Frank Gutch Jr: Mixtape Was Not Always an Ugly Word

They came to be called Mixtapes (or Mix Tapes) and were/are looked upon with scorn but they started out a way to share music without having to drag people to your house and forcing them to drink while you played records.  They were an outlet for frustrated disc jockeys and vinyl junkies because even though an unusually high percentage of tapes passed from hand to hand were never played, a person had poured over an entire music collection to put together “sets,” a DJ term regarding playing certain songs in a certain sequence.  I know.  I made them and passed them out like candy.  I am sure most who received them rolled their eyes and exited at first chance, but for me it was about the music.  For vinyl junkies, it is always about the music.

More than one female recipient thought I was trying to put the make on them (a couple said exactly that) and I wondered what had happened to them to make them cynical.  You know the scenario.  Guy walks into a bar and orders a beer and three females tell you they’re not interested before it is even delivered.  Guys say, yeah, thanks, you’re swell just before tossing it into the dumpster because all they care about is “Zep” and “Floyd” (somewhere between obscurity and superstardom you used such terms to highlight your cool).

Only people in the record biz and those snagged by the “hook” get it.  They reserve judgment until they’ve heard the music, but they get it.  It is akin to nerds sitting around talking philosophy and math.  Even though it is music, you are marked nerd.   Junior high, they giggled about you behind your back.  In high school, they laughed about you to your face.  By college (or reasonable facsimile) they just ignore you— turn their backs and hope you aren’t there when they turn back around.

It wasn’t always that way.  When I first started making tapes, people welcomed them because I didn’t make them for just anyone.  I made them for people who showed a special interest in music.  And at first it was just albums.  As I dove deeper into the pool, though, it became old singles and what became known as “deep tracks,” those not receiving airplay and sometimes those not deserving of airplay.

True story.  When I first arrived in Seattle in March of ’78, I became acquainted with a tavern known as The Buckaroo.  The guy who owned it was young and a huge rugby fan and used the tavern to promote both the sport and the tavern.  Every Saturday or Sunday, I can’t remember which, his team would play a game in what I can only assume was a tavern league, though I cannot imagine more than a very few taverns sponsoring such an obscure sport.  When the game was over, a bunch of muddy and bloodied athletes would stumble into the tavern to line up at the bar for beer, because what self-respecting rugby player doesn’t like beer?  It was a party and a reason to hang out.  They were pretty cool people, even with their tendency to put you in a headlock and give you “noogies.”  There was also this cool pinball machine back by the bathrooms called either “Space Time” or “Time Tunnel.”  I had played it down in Eugene some years before and it was good to play it again.

They played tapes there— maybe had fifty or so they kept on the top shelf next to the cassette deck.  Mostly the standards— Led Zeppelin, REO Speedwagon, Heart.  I was there enough that it started bugging me so I made a few tapes of oldies for them just to break the monotony.  I did one Pac Northwest tape filled with the big hits by Paul Revere and The Sonics and the Wailers and a few of the more obscure tracks by the likes of Chip & Dave and The Bumps.  I made a couple of deep track tapes.  But most of what I gave them were oldies— mostly Motown and Stax and a handful of the oddball artists who had had maybe one or two big hits before slipping into obscurity.  I gave them to the bartender one day and he said, what are these for, and I said maybe you might want to play them now and again.  He didn’t even look at them.  He just put them on the top shelf with the other tapes and moved on.

I came in a couple of time a week for the next month and they were still sitting in the same place they had been put.  I shrugged and forgot about them.  If they didn’t want them, I figured what the hell…

One night not long after— it was a weekend night because the place was jam packed and people were sluggin’ down the beer— I was sitting at the bar when the music slowly seeped into what was left of my consciousness.  It was one of my tapes!  I knew because it was one of the lesser known tracks— probably The WinstonsColor Him Father or a Z.Z. Hill track— a song very few would have included on an anthology unless they really knew their soul.  The next time I ordered a beer (I was actually drinking Red Hook Ale, the original brew which they stopped making not long after starting the brewery— something about bacteria in the vats or something), I mentioned to the bartender that I was glad they were finally playing my tapes.  He said, “You’re the guy?” to which I probably mumbled (drunkenly) “Guilty.”  He went on to say that he had had no idea those tapes were there until one slow afternoon when he dusted and found them.  “Man, I played them the rest of the day,” he said.  He also said he had been asking anyone if they knew who had brought them in and no one did.  Needless to say, my money was no good from that time on whenever he was bartending.  To show you the friendship that developed, one day I went in on a Friday— a payday— and threw a couple hundred dollars on the counter and started drinking.  I remember buying a round for the house and little else after that, my empty stomach allowing the beer easy access to my system.  When I was ready, I rolled down the hill to my apartment and crashed hard.  About a week or so later, I stopped by for another beer.  The bartender asked what happened?  I looked at him with a blank stare.  When you were in the other night, he said.  I turned around and you were gone.  He reached into his pocket and tossed a little over a hundred dollars my way.  That’s what was left over, he said, putting an ice cold Red Hook on the counter.  Did you get your tip, I asked.  I think he said, and how.  He was known to tip himself well.

