THIS JOURNAL DOCUMENTS MY INTAKE OF ONE BOOK, ZINE, CD OR DVD A DAY. RATINGS ARE: ***** = Godhead, **** = Great, *** = Good, ** = Fair, * = Why Bother?

Monday, October 24, 2016

Lost & Found: The Cabal/Null Set EP

(Awf-Trak, 1984)

Cabal EP (Awf-Trak, 1984)

On two successive weekends, my wife Amy has spotted Cabal's self-titled six-song EP in two different record stores in Frederick, Maryland. Amy now has multiple copies of this album (as do I), leading her friends to joke that she must leave some in the record bins for future fans to discover!

Amy scores "Cabal" at Rock & Roll Graveyard on E. Patrick Street, Frederick

Amy spots "Cabal" at Record Exchange on N. Market Street, Frederick

Cabal was basically a continuation of Null Set, the early '80s Baltimore band formed by her ex-husband, the dearly departed guitar whiz "Mark Harp" (Mark Linthicum, 1957-2004) and singer Bill Dawson, minus bassist John Chriest and drummer Louis Frisino (who was replaced by Rich Dickson). Null Set had to change their name because there was a New Jersey group, the synth-pop Nullset, recording under that name in 1983. (Ironically, there are now countless bands listed on Discogs.com using both the Null Set and Cabal monikers.) Though only Harp, Dawson and Dickson are credited on the record, Cabal the live band was augmented by a rotating cast of sidemen, including: bassists Les Hendrix, Dave Zidek, and Dick Hertz; second guitarist Mark King; keyboardist Danny Brown; and Steve Palmieri, a sound engineer who played synths.

Null Set debuts at Baltimore's Marble Bar (October 30, 1982)

Cabal: Mark King, Rich Dickson, Bill Dawson, Les Hendrix, Mark Harp

Bill Dawson steps to the mic

Bill Dawson's Napoleon impression

Bill Dawson, smoking live!

Null Set frontman Bill Dawson rocks the plaid

Null Set singer Bill Dawson contemplates Nordic Ennui in Dundalk, Wintertime 1980s

Mark Harp, Null Set

Mark Harp (in his "Choose Death" tee) with Cabal

Cabal: Les Hendrix, Mark Harp, and Mark King

"It's a sign from Mark," Amy remarked when she spotted a copy of the record in an E. Patrick Street store called (appropriately enough) "Rock & Roll Graveyard." If so, Cabal has taken up residence in this DC Bedroom community of Frederick County, for she sighted yet another copy the very next week around the corner at Record Exchange on N. Market Street.

Back of 6-song Cabal EP

The tracks on this rare EP are:

1. Null Theme
2. In Touch
3. Future In Pain
4. Blissful Trust
5. Fall Flat
6. New Horizon

The CD reissue of the 6-song EP featured 10 remixes and bonus songs from the Cabal/Null Set era 1981-1985, including two Cabal tracks recorded live at the Marble Bar in 1983 and three Null Set demos (including "Perception," arguably their best and most commercial song) recorded in 1981 and produced by Sam Prager at Eastern Studios in Glen Burnie, MD. It's available for downloading from the web site 24 Hours with Mark Harp, where Mark himself described the Cabal record as "Dark post-punk." That's an understatement. Whereas humor was always part-and-parcel of Mark Harp's musical output, Null Set/Cabal was dead serious business. As Bill Dawson sang in Null Set's signature "Theme" song, "Paint it black/You know where we're at!" Performing live, Bill sometimes even bit down on fake blood capsules for added dramatic visual effect. The music may have been all Mark, but the lyrical narrative was all Bill, and the songs that resulted from their collaboration reflect the influence of the UK post-punk bands they were listening to at the time: Bauhaus, Killing Joke, Joy Division, Gang of Four, PiL, and John Foxx's Ultravox, to name but a few. The synth-heavy "Open Up" (originally available only on cassette) even channels a Devo vibe, while the radio-friendly "New Horizon"'s danceable beat suggests Cabal could be a pop band when they wanted to be.

