Free Vida Blue!
Albert Jones Vida Blue 45 (Tri-City, 1971)
Growing up in Sacramento, inland and east of the San Francisco Bay, you had two choices of what baseball team you rooted for. If you were a National League fan, you cheered for the Philadelphia Phillies. Surprised? You'd of thunk the SF Giants. Nope, not when Sacramento boy Larry Bowa was a Phil. If you like the American League, you supported the Oakland A's. Since my dad is a New Yorker and a Yankies fan, we were an American League household. So my brother and I grew up watching the A's.
We got to see the A's in their most exciting period, that of the era of Charlie Finley and the Moustache Gang. The A's of the early 70's was part circus and part freak show. Like almost all A's teams, it was one of misfits, spare parts, and castoffs. But these guys were good. One of the best was Vida Blue, their ace pitcher and the most fun A to watch. Vida windup was drama. He threw from a high stepping sprawl, like his whole body was a spring. And when the ball left his hand it was a blur.
In 1971, he won the Cy Young and MVP and helped his team to the World from 1972 to 1974. In 72, he held out part of the season looking for more money and opted to sell vacuum cleaners instead of play for tightwad Charlie O. He came back later in the year and killed. Seventy-two was also the year, Blue started to use cocaine. In 78, he was traded to the Giants. He pitched well but as his career went on his numbers dropped and his drug use increased. He signed to the A's in 1987, but left before the season ended rather than take a drug test.
His post-Big League life saw a couple DUIs and more alcohol and drug abuse. He got a break in the late 90s when the Giants hired him as a community outreach person. He ran the Junior Giants, a group dedicated to getting poor kids off the street and into the ball park. In 2004, he was arrested for another DUI. Earlier this month he was sentenced to 6 months in jail for violating terms of his probation.
This funk gem was released in 1971, when Blue was pitching his best year. It is one of the best baseball songs I know of. The flip is a country version of the same song, this by Tom Newton, the songwriter.
Fottutissima Pellicceria Elsa s/t
Fottutissima Pellicceria Elsa s/t cassette tape (Fucof Records, 1983)
After something like listen number 204 of Tampax's UFO Dictator, Woodhouse and I came up with the word Tampaxian. I don't know what we first called Tampaxian. Perhaps it was Sheer Smegma's Club Nite or Unholy Swill's I Wanna Be God. I really don't know, what I am sure of is the coinage stuck.
So what exactly is Tampaxian? As noted, we used Tampax's UFO Dictator as a template. And what makes UFO Dictator such a great song is Tampax's total refusal to follow any of rock and roll's conventions. The song is too long, the vocals are unintelligible, and the playing is fifth rate. The guitar solos are not only too loud but there are three of them. The song goes nowhere and ends just because. In everyday life, it is said two wrongs don't make a right. In the Tampaxian world, ten wrongs make a great song. This is not a case of so bad it is good. No, Tampaxian is so inept, so moronic, so we-just-don't-give-a-fuck that it is brilliant.
If Woodhouse still lived across the hall, I would pound on his door, drag him into my apartment, and make him listen to FPE. FPE don't know how to write songs. The songs don't end "when they should." When a song seems to be over, another part comes along. The drummer is only one who has a grasp of his instrument and, even so, he concentrates more on fills than anything else. The vocals are blarrggghh and they use a power drill as a solo instrument. FPE are Tampaxian.
I don't know much about FPE other than, like Tampax, they were from Italy (Gorizia, to be exact), part of the international hardcore scene, and released one tape. I heard of them through a review in Maximum Rocknroll, back when a cassette tape was considered a legitmate release. I sent away for it. I think it cost me all of 2 stamps.
It's Japanese. It's a 10". And that is all I know, other than this is what keeps me hunting for records.
Alter Ego & Friends Obsessional Schizophrenia LP (C. Schneider, 1972)
One of the oddest and most obscure records I own is this one by Alter Ego & Friends. I found it sealed in San Francisco for a couple dollars. I picked it up because it looked unusual and I thought I might be in for some homemade psych. What I got was even weirder.
Alter Ego, or Charles Schneider, plays piano and sings. The friends credited on the record are most likely himself. His piano playing is a jaunty mix of barrel house, boogie, and 1920s Tin Pan Alley. The record would be pretty intolerable if something was not slightly ajar. From his originals to his cover of the Rolling Stones' What a Shame to his adaptation of Thelonious Monk's Abide By Me, Schneider plays with such enthusiasm one would think that he's been hitting the nitrus oxide, only to dive into a defeated melancholy. You'd think that he is crazy. The kicker is: It is very possible that Schneider was insane.
Obsessional Schizophrenia was recorded at the Wayne County General Hospital in Eloise, Michigan, commonly referred to as Eloise. In the mid 1800s, Eloise was created to attend to the poor. Soon it was also caring for the insane, though no distinction was made between the poverty stricken and the mental patient. As Michigan's other asylums became overpopulated, more patients were shifted to Eloise. In 1868, Eloise's first asylum buildings was built thus creating the Wayne County House & Insane Asylum. More buildings would follow. As the 1900s kicked in, Eloise's care for the crazy would take over the attending to the poor. Later it would be called the Wayne County Psychiatric Institute. Eloise also had a burial ground. On the record's jacket, Schneider poses with some of the cemetery's tombstones and monuments.
In Schneider's thank you list on the back of the jacket he includes the "staff and patients at Mercywood and NPI 6, my doctor, and about 100 other people I have known." Mercywood was Ann Arbor's mental hospital, now closed down and rumored to be haunted. I am pretty sure that NPI 6 refers to the Neuropsychiatric Inventory, a test used to "assess neuropsychiatric symptoms in dementia patients." And that is all the information I have obtained about Charles Schneider.
Following his thank you list, Schneider ask, "Please endure the imperfections, for I am an amateur."
Addendum: I've listened to this record quite a few times since I posted this and I am getting sucked in with every listen. It is not the "ohhh this guy is crazy" thing that seems to infect the cynical and ironically hip. No, the attraction is that Schneider seems to be trying to work something out here. It is not very obvious and as you can here Alter Ego is not over the top in a Wesley Willis or even Roky Erickson kinda way. Hell, if that is what I looked for in records I might as well put Napoleon XIV on infinite repeat. Schneider is digging at something and trying to find some solid ground. That is what makes this interesting...well, that and he is using 1920's Tin Pan Alley novelty songs and the Rolling Stones as a therapeutic tool. Hey, what ever gets you there.
The Good Rats s/t
The Good Rats s/t LP (Kapp, 1969)
We Are the Good Rats, the band’s theme song, opens up “RAAAATS!!!” and then blasts into something that sounds like Edwin Starr meets Queen....Really.
And through nine more songs the Good Rats play some of the best hard rock ever recorded. Listen to this album and you’ll find yourself thinking, “Hmmm that sounds like Alice Cooper, Kiss, Sweet, Dictators, Cheap Trick, Pink Fairies, etc.” and then you realize that this was recorded before all that stuff!
From singer/songwriter Peppi Marchello, who used to swing a baseball bat on stage, to the nameless drummer, this band is the tops. Tight as hell with an R&B groove but with all the bombast you would expect from a punk band, these guys push every one of their songs to its extreme. Ohh yeah, the songs are smart, too. A record this good should have made them a legend. Instead they remain a cult band.
So who are the Good Rats? Well, in short, they are a Long Island based band that formed around 1967 as the U Men. They released this debut on Kapp, were dropped from the label, got signed to Warners and did a record in 1974. A few years later they did another and another and a few more. They still are around, Peppi Marchello being the only original member. The current line up contains his two sons on guitar and drums. And, from what I gather, they still rock hard. (If you want more info, check out Rocktober 31 for a great article by Jake Austen).
The Good Rats is a great record, a classic. It is one of those records that makes me wonder what life would be like if I’d have heard this at 13. I know one thing for sure, it would have saved me from tolerating all the dog crap classic rock getting thrown at me. As it was, it took the Sex Pistols to do that, and I was 15 when I first heard them. The Good Rats would have saved a few brain cells. Long live The Good Rats!