Saturday, November 26, 2005

Screaming Trees: Invisible Lantern

SST Records, 1988

A creamy slop of early psychedelic and pop sludge in this third full-length from the 'Trees. I never got that they were "punk" but I suppose if you played loud feedback-laden guitars in the '80s you were bound to get that label. This should have come with a warning label: Much Pot Was Consumed in Making This Record. Can't fathom why Lanegan refers to this early work as "crap" (1999 interview) although close scrutiny of the lyrics (quick sample: There's a dark-hair girl on a mattress / and there's a room suspended in the air") might make you throw-up a little but who's really listening except for the choruses.

Otherwise, you can't fault Lanegan's raw singing and Gary Lee Conner's wall of feedback snake charmin' guitar. You also have to acknowledge producer (and ballad pianist) Steve Fisk as the "fifth member" of the group - the sound is absolutely and awesomely sublime especially when you consider that he's running a start-up studio in some small town in the Inland Empire.

In contrast to Lanegan, Gary Lee Conner calls this his favorite Trees record on his website although he traces the band's troubles to this time period:
This is my favorite Screaming Trees record. It is total
psychedelia with a hard rock edge and some pop thrown in
for good measure. Also this is when it start to get hard
instead of fun we had started to tour two or three times a
year and we were all getting sick of each other. We had
fights with Steve Fisk over mixes and there was a general
malaise in the Screaming Trees camp. The worst thing
about the album is that Van quit right after we finished it
and was replaced by Donna Dresch for the fall 88 tour with
fIREHOSE. Luckily he came back after making one too
many donuts at Albertsons (it's not like we made any money
with the band in those days). (source:
If this lacks anything other than groovy lyrics it's a reason to really internalize the music. Most of the songs while technically pretty and musically interesting but just seem to lack a whole lotta soul. It's all a great listen and I'd recommend this most out of their early work but the songs don't really reach out and grab you like their later stuff, even if you think it's slicker. Although most people have said that this band's signposts are the garage psyche bands of the '60s and '70's, I also see much affinity with some of their labelmates - Meat Puppets and Husker Du records sound right filed next to this. Best Meat Puppets tribute is "The Second I Awake" and best Du tribute is "Walk Through to This Side" and those were two bands that DID stick in my craw, they're my choice for sampling. I'd put "Ivy", the opener and "Night Comes Creeping" is more in line with the 60's style stuff - 13th Floor Elevators are the closest touchstone my feeble mind can construct.

  • Van Conner - Bass
  • Mark Pickerel - Drums
  • Mark Lanegan - Vocals
  • Gary Lee Conner - Guitar


And now for something completely different:

Monday, November 21, 2005

Contoocook Line: Oliver's Garden

Rughead Records, Richmond VA, 1988

Attention Pavement fans! This would be more or less forgettable Richmond-Chapel Hill southern folk rock but for the drummer (listed here as Jonah West not Steve West) going on to play traps for one of the 90's biggest indie acts. Oh well, let's let his boss explain how this college band inspired Pavement to record two tongue-in-cheek songs about the biggest rock band at that time :
in the '80s steve was in an r.e.m.-inspired band called contocook [sic] line so i figured we should cover a [REM] song as a form of male musical social bonding. r.e.m. at that point were as popular as they would ever be - everybody hurts was the type of song your parents liked. so i guess i wanted to pledge allegiance at exactly the wrong time. anyway, we blitzed through camera, a song buried on side two of reckoning (it eventually came out on the cut your hair single). we had some extra studio time so i decided to do another song. this time, instead of the cover, we did a song about the band itself. the song, the unseen power of the picket fence, eventually made its way onto an aids benefit album called no alternative. the lyrics go all over the place (various observations about the band), but in the end i imagine r.e.m. as a unit in the confederate army during our civil war. general sherman is marching through georgia, burning down the mansions (except in savannah) and his last hurdle is r.e.m...

needless to say, i see r.e.m. standing tall in the face of the invader, even if the idea is absurd because the boys obviously would object to the slavery!!!! but as far as it goes they have proven me correct by being practically the most durable group on the face of the earth. album after album they are one of the hardest-working groups in showbiz. if any band deserve to be included in the webster's dictionary definition of "staunch" it is r.e.m....

