Josh Reynolds Speaks
Josh Reynolds Speaks 7" (Moo-La-La, 1997)
When I first started this recently neglected blog, one of my friends suggested that I post the Josh Reynolds 7" I put out. Good idea, I thought. I wonder if I can find the disc that the record was mastered from, as it might have a better sound to it. Found the disc and no, not better sound, but that is unimportant for now.
So who is Josh Reynolds and why make a record of him? Here is the story: During the 1990s, Sacramento had a very vibrant DIY punk scene. There were cool places to play, a lot of bands, zines, and places to hang out. The Midtown area had yet to be gentrified, lent itself to bike riding, and had house with great porches that encouraged drinking beer. Being in the shadow of San Francisco, Sacramento had a slight inferiority complex. That coupled with its small town nature made a very unpretentious, very kicked back place. As such, it drew others who thrived on that kind of atmosphere.
Josh Reynolds appeared in Sacramento some time in the mid 90s, as part of a small influx of out of town punks. We got a few from Santa Cruz, one or two from Philly, one from Little Rock, and a few other cities. Though from Tennessee, Josh came in a surge from Portland. Once here, he immediately found that the lazy days and wet nights suited him fine. After drinking with him one evening at one of our many punk houses, we started to hang out regularly. I'd show up at his place at 4 pm and ask whiskey or tequila? If it was warm out, we'd go with tequila, figuring that the Mexicans who invented it live in desert land and it is made from cactus, therefore it must be the thing to drink when it is hot. After all didn't Warren Oates guzzle the stuff during Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia? We would walk to the corner mart, get a couple pints of hard stuff and walk around and drink. The more Josh drank, the more he told stories and when he told stories you shut up. Josh not only had crazy tales to tell, but he told them so great that those drinking with him would listen for hours.
After story session number 106, I figured that I needed to put a record out of Josh's tales. The way I figured it was that storytelling is just as much a part of punk culture as music, zines, art, and fashion. Yet it is the one thing that is unrecognized. Perhaps that is because its main storytellers we know from print. Zines like Cometbus or oral histories such as Please Kill Me seem to take the place of storyteller...kind of. They are not the same as sitting around and listening to someone reel off a tale of punk rock fucked-upness. I knew that every scene had at least one guy or gal who was the resident storyteller. At parties or shows they would bullshit with their friends and usual wind up with a small audience listening to some riff on shoplifting or a crazy drunken show. Of course, no one calls it storytelling or the people listening an audience. But that is what it is. I figured that what Josh was doing needed to be documented because it was just as much of an insight into American punk rock circa 1997 as a record or a zine. It was punk rock anthropology.
So I asked Josh to come up with a tale, which was easy as he had a few that he liked to tell over and over (each time a bit different), and set a date to record him. We both felt it was important that he do it in front of people. Not a big crowd but a dozen folks at a punk house. So we got some beers and invited people over. I set up a cassette deck and a couple mics - one for Josh and one for the audience - and rolled the tape. The first time we did it, Josh was so excited that he kept knocking the mic around. That session was ditched. A couple weeks later we got some more people together and did it again. This time Josh cooked.
Tape in hand, another friend and I went to his place and slowly started editing things. Josh had a coughing fit at one point, knocked the mic off the stand at another, and then there were a few "ummmm what was I saying". I wanted to cut that out. Plus I had 28 minutes of tape and was told the most I could put on each side of a 7" was 11 minutes, fidelity be damned. Computers being what they were in 1997, it took weeks to edit the thing down to 22 minutes. And technology being what it was, when we finally burned it onto a cd, what we got was something with parts that distorted. Ack! The project was creeping along and Josh was about to move to Seattle so I said fuck it and sent the thing off. I pressed 300 copies and sold about 100. Unfortunately the public was not quite so enthusiastic about punk rock anthropology as I was!
But, you, perhaps you are. I've chopped the thing up into four bits. Part 1 & 2 are side one of the 7". Parts 3 & 4 are side two. The fidelity is not great. There are parts that are too quites and parts that are too loud. Listening in headphones might be your best option.
I've lost track of Josh, but I believe he now lives in New York City. I am sure he still tells stories.