The Cabal record was recorded in Spring 1984 at Studio North in Fallston, MD,  with Buck Awf (Bucky Baum) credited as the executive producer, though Mark Harp produced and mixed the music with engineer Steve Palmieri. The EP came with a picture sleeve insert, designed by Bill Dawson with original artwork by Andrew Goldys, caligraphy by Paul Yu Rek, and photographs of the musicians by Mark King.

Cabal EP insert, sleeve design by Bill Dawson

At the very top it said, "This record is dedicated to the memory of Roger Anderson." Roger Anderson, owner of Baltimore's legendary rock club The Marble Bar, had just passed away from a heart attack in April 1984. At the time, the Marble Bar was the reigning home of alternative rock music, a place that - in the words of City Paper music critic Michael Yockel - provided "spiky-haired punks/punkettes and skinny-tied new wavers a sanctuary to play/dance/hang out." Early on, Roger Anderson committed to providing an outlet for groups like Null Set/Cabal as opposed to the cover bands and mainstream rock ensembles appearing in clubs around the Beltway circuit.

The insert listed the band as Bill Dawson (vocals, backing vocals), Rich Dickson (drums, percussion), and Mark Harp (guitars, basses, Casio, Oberheim, percussion, backing vocals, and drum programming). (I admit that I had to look up "Oberheim" - it's a synthesizer, named after its inventor Tom Oberheim; Oberheim Electronics also manufactured the DMX drum machine, which was a staple of early hip-hop records.)

Mark Harp (photo by Mark King)

Bill Dawson (photo by Mark King)

Rich Dickson (photo by Mark King)

Thanks were given to "a cast of thousands," including Bill's girlfriend Michelle, Mark's sweetie Amy, LesLee (Anderson, who continued to operate the Marble Bar following her husband Roger Anderson's death in 1984), Pam (City Paper writer Pamela Purdy), Lizard (Ed Rosen), Louie (Louis Frisino, original Null Set drummer) and, of course, "Bob" (Church of the Subgenius avatar J.R. "Bob" Dobbs).

Cabal says "Thanks!"

Watch Bill Dawson sing "Null Theme" and "Fall Flat" with the Mark Harp All-Stars at the May 26, 2013 SoWeBohemian Festival in Baltimore:

Ceil Strakna and Bill Dawson with the Mark Harp All-Stars, SoWeBohemian Festival (May 26, 2013)

One of the best and most detailed reviews of the Cabal record can be found at "Fantod Under Glass" which, for convenience, I've inserted below:

*************** CABAL/NULL SET REVIEW ***************

Cabal 6-song EP (Awf-Trak, 1984)
By some accounts Baltimore's first and greatest postpunk band, Null Set was the brainchild of singer Bill Dawson (previously seen here with Black Pete) and guitarist Mark Harp. Null Set's highest-profile gig was opening for the Ramones at Johns Hopkins University's Shriver Hall, and they were semi-regulars at the Marble Bar and DC's 9:30 Club in the early 80s. Their Bauhaus fandom shows pretty clearly in their early recordings; "An Evening In Town" is their "Bela Lugosi's Dead". Null Set came to an abrupt end when an identically-named band from another city put out a record; Baltimore's Null Set ended up changing their name to Cabal. In 1984 they released their only record, a self-titled 6-song EP on Buck Awf's ad-hoc Awf-Trak label; on it they started to come out from under the Bauhaus influence and expand their sound, even approaching synth-pop on "New Horizon." Commercial success did not ensue, however, and the band drifted apart. Mark Harp went on to record hundreds of hours of music in a myriad of different projects; he eventually divided them into 24 hour-long thematic sections and posted them on his website (and at the Internet Archive) as 24 Hours with Mark Harp. Mark died in December 2004, but his website is still there. What I am presenting here is the 12:00 AM hour of 24 Hours, containing all the Null Set and Cabal recordings; I have renamed the files and added ID3 tags for better playback display, and put them into a single zip file for easy downloading. The tracks are:
  1. Cabal - Null Theme (Tracks 1-6 are from the Cabal EP)
  2. Cabal - In Touch
  3. Cabal - Future In Pain
  4. Cabal - Blissful Trust
  5. Cabal - Fall Flat
  6. Cabal - New Horizon
  7. Cabal - Open Up (Cassette only track from the Cabal EP release)
  8. Cabal - Assistance (Live at The Marble Bar Baltimore 1983)
  9. Cabal - Brash Finale (Also live at The Marble Bar 1983)
  10. Cabal - Check This Out (Recorded live in Bill's basement 1984)
  11. Cabal - No Way Out (Recorded live in Bill's basement 1984)
  12. Null Set - Null Theme (Tracks 12-14 from Null Set's demo recorded 1981 at Eastern Studios in Glen Burnie, MD, produced by Sam Prager)
  13. Null Set – Perception
  14. Null Set - Go!
  15. Null Set - An Evening In Town (synth thanks to Jack Heinicke)
CABAL - Bill Dawson - Vocals, Mark Harp - Guitars and stuff, Rich Dickson - Drums, Dave Zidek - Bass, Dick Hertz - Bass, Danny Brown - Keys, Steve Palmieri - Synth and sound, Les Hendrix - Bass, Mark King - Guitar & keys
NULL SET - Bill Dawson - Vocals, Mark Harp - Guitars & Stuff, John Chriest - Bass, Louis Frisino - Drums
Get the zip file here or here. (New links)


