comments to the above YouTube clip :

“I picked out a matching guitar and bass for an ex-girlfriend Diana… matching because she wanted to learn. We were sitting in her bedroom, and I said play this “the bass riff” and I did the rest, then tricked the group bit by bit at the next practice. Everyone still thinks they wrote it. Whatever. Go listen to all their records of all the great songs they wrote and get back to me. I could actually care less. I’m too busy writing new songs.”

Oh, and one more thing:

“Let me add – the actual session is live at the compound with the group – one take… that’s why the vocals are not so hot… we were all in the main room… and everyone did a good job. Including Brian Glaze. Travis Thrillkel was good in these days with me on the psycho bits and Jeff was great at rhythm, we both had this country old school Chet Atkins thing in our blood that would pop up sometimes… with all the other junk.”

“That Girl Suicide” would never enjoy the experience of being singled out for 45 release, although the song, curiously enough, would be deemed important enough for inclusion on Caroline artist showcase, I Hear Ya!  Fall 1995 – Caroline Distribution CD Sampler #11.

 Not sure how I feel about this

Brian Jonestown Massacre-aLip Magazine identifies “That Girl Suicide” as one of “10 Brian Jonestown Songs You Need to Hear” and has this to say about it:

“An early track from their debut, Spacegirl and other Favorites, that revolves around a repetitive guitar riff and off-kilter vocals.  ‘That Girl Suicide’ showcases some of the band’s early shoegazing influences.  Featured in the movie DiG! and a long-time fan favourite.”

A huge tip of the hat to Joel Gion for demonstrating through deed that being “just” the tambourine player need not be the musical equivalent of being relegated to right field.  I remember coming away from a particularly inspired 9:30 Club performance convinced that Gion had just about stolen the show.  In 2014, Gion would tap into his own creative spirit by putting out his first solo effort, Apple Bonkers, with instrumental support from BJM members past and present – Matt Hollywood, Jeffrey Davies, Daniel Allaire, and Miranda Lee Richards – along with Pete Holmstrom of The Dandy Warhols, Ryan Van Kriedt (The Asteroid #4/Dead Skeletons) & JasonPluckyAnchondo (The Warlocks/Spindrift).

Of course, that was then – Anton’s music has evolved considerably, as one would expect.  The Guardian checked in with Newcombe, who relocated to Europe in 2007 and now lives in Berlin – link to this 2014 interview.  Wait – The Guardian checked back in a year later.

Brian Jonestown Massacre:  Then and/or Now
(image courtesy Lip Magazine)

Brian Jonestown Massacre-cWake up, DC!  The Brian Jonestown Massacre return to the 9:30 Club May 5th this year!

35 years of righteous food & quality sound (and low ticket fees)

930 Club-cakeZero to 180 is particularly obsessed with 2003 B-side (!) “Nailing Honey to the Bee”  — and, fancy that:  Julian Cope and I are equally fascinated with this limited-edition 7″ (although I am befuddled by Cope’s description of “Bee” as an “electronic instrumental”?).

Debt of gratitude to Bill Hanke, who is blessed with an uncanny set of musical antennae  and who first insisted that I check out Brian Jonestown Massacre when they played DC’s Black Cat in the late 1990s (Backstage, of course) with The Greenhornes as warm-up act.

Bill Hanke:  true sports rocker

Bill Hanke

“Day Sleeper”: Gaze-strumental

Zero to 180 is still trying to determine why “shoegazer” is some sort of epithet, as this subgenre of indie/modern rock is but a modern update of the psychedelic sound, as much as it might pain old-timers to hear.  Violating its must-be-at-least-20-years-old policy yet again, Zero to 180 feels compelled to offer as evidence a glorious shoegazer instrumental by Brooklyn’s own, Longwave, that clocks in at just under three-and-a-half minutes, in keeping with the letter and spirit of this music history blog.  You’re only cheating yourself, by the way, if you take the tonearm off the record before reaching the song’s effects-laden climax — a musical moment I never tire of hearing:

“Day Sleeper”     Longwave     2002

Day Sleeper” would be the title track of an EP that would be released twice – first in 2002 on Fenway Recordings and then again the following year in the UK on 14th Floor Records.

