Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Day After The Sabbath 116: Prince of Darkness [Conny Plank tribute]

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unzip password:  tdats




This volume is inspired by work of the producer, engineer and studio owner, Konrad "Conny" Plank. Known as a hugely influential figure in Krautrock, and instrumental in the careers of bands like Kraftwerk, Can and Neu!, his name is not synonymous with the obscure heavy fuzz / heavy rock / early metal sounds that TDATS usually covers. However, during his legendary career he worked on hundreds of records, and along the way his skills have enhanced a large number of obscure heavy albums.

Born in the town of Hütschenhausen on 3 May 1940, his father was a church organ player. In 1963 he began working in the Köln studio of Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR, West German Broadcasting). Then he became assistant producer and sound engineer at Köln's Rhenus Studio, where he oversaw recordings by a diverse range of artists, including Duke Ellington and Karlheinz Stockhausen. It was around this time that he worked on the two earliest records in this comp, those of Creepy John Thomas and Nosferatu.

Scorpions - Lonesome Crow (1972) Brain 1001
Scorpions
Lonesome Crow (1972)
Brain 1001
Another important album to mention is the first Scorpions album, which Conny produced in 1972. This was eons before their '80s commercial peak and at this point they were a mean and heavy progressive band (youtube). It was the Brain label's first ever release, a label started by two guys that defected from Ohr, another influential experimental label with names like Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze. Brain was home to a few of the bands in this comp, as well as some of Conny's most important charges, like Cluster and Neu! It was also responsible for bringing works of great foreign bands into Germany, like Norway's Ruphus (see Vol81).

Conny used devices and equipment of his own design, and modified mixing consoles. He taught himself how to achieve the effects that would later be done easily after the invention of polyphonic samplers, using the faders on his desk in conjunction with complex arrangements of tape loops. Brian Eno worked with him many times and considered him an “inventor” as much as anything else. Michael Rother, who worked with Plank as a solo artist and with Kraftwerk, Neu! and Harmonia said: “He had this immense talent to intuitively grasp our intentions and to create fantastic soundscapes, despite the limitations of recording technology at the time.”

In 1974 Conny designed and built "Conny's Studio", located on a farm in a former pigsty, 35 km south of Köln. Two more albums that appear in this comp were made there, those of Bullfrog and Lokomotive Kreuzberg. At this studio other TDATS-appearing bands Birth Control and Harlis also made albums.

The bio on his site closes with: "Conny Plank died of cancer on 18 December 1987. He did not live to see the day when music producers would be celebrated as if they were superstars. The “hippie, the big bear who delved into his creative manias with unbelievable energy and passion” (Michael Rother) would be a superstar himself today."

So, this comp is an hour of some of the heaviest bands that Conny produced or engineered, or both. Eight of the twelve bands here are brand new to the blog, and all these albums are definitely worth checking out!

TRACKS
01. Night Sun - Got a Bone Of My Own (1972)
       from album 'Mournin'
02. Virus - Old Time Movie (1971)
       from album 'Thoughts'
03. Creepy John Thomas - Lay It On Me (1969)
       from album 'Creepy John Thomas'
04. Sixty-Nine - Red Guitar (1974)
       from album 'Live!'
05. Eloy - Dillus Roady (1971)
       from album 'Eloy'
06. Lokomotive Kreuzberg - Comeback (1975)
       from album 'Fette Jahre'
07. Gomorrha - Dance On A Volcano (1972)
       from album 'I Turned To See Whose Voice It Was'
08. Bullfrog - Live (1977)
       from album 'High In Spirits'
09. Time - Shady Lady (1975)
       from album 'Time'
10. Lava - Tears Are Goin' Home (1973)
       from album 'Tears Are Goin' Home'
11. Nosferatu - Highway (1970)
       from album 'Nosferatu'
12. Lucifer's Friend - Prince Of Darkness (1972)
       from album '....Where The Groupies Killed The Blues'


Germanrock.de | John Thomas | Conny Plank
Prog Archives | Discogs | Rate Your Music
It's Psychedelic Baby! | Allmusic

Night Sun - Mournin' (1972)
Germany was responsible for many of the best and most original heavy albums in the early '70s, and Night Sun stands out as a contender for the heaviest of them all. Conny Plank is credited as engineer on their album, "Mournin'", which was recorded at Windrose Studios in Hamburg. Windrose Studios was the origin of many great albums, from the likes of Birth Control, Excalibur (Vol33), Second Life (Vol33) and Blackwater Park (Vol3).

The UK was the number-one influence on German rock and prog at the time and many classic English bands came to mind when I first heard this LP, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and King Crimson being three of the most obvious. This may be a bold claim, but it’s justifiable to say that Night Sun could have become as renowned as any of them, if they had continued and expanded on the promise shown by Mournin'. Night Sun's roots lie in Mannheim jazz-rock bands “Swinging Sounds" and “Take Five”, and they evolved from BS&T-style horn rock into a jazz-inflected heavy metal band.

"Got A Bone Of My Own" starts with three terrifying minutes of tension-building, gothic atmospherics. The payoff comes with a gargantuan riff that Iommi would surely be proud of, and a palpable sense of nastiness that was rare elsewhere, save for Sabbath’s best work and a handful of the best heavy proggers.

The band dissolved very soon after the LP was released, with little promotion or appreciation. A great loss to the early days of heavy metal indeed!

Virus - Thoughts LP (1971)
Virus shared three members with Hamburg's Weed (see Vol9) at various times; Bernd Hohmann (flute, vocals), Reinhold Spiegelfeld (bass) and Werner Monka (guitar), although I think these guys had left by the time of Virus's Conny-engineered second and final album "Thoughts". Recorded at Star Studio in Hamburg, it was a more direct, hard-rocking album than the psychedelic debut and should be tracked down if you like hammond-assisted riffs. There is an interview with Virus member Werner Vogt at ItsPsychedelicBaby here.