By the way, I was lucky enough to be at that near-capacity Johns Hopkins University Shriver Hall show (March 1, 1982) mentioned above where Null Set opened for The Ramones (Mark wouldn't allow Amy to go, for some reason - a missed opportunity she's always regretted), and it wasn't just their highest-profile performance, it was perhaps their best.

I recall that it was very dramatic, opening in pitch blackness with the "Null Theme." The four-piece band came onstage one at a time, timed to match their musical contribution to the song. Mark came on first playing the guitar riff and illuminated only by his lit cigarette glowing in the darkness; next, Louis Frisino took a seat behind his drum kit as the percussion kicked in; he was followed by John Chriest laying down the bass; finally, the lights came up as Bill Dawson stepped to the microphone to sing "We are null, there is nothing/Nothing clapping, no one dancing/We are the preset, mental incest/Paint it black, you know where we're a-a-a-at...Null Set, Null Set, always gray/Null Set, Null Set, nowhere today, Null Set, Null Set, floating bodies/Null Set Null Set, a new something now!"

It was electrifying and all the locals gathered there that night were convinced that this might be the one rock band to break out of Baltimore and make it nationally. (Ha! How were we to know it would be The Ravyns, albeit briefly, with their '82 hit "Raised On the Radio," as featured in the Fast Times At Ridgemont High soundtrack? Foo!) Well, maybe everybody except Johns Hopkins University News-letter writers Hunt Salisbury and (future City Paper scribe) Granville Greene. In their "Gabba Gabba Ramones" review (March 5, 1982, Volume 86, Number 19), they described Null Set as follows:

 "Embodying some kind of nihilistic, conceptually-obnoxious philosophy (the band wore only black), Null Set, its lead singer resembling both Gary Numan and Herman Munster, played a loud and strident set concerned with (what else?) alienation and the decline of society...Null Set opened up with a few hot trendies and blasted our poor little ears. Their first couple of songs were pretty good, but they went steadily downhill from there, ending their last song with the words 'it's just not funny anymore,' defining themselves in a nutshell."
Null Set blurb from JHU News-letter review

"Gaba Gabba Ramones" full review, page 1

"Gabba Gabba Ramones" full review, page 2

Ouch! I totally disagree, but then the reviewers seemed to have a New Wave chip on their shoulders, given headlines like "Drugged Punks Pogo Between Seats" and this description of Null Set's fans:

"On the left aisle were bopping boppers, Gabba-Gabba Heying to their hearts content, while on the right, trendy Null Set fans continued to strut their stuff. When the Ramones came on, this group of people bashed and crashed in the aisle, while simultaneously being given probable permanent ear damage by the ridiculously loud speakers. The game was to push and be pushed, slam and be slammed. How punk. I got hit in the balls twice. What fun."