Tony Schwartz Nueva York: A Tape Documentary of Puerto Rican New York LP
A great record on one of the greatest and most important record labels in the history of recorded music, Folkways Records and Service Corp. And as good as this record is, it is only one of many discs of this quality that Folkways put out. Intent on documenting folk culture in America, and throughout the world, many Folkway's records are field recordings. Here Folkways presents something a little different.
In 1948, Tony Schwartz started an eight year project, walking around the neighborhoods of New York City recording its Puerto Rican residents, as well as Anglos both sympathetic and hostile to their immigrant neighbors. Schwartz hit schools, bars, employment centers, government offices, and most off all the street. He edited his eight years worth of tape down to this single album. The result is fantastic.
I am giving you five tracks. I'd post every cut but lack of web space prevents me. Two cuts are some of my favorite bits on any record, the translations of the songs from the juke box. I think I paid $14 Canadian for this one and believe me it is worth every penny.
In New York (Juke Box Record Translation)
Juke Box Record Translation
I've Got a Gal
The Experimenters I've Got a Gal Pt 1 & 2 45 (Back Room, 196???)
Creating a comedy discography is probably one hell of a task. Trying to document every Black comedy records is impossible. So many of them were cut with little information on the label and in small quantities. This is especially true of "blue records," that is disks with dirty jokes on them. A good example is this 45 by The Experimenters. There is no song credit, no publishing info, no address for the record label, and no date. Good luck trying to get info on this pup.
So how did those who wanted dirty joke or songs know to buy this record? It certainly wasn't reviewed anywhere and never was played on the air. They had to walk into a record store or go to a newstand or even an adult book store to score these records. In a record store, often such records were kept behind the counter, only taken out for the special customer. In this case, the names of the label and the band were hints enough that this was filth.
The record starts out with a blues backing and the MC/singer telling racy one liners about nursery rhyme characters, a standard of 20th Century Black ghetto humor. The nasty Jack & Jill riffs give way to a dirty take on Little Red Riding Hood, and then, I assume to keep the vice squad away, the record ends in a song.
I've Got a Gal Pt 1
I've Got a Gal Pt 2
Juri Gagarin in Space
Juri Gagarin in Space 7" (MEN, 1961)
Happy Cosmonaut Day! Forty-six years ago today, Yuri Gagarin of the USSR became the first man in space and the first person to orbit the Earth! What better way to celebrate Gargarin's achievement than listening to a Soviet record commemorating Yuri's historic journey. Listen and you will hear a Soviet announcer tell us of Yuri's great deed and how the Soviet system made it possible and then hear Gagarin speaking from space! I am not going to give you a run down of Yuri's history as others have done it better than I can.
Juri Gagarin in Space Pt 1
Juri Gagarin in Space Pt 2
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. 1922 - 2007
Kurt Vonnegut died on Wednesday. A little something here.
Buffoon in Asia Minor
Bill Martin Buffoon in Asia Minor: Concerto for Head Phones and Contra LP
(Warner Brothers, 1970)
This wonderfully surreal piece of sketch comedy came from a pal of Michael Nesmith, Harry Nilsson, and Ringo Starr. Known mostly as William E. Martin, Bill wrote songs for the Monkees, penned a few tunes with Nilsson, and then turned out this album. A commercial flop (every copy I've seen has a cut corner), Martin's stream of conscious pieces have more than a hint of psychedeilia in them. That the kids didn't pick up on this says more for their lack of adventure than the quality of the record. Still, I am puzzles as to why a record with a sleeve warning of "WARNING: THIS IS NOT A TOY!, It is the culmination of four and one half billion years of evolutionary development on this planet and with proper care will make more than adequate frisbee for years to come. WARNING: THIS IS NOT AN Enchilada" didn't become a best seller.
After Buffoon stiffed, Martin's career took the path of writing (Elephant Parts, Harry & the Hendersons, 3rd Rock from the Sun, etc.), acting (Hey, Hey We're the Monkees, An Evening with Sir William Martin), and doing cartoon voices (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers, GoBots, etc.).