"Creepy John Thomas" LP (1969)
"Creepy John Thomas" LP (1969)
The Sydney-born guitarist John Thomas seems to have had an interesting career. It began properly in Melbourne, having some hits with The Flies. He went to Germany in 1967 with his German girlfriend Doris Honigmann for some time where he made the album "Come With Me" under the name Rust (link) with British musicians in 1969. Then he moved to London and got an album deal with RCA, who commissioned two albums to be recorded back in Germany with Conny Plank producing. For those he became "Creepy John Thomas", his reasoning: "The name came from a Spider John Korner song called Creepy John on the blues album Blues, Rags & Hollers and it seemed a good idea at the time as I wanted to project a less clean cut non-commercial image."

John Thomas
in recent times
"The British blues boom was happening - Artists like Capt.Beefheart, Doctor John, The Night Tripper, Screamin' Lord Sutch, Howling Wolf etc., all had groovy names which at the time, held fascination for a young wannabe like me.” Then he spent a year in San Fransisco before returning to London and joined the Edgar Broughton Band, credited on the albums Bandages & "Live Hits Harder!". Moving back to Germany, he made two albums as "Johnny & the Drivers" in Berlin, only to move back to London again in the '80s to become a producer and a continuing solo artist. In 1977 John took friends Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart to Conny's studio to record some music for an album which wasn't ultimately released. Conny was reportedly very impressed with Annie's vocal abilities and this lead to them making their first album as The Tourists (1977) and their first as Eurythmics (1981) with him at his studio.

I have taken the track "Lay It On Me" from the first Creepy John Thomas album. On that record was drummer Helmut Pohl, who also played on albums from Gomorrha, appearing later in this comp. An interesting fact is that Paul Rodgers of Free fame sang harmony vocals on the track "Ride A Rainbow" (link).

Sixty-Nine - Live! (1974)
With track four we have a heavy drums-organ duo from Bad Kreuznach called Sixty-Nine. Conny was engineer on their live album, much of which was recorded at a cultural events center called Fabrik, in Hamburg.

Sixty-Nine was founded in 1969 by keyboardist Armin Stöwe & drummer Roland Schupp. They became popular as a live act and were often invited to open for big acts, like West, Bruce & Laing, UFO, Birth Control, Amon Düül II, Jud's Gallery and Agitation Free. They recorded one studio album in 1973 called "Circle of the Crayfish", then after the live album they disbanded. Stöwe founded a trio called Air. He also started the "General Electronic Plastic Studio" where he developed innovative and successful electronic music devices like computerised sequencers, synthesizers and speaker systems. Sadly, he committed suicide in 2005.

Eloy - s/t (1971)
On to another band that has appeared in TDATS before, Eloy (Vol19). Well-known as a progressive rock and space rock band, their first album, which was engineered by Conny, has very little of those things. It is a meat and potatoes hard rock album with the familiar guitar/hammond sounds of Deep Purple. It was recorded at Star studios in Hamburg, where many classic albums were made including the debuts of Ash Ra Tempel, Neu! and Scorpions. The only continuous member of Eloy is founder and guitarist Frank Bornemann, who steered the band in a more progressive direction like that of Genesis, Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd on subsequent albums. There is an interview with Frank at ItsPsychedelicBaby here. Some names that have been in Eloy and other notable bands are Jürgen Rosenthal (Scorpions), Fritz Randow (Saxon, Epitaph), Jim McGillivray (Epitaph), Manfred Wieczorke (Jane) and Steve Mann (Andy Scott's Sweet).

Lokomotive Kreuzberg Fette Jahre (1972)
Lokomotive Kreuzberg
Fette Jahre (1972)
Track 6 brings something a little different to the party. Lokomotive Kreuzberg was a Berlin polit-rock band that started in 1972. Not speaking German, it's impossible for me to comment on the lyrics, but the music on their 1975 album "Fette Jahre", engineered by Conny, is captivating. They mix many styles, from symphonic prog, to folk, to funk, to hard rock. At all times it is played with extreme talent, these guys sure had the chops to compare with the best. I have chosen the hardest rocking track on the album, which was recorded at Conny's studio, but you can take your pick from it. Others, such as the title track "Fette Jahre" (youtube), are equally good.

I've not had a chance to check out all of their four albums. I certainly will but they may not be the easiest band to get into for non-German speakers, especially as they use a lot of spoken-word skits to get certain points across on their agenda.

After the band dissolved, Herwig Mitteregger (drums), Bernhard Potschka (guitar) and Manfred Praeker (bass) played in the Nina Hagen Band before making a new band called Spliff in 1980.

Gomorrha I Turned To See Whose Voice It Was (1972)
Gomorrha
I Turned To See Whose Voice It Was
(1972)
Conny Plank produced all of Gomorrha's albums, which amounted to three. The first could be described as a Beatles-inspired beat album, and was one of his very first production jobs in 1969. In 1970 Conny and the band re-recorded it from scratch, this time singing in English and playing from a much improved and advanced progressive rock angle. The title track "Trauma" is regarded as their first high-point, and afterwards they were picked up by the formative krautrock label Brain, which Conny had become connected with by this time. The third and final album "I Turned To See Whose Voice It Was" is regarded as their masterpiece, described by some as a cross between Black Sabbath and Procol Harum. From that I have used the track "Dance On A Volcano". Unfortunately, all the band except guitarist Albrecht Claudi (link) apparently left the music business after the demise of Gomorrha.

Bullfrog - High In Spirits (1977)
Bullfrog - High In Spirits (1977)
Conny was involved with two of the three records that Bavaria's Bullfrog made. He recorded, engineered and produced the first self-titled one at his own studio, and engineered/mixed the second, "High in Spirits" (1977). Bullfrog are often compared with the accessible sound of the far more prolific Jane, who Conny worked with on the Brain label. Bullfrog's bio at Prog Archives (link) says that the step-up of High in Spirits earned them a sizeable following both in Germany and in the US. It also gathered quite a huge fan base in Portugal where the album managed to relegate both ABBA and Pink Floyd to second and third place on the local charts. There's a detailed account of the band here in German.

