Frank Gutch Jr: Beer That Sings, The Girls From the North Country, Antitrust and the Music Biz, and The Real Teen A Go Go (Plus notes and stuff…..)

When I was a kid, beer was that awful tasting stuff my dad drank out of a bottle or a can (which usually inhabited one hand, a cigarette inhabiting the other), that stuff which should have been pop or Kool-Aid but wasn’t.  Later, it became the source of TV delight in the form of The Wednesday Night Fights and the Hamms bear, numerous jingles (from “What’ll ya have?  Pabst Blue Ribbon!” to “Mabel!  Black Label!” and beyond.  High school years, it became the harbinger of Monday morning gossip about the Saturday night parties to which I was never invited (those bastards!).  In college…  well, in college, beer was everywhere.  Funny how a few months can create a whole new world, isn’t it?  Even later, beer (or ale) became an obsession.  I didn’t drink it so much as support it in all of its different cultural subcategories.

I bought Rainier exclusively after seeing Notary Sojac and Sand at one of Rainier‘s legendary Sunbust concerts (a series of summer concerts sponsored by the brewery featuring a plethora of local and regional bands out of the Pac Northwest) in Eugene the summer of ’71 .  When I moved to Los Angeles and then San Diego, I bought Blitz Weinhard Bavarian Dark because of a series of ads that brewery utilized to offset the larger companies’ strongarm tactics at the store level (even then, companies ‘bought’ shelf space), those ads featuring a state trooper (semi-famous Seattle disc jockey Dick Curtis) who would go to great lengths to prevent mythical Schludwiller from tainting the pure beer made by Blitz.  (Watch one here— they were pretty cool)  A few years later, I reaffirmed my Rainier preference after I moved to Seattle and watched a whole string of excellent commercials backed by that brewery, including ones featuring Mickey Rooney and tales of ‘The Running of the Rainiers” and the like.

On a larger scale, of course, Budweiser and Miller sponsored tours, as well as a handful of distilleries like Jack Daniels and Absolut.  It is a long and gloried partnership, music and alcohol, so it was a real pleasure to discover a company which went a step further:  Oskar Blues.  Originally just a small brewery, OB discovered cans early and were among the first to can their ale rather than bottle it.  There are numerous reasons, all sounding pretty logical to me, but logic has not always been my strong suit and it was left to music to make the real impact.  Thus, Beer That Sings.  Thus, The Singing 12-Pack.

It made enough of an impact that I wrote about it then, but only a small piece.  I had hoped to write a much more involved history of the beer and its musical promotions.  But life got in the way.

See, it appears that someone at OB got to drinking some of that amazing nectar they produce, that liquid ambrosia, and in a moment of inebriated inspiration decided to combine brew and music.  Not just any music, and here is where the inspiration really kicks in, local music and “do-it-yourself” music.  They figured, what the hell, we’re both doing it ourselves.  Let’s take it to the next level.  So they went about finding artists from Colorado (they were based in Lyons, Colorado) and about grabbing music those artists had recorded.  They headed to Big Bender Records somewhere along the way and put out a sampler of music from that label.  When they finalized distribution for Washington State, they made a deal with Supersuckers for an EP.  They hit up Yonder Mountain (then, The Yonder Mountain String Band).  And then things got interesting.  They looked outside the lines, approaching labels like Yep Roc and radio stations like KCUV AM 1510 (Colorado’s Underground Voice) and magazine like Marquee, a music magazine of no small repute.  They utilized the talents of music masterminds Steve Garvan and Marty Jones and Morris Beegle.  And they cranked out some downright cool collector’s times.

They are all produced, physically, within the confines of brew.  You get your basic six-pack, assumedly included with the purchase of a six-pack, and you get your Singing 12-Pack, that glorious 12-song “album” included in what we in Oregon back in the old days referred to as a “short case.”  Actually, I overspoke.  You can’t get them, but you could have.  If you had been around between 2004 and the last in the series (Vol. 7: Rockin’ Roots Sampler), which as put out when, 2008?  2009?  I would check with the brewery, but I don’t want those guys to lose their place.  That stuff they produce is pure liquid gold.

But to get back to the music.  I found Dolorean on one of those samplers.  I found Reverend Horton Heat.  I reacquainted myself with Cindy Bullens and discovered the music of Coloradan Ash Ganley (a real find) and Chris Berardo and the Desberardos (the name alone sold me on those guys).  Todd Snider showed up on an early CD as did 18 Wheeler and Great American Taxi.  All artists I now follow.  All because of beer (or ale, I should say, but they seem to want to call it beer— I guess there’s no rhythm to Ale That Sings).