Flash Flood, Chapter 1
In Which Senator Phoghorne Repudiates The Charges Against Him
Sand, Blasted, Chapter 1
The Whole Enchilada Marches Off
Harry D. Cup Sick American b/w Love Letter 45 (Silver Pelican, 1980)
Harry D. Cup! Nah this isn't a sick joke about a well endowed hirsute. Whatever humor that is in these grooves is certainly not intended. Recorded in (I assume) anticipation for the 1980 presidential elections, Sick American is both a condemnation of America's "ills," one of those ills being those who run Our Nation down! Cup's complaints are the same canard that conservatives have been rattling off for the last hundred or so years: Crime is unrelenting, taxes are too high, queers are overrunning the place, and sex is everywhere. In the future I will post some tracks from other conservative complaint records recorded in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s and then direct you to tune into Bill O'Reilly or Rush Limbaugh and hear exactly the same spiel. Sure, the words are different and the style of delivery has evolved. but the message is exactly the same. Since we don't have a sense of history we tend not to see/hear that conservatives have been on point for the last hundred years. We look at all their complaints as crisis and when they get power act hastily to address these ills. Ten years later, the country is still "sick." What has changed though is that conservatives have expanded the power of the state by stripping away individual & constitutional rights and concentrated economic power to a few by skewing taxes downward and privatizing public services. The country becomes "sick" in different ways, ways that spawn more "sickness" and the complaints get louder. Of course liberals are also to blame for this mess. They stand by frightened that countering the claims of "sickness" is going to lose them elections, elections they lose time and time again because they are viewed as timid and ineffective. Only when conservatives fuck up big time by doing things like say privatize a goddamn war and health care for soldiers, do liberals sack up. And the media? It takes a comedian like Steve Colbert to nail the Washington Press Corps for being lapdogs unwilling to get to the truth of how wrong things have went and a free fall in the president's poll numbers for them to get a wee bit critical of the powers that be and messages like Mr. Cup's...and a little too late, don't you think? Nothing new here, folks. The cycle plays itself out over and over and recordings like this keep getting turned out (though now stuff like Harry D. Cup is the three squares of talk radio). The frustrating thing to me isn't the conservative/liberal struggle, but the dishonesty in which it is carried out and the lack of historical insight anyone engaged in the fight allows in the debate. Sick American occurs in a vacuum and thus we remain sick americans. My observations are certainly not new. I'll dig up some Mark Twain complaining about the human race and you'll hear that I merely echo his condemnations. Flip the record over and you really won't be surprised of what you hear next.
Manthing: Night of the Laughing Dead
Herb Davidson & Charlotte Sanders Manthing: Night of the Laughing Dead EP (Power, 1974)
The moment I graduated from Richie Rich to Marvel, the Fantastic Four, The Inhumans, the X-Men, and Manthing were THE comics on my adolescent shopping list. The Thing made the F4 a must buy. The Wolverine was the X-Men's hook. The Inhumans as a whole were just too damn cool (apparently too cool to exist longer than a year). But nothing this side of the Silver Surfer really was as strange and freakish and totally fun as the Manthing. So imagine the twinge of joy I felt when I stumbled on a Power Records issue of the Manthing!
I've come across Power Records comic/records for years: some I pick up, some I leave behind. Usually I listen to them once and swap them for something else. They are great inventions but there are others who need them more than I [like The Power Records Pages and Scar Stuff). This one though is a keeper. It has everything: a clown suicide, sideshow freaks, a ghost, and the Manthing! Enjoy.
Manthing Pt 1Manthing Pt 2
The Dialect of The Black American
Paul Weston & Jeffrey Berman The Dialect of the Black American LP
(Western Electric, 1970)
One of my favorite spoken word records is this 1970 public service disc produced by Western Electric for libraries and schools. Essentially a long essay on how American society deals with Ebonics, The Dialect of the Black American is fairly radical in its message...and very entertaining in its presentation. That one of America's biggest companies produced such a document is testament to how liberal the country had become. Decades of agitation from Labor, the Civil Rights Movement, and the New Left had brought the country to its most enlightened state since anarchists, socialists, Wobblies, and labor forced FDR into the New Deal. Two years after this record's release, the Conservative Rollback, ushered in by the election of Richard Nixon, had begun, bringing us to the mess we are in today. The thought of Citigroup, Exxon Mobil, or Walmart-Stores producing anything like The Dialect... - either in style or content - is nothing less than absurd.
Message aside, The Dialect of the Black American would be just another spoken word record if not for the presentation. Narrator (I assume) Paul K. Winston has the right voice for this record. His rich tone dashes from Standard American English to Ebonics without pause. The writing is good. And the record is funny. Some of the humor is unintended, I'm sure; however, listen to the end of the last track and you know that the writers were laughing as they came up with it. Top a great record off with a fantastic sleeve and here is one of the best spoken word records ever released.