Time - selftitled (1975)
On to track nine, and we come across one of the most obscure entries here, a UK act called Time. Formed by Tristan Margretts (bass, vocals) and Gary Margretts (guitar, keys, vocals), Time was a development of Spontaneous Combustion (link). Joining were guitar/vocalist Alex Johnson (later to hard rockers Nightwing) and drummer Jode Leigh (later to England). They released a single, self-titled album in 1975. There's a couple of mysteries about this record. Firstly, I have seen various online mentions of vocalist Mike Udell, but his name is not listed on the LP cover. The cover states "Produced by Conny Plank at The House Of Sounds for BUK records UK", as yet I have been unable to find out anything about this supposed studio, including where it is. Seeing as bands usually traveled to Conny, I presume it was recorded somewhere in Germany. The album itself is a great find. It is mostly heavy, angular prog, like a much leaner Yes or Gentle Giant.

Lava  Tears Are Goin' Home (1973)
Lava
Tears Are Goin' Home (1973)
Next up is another one-album obscurity, Berlin's Lava. Their 1973 album "Tears Are Goin' Home" was produced and engineered by Plank at Windrose Studios, Hamburg and released by Brain. Conny also plays lead guitar on the track "Would Be Better You Run" (youtube). The album is quite a mellow, melancholic and improvisational affair. The reason it appears here is because of the great opener, "Tears Are Goin' Home", which crashes in like ├┤awkVVind blasting off at full power. Very little seems to be documented about them, they are described as a commune band, that split in 1974 after the suicide of keys player Thomas Karrenbach.


Nosferatu
Nosferatu hailed from Frankfurt. One self-titled album was released in 1970, recorded at Rhenus studio in Köln and Conny engineered it. In their early days they were fronted by guitarist & vocalist Michael Winzkowski (who went on to Orange Peel and Epsilon) and wind player Christian Felke who guested later with Epsilon. Felke also played on the Christian Kolonovits LP "Life Is Just A Carnival" I used on the Austrian Vol107. The album is a strong set of groovy heavy prog. While filled with cool hammond from Reinhard "Tammy" Grohé and ominous guitar from Michael Meixner, there's a wide range of other instrumentation. The whole album works as a continuous piece on a grand scale, it's very impressive. For such an apparently young, short-lived band they sound like they had been playing together a lot longer.

Lucifer's Friend
....Where The Groupies Killed The Blues (1972)
Closing the volume is one of the more familiar names no doubt, Lucifer's Friend. Conny produced their second album, "....Where The Groupies Killed The Blues" at Windrose Studio and Star Studio. By this time the band were already on the slide away from the heaviness of the debut into more commercial prog territories, but this one catches them at an interesting point where they mixed both and ended up making a unique-sounding album.

"Lucifer's Friend" was just one alias that a core of studio musicians was recording under, and there were many! A quick glance finds The Air Mail, The German Bonds, Asterix, Lucifer's Friend, Brother T. And Family, The Children Of Quechua, Electric Food, The Fantastic Pikes, The Pink Mice and Bokaj Retsiem all centering around four names; Dieter Horns (bass), Peter Hecht (keyboards), Peter Hesslein (guitar) and Joachim Rietenbach (drums). In fact, an entertaining sport that any obscure rock addict with an internet connection could enjoy on a rainy day is "Hunt the Lucifer's Friend spin-off". These guys were seemingly involved in a curious mix of bill-paying studio jobs, exploitation records and real bands, they clearly didn't like to keep all their eggs in one basket. What ever the situation, they sure must have been busy individuals around the turn of the decade! The English singer John Lawton was present in two of the heaviest of these acts, Lucifer's Friend and Asterix, and I'm sure most of you know that he was later in Uriah Heep.

Thanks for reading, Rich

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Friday, March 6, 2015

The Day After The Sabbath 115: Top of the Scott's (Badcat Records)


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unzip password:  tdats


As many of you will have discovered by now, one of the greatest free resources on the net for finding out about obscure music is Rate Your Music (link). Although it seems to have been originally created as a way of rating and reviewing the records you personally own, due to its "wiki"-type ethos of user contribution it has become one of the best general catalogues in the world for all recorded music.

Scott Blackerby
I go there almost daily, and one contributor/reviewer who frequently comes up on albums and bands that I am interested in is a user that goes by the tag of RDTEN1 (link). He now has over 2500 reviews there! I have found leads from so many of his detailed reviews in making TDATS that I decided he fully deserved some praise here. When I made contact with him recently I was not surprised to find out that he has been an avid record collector and dealer for years, he has a lot of interesting things to say and he plys his trade under the name Badcat Records (link). His name is Scott Blackerby and he lives in Reston, Virginia. What I have done here is asked Scott to pick fifteen tunes for a comp, and say a little about each one. The majority of the acts he picked are brand new to TDATS so hopefully it will be an informative listen for you all. Following that is an interview I conducted with him, mostly regarding what it is like to deal in obscure rock and how he finds the nuggets and information for his reviews.

Scott ~ "Here are 15 of my favorite song finds from 2014. Musically they’re all pretty much rock, hard rock, or blues-rock oriented.  Admittedly there are some oddball choices; Irish blues-rocker, Quebec garage rockers, A German band, and one from Peru."

TRACKS
01. Bloody Mary - Dragon Lady (1974) from album 'Bloody Mary'
There's a rumour going around that Bloody Mary is either Sir Lord Baltimore under another name, or is at least connected in some way. Not surprising as the vocals do sound remarkably similar to John Garner...although he refutes any connection. Scott's full review can be read >here<. "Based on everything I'd read, I have to admit the percussion heavy opening came as a surprise to my ears, but once the lead guitar and keyboards kicked in (along with the screeching lead vocals), I felt more comfortable with the collection's hard rock reputation.   The opener actually boasted what may have been the album's best melody.   rating: **** stars"
02. The Fallen Angels - Room At The Top (1967) from album "The Fallen Angels"
Scott's full review here. "Penned by Bryant, 'Room At the Top' was a driving pseudo-garage tune that showcased Richard Kumer's powerhouse drumming and some Wally Cook sitar touches (actually it sounded like an electric guitar given an odd tuning).  The band actually gave the track a cool, pseudo-British feel (imagine Mick Jagger fronting a true guitar band).  Always loved the freak-out fade.  Roulette tapped the track as the lead-off single.    rating: **** stars"
03. Mitch Ryder - Ain't Nobody White (1979) from album 'Naked But Not Dead'
Scott's full review here. "The third 'Look Ma, No Wheels' composition, anyone who doubted Ryder still had his killer voice only needed to check out the raw, bluesy 'Ain't Nobody White'.    What a growl of a voice and the live version was even tougher than the studio take  !!!   There's an extended, slightly stoned performance of the song from the German RockPalast series (youtube)  rating: **** stars"
04. Rory Gallagher - Let Me In (1975) from album 'Against the Grain'
Scott's full review here. "Anyone who knew Gallagher has a hardcore blues artist was probably going to be surprised by the boogie-styled 'Let Me In'.   Maybe not quite top-40 material, but surprisingly commercial and accessible.  There's a clip of Gallagher performing the tune for a 1975 episode of Don Kirshner's Rock Concert. It's worth watching just to see a somewhat stiff Kirshner reading the introduction off of cue cards (youtube).  You had to wonder if Kirshner had a clue as to who Gallagher was. rating: **** stars"
05. Les Napoleons - Fou De Toi (1966) from album 'Les Napoleons A Go Go'
Scott's full review here. "Having been released as their debut single, 'For de Toi' was a blazing Kinks-styled garage rocker showcasing an amazing Jean Guy De Levo solo (Dave Davies would have been proud of the performances.  There's decent live black and white television performance of the tune, though the video and sound are out of sync (youtube)  rating: **** stars"
06. Flo & Eddie - It Never Happened (1972) from album 'The Phlorescent Leech & Eddie'
"When it comes to biting humor, Flo and Eddie are among the best acts out there.  Bolstered by a dark, folk-rock melody that snuck into your head and wouldn't leave, 'It Never Happened" was one of the best tunes on the album.   rating: ***** stars"
07. One St. Stephen - Junkie's Lament (1975) from album 'One St. Stephen'
Scott's full review here. "Well, with his ravaged vocal delivery, 'Junkie's Lament' literally did sound like a strung out addict wailing away on his last couple of breaths.  Iggy Pop on steroids?  Seriously disturbing tune.   rating: **** stars"


08. String Driven Thing - Josephine (1974) from album 'Please Mind Your Head'
Scott's RYM review here. "Always loved James Bell's churning bass line on this one  ...  nice Bad Company-styled blues-rocker that should have provided the band with a massive AOR commercial success.  rating: **** stars"

09. Terry Reid - Live Life (1973) from album 'River'
Scott's RYM review here. "Easily one of the best things he's ever recorded, 'Live Life' had everything going for it including a tasty, slightly Latin-esque melody (thanks to Willie Bobo's percussion), some first-rate guitar, and one of Reid's most energetic performances.  The video and sound quality aren't great, but there's 1973 performance of the tune on British television.  The live version was way funkier than the studio version (youtube).  rating: **** stars"
10. We All Together - Silly Roadman (1974) from album 'Volumen II'
Scott's RYM review here. "Even though something seemed to have been lost in the translation, 'Silly Roadman' had a cool, mildly lysergic, mid-'60s flavor that I find fascinating.   Love the segment about halfway through where the song shifted into heavy rock mode with Guerrero toughening up his voice while guitarist Cornejo and keyboardist Varvande got a chance to briefly stretch out.   rating: **** stars"
11. Fanny - Place in the Country (1971) from album 'Charity Ball'
Scott's RYM review here.  "Penned by Barclay, 'Place In the Country' was one of the album's best rockers.   Nice showcase for the group's harmony vocals.   rating: **** stars"



12. The Petards - Drive (1968) from album 'A Deeper Blue'
Scott's RYM review here. "Nice Beatles influenced rocker ...  how could you not like a German band that could work Florida and Georgia into their lyrics.   How many American bands have ever worked Bavaria or Niedersachsen"

13. Hudson Brothers - Hard On Me (1975) from album 'Ba-Fa'
Scott's RYM review here. "A typical hard rocker that you probably didn't want a ten year old to listen to ...  well today the lyrics are very PG.   Nice to hear them toughen up their sound a bit.   rating: **** stars"



14. Stephen Spano - Eye To Eye (1975) from album 'Eye to Eye'
Scott's RYM review here. "Featuring fuzz guitar, meltdown synthesizer, and full rock instrumentation, the title track was quite different from the rest of the album.  Rock, progressive moves, and even jazzy chords ...  it was all here.  One of my picks for standout performance.  My only complaint is the tune faded out just as Spano was beginning to showcase his tuneful lead guitar moves.   rating: **** stars"
15. John Entwistle - Ten Little Friends (1972) from album 'Whistle Rymes'
Scott's RYM review here. "Great little boogie rocker with Peter Frampton providing the blazing lead guitar.  As for the song, I've read different different stories including it was inspired by a gift of a pack of toy trolls that Keith Moon gave to Entwistle.  The trolls included a character named "Mr. Bones".  An alternative story traced the song to an autobiographical base - namely a reflection of Entwistle's musical dexterity on multiple instruments.  Regardless, it was one killer tune. rating: **** stars"


Interview with Scott

Hi Scott, thanks for your time! Before I start the questions proper - what's the significance of your RYM username, "RDTEN1"?

The tag (which was originally for my email address) is actually work related.  I work for the Navy and it relates to the kind of money I deal with Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation, Navy (RDTEN).   For some reason RDTEN wasn't available, so I grabbed the next best thing - RDTEN1.

True story - every now and then I'll get unsolicited email from people wanting a picture of me thinking it stands for red 10, or a hot looking redhead.   Amazing.  When I tell them I'm a middle aged white guy, many folks don't believe it.

Q1. Can you tell us some of the major events and influences in your life that lead you to start BadCatRecords?

So, BadCatRecords is a small on-line website that focuses on talking about and selling '60s and '70s vinyl.  I started it 2004 when I woke up one day and discovered I had somehow managed to accumulate some 30,000 albums.  A back-of-the-envelope calculation indicated that if I did nothing but listen to albums 12 hours a day, it would take me four years to get through the collection.  That was just way more vinyl than I ever needed and it seemed unlikely I was ever going to get that kind of spare time to simply listen to music, so I decided to set up a small website and start selling some of the stuff.

Q2. How long has it been going now? Can you tell us a little about your 
experiences of starting it and how it has developed since then? 

I started selling in 2004.  My initial plans were to list LPs in some of the specialized music publications favored by hardcore collectors (like Goldmine) but a friend at work taught me some basic HTML .  It was enough to let me set up a barebones, but functional website where I started listing vinyl  - www.BadCatRecords.com.   It took a couple of months to upload about half of my original collection and then it took a couple of years for the website to generate a steady stream of traffic and customers.  Today it averages 500+ hits a day.  I realize that's nothing in the overall scheme of things, and unfortunately most of those hits are simply people reading record reviews, or looking for information on a band.   Still, over the ten years the site has now had over a million visitors.  I realize Amazon gets that kind of traffic in a matter of hour, but for a small, homegrown site like mine, which gets virtually no publicity, that's still a neat accomplishment.  

A couple of months back I ran a query against the BadCatRecords name and was surprised at how many on-line references and links there were to the website.  

Ironically, on occasion people mistake BadCatRecords for a true storefront business.  Last summer I was cutting my lawn when a couple of young German collectors showed up looking for BadCatRecords.   Their English wasn't great and my German was equally limited, but they finally realized what I was saying.  Since they'd driven out to Reston,  I let them to browse the stacks.  They ended up buying about 100 soul LPs so it turned into a productive day for all of us.

Q3. Do you have any stories regarding extremely rare finds or particularly 
memorable finds and sales? 

With a regular day job and family obligations (soccer, music lessons, Boy Scouts, homework, etc. ), I don't have a great deal of time to go looking for stuff.  Still, like every collector I've had some nice finds.  

I was at a local community yard sale and  an older lady was selling a bunch of stuff including what appeared to be a stack of religious LPs.  I wasn't expecting anything, but scattered throughout the religious and easy listening stuff were some rare psych LPs (Food, Kak, Mason, etc.).  She was asking a dollar for each LP.  I asked her where she'd gotten the psych stuff and she told me it belonged to her older son.  She'd been asking him to clear the stuff out of her house for years and had finally decided to do it herself.  I told her the psych stuff was worth way more than a dollar. She seemed surprised and asked if I would be willing to pay $10 a pop.  I ended up buying 20 psych LPs for $10 apiece.  Yes, I know I probably should have paid her even more.  Virtually all of them sold online within a matter of weeks.

About two years ago I bought an Ultra Violet LP with an Andy Warhol designed cover.  I found it buried in the discount bin  at a local used record store for a dollar.   Musically it's one of those clear-out-the-party kind of LPs, but the Warhol cover and the fact few copies were pressed makes it a collectible.   It was gone literally an hour after I listed it on line.   

To be honest, most of the music I buy is based on it being something that looks interesting to me.  I've purchased albums for the cover art.  I've bought albums because of the label they were issued under.   I've bought albums because I recognize a band member.   Sure, I'll buy something I know I can resell for a profit ("Dark Side of the Moon" with the posters and stickers), but the vast majority of my collection was purchased because it looked like something that would be cool to hear.   Moreover, most of what I buy is on the cheap side.  While I'd love to spend $200 - $300 for an LP, that's not really in the family budget.

As for sales, I list albums on the BadCatRecords site, but also sell on MusicStack, GEMM. Amazon, and a couple of newer sites.   Deep pocket collectors tend to buy directly off the BadCatRecords website.  There are some collectors who seem to have immense resources at their disposal and I've even dealt with a couple of European and Japanese collectors who buy rarities as an investment.   I've had people spend thousands of dollars on vinyl.  I had a guy spend close to $1,000 on a sealed Peter  Grudzien LP.  Perhaps he got a bargain since it is rare, but those kind of purchases are simply mind-boggling.   Personally I can't image spending that kind of money on an album.   Maybe when I win the lottery.  That said, for every buyer who drops the equivalent of a mortgage payment on vinyl, there are a hundreds who are spending $10 - $50 to buy a slice of their past.  Those are the folks who make up most of my sales.   

I somehow got interested in tax scam albums (you can look the topic up on the BadCat website - link) and about a year ago got a call from a local guy who found some tax scam LPs and wanted to sell them.  He gave me a great price and they quickly sold off my website.  Wish I had more of that happen.   LOL 

Q4. Are you originally from Reston, Virginia? Have you always lived around 
there? How has living there influenced your musical tastes and pursuits, or any 
other places you have lived?

Born in Southern Alabama.  My father was a Department of Defense civilian who had a series of overseas postings.  I spent 14 years living with my family throughout Europe.  Virginia became the family "home base" between overseas assignments.   

The Washington DC area is where many of today's jobs are located.  I would be hard pressed to make the kind of salary I earn here were I living somewhere else in the country.   Admittedly you pay a steep price to live in this area, but it has a very cosmopolitan feel.   If you're into culture and music, there's always something going on in this area.  If so inclined, you could literally see a concert every night of the week.  Doesn't happen in my case, but if you're a young hipster with disposable cash, the opportunities are there ...

It tends to get overlooked, but the Washington DC area has long had an active musical scene - there are some impressive 60s (Fallen Angels), 70s (Artful Dodger) bands that called this are their home.   Go-Go music may not have caught on nationally, but the late Chuck Brown remains an icon in this area.  Think of all the hardcore bands that called this area home - Bad Brains, Slickee Boys, Teen Idles, Fugazi ...   I love all of those bands.  The other thing Washington DC had when I was a teenager was WHFS.   WHFS was this funky little FM radio station that had DJs like Damian Eistein and Jonathan "Weasel" Gilbert.  The station let the DJs pick what they wanted to play which meant it was literally  everything and anything other than top-40 material.    I can't even begin to count the number of albums I bought after hearing something played on WHFS.

Living overseas as a teenager certainly impacted my musical tastes and consumed a big part of my limited disposable income.   As much as I loved Armed Forces Network (AFN) and top-40 rock, I loved European radio stations, including Radio Luxemburg, and Radio Caroline.  Whereas AFN had a pretty regimented play list, European stations were all over the musical map.   There are literally dozens of bands I never would have heard on American radio - some good, some not so good, but all different from typical American top-40.   It certainly opened my ears to a musical sounds far beyond the top-40 most of my friends lived in.   As a teenager I spent a couple of years living in Belgium.  A buddy of mine (hi Mark), introduced me to record libraries.   I'd never heard of the concept, but the way it worked was you paid a membership fee, brought in your record stylus for them to check, and then you could check out a dozen LPs at a time.   I'm still selling albums that I "discovered" living overseas - Bees Make Honey (pub rock), The Boots (German garage rockers). Irish Coffee (Belgian rockers),  Taste (Irish blues-rockers).   The list goes on and on and on ...

Q5. Have you ever been a musician yourself? If so, what do you play and were/are 
you in a band?

Bought a bass in high school and took the instrument to college, but was smart enough to realize there were people far more talented than I was.  I think I read somewhere music critics are all frustrated wannabe musicians.   That would certainly capture it for me.   Maybe when I retire I'll have time to learn how to play an instrument.   Luckily both of my kids seem to have the musical talents I didn't get.

Q6. You appreciate and appraise a very eclectic range of musical genres. Could 
you tell us what your favourite styles in old rock are, and why? 

I looked at this question and wondered about it for a couple of minutes.  I actually looked through a pile of records on my desk and it dawned on me that yeah, my tastes are pretty eclectic.  The current stack has a copy of the new AC/DC release (vinyl), a couple of tax scam LPs, an obscure soul LP, and a copy of an album by the Dutch band Pussycat.  I guess that is  diverse.  Musically I'm willing to try pretty much anything.  I have an eleven year old and I'm surprised at how much of the contemporary stuff he listens to that I actually enjoy.  Yes, I'll admit to having some rap and even Lady Gaga on my iPhone.   

What do I really enjoy ?   I think it's only natural that we gravitate to what we grew up with.  In my case I I love '60s soul, power pop, '70s FM rock, new wave, AOR bands.  The list goes on and on.  I've even been trying to understand jazz.   Is there anything I can't deal with ?   Sure there is.  Can't say I'm a big fan of old country,  bad disco, or Musique Concrete.  Auto-tuning drives me crazy.    True story - For years I'd read articles about Lou Reed's "Metal Machine Music".   I remember thinking no album could  be that bad. There had to be a reason the album kept showing up in so many media stories.   I tracked a copy down in college and, yes, it was that bad.   I've only been able to listen to the double LP once.    

Q7. Who are some of your favourite artists from those styles, famous or not? 

I could go on for pages and pages.

Rory Gallagher, Danny Gatton, and Roy Buchanan are all favorite guitarists.  Sadly, all have passed-on, though I was lucky enough to see Gallagher play - once at a street festival in Brussels Belgium.   Gatton and Buchanan were both local artists (Buchanan lived in Reston for a couple of years).  While each released some enjoyable material, they were supposedly even more impressive in a live setting.

I'm a big soul fan.  Wilson Pickett (who lived and died in Northern Virginia),  Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terrell, Laura Lee ....   There's a whole universe of soul artists out there who are all but unknown today.   It's always struck me as ironic that I sell more soul to Europeans and Japanese customers than Americans.  It makes me wonder how Americans can be so blind to their own culture.

I love 60s and '70s pop psych bands like Anonymous, Big Star, The Byrds, Colours, Ellie Pop, Flat Earth Society,  The Leopards ...

I'll admit to having a long standing taste for blues-rock bands like Bad Company, Free, Taste, and yes, even AC/DC.   After a crappy day at work, a couple of AC/DC tunes are a good way to re-set your balance.

Q8. Personally, I think the short period between the late '60s and early '70s 
for psych/prog/hard rock was the most creatively interesting time in rock 
history. What are your opinions on why there was such a creative explosion 
during those times.

Sounds like a grad school thesis waiting to happen.   I'm a little too young to have been socially aware during that timeframe, but there's probably something to be said for that thesis.   Why did the lines start to come down?  Not sure, but that "golden" period  certainly didn't last very long.  I can remember while I was in high school you would hear all sorts for musical genres played on the same radio stations (The O'Jays followed by Firefall), followed by George Harrison).  By the time I graduated from college that kind of genre mixing was largely gone with radio becoming more and more homogenized

I don't list to a great deal of radio these days, but when I do, I hear a more open and eclectic playlist coming back.  When my kids listen to the radio you're liable to hear a fairly diverse mix that includes rap, country, pop, dance tunes, hard rock, etc.   Musical diversity is so much better than hearing a single genre all day long.


Q9. What other periods and genres which are markedly different do you listen to, 
up to the current day? 

Pretty much whatever is playing is okay with me.   My eleven year old complains if I have an oldies rock station on.   To be honest, what little time I spend in my car tends to be spent listening to NPR. Shows you what cutting edge tastes I have.

Q10. Your appraisals and reviews are very well-informed and written.  What are 
your main methods of gathering the information, and have you ever studied, or 
worked in, any domains other than your record business, that have helped you 
develop your skills? Had you ever considered journalism?

Thanks for the compliment.  I try to research the groups I write about, but in many cases there simply isn't a great deal of reference material out there to work with.  As such, a lot of the stuff I've dumped on the BadCatRecords website and other places is little more than speculation.  Fact of the matter is that a lot of what I've written is probably wrong, but until some comes along and provides the actual facts, that's the best you can do.  I also try to avoid popular bands.  Does anyone need to hear what I think about "Revolver" or "Hotel California"?   Probably not. 

In my real life I work for the US Navy and the job I have entails a lot of writing, so there's a clear overlap.  Hopefully the music stuff is more interesting than some of the business stuff I write.

Years ago Goldmine published a couple of items I wrote and some material I wrote ended up in an obscure book music reference book (The Acid Archives) published by a Swedish music collector by the name of Patrick Lundborg.  Sadly Patrick passed away in June 2014.    Do I have a great a American novel in me ?  If so, it has never shown any interest in getting out.   There are a bunch of topics I'd like to write more about and publish on the website.   I'm still interested in tax scam records.  What a great concept - let's release music that we purposely don't want to sell in order to get a tax break.  How American can you get?   I've got a bunch of material on banned record covers.   There are other obscure topics as well.

Q11. How often do you get in touch with the artists themselves? Do you have any 
interesting or particularly memorable stories on doing so? For instance, times 
when you got some valuable information by some effort, that nobody may have ever 
discovered other-wise.

It seems I hear from someone I've written about at least once a month.  Most of the times it will be someone happy to see they've been remembered and offering to provided information, or correct factual errors I've made in a write-up.  Frequently they'd like help in reconnecting with former band members.   Occasionally I can help.  Someone contacted me a month ago looking for an ex-husband. Many want to buy an album they released, or were somehow affiliated with.   Musicians seem to suffer a lot of broken marriages and house fires.  I've made at least a half dozen sales to band members who effectively lost everything  associated with their prior lives.  

Every now and then I'll hear from someone who thinks I'm an asshole for having written something critical of their work.  I try not to be mean-spirited when I write something.  Occasionally I lose that battle and if someone calls me on it, I'm at least willing to look at the topic again.  I won't reveal the person's name, but I wrote a scathing critique of a song this individual had written.  It was one of the most irritating hits I've ever heard.  The writer wasn't amused and let me know that I was a no-talent loser.   That's fine, but after listening to it, their song still sucks.   Anyhow, I'm thrilled to hear from all of these folks. The fact they took time from their busy lives to contact me is a treat and I still marvel that they somehow managed to stumble on to the BadCatRecords website.

So within the last two months I had two exchanges that left a lasting impression on me.

I found an obscure album at a flea market.  Though I'd never heard of the band I bought the album because I knew a little bit about the label it was released on.   Anyhow, I started looking into the band and discovered it wasn't really a band, rather was the work of a single guy.  To protect his privacy I won't name the individual, but he's become a Grammy winning composer, producer, and writer.  I tracked him down and sent him a note asking if he'd ever heard this album. Turned out he wasn't even aware of the LP.   It was apparently some material he had recorded as a demo and unknown to him some unscrupulous folks had released it under a different name without his knowledge.  I sold him one of the two copies  I had.   It was a nice feeling reuniting the "creator" and his music.

Again, I'll protect the person's privacy, but about two months ago I got an email form a lady living in Majorca.  Her father was visiting her and they had somehow ended up looking for his name on the internet.  He'd been in an obscure English '60s band and they ended up at the BadCatRecords website because I'd written a review of the band's one and only LP.   The review included photos and links to a couple of the band's songs that I'd found on YouTube.   Here's where the story turns sad, but also kind of uplifting.  The father suffers from dementia, but when they were looking at the band photos and the song clips, he regained his focus and started telling the daughter about his days in this band.   
It was touching for her to take the time to write me to tell me how nice it was to have regained her father, if only for a few hours.  She was also nice enough to pass along some of the information her father had provided on the group.

As I said, most of the interactions are positive, though there are some exceptions.  I've had some artists tell me I'm a douchebag for writing less than sterling reviews.  I always remind them comments reflect one person's opinion.  Nothing more than that and the fact of the matter is very few people are ever going to see one of my reviews.  Over the last decade  I've been threatened with a couple of lawsuits.   One relatively unknown band apparently hired a legal firm to protect their legacy (not that they had one).  They came after me apparently under the impression BadCatRecords was reissuing the group's albums.  I was selling a single used copy which was well within my rights.   The law firm went away after I suggested they were wasting their time.  Another artist demanded I turn over a rather valuable copy of her album as it belonged to her.   I suggested she get a lawyer and take me to court.  Haven't heard back from her.  Still have the LP for sale.

Again, most of my dealings are very positive.  The thing you walk away with is what a tough life music is.  Virtually none of these folks made much money and few of them are known beyond hardcore collectors circles.  The lucky ones moves on to the next stage of their lives and kept music as a hobby.   Others have held on to the dream, even when there's no chance of making it.   Just speculation on my part, but if there is an afterlife, I would not be surprised to discover there are lots of music managers, A&R folks, and record label presidents occupying some of the lower and hotter tiers of that afterlife.

Q12. What is the future for Bad Cat Records? Do you have any further plans 
regarding your love of rock music; maybe a book, or your own label, or other 
types of project in mind?

I've sold about half of the collection so there are only another 15,000 LPs to go.  Well, there would be 15,000 if I stopped buying.  The fact this is a hobby rather than a business makes a big difference.  If I had to depend on this for a living I would be in big trouble.  There's certainly money to be made in vinyl, but you'd have to scale up to a massive level and you'd have to constantly be looking for new stock at a time when more and more people are getting back into collecting records.  I can't help but feel that if it were a job, it would lose much of the joy I associate with it as a hobby.  Besides, with a real life and a family, I don't have the time, the interest, or the personal drive to do this on a full time basis.  