Null Set fans at Shriver Hall (photo by Michael Fitzgerald)

Admittedly, there was a rather dour, downbeat feel to most Null Set/Cabal songs, and I'm sure they were one of the bands indirectly referenced in Food For Worms' clever send-up of Goth/Industrial music, "Gloom Club" (available on 2001's The Ultimate Diet).

By the way, "Null Theme" is structured musically like a pop palindrome. The song begins and ends the same way: opening with solo guitar, guitar + drums, guitar + drums + bass, guitar + drums + bass + voice, and then subtracting each element  one at a time (first voice, then drums, then bass) until returning to the solo guitar riff that started it all.

In accordance with musical catch-and-release principles, Amy has now vowed to return any subsequent Cabal records she finds to their respective record bins so that they may be discovered by future generations of discerning post-punk rock cognoscenti.

Finally, reflecting on that pic of Amy outside Frederick's Rock & Roll Graveyard record store, I realized that the store's sidewalk sign depicted the cover of Mountain's Climbing! LP, the album whose lead track was Leslie West's cowbell-propelled hit "Mississippi Queen."

Mountain - "Climbing!" (Windfall Records, 1970)

How curious that after Cabal broke up, Bill Dawson teamed up with George Hagegeorge to form Black Pete and play guitar-driven industrial music in the vein of Ministry and Skinny Puppy - and release a 12-inch single cover of "Mississippi Queen" (Calvert Street Records, 1989)!

Black Pete - "Mississippi Queen" b/w "Vicious" & "Ablaze" (Calvert Street Records, 1989)

According to Hagegeorge's wife Cherly Fair, the lyrics were modified to make the song's character a vampire. Cheryl adds that Black Pete was strictly a studio project. The 12-inch received some airplay and appeared on several compilations. Though they were interviewed on the radio and were popular with club DJs, they never played live or made a music video (though you can listen to "Mississippi Queen" and the B-sides "Vicious" and "Ablaze" on her YouTube channel).

And as blogger Burl Veneer (former WJHU DJ Bill Barnett, who now broadcasts at WVUD 93.1 FM) points out, Ministry later followed Black Pete's lead, covering "Mississippi Queen" on their 2008 collection of classic rock covers, Cover Up!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

An Apple a Day (Various) ***

An Apple a Day: More Pop-Psych Sounds from the Apple Era 1967-1969 (RPM Records, 2008)

My wife Amy spotted this compilation in the used CD racks of Record Exchange in Frederick for a mere $5 (she has a real gift for thrift!).

Outside the Record Exchange in Frederick, MD

This was RPM Records' second release of material (demos, singles, and unreleased songs) by artists signed by "Apple Publishing" (not necessarily by Apple Records). Not every artist represented in the series attracted the Beatles' interest, though a select few - The Iveys (later to become Badfinger and have Paul McCartney write their first hit "Come and Get It"), Focal Point (fellow Liverpudlians Paul Tennant and David Rhodes were discovered in Hyde Park by McCartney and became the first group signed to Apple Records), and Grapefruit (the second band signed to Apple, with John Lennon producing their debut) - could claim legit Fab connections. The first was 94 Baker Street: The Pop-Psych Sounds of the Apple Era 1967-1968 (2003), named after Apple's original street address; it's now out-of-print and goes for outrageous sums ($50+ !) on Amazon. RPM's "Pop-Psych Sounds from the Apple Era" series continued with 2008's Treacle Toffee World and 2010's Lovers from the Sky. And just this year, RPM released Grapefruit's Yesterday's Sunshine: The Complete 1967-1968 London Sessions.