One day, these discs are going to be highly collectable.  I know a lot of you are scrunching those faces up and thinking, wha-a-at?  No way!  The same way people did when the weirdos started collecting K-tel albums.  The same way people did when oddballs started collecting those radio station albums (you know, the KXXX Hot 16-type collections).  The way I’m figuring, just the way they were packed will take a certain amount out of circulation— can discs survive in refrigerator-level temperatures for a long period of time?).  The fact that ale is consumed by drinkers will take out a few more (more than a few broken when some drunken sot couldn’t find the “hole” and became frustrated and, would you believe it, violent).  A few more were more than likely tossed in the trash (Shit, Margo, it doesn’t even have Stairway To Heaven or Free Bird, fer chrissakes!  I’m file-thirteen’in’ that sumbitch!  Thunk!).  You think I’m kidding?  If the whole premise of worth is based upon supply and demand, I figure all we have to do is pump up the demand a little.

Yep, I’m sittin’ on a goldmine.  I got ’em all (thanks, Marty!).  And I listen to them too.  Sometimes I even have a Dale’s Pale Ale while listening to them.  And after a couple of those Dale’s, the appliances and pictures on the wall start singin’ too.  I love me some Beer That Sings.  That has to be one of the greatest promotions ever!  Oskar, you da Man!!!

Dala— Hard work paying off…..

This is what Dala looked like when I found them some years ago.  I can see Sheila Carabine rolling her eyes and making some comment about that red streak in her raven-like black hair (What was I thinking?) and can hear Amanda Walther‘s laughter at the comment.  Jesus.  How long ago was that?  Long enough for the girls to slowly (and I mean very slowly) work their way from fill-ins to headliners.  I personally loved that red streak and lamented its loss as they started bouncing all over North America taking the continent one burg at a time.

The real break (in my mind, at least) came at the Newport Folk Festival back in, what 2009?  (What is it with me not being able to remember dates?)  They were scheduled to play a small stage and did, but were asked to fill in for a song or two on the main stage while equipment was being arranged or some such thing and, you guessed it, wowed the crowd.  It was impressive enough to wow a few writers too and even I came under their spell after reading what they had written.  It inspired me, in fact, to write this.  Since then, it has been a struggle, but a struggle up the hill.  They will make it yet, if they have anything to say about it.

It may have taken Dala a few thousand years (well, it seems that long to me) to get to their new album, but they’ve been busy.  A harder working duo Canada does not have.  They have worked relentlessly since their last full album (Everyone Is Someone), taping a concert for PBS with others (Girls From the North Country), touring North America and writing songs for Best Day.  American customers can pre-order the new album here;  Canadian customers here.  Normally, I don’t go for all-out plugs, but I figure I’m doing you a favor.  If you’ve heard them or if you love melodic pop with soaring harmonies, you’ll understand.  The even better news is from their label in the States, Compass Records  They are releasing Dala‘s first two albums over the next few months:  In June it will be the super-excellent Who Do You Think You Are (which has one of the purest songs of female teen angst ever recorded in Hockey Sweater, and if you’re not convinced, watch this) and in July, Angels and Thieves, the album which vaulted these two young and talented girls on the road to fame and fortune…..  For your viewing and listening pleasure, here are a couple of examples of DalaBest Day trailer and Anywhere Under the MoonThey’re like Patience & Prudence, all growed up.  And let’s face it, how many artists make Winnipeg the cornerstone of a song…..

Just what the hell is Antitrust and why should I care?

One of the problems living in today’s world is that we accept so many things without knowing a thing about them.  All anyone seems to care about is price and the economy, which is why Wal-Mart rules the retail roost and why people aren’t beaten to a pulp or at least ostracized every time they speak highly of this soulless corporation or “like” them on Facebook, the coolest and most important site on the Net.  Argh!  Just typing that makes me want to take a shower.  Do we really care?

Jordan Weissmann, associate editor of The Atlantic does and he is trying to tell us something.  On May 16th, he published a tome warning us of impending doom.  UMG (Universal Music Group) is attempting to buy what remains of EMI, that hapless corporate shell of what once was a major player amongst major labels.  If UMG is given the go-ahead, that would make them the eight-hundred-pound gorilla rather than the seven-hundred-pound gorilla they are now.  That, Weissman says, is grounds for an Antitrust suit.

The basic point Weissmann makes is that too much power in anyone’s or any corporation’s hands is not a good thing.  I want to say, ya think?, but he makes too good a point for me to want to make fun.  Just when it looks as if the business is taking a turn toward fairness, here comes another clown to fuck things up.  If UMG has their way, they will own everything within their grasp and will flip the bird to the rest of us, especially the musicians upon whose carcasses they have built their fortunes.  Will we never learn?