Alas, those thinking that this is some sort of find will be disappointed. The music is the type that makes you forget the stereo is even on. Lots of acoustic rock type songs. I tried to listen to it several times and always seemed to wander off. Only one or two songs merit more than one listen, if that (but in the interest of fairness, I listened to the record a couple of times).

"Allen" suffers from some really collegiate lyrics ("Taking time with our li-i-ives") but I've never heard a more democratic mix - every instrument and the vocals is given exactly equal weight and it's built around a somewhat catchy bass riff and you can hear some of West's best drumming on the record here. It's certainly the most "R.E.M.-inspired" of the bunch. The album closing track, "Go To Hell" is a not very clever but has enough adolescent scorn to want me to keep it for special occasions. Other songs such as "Goliath" and "Sour Grapes" suggest an even more angry undercurrent but who really has the patience to care?

(How did this get in my collection? I have no friggin' idea. I'm pretty sure I didn't buy it and it probably came as a promo for my fanzine or the DC Period.)


Contoocook Line iswas:
  • g, voc - John Smith
  • g, voc - Rob Williams
  • b - Hanby Carter
  • dr., voc - Jonah West (aka Steve West)
  • Dominic Carpin of Richmond's long-running Cashmere Jungle Lords provides backing vocals on "Allen"
Links and Other Information:
  • The quote above is excerpted from an a review of R.E.M.'s Reckoning by Steve Malkmus printed in Q and reprinted on an R.E.M. fan forum - Murmurs.
  • Lyrics to "Unseen Power of the Picket Fence" via Leo's Lyrics Database (link not recommended because of pop-up ads and other suspicious stuff)
Some bands I like to name check,
And one of them is REM,
Classic songs with a long history
Southern boys just like you and me.
R - E - M
Flashback to 1983,
Chronic Town was their first EP
Later on came Reckoning
Finster's art, and titles to match:
South Central Rain, Don't Go Back To Rockville,
Harbourcoat, Pretty Persuasion,
You were born to be a camera,
Time After Time was my least favourite song,
Time After Time was my least favourite song.
The singer, he had long hair
And the drummer he knew restrait.
And the bass man he had all the right moves
And the guitar player was no saint.
So lets go way back to the ancient times
When there were no 50 states,

And on a hill there stands Sherman
Sherman and his mates.
And they're marching through Georgia,
we're marching through Georgia,
we're marching through Georgia
They're marching through Georgia,
we're marching through Georgia,
marching through Georgia
and there stands REM

(Aye Sir, Aye Sir, Aye Sir they're coming, Aye Sir, move those wagons, Aye
Sir, Artillery's in place Sir, Aye Sir, Aye Sir, hide it, hide it, Aye
Sir, run, run.)
  • Pavement's cover of "Camera" and "Unseen Power" are in the Matador reissue of Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
  • Both songs can also be found on iTunes and, I assume, emusic.
  • When Stipe met Pavement:
    Pavement has mentioned other bands, artists and songs before, one of the most famous is the R.E.M. resumé recital on "Unseen Power of the Picket Fence" from the Red Hot Charity collection "No Alternative." Video director Lance Bangs introduced Pavement to the Georgia pop giants when they came through Lexington, Kentucky. In their hotel suite, after Michael Stipe entered naked from a shower (it is unclear whether he thought the room empty), everyone had a chuckle over the song, and later that night, before tens of thousands of screaming fans, Stipe dedicated a set of songs to Pavement.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Bad Seeds (Texas)

Self-titled (also known as J-Beck Story 1) LP, Eva Records, 1984 (music recorded 1965-1967)

In the '60s, there was an explosion of small American independent labels that put out local rock and roll music, promoted shows and got their songs into local radio rotation ... and occasionally broke big. Tom Hanks made a movie about one such (improbable) band in That Thing You Do. Bad Seeds were not one of those bands that broke big but still have managed to be remembered as being a pioneer in Texas and American rock. The Bads Seeds were the first of the J-Beck / Cee-Bee bands from Corpus Christi and are known mostly for their Texas hit "Taste of the Same." Of course these aren't the same Bad Seeds that back up Nick Cave but with some slight stretching one could draw a line between their darkish blues-rock through The Doors off tangent to the goofy Texas punk of the '80s and all the way through to Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. Yeah, it's a stretch but bear with me.