Another cool thing came out of that experience.  Every time the Pac Northwest tape played, the bartender would point to me and say, he did it, and people I would never had talked to came over to talk sixties Northwest music and buy me beer.  I even closed the tavern one night playing pinball with a guy who not only remembered The Wailers and The Sonics but who loved the pinball machine as well.  That, my friends, is a trifecta.

The Duck and I used to do what we called road tapes.  We would alternate tracks and tried to one-up each other and then just drive and listen to music.  I wish I had a couple of those tapes.  I left them behind when I headed for L.A.  Damn, those were good times!

Of all the people who gave me tapes, the most notable was Arden Lawrence Sniffen.  He had a once a week gig at radio KMJC in San Diego and we struck up an acquaintance because of a mutual love for Phil Keaggy.  His program was called Contact and keyed  on Contemporary Christian Music (religious rock).  He passed along two mixing board tapes, one off of his radio show and one made in the same format.  I was turned on to Michael Omartian, Mike & Kathy Deasy, The Sheep, Harvest, and many more artists through those two tapes.  I pull them out every once in awhile to remind myself how vital the Christian Rock movement was back then.  Arden, if you’re out there, thanks again!

What brought all this up, by the way, was a bag of tapes I found that I had recorded back in the early eighties.  My favorite songs for the car (yes, I had a car by then, and a driver’s license to boot) because I didn’t really listen to radio.  Too many hits, not enough music.  Anyway, inside this bag were recordings of music I no longer have and songs I hadn’t heard in years.

I grabbed one because I saw that I had written the years of release as well as artist and title.  I had dubbed it Music Is the Luck of Friends because I am sure that one of the songs had similar lyrical content somewhere, though I could not remember which.  As I scanned the list of tracks I had recorded, I felt a sense of deja vu, and why not.  The songs were very much a part of a musical era for me.  I remember each of them as if they are part of my DNA.

There is a process when it comes to recording a tape.  Well, not when you are recording an entire album.  In that case, you start the tape, drop the needle and hope you’re not passed out by the time the side is completed.  When you record a MIXtape (ah, so that is where the term comes in), you develop a game plan.  A psychology.  A theme.  The first I had ever done, the theme was AM Radio because all I had was singles.  When the seventies hit, things changed.  It was no longer about the format but, as I mentioned earlier regarding AM disc jockeys, the set.

So here is the set I put together for Music Is the Luck of Friends, explanations included.

James Harman Band/Jump My Baby (1983)—  I call this boogie but that’s just me.  What it’s all about is the combination of kickass guitar, R&B feel, and swing.  I think there is only one other track in my collection that makes me sweat— Wet Willie‘s That’s All Right from their Drippin’ Wet album— and that one ain’t on the tape.  Gawdamn, I love that guitar!

Jimi Hendrix/Love or Confusion (1967)— I know!  As many disparaging remarks I have made about Hendrix over the years you would think I would never put Hendrix on tape, but I have news for you.  I don’t hate Hendrix nor do I hate his music.  At one time he was at the top of my list, too, but after the ten millionth listen to every song he ever recorded, the music was still the same while I had moved on.  Except for this track, which is to me the Hendrix transendant.  And, by the way, those nasty comments you thought were directed toward Hendrix were actually directed at his fans who have not moved on at all.  I am so happy I didn’t stop listening in 1974.  There was so much more to come.

Mike Harrison/Smokestack Lightning (1972)— Those who know Harrison are correect when they pinpoint me as a Spooky Tooth fan.  I discovered the Tooth while in the Army (or maybe it was just before) when they released Spooky Two in the States and fell in love with it.  I remember coming out of basic training and heading to the PX (post exchange— it’s like a department store for the military) to see what records they had in the racks.  I found two— Spooky Two and the first album by Rockin’ Foo.  For a month, those were the only two albums I had in my possession.  Until the next paycheck.  Not long after getting out of the Army, I found Harrison’s solo album and was thrilled to see he had not only covered Smokestack Lightning but had titled the album after the song.  12+ minutes of pure rock class and a world class jam at the end!

Screaming Trees/Gospel Plow (1996)— I worked with Mark Lanegan at Peaches Records in the late seventies and I don’t mention it as a namedrop.  I mention it because the few conversations we had were memorable ones which covered both his and The Trees’ music and other topics way beyond the mundane.  Mark was always one who took his work seriously, be it at the store, playing with the Trees or planting trees, which is what he did in Ellensburg just before moving to Seattle.  (I tried planting trees once.  I lasted two hours.  That is f**king hard work!)  Two conversations stick out in my mind.  One when Mark came in on a Saturday to make up for a day off during the week to play a gig.  We talked about music he was playing on the system.  It turned out to be rough takes for an album he was working on, titled Whiskey for the Holy Ghost.  He could not believe I did not know it was him, but I really didn’t.  Another time, he came back to my corner of what we called “the dungeon” to ask a question and I asked him about the Trees impending album on Epic.  He said that they were working with Don Fleming and that he was not sure how it would turn out.  The album was Sweet Oblivion and what an album it is!!!  Anyway, I loved this take on Gospel Plow and tossed it in the mix(tape).

Gruppo Sportivo/Hey Girl (1977)— A band from The Netherlands which totally took my head off with their US release Mistakes/More Mistakes, an album with a 7” EP taped to the album, released by Sire Records.  They were, without a doubt, one of the most creative and entertaining bands at the time and should have been a smash hit but, unfortunately, no US tour.  We had a bass player working at the store in Seattle who loved this record only for the lines “She said, your nose is running, honey, I said sorry but it’s snot.”  He was amazed that the kids who worked there didn’t get it at all.  Hell of a song.  Hell of a band.

Stress/Beautiful People (1991)— It’s the guitar.  First time I heard Stress, I was hooked.  Just enough psych, just enough melody and harmony.  Did these guys ever make it?

Hydra/Feel Like Running (1977)— Hydra was one of those Capricorn bands which should have made it but somehow didn’t.  I am sure they did well enough in the South, but they just couldn’t break through to the rest of the world.  I remember them mostly for their outstanding version of the classic, Goin’ Down, but truth be told, they were one fine band.  Over the years, their Rock the World album floated to the top as my favorite.  This is a track from that album.

 

Grand Funk/Inside Looking Out (1970)— A solid track is a solid track and Grand Funk did right by the song.  I love The Animals‘ version a little better, but you have to give GF credit.  They gave it a good working over and all ended up well.

The Groundhogs/Sad Is the Hunter (1972)— I wasn’t sold on The Groundhogs until their Hogwash album, but when I heard that one, I went, ahem, whole hog.  At that time, I went backwards to get everything they had done and then bought everything from that point on.  T.S. McPhee played like no one else I had ever heard.  Every time I hear a Groundhog song, my head clicks into Groundhog mode.  Simple as that.  Of course, if you are not enamored by guitar… well, my condolences.

King’s X/The Big Picture (1992)— I saw a video of King’s X and that was all she wrote.  I had been hearing about them, how they were religious rockers and all, and the whole Glass Harp thing came over me.  There were a lot of Christians who rocked back in the early seventies but few who rocked hard.  There is something about the majesty of The Big Picture which made its inclusion an automatic.

John Campbell/Ain’t Afraid of Midnight (1993)— I was already back in Oregon in ’93 and a guy I worked with at Peaches used to make runs down to Eugene and would stop by to drops off CDs.  He was a blues guy and had found John Campbell and couldn’t wait to turn me on to him.  Completely blew me away.  Next thing I knew, Campbell was dead.  It was a shame because he was finally gaining ground and was sure to have become a star.  One of the Shouldabeens.

Davie Allan/Hogg Heaven (1994)— Loud Loose and Savage, indeed.  There was a stretch where surf became something else altogether and Allan was right there to help it along.  It isn’t surf, true, but it rocked!

Spooky Tooth/Evil Woman (1969)—  I am going to take flak for this because for some gawdawful reason people have taken to ELO again (I myself was glad when radio stopped playing them, but when I hear the words “Evil Woman,” ELO doesn’t even register.  Spooky Tooth kicks them all over the planet with this classic.

Kim Mitchell/Diary For Rock ‘n Roll Men (1984)— Max Webster was one hell of a band, I don’t care what anyone says.  When Mitchell went solo, the jury was out as far as I was concerned, but the jury came in quick enough.  Go For a Soda will remain in my list of classics until the day I die.  Diary for Rock ‘n Roll Men maybe didn’t quite have the punch, but it stands on its own.

The Angels/City Out of Control (1989)— They had to take the name Angel City in the States because there was already a band here their name but it didn’t make any difference.  They knew how to rock and that is all that mattered.  There is something them damn Aussies, eh?

Peter Green/Slabo Day (1979)— A rumor put to rest.  This was posted in the comments section for this YouTube video:  “Normally I don’t send comments on the internet, in fact I’ve never done it before, not at all…but for once I would just like to put the record straight regarding who played lead guitar on the two versions of ‘Slabo Day’, as there seems to be some confusion about it, judging by all the things I’ve been reading over the years. Snowy White played lead on both versions. How do I know? Because I’m Snowy White. The original version is the one you have posted on your website as having ‘Greeny in the lead’. (I wish he had, I’d have loved to listen to him rather than doing it myself). Peter invited me and my band to do the sessions for his album. The only reason this track is available is because I had taken a cassette of that first recording session, and later I put this version on my compilation album ‘Goldtop’. If you listen carefully you can hear Peter saying to me, “Play some lead on this”, just before he says to the recording engineer, “Take it this time”. A few weeks later we went in and recorded it again, with me playing lead once more, which is the version that appears on the ‘In The Skies’ album. It would have been great if Peter had played lead instead of me, after all it was his album, but he was always very generous in so many ways and certainly he liked to share the guitar parts. Anyway, I’ve said enough, it’s my first (and certainly last) post on Youtube, or anywhere else. Well, for what it’s worth, you now have the true picture about ‘Slabo Day’. Keep posting the great music of Greeny, he was the best.”  I mean, this is an argument people still have!  And if you can’t believe Snowy, who can you believe?

So, to all those people who think mixtapes are the mark of nerddom, I confess.  My name is Frank and I am a nerd. (“Hello, Frank”)  The last mixtape I recorded was about ten years ago but I occasionally have the urge to do it again…

Now For Something Completely Different…

If you have followed my writing at all, you know that I have been awaiting a new Chris Bathgate project for some time.  Well, it is time.  Chris has just released a new video to support an upcoming album titled Dizzy Seas.  About a year ago I happened upon his music (thank you to the person who made it happen) and have been salivating ever since.  His earlier music is topnotch and in places downright excellent.  I will be writing a review of the album soon.  In the meantime, take a listen to a musician I think we should all be hearing a lot from in the future.

Notes…

Lucky You Guys!!!  Tashaki Miyaki just released this brand new video and you get to see it (and hear it)!  The band is slowly working its way into the public consciousness.  They’ve been in mine for quite some time.

As if I needed a sledgehammer between the eyes, along comes Thomas Wynn & The Believers to do it.  I am assuming that the Thomas here is the son of Cowboy‘s original drummer, Tom Wynn.  When I talked with Tom, he was working with his sons, then trying to put together a band worth noting.  Well, I’m not sure if Thomas’s brother is here but this band is surely worth noting.  If the rest of the album is as good as this track, they are going to dent some heads.  Out of Orlando, Florida.

New smooth.  The major label(s) could use some A&R these days.  Too many good ones floating under the bridge.  Kathy Driftwood.

Amy van Keeken (Edmonton) just contacted me saying that it is going to be a busy Spring/Summer, as she is working on an EP with a new group calling themselves Mysticeti, will be recording some solo stuff as well as songs with The Awesome Hots, one of her side projects, and will be touring this summer with pals Colleen Brown and Kimberely MacGregor.  As soon as I get the lowdown on  the tour, I will let you know as you won’t want to miss it.  That’s a lot of Edmonton music power on one stage.  I only wish I could be there.

Amy captivated me a few years ago with her melodic outlook on life, her voice soft and warm but able to chop meat when she willed it.  She presently has an album out, actually two EPs on one disc, and another EP.  She plays with The  Secretaries (as does Colleen Brown, I believe) and The Awesome Hots and now The Mysticetis and hosts numerous radio programs as well as live shows.  Man, this is one busy musician!

Boy, I hope this video is the same Secretaries.  I just stumbled upon it and, yes, the sound is a bit rough, but a fan never cares and I admit to being a fan.  I only wish I had known of them back in 2009 when this was recorded.

Speaking of Amy van Keeken, here is something she wants you to hear.  I heard it.  I want you to hear it too.  From an upcoming album by NotYou.

More good news!  Melissa Payne is auditioning bass players for an upcoming tour.  Those who don’t think this is good have never heard her, obviously.  I will be posting a tour schedule sometime soon.  In the meantime, acquaint yourself.

They’re finally doing it—- making a movie about Stiv Bator.  Bet there will be some amazing footage.

I’ve heard about Hannah Aldridge before but had not heard her until I saw this.  Good stuff.

Here is a new video from The Infamous Stringdusters.  I like this one a lot.

=FGJ=

Frank’s column appears every Tuesday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

dbawis-button7Frank 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 Frank bottle capone 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.”

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