Sad thing, I feel that there is no we anymore.  People are out there plugged into whatever causes they have and blocking out the rest of the world.  If divide and conquer is a truth, then the truth shall kill us all because every time something like this comes along, only a united front can stop it.  You trust the courts?  Good luck.  The clowns in the courts are as fucked up as the rest of us.  All UMG need do is throw in a few political hacks who are good with numbers and they’ll get what they want.  And the legal system will be only too happy to give it to them.  You think the “market” will punish those who go overboard?  You’re more stupid than I thought.  “The market” is whatever these corporate clowns tell us it is and if you think any different you’re delusional.

Well, deluse this.  If the government allows this constant gobbling up of companies by corporations, they will eventually become too big to fail.  Wait.  I’ve heard that before.  That’s right.  Too big to fail.  Face it, people, banks aren’t the only businesses out there which can destroy the economy.  Any business can destroy the economy.  Just let them eat until they explode.  Thanks for the reminder, Mr. Weissmann.

And if you prefer to read the words from the horse’s mouth, here is the link….

When A Go Go ruled Fort Worth…..

I guess if you’re a sixties music freak or a collector of the different series of albums which lived off of that era, say, Nuggets or Pebbles or Beyond the Grave, you might know about the Fort Worth music scene, or maybe if you were lucky enough to stumble upon Norton Records‘ excellent Fort Worth Teen Scene discs.  Otherwise, what came out of Dallas’s poorer cousin might have eluded you and might not impress you.  Hard to imagine, though, the impressing part, and that is what really comes through in Teen A Go Go: A Little Film About Rock and Roll History.  Something special happened there, something that no one really saw while it was happening. Something a lot of people saw and heard decades later.  People like Mark A. Nobles, who produced what I can only label as a very important DVD, musically and historically.  People like Melissa Kirkendall, who obviously sweated through not only filming numerous interviews and piecing together bits and pieces of music history but arranging them in a cohesive pattern so that even people who have no clue about Fort Worth’s musical past can understand.  People like Billy Miller and Joe Nick Patoski and the many members of the bands who lived the A Go Go scene.

If I had been interviewed, I more than likely would have said “I don’t know what they were drinking, but maybe we should have passed it around to some of the other towns,” because, truth be told, there were few places which even approached Fort Worth in terms of their teen scene.  It may have looked like it, but not really.  Fort Worth was a world pretty much unto itself, I think, and I am comparing it to one of the best teen scenes there was, the Pacific Northwest.  We had the biggest and the best:  The Sonics, The Wailers, Paul Revere & The Raiders, The Kingsmen and a ton of other hip bands.  But we didn’t have The Cynics.  We didn’t have The Barons.  And we certainly didn’t have ThElites or The Mods or Larry & The Blue Notes or any of the other Fort Worth greats— and, yes, I think they were great, as teen as they were.

We had our National Guard Armories and a few teen clubs, but we didn’t have Teen A Go Go and its many offshoots.  We most certainly didn’t have Go-Go Girls (thank the gods, because my youthful teen heart could not have handled it).  What we had was a lot of Coke and Pepsi and pimples and pegged pants and ratted hair and everything else except…  what Fort Worth had.

Nobles and Kirkendall give it to us in a fluid and seemingly endless stream of interviews and pictures and film clips which bring it to life, in a past tense way.  Charts, posters, pictures and sounds crank by almost too fast to comprehend, which is a good thing because you will want to see this a number of times before shelving it for only special viewings.  It is a blessing and a curse, actually, for the short interview clips and fastly replaced pictures move by so quickly that you have to shift your eyes fast to catch the names of the people and the bands.  But it is worth it.

Nobles and Kirkendall have hit the motherlode here.  Not only is the music vibrant and alive, especially in retrospect, but the scene is laid out in classic form.  There are stories here— like the section about Major Bill Smith, the man behind many of the hits which came out of the area, and his eccentricities.  Did you know that Smith was responsible for naming Smash Records?  Evidently, he would hear a song and yell “It’s a cotton-pickin’ smash!” so much that someone named a label Smash.  True or not, it is stuff like that that makes this not only entertaining but historical gold.

Nobles has also written a book about the scene:  Fort Worth’s Rock and Roll Roots.  I haven’t read it yet, but it is probably mostly pictures (it has Images of America in the title) and is on my get-list.

Music You Should See and/or Hear…..

I wish I could have been in The Netherlands when they filmed Ma Rain doing this sultry, slow-chooglin’ song.  I love chooglin’, especially when it strikes a groove and is played by my now favorite Dutch band…..  To go along with that outstanding video of Teen A Go Go, I was told about this other little rockumentary.  It’s titled We Didn’t Get Famous and covers the South from 1978 to 1990 and features bands like The Pylons, The Judies, Let’s Active and a score of the other lesser known (but musically very viable) bands of the period.  You can watch the whole thing on Vimeo and I’m telling you now that if you liked any of the music during this period, this is one video you should check out.  I give this an award just because it was done for the right reason— to document a very important part of rock history.  And I bow down to Camilla Ann Aikin for doing a masterful job…..  Could that be a very young Oliver Reed spazzin’ out on the dance floor in Craig Elkins’ new video for Tumbleweeds?  If not, he’s one hell of a doppelganger…..  Decades ago, Shawn Phillips was on his way to becoming a huge factor in the music business when something happened, I never knew what.  Practically everyone I knew and trusted when it came to music told me that he was the goods and they finally wore me down and I listened and damned if he wasn’t.  They say he has an incredible vocal range, but what always impressed me was his diversity in songwriting.  Friend Margaux Sky, a singer herself, brought him to my attention recently and shared this video.  He’s still out there, folks, and is someone you might well want to check out if for no other reason than to say you did…..  For some reason, I have taken to watching this Shade video after listening to their One Last Show of Hearts album.  It’s like an  encore comedown, of a sort.  I don’t understand why all of my friends (well, not all of them— I have to exclude Death Metal Mark) haven’t picked up on the band.  Not long ago, I even listened to this video after playing Neil Young‘s The Emperor of Wyoming and they segued together beautifully.  You listening?  Sometimes I think my mike ain’t on.  To hear the song with vocals, click here…..  Here is a little sampler from the upcoming Green Pajamas album, Death By Misadventure.  These guys could fart into a microphone and I’d buy it, but they don’t.  They play actual great music!…..  Don’t say I didn’t tell you first (though there are probably many in Seattle who already know), but there is a rumbling sound coming out of Seattle which may have a chance to break out.  I’m speaking of C-Leb & The Kettle Black, a conglomeration of high-energy musicians who on the surface sound like they are more of the same. But I assure you that they are not.  Read all of that again.  What part of high-energy do you not understand?  These guys play to make you move and they do it with sound!  So put all of those preconceptions behind you and  click on this and be prepared for some rock ‘n roll (and some bottom-heavy slide work that impresses the hell out of me)!…..

Notes…..  Tom Dyer, that ol’ Green Monkey himself, sent me a rough cut of a track from his new project.  It’s a cover of The Sonics’ The Witch, marinated in Munster Sauce and dipped in an Addams Family batter.  Very interesting.  He is careful to point out that he is happy with it at the moment, which leads me to think he may not be the next.  Stay tuned.  Album to follow…..    Colorado Rocks.  It’s a hike, by golly, and musicians are involved— G Love, Brett Dennen, School of Rock, Cy Curnin (The Fixx), Miles Zuniga (Fastball) and others will be playing music at various points on the hike, if I understand it correctly, which will take place in Vail, Colorado on Saturday, July 14th.  It is a cancer fundraiser.  Just because you can’t make it doesn’t mean you can’t hand them a few bucks.  It’s a good cause….. It didn’t take as long as I suspected it would.  I woke up Monday morning to the new Lisbee Stainton Sidekick video (link stashed conveniently in my inbox, though there was no world peace to be found) and it is a perfect way to kick off the week.  I won’t give away the ending, but Lisbee and cohort Laura Bettinson do a great job of superimposing superheroes over friendship with the help of a great song which would fly if AM radio still ruled the world, but…  Well, you can view it here.  And enjoy the song.  It’s a good one…..  Emily Wells comes busting out again with another album (Mama) well worth picking up.  I first heard about her years ago when she released  her Beautiful Sleepyhead & the Laughing Yaks album (it impressed me, if not too many others).  This time around, she has tiny but smart Partisan Records to help her out.  The lady has talent…..   News out of Lake Charles is that Research Turtle Jud Norman is ju-u-st about ready to complete the mix on Mankiller Pt. 2, but I’ll believe it when I hear it.  He’s been saying that for close to a year— well, it seems that long.  I am working on a huge article about the band and am impressed with how much they open up about the positives and negatives of trying to make it as an indie band in the modern music world.  I’ll be posting a link when the article is up.  Seriously.  It isn’t just about the band.  It is about everything these guys have done and are doing to get the music to the public ear…..  Just posted a review of Steve Katz‘s new EP, Barricades, and am listening hard to a new album by Mark Bates (it’s good stuff).  Life is good…..

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.”

3 Responses to “Frank Gutch Jr: Beer That Sings, The Girls From the North Country, Antitrust and the Music Biz, and The Real Teen A Go Go (Plus notes and stuff…..)”

  1. Saw Dala open for Tom Cochrane & Red Rider at Massey Hall after the second album came out. It was like listening to The Everly Sisters. They sing like angels. I’ve just posted from my own blog about your blog and the excellent Lisbee Stainton tune. As my son would call this “It’s a Blogception” – a blog within a blog! http://lifesacanadian.blogspot.ca/2012/05/frank-gutch-jr-discovers-lisbee.html

    • And to think I never knew your blog existed (outside of your own mind). Pretty cool. I passed the word along to Lisbee. Pass a couple of mine along to Dala. Then, let’s party!

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