Recent Radioactive reissues: Crash Coffin, Fifth Flight, The Floor, The Sidetrack

Reviews by P. Edwin Letcher

CRASH COFFIN Self titled CD (Radioactive)… Crash Coffin is a fellow from Ohio who put together a band and recorded ten of his songs on a local label back in 1970. Crash had a good grasp on singing, storytelling and songwriting as well as a working knowledge of various musical genres. This CD contains “Masochist Blues” and “the Looney Polka” as well as eight others that are not as readily pegged as belonging to a particular musical style. One song, “Freedom Cake,” could have given the Lovin’ Spoonful some serious competition in the jug band pop field. Crash had a strong and smooth voice with plenty of Elvis that crept in around the edges. This is actually a pretty good record that I’ve gone back to more than once. I especially like the closing track, a rambling folk pop ditty about Jesus stealing his “Blue Kazoo.” Mr. Coffin did individual artwork for the covers of the few copies of the LP that actually made it into the hands of the public because he couldn’t afford to have the covers printed. It’s a shame because this could have been a popular record with a little support from a label.

FIFTH FLIGHT “Into Smoke Tree Village” CD (Radioactive)… Radioactive Records digs deep to find lost records of the past and make them available to a fanatical bunch of ’60s and ’70s enthusiasts. Fifth Flight was probably a popular high school hop band. They were a bit luckier than a lot of other groups doing covers of radio hits in the late ’60s because they actually got to record a whole album. Their set opens with a middle of the road original called “Can’t You See?” The rest of the record is made up of pedestrian versions of songs like “Midnight Hour” and “I’d Like to Make it with You.” It’s too bad they didn’t have a prolific tunesmith onboard to give them something to work with because they were decent musicians. This will enlighten anyone wondering what a competent group of musicians working the top 40 circuit in 1969 was like.

THE FLOOR “1st Floor” CD (Radioactive)… The band was known as the Hitmakers until 1967 when the changing times brought about a radical reincarnation in the Danish beat group. They brought in a fifth member, changed their name and set about Sgt. Pepperizing everything. There is a great photo on the back cover of the band, in their psychedelic finery, along with their various managers, composers, studio musicians, conductors, technicians… and coffee-lady. This is some of the finest introspective pop with orchestral backing of its era. Things get a tad too LSD silly with songs like “Hey, Mr. Flowerman” and “A Rainbow Around Us,” but others have more of a Zombies sensibility. In a fair world, music historians would be mentioning this album in the same breath as Herman’s Hermits’ “Blaze,” but the Continent never got as much attention as England or America. Maybe this re-release will set things straight.

THE SIDETRACK “Baby” CD (Radioactive)… Radioactive Records can be counted on to dig up some very obscure music from the ’60s and ’70s, but this one is more enigmatic than the average overlooked also ran. The label couldn’t dig up a photo of the group and the band never came up with artwork for this eleven-track demo. The best guess of the person who reviewed these songs for the label is that the band is from the late ’60s/ early ’70s. That sounds about right. This could almost pass for the British band Fields. It’s chock full of piano, organ and harpsichord and incorporates elements of classical music in its post-psychedelic rock explorations. While trying to zero in on its own unique sound, the band dabbled in a sort of blues/ Gregorian chant fusion and extended funky jazzy noodling among other odd combinations of eras and genres. The production is good, but the songs could be a lot
more memorable.

Essential Music #16

What the hell. Tuesday’s musings about Under the Pink got me thinking about all things Tori. Even though I haven’t physically put on one of her CDs in years, it’s comforting knowing that they’re up there, boxed away in the attic, awaiting that day when I cannot go another minute without hearing a musical version of an Alice Walker book or a song about having tea with the devil. Which brings us to Boys for Pele, about which I wrote in 1996:

Because she rides her harpsichord as if it were an unbroken stallion. Because she continues to cultivate her gift for conjuring up musical mood and narrative that hang together and mean something while logically making little or no sense whatsoever. And because the photo in the CD booklet of her suckling a piglet transcends mere questions about bad taste and raises loftier ones about who knows what. 

Her third album proves F. Scott Fitzgerald right when he observed: “To most women art is a form of scandal.” 

Further cultivating her public image as freak extraordinaire, she employs lyrics as disturbing as “Sometimes you’re nothing but meat” and “I shaved every place where you been.” She seems incapable of not putting her credibility first as an artist, then as a woman on the line. She again scores admirably on both counts. 

