Strum & Drum!

Sex Clark 5's Strum & Drum! is a Lost in the Grooves exclusive, with bonus tracks. Click below to sample music or purchase. 

Available CDs: Strum & Drum!, SC5 Rarities, Strum & Drum! + Rarities compilation

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Sex Clark 5 Strum & Drum! (Records to Russia, 1987/ Beehive Rebellion, 1996)

Hailing from Huntsville, Alabama—the place where Wernher von Braun traded rocketry know-how for immunity, but perhaps more significantly birthplace of “Eight Miles High”—these lo-fi pop wunderkinder had one of the eighties’ great lost discs in Strum & Drum! Their name is one of the broad strokes forming a sly humored sensibility, this from a group also given to titling a noisy piss-take “Get Back Yoko,” and producing an electronic loop of the phrase “Girls of Somalia,” apparently a 5th dimensional play on the Beach Boys’ celebrations of regional pulchritude. But these are the oddities on a disc that’s 95% ebullient, near-perfect Beatlesque pop, delivered with careless glee all but unheard of in the power pop ghetto. None of singer/guitarist James Butler’s twenty songs clocks in above 2:43, giving them the opportunity to charm without boring. SC5 leaves you wanting more, but with the next unforgettable melody never far away. Take “Detention Girls,” a reductive micro opera with a cheerleader’s chant giving the if-you-blinked-you-missed-it bridge that extra jolt sending the whole marvelous package into sugary hyperdrive. “Modern Fix” is at once daffy and poignant. The powerfully delivered line “Why don’t we take all our gimmicks, put ‘em all in one box/ And trade ‘em for a bag of tube socks?” seems (and is) absurd on its face, but in context it’s the possibly final plea of a lover trying to make a rough love work. “Valerie”’s singsong melody seems somehow backwards, an exquisite medieval meander fused with a sweetness straight out of the McCartney songbook. Lightning-paced “Alai” is blessed with one of those hooks that won’t quit, though what the “alai-lai-lai-lai” the band is on about may never be revealed. Sometimes bassist Joy Johnson sings in the sweet, slightly flat voice of a serious little kid, but mostly Butler leads the show, mouth racing to keep up with the shambling, ecstatic rush of his band. These dizzy, precise little tunes are like musical meringues, each one a brilliant gem of an idea whipped to soft, gooey peaks. Look for the out-of-print 1996 CD reissue that includes the magical early “Neita Grew Up Last Night” EP. (Kim Cooper, from the book Lost in the Grooves)

The Communists Are Coming To Kill Us/Prank Calls

John Trubee’s The Communists Are Coming to Kill Us! is a Lost in the Grooves exclusive, available now from Maryatt Music Group. Click to sample John’s singles collection or purchase.

John Trubee’s legendary Prank Call CDs, available as MP3 samples, downloads or full CDs:

Greatest Prank Phone Calls Of All Time Vol. 1
Greatest Prank Phone Calls Of All Time Vol. 2
Greatest Prank Phone Calls Of All Time Vol. 3
Greatest Prank Phone Calls Of All Time Vol. 4

Review:
John Trubee and the Ugly Janitors of America The Communists Are Coming to Kill Us! (Enigma, 1984)

Mr. Trubee is best known as the man behind “Blind Man’s Penis,” a demented poem with lines like “Warts love my nipples because they are pink/Vomit on me baby, yeah, yeah” that was sent to a song-poem mill and turned into a deadpan country song which subsequently became an underground novelty hit. Lesser known, but far stranger, is his follow-up album. Trubee got the ball rolling by sending a fake suicide note to several associates, including L.A. Reader rock critic Matt Groening and Enigma’s Bill Hein, who agreed to meet with Trubee and negotiate a record deal. In Trubee’s words: “It was no negotiation. I wanted to do the record badly–that was obvious. It was similar to a horny teenage boy negotiating with a supermodel to lose his virginity. There is no deal–he just gets with her fast before she changes her mind. I told Bill I’d do it for no money. He set up mastering time at Capitol and I walked in … with a brown paper bag full of reel tapes and cassettes of teenage poetry rants, prank phone calls, aborted horn chart recordings from music school, and other weirdness. I had the flu and I sat with Eddie Shierer for six hours editing all this madness into an album.” What resulted was an extremely unique and, well, odd record. I came across it in a used bin shortly after it came out. It was both annoying as hell and insanely captivating, a collage of atonal avant-jazz, primitive electronic compositions, and spoken rants against stuck-up college girls and the suave men who slept with them, plus those juvenile prank calls, a revelation long before the genre became a pop cultural phenomena. If the record that was attached to the Voyager space probe had contained the sounds of all the alienated, pissed-off, shat-on people on earth, it would sound something like this. (Chas Glynn, from the book Lost in the Grooves)

Big Pine Boogie

Gibson Bros’ Big Pine Boogie is a Lost in the Grooves exclusive. Click to sample the music or purchase.

Gibson Bros
Big Pine Boogie
(Okra, 1987 / Homestead, 1988)

The debut from Columbus, OH blues and country archivists the Gibson Bros arrived at the height of indie rock

Fugu

Fugu’s debut Fugu EP is a Lost in the Grooves exclusive. Click to sample the music or purchase.

