Frank Gutch Jr: YOU WANT A MASHUP? I’LL GIVE YOU A MASHUP!

That’s what they call it, is it not?  Where some needle-nosed geek sits behind a keyboard and threads Beatles and Michael Jackson songs together and comes up with the modern version of Stars on 45?  Hey, I admit that some of them are decent and a few have been downright creative, but let us face it.  It’s a fad.  No more nor less than the medley fad that pretended that what Stars on 45 was doing was musically viable.  Show of hands.  How many bought Stars on 45?  How many still have them?  That wind you feel is all those hands going down.

You know what mashups are?  They are the viral uploads of today and the deletions of tomorrow.  I’m surprised that certain artists are not tossing real viruses (virae?) in the midst of the music created by computer hacks.  They have to be somewhat unnerved hearing a song they wrote and honed to virtual perfection remixed by some inebriated clown in boxer shorts at three in the morning, thinking the music was his.  You have to be an idiot to have this proprietary attitude toward music, that you have a right to alter someone’s art.  Then again, those idiots probably think that musicians are rich by default, that music is a hobby, and anything which comes out of a hobby is fair game.

Maybe you don’t care, but I do.  The way I care about Volkswagen co-opting a Nick Drake song to sell cars or Nike using John Lennon to plug shoes.  Who the hell do they think they are, using music to hock their wares?  Music they don’t own.  And don’t tell me that people who did own the rights gave their blessings.  In my world, the blessings were not theirs to give— that simple.  If John or Nick said okay, okay.  But they couldn’t, could they?  And the John Lennon and Nick Drake I knew wouldn’t have if they could have.  If you think otherwise, meet me in the alley behind The Rathole Tavern at seven-thirty tonight.  Bring money.

What this is actually all about is…..

I’ve been having dreams.  I’ve been having dreams about winning the lottery and finding the perfect girl and eating tacos (one of the few foods I cannot get enough of).  But mostly I’ve been having dreams about my favorite music.  Favorite bands, actually.  That’s right.  Research Turtles and Bright Giant.  I’ve been thinking about how cool it would be to take them on tour.  Together.  To a bunch of cities and towns where nobody knows who they are.  I’d make it free, of course (it is all contingent upon the amount I win in the aforementioned lottery drawing).  Maybe canned food or a couple dollar donation to charity.  See, what it would be all about is the music.  You know.  That thing that there is no more good of?  (I know that sounds terrible, but every time I hear people say there is no good music out there anymore, I figure I have to dumb down to even get them to listen)

But I digress.  About that tour.  I want to back these guys.  I want to book them into arena-sized venues or large clubs.  I want to put them on stage separately and together.  Does that qualify as a mashup?  Research Turtles and Bright Giant together?  I think it does.

You would get the best of two worlds:  Research Turtles with their Beatles/AC-DC/Led Zeppelin/Shoes brand of rock and Power Pop and Bright Giant with their early Rolling Stones/Black Crowes hard-edged slightly R&B sound.  The Pop and the Crunch.  The Yin and the Yang, so to speak.

You know these guys, right?  If you have been reading anything I write I guarantee you have heard of them because I seem to be unable to write anything without at least a mention of one or both.

It is a natural one-two punch, however you want to line them up.  Research Turtles are pure peanut butter, creamy here and crunchy there.  They can rock the hell out of the place or soothe the savage beast (or would that be breast?  No one seems to know).  Their music is hook-laden and solid, the vocals melodious, the harmonies simple and sweet.   Think Kinks/Zeppelin/Beatles in terms of sound, Beatles/Shoes in terms of vocals.  Bright Giant conjures up Yardbirds/Black Crowes and early Rolling Stones, straight up.  Their feedback-infused style is intense and raucous with the occasional drift toward Gimme Shelter.  Put them on the same stage and you get two parallel worlds.  Put them on the same stage at the same time and you get a mashup.

I want to see both bands line up and intertwine.  I want to see Will Locker, the pounding demon, push Mr. Finesse, Chad Townsend, to extremes with a percussive duel of explosive proportions, a twenty to thirty minute battle to show the young what drum solos were back in the day.  I want to hear Josh Davis and Joseph Darbonne battle it out on guitar, Davis’s rough-around-the-edges style next to Darbonne’s Van Halen-kicking flash.  I want to hear Jud Norman‘s flowing bass complement Justin Goes‘ booming bottom.  And to cap the whole thing off, I want to watch Noah Mass snark and crunch his way through feedback-infested swamps while Logan Fontenot sprays the stage with his arsenal of sweet and sour guitar licks.  The mere thought has my ears drooling.

Back in the early Seventies, Portland (Oregon) legends Notary Sojac and Sand combined to stage a one-off show as Notary Sandjac (oh, to have been there that day).  I wouldn’t go so far as to do that, but how about Bright Giant and Research Turtles doing separate shows and then combining for a third set?  I can see it now— a stage filled with eight crazed musicians (maybe nine because BG does take along a keyboard player when the situation warrants it) with a twenty to fifty voice chorus stacked in the background, perfect for backup on songs like Forget-Me-Nots or Coraline Rose during BG‘s set  but absolutely crucial to, say, a blockbuster finale including maybe live versions of Gimme Shelter or God Gave Rock & Roll To You.