Starting a long Texas R&R tradition, and as you can see, this is one ugly band. The liner notes suggest things started going down for these local heroes once they got girlfriends (as it did in That Thing You Do) and they stopped practicing in favor of getting laid. The liner notes suggested also that 2nd Gen Corpus band Zakary Thaks also put them to shame and they "knew their days were numbered."

That's okay by me, as most of the other songs on this platter don't even begin to reach the sublime sneering hangdoggedness of the headsmackin' "Taste of the Same." Of note, is their b-side "I'm a King Bee," a take on black blues singer Slim Harpo's old song which while somewhat prosaic suggests these Southern boys knew their blues and weren't afraid to play "black music." The Doors would later modify this basic blues song into the more sinister (or more laughable) "Crawling King Snake"...

After they broke up (1967) the only cute guy in the band, singer and strummer Mike Taylor struck out on his own, attempted to capitalize on the late 60's Folk Rock trend calling himself, regrettably, The Fabulous Mike Taylor. Like Bad Seeds, the results of this solo act are mixed (and documented on Side 2) - Taylor managed to dredge up some of the worst cliches of that genre -- most of which occur when Americans try to be British minstrels. But his lonely-guy single "I'm Nobody's Man" that kicks off Side 2 recalls some of the better soulful strum of The Beatles and their ilk.

This record came out in 1984 from Eva, a French reissue label (which appears to be defunct) and apparently the first in three records documenting Carl Becker's J-Beck label. You gotta love these furrinners, helping to document American music and all. The liner notes include part one of an interview with Becker, Taylor and Chris Gerniottis (singer for later J-Beck bands Zakary Thaks and the Liberty Bell) and this rather ridiculous publicity photo of Michael Taylor (can anyone tell me whom the statue is of?).

There's an unsubstantiated rumor that surfaced on the Bomp! mailing list that the Mike Taylor who recorded the first two Butthole Surfers records was the same Mike Taylor here but I've searched high and low for any corroborating evidence and have found none. Although Taylor is listed as writer and producer for Zakary Thaks so it may well be that he's recording bands somewhere in Texas. Still it would be fitting that the band that recorded the surf-zonked "classics" (not) called "Zilch, Part 1" and "Zilch, Part 2" would have some association with those Trinity College nihilists (and hence my tenuous line to '80's Texas punk).

Bad Seeds are :
  • Mike Taylor (guitar, vocals),
  • Rod Prince (lead guitar),
  • Henry Edgeington (bass) and
  • Bobby Donaho (drums).

Fabulous Michael Taylor is credited with all the parts in his recording.


Buy Bad Seeds - Texas Battle of the Bands compiles side 1's Bad Seeds songs with Zakary Thaks and seems to be available on the web.


Rat Scabies & The Germans Demo

The famed demos for Rat Scabies & The Germans referenced in this previous VM post are now available online thanks to Dabrudders from the Hit by Hit (Godfathers) mailing list and No Thrills website. Some great Keith Moon-like drumming from Rat and solid back-up work from members of the Godfathers.

The Germans - Demo 2003

MP3 at 160 kbps

1. Autobahn 6.37 mins ( 7.7mb)

2. War Machine 4.44 mins (5.5mb)

3. We Don't Want Your Love 4.03 mins ( 4.7mb)

4. Superfreaks 7.13 mins (8.4mb)

download here

Friday, November 18, 2005

He's only in it for the corn

Hickoid singer Jeff Smith has resurfaced in San Antonio where he's the subject of a alt-weekly cover article.

