October 19, 2017

Forgetfulness: Making the Modern Culture of Amnesia

This looks like a very interesting book, and I know this feeling well:

O’Gorman’s interest in the deconstruction of historical memory was stirred when he visited Mycenae with his girlfriend and looked at what was advertised as the grave of Agamemnon. He tells us that no one in his West Midlands comprehensive had taught him classical Greek, let alone anything of Mycenaean culture, but the experience of standing “among graves of almost-forgotten origin, and with stories that no one can recollect any longer whether they are true”, started a process of reflection about how the memory culture of the ancient world differed from the modern regime of mandatory forgetting.'

Posted by Dr. Frank at 01:19 PM

You're My Hostess Cupcake

(Cross-posted at Medium, with photos.)

Earlier today, mostly because I had seen an article that mentioned cupcakes, I started thinking about cupcakes, and social media'd these lyrics:

...and you're my cute little melon ball, my Lawry's Season Salt, you're my dearest wish, my gefilte fish, my alcohol, you're my Bud Tall, and you're my baby doll...
I figured most people in my sloppy, oozing, bootless inner circle wouldn't be fazed or confused by it, and that those outside it wouldn't care. But I did get some questions about what the heck it was.

So... the lyrics are from a song I wrote for the Go-Nuts, which is a Mel Bergman (Phantom Surfers) project featuring the scarily talented Deke Dickerson.) It appears on their Dunk and Cover album (LK243) and sounds like this:

Well, when I say I wrote it for the Go-Nuts, it was actually more like, Mel called me up and asked if I had any songs.

"Sure," I said. "What kind of songs would you like? Buy one, get one half off."

Go-Nuts songs, he explained, could only be on any of three topics: snacks, superheroes, or gorillas.

Luckily, I happened to have one in stock that fit in the broad category "snacks."

The title as written was "You're My Hostess Cupcake", but they changed it to "Bombay" to make it funnier. (This was around the time when the Smugglers recorded my "She's Another Thing" and "Coffee, Tea, or Me?" -- I was on a song shark roll there for a brief stretch.)

I've always liked the song. Maybe one day I'll release my own version in some form. Then again, maybe I won't.

Anyways, though it's not strictly a "cover" I suppose because it's the original recording that just happened to be written by me, I don't happen to have a playlist for that, so... on the covers playlist it goes.

(I once opened for John Waters's spoken word show at a theater in Philadelphia and happened to play that song. I had to rush off to another show after but as I was leaving he said "gefilte fish" and nodded rather knowingly, which I took as an oblique expression of approbation and which was my second favorite thing he ever said to me. The first was: "so, I've heard you have a human skull.")

Posted by Dr. Frank at 02:14 AM

October 13, 2017

RAD-005–7: The Punkemon Story

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(This is cross-posted, by the way on Medium.com with more pictures if you'd care to look.)

I’m not sure exactly what Chris Appelgren had in mind back in 1999 when he approached me with the idea of participating in the creation of a Pokemon themed pseudo-band, but in the fantasy world in which I lived at the time he was playing Kasenetz and Katz to my Joey Levine. We would, in our own unassuming and likely unappreciated way, produce some pre-fabricated bubblegum punk pop for the new millennium. This was the moment I had been waiting for.

The assignment was, write a song on the subject of Pokemon. Well, I knew nothing at all about Pokemon, though I had heard that it was a kind of Japanese craze, but I didn’t let that deter me. I identified a suitable character and wrote a little theme song for him. “Lickitung” was born and I believed in it to the degree that I’m capable of believing in anything.

I home-recorded what was at that point the most ambitious demo I'd ever done, on a four track Tascam cassette machine and this giant Yahama organ (YC45D) that I'd acquired on tour in Saskatoon, purchased mainly just to see if it would fit in the van. (It did, though it barely fit in my apartment when I got it all set up.)

I submitted the tape and awaited the next assignment, daydreaming of other pop culture ripoffs I’d be tasked with, for what I imagined would be a string of glorious throwaways that would finally make my name as a pop music architect of the absurd, the Mike Batt of my generation. We could hire actors to portray a band on TV, I thought, getting a bit carried away, miming to the song in fuzzy costumes. Like Wombles, you see?

Meanwhile, Mel Bergman of the Phantom Surfers had also answered the call, with the arguably less abstruse "Pocket Monsters." Chris Imlay of the Hi-Fives etc. was enlisted to play bass. Chris Appelgren himself was the drummer. We all convened with Kevin Army at Foxhound Sound in Oakland. (Foxhound was essentially Bob Coover's laundry room and garage in Oakland, so named to commemorate his dog. The MTX Road to Ruin was recorded there, as well as many of the Alcatraz overdubs and -- I think -- "I Don't Need You Now.")

By the end of the day we'd done all the tracking, replete with Imlay's unforgettable Charles Nelson Reilly-esque take on Mel's "Pocket Monsters" lyrics. Then Mel and the two Chrisses left me and Kevin to fret and haggle over the "Lickitung" synth, vocals, and mix. By the end of the night it was done. A true instant recording. And to everyone's surprise, it was actually good.

And I mean that emphatically. Though I can't put my finger on exactly why, "Lickitung" remains my favorite recording I've ever done. Now I can die happy, I thought. It was only going to be a seven inch, but from tiny acorns mighty oaks do grow. We were looking at the humble start of something big.

Except we weren’t, and it wasn’t. For some reason, the proposed seven inch, Punkemon the band, and all my carefully honed Wombles delusions simply disintegrated and vanished. A thin-sounding mp3 version of an unedited dump of an unmastered “Lickitung” rough mix was put up on e-Music as a free promotional download for a stretch. That version is still floating around in the dank corners of the internet. But it was a sad, ignominious end to a putative crowning achievement. One of many, of course. That’s the way this stuff works.

Anyhow, fast forward to last year. Though the idea of digitally releasing the “Lickitung” song just for the sake of completeness had come up from time to time in my discussions with Chris A., it wasn’t a very high priority and never wound up happening. When the Pokemon Go craze hit, though, it seemed as though, you know, if there were ever a time to release these songs, this was it. Maybe Lickitung’s time had come at last. It was at least worth, maybe, looking for the tapes to see if it was even possible. Neither Chris nor I could find the master (though I suspect the multitrack is probably on the end of one of the Road to Ruin reels… I do have those, but nothing to play them on to check.) At that point all we had was a second generation rip (from YouTube) of an upload of that old e-Music mp3 and it sounded, ooh not so fresh, certainly not good enough for a release, and no one had Mel’s song in any form. Once again, Punkemon lay dead at our feet.

To my amazement though, in the end, Mel managed to come up with a DAT. Yes, we had missed yet another craze, but at least we had the tape now. And then along comes Sounds Radical, who basically said, "we'll put it out however you want." Given carte blanche, if c.b. means what I think it does, rather than simply uploading "Lickitung" to the digital distributor as a Dr. Frank oddity, we decided to create the Punkemon single exactly as it might have been had it been released in 1999. I sent the DAT to my buddy Pete Mattern, saying "see what you can do with this, mastering-wise." He restored it just beautiful, Dave at Lucky Lacquers cut it great, and it sounds terrific now, far far better, probably, than it has any right to be.

And now it’s coming out in November 2017. I’m not sure if anyone else will care about it, but it feels to me like a wrong righted, a valiant rescue of a child, er… a recording rather, stuck in a deep dark well for eighteen years. I still consider it my favorite recording. And I still don’t quite know why.

So there you have it. Punkemon emerged at the end of the last century, from the fevered brain of Lookout Records president Chris Appelgren, inspired by Kasenetz and Katz to fabricate a ‘mon-sploitation band dispensing Bubblegum for the new era. In-house Lookout stars contributed songs and sounds, but they flew too low, too late. Release was an abandoned dream. Their destiny was the vault. They could have been bigger than the Beagles. These two songs are all that remain.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 06:18 PM

October 12, 2017

Notebook

Fortunately his resources were considerable and his brain sufficiently astute to make good, in most years, the inroads which the tax gatherers made upon them. After him, of course, the Deluge, as he very fully recognised, but with reasonable good fortune he considered that private ownership would last out his time; at least in England where he had made his home; and so he continued to do all things on a scale suitable to a De Richleau, with the additional lavishness of one who had had a Russian mother, as far as the restrictions of twentieth-century democracy would allow.
-- Dennis Wheatley, The Devil Rides Out

Posted by Dr. Frank at 03:49 PM

3 10 '97

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Came across this photo while looking for something else. That's Kevin Army's grandma's guitar, I believe. If the camera time stamp date is correct, this is from the month before we started recording Revenge Is Sweet. There's a set list on the coffee table that seems to be for a solo show -- if so it must have been a very early one among the first of those I did. My guess is it was the one at the Lookout store. The fact that I'd written out a list reflects how nervous I was about playing solo back then.

Note: the Archie McPhee inflatable mummy; the Groovie Ghoulies devotional candle; Batman alarm clock; fake Nunchaku; very best of the Undertones shirt; H. P. Lovecraft's Dagon and other Macabre Tales; Levinas's Totality and Infinity... 20 years ago, but everything still seems kinda similar.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 03:07 AM

October 11, 2017

More than Toast

Matt Riggle's sweet cover of "More than Toast" was somehow left off the covers playlist, till now.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 03:06 PM

October 10, 2017

He is a great prince and appeareth at first with a Leopard's face, and wings as a griffin.

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But afterwards at the command of the exorcist, he putteth on a humane shape very Beautifull, Inflaming Men with womens Love, and women with mens love, and causeth them to shew themselves Naked, if it be desired, &c.

Happy Hallowe'en.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 09:13 PM

LK 222 is my life

Aha! Sequenced safety of the Lookout 222 DAT master. Thought it was lost, but it was hiding in box of old photos:

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Posted by Dr. Frank at 07:08 PM

October 09, 2017

Ba Ba Ba Ba Ba

More here.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 03:24 PM

October 07, 2017

November

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Posted by Dr. Frank at 05:43 PM

Johnny Got His Lathe

Lots to learn in this great interview with John Golden by old comrade Ian Brennan in the latest Tape Op.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 05:37 PM

Still the best book you'll find on the Devil

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Here.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 05:29 PM