I know, dreams get you nowhere, but I hold out hope.  I still buy my lottery tickets, though I only check results occasionally.  I still listen to music— especially RT‘s and BG.  And if I ever did get lucky enough to strike it rich, I have a couple of lawyer’s names to quick dial, just in case.  I could put together some packages which would bowl people over in terms of natural tie-ins— corporations to non-profits and causes.  And I would make sure it was all about the music.  You have to stay focused when you do such things, don’t you know.

For those even remotely curious about the bands, here are links to their music pages:  Bright Gianthttps://www.facebook.com/brightgiant?sk=app_155326481208883 and http://www.myspace.com/brightgiantmusicResearch Turtleshttp://researchturtles.com/music.  Be sure and check out RT‘s home page ( http://www.researchturtles.com ) to see if their Mankiller Pt. 1 of 2 EP is still available as a free download.  It’s great stuff and free is a great price.

A REMEMBRANCE OF TIMES PAST…..

I moved from San Diego to Seattle sometime around 1978 and got a job as singles buyer (no, not ‘singles’ as in singles bar, you boneheads— 45 RPM records) at the Peaches Record Store on 45th Street, just off of I-5.  How I got that job is a story for another time but let me say that it almost didn’t happen and had it not, I have no idea where I would be today.  I spent thirteen years there and during most of those it was a dream job among the best people I have ever worked with or sold records to.

You know how music marks a space in the time of your life— like when you met your wife or the good times you had with your old Army buddies?  Well, the music I stumbled into there really marked mine.  Seattle was as unique a city as I have ever seen— around that time, anyway.  Most of the music revolved around the bar circuit.  Anything beyond that was pretty much years in the future.  Major labels had a stranglehold on records and radio, bars had control over music bands were allowed to play, and only a few bands were idealistic enough to want to try music without the hope of big money.  They were there, mind you.  They have always been there, wherever music is heard or played.  They were just ignored is all.

Junior Cadillac were pretty much kings back then.  They played everywhere and got paid top dollar.  Comprised of players who survived the garage blast of the Sixties and early Seventies, Cadillac packed them in wherever they played.  It was bar boogie with a touch of R&B and Beach Boys and whatever else they thought would strike their fans’ fancies.  Robert Cray became practically an overnight sensation then.  His Animal House appearance may have made him a star, but it was his band which made him a local bar legend.  He worked his way up from Eugene, played one night at the famed Rainbow Tavern across the street from the store to a half-filled room and after that played to standing room only crowds with people lined up down the street, sometimes in the rain, waiting for some poor schmuck to leave so they could hear the famed Cray and crew.  Annie Rose & The Thrillers were already favorites of the dance crowd.  They played a mishmash of soul and R&B and had people lined up in the streets as well, on weekends at least.

And then there was (were?) The Skyboys.  The two-step had just taken hold of the Northwest, line dancing was not that far off and people were already wearing cowboy duds (clothes that were worn by duds, as far as I was concerned) and The Skyboys fit right in with the trend.  Country music for the country-at-heart, I suppose you could say.

I wrote the band off for quite awhile, leery of any musical trend which I thought no legs.  Fad music, I thought it.  I was right and I was wrong.  For one thing, The Skyboys weren’t hick, like I thought.  They were slick.  They played country music but it wasn’t the drawl and spit tobacco crap most bands played.  They played country rock, music to the left of, say, The Eagles and Pure Prairie League and one of my all-time favorites, Cowboy.  They wore the western duds, but they looked good in them— and normal.  No cock walk for them.  That was their version of plaid flannel shirts and jeans.

I quickly tired of people talking about them.  I tired of cowboy hats and boots.  I started to hate the band.  Every time they played The Rainbow, the lines would be down the street and even down the side street.  I stood outside and listened one night and didn’t hear anything I thought was any great shakes.  Then I met Linda Waterfall.  Linda had been in an earlier version of The Skyboys and when someone at the store pointed that out, I approached her about it.  I had only known her as a solo performer and figured I could get the goods on the band— you know— juicy retort stuff for all of the google-eyed fans who espoused their musical legerdemain over and over and over and over.  It turned out that Linda had no retort-worthy comments.  She loved the band.  She went solo because it was time, plus the band was evolving, going in a direction in which she no longer fit— more rock than country.

Without ammunition, I started to waver.  A few of the people I respected had good things to say.  One of the guys in the band introduced himself because they were working on an album and wanted to feel me out regarding marketing.  During the conversation, he informed me that Ken Parypa was in the band and Parypa was a name I recognized.  Andy and Larry had played with Sixties legends The Sonics.  They had to be related, right?  The wall crumbled.  All of a sudden, The Skyboys were on my radar.