Three years ago, nearly two decades after relocating to Austin, Smith returned to San Antonio. His chemical consumption was out of control, his dalliance with bar ownership had been a disaster, his attempt to revive Austin’s Woodshock punk festival (a 1980s mainstay) had been an acrimonious victim of city red tape, and his fellow founding Hickoid, bassist Dick Hays, died on the very day the band members agreed to reunite.

Smith needed a change of scenery. As he puts it: “By the time I left Austin, I’d basically chased myself out of there. My health was suffering, and it was time to do something different.”

So what becomes a punk legend whose legendary status is only known and appreciated by the small, graying cadre lucky enough to have experienced the mayhem at its peak? In Smith’s case, it is doing what comes naturally: running a record label (Saustex Media), booking shows for old friends in the indie-rock community, and continuing to lend his elegant snottiness to high-concept bands (his current focus, a gay pirate punk group called The Swishbucklers)

Previous Vinyl Mine posting on the Hickoids

Thursday, November 17, 2005

No Wait Wait

NWW (Marc Gartman ex-Pale Horse and Rider and Alan Sparhawk of Low's side project) have released an entire album of new music online last week and not one MP3 blog (not even Large Hearted Boy!) seems to have noticed. I've been listening to it all day and yeah I'd have paid $12 for it.

I'm not familiar with Gartman's body of work but for Low fans, this is album is a kind of methadone fix until and whenever the next batch of the white horse arrives.

Said fans may especially be interested in "Amends" - which answers the question of what would Low sound like if they were more angular and electronic (and also seems to be an extension of Alan's letter to his fans earlier this year) ... one of the links appears to be broken and I've dropped a line to Mr. Gartman. Also, note that Neil Youngian - Beach Boy - Low vibe of "How to Fake it" (Thrasher, note) ... Other highlights are the enigmatic "Alabama," the very Low with a bit of twang "On Your Own" and the cowboy space stomp "Lost in the Bottle"...

Download the rest of the album (plus other NWW Mp3s) here:

No Wait Wait - The Larsen Sessions

(Again, sorry about the lack of posting. I am finishing up this weekend with the show I am playing and am enjoying some other great things in my life)

Saturday, November 12, 2005

MX-80: Crowd Control

Ralph Records, 1981

MX-80 are one of the oldest independent rock misfit collectives out there - members have been playing as MX-80 and various other bands and solo releases for 31 years and counting. When they started in 1974, metal as a genre was wide open - too bad for us that it was subsumed by corny blowhard cockrockers and ponsy pseudo-satanist scam artists and set back decades in the process. These guys, though, continued to faithfully work the genre as if they were unaware or uncaring about what all was going on. Thankfully, record labels like Ralph indulged their creativity (and even paid them for it!). It seems the band's basic philosophy was to play whatever they thought was cool and damn the commercial aspects (they had a brief and rocky flirtation with Island Records in the '70s). This has led to three records that have more than withstood the test of time and still make it to people's best of lists and all-time great records. Crowd Control was the third in this progression. Like it's predecessors, it uninhibitedly explores and force fits metal with psychedelic, free jazz and progressive rock. Where it can't find any signposts, it invented its own style -- such as an early doom rock ("Face of the Earth") and even a stab at atmospheric metal ("Obsessive Devotion" - which has a Sonic Youth-like odd guitar tuning).

Although you could argue for Mission of Burma being a peer to MX-80, they came on a little too late and MX-80 was already in hiatus when Burma was just a start-up. The only other bands then are Henry Cow and Discipline-era King Crimson - but they had a detached classicist style. MX-80 instead played with soul and verve wanting to be more remembered as inheritors to Albert Ayler and his ilk than classical composers or master musicians. The band is the first to admit that they weren't skilled technicians during this era (they grew up in the same town with proto-punks The Gizmos). Bruce Anderson said he created an environment "where people's inexpertise was not as important as what they could do with it and how they could facilitate their imaginations with the mistakes" (quoted from 1991 Forced Exposure interview). He also put them on a grueling practice schedule and charged 10 bucks for every mistake until they got it right. At one point, they had two drummers so they could each cover up each other's mistakes. . .