CMJ New Music Report would have this to say in its May 17, 2003 edition:

“Band discovered opening for The Strokes.  Fenway Records originally released the killer Day Sleeper EP in October, 2002 which really helped build an early fanbase.  Fans of The Strokes, Interpol, BMRC [Black Rebel Motorcycle Club], Vines will love this — but so will Joy Division, (old) U2, and Bauhaus fans.  Album produced by Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips).  Band totally down for in-stores at your stores.”

CMJ  would also report on the Day Sleeper EP around the time of its release in their November 11, 2002 edition and — against Zero to 180’s express advice – not go with the title track as the song to push before radio audiences.  Rather, CMJ would select the EP’s second selection “Everywhere You Turn” as the “focus” track.  I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.

Freedom of choice:  “Day Sleeper” EP available in two designer colors

Longwave EP-aLongwave EP-b

Judging from the number of YouTube views, but a small fraction of the world’s population seems to know of this outstanding instrumental that deserves a worldwide audience.  Write your elected officials and demand that a sliver of the public radio airwaves be set aside for new and interesting sounds in contemporary music instead of endless angry talk.  I will never understand why the quality of radio is so unbelievably bad in the Nation’s Capital, a market that is ill-served in the extreme.  Isn’t the “free market” supposed to come to the rescue?  WFMU saw fit to play this song, but then again the notion of a “free-form progressive commercial station” would only make the heads of radio executives spontaneously combust.

Band photo – courtesy of Discogs.com

LongwaveLongwave offers this EP for purchase on Bandcamp – click here to investigate further.  Intriguing to see that Japan has also gotten the word.

RC Mob: Transit Advocates?

You may recall me telling you how Tom Newbold dragged me to see Great Plains despite my misgivings.  My young befuddled spirit had not yet cottoned onto the ‘radical’ notion that great music (gasp!) isn’t always about great musicianship.  In fact, sometimes all the hemi-demi-semi-quavers and musical gymnastics can get in the way.  It took me at least a couple decades before it dawned on me that being impressed is not necessarily the same thing as being moved (although it can be pretty magical when the two do happen to intersect).  This emotionally-disconnected die-hard music fanatic remembers Newbold telling me about musical moments that moved him to tears, and I remember at the time thinking, I want me some of that.

Ticket stub for both NRBQ shows (spliced together) at Stache’s – Sept. 20, 1984

NRBQ-aaNewbold would drag a group of us to that first “life-changingNRBQ show, which was promoted by School Kids Records’ Curt Schieber, interestingly enough.  That first night’s performance was so incendiary, Newbold and I found ourselves standing in line for NRBQ’s second show, even though that had not been our original intention.  Judy Pinger would tell me later that she and her friend, Diane, ran into the ‘Q between shows at the nearby 7/11, where she got an autograph from the late great drummer, Tom Ardolino  (“Tom Ardolino at 7/11” it would read in hilarous deadpan fashion).

Oh, dear:  it says “T.C. & the Cats” was the opener!  Don’t tell Mark Wyatt, or he’ll pull the plug on this blog.  but wait – didn’t RC Mob fill in at the last minute, Judy?

NRBQ-bbMy roommate, R.J. Rothchild, however, surprised us all by leaving after the first show, rightly surmising the improbability of “lightning striking twice” with the same intensity.  R.J. turned out to be right (much to my frustration) but of course, I lied when we met up later and told him that the second NRBQ performance was just as amazing as the first.  I’m a horrible liar, and I’m pretty certain R.J. saw right through me.

Loveable cut-ups:  The RC Mob (with original drummer) switch instruments

RC Mob-aHold on a blippity minute – isn’t this supposed to be a piece about The RC Mob?  Right!   As it happened, a local band from Columbus – The Royal Crescent Mob – would open for NRBQ that warm September night in 1984.  It always frustrated me terribly (and I suspect, Big Car Jack‘s Ed Goldstein, as well) that ‘The Mob’ had found a way to forge funk and rock in the same combustible way as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, although history would fail to take sufficient note of this “musical synchronicity.”   You can see for yourself:  the Chili Peppers would release their first album that same year, 1984, thus proving that both bands were independently mining the same musical vein, albeit from different parts of planet Earth.