When Skyboys (the album) was finally released, you could not have found a more humbled fan than  myself.  They had called on former Cowboy co-founder Scott Boyer to produce and I was convinced.  I went to their “album release” gig at The Rainbow right after (or was it right before) the recording session, which took place at Tioga Studios, down in the Coos Bay area on the Oregon Coast.  I was familiar with Tioga through Notary Sojac, that band of legendary proportions who had recorded there in the early Seventies.  The hooks were digging in on all sides.  Anyway, at that Rainbow gig, Boyer came out of the audience to play, possibly on the one song of his that the band had included on the album and, if I remember, exited right after.  It was the band’s night.  Boyer has class.  He would never intrude

When the album was released, we sold a ton.  They were playing across the street at The Rainbow at the time, they were plugging the store as a place to buy the album and they were getting airplay on KEZL (I’m pretty sure those were the call letters back then), which had a lock on everything local and everything at all folk-oriented.  They sold more than any others, big superstars included.  I reported them to the trade magazines as Number One.  It was an eye-opener regarding how the business worked.  CBS Records lodged a protest.  Local and regional bands should not be included in Billboard (insert trademark thingie here) reporting because the first week of release gives numbers skewed toward consumers who have a personal interest in the artist.  K-boom!  Someone at CBS in Los Angeles called our head office and someone there called the store director in Seattle and Ben, our store director at the time, came out to tell me that they were all upset.  Ben wasn’t, but everyone else was.  I shrugged my shoulders and said, hey, they were Number One and Ben said, I know, and let it drop.  The report stood.  I should have marked that in my head because there would be an instance not long after which would take numbers-reporting out of my hands.  Politics in music.  Who’d a thought?

I still have my copy of Skyboys.  I also have at least two separate singles that they released.  I pull them out and listen every once in awhile.  That was a good band.  And a good album.

Tom Kell, The Skyboys‘ front man, went on to record a couple of albums on his own and still plays.  I have lost track of everyone else, but would love to find out where they are.  Guitarist Dudley Hill is no longer with us, as is the aforementioned Ken Parypa.  I thank them and the other skyboys for the memories.

On a side note, let me say that Linda Waterfall is one of the nicest ladies I have ever met.  There was a grace about her back then, a sort of aura that made you want to protect her.  I wish I could have seen her perform with The Skyboys.  I shouldn’t bitch, though.  I did get to see her perform with guitarist-extraordinaire Scott Nygaard, so I truly have nothing about which to complain.

Now, the major labels are another story.  Did you know that…?  Crap.  I’m out of room.  Maybe next time.

Notes…..    This just in:  Czechs rock out!  That’s right.  Sounding like they’re Georgia-USA born and raised, Czech band The Cell just blew into my email box and blew out my ears.  If I didn’t know better, I would swear this band was out of America’s Seventies and shared stages with the likes of The Allmans and Atlanta Rhythm Section.  For best effect, turn them up loud.  And dig the slightly accented English.  Very cool.  Here’s a link to their music:  http://bandzone.cz/thecell.  You’re welcome…..  Speaking of the Czech Republic’s music, allow me to take this chance to point you toward another artist of talent, one Eva Turnova who records as Eturnity.  Her one release (to my knowledge), Happiness Is a Learned Condition,  mixes cinematic flashes of electronica with brooding vocals and semi-dark themes to produce shoegaze-oriented music of a very impressive caliber.  I pull it out when I need time to reflect…..  Spring is a wonderful time of year and it is being made even more wonderful by Green Monkey Records‘ new releases— Goblin Market‘s Beneath Far Gondal’s Foreign Sky and Green Pajamas‘ upcoming Death By Misadventure.  As I type, Gondal’s foreign sky hovers above and I am enthralled.  The music is creepy, beautiful and saturated with the psychedelic impressions of my folk/psych past.  Jeff Kelly and Laura Weller channeling Emily Bronte.  Wuthering Psych.  I dig it.  You can get a leg up by watching the first video from the album.  Click here…..  Word just in that 49 Stones have been recording.  They have a new track, Superhuman, up on their music page.  I’ve been following these guys for the past few years and for good reason.  They rock!  Be sure and listen to Crowded while you’re there.  It’s a killer track which never fails to get me moving…..

Frank’s column appears every Wednesday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

Frank Gutch Jr. looks like Cary Grant, writes like Hemingway and smells like Pepe Le Pew. He has been thrown out of more hotels than Keith Moon, is only slightly less pompous than Garth Brooks and at one time got laid at least once a year (one year in a row). He has written for various publications, all of which have threatened to sue if mentioned in any of his columns, and takes pride in the fact that he has never been quoted. Read at your own peril.”

One Response to “Frank Gutch Jr: YOU WANT A MASHUP? I’LL GIVE YOU A MASHUP!”

  1. Dane Wilson Says:

    I’ve followed B*G a lot, and I’ll have to take a listen to the Research Turtles, but really I couldn’t agree more when you were remarking on how people say, “There isn’t good music anymore.”

    It’s there. People just get force fed too much contrived corporate sounding bullshit, that they can’t even stomach one more spoonful of talent. And it’s too bad, really. When all you need is a spoonful.

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