(Seek out the “Hey Jupiter” CD single for the “Dakota Version” of the song. Industrializing as much as a piano number can be industrialized  and improving on the Boys for Pele take by adding some nifty background noise that might be a sump pump or a Jarvik-7 artificial heart, it now sounds like something out of a David Lynch film. Included among the four live cuts is a delicate rendition of the tune Amos was born to sing and which presaged her very existence, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”)

In one Stec, we can Usher in a new Millenium

Not too long ago, maybe a few months ago, I stumbled upon a record reissue label called Sonic Past(www.sonicpastmusic.com) which is quickly releasing some of the most incredible vintage pop and rock music.

I first noticed the label while perusing the Brian Wilson section of my local record hut. There sat a CD entitled “Smile For Me” which is a symphonic tribute to Brian Wilson which was produced, arranged and conducted by noted producer Gary Usher. While you may or may not know the name, Usher has been involved with many ’60’s pop hits and had done a lot of work with the Beach Boys when they were scoring hits right and left.

Interested in everything Wilson, I immediately picked it up and when I got home, put it in the CD player immediately. What I encountered next was a glorious tribute to Brian Wilson’s genius featuring many of the same musicians Wilson himself had used when creating the Beach Boys’ most glorious recordings. Since it was recorded in 1970 and not released until 2004, the musicians were still at the peak of their powers and the presence of Wilson himself (though not on the recording) and his spirit is very palpable.

This is but one of the great Sonci Past reissues I’ve been grooving to lately. It seems label head Joey Stec (who some may remember as guitarist for the Millenium) has somehow got a hold of a ton (and I mean lots) of classic ’60’s pop and other cool recordings you just won’t find anywhere else.

Besides the Brain Wilson symphonic tribute are tons of unreleased tracks by Millenium members Sandy Salisbury (vocalist for the band), Lee Mallory, Joey Stec and even full albums of unreleased stuff from the Millenium. Familiar musicians like Randy Meisner from the Eagles and Millenium producer/solo artist Curt Boettcher also have several of their early tracks reissued in album form on this label. There is even a CD from Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora before he joined Bon Jovi and Davey Johnstone’s (from the original Elton John Band in the ’70’s) only solo CD.

In other words, Sonic Past has somehow opened a vault somewhere which has enabled them to present some great pop albums, including tracks of which many have never seen the light of day.
The ones I have been grooving to the most have featured the Millenium and its’ members. For those unfamiliar, the Millenium were a soft pop group who unfortunately did not catch on with the legions of rock fans caught up in the noisier sounds of acid-rock. Now, that is a much more simplified description than the band deserves as the band had some of the best production, arranging, orchestration and songwriting elements as any band at that time but you will have to hear them and decide for that for yourself. Sadly, the band disintegrated after their first CD Begin but, thanks to Sonic Past’s reissues, many heretofore unreleased and unknown tracks have been unearthed and released which have greatly embellished the band’s reputation as being one of the greatest.

Soon, I will review these CD’s one by one on this blog and give you the lowdown on some of the leading lights of this ear including Boettcher, Salisbury and Joey Stec. In the meantime, feel free to check out this label and get immersed in these rich, plush orchestrated pop sounds from the past. If you like bands like Sagittarius (who also were helmed by Boettcher) and The Association you will flip over the Millenium and many of the other great releases on this label. Please go to Sonic Past’s site and check them out.

The Music Nerd Knows…..

Peter “Mr. Outerspace” Geiberger RIP

peter geiberger

Peter Geiberger, once one of our most promising young troublemakers, artists and social misfits, a creature of great natural intelligence, charm and wit, a musician, visual artist, writer and prankster, died on Wednesday.

I regret that was not able, when I had more influence over him than most, to convince him that dabbling in heroin was stupid. Of course the drug became huge in his life, stole many of his friendships, his time and imagination, and eventually killed him. He dies owing me $50 and a lobster dinner, and the life he ought to have lived instead of the one he did.

I will remember the brilliant 17-year-old with the pre-Raphaelite features who dazzled the tired old Cacophony Society when he began attending events nearly a decade ago, his fearless ability to grab a guitar or some hideous prop and make himself the center of attention, how sympathetic a listener he was when needed despite his snarky ways, how happy he was when drawing, and his essential sweetness.

