Joe Christ & the Healing Faith Wonderful Life 7" (Reliable, 1987)
Joe Christ was Joe Linhart of Dallas, Texas, but everyone knew him as Joe Christ. His first band was a punk band named Los Reactors. They put out a few 7"s in the early '80s which are now out of my price range. From there he continued to play in bands until about 1987, though in the 2000s he did get Los Reactors together for a reunion and ran with that for awhile. He also was a film maker such as Amy Strangled a Small Child, Acid is Groovy Kill the Pigs, and Speed Freaks with Guns. One writer describes Christ's films "John Waters times 11."
None of the above is stuff I knew before researching this record. I am not an underground film buff and and do not have an encyclopedic memory for the names of band members. However I did know the name "Joe Christ" as did anyone who flipped through bins of 7" records in the 1990s. And I knew the cover of this record. "Wonderful Life" was in every dollar bin around - you still can find a copy pretty damn easy. I think the date it was released has something to do with it. The late 1980s have gotten a bad rap as far as underground/independent music goes. Certainly there was a lot of crap being released then, but no more so than in the 1990s or today. What there was was a lot of formerly good punk band or former members of good punk bands making shitty records. From hair metal Discharge to Sister Double Happiness, there was a lot of dreck drowning out the good stuff, like this little gem right here.
A Love Story
Roger Flax Clyde & Phyllis LP (Golden, 197?)
Before Crud Crud, I did a record review site called Soriano's Occasional Review. On it, I reviewed records like I do here, though with no MP3s. Maybe a few of you saw that site, most of you probably did not. It was pre-blogosphere, linked to no one, found out only by friends and those who did an internet search for a certain record. Every once in a while on Crud Crud I recycle a review I did there; however, computers being what they are and me not being the most studious backer-upper, a lot of the reviews are lost to memory. My review of the classic children's record Clyde & Phyllis is one of those lost to technology. That loss is fine because there is more to the story than the original review. But but but to get to that story we must start with the record.
Clyde & Phyllis is more than a children's record, it is a bubblegum pop opera. The music is pure bubblegum, sweet but not saccharine, funny, engaging, and creative. The story is great and it goes like this. Clyde is a guitar playing elephant. Having learned his craft in the zoo, he plays for animal and humankind, billed as the "World's First Guitar Playing Elephant." His popularity grows such that he is able to open his own night club, Clyde's Den. One night he spies Phyllis in the crowd. She is not mere groupie bait but heartthrob material. Clyde desperately wants her. However, He has two problems: First, Phyllis kind of likes someone else. He tries to conquer this obstacle by showing up at her house to serenade her. Phyllis informs him that it ain't gonna work. Clyde is "too big" for her, and "too much to handle." Phyllis, you see, is an ant. Clyde walks off dejected, actually, defeated. In his wanders, he discovers that NASA is looking for an astronaut to explore the moon for 20 years. He applies and becomes the world's first elephantnaut. He figures that since he can't have Phyllis he "might as well explore the moon." Once there, though, he gets depressed so he mopes around singing to himself. His wandering is interrupted by a pissed off Moon. The Moon doesn't like the fact that someone is on him and threatens Clyde. Clyde explains that he is only on the Moon because he can't have his true love on Earth. The Moon considers Clyde's situation and tells him that he will think about it. True to his word, the Moon comes up with an idea. Why don't Clyde and Phyllis get married and move to the Moon. Out in space, gravity will keep him from crushing her. (The Moon doesn't figure out how they will consummate this relationship, elephant penis and ant vagina being two radically different sizes - or so I am told.) Clyde thinks the idea is great. He hops into his space shop, goes down to Earth and proposes to Phyllis. She says, "Yes," and they take off to space. End of story...at least the story of Clyde & Phyllis.
I think I wrote a bit more about how great a record it was and that I found it for a buck up in Diamond Springs at the Ye Olde Record Shoppe and bought it because, hell, would you pass up a record with a guitar playing, glammed out elephant on it? Certainly not. After that review, I got a bunch of emails. One of them was from Roger Flax's son, who told me that he remembered his dad making the record and it got a lot of spins at the Flax Manor. There were a few notes thanking me for bringing back good, childhood memories. The record collectors wrote to ask about pressing info. And then there were the people who wanted a copy of it.
My policy then was my policy now: I don't make copies of things I post. It is not that I want to deprive people of the music. Nah, it is that I have a life and do not have the time to make tapes or CDRs of every record that stirs a fond memory. The problem with Clyde & Phyllis is that I seemed to be the only person in the world (according to Google and Yahoo) who had a copy of the record. The requests came often and they came hard. Please. Please. Please. I will send you money, all the money you want (within reason), I was told. A woman from San Francisco named Susan wrote that she would bake me a pie. A pie? Well, I have been known to be a prisoner of pie. Hmmm.... No. No. Sorry lady, save your pie for another guy. Then Professor Cantaloupe wrote. He hosted a radio show that focused on kid's music. Well, I wasn't going to turn down a fellow dejay, especially one named Professor Cantaloupe. So I made a CDR of it and contacted the people who wanted a copy of the recording and requested a couple bucks, some music, or a bottle of single malt Scotch. Only a few people replied but one was Susan from San Francisco, the lady who offered me a pie.
Susan wrote that she was in San Francisco and she desperately wanted the recording. Perhaps she might have a friend drive her to Sacramento to pick it up? "Clyde & Phyllis is very important to me," she wrote. "I checked it out of the school library and only returned it when I was forced to. Unfortunately, the next person to have the record after me broke it!" She added that she had been searching for the record for years and I was a saint or some kind of deity for offering her a recording of the record. At least, I think that is how that went. Anyway, she hemmed and hawwed about what she wanted to do and then wrote that she's send Scotch. Fine by me, lady. I get the Scotch and you will get the CDR.