Fugu Fugu EP (Semantic, 1996)

Fugu is Mehdi Zannad, a classically trained French pianist who discovered he could only compose three-minute songs. Don’t be fooled by the indie world that tries to “Hello Kitty-ize” him. However pretentious Zannad’s titles, his music could be taken seriously by the sternest scholars. This self-released EP, which predates debut full-length Fugu 1 by four years, is as despicably rare as it is charming. I was able to obtain a copy directly from Zannad after a Boston performance. His jaw-dropping postmodern Beach Boys deconstructions (complete with four-part harmonies) combined with skillful power pop spelunking led me to confront his timid frame after the set and proclaim, “you are my new favorite band!” More consistent and battier than Fugu 1, the EP is one of the least boring and most rococo recordings you are ever likely to hear. “F29” is a trip into a cavern of multi-colored rock candy stalagmites triggered by swift piano arpeggios, skronky Vox organ hits, sweeping cello melodramas and Zannad’s own incoherent trilling. Complete with sighing violins, “F4” evokes a mythological place where the Beatles are composed of two French Paul McCartneys, the Velvet Underground’s Sterling Morrison plays his ultra simplistic “non-rock” leads, and Ringo pats on the muted snare, like on Abbey Road’s “Something.” On “Untitled” and “Interlude,” a cacophony of voices and bubbling machines intermingle with gurgling horns and myriad symphonic cutting-room floor clippings before returning to Earth. “F26” pits the thrush of strummed guitars, frowning horns and cotton candy organ against Zannad’s voice on the odd-canticle chorus. While it’s possible to be swept up in the obvious magical mystery of his production, or the fractured-ness of his arranging sensibility, there is always at the core an essential song, a framework to shake you of your every sun-baked boredom with pop music. Orgiastic, steeped in utter coherence. (Jonathan Donaldson, from the book Lost in the Grooves)

Chevrolet Sings of Safe Driving & You

"Chevrolet Sings" is a Lost in the Grooves exclusive. Click to sample the music or purchase.

The First Team
Chevrolet Sings of Safe Driving and You
(Columbia Special Products, n.d., likely c. 1965)

Avoiding the Red Asphalt approach to driver’s ed., our corporate friends at Chevrolet decided folk-rock was the perfect medium to sell the learner’s permit crowd on appropriate automotive behavior. The result was a sort of Schoolhouse Rock for timid auto-jocks, a catchy set of rules and prohibitions meant to instill a sense of cautious confidence in young drivers. It’s delightfully catchy, and achieves all its aims. “Grown-up Baby” (Driving Psychology) addresses those with a deadly weapon at their disposal who lack the emotional maturity to behave sensibly. Frenetic banjos build to a nervous climax as the hip parental narrators fuss about hotheads, wheel-squealers and other car-creeps. “Cities and Towns” (Driving in City and Heavy Traffic) skimps on the lyrical edumacation, but jangles like a lost Byrds track. “Nowhere Fast” (Observance and Enforcement) with its spooky, insinuating New England garage sound scans more like free verse than pop song: “there are many other THINGS THAT you will have to know/ like when a sign says STOP that’s what it means and not just slow.” Flip the disk for the shouldabeen hit, “Gentle Things” (Adverse Driving Conditions), a Simon and Garfunkel-style beauty with aggressively mournful harmonica. Dad guilt-trips us with the message that expert drivers let the weather be their guide, but this listener is too blissed-out on the melody to think of rain (“a gentle thing, except when you’re driving”) as a threat. “The Natural Laws” (Laws of Motion) is a cool little soul shouter about what a groove it is to be subject to centrifugal force, getting raunchy when the singer pants, “they are all, UH HUH, natural laws.” And “Man-Made Laws” (Common Sense Driving) is full of suggestions about rights of way, passing and distance. It’s all very useful stuff, and I often find myself humming snippets while maneuvering around afternoon gridlock in L.A. There are no performer credits, but the label states that Lou Adessa and Vince Benay composed the songs. This same talented pair wrote Paul Revere and the Raiders’ “SS 396,” also released on Columbia Special Products and given away by Chevrolet dealers around 1965. (Kim Cooper, from the book Lost in the Grooves: Scram’s Capricious Guide to the Music You Missed)

about

Lost in the Grooves is an anthology, edited by myself and David Smay celebrating several hundred great, underappreciated records.

The Lost in the Grooves website is the book’s digital face, where the celebration extends to offering some of those hard-to-find and out-of-print recordings for purchase, as MP3s or physical CDs. The site will also feature other wonderful, neglected music not featured in the book.

LITG music is licensed directly from the artists, and they are paid for every track sold. And due to our partnership with Maryatt Music Group, you might even hear some of these tracks on soundtracks or in ads.

We are honored to be able to help get the word out about these remarkable artists, and to share their songs with you.

To explore the catalogue, including song samples, visit the Music Store. To learn more about the artists, the book and the critics whose picks fill it, poke around this site. We’ll be adding new artists and blogs regularly, and welcome your comments and recommendations, here on the site or in the community forum.

Thanks for visiting Lost in the Grooves, and for supporting independent musicians.

-Kim Cooper, Editrix, Lost in the Grooves & Scram Magazine