I will also remember the memorial service I helped organize after Peter’s death was faked on Hallowe’en 2000, as part of the conclusion of the grand Cacophony Society prank. It is all quite surreal, but at least Peter had that rare opportunity to attend (or at least hear about) his own funeral, and receive many posthumous accolaydes from people who loved him.

Goodbye, dear Peter, always in so much pain, now free of that at least.

Postscript: I have put Peter’s two delightful features for Scram online: his advice for How to be a Badass (which explains his entire personality) and his history of the black velvet painting tourist market. Around this time (1999) he published his own little zine, Scrum, as well.

Essential Music #15

Listening to a recent interview with Tori Amos on NPR’s Studio 360, I was reminded of (a) what a good interview she makes, (b) this 1994 album, and (c) how many of her songs pose musical questions:

Why do we crucify ourselves?

Don’t you want more than my sex?

God, sometimes You just don’t come through
Do You need a woman to look after You?

For Amos, who was 31 years old when Under the Pink was released, the creative process represented as much an act of confession as it did an act of discovery. “Without the songs I wouldn’t know that I feel what I feel,” she told me in a telephone interview. “Let me tell you,” she confided in a wispy voice, “sometimes I can go, ‘I hate that motherfucker,’ and I’ll rip up his picture. Right? Then I’ll start writing this song, this most beautiful” Catching herself, she laughed and said to herself, “Oh god, you’re just a sap.”

And a successful one, at that. Her 1992 debut solo album for Atlantic Records, Little Earthquakes, revealed a bent for idiosyncratic lyrics, loopy melodies, and neoclassical keyboard work. It went gold in the US and sold more than a million copies worldwide. The follow-up album, Under the Pink, made its maiden landing at number twelve on the Billboard charts.

Born Myra Ellen Amos in North Carolina, her life from that point onward was atypical at best. A child prodigy who won a piano scholarship to Baltimore’s prestigious Peabody Conservatory when she was five, she grew up listening to the music of Nat King Cole, Fats Waller,Jimi Hendrix, and John Lennon. She was expelled when she was eleven. Her father, a strict Methodist preacher who believed you either support or lose your child, didn’t stand in her way when, at the age of thirteen, she hit the piano bar circuit. At the Marriott, they made her play “Send in the Clowns” seven times a night. At Mr. Henry’s, a popular gay bar in Washington, DC, the waiters used a cucumber to teach her how to give head.

All these daffily disparate ingredients combined with the sad truth that somewhere along the way she was raped and lived to sing about it on her own fruitcaky terms without reducing herself to martyrdom (“Yes, I wore a slinky red thing/Does that mean I should spread/for you, your friends, your father, Mr. Ed?”) converge to create songs that are not about blame, but about taking responsibility.

Amos refused to take responsibility, however, for Womanhood or the feminist movement at large, an agenda that many critics (music and social) famously tried to foist upon her.

“I guess I’m kind of boring because I just go about my biz trying to work on myself. When I’m working and listening to my real feelings about things, and trusting them, then I just have to allow that to be enough. Whether I say something that offends somebody or gives somebody a giggle” She paused. “You have to let go of the responsibility of people’s responses. Sometimes I’ll say things that I might not have said if I would have had more sleep. But, at the same time, that’s real, too.”

Between her first two solo albums, she released a hushed and breathtaking cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” When I asked if she felt any sort of psychic connection with Kurt Cobain (who had just committed suicide a few months earlier), she replied, “Totally.” In the silence that followed, she whispered the word twice more.

“I think it could’ve gone either way for a while,” she commented on another singer/songwriter’s theory that, if left alone to deal with his demons away from the limelight, Cobain might still be alive. “If he would’ve been on medication for the depression. Put all the emotional stuff aside it’s hard enough waking up every morning it’s just that you’re a depressive and you have a chemical imbalance.”

Aware of life’s little imbalances, Amos found it difficult to take her fame too seriously. She knew from experience that there were worse alternatives. “Like, we have no idea what it’s like to live in Belfast with those people killing each other,” she said. When she had toured there recently, she’d done so with the reality of bomb scares and a guard at her dressing room door. Because of her name, in the demented minds of some of the more radical Irish there existed a connection between her and the Tories and their principles. “And my whole religious position,” she said wearily, “blah, blah, blah. In Ireland, I always get a bit of a stink because I tell them that the Virgin Mary swallowed, and they don’t like that shit.”

She stopped reading reviews of her work. “It didn’t make me feel good. You read the great ones, you’ve got to read the shitty ones. If you’re going to walk into the ‘opinion world,’ then you have to listen to them from all sides. And I’m just not in the mood. I know when I suck and I know when I’m great. Grade me that all the elements came together, and it didn’t overcook and it didn’t undercook. You know, I got the baby out of the oven just in time.”

Speaking of bad reviews, I mentioned the heavy-metal band that Amos fronted when she came to Hollywood in the late Eighties, called Y Kant Tori Read? While she could no longer worm her way into the plastic snakeskin pants that, along with thigh-high boots and big hair, that had contributed to her mode of dress at the time and contrary to most of what had been written about this period in her career (most likely because it wasn’t something her more ardent feminist fans wanted to hear) she giggled and admitted, “Hey, I enjoyed some of it. I had great hair spray. Looking back, I was coming out of my skin as a person.” Before the band, “I was so miserable. My jaw was in a constant clinch mode.”

It was also a learning experience. “I have no illusions about this business. Not one. That’s why I think I’m doing so well. When I say ‘doing well,’ I mean I don’t cancel shows, I’m not jumping out of windows. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t sometimes wear on me and I want to crawl into the corner with a friend.”

Though she had no trouble getting down to brass tacks when it came to the business side of her music, the act of songwriting remained something of a magical mystery to her. Despite her professionalism, it wasn’t something she could force to happen. “If the songs don’t show up knocking on my door, bringing a bottle of chardonnay or a box of shoes, I can’t even think about it. It’s like they already exist, and I get a whiff of their perfume and I get inside of their essence and what they’re trying to tell me. They show up, showing me who they are, and then I’m trying to translate their feelings. Sometimes I don’t do a very good job, and they come back and harass me until I do.”

Required Viewing !

 

sUite Slice of poP Pie

The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

 

 1. SLEEPY HEAD  (2:24)   Acid-eating Ramones 

 2. IT’S LOVE  (5:17)   Bangles open The Doors

 3. TREE HOUSE  (3:45)   extremely Electric Prunes

 4. DON’T GET FOOLED (by the man)  (3:56)   wholly Boyce & Hart-felt

 5. JUST ANOTHER RAINY DAY  (2:16)   Cliff Richard and the Shadows of Knight   

 6. MAYBE SOME OTHER DAY  (2:58)   The Association of Herman’s Hermits

 7. WHY I CRY  (4:24)   Dino, Desi, and the Billy Cramps

 8. WHEN THE CLOCK STRIKES 13  (4:22)   The Count 5ive be Damned

 9. LIGHT OF THE SUN  (2:02)   Raquel’s Beach Boys

10. STILL LOVE YOU  (5:14)   The Lemon Jefferson Pipers

11. I DON’T KNOW ABOUT LOVING YOU  (2:40)  Harper’s still Bizarre !!

 

All songs written, recorded, produced and performed by Bill Rogers
Copyright 2004

www.480music.com

Let’s try this again, shall we?

So, yeah… I have been absent for a very long time and I want to apologize. Not that folks have been wearing out the "refresh" buttons waiting for a new "A Beautiful, Ugly Noise" entry to show up, but none-the-less, I feel like the kid who hasn’t been coming to practice and can’t figure out why he is always sitting on the bench during all the games. I promise to do better, coach.

Where have I been? Well here, there, ultimately nowhere. I will shamelessly plug Waxflight, an albums-worth of songs I have recorded with lots of help from musician friends who are much more talented than myself and who I love dearly. I hope to have it all cleaned up and shiny by the time the Mayan Calendar cycles us out of existence, so I have a good 6 years left, right? Anyways, stop by the take a listen and be my friend.

Last Sunday I went to La Fonda on Wilshire Blvd for the first time since I moved to LA in 1997. Good Lord that was some slammin’ Mariachi. I want to go back when the Mariachi Divas are playing. How in the world could you possibly go wrong with an all female Mariachi Band?

Well, I am back, this is a promise. It’s been so long this is almost like another introduction. I have lots of records that I want to write about and those will be coming up soon, soon, soon.

Put me back in the game, coach.

-Craig

Sun City Girls- Jacks Creek

So like a month or three back this Vancouver based mag called The Nerve wanted to do a primer on what they call “Cozmic Country” and asked me to recommend some records and artists for it. So I did. I reprint them here one by one, and if savvy enough, day by day:

Sun City Girls- Jacks Creek (1994)
Upon release this album was reviled by the more avant hipster snob crowd. As time passes, its