94 Baker Street: The Pop-Psych Sounds of the Apple Era 1967-1969

Just to clear things up right away, "Pop-Psych Sounds" is pure marketing: the songs here are purely "pop" with only the occasional lyrics or song title (e.g., Gallagher & Lyle's "Technicolour Dream," The U (Don't) Know U's "Strange People," Mortimer's "People Who Are Different" - produced by then Apple A&R man Peter Asher, Goldrush's "Somebody's Turning On the People") even remotely suggesting "psych"-edelic music, though the wild, distorted guitar solo in The Cups' "Good As Gold" probably comes closest. And Denis Couldry's wonderfully brassy "James in the Basement" (about a notorious local drug dealer) also suggests chemically influenced pop - albeit using horns! Couldry's basement dwelling ditty (the B-side of his "I Am Nearly There" single) sounds like the Bonzo Dog Band if they had been less artschool weird and more mainstream pop. The backing band on this track is actually Second Hand (Ken Elliott, Kieran O'Connor, Bob Gibbons, Grant Ramsey), considered one of the first (and most underrated) progressive rock bands of this era. (They even played a Mellotron!) Second Hand's "Fairytale" also appears on this compilation.

Listen to "James in the Basement."

But be that as it may, the main selling point here (for two admitted Beatles fanatics) was curiosity about the Apple-related artists represented, with four demo recordings by the pre-Badfinger Iveys the deal-maker. Of the four, the standout track is clearly Pete Ham's "Black and White Rainbow," a swinging affair that showcases the melodic craft and vocal harmonies that would later make Badfinger a critical success and elicit all those Beatles comparisons.

Listen to The Iveys play "Black and White Rainbow."

Ironically, Ham's "Girl in a Mini Skirt" is an out-of-tune mess of a song, with embarrassing lyrics and a musical  structure that can't make up its mind what it wants to be - pop, Northern Soul, Mod, what have you. There's a reason why this one remained a demo. It's the kind of dumb song I might have written in my punk days. (Yes, that bad!).

The Iveys - "Maybe Tomorrow" (Apple, 1969)

But Tom Evans's "Tomorrow Today" is a lovely ballad that features pretty boy Tom's lilting vocals and anticipates his future Iveys/Badfinger power ballad "Maybe Tomorrow," which appeared on both the Iveys's Maybe Tomorrow and Badfinger's Magic Christian Music. (It was allegedly Tommy's voice and tunes that initially turned the Beatles' heads and led to Apple signing the Swansea quartet.)

Iveys bass player Ron Griffiths - who would be replaced by Liverpool guitarist Joey Molland, with Evans taking over bass duties, when the band became Badfinger - is represented here by "Mr Strangeways," which is quite the humorous Mod-Art curio. Its R&B beat and goofball lyrics make it like it would not be out of place on an early Who album, like The Who Sell Out.

A newly discovered Iveys track is always a reason to purchase a record, and four in one package is a no-brainer. The only other thing I ever had by them other than their debut long-player was their "Maybe Tomorrow" single, which had the amusing B-side "And Her Daddy's a Millionaire." The later is now available (with three additional bonus tracks) on the 1992 CD reissue of the Maybe Tomorrow album.

Iveys "Maybe Tomorrow" b/w "And Her Daddy's a Millionaire" (Apple, 1969)

OK, as for the rest of the songs...

The album kicks off with the perfect Apple Records house song, The U (Don't) Know U's "An Apple a Day," an engaging slice of chamber pop that, alas, did not get the band signed to Apple Records!

Jigsaw's "Great Idea" (B-side of their "Mr Job" single) is also a tasty pop confection, its plonking piano riffs sounding like a variation of "Penny Lane."

Listen to Jigsaw's "Great Idea."

Gallagher & Lyle follow with the first of three songs on the compilation, the pretty folk ballad "Ivy Unreheased." "Technicolour Dream" and "In Your Wonderful Way" are also pleasant, with Crosby, Stills & Nash soft-rock harmonies, though "Wonderful Way" is a little on the wimp-rock side. At their best, L&G conjure the soulful ballad-rock of The Walker Brothers. The duo of Graham Lyle and Benny Gallagher also wrote songs for Mary "Those Were the Days" Hopkins. Another band on this compilation, The Cups, was actually Lyle and Gallagher recording with John's Children's bassist John Hewlett, who was an Apple Publishing employee.

Listen to The Cups play their 1969 single "Good As Gold".