Put this record on and the 11-song Crowd Control bounces all about the room from cut to cut although the guitar basically stays the same, sludgey and like it was pulled out of some dark street corner and rubbed around on the macadam a bit. This record never seems to quit rewarding the listener and tracks you previously discount release their secrets only over time. Sometimes I swear that new tracks are being laid down magically and songs get re-arranged by some sort of trickster postergiest (and I've been drug-free since '93). Among my favorites are the opener "Face of the Earth" where David Mahoney lays down a free jazz drum beat and Anderson/Sophiea assemble a doom and gloom bass-guitar line while Stim off-handedly rants about the insignificance to man and his monkey cousins. One of the memorable things in this record is the vocal experimentation. From Rich Stim's sonambulent spoken word in "Night Rider" (riding on top of a out of control free jam) to the Gregorian Monks in Hell intoning "Why Are We Here?", we can get an idea where Hank Rollins stole some of his best song ideas in the latter part of his recording career. And while Rich Stim has taken some criticism for his singing, he redeems himself somewhat in the most punk (and pop) song here "More Than Good" - it's also the closest they come to a head banger. He's said his vocal here is Lou Reed and that's more than evident here. Also of note are "City of Fools", a send-up of Hollywood (and an excuse for some great Anderson work) and the closing song "Promise of Love" which surprisingly sounds like something Naranda Walden wrote on the back of a Burger King wrapper during the Jeff Beck Wired sessions and Stim and Anderson stole when he wasn't looking. They add tasteful vocals and Anderson minimalizes the Beckian showboating. Alas for us, Rich Stim pulls out his sax for only one song, "Pharoah's Sneakers" near the end of the album but its worth the wait.

  • Bruce Anderson - guitar, background vox
  • Dale Sophiea - bass, background vox
  • David Mahoney - drums
  • Rich Stim - vocals, rhythm guitar, sax

Sample Songs up for a short period:
"More Than Good"
"City of Fools"


Thursday, November 10, 2005

My latest "Freegal" MP3 Mix #whatever

"You Can't Win Them All" - MX-80
"Small Towns and Invisible People" - physics of meaning
"Cello" - Point Juncture, WA
"Well" - A Fir-Ju
"Engine" - Neutral Milk Hotel

i've been busy - new g-friend, playing drums, etc. hopefully get sometime this weekend for some real posts - the above list holds a clue to what's upcoming... and what i've been listenin' to off the net & in the car... //jim h

Sunday, November 06, 2005

More Daniel Higgs Stories

Krucoff links to Vinyl Mine's "buried anecdotes" about Reptile House - my better remembered stories revolve around the lead singer, a then thin and full-head-of-hair Daniel Higgs - now in Lungfish.

Here are three more Danny anecdotes from the late '80s:

1) Higgs used to talk about the living anti-Christ in between songs - I heard this twice at different shows. He claimed that the anti-Christ was alive and living in England. And here the time, I thought he was the anti-Christ.

2) I once gave Higgs a copy of my fanzine called Shredded Slime. A month or so later, I saw Reptile House at the Marble Bar and in between two of the songs, he read some of his poetry. I nearly dropped dead when one of the lines in his poem was "shred the slime"... Unfortunately, I haven't found that poem in any of his published material (although I only paged through one book). Of course, no one around me at time believed it, so I've always kept this story to myself but it was always cool when you realized that someone in a band you loved actually read your zine.

3) Years ago, Burger King used to give out paper crowns with their kiddie meals. Higgs would bring a crown to each show and when one of the audience members was acting particularly asshole-ish, Higgs would bring out the crown and announce that the "Gig Idiot" (or "Gig Moron") had been identified and would he come up to the stage to be crowned. One night, the guy he crowned actually wore it with pride and continued to be a rude slam-dancing asshole the entire evening. I had to hand to this kid, he wore his mark of shame with amour propre.

Finally this isn't really a Danny story but I once wrote a letter to the Baltimore City Paper (and it got published) defending Reptile House whom the paper would regularly put down. Alas, I can't find that clipping any more but I heard through a third party (Grey March guitarist) that the band thought it was cool (never had the guts to verify it though) because back then the City Paper gave no support to the local alternative scene.

Something I Learned still has tracks up from Reptile House's out of print single EP I Stumble As The Crow Flies. I recommend especially "Keel Haul Love" and "Sleestak Weather"... The Krucoff link above fronts the Lungfish song, "All Creation Bows."

Picture via High Zero 2004 festival page.

Great Plains: Naked at the Buy, Sell & Trade

Homestead Records, 1985

On its surface this record seems to be a collection of daydream songs of record store clerks and guys who girls just want to be friends with told in the language of garage punk rock. But listen to it more than one time and one gets a sense that there's a lot more going on underneath the surface.

The record has a live-in-the-studio feel and you can almost imagine singer Ron House balanced on one leg clutching the microphone, eyes squeezed shut and singing his nasal ass off. His bratty snotty voice is perhaps a cross between Sky Saxon and Jad Fair and may be a turn-off to some. While Great Plains was garage punk at its core, it sometimes mutates into jam-bandish trance rock, rootsy stomp-rochhh or just plain picking and grinnin' folk. Ron House said the band (forming in 1982) was heavily influenced by the Gun Club and The Embarrassment and cited opening for The Replacements as one of the highlights. Drunk and sloppy seems to be the common denominator among all the bands.

If you need to call it anything, just don't call it 'jangly punk' as others (whom we won't name) have. It doesn't jangle and it ain't from the South. It's pure Ohio kook-rock in the trad. of Ubu and the Eels (and several dozen others) but mostly lacking that lost Cle-punk feel or the Akron hippy irony. Instead of factories and pollution, they have cows and manure, I guess. The first-time rock-clued listener may also be leery of the keyboards (mostly organ) but let it sink in a couple times and you'll see that GP's twin guitars and solid bass/drums underscore never let the organ take them away into Farfisa land (again, comparisons to Sky Saxon and Seeds are appropriate).

What set Great Plains apart from other garage-college rock bands (with organs) were Ron House's simple but often enigmatic songs. F'rinstance, "Time to Name the Dog" - with its oddly upbeat soul hand-jive - is about the last act in a failed relationship. The boy sings to the girl that they used to get drunk and speak in "secret tongues" but every word appears to be "a traitor now" and now they can't even agree on the name for the dog.

Naked at the Buy Sell and Trade was their second of three records on Homestead and was where they discovered their sound and hit their stride. The odd title refers to a line in the opening cut - "Dick Clark" - which also sets down a major theme of the record. Sung from the view of a cynical rock manager who is trying to ensnare a band, it draws a parallel between the music business and the history of enslavement:
First brush with business you were blushing
second brush you saw the burning bush
like a slave that wants to be saved
naked at the buy sell and trade
let Dick Clark work out all the details
(and later):
I freed your hand from the dollar
freed your fans from what they couldn't understand
with both your hands around my neck
I still tell you what to do next
let Dick Clark work out all the details
Dick Clark as Imhotep, the Mummy? Maybe that explains his eternal youth. It's no coincidence that the next song is their moon-howler "Last Chance to Be Free." And that's not the first reference to ancient history and contemporary music. "Fertile Crescent," near the end of the album recasts the beginnings of civilization as a conflict between religion and tap-dancing. A lone sheepherder in the "Fertile Crescent" tries to stay pious but:
He tap-danced in his spare time
He had twenty pairs of shoes

He respected his religion
but his shoe collection grew
Yeah, it's a jam-band song but think Meat Puppets with an organ mimicking a reverby flute, of all things. If it was to sound "mideastern", they didn't pull it off but it makes the song all the more endearing and goofy. "Set it Off," a song about lighting firecrackers, also reminds me of the Puppets, so it isn't really a fluke.

The highlight of the record is Ron House's signature song "Chuck Berry's Orphan" which debuted in House's earlier band The Twisted Shouts (and Moses Carryout). And if you thought he was going wild in his other songs, in this cut House ratchets up the paranoia and casts his tiny little inner orphan demon onto the stage where he and the band kick it around for seven minutes. There's a dreamlike incoherence to the lyrics, where House jumps about describing a friend getting shot, panic in public places and dealing with the uncaring, brutal world who only want him to write songs with a "pretty chorus". As in "Fertile Crescent", there's a jam-band feel to it, harmonica imitating steam whistles, guitars battling like pistons and gears and the rhythm section and organ (tastefully set in the background) making like a phantom train. Think of it as their "30 Seconds over Tokyo" but instead of dealing death from above and flying away, it's set on a doomed train rolling uncontrollably into a bad, bad future with Ron House dancing like the devil on top of the steam engine.

And we can't talk about this album without one obligatory reference to their "big hit" - "Letter to a Fanzine", a song in which House imagines silly lines from fanzines ("Isn't my hair cut really intense? / Isn't Nick Cave a genius in a sense?") and appropriate of nothing features a nice bass solo from Paul Nini. It may have actually been a mistake to put this on the record because although it got them a lot of airplay, it detracted from some of the better songs here and made them out to be a one-hit wonder like The Dead Milkman and their "Punk Rock Girl." On the other hand, this song and the song about former bassist (and future Gibson Bro) Don Howland's bladder ("Real Bad") gives the record a not so serious feel balancing out hi-falutin' brain riddles of some of the other songs. [I don't want to give the impression that I think this "Fanzine" is on par with Dead Milkman's song - its got a happy keyboard riff and you can't help singing along with it.]

Great Plains never really made it big and broke up after their third full-length. Although a European tour was planned, after a grueling American tour, it never happened - who knows, they might have been a big hit out there and changed everything. But in America, they didn't really have any gimmick, weren't tailor-made for the 'zines or the kids, and they were, as Ron House said, 'the ugliest band in rock and roll." Plus there's that paradoxical name - while it describes the expansiveness of the band's tastes and places them squarely in their geography, it's also a name that's probably shared with 50 local C&W cover bands playing this weekend down at the Sheraton or Holiday Inn.

Personal note: I met the shy and introverted Ron House and the Wyatts in the mid-80's. Nice guys all. Alas, I never got to see them live. I don't even think they played in DC or Baltimore or I was out of town when they did. I once spent several weeks trying to convince the management of Baltimore's 8X10 bar to book them but to no avail. According to one account, the band broke up because they got tired of playing to small crowds. It's too bad because most of these songs sound fresh as a red hamburger meat -- well, the references to SST and Homestead records in "Fanzine" might have to be rewritten.

All of the three GP Homestead records are out of print. But bassist Paul Nini's record label, Old 3C, has almost all these songs from Naked on a 50 song CD-R called Length of Growth - released 2000 - the band reunited for the occasion and played several shows. "Chuck Berry's Orphan" is the only song from Naked that's not included on Length of Growth. Fear not, an alternative and even longer version is available on a Great Plains compilation of outtakes, live and unreleased songs called Cornflakes, also via Old 3C. House is even more crazed here and goes into an extended madman digression near the end about "things getting simple and nice." Note that all 3C releases can be found on iTunes or and the label decries "free downloads" (even though it offers MP3 streams that can be easily hacked).

According to the Old 3C website, the band reunited for a barbeque in August and there are rumors of a Great Plains reunion and tour with Big Dipper. Well, if that's too hard, how about a Plains/Log tour?

  • Keyboards - Mark Wyatt
  • Vocals-Guitar - Ron House
  • Guitar - Matt Wyatt
  • Drums (?) - Either Dave Green or Jim Castoe
  • Bass - Paul Nini