Frank Gutch Jr: Will You Still Feed Me: A Look Back at the Music of My Teen Years… Plus Notes
I looked in a mirror this morning. I am no longer that lanky young teen anxious to conquer the world but am instead the Metamucil blob of phlegm beaten into submission, almost, by an uncaring world. Don’t ask me when the world changed but it changed drastically and I have been spit out the other end, not all that changed mentally but a physical time bomb with littler and littler time available. So excuse me while I take a little tiptoe through the tulips, music-wise, in an effort to wrap up the year.
But first, this: Dan Phelps is back. Phelps, for those unaware, has become my yardstick for anything adventurous in music these days. He put his toe in the wading pool some years ago, coming to my attention through work with Bill Pillmore (Cowboy) and daughter Jess Pillmore, whose Reveal album became my pick for Album of the Year for 2006 (Phelps co-produced and played multiple instruments on it). Since that time, he has been involved in a number of projects, some his own, some for others. All good. Some excellent.
That Jess Pillmore album? Take a listen to the sonics on this puppy.
In addition to just writing and playing, Dan has developed into quite the equipment geek, testing amps and guitars and whatever attachments he can put his hands on. Sometimes, when the mood hits, he will record a segment highlighting the positives of an instrument to which he feels an attachment beyond the norm.
His latest project with cohort Austin Willis is due to be released on vinyl (italicized because it looks as if it will not be released digitally for some time, if ever) has been recorded under the moniker Spirits Drifted and is yet another adventure in music. To order, click here. To understand what I mean, read this, written by Phelps himself:
About this project:
Spirits Drifted started many years ago as an obsession with the idea of buying old records and hearing music that has never been digitized. Analog sound, all the way from the source to my record player. Out of that (and the epic Recording the Beatles book by Kevin Ryan and Brian Kehew) grew the desire try working experimentally in the analog realm, to experience the challenges that my musical forefathers had faced in the pursuit of new sounds. Kind of like the desire to experience growing your own food in the era of the supermarket, I wanted to see how staying in the analog realm would shape not only the results, but my appreciation for them.
This EP is also a collaboration with musician/visual artist/savant Austin Willis. It’s largely built around our performances together, his words, and his voice. This record is not about achieving some sort of retro aesthetic. It’s really about pushing the limits of a certain set of constraints, pushing the boundaries of a particular set of tools. And also having a lot of fun in the process.
About the physical release: Spirits Drifted was recorded to a Studer A827 with 16 track head stack, and mixed down to a highly modified 1/2″ Studer 2 track machine. Robert Hadley mastered and cut the lacquers for the 12″ vinyl at the Mastering Lab in Ojai, CA. When you play the record you will hear audio that has never been turned into 1’s and 0’s, which is close to being a wizardly feat, these days.
I have been following Phelps and his work since 2006 and the release of Reveal and am being taken on an incredible journey for which I am extremely thankful. Unfortunately, I am ancient and will never live to see Phelps reach legend status, which I am convinced he will.
Another new album on the way next year, too. Tentatively titled Arc. Phelps says it’s good. I believe him. To read more about Phelps, I suggest you visit his website by clicking here.
Spot the Frank in this Picture
Boomers can’t stop talking about them, kids are tired of hearing about them, corporations gathered unheard of power during them. I was a teen and remember every goddamn second of them and not all of them were good. People lied and cheated and beat their wives and drank too much and, yes, there were drugs, though they were not a topic of public conversation. There were no hand-held devices unless you were lucky enough to own one of the small transistor radios and the number one source of entertainment for kids was provided by radio. Music was everywhere and life was good but it was also hell. Trying to make sense of the world was useless— adults told us whatever they felt like at the moment— and by the time we were no longer teens, their deception became obvious. Hard work begets rewards: on the whole, false. Innocent until proven guilty: false. Racial equality: false.
But there was music. Thank the gods for the music. Even in the late-fifties during my pre-teen years, I buried myself in it. So deep, in fact, I began to fade from reality. Of course, in a somewhat isolated Oregon, it was easy to do. The Top Forty format outside of Portland was practically nonexistent. For every station limiting their playlist, there were two or three willing to play almost anything. Top Ten? Until the late sixties, who cared? Billboard? Piss on ’em. They knew what was good, those deejays, and some clown from New York or Los Angeles wasn’t going to change it. You know what didn’t chart on Billboard that charted on most radio stations in the Willamette Valley? I could write a long column on that alone. Here is one which might surprise you.
Top Ten at radio station KASH in Eugene. Might have bubbled under in Billboard, but according to my book, it didn’t chart. Neither did The Merry-Go-Round‘s Live! How that happened, I will never know.
The Knickerbockers. One-hit wonders? Most people seem to think Lies was the only thing they did. Not true. They had a string of singles. In fact, the followup, One Track Mind, took up where Lies left off and I thought it even better. Back then, though, without all of the acne medication now available, us kids had troubles. And adults didn’t care.
You would think that Dick Clark was a hitmaker, wouldn’t you? A good shot on American Bandstand and you’re on the charts? No matter how good a song was, even Clark’s influence failed to help. I saw a cool band on Bandstand once who wore kilts. The song they lipsynced was Ball and Chain. I special ordered it for six months until the distributor said they couldn’t get it. Years later I would find a couple of Epic promo 45s by The Great Scots. I was completely blown away! Even better than Ball and Chain! I am thankful that radio stations did not destroy their 45s when they were done with them. Take a listen to these.
Seriously! In what world are these not considered hits?!!! Then again, Momma made me buy black Chuck Taylor’s. I preferred white. At least she didn’t make me buy high-tops. That would have been too much to take.
You’ve heard this one before but I’m going to tell it again. KASH had this little game they called “Make-It-Or-Break-It.” The idea was simple. They play a record, usually one no one has heard before. During the time the song played, you could dial the station and have your vote tallied— Make-It (for the record) or Against-It (against). If the Make-Its won, the song was added to the playlist. Against and it was destroyed right there on the air. I almost broke my finger dialing to cast a Make-It vote but never got through. With tears in my eyes, I was forced to listen to the crunching of the vinyl as it was destroyed. (To be fair, I am sure it was sound effects) The song was by The Gnats (or so said the disc jockey when I called the station later), a song called (You Can’t Blow) Smoke Rings. For ten years, I scoured the bins and asked everyone I came in contact with— ever hear of The Gnats? Not one positive response. Then one day I went into Golden Oldies in Seattle, flipped through the dollar rack and there it was! (You Can’t Blow) Smoke Rings by The Gants! For years, I blamed the disc jockey until one day I realized it could easily have been me. My mother always told me I had dyslexic ears.
I swear I lived in music heaven. Studying at the dorm my freshman year, KASH tuned in fairly low (I had trouble concentrating, the music they played was so good), when I heard this. I was an immediate Turtles convert. Happy Together was a good track, but Grim Reaper of Love was monumental!
Dances at the University of Oregon were mostly a free-for-all. Girls and guys everywhere, bodies moving, heads bobbing. Good place to meet girls and set up coke or study dates. Deejays mostly, though there were live dances every weekend, depending upon scheduling. The 45s were geared toward dancing. I discovered Chris Montez there, and The Castaways. And The Mojo Men. God, I loved those dances! Teen beat!
Cutting the gut— that’s what we called the Friday and Saturday evening runs through Eugene. Some of you may remember it from American Graffiti. Lines of cars with radios blaring and packed with kids, each scoping out the talent. Or so we liked to think. It was mostly a case of overactive glands and pheromones, but what did we know? All I wanted to do was see the girls and there were plenty! No, I never took one home (which in those days was a boy’s dorm, anyway) but I did meet a few at the drive-in.
I’m slipping this puppy in on general principles. I found this years after release on a Pebbles compilation. Not for the politically correct.
Most Sonics fans already know about The Wailers. I saw them butt heads one night at the Albany National Guard Armory and it was quite memorable. Can you imagine hearing music like this all night? I’m pretty sure I had a headache when the music stopped. In fact, I think I still have one.
Ah, to be young again. Ratted hair, camel-hair sweaters, perfume, pegged pants, clip-on ties. Those were the days. I don’t live there like so many of my Pink Floyd- and Led Zeppelin-addled friends, but I like stopping by once in awhile. Just a couple of words before I fade into the Christmas haze. Butch Wax.
And just as I promised, here is the last installment for 2015 of…..