Portsmouth pop band Lace are represented here by the would-be epic downer "Soldier," which stands out only because its singer sounds like a gloomy Davy Jones (the Monkees tambourine-shaker, not the future David Bowie Jones!).

The Goldrush song "Somebody's Turning On the People" is one of two songs on this compilation written by George Alexander, leader and vocalist of Grapefruit and one of Apple Publishing's most prolific songwriters with over 50 compositions (many of which his own band hadn't even heard of!). "Goldrush" were a studio project of American producer Terry Melcher, and the backing musicians may well be Grapefruit. Grapefruit actually recorded a version of "Somebody's Turning On the People," but it was never released (until RPM's 2016 Grapefruit release Yesterday's Sunshine: The Complete 1967-1968 London Sessions.) According to Grapefruit's Geoff Swettenham, lead vocals may be by American actor Christopher Jones and the song may even have turned up on the soundtrack of the 1968 movie Wild in the Streets. Interesting, that.

"Wild in the Streets" (1968)

The other Alexander tune is "Charlotte Rose," credited here to Majority One. (For more about this group, check out RPM's Rainbow Rocking Chair: The Definitive Majority One Collection, RPM 307).

Turquoise: Rhythm & Greenish-Blues

I had never heard of Turquoise, but I'm glad I've finally discovered them. "Sister Saxophone" (curiously lacking a saxophone!) is a solid pop romp recorded in the summer of 1968 but never released until its appearance on An Apple a Day, while "Woodstock" may be the compilation's stand-out track. While it dates from the Apple Publishing days, the single actually came out on the Decca label in 1968. At once sounding like a Ray Davies-penned Kinks classic  from their late "Golden Era (circa The Village Green Preservation Society, I'd say), it features an off-note-perfect vocal parody of Bob Dylan over a rock-steady melody. Sadly, the group released only two singles and disbanded after 1969, though a compilation oftheir recordings was put out by Rev-ola Records.

Listen to Turquoise play "Woodstock."

Jeff Peters and Ewan Stephens were the main songwriting team behind Turquoise, who had three songs picked up by Apple Publishing's Python Music subsidiary.

The album closes out with yet another Kinks-y tune (circa Muswell Hillbillies), Peter Cooper's "Evil Loving Woman." Not bad, not bad at all.

"Those Were the Days by Stefan Granados

To explore more of the core of Apple Publishing and these bands and recordings, see Stefan Granados's "Those Were the Days: The Unauthorized History of the Beatles Apple Organization" (Cherry Red Publishing, www.cherryred.co.uk).

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Beatoes Anthology: Too Ugly for MTV (*****)

The Beatoes Anthology: "Trying is the first step towards failure"

As a wedding gift to Amy Linthicum and yours truly (our "It's About Time!" wedding, which took place following a courtship lasting only slightly longer than Agamemnon's 10-year seige of Troy), our friend Chris Dennstaedt (aka "Chris Beatoe," "The Casio Kid," and "Poverty" of Poverty & Spit fame) made us a two-disc custom CD set: The Beatoes Anthology 1: Too Ugly for MTV and The Beatoes Anthology 2. Like our Simpsonized Wedding Portrait (commissioned by Scott "Unpainted" Huffines and expertly rendered by Macedonian artist Jovan Kosar)...

The "It's About Time!" Newlyweds: Tom Warner and Amy Linthicum

...it is a treasured gift that keeps giving - especially in the Laughs Department. In fact, I haven't laughed this hard since the last Three Stooges Marathon on the IFC Channel.

The Beatoes were, of course, the band Chris was in with Amy's ex-husband Mark Linthicum (aka "Mark Harp," "Harpo," "Corky Niedermayer," "Mighty Joe Judgment," and "The King of Peru"), who passed away, to the regret of music and humor lovers everywhere, December 24, 2004.