Flyer for free show at Bernie’s Bagels (R.I.P.)

RC Mob-cEven worse, although the RC Mob would amuse the crowd at the NRBQ show with their rockin’ version of The Ohio Players‘ 1975 radio hit, “Love Rollercoaster” (which The Mob then laid down on tape the following year on 1985 album, Land of Sugar), the Chili Peppers would steal the Mob’s thunder 11 years later by releasing a hit version that everyone now associates with the former and not the latter, who almost certainly gave them the idea.  Oh, the injustice!

“Love Rollercoaster” would be included in the TV ad for K-Tel’s mindbending LP

The scuttlebutt at the time was that The Mob’s guitarist used to mow the lawn for one of the Ohio Players!  Ed Goldstein and I would marvel at the band’s formidable rhythm section each time we had the opportunity to see The Mob when they took their seismic road show to Cincinnati.  This rhythm section would include not just bassist, Harold Chichester, and drummer, Carlton, but also guitarist, B, who never took a guitar solo —  a concept that completely bent my mind. Still does.

Washington-area readers (if, indeed, they exist) might be intrigued to learn that The RC Mob once tore up DC’s fabled 9:30 Club in 1987, back when the venerable venue was kissing cousins (abstract Abe Lincoln reference – get it?) with Ford’s Theater and locally famous for (a) “that smell” and (b) guaranteed encounters with over-sized rats should you dare to venture behind the club.  Land of Sugar would also feature stand-out original track, “Get Off the Bus” which may not be as supportive of mass transit as I imagined it to be.   In fact, the lyric would seem to advocate otherwise, shockingly:

“Get On (or Off?) the Bus”      Royal Crescent Mob at DC’s 9:30 Club     July 26, 1987

Just now discovered the source of my confusion:  The song would be titled “Get Off the Bus” for Land of Sugar but then (mysteriously) re-titled “Get On the Bus” two years later for 1987 album Omerta.  This immediately brings to me John Lennon’s similar sort of ambivalence when he sang the following lyric on the White Album version of “Revolution”:  “But when you talk about destruction, don’t you know you can count me out … in.”  Yep, the two situations are completely analogous.

Think of a band whose studio recordings never came close to matching the power of the group’s live performances.  Zero to 180’s list would include The RC Mob, and this blogger cries tears of pity for those who never got to witness the band at the peak of their power.

Royal Crescent Mob (L to R):  Harold Chichester, B, David Ellison, Carlton smith

RC Mob-bIn Memoriam:  Stache’s
Excerpt from the August 2, 1998 edition of OSU newspaper, The Lantern

“The reason the place stayed open when [former owner] Pete [Herman] was here was because of Curt ,’ [current/final owner, Dan] Dougan said.  The ‘Curt’ who Dougan is referring to is Curt Schieber, host of WWCD 101’s ‘Invisible Hits Hour.’  Schieber, one time co-owner of Schoolkids and Used Kids Records plus his own production and record label, started bringing shows to Stache’s under the label No Other Presents in 1983.  ’We were doing things in 1983, bringing in the kind of shows, that had never been played in Columbus,’ Schieber said.  Schieber and his partner Mark Moormann went out of their way to bring acts which might be considered Alternative or Underground music.’  We knew there was an audience for it, because we were selling the records,’ Schieber said.  Schieber brought such bands as The Violent Femmes, The Replacements and The Butthole Surfers through Stache’s doors.’  Stache’s has always been able to offer a well balanced diet of music,’ Schieber said.  Schieber brought his final band to Stache’s in 1988.