So BadCatRecords will remain a hobby.  The extra income has helped the IRS pay down the national debt, and allowed us to pay some of our older kid's college tuition costs, as well as allowing us to pay off the mortgage on a rental property.  That's about the right level of intensity.

Q13. Do you watch much live music? For instance old bands from the days of the 
records you sell, that are still around. Or old-styled/retro bands, around where 
you live or further afar? 

I typically see a couple of bands a year.  As I mentioned, the Washington area is full of clubs an music venues.   We live ten minutes away from WolfTrap Farm Park which has a wonderful summer concert program covering everything from opera to surprisingly contemporary group - Ke$ha played there this past summer.   Opera and Ke$ha.   Who would have thought?    Jiffy Lube Pavilion is 30 minutes away.  The down side is that as much as I enjoy a concert,  ticket prices are simply stunning these days.   Paul Simon and Sting were in town a couple of months ago and while I was interested in seeing them, the asking prices were simply insane.  There's no way I'd pay $100 to see anyone.   

That means my wife and I tend to see local acts such a Mary Ann Redman (a wonderfully talented Washington area singer) and older groups that are no-longer prime sellers (Doobie Brothers, Peter Frampton, Rush, Steely Dan, ZZ Top).

Q14. Could you tell us about any other favourite established or new artists from 
your local area, or anywhere around the world?

Sure, though these aren't going to be The Day After The Sabbath  oriented metal acts, but so what.

As mentioned, there's a local singer named Mary Ann Redman whom I think is great.  She has an amazing set of pipes and has a loyal local following.  My wife and I  see her once or twice a year.  Here's a link to her website:  http://www.maryannredmond.com/ (maybe she'll send me a pair of tickets to a show).

Sadly she died in  1996, but Eva Cassidy was a fascinating Washington area singer.   She recorded an amazing album of duets with the late Go-Go musician Chuck Brown.  Her cover of Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready" is stunning.   One of Cassidy's cousins runs a tribute website: http://evacassidy.org/eva/ 

He's not a local musician, and while he is well known to 60s pop fans, few other folks have heard the name Emitt Rhodes.   He's way to pop for most The Day After The Sabbath followers, but Rhodes  is simply one of the best pop artists to ever record.  I won't spend a lot of time detailing his musical career, but the guy recorded some of the best Beatles- esque albums ever released before basically dropping out of performing.    He's a longtime favorite and I would love to see some established act give him a helping hand to re-invigorate his career.  Here's a link to his website: http://www.emittrhodesmusic.net/emittstory.html 


Q15. Are there any bars, venues or record stores or other music fan haunts that 
would be good to check out for anyone who finds themselves in Reston or wider 
Virginia?

The area is awash in bars, but as a 50 + year old dad, I'd be hard pressed to tell you what this month's in-place is.   If you're looking for a low key place that serves wonderful chilli dogs, a decent selection of beers, and doesn't have a dress code - Vienna Inn in Vienna, Virginia (couple of miles down the road from Tysons Corner).  http://viennainn.com/
Whitlows On Wilson is located in Arlington, Virginia and has a cool vibe and a younger crowd. http://www.whitlows.com/
Bier Baron Tavern; Madam's Organ, Church Key - all nice places in DC.

I live near the Reston Town Center which is an upscale area full of happening restaurants and bars.  Very young and fashionable demographic which means I don't have much need for it, but so what.  http://www.restontowncenter.com/index.php 


Music venues I can do a little better:
The Birchmere - very eclectic list of bands  http://www.birchmere.com/
State Theater - nicely restored  old movie theater that had an interesting mix 
of local and national bands http://www.thestatetheatre.com/index.xml
Warner Theater - http://www.warnertheatredc.com/
9:30 Club - saw ZZ Top here a couple of years back - http://www.930.com/
WolfTrap yes it's a national park with concerts !!!  http://www.wolftrap.org/


Q16. What have you learnt from your experiences of running Bad Cat? Do you have 
any useful advice for rock fanatics who do something similar, or are considering 
starting something similar?

Wish I had some silver bullet piece of advice that would make everyone successful.  I don't.   Things I've learned include:

Keep good business records for the IRS
Be nice to the post office staff (I see them so often I know them by their first names)
Treat customers the way you would like to be treated
Don't over-grade vinyl; if an album is VG, don't describe it as being mint
If someone asks you to take a picture of the 'B' side matrix of an album groove, tell them you've already sold it.  Someone that obsessive simply cannot be pleased.   They're not worth the time and frustration.
Focus on what you enjoy.   If you hate Scandinavian death metal, why would you sell it?
Buy sturdy LP mailers and buy them in bulk (500 or more at a time in order to keep the costs reasonable)
Try to put your family and friends before any of this other stuff
Try not to lose the joy that brought you into the business.  I guess it sounds kind of saccharine, but the fact of the matter is I still get a thrill out of hearing a new album. There's just something incredibly cool about hold the album sleeve; reading the liner notes, and enjoying an album on a good stereo system, or with a quality pair of headphones.


Q17. Finally, do you have anything further to say to The Day After The Sabbath  
followers who will be reading this and listening to your picks?

I'd actually spent time on The Day After the Sabbath website, I remember reading an article on Fred Cole and Zipper, and have to admit I was surprised you'd have any interest in BadCatRecords.   Your comments about having read many of the BadCat online reviews certainly made me smile.   You always kind of wonder if anyone knows you have stuff out there.  Anyhow, thanks for the nice comments about the site reviews, and for the opportunity to answer your questions.  It was a blast.

Thanks for your time Scott, and all the best!

Rich signing out. Check out Scott's site at http://badcatrecords.com/ and his RYM activities at https://rateyourmusic.com/~RDTEN1



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