Mark Harp & Chris Dennsdaedt

Later, others would fill the Beatoes' ranks but the early Beatoes were Mark and Chris - a Lennon and McCartney songwriting partnership in which neither was the "cute one" and both possessed Lennon's cynical wit and clever lyrical wordplay (especially prolific wordsmith Chris, as showcased on songs like "I'm Not a Beatnik," "New Wave Boutique," and "Twister on My Heart"). The duo were also known collectively as The Casio Cats or Casio Cowboys, and individually as The Casio Kid and Mighty Joe Judgment.

Though five or six tunes on Beatoes Anthology 1 feature the more traditional rock lineup of guitar-bass-drums (especially on the guitar-driven rockers "I'm Too Ugly for MTV," "Mad Dog 20/20," and "At the Beach") most of this first disc features Mark and Chris's enthusiastic embrace of the revolutionary Casiotone keyboard, which debuted in the early 1980s and whose low cost and rhythm generator function made it a favorite instrument for DIY artists and Garage Rockers everywhere. (Today, even alt-indy stars like Dan Deacon saddle up as Casio Cowboys!)

Casiotone MT-30/40

And why not? Remember, these songs date from the early-to-mid 1980s, when the guitar took a backseat to New Wave's celebration of synthesizers, keyboards, and (unfortunately) even goofy-looking "keytars."

When asked what specific model the Cowboys played, Chris recalled, "MT 30 or 40, VL Tone on 'Walk Don't Run.'...and I think Mark blew up an MT 20 putting the AC adapter in upside-down."

The Beatoes Anthology 1: "Produced by Money. Recorded everywhere."

The later Beatoes represented on Anthology 2 would include guitarist Charlie Chadwick, drummer Chris "Batworth" Ciatti (both pictured below with Chris), and what Chris Dennstaedt called "an endless number of bassists du jour."

Beatoes 2.0: Chris Dennstaedt, Batworth, and Charlie Chadwick

More on those tunes and players in an upcoming review of Beatoes Anthology 2! But for now, lace up your shoes and get ready to skate on the thin ice that is Beatoes Anthology 1. "Remember, Tuesday is ladies night..."

1. "I'm Too Ugly for MTV" (Dennstaedt-Harp)

The Beatoes: "I'm Too Ugly for MTV" b/w "Unemployed Total Videoid Blues" (UK Spud, 1984)

The opening track, "I'm Too Ugly for MTV," was released as a single on UK Spud Records in 1984. (UK Spud is the same label that released three platters by Thee Katatonix.) In a perfect world, this would have been the breakthrough song in The Beatoes' career, a funny and topical (back in the early '80s when MTV actually mattered in terms of music) novelty tune that, in the hands of someone like Weird Al Yankovic, would have high-jumped over the Dr. Demento playlist to become a mainstream crossover hit. But it didn't. Still, it's one of the best double-A-side singles to ever come straight outta Bawmer.

As the CD liner notes state, "Others were involved" in these diverse recordings and their ranks on this track included backing vocals by Ceil Strakna (Boy Meets Girl, Big As a House) and Bucky Baum (here billed as "Buck Auf").

Ceil Strakna

Bucky Baum (aka "Buck Auf")
If you listen closely at the end, you can hear the boys give a shout-out to their favorite local DJ: "Hi Rod!!!" (A reference to WCVT DJ Rod Misey.)

2. "Unemployed Total Videoid Blues" (Dennstaedt-Harp)

B-side the Point: "Unemployed Total Videoid Blues"(UK Spud, 1984)

I can make pancakes with only flour and beer
I only wish that I could make this a career
I've got the unemployed, total videoid blues

Even better than the A-side "I'm Too Ugly for MTV," "Unemployed Total Video Blues" is probably the best of all the Harp-Dennstaedt ditties, and a personal fave. It's also one of the best songs ever written about "the Idiot Box," a medium clearly dear to Mark and Chris's hearts; they reference it in numerous songs ("Soap Opera Woman," "Beer Drinkin' Woman," et al).

"I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as TV."

"UTVB" perfectly meshes the Beatoes' signature sound (Casios, ice rink organ) with the their lyrical profound, as they lament many an unemployed musician's dilemma - Cathode Ray Slackdom:

Unemployment is such a bore
I've seen this "Leave It to Beaver" before
I lost my job, I got too much slack
I wish they'd bring "Bowling for Dollars" back
I got the unemployed total videoid blues

I got the game shows, I can take my pick
I got the Noon News, I got Julia Child
I got commercials driving my glands wild
I got the unemployed total videoid blues
Everybody skate!