The bands didn’t stop coming to Columbus.  Stache’s has continued to bring in a wide variety of talent.  The Red Hot Chili Peppers [see what I mean?  aargh! -editor], Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden and Nirvana are just a few of the better known names that have played the venue, Dougan said.  Stache’s has also supported local bands.  ’I think the bands in Columbus are great,’ Dougan said.  ‘Columbus audiences don’t realize how great the bands are here.’  Stache’s has given artists, who may not be well known to mainstream society, a chance to play, and for Dougan that is what the bar is about, Dougan said.  ’It’s not about what’s going to be the next big thing.  It’s the other shows, that aren’t big, that make it work; artists who are good at their craft,’ Dougan said.  Whoever they are coming to see, Stache’s does have it’s regulars.  Lisa Mirman, a sophomore majoring in philosophy, has been visiting the club for 12 years.  ‘It’s my favorite hole in the wall,’ Mirman said.  ‘It’s the only place to see a band.’

Dougan plans to open a new bar, ‘Little Brothers,’ in the Short North in the old Gene’s Furniture building.  ’Same attitude but a little bigger,’ Dougan said.  Up until the move Dougan will host a series of benefit shows to finance the new location.  The next benefit will be Nov. 27 and at this time Ishkabible and Dog Rocket have signed on to play.  Stache’s may be closing, but the memories remain in the stories of the many people who have spent time there.  Like the time The Red Hot Chili Peppers played in jock straps [here we go again – sigh], Dougan said.  Or, when Sun Ra had 15 people on stage including a group of fire eaters.  There is even a rumor that a Stache’s patron smashed out the windows of Nirvana’s van because Kurt Cobain flirted with the patron’s girlfriend.  But, when asked about that rumor Dougan just smiled and said, ‘no comment.”

* Johnny Davis would also celebrate Dan Morgan and Stache’s under-sung role in fueling the vitality of Columbus’s 1980s local scene in his piece “Stashed Away” for Columbus Magazine.

“Dick Clark”: Well-Engineered 45

Memory is a funny thing.  I can still picture myself standing at the checkout counter at School Kids Records in Columbus, Ohio having a chuckle with Curt Schieber over something – but was it a Great Plains 45 that had just been recorded?  Or was it over the delicious roasted Japanese-style peanuts* that I could only find at School Kids and would nourish me through college, where spending money was always in such limited supply?

Mark Wyatt of Great Plains rightly takes Zero to 180 to task for concocting a fanciful tale and then selling it as fact.  Yes, there was a Dutch benefactor – but hardly a wealthy one.  As Wyatt points out:

“Maarten Schiethart and Fred and Hans from the (now defunct I believe) Waaghals record store would be surprised to learn they were wealthy, let alone the producers of the one GPs single they put out, “Dick Clark”, the mix of which is identical with what’s on Naked at the Buy, Sell, and Trade.  Shadowline was a short-lived label that kicked the bucket for the same reasons many indie labels did…they got boned by their distributors.  Anyway, that ‘unplayable’ single sounds plenty fine to me, but then again I’m pretty happy with the way we molested the two cover tunes on the B side.”

Manufactured in the Netherlands but recorded in Columbus, you know

Great Plains 45Yikes, I really botched that one!  Not surprisingly, my blogging license is under suspension, although I was able to get the suspension lifted on the condition that I hire a fact checker.  Wyatt, in fact, is my probation officer, and I couldn’t have found a more patient and forgiving one.  Zero to 180 looks forward to buying Wyatt and the boys a beer or three when they venture east to place a show in the Nation’s Capital – another town noted worldwide for its homegrown punk and harDCore scene.

Great Plains might not consider themselves a “singles band,” but you could’ve fooled me with this cracking 45 that is also rather well-engineered, one cannot help noticing:

“Dick Clark”     Great Plains     1987

Paul Nini:  Bass
Dave Green:  Drums
Matt Wyatt:  Guitar & Backing Vocals
Mark Wyatt:  Keyboards & Backing Vocals
Ron House:  Vocals & Guitar
Doug Edwards:  Engineer
Great Plains:  Producer

Wyatt would also point out to a clueless Zero to 180 that the engineer on this 45 is none other than Doug Edwards, who would also spin the dials for Boys from Nowhere!  Boys’ Bassist Ted Nagel and I would hail from the same Cincinnati high school — the world just keeps getting smaller.  But wait, an actual Boy from Nowhere – Mick Divvens – would engineer (as “Donovan’s Brain“) Great Plains’ final 45, as Officer Wyatt observes with quiet exasperation in the comments below.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Great Plains without a healthy dose of humor, as evidenced by the double B-side (as noted by Wyatt above) — spirited covers of Pomus & Shuman’s “This Magic Moment,” as well as Grand Funk Railroad’s “Bad Time.”

Released on Homestead Records – home of Big Black, Naked Raygun, et al

Digital StillCamera

How wonderful to see my original Great Plains piece, if Facebook “likes” are a reliable indicator, starting to gain some traction.  Hopefully my nephew Jake in Minnesota – another music enthusiast with wide-ranging tastes – will continue to spread the word in the Heartland about these musical innovators who are ripe for rediscovery.

Breaking News!   Great Plains’ Facebook page reveals that the mighty Great Plains will reunite (first time since 2008) for “Sick Weekend” — March 24-26, 2016 — at Columbus music venue, Ace of Cups, who wants it be known:

“The only way to guarantee entry is to buy the weekend wristband.  We’re selling 250 of those and once they’re gone, they’re gone.  Each night of the fest we will release approximately 50 tickets at the door for $15 that are first come, first served. We will not be selling single night tickets in advance.”

Jake, forget your studies and grab your buddies – sounds like a road trip is in the cards.

Findlay, Ohio’s Wolfies Nuts:  they want your money

Wolfies Nuts* “Kakawateez” roasted nuts, I want to say, came in tall thin packages with some kind of totem pole-themed art and could only be purchased at School Kids Records due to the owner’s family business connection.  But the stupid internet cannot validate these claims, and I can feel my probation officer breathing down my neck, so let me have Wolfie’s Nuts take the story from here via their Facebook page.

Hey Mark, did I botch the above postscript by relying on my memory’s jazz impressions?

The Black Watch: Please Watch

You can scan the alphabetical listing of musical artists on the right-hand side of this blog, but good luck finding The Beatles (does The Beatle Buddies count — or Beatle Novelty Songs?).  And yet those lads from Liverpool permeate the spirit of this website in all sorts of ways (e.g., the previous entry on Sloan, just to name a recent example).  Messed up, isn’t it?

2002’s ‘Jiggery Pokery’ LP

Black Watch Jiggery Pokery LPWould you be upset if Zero to 180 violated its must-be-at-least-20-years-old policy by featuring a fantastic Beatle-ish track by Los Angeles modern rockers, The Black Watch — “Tennis Playing Poet Roethke Said” from 2002’s Jiggery Pokery album?  The song is represented on YouTube with a single clip (1,303 views – seriously?), as it lies in wait for you to discover its viola-driven charms:

“Tennis Playing Poet Roethke Said”     Black Watch     2002

Check out the Beatle bass on the bridge — fool your friends with the fib that Sir Paul himself is driving the bottom end on this tuneful track.  They just might fall for it!  Note, too, the deadpan humor of the song title and a lyric that dares to rhyme “extremely barbituated” with “likewise situated”  How many literary-themed pop songs can you cite that are this danceable?

Frustratingly little written about this song – and yet it hit the #10 spot on College Music Journal’s RAM (Realtime Airplay Metrics) College Crucial Spins list in November, 2002.

Does humor belong in music?

Black Watch LP - Led Zep VBlack Watch mastermind, John Andrew Frederick, was kind enough to humor Zero to 180 when it recently tugged on his skirt, pleased that this history blog was featuring a song from 13 years or so ago while at the same time eager to emphasize that there’s a new Black Watch release that any self-respecting enthusiast of contemporary popular music would be remiss for excluding from his or her song library.  Highs and Lows, says John, is the latest Black Watch album on Austin’s Pop Culture Press Culture.  You can pick up the album via Pop Culture Press’ FB page – or at Sears, where all the cool kids shop.

John Andrew Frederick – in CinemaScope

John Andrew FrederickClick here to check out an informative and funny piece from Kevin Bronson of buzzband.la in which Frederick finally comes clean and confesses to “Beatle worship” — includes link to frighteningly catchy new track “Quondam Redhead.”

Indie, indeed:  8th Zero to 180 piece tagged as Modern Rock