Each side of the record can be listened to as one piece and I've chosen side one for you to hear. There are separate tracks on the record so I sectioned this off where there were natural pauses. The flow is okay, but you get what you get.
Man with the Mike
Eric Robinson Man with the Mike EP (Trafco, 1965)
Here is a little gem recorded in the San Francisco Bay Area. At first listen, this appears to be a bit of urban sociology cum investigative reportage. However, at the end of each segment, the announcer informs us that the record is produced by "local Methodists." In my experience, Methodists tend to go for the soft sell; thus, even though this was produced by the National Council of Churches, the record is essentially a "reporter" on the streets, showing us the gritty side of America.
Eric Robinson has the stereotypical 60s Brit BBC man voice. He asks his subjects probing questions and seems to like it when the conversation turns "edgy" (at least as edgy as local Methodists will allow). His interview subjects are good talkers as well, especially his matter of fact man in the halfway house.
Found this one for a buck in a used store's clearance bin.
Poesie d'Amore di F. Garcia Lorca
Federico Garcia Lorca / Arnoldo Foa Poesie d'Amore di... EP
My Spanish is pretty much what you would expect from someone who learned most of the language off of Taco Bell's old wall menu. So it should come as know surprise that I have no idea what the hell is going on with this record other than it sounds really beautiful. I've read Lorca in translation - in fact, most of what has been published - however, none of it compares to the original language. I'm not sure whether this constitutes a great, good, or merely passable recording of Lorca, but it sounds good to me. The understated guitar works really well with the words. It has the same kind of duende (or raw fire in the belly) that Lorca writes about in the most important of his essays, On Duende (see Poetics of the New American Poetry). No need to prattle on any longer. Give these a listen.
In the Face of Coldness
Superstar Dan Theman In the Face of Coldness 45 (Scat, 1991)
Mostly known as a "crazy" pal of Guided by Voices, Superstar Dan Theman (AKA Supie T) is one of the more listenable outsider musicians. His fusion of scat singing, rock & roll, and poetry seems to have evolved more as an expression of his personality than some conscious attempt to be different. Theman's history (Vietnam vet with trouble adapting to a post-war world) certainly suggests this to be true. Like many an outsider, his work circulated on cassette among his friends, cassette culture fanatics, and those dedicated enough to outsider art that they actively pursued small run and homemade releases. Even then, stuff like this tends to remain a secret until someone pushes it to the surface. In 1991, Scat pressed 300 of this one, bringing it to the attention of the indie label crowd, those outside of Columbus, and me. If you haven't heard Supie T before, you are in for a treat.
Gorey By Grimes
Edward Gorey/Tammy Grimes Gorey by Grimes LP
Welcome to Gibble Gabble! Gibble Gabble is a result of me realizing that I need to listen to some of the hundreds of spoken word records I've accumulated over the years. Instead of breaking into the music that I post on Crud Crud, I decided to dedicate a blog to these things.
Spoken word records are undervalued things. While they can be obtained for little, used record bins are often stuffed with them - and not JFK memorial albums but good recordings of e.e. cummings, Malcolm X, and Flannery O'Connor. Unlike "books on tape," spoken word records tend to be audio documents, made to preserve sound and to educate (as well as entertain) rather than to give a person something to listen to while driving to work. Because these recordings are on vinyl and few have been reproduced on CD, they linger unlistened to.
Here, perhaps once a week, I will post bits of some of my favorite spoken word records. Some entries will be literature, others political speeches. Educational and instructional records will be featured, as well as the odd comedy album. I will also get to a few Folkways field recording albums and maybe even a sound effects record or two.
Gibble Gabble starts off with an Edward Gorey record. Here the actress Tammy Grimes reads Gorey's work, tales perfectly suited for spoken word. I start off with The Gashlycrum Tinies because it is THE Gorey piece, one that first snared many a Gorey fan. This record was put out on Caedmon, a name that you will see often, as Caedmon was pretty much the name in presenting great literature on spoken word form.
Of course, the Edward Gorey experience is as much a visual thing as it is literary. Your life is not complete if you have never seen the illustrations he makes for his stories. No one captures the humor of a child dying of ennui quite like Gorey. Both Amphigorey and Amphigorey Too are in print and should be in your library.