Notes….. Grass-Tops Recording has just announced the suspension of their impending re-release of Robbie Basho‘s Portrait of Basho as a Young Dragoon. Evidently, persons also interested in the preservation of Basho’s music have found the original reel-to-reel tapes and are claiming ownership. To Grass-Tops’ credit, they are looking upon this as a positive and not a negative if only for the reason that the music “will have been sourced from the (original) reels and not the cassette duplicates.” They claim they also have other Basho projects in the works, “including previously unreleased live material in stunning sonic clarity.” I can only point to Grass-Tops’ insistence upon a solid ethics-based model for their company, one which a handful of other music companies would do well to emulate.
If there is anything which gets my attention when it comes to music, it’s humor. Not that the music of King Mud is humorous, rather the sentiment behind it. In talking about Back It Up, one of the tracks which will be on the February 5th release (tentatively titled Victory Motel Sessions), Freddy J IV sez: “(it is) a love song about my wife. I got the finest lady on the planet. Love to watch her strut. That sweet ass solves all my problems. I wrote the lyrics based around the saying ‘hate to see ya go, but I love to watch ya leave.'” It’s gritty. I kinda like it.
Vancouver BC keeps kicking out the bands. The latest to make it into me head is a band which has been around quite awhile, The Paperboys. While they bring in influences from just about every genre there is, on this one I hear the trad folkrock sounds of bands like Silly Wizard and Steeleye Span.
It’s not all Vancouver and Toronto up north, either. Here is a video from a very impressive trio called Red Moon Road. While this is very gospel-oriented, they come at music from a slew of angles depending upon the track. Try jumping from video to video and you will understand.
I can’t seem to get enough of Australia lately. With acts like Kate & Ruth and Angharad Drake and Susannah Espie and Bill Jackson, you would think I would be happy, and I am, but….. There is so much good music down under it is beginning to freak me out. Lately I have been diving into offerings by Liz Stringer, who has a relatively new album, Live at the Yarra Hotel, which includes a ten-song album and a bonus DVD. I am most impressed with Liz’s songwriting skills, which seem to be getting stronger all the time.
It’s a teaser but it is all we get from Seattle’s Deep Sea Diver (except for maybe some more teasers) until their new album drops on February 19th. I stumbled upon them through Dan Phelps, who was working with them a year or so ago (Dan has never led me astray) and have been quite taken. Here are the first two teasers, hopefulkly with more to come!
Well, there is this too. Might as well give you all barrels.
Now, I never said I didn’t like country. I just said I didn’t like Nashville. Not the new modern country one. Back in the old days, Nashville had a real country rock flavor to it. That’s what I heard when I saw this video. I have a feeling the album is going to be much to my liking. Here’s Violet Delancey.
Damn Will Locker! Rat bastard puts out an album and keeps telling me he will send info and then doesn’t. Unless he is the guy behind Mission Impossible and it destroys itself before I can find it. Locker was the pounding hammer behind Bright Giant, Des Moines Iowa’s chance for musical fame and fortune and has since branched out on his own. Locker’s girlfriend checks in once in awhile to see if I am giving him his just due and I would except that he never does. If I have Mad Cow Disease, I apologize, Will, but goddamn it, I can’t find one damn message from you anywhere in my computer. Anyway, here he is rockin’ out, this time with guitar! From his fairly new album, Redhead.
Here’s a flashback to the late sixties and early seventies— especially dig the jam in the middle and the organ. Are these guys big? They should be. Treetop Flyers! Man, if he rest of the album is anywhere near as good as this track, I’m getting it!
This track is just far enough away from the mainstream to make in interesting— maybe even intriguing. Not really a fan of electronics, but this one is very tastefully done. Bror Forsgren from his new album titled Narcissus. I like it!
Seems like everyone wants to be country these days, possibly because most of the money being funneled into music comes out of there. Is this country? Not to my ears. But it’s pretty decent retro pop. Nice hook. Eileen Carey. Faith.
I can’t seem to shake the new EP from Ric Todd. Maybe it’s the line “Mama didn’t raise no fool,” but I think it’s the rhythm and groove. Dude can play the guitar, too. From Drawing Lines. “Day of infamy, day of reckoning.” Maybe the sleeper of the year. Outstanding stuff!
Wasn’t it Norway which gave us Undergrunnen? Killer band! Well, they’re following it up with a band called Electric Eye, a groove-heavy psych/rock conglomeration which reminds me a bit of the UK’s Soundcarriers in places.
Frank’s column appears every Wednesday
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“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.”