Monday, April 6, 2015

The Day After The Sabbath 117: Boston Tea Party (The Bosstown Sound)

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This volume of TDATS is inspired by one of the enduring stories in the history of American rock; the "Bosstown Sound". It has been regarded from wildly varying viewpoints as a name made up for a scene that never existed, an unjustified hype, an authentic late ‘60s sound, a cynical industries’ marketing ploy that ended in a debacle, or a tragic end to something that could have blossomed and inspired a lot more great music. Probably the saddest part is that some Boston bands were unfairly tainted by the negative opinions, with their careers being hindered or even finished in the process.

Alan Lorber
Alan Lorber
It began with Alan Lorber, who has been a successful New York-based arranger, producer, musician and composer since the early ‘60s. One of his first successes in pop was creating The Mugwumps, a band which later split into The Lovin' Spoonful and The Mamas & the Papas. In 1968 Lorber devised a plan to use Boston as a geographical base from which to promote a number of his signings. He claims to have chosen Boston because of its convenient proximity to New York, where his Bosstown bands were recorded. A convienient fan-base existed in the 250,000 Boston college students and he claims there was a large number of clubs where artists could develop before touring nationally. There were also many college and commercial radio stations to promte at the grass-roots level. Just after announcing his plan to the trade press like Billboard and Variety, Newsweek carried the story, and coined the term "Boss-town Sound", adapted from “Motown”.

The Boston Tea Party 53 Berkeley St.
53 Berkeley St.
As a backdrop, Gary Burns recounts in his thesis “The Bosstown Sound” that Boston did have a genuine underground, kick-started in the early sixties by a healthy folk scene. A club called “The Boston Tea Party” (53 Berkeley St.) quickly became the main outlet for alternative rock after it opened in the winter of 1966. The Hallucinations playing with The Ill Wind, along with The Lost, were some of the first Tea Party shows to be announced in the underground Boston newspaper, Avatar. Some other important pre-'Bosstown' mid-sixties bands from the area were The (Rockin') Ramrods, The Remains and The Barbarians. The venue was also favoured by big-name visitors like The Velvet Underground, The Peanut Butter Conspiracy and Canned Heat.

The Boston Tea Party opening night poster
The Boston Tea Party opening night poster
Alan Lorber chose the MGM record label for his signed Boston bands Orpheus, Ultimate Spinach and Beacon Street Union for no other reason than the convenience of having used them for similar acts of his already. Almost immediately after the term “Bosstown” was coined, two things happened which would curse it for ever more and bring it to an abrupt end. Firstly, influential rock press like Rolling Stone and Crawdaddy took an immediate negative stance, claiming that the Bosstown sound was a cynical ploy constructed by MGM, to be played against the huge west-coast “San Francisco Sound”.

The spiel in the initial press advert read ”Where the new thing is making everything else seem yesterday. Where a new definition of love is helping to write the words and music for 1968. Three incredible groups, Three incredible albums. The best of The Boston Sound on MGM records.” It then showed the debut LPs of Beacon Street Union and Ultimate Spinach. Also the second LP from Orpheus, showing that the folk/pop sounds of Orpheus were already well-established before being connected to the campaign.

Billboard magazine - 20th January 1968
The first ad in the Boston Sound campaign
Beacon Street Union, Orpheus and Ultimate Spinach
Now it was hip to bash the Bosstown sound, even Boston musicians joined in the vitriol. Russell “Rusty” Marcus, late-joining bassist with Eden's Children was quoted as saying: "Boston could never support a music scene. You can't enjoy yourself if your body's sick, and Boston's sick, physically, psychologically sick. We're glad we're not just lumped together with the rest of the Boston Sound. [At that time, Eden's Children was one of the only "Bosstown" bands signed to a label other than MGM] I mean, MGM's trying to buy its way onto the charts.

Curb (center) with members of the Mike Curb Congregation and Davy Jones on a television special in 1972
Mike Curb (center) & members of
the 'Mike Curb Congregation'.
Davy Jones television special, 1972
Secondly, in 1969 the newly appointed MGM president Mike Curb (who later became a Reaganite politician and 42nd Lieutenant Governor of California) decided to wage a war on “drug bands”, with Rolling Stone reporting his derogatory comments about bands on his own label! In doing so he dropped many bands from the label, relegating them as "just a bunch of junk". Since then it has been speculated that this was a publicity stunt, and these were merely under-selling bands that were nearing end of contract anyway. The hip and trendy opinion-leaders like Rolling Stone made it acceptable to put down Boston bands. In Lorber’s words, “Nevertheless, the reaction triggered a national controversy which continued for more than a year. It became more trendy to talk 'Boston Sound' than to hear it. A snowball became an avalanche, with the artists buried under the outpouring that overshadowed the music, and eventually destroyed whatever future they might have had."

Countering this to some degree, Alan also wrote: "Strangely though, Boston Sound marketing was successful for Boston itself. Record outlets prospered. Revenues of rock 'n' roll radio multiplied. Circulation of local music papers doubled. Boston clubs experienced overflow attendance. For the groups, Orpheus' single Can't Find The Time was #1 in most US markets. The first Ultimate Spinach album sold 110,000 copies its first week out. All the Boston artists flourished creatively in a wonderful diversity of things political, things poetic, things classical and jazz, things of the time."

From the eighties onward, many people have studied what happened and why, including music executives trying to avoid another such marketing mess. Others have tried to defend the bands that they think were all unfairly tarred with the same brush, and recoup some respect. To make this volume I have used some great online resources that champions of the Bosstown Sound have put together. Respect goes to Paul ‘Blowfish’ Lovell for his “Rock in Boston 1967-69”. To Gary Burns for his Paper “The Bosstown Sound”, and Alan Lorber himself for writing about it all in the nineties, some of which you can read at Orpheus Reborn. Thanks also to Desdinova's “Re-evaluating The Bosstown Sound”.

Chevy Chase in Chamaeleon Church
Chevy Chase (2nd from rt)
in Chamaeleon Church
So, this volume is a collection of acts that were part of, or connected to, “The Bosstown Sound”. In TDATS tradition, I have chosen cuts from bands which played heavy at least some of the time. Narrowly missing the grade were Bear (youtube), The Freeborne (youtube) and Teddy & The Pandas (youtube).  Some important Bosstown names like Orpheus, Earth Opera, The Chamaeleon Church, Ill Wind, The Bagatelle and Flat Earth Society may have been good at what they did but do not have songs included here due to the styles they played. I used a band called Fat back in volume 10 (link) but that track ('Country Girl') is in my opinion the best one on their album and I couldn't decide on another. Towards the end of this volume there's a couple punky late-'70s acts. Although obviously not in the Bosstown Sound, I included them as their members were, and it gives some perspective on what influence the old Boston names had on future sounds.


bands in this volume

Quill
Quill
The opening track, "Thumbnail Screwdriver", is a catchy song with a rolling groove and charismatic group vocals, a great opener indeed. Quill's real names follow, but on the record they went by the psudonyms of Da-ank Khol, Ju-unk Khol, Phil Stan D' There, Red Rocket Rogers, R. Willy North. These pseudonyms are rumoured to have been an attempt at distancing themselves from their Boston roots, as by 1970 the "Bosstown Sound" was well and truly knackered.

The band enjoyed a brief flash of national exposure by playing at the Woodstock festival in August of 1969. The quintet was co-founded in 1967 by brothers John Cole (bass, guitar, vocals) and Dan Cole (vocals, guitar, trombone), who were the main song-writers. The rest of their lineup was Roger North on drums, Norm Rogers on guitar, and Phil Thayer on keyboards, sax, and flute. Most of the songwriting was handled by John and Dan Cole.

Quill LP (1970)
Quill LP (1970)
They were successful enough to get support spots for artists such as Jeff Beck, Deep Purple, Buddy Guy, and Janis Joplin, and their appearance at Steve Paul's Scene in New York City earned them a booking at Woodstock. Unfortunately they never made the cut for the movie, owing to a technical flaw in their footage. They did get signed to Cotillion Records, but the resulting debut album failed, maybe it would have fared better with the help of exposure from the Woodstock movie? John Cole left and the remaining members had their second album rejected by Cotillion. Quill had broken up by 1971 but they received exposure 38 years later when the "Woodstock 40 Years On: Back to Yasgur's Farm" CD contained two of the four songs they played there.

North drum kit
North drum kit
Roger North is probably the most well-recognized ex-member, with a continuing career and a stint with the Holy Modal Rounders. He also gained renown in percussionist circles as the inventor of North Drums, a kit with curved drum bodies that projected their sound outwards towards the audience, which he played from the late '60s onward. He currently lives in Portland, Oregon and plays in the Freak Mountain Ramblers.

Brother Fox & The Tar Baby
Track 2, "Steel Dog Man", starts as it means to go on with a stomping hard rock riff and tight playing, punctuated by glorious psych breaks, backed-up by earthy vocals that cut straight to the bone. Brother Fox and the Tar Baby featured the talents of former Profits guitarist Richie Bartlett, bassist Tom Belliveau, guitarist Dave Christiansen, drummer Bill Garr, singer Steve High and keyboardist Joe Santangelo. Dave Christiansen, Joseph Santangelo, Tom Belliveau and Richard Bartlett were previously in Front Page Review, also appearing in this volume. Belliveau  was also in Pugsley Munion (see vol59), and Bartlett was later in '80s new-wavers The Fools. They were signed by the small Oracle label, which released 1969's Bruce Patch-produced self-titled album. Christiansen was credited as writing all eleven tracks.

Brother Fox & The Tar Baby LP
This has a commercial edge and is a polished product, but it's done right and there's more than enough heaviness here too, over half the album is hard cuts with quite a unique take on combining late-'60s heavy psych with the chunky riffs and hammond organ of the freshly-emerging hard rock sounds of the times. This is what the first Boomerang album should have been like! (see Vol9)

The countrified feel, and high production quality with orchestration, shows that this was a serious stab at a successful album. The mellow tracks and ballads are all good, so make for a nicely diverse listen. The song-writing is consistently good, and the excellent vocals deserve a mention, sounding somewhat like Robert Plant in the heavier tracks. Highly recommended!

The Far Cry LP (1968)
The Far Cry LP (1968)
The Far Cry were a jazzy 7-piece with sax and hammond who made even less impact than most of the bands here. Of all the members, guitarist Paul Lenart reappeared some years later, on Beacon Street Union member Peter Ivers' second solo album. He also played on Keith Moon's "Two Sides Of The Moon" (1975). They play a groovy and flowing form of progressive jazz rock, which is a very unusual thing to have come from the US at this time. User "mekkipuur" at RYM says that they are "the American equivalent to the british heavy progressive groups like Catapilla, Van der Graaf Generator, Gnidrolog or Raw Material" which is a good comparison. Vocalist/Harmonica player Jere Whiting sings with wild abandon, making for one of the most distinctive elements of the record, being compared by some to Capt. Beefheart. I have used the track Hellhound, which has a nice shuffle going on and lots of great extended solos from the band.

The Fort Mudge Memorial Dump's 1969 self-titled album is something to get excited about. A great combination the heaviest Boston sound psych you'll find, with Caroline Stratton's vocals resembling Grace Slick and some killer guitar workouts from Dean Keady, which in places resemble Hendrix at his sludgy-wah'd best. The track I used here, "The Seventh Is Death", is one of the most ominous and longest from the album. It features an unusual, troubled male vocal performance which I presume is from one of the other listed members: James Deptula, Dave Amaral or Richard Clerici.

Fort Mudge Memorial Dump LP 1969
LP cover, 1969
For such a well formed, great-sounding record there is little information to go by but here's what is stated about them: "They were from Walpole, Massachusetts, that started playing by 1969, gathering a good number of fans. Although they were from Walpole, they got filed into the “Boston Sound”, among the Ultimate Spinach, the Beacon Street Union, Orpheus, Tangerine Zoo, ect." A few years ago I found this comment on a Fort Mudge blog post, but as yet I have been unable to verify any of it: "Uncle Rick said...Hi, I worked with Danny (name not Dean!) and Caroline in a band called "Lovelace" in the '70s and we played to packed houses throughout New England. In between was a band called "MadeinUSA" which also cut an album. Lovelace also included locals Chickie Depula on bass and Mick Bendenelli on drums. Caroline, Cindy Daily & Hope Moon on vocals and they kicked butt!"

Apple Pie Motherhood Band - Apple Pie LP 1969
Apple Pie Motherhood Band
'Apple Pie' LP 1969
Track 5 presents a whimsical song with funny, eccentric lyrics. "Grandmother Hooker" easily raises a smile. Psychedelic blues unit the Apple Pie Motherhood Band evolved out of garage outfit C.C. & the Chasers (link).  In 1965 they relocated from Boston to New York City, briefly adopting the name Sacred Mushroom (used on Vol108) and becoming house band at the Bitter End Café, backing acts ranging from Joni Mitchell to Neil Diamond to Kenny Rogers & the First Edition. The Sacred Mushroom moniker was deemed too drug-oriented for a deal with Atlantic, so a sarcastic comment from guitarist Ted Demos resulted in the name Apple Pie Motherhood Band, and their self-titled debut LP followed in 1968. The group relocated to Vermont to record the follow-up "Apple Pie", adding lead vocalist Bruce Paine, guitarist Michael Sofraine, and harmonica player Adam Myers to original members Dick Barnaby (bass, flute), Jack Bruno (drums), Ted Demos (guitar) and Jef Labes (keyboards).

'Apple Pie' LP rear
They were great musicians and their output was all over the board in terms of style and influence, using a lot of covers. This resulted in many great tracks and some mediocre ones, the second album is the heavier and more consistent. What they lack in originality and identity they make up for in exuberant and fun performances. They opened dates for the Jefferson Airplane, the Butterfield Blues Band, and the Chambers Brothers, but in 1970 they split. Demos, Soriphine and Bruno joined Shakey Legs (link) for one album, Labes later backed Van Morrison and Bonnie Raitt, and Bruno spent close to two decades as Tina Turner's touring drummer, then Elton John's. Paine briefly led Steamhammer in the UK, but was better known for acting work.

Eyes of the Beacon Street Union LP 1968
Eyes of the Beacon Street Union LP
1968
For the next track we have a real dancefloor-filler from one of the original MGM-signed Bosstown bands, Beacon Street Union. Having listened to their two albums, I was not bowled-over by their somewhat unfocused sounds, but I did dig "Sadie Says No". Formed in Boston in late 1966, they comprised of John Wright (vocals), Paul Tartachny (guitar, vocals), Robert Rhodes (keyboards), Wayne Ulaky (bass, vocals), and Richard Weisburg (drums). On his site, Paul Lovell writes: "The Union had a few stage tricks. Sometimes they would throw bags of flour around resulting in a low budget fog show. They always fooled me with this next trick no matter how many times I saw them. They would come on stage and we would all clap and yell. They would start plugging in and tuning up. It seemed to take a long time. Eventually your attention would drift and you would just talk to your friends. At some signal the whole band would slam into the opening chord to My Love Is (youtube) at full volume and SCARE THE BEJEEBERS OUT OF YOU."

Eagle (1970)
'Come Under Nancy's Tent' LP rear
The band members were in their early twenties when both albums were recorded and the press hostility against the Bosstown sound took its toll. They split after only two years together. Shepherded by Alan Lorber (along with the groups Ultimate Spinach and Orpheus), the group met with little success, although their first album The Eyes Of The Beacon Street Union charted at #75 on May 4, 1968. The band relocated to New York, where, after a second album, The Clown Died in Marvin Gardens, Wright, Ulaky, Weisberg, and Rhodes recorded a further album as Eagle. This was a far-less psychedelic, countrified rock affair. Later in the 1970s, Wright went on to write and sing country music as leader of the Sour Mash Boys.  He died on December 4, 2011.

One of Alan Lorber's bands, Ultimate Spinach was one of the most well-known, and perhaps the most notorious, of the groups to be hyped as part of the "Bosstown Sound" in 1968. The name itself guaranteed attention, as one of the most ridiculous  "far out" names of the psychedelic era, even outdoing "The Peanut Butter Conspiracy". They were competent musicians with imagination, but their albums were derivative the West Coast psychedelic groups that were obvious inspirations.

On the first two of their three albums, Ultimate Spinach was completely under the control of leader Ian Bruce-Douglas, who wrote all of the material, sang most of the vocals, and played a wide variety of instruments, most frequently electric keyboards. Their self-titled 1967 debut was a serious attempt at psychedelia, but suffered at times from the overly-obvious trappings of the style and could sound like parody. Guitarist Barbara Hudson's great contributions in the vocal department did go some way in combating these problems, and in the end the album sold quite successfully.

1968's "Behold and See" LP was an all-round better, more consistent album and that is where I took the track I used here, "Mind Flowers". Although it's still quite derivative, this track has a couragously long running time and is supremely atmospheric, one of the trippiest songs I have ever heard. Bruce-Douglas quit after the second LP, but Lorber assembled a new lineup for their final album, with only Barbara Hudson remaining from that of the debut. Ted Myers (ex-The Lost and Chamaeleon Church) and guitarist Jeff Baxter (later to play with Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers) were introduced for the imaginatively-titled "Ultimate Spinach III" (1970). It was not quite as good as Behold and See, maybe mirroring the changing times it dropped most of the psychedelia completely. A straight-forward country/blues rock sound was adopted which made for a smoother, pedestrian experience, and a less distinctive album.

Eden's Children - Sure Look Real LP inside
Eden's Children
'Sure Looks Real' LP
I found the two albums of Eden's Children quite hard to like on the whole, but they have a few good songs, lots of endearing parts, and a fair amount of good heavy fuzz riffing. It would seem that they seriously lacked in the quality control dept. The production job done by Bob Thiele, who appears to have been quite an accomplished jazz producer since the '40s, is severely inconsistent and lacking in places, making a few of their songs sound embarrassingly amateurish. Being on the ABC label and coming around just after the first wave of the "Bosstown" bands, they are frequently mentioned in the same articles but have always been considered less connected to it. The band was a trio, comprising Richard "Sham" Schamach (vocals, guitar), Larry Kiley (bass) and Jimmy Sturman (drums), at times you'd think they were trying to emulate Cream, but not always unsuccessfully-so. Shortly after the second album, from which I have used the track "Toasted" (voted the best heavy riffer on the album in the TDATS fb group), Kiely left the band and was replaced by Russell “Rusty” Marcus, but they broke up later in 1969. As yet I have found no evidence of further musical efforts from the members.

Jolliver Arkansaw - 'Home' LP
Jolliver Arkansaw
'Home' LP (1969)
Track 9, "Lisa My Love", coasts in on a bouncy bass line with stabs of fuzz guitar. Jolliver Arkansaw were a development from Bo Grumpus, a band who's only album, "Before The War" (1968), was produced by one Felix Pappalardi (pr. Cream & The Youngbloods). "Produced" is probably an insufficient word to use as he also wrote, arranged and played Keyboards, Trumpet, Bass, Guitar, Percussion and Ocarina, so more or less a fifth member of the band. With him were N.D. Smart (drums) and Jim Colegrove (bass), who traveled from Ohio to team up with guitarists Eddie Mottau and Joe Hutchinson. That was a light psych-pop affair of little interest here, but in 1969 the band renamed to Jolliver Arkansaw and made an album called Home. Felix was back in the producer's seat for this one and for one song, Gray Afternoon (youtube), an additional lead guitarist was invited, none other than Leslie West. Apparently it was this early 1969 session that convinced Felix that Leslie was worth working with more closely, which led to the West solo album Mountain and the formation of the group of the same name, initially as a trio with the ubiquitous N.D. Smart. There is more information at thecoolgroove.com (link).

Track 10 finds its mark from the outset as a raving freak-beat monster, "No Reason Why". Along with The Remains, The Barbarians and The Rockin' Ramrods, The Lost were one of the more celebrated Boston bands of the '60s. Unlike those other groups, who were more prolific, The Lost only released a few singles during their short existence. They were pre-Bosstown Sound, but I have included them as their members crop up again in later bands.

The Lost
The Lost
They formed at Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont in 1964. Originally the band, with Hugh Magbie as lead guitarist and singer, were among few interracial rock bands of the time. Changes ensued when they moved to Boston in late 1964 and Magbie quit to return to college. The Lost developed a lot of original material, from the imaginations of guitarist Ted Myers and keyboardist Willie Alexander (both mentioned elsewhere in this volume), recording a demo produced by Barry Tashian of The Remains that got them signed to Capitol. Their first single,"Maybe More Than You," was Dylanesque folk-rock, and got some sales and airplay in Massachusetts and New York.

A second single didn't appear for almost a year, although the band managed to open for numerous shows like the Beach Boys' 1966 Eastern tour. Capitol dropped them and in 1967 they split.

The Lost Tapes - Arf! Arf!
The Lost Tapes
Arf! Arf! Records
Main songwriter Ted Myers ventured into psychedelic music with the Chameleon Church (which had future star comedian Chevy Chase on drums), and was a member of the Ultimate Spinach in the band's final days. Keyboardist Willie Alexander and bassist Walter Powers were members of the name-only, Lou Reed-less Velvet Underground of the early '70s, Powers also playing in Listening, coming up. Willie has become a bit of a Boston legend, playing with an endless succession of local bands over time. The Lost did a lot of recording, at Capitol and elsewhere, in addition to their three singles in the mid-'60s, which eventually became available on Arf! Arf!'s Early Recordings and Lost Tapes CD in the '90s. Read some more here. There is a recent interview with Ted Myers here at It's Psychedelic Baby.

Saint Steven - Over The Hills LP 1969
Saint Steven
Over The Hills LP (1969)
Saint Steven was Steve Cataldo. He was previously a member of Front Page Review, who appear here next, a late-joiner to Ultimate Spinach and founding member of the post-punk/power pop Nervous Eaters. In 1969 he made a solo record called Over The Hills. This was an unusual experimental record with lots of things thrown in - psych, folk, hard rock, pop and sound effects in a psuedo-proggresive package. The record is split into two suites, Over the Hills (side A) and The Bastich (side B). It's all pleasant stuff, with a few fuzzy cuts like Ay-Aye Poe Day and Sun In The Flame. The Bastich pts 1 & 2 gives a good cross-section of what he was attempting, with it's pretentious choral intro and groovy psych guitar lead-out. It's not clear whether Steve played all the instruments himself, as nobody else is credited, but it was produced by John Turner who appears to have made some albums of his own. A highly collectible record due to it's rarity, it's worth a listen for Steve's great vocals, proto-prog concept and considered songs.

Front Page Review - Mystic Soldiers LP
Front Page Review
Mystic Soldiers LP
Track 12, "Prism Fawn", has a nice urgency to it, with atmospheric keyboards. Front Page Review rubbed shoulders with bands like Eden's Children, Beacon Street Union and Strawberry Alarm Clock. With Alan Lorber behind the controls, they recorded an album for MGM which was not released at the time. "Mystic Soldiers" is a prime example of late '60s US psych, featuring a young Steve Cataldo (as just mentioned, of Saint Steven & Nervous Eaters) on songwriting / vocals. All the right ingredients are there: wah-fuzz guitars, organ, phasing & effects. Steve wrote all of the material for the group, which played minor-keyed brooding stuff. After they broke up, he made the "Saint Steven" solo album mentioned previously, and later hitched onto the new wave by forming the Nervous Eaters (coming up here soon), who made a couple of LPs. Front Page Review's album was finally unearthed for CD release in 1997 by Big Beat.

Peter Ivers - Knight of the Blue Communion LP 1969
Peter Ivers' 1969 LP
'Knight of the Blue Communion'
Track 13, "Showroom Model", is an intriguing morsel of arty jazz rock that's indicative of the experimental boom of the late '60s. It's compelling and surreal, with off-kilter changes, but anchored by Peter Ivers' bluesy Harmonica. Peter Ivers was born in Boston in 1946. While studying at Harvard University, he played harmonica in The Beacon Street Union. After they split he surfaced as a member of The Street Choir before he signed to Epic in 1969 and issued "Knight of the Blue Communion", an unusual major-label releases for its time: A surreal parade of jazz, psychedelic, pop, classical and vaudeville vignettes with wildly eclectic arrangements and feverish rhythms. Featuring opera singer Yolande Bevan and electronic “modulations”, it evokes Frank Zappa’s most eccentric moments and the United States Of America at their most juvenile. Ivers recorded a follow-up, "Take It Out on Me" (Epic, 1971), but the label never released it, except for the single "Ain’t That Peculiar/ Clarence O’Day". Take It Out on Me has since been issued by Wounded Bird Records (link).

He signed to Warner Bros in 1974. Ivers and his co-producer, free jazz bassist Buell Neidlinger, delivered "Terminal Love", which at times sounded like Beefheart/Zappa. Indeed, Magic Band & Zappa collaborator Eliot Ingber appears on several tracks. A self-titled album for Warner followed in 1976. A year later, Ivers earned arguably his most enduring fame, writing and recording "In Heaven (The Lady in the Radiator Song)" for David Lynch's noir horror classic Eraserhead (youtube). (The song was later covered by Boston's The Pixies.) A 1980 single, "Love Theme from Filmex," was his last official musical release. In the early '80s, Ivers hosted New Wave Theatre, broadcast on the fledgling USA cable network as part of their Friday evening Night Flight anthology. The series provided early national TV exposure for Los Angeles area bands like The Blasters and Dead Kennedys. With his outrageous wardrobe, philosophical interview questions, and rapid-fire social commentaries, Ivers was a most unconventional host, and many of the artists featured on the show made their distaste for him painfully clear. Peter is reported to have played in an avant-garde jazz outfit called Girlz of Zaetar, which had a rehearsal tape issued in 2007 (youtube).


Ivers was bludgeoned to death in his L.A. apartment in 1983. Many suspected the murderer was a member of the local punk scene. Ivers' killer was never found, but in his memory, Harvard University initiated the Peter Ivers Visiting Artist Program. The retrospective "Nirvana Peter" appeared on Warner in 1985. Josh Frank and Charlie Buckholtz have written a book about Ivers' life, art and mysterious death, In Heaven Everything Is Fine: The Unsolved Life of Peter Ivers and the Lost History of New Wave Theatre (2008). On the basis of new information unearthed during the creation of this book, the Los Angeles Police Department has reopened their investigation into Ivers' death. Thanks to Jason Ankeny at Allmusic.com, eggcityradio.com and Wikipedia for all this info.

Willie "Loco" Alexander (born January 13, 1943) sang and played keyboards with The Lost, The Bagatelle and The Grass Menagerie. He became a member of The Velvet Underground in late 1971, joining fellow Grass Menagerie alumni Doug Yule and Walter Powers and replacing Sterling Morrison. With the Velvet Underground, Alexander toured Europe in support of the album Loaded. Reshuffles brought on by manager Steve Sesnick then ended Alexander's time with the band.

Willie Alexander
Willie Alexander in recent times
After leaving The Velvet Underground, he enjoyed a checkered career. He recorded three solo singles beginning in 1975, and formed the punk-oriented Boom Boom Band the following year. The group recorded two albums for MCA, but broke up in 1978. He released Solo Loco in 1982, and then formed The Confessions, who also recorded two albums, A Girl Like You and Autre Chose. Alexander continued in his solo status throughout the '80s, and formed the Persistence of Memory Orchestra in 1991. In addition to his storied music career, in 1994, Willie narrated a local film entitled Middle Street made by fellow Gloucester native, independent filmmaker Henry Ferrini. Willie has also contributed many songs to the soundtracks for Henry's other films. You can check out Willie's current activities etc at his site (link).

Nervous Eaters c. 1977
Nervous Eaters c. 1977
Track 15, "Just Head", is a chunk of killer Stonesy punk with cheeky lyrics and unstoppable momentum. The Nervous Eaters was one of the bands that kick-started the Boston punk scene at the end of the 70‘s and the birth of a local scene that would foster dozens of influential and successful American artists in the 80’s and beyond. That needs to be said because the "Eaters", as the group was affectionately referred to locally, never achieved much attention outside of Boston or New York City. Featuring singer, guitarist and songwriter Steve Cataldo, previously of Front Page Review and Saint Steven, the Nervous Eaters was considered the house band at Kenmore Square’s Rathskeller (aka "Rat") club by virtue of its many appearances there and a pair of 7” singles released on the club’s Rat Records. Before taking that name, they had dubbed themselves The Rhythm Assholes, while they backed Willie Alexander on his 1977 solo single "Kerouac", and in concert. One of those songs, “Loretta,” became and remains one of the city’s enduring rock and roll anthems powered by a scorching four-piece attack and Cataldo’s husky and fervent vocals.

Nervous Eaters, Steve Cataldo 2nd from left
Nervous Eaters, Steve Cataldo 2nd from left
Ric Ocasek of the Cars became a fan and he produced a ten-song demo for the band that enabled a deal with Elektra Records, also the home of his platinum-selling group. Unfortunately, some blaming the producer, their eponymous 1980 album completely lacked the heaviness and attitude of the band’s live shows and original singles. The album failed and the band stepped into the shadows. A 1986 reunion album "Hot Steel and Acid", for the French-based New Rose label, was subsequently issued by Boston's Ace of Hearts Records. It belatedly redressed the balance with the frantic scuzz of the early singles, but the chance of national fame was already well-passed. New incarnations of the band, still including Steve Cataldo, play sporadically up to this day and you can follow them on facebook (link).

Listening LP front 1968
Listening LP cover (1968)
Rounding this volume off nicely we have a slice of Hendrix-heavy 1968 psych called "See You Again". Vocalist/keyboardist Michael Tschudin led the band Listening, and the later-Velvet Underground bassist Walter Powers (previously of The Lost) and guitarist Peter Malick (aged only sixteen when joining) helped to make this album historic. Walter performed over the years with keyboardist Willie Alexander as members of The Lost, the aforementioned Velvets, and on Autre Chose, a live album from Willie. Peter Malick later became Otis Spann's guitarist and a member of the James Montgomery Band on Capricorn. The album runs the gamut from psych, pop, blues to jazz. Eight of the 11 tracks are written by Michael Tschudin, with three titles attributed to the group. A couple of tracks are top-tear stuff, "Stoned Is", being another of them, while the rest make for a consistently enjoyable listen front to back. Michael Tschudin appeared soon after in Cynara (link), who look pretty mean on the cover of their s/t 1970 album, which is disappointingly loungy commercial piano-based jazz/soul that never works up a sweat. Peter Malick became an acomplished blues player and since becoming a producer/engineer in the 2000s he has had a hand in starting Nora Jones' career (website).  Drummer Ernie Kamanis played guitar for Andy Pratt and Boz Scaggs and later had a solo career. Paul Lovell recounts some memories of Listening here.

See you again!
Cheers, Rich

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2 comments:

  1. I searched your blog for references about the Peanut Butter Conspiracy. I have their album called Peanut Butter Conspiracy, The ‎– The Great Conspiracy , which I thought was their 2nd LP but turns out it's their first. If you break this album into segments of interest, there are many parts which would fit right in with the idea of progressive rock. It sure has roots in that west coast sound, soaring melodic vocals akin to the Airplane , Mamas papas but goes into cosmic acid folk territory in a truly inspired and cohesive artistic music package. I thought this was their sophomore effort because it's pretty darn solid from start to finish. I suggest giving it a shot.The best aspect is it is a unique album with a bunch of people playing something that sounds like they love to do it. I have a Mono first press , it's on Columbia records and out of ALL the mono LP's I have ever heard, this is a top 10 favorite MONO mixed albums. It sounds perfect to me. Never heard the Stereo version yet. What it sounds like to me is the best of the MONO mixed albums recorded in the RCA studios. Has that almost clinical clear quality but it serves this album well because the vocals are on point and need to be heard clearly as well as the great musicianship.

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