The Scotch came on the best of all possible days. I had just spent all day in an emergency room dealing with my mom's complications from chemotherapy. I was beat. I stopped by work to check my mail and there was a very nice bottle of single malt waiting for me. CDR was popped in the mail and an email was sent to Susan thanking her for the life saving elixir (by the way, I am still open to gifts of appreciation: Scott Soriano, 1809 S Street #101-276, Sacramento CA 95811 USA). She got the CDR and tossed me emails. Those who have written me know that I can be one chatty fucker and sometimes even funny. I charmed her with my humor, she charmed me with hers. She told me what kind of music she liked. I sent her House of Love and Patty Waters. She asked if she could buy me a drink the next time I was in Frisco. I said sure and left it at that. She finally called me on my delay tactics. I made up a work related task that would take me there and told her I would be wearing a beret and a kilt. She almost canceled our "date." I assured her that I actually looked like the comic book guy on the Simpsons. She almost canceled our "date." We met, had drinks, had dinner, laughed, talked, and, then, like the decent upstanding man that I am, I drove home. A couple weeks later, she came up to Sacramento. We've been together since. That was almost three years ago and everything is great, actually, better all the time. We both travel and do absolutely nothing while together, and it is seamlessly great. I am now the stepfather of a fine little dog. She supports my record buying mania. It's the best thing I've ever had. I'd like to think that "We'll float in space together..."
After we got together, top on my "must find" list was another copy of Clyde & Phyllis. It took a few months of intense searching but I found one in Chicago. It had been listed the day I checked and bamm it was mine. On Susan's next birthday, I gave it to her. She was overwhelmed with emotion and so was I. Now I know two people with the record. About a year latter I found her a copy of Chicken Fat, but all that inspired was a little dance. That's cool, I like to dance, too.
So that is the postscript to the Clyde & Phyllis review, a record geek's love story.
[originally posted 8/20/06]
PS: Today, April 24, 2012, Susan & I were married.
We'll Float In Space Together
Let's Dance the Ska
Lord Gayle & the Seasiders Let's Dance the Ska LP (Kalypso, 1964)
When this was presented to me by a kindly record store clerk it had a big wad of gun stuck to the front cover.
"Do you want it?"
What the gum?
"No, the record."
Of course, I do.
The record was put in my stack and rung up. Or maybe it was tossed in for free because of the gum. Whatever the case, I knew I wanted the record, gum or no gum. If it was really early ska or rocksteady, I knew I had a winner. If it was some just-okay tourist band, that's fine, the cover was cool. I got back to my studio, plopped the record on the turntable and proceeded to remove the gum. It took an hour to get the gum off using little more than a sharp razor blade and a very steady hand. Meanwhile the sounds coming out of the speakers were great, a blend of ska and rocksteady with that really warm sound indicative of records of that time and place.
While there are many good songs on Let's Dance the Ska, the song "Dorothy" is the one that really stuck with me. Starting a love song with "Darling, you are...." is so charming. And then the compliment, "You are so divine" is fantastic. The whole song is a paen to the romance of wooing. And because I am pretty much wooed by this song, this is what you get.
Musical Bronkhorsts s/t 7" (Musical Bronkhorsts, 1966?)
A current favorite at Crud Crud HQ is this here 7" ep by the Musical Bronkhorsts. Other than the name of the group and the song titles, this record would be a total mystery if not for a bookmark sized card that came with it. On the card is a photograph of the Rev. and Mrs. T.J. Bronkhorst and Leon. There are three people in the photo - two men and one woman. One man holds a trumpet, the other a trombone. Mrs. Bronkhorst has an accordion strapped to her body. In front of the Mrs. is a guitar and an amp. Below the photo is a blub that reads "Leon was born on April 4th, 1947. He died on December 2nd, 1965. He was buried in Pecos, Texas on the 4th of December, 1965." Who Leon is I have no idea. But the Bronkhorsts have two address stamps on the back of the card. One is a street address in Long Beach, California. The other is a PO Box in Zambia. Ah, so the Rev. and the Mrs. were singing missionaries. A search, shows that as of 2004 they were still in Africa and active. This from a ministry's web site:
The Reinsmen Sentimental Trails LP (Sierra, 1980)
I picked this one up recently in a thrift store in Stockton and when I did I had no idea that it contained the song below. I had no idea the song below existed. Looking at the sleeve, my only thought was "Hmmmmm a country record. It is signed by one of the band members. Maybe it will pay for gas." Then I walked to the counter with a few other records and plopped down my four dollars and change and head to another store. When I got home, I sorted the records into sell and keep piles. I cleaned and started making sound clips of the ones to sell. That is when this hit the turntable. I don't know why but first song I dropped the needle on was "Blue Prairie." At first, nothing hit me, but after thirty seconds or so the meat of the song kicks in and here sneaks a mournful violin. Then the vocals swell. I am mesmerized. This is haunted country, something I've never heard before and something I can't wait to find more of. Certainly, when listening to this Blue Velvet, the song and the film, come to mind. Here is the absurd thing, I like the song "Blue Prairie" so much that I haven't listened to any other song on the record in fear that it won't measure up. There could be five more songs as good, as haunted as "Blue Prairie" but I don't want to take that gamble, not now, not while I am entranced by this song.
At the time the liner notes had been written, the Reinsmen had been around for two decades. During the 1960s and 70s, they played rodeos, county fairs, western art shows, campfire gathering, and the like. They shared the stage with Eddie Dean, Merle Travis, and other country acts. What the notes don't mention is that they are in the Western Music Hall of Fame and considered a classic group. In his 80s, lead singer and fiddle player, Doc Denning is still musically active...in the Reinsmen and other places.