Micah Kennedy 1970 - 2009

Micah Kennedy 1970 - 2009

Sacramento musician Micah Kennedy died last week. He had been ill for some time, though only his close friends and family knew. His body gave out while he was surrounded by those closest to him. He was only 39 years old.

I knew Micah from my involvement in Sacramento's underground music scene. My bands played with his. I put on shows by his bands and released a record with one of them on it. My friendship with him was casual - record talk at shows, hanging out a few times, etc. - though I was fond of him. He was a good guy. And he was an ace guitarist.

He played in several bands but the two he is remembered for are the Tiki Men and the Lazy J's. The Tiki Men were the more popular of the two. A great instrumental garage band with a hard edged Link Wray-like sound, they earned praise from garage punks to surf music die-hards. They released one album and a handful of 7"s, all excellent. Their records and live shows - fueled by Micah's raw, aggressive guitar sound - earned them a worldwide following.

The Lazy J's never were as popular as the Tiki Men. Their influences were a bit more rarefied (Dion, Del Shannon, various British bands) and they tended to play only within a hundred mile radius of Sacramento. Still, they were a great band. Unfortunately, their output was pretty slim, one song released on the Sacramento: City of a Beer 7" compilation.

I've chosen four songs in tribute to Micah - Two by the Tiki Men, two by the Lazy J's. "Tiki Torcher" comes from the Tiki Men's debut EP Sneak a Drink with the Tiki Men, released in 1994 on Secret Center Records. The Tiki Men's second single contained Micah's song "Cattle Prod", one of the best garage instrumentals ever. It was released on Hillsdale in 1994. As noted, the Lazy J's released only one song. That song is "She's So Refined", which came out in 1997 on the aforementioned compilation. I am also posting one unreleased Lazy J's song, "Each Day." I believe it was recorded at the same time as "She's So Refined".

Good bye Micah and thanks for some great music.


Rentak Tarian Melayu

Orkes Gazal Penembang Rentak Tarian Melayu (Malay Dance Beat) EP (Parlophone, 196?)

I wish I could tell you something about this record or the style of music you are going to hear but this disk is pretty obscure and anything I'm gonna rattle off about Malaysian music would be cribbed from wikipedia and me bullshitting. Instead, I am going to write about what I do when I have no historical or cultural context to place a record or music in and that is think about the things that make the music on this record in common with other culture's music - or babble on about how crazy it is that in this Malaysian EP I hear really raw American Southern dance floor blues, hillbilly fiddle music, Irish jigs, Indian raga beats, West African guitar music, odd lo-fi cumbias, goombay... the list goes on. Perhaps the time period in which it was made explains the variety of sounds I hear touched on. I am assuming this was made in the 1960s, but even if I am wrong, I know it was made post World War II. From the Fifties on, music from all over the world was making it into different cultures. The airliner was making global tourism a reality. Western aid workers and businessmen were making their way into the "Third World" and the elite of the "undeveloped" countries were studying in American and European universities. Music, fashion, cuisine, art - all aspects of culture were bound to be affected by this mass meeting of people. So, perhaps, this record is a product of that. Or it could be that many of the things I hear on this record in other music are certain universalities, stuff that comes from some musical collective unconscious. I really don't know. But such things are fun to ponder.


A Message to the World

Eddy's Group A Message to the World (BT Puppy, 1965)

An unusual obscurity this single. It is an anti-war song from 1965, which is too early for the protest song trend of a few years later. Sixty-five saw American advisers in Vietnam, but the war was still pretty much hidden from the public. Thus Eddy's Group doesn't sing of Vietnam, but the dead end of any war, with more than a hint at fearing nuclear war. This is a sentiment you hear in folk music of the time, but it doesn't turn up much in pop music (not to mention excellent haunted pop). Even more unique is that this single is on B.T. Puppy, whose discography is dominated by the doowop and pop of The Tokens, Del Satins, and The Happenings. This might just be the one protest song in the entire BT singles discography. And, to conclude, this looks to be the only record by Eddy's Group...until you realize that Eddy's Group is really The Tokens! Yes, the same band that did "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." If I had to guess, I'd say that The Tokens wanted to make a statement record, but didn't want to tarnish the Tokens brand by having people think they were a bunch of radicals; hence Eddy's Group.


Herpes Roulette

Dave & Jesse Herpes Roulette 7" (Bullseye, 1986)

Thank god for herpes! Without it we wouldn't have this terrific little novelty rocker or the excellent picture sleeve that accompanies it. Officially the flipside of Dave & Jesse's "soon to be hit" "Dr. Ruth", the real smash here is "Herpes Roulette", which, I assume, was a toss off. Fine by me, some of the best songs are ones crammed on to the b-side of a supposed hit. I understand why "Dr. Ruth" is the A: Ruth Westheimer was one of the mid-Eighties oddest cultural icons, a short, dumpy, German doctor with a thick accent who talked frankly about sex. From her appearance to her mannerisms to her frankness, she ran counter to what Americans think of when they think of the public face of SEX - typically some softcore cheese celebrity of the Paris Hilton variety, the kind you might get a case of herpes from.

I have no idea who Dave & Jesse were, but if I was to guess I'd say that they were Southern California disc jockeys, as this record has all the markings of a dejay novelty record. If they were radio partners, they split up before the internet era, as I can't find any reference to them.

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