Losin' It Big at Carnegie Hall
Nebulous Stucco Thing Losin' It Big at Carnegie Hall cassette (NST, 1985)
If you dig way back into the Crud Crud archives you will find my ramblings on the cassette underground. The cassette underground (CU), in case you do not know, was a grassroots music movement which was centered not around one genre but a format, the cassette tape. Because anyone with a cassette recorder could record anything onto a cassette and because all it took to duplicate a cassette was two cassette decks, the medium was the first in which both the making and manufacturing of music was democratic. The distribution of these cassettes was done through a network of zines and catalogs. Anyone with access to two cassette decks and a post office could do a tape label and many did. There are thousands of cassette releases from the 1970s and 1980s, many of them full of great music. Unfortunately, there has been little attempt to document this important movement, and by document I mean to take choice cuts or releases and put them to vinyl. A Nuggets or Killed By Death style series of the best songs from the CU or a single artist series of it's best releases needs to be done. Right now the only folks doing a good job documenting the CU are minimal synth enthusiasts such as the labels Enfant Terrible and Minimal Wave.
Today, you get a bit of Sacramento music and literary history and a small participant in the cassette underground. The Nebulous Stucco Thing were a group of poets, artists, and musicians who performed at art galleries, coffee houses, and a few bars. They were inspired by the Beat poets, Art Ensemble of Chicago, Charles Bukowski, and the Dial a Poem records and played to a mix of hippies, punks, artists, literary types, and freaks. They called an abandoned stucco factory their home (also the headquarters of legendary Sacto punk band Tales of Terror).
I saw the Stucco thing a couple times. The first was at croissant shop at which I was the baker. The place was one of three Sacramento establishments with an espresso machine, thus qualifying it to host poetry-jazz ensembles. The second time I saw them was at a party at the stucco factory, the only place in Sacramento full of bags of stucco and drunken punk rockers, thus perfect for a bunch of loud mouthed poets and music freaks. Both times I saw them I was blown away. Granted, it was the first time I saw anything like the Stucco Thing so I was taken aback by what I sensed as unique; but there were aspects of it that were good beyond the performance. The Stucco Thing contained some good musicians, good poetry voices, and one good singer.
The singer was also a poet and his name is Arthur Butler. As a poet on the page, Arthur was okay, but nothing special. However, in performance the guy was riveting. A tall, skinny, quiet Black guy with goatee and dark shades, he was hipster cool. His delivery was nonchalant, until he started singing and then the room melted, all eyes and ears were toward him. His song "Book of Fear" was a highlight of both the Stucco Thing set and his readings. Part hick, part urban tough guy, Gene Avery was another guy who had the hipster cool going, though Gene was a bit more cocky, a small town Gregory Corso. Here he does "I Wanna Car." He "published" one book of poems called "Hum 4 Cathy," which came in a box and included a cassette with more song/poems. He also played sax.
It is impossible to get a group of musicians to back a bunch of artists and poets with out letting them stretch out a bit, so the Stucco Thing had a few instrumentals. I chose to post "March 2," one of several Ayler inspired marches. And we end with stucco factory resident and longtime artist Steve Vanoni. A fixture in Sacramento's art scene and probably the soul or at least the grandfather of this town's underground art scene, Vanoni penned simple Bukowski-like poems. While his voice is more of a mumble and bark, the music that backed his pieces tended to be the best. Like Avery, Vanoni doubled on sax. There were a few other members of the Stucco Thing, poet BL Kennedy and musicians Harrison Thomas, Herb Krizer, and Charlie Aitkin.
These cuts were recorded on April 9, 1985 and releases as a cassette shortly after.
thanks for your thoughts.... and yes I believe you performed with us a few times, Scott, tooo