3. "Walk, Don't Run" (Johnny Smith)

Jazz guitarist Johnny Smith's 1954 instrumental became a big hit when The Ventures released their version in 1960 (peaking at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #3 on the Cash Box magazine charts in 1960), and here it's given a complete Casio VL Tone makeover.

Love that 8-bit video game riff that opens the song (makes me flash back to playing Pong in video arcades). This could have been released as a single on Daniel Miller's Mute Records label or shown up as a compatible cover on any Silicon Teens album.

4. "I'm Not a Beatnik"

Chris Beatoe free-associates subversive verse over coffeehouse-cool beats augmented by a crazy grating noise that sounds like Sun Ra operating a dental drill. Funny, spot-on spoofing!

I'm not a Beatnik, take a look at me
I'm not a Beatnik, like do you see a goatee?
I'm not a Beatnik, like this could be worse
I'm not a Beatnik, hey it could be free verse - STOP!
Man, dog, bird, tree...
Windows to look on Death
Howl, KY Jelly...that's Hooooowl!

5. "Religio Rock"

The Cowboys add clever evangelist-steeped lyrics to what is basically a reworking of Elton John's "Crocodile Rock."

6. "Postcard From Jesus" (Performed live on WJHU 88.1 FM)

"Just a postcard from you Jesus, if you please, and I might believe!"

In the early 1980s, Mark Harp had a radio show on WJHU (88.1 FM - which is now WYPR), the 10-watt student- and community volunteer-run radio station on the Johns Hopkins University campus. But being the creative music fanatic that he was, he was not content to just play records from the WJHU record library or his own collection - he'd also broadcast live performances of his own music in the radio studio, like this Gospel Radio spoof with his Casio Cowboys cohort Chris Dennstaedt. Chris is the televangelist minister and Mark is his musical director, "Butch."
Father: "Friends, many people will tell you there is an answer. Yes, there is an answer, dear friends, and it's 'I don't know'!"Father: "What is evil?"Butch: "I don't know!"Father: "What is sin?"Butch: "I don't Know!"Father: "What is fornication?"Butch: "I don't know!"Father: "What's Carrie Snodgress been up to lately?"
Butch: "I don't know!" 

What's Carrie Snodgress been up to lately?

At the end of the "sermon," Chris asks listeners to "Send money, send money! Send a dollar, send a buck, it's for [Subgenius avatar J.R.] Bob, what's the heck?"

7. "Reaganomics" (Performed live on WJHU 88.1 FM)

Chris: Reaganomics been good to me
I own a blue chip company
Wreck the sea and pollute the air
And good ol' by James White
He don't care!

Mark: "Reagonomics been real good to me
I took up racquetball and I learned how to ski
My friends are only Dow Jones' best
'Course I got an alligator on my chest!"

All together: "Ronnie! Ronnie! Ronnie! Reagan!"

Ronnie Raygun

This is another Casio Cowboys song performed live on air during Mark's reign as a WJHU DJ back in the early '80s which, after all, was The Reagan Era. Against a simple ice rink melody, Mark and Chris crack corny jokes, do impressions of the President (Mark) and Yuppies who enjoy the Good Life of racquetball, skiing, blue chip stocks, and wearing Lacoste alligators emblazoned on their chests.

In the middle of their goofing, you can hear a phone ring (Chris: "Phone's ringing, better answer it, might be the Press Corpse!") and Mark answers it. It was a radio listener (yes, 10-watt WJHU had actual listeners!) and you can hear Mark say "WJHU, yeah sure, howdy! We're live on the air." Moments later he does a station ID and adds "If you hear someone knock on the door, open it." When Chris asks him who was on the phone, Mark ad-libs, "Oh, that was Nancy, she was wondering where I was." Right after that Chris changes the chorus from "Reagan" to "Rod Misