Frank Gutch Jr: If Music Is Dead, You Bastards Killed It! The Life— A Seattle Legend in My Own Mind… (plus notes)

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That’s right.  You!  You, the Incipian Heed, the Flaccid Peni, the Ego Centered!  You, the ones who are always talking about how much they know about music and fart facts in concentric circles.  You, who complain that there is no good music anymore while listening incessantly to the decades-old— music which by all rights should have been put to bed long ago but instead is held high by listeners who stopped listening as examples of what music used to be.  Well, you can kiss my Rival Sons-loving ass!  All of you who don’t know that band, pucker up.

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Bob Segarini has been hyping Rival Sons for a few years now and I admit to having listened to a song or two before diving back into my pool of indie-infested waters, burying my head, ostrich-like.  I liked them.  They were good.  I even mentioned them in a column or two.  Until…..  until I saw a live performance of the band on the Palladia Channel, an MTV-owned channel doing what MTV used to do before they opted for the reality swill which has made them ratings contenders (I am laughing while typing this, I assure you), keying on music.  I sat, remote handy and ready to switch channels at the first instance of lamity (or would that be lameness), and was sucked into the vortex.  My first thought was, these guys are pretty good.  Replaced quickly by, these guys are good.  Replaced by, these guys are good, these guys are damn good, and fuck! in quick succession.  I slipped back to my days in front of the old 13” black & white TV during which I was regaled with In Concert and Rock Concert and the plethora of TV programs through which many of us became acquainted with live shows.  Don’t get me wrong.  These guys are neither Deep Purple nor Black Sabbath nor Led Zeppelin, nor any of the many bands which found their way through the airwaves in the 70s.  They are, however, a band which captures those days, both musically and performance-wise.  I think I know why.  The band fits.  From drums to bass to guitar to, especially, the vocals, the music fits.  They are Bad Company on steroids and Deep Purple without the pretense.  They are power with hooks built in.  They are freaking hot!  Here is a sample:

Not convinced?  This is the one which convinced me:

Even people who don’t like to rock have to give these guys credit.  They do— like to rock.  And they do it so well.  This band, you will not kill.  They may only have their run, but it will be a long and successful one.  Rival Sons, ladies and gentlemen!  And the crowd goes wild…..

Research Turtles…..

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You did kill this band, you tin-eared twits!  I would have put my life savings behind the Boys from Lake Charles, as I called them, if I’d had any.  And I would have lost my shirt, but not because Research Turtles didn’t deliver the goods.  It would have been because you asshats were so busy backing Led Zeppelin and Rolling Stones and Beatles so much you had nothing left for anyone else.  Don’t you ever get tired of the same old?  Don’t you ever want something new and good and sometimes soul-shaking?  Evidently not.  You let these guys die on the vine.  And don’t give me that old line about not having found them.  If you cared— indeed, if you care about music as much as so many of you profess, you could have found them— or maybe if not them, some other bands who also died on the vine.  Tons have, you know.  Waiting for their fans to find them.  Those fans, I guess, will be the next generation of music lovers who will be scouring the racks for bands like Research Turtles because they really had the goods.  Like the young found Big Star a couple of decades ago.  Like they are finding so many of the old but solid bands.

Hell, Research Turtles even won awards, though they had to go to England to get this one.

The video above has had 483 hits on YouTube.  483!!!  Hundreds of thousands of people have to see three-year olds playing drums to amplified recordings of Led Zeppelin or cats slapping balloons yet don’t have time to see and hear new and outstanding music.  Well, they can bite my shorts!  While they’re biting, take a look at this (featuring musical Halloween award winner Little Pauly Revere on keyboards):

The next video has what is close to the last vestiges of the band.  Joseph Darbonne had just replaced Joe Norman on guitar (he’s the one on the right, doing the metal march with the Van Halen kick) with the original lineup still intact (Jud Norman/vocals, bass;  Logan Fontenot/guitar;  and Blake Thibodeaux/drums).  Not long after this performance, Chad Townsend took over the drums.  No video of the band with Chad that I can find, but his reputation as a standout drummer is still intact.  By the way, you should play this puppy LOUD!

I loved this band.  I remember the first time I heard them (on their MySpace page) and the jolt it gave me.  For every hundred to a thousand bands I listened to on the Net, I found one good enough to pass muster.  These guys mustered up plenty good.  Here is the very first video I saw of them and it remains my favorite, just because this was the beginning and everything looked like it was uphill from here.  Mark the faces.  Every one of them belonged to a person who loved the band as much as myself.  I wasn’t there, but those were good days…..

And you killed them.  That ten millionth playing of Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven (which has become a hell to me) or six millionth playing of The Beatles’ box set did it.  You had your chance.  You not only killed this band, you also (unknowingly or not) killed…..

Bright Giant…..

Yep.  Here’s another band buried by your apathy toward music.  Born in Des Moines, Iowa, Bright Giant was born with a tough row to hoe.  It’s not like Des Moines is the capital of the recording industry (or any industry I have been able to find) but there they were, banding together to create a quite different sound than Research Turtles at precisely the same time.  If you need to put it in terms the hoi polloi can understand, the Turtles leaned toward The Beatles and AC/DC.  BG leaned toward the Stones and Black Crowes.

Get the drift?  They put out a five-song EP which caught me totally by surprise.  Lots of crunching guitar, pounding rhythms and good music.  Did anyone pay attention?  I mean, people outside of Iowa.  Not that I could tell.  Women sounded to me like a natural.  All five songs sounded like naturals.  As hard as I tried, no one listened.  Well, someone did.  I just have no idea who he/she/they were.

They would have two more chances.  A long while after the EP was released, they released Kings and Queens of Air, an album of crunching songs which leaned toward the darker side.  Not too long after that, they recorded a live album— an album which was given short shrift in the grand scheme of things.  It was not really recorded to make it, but more to chronicle the band itself.  The members of the band soon after shook hands and went their separate ways.  A sad moment for me.  Probably for them as well.

Mark these names:  Josh Davis, Noah Mass, Justin Goes, Jerry Lorenson, Will Locker.  All part of something bigger than life.  Word has it that Davis is working on a solo album and it is a fact that Locker has recorded and completed at least one track.  Hell, I didn’t even know Locker could play guitar!  Here’s the proof:

Hopefully, we’ll hear some of that Davis stuff and the rest of Locker’s soon.  With luck we will hear what the other guys are doing as well.

Those guys had a real chance.  There are so many bands and artists which/who didn’t.  Amelia Jay, for instance.  I have no idea what happened there, but the one album they produced was a beauty.  Built around the core of Mitch Dalton and Jeanette Beswick, they were supposedly morphing into a band called Seafare and then, shortly after, Victory Garden.  If they are doing anything now, I’m playing hell to find it, but I’m looking!  Their one album, by the way, is available at cdBaby.  Wish I could have been at this concert.

With all of the crap you’ve been lapping up of the so-called Americana genre, you would think some of you would have taken a slight detour to hear something outside the lines.  No chance.  I’ve been plugging these guys for years and a measly 400+ of you have taken the detour.  As far as I know, these guys took their bat and ball and went home.  Game over, you pusillanimous twits!  At least I have these videos and a copy of the CD!

It happened back in my youth too.  Not all of my favorite bands were total flops, but the fact that bands like Glass Harp, which made waves in the Midwest, were totally ignored on the Left and East Coasts said more about music audiences and fans than anyone would admit.  I have had to endure decades of Rolling Stone best-of lists which did not include guitarists like Phil Keaggy and my head is about to explode.  If not for the kids, who seem to know a good guitarist when they hear one, I might have done myself in before now.

I think Glass Harp may have killed themselves.  Keaggy became a Christian and John Sferra and Dan Pecchio tried to keep it going with a couple of replacement guitarists and vocalists, but losing Keaggy was too much of a handicap.  Keaggy went on to a very successful career as musician and religious-rocker while Pecchio ended up with The Michael Stanley Band and Sferra choogled along on his own in various combinations with different musicians.  Had the fans been there, though…..

My heart was broken on a regular basis when I was young.  Band after band was tossed to the curb by radio and radio audiences.  The failure of Gypsy to make it crushed me.  Those guys struck harder than most others.  I was in a record shop in Westminster, Colorado— a suburb of Denver— and heard Gypsy Queen for the first time.  I fell in love.  They were like no other band I would ever hear— stack harmony vocals, rockin’ beat, musicianship, they had it all.  Gypsy Queen got airplay and sold a little, but subsequent albums (In the Garden, Antithesis, and Beyond the Gates) failed miserably.  Financially.  Musically, they were as good as anything going.  I tried to sell them.  Nobody was buying.  It was the same old thing.  Who is that?  Gypsy.  Who?  Gypsy.  Oh, you got any Eagles?  It is no wonder I began to hate the hits.

Gypsy could have made it, swear to God!  They deserved to have made it!  They were that good!  But you guys killed them.  Well, those outside of St. Louis.  Thanks to radio station KSHE in that fair city, Gypsy became legend.  Outside the city limits, not so much.  Why not?  Listen to this and then tell me why.

Of the four albums the band put out, my absolute favorite is the third,  Antithesis.  Randy Cates had joined the band by then on bass and they had grabbed a superb drummer named Bill Lordan, who would go on to play with a handful of bands, including Robin Trower.  If you have the time, here is the album in its entirety.  It is something else.

Here is Lordan playing with Trower.  One of my all-time favorite drummers.  He can play anything.

Oh, I Suppose It’s Not Just You…..

The Life - group 20 bwI am finding myself guilty as well, especially the past couple of days listening to a CD released not long ago by Green Monkey Records of Seattle band The Life.  A two-CD package, the “deluxe-edition” of The Life – Alone captures a band my friend Howie Wahlen begged me to give a chance.  Looking back, I am sure I didn’t because had I really heard it, I would have become almost as big a fan as he was.  Too eighties, I remember thinking.  Man, I have made mistakes in my life, especially regarding music, but this one was monumental.

Howie forced a promo copy on me, hoping I would take it home and listen outside the confines of a record store.  I filed it and only pulled it out when it came time to pack and return to Oregon.  I thought I knew music.  I thought my decision was just.  Ha!  Just ridiculous, maybe, as that double-CD was to prove.  I put it in the player the other night.  I had promised the band’s one-time guitarist and lead singer Jimm McIver I would.  I may have even promised him a review.  I did not promise, to my recollection, that I would eat crow.  Let me say that once you get past the feathers, it isn’t all that bad.

For one thing, the original LP, Alone, finally got through.  It crawled inside my brain and began rearranging brain cells.  It made my muscles twitch and my feet tap.  Before long, the head was bobbing and the eyes were closed and the music took over.  Those guys (and that album) was good!  Maybe better than good!  I picked up the CD jacket and began reading.

TheLife_Alone-square-72-dpi-260The Life were named best new Northwest band in 1987 based on their live performances and their debut album AloneThey were not grunge.  They were 100% Seattle rock.  Great songs.  Great singer.  Freakazoid monster guitar player.  Great band.  Some folks liked to make The Doors comparison cuz there was a little of that in the singing.  Some disdainfully thought they were some kind of U2 wannabes cuz there were effects on the guitar.  Somebody saw Walt Whitman.  Whatever.  The proof is in the pudding and you have the pudding in your hands.

Indeed, I did.  As I read, the music wrapped itself around my head.

Alone has disappeared in the obscurity of memory even for most who were there twenty years ago, it continued.  It is time to set the record straight.  This release features the entire Alone album remastered from analog by GMR guru Tom Dyer.  Sounds ridiculously fresh!  It also features an entire second bonus disc, Witness the Will, containing 17 songs recorded for their unreleased second album shortly before they stepped off the precipice into history.  Take a listen and buy.  These guys shoulda been somebody.

Let me attest to the fact that these guys were somebody.  We just didn’t know it.  The references to The Doors?  I hear it.  Well, not The Doors as much as Jim Morrison.  Not McIver’s fault.  Just his voice.  U2’s guitar sound?  Didn’t really notice that but then I haven’t really listened to U2 closely for years.  I mean, if I wanted to be beaten to death with a stick, I would buy a stick.  There is no denying the guitar (quite excellent, I might add) of Tony Bortko.  Nor the pounding bass of Casey Allen.  The surprise was the driving drums of now-Green Pajama mate Eric Lichter.  I knew he played drums, but goddamn!  (Another of my favorite albums of the past few years is Lichter’s ELKS in Paris, produced and sidemanned by ex-Posie Ken Stringfellow)

There are seventeen tracks on Witness the Will.  Seventeen sometimes pop-infused rockers which draw from a number of sounds and genres.  Pounding rockers, semi-pscyh musicales (the capper of the disc, Freedom Is… is as good an album-ender as I have ever heard, straight ahead rockers.  Not a bad track to be had.  In fact, the sequencing makes perfect sense, one track leading into the next as if the songs were written that way.

There are lots of reasons to get this album, but if you struggle to find one, just listen to Bortko’s screaming guitar.  That dude could play!  Yeah, he’s no longer with us, but what he left behind is classic!  Even the memories.  From the liner notes, written by, I think, producer Keith Livingston:

bortkoTony was everyone’s scary uncle.  His searing, melodic guitar lines were woven through every song and provided the plaintive hooks you couldn’t get out of your mind if you wanted to.  His guitar provided the unique edge to the powerful pop melodies and driving choruses that made The Life much more than your average power pop band.  (Ed. Note:  Power Pop?  Not even close)

And Tony was intimidating as hell.  I remember once during a gig, he spit on someone because he thought they looked at him the wrong way.  If he was in a good mood, you had the feeling he was just about to smash your face in.  And he was a big guy.

Tony Bortko, ladies and gentlemen!  I’d not heard of him, though I had.  Bortko, or at least his name, is associated with a number of Seattle bands including TKO, Nusmatics, X-Static and others.  After hearing these discs by The Life, though, he is now a guitar player with whom to be reckoned— in my mind, at the least.  And he was only one part of this band.  Curious?  You can hear the entire album by clicking here.  I recommend you start with the last track, Freedom Is…  It will set the mood.

In fact, I recommend that you head to Green Monkey Records‘ music page (click here) and scope out their other offerings.  This is one cool label and a go-to destination for me when I need that certain music fix.  I mean, Green Pajamas and The Life and Gary Minkler and Jim of Seattle, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg!  To scope out the offerings, click here and be ready to be amazed.

I guess I take it back.  You are not really bastards.  Not really.  But I would appreciate you paying a bit more attention to the music we here at DBAWIS are passing along.  Some bands’ lives depend on it.  As does my sanity.  And with that, if you’re a regular reader, you know that it’s time for…..

NotesNotes…..  I am on a video kick.  Sort of a Throwback Thursday like they have on Facebook.  Digging through a few documentaries and clips I am revisiting and finding quite a few I missed.  In the mix, I found this short radio interview Ralph J. Gleason did with Jerry Garcia in The Dead’s early days.  Before they became a caricature of themselves.  We always look back and think what was I thinking when this happened.  We usually weren’t thinking.  That is why I love stuff like this.

sea glass layoutSusan James has a new album on the way, scheduled for a June 2nd release.  Titled Sea Glass, it will more than  likely be more Susan James gold.  To give us an idea, she recently posted a song and the story behind it, a tune titled Ay Manzanita.  The link to the music is at the end of this message from Susan herself:

 

A little PREVIEW of the new album- Here is a link to the song “Ay Manzanita” from my upcoming album “Sea Glass” (out June 2nd).  I created it around a true (relatively unknown) story about a mother and daughter in the Mexican Revolution. In a nutshell:  The mother was a sharpshooter and nurse (!) and lead armies to fight the government armies. She was fighting for the rights of the underprivileged, the workers and peasants who were kept in utter poverty by the corrupt government.
She brought her daughter alongside to fight with her. After many battles which they won, at one point they were captured by the government army. They were marched out to the middle of the Sonoran Desert, and left there alone with no food, no water.  Somehow Marguerita and her daughter made it to Arizona. But her daughter died there.  Marguerita went back to Mexico and continued to fight, leading several armies. At one point, again, she was captured.  They put her in a cage and tortured her, until she died.  I wrote this song imagining Marguerita speaking to her daughter, who she has given the nickname ‘Manzanita’….
https://soundcloud.com/susanjamesmusic/ay-manzanita5/s-s74po

I was lucky enough to have gotten in on the ground floor of Carleigh Nesbit‘s recording career and am happy to see she has not totally given up music (she took a few years off to finish college and attend medical school).  She is back, recording a new album (Come Out of the Kitchen) and is asking for help.  To me, a pre-order is not help.  It is an opportunity.  Here is a link to her Kickstarter page.  I give it so you can see and hear what Carleigh can do.  In the meantime, you might also want to check out Carleigh’s album from 2008, Flower To the Bee, still available on CD.  For that, click here.

Screamin’ vocalist Megan Wilde is releasing a four-song EP I’m pretty impressed with.  Leads it off with Spoonful.  Difficult task.  You decide.

I saw the promos for the ACM Awards show this year.  I don’t need to see any more.  Two questions— Why is the king of sadassery Blake Shelton allowed to do his shit act more than once, and does Miranda Lambert own Nashville?  Enough, already!  It’s supposed to be about the music, you f**king posers!  They obviously forgot that years ago.  I mean, Blake Shelton?  Nothing like killing the dance floor.

I got to Seattle in 1978 after a three-year stint in Sand Diego and one year in Los Angeles.  As I acclimated myself to the music scene, I kept hearing about this guitarist named Mick Flynn and the band he played in, Child.  They were pretty much gone by the time I hit town and Mick had formed his own Mick Flynn Band, which I didn’t have the good fortune to see.  I regretted never having heard him play because all of the guitarists raved about his style.  Well, I stumbled upon this video pieced together over a live recording of Child back in ’77.  These guys were good!

Sumbitch!  These guys were really good!  No wonder people talked about them all the time.

=FGJ=

Frank’s column appears every Tuesday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonFrank 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: If Music Is Dead, You Bastards Killed It! The Life— A Seattle Legend in My Own Mind… (plus notes)”

  1. Yup anger lol but I really enjoyed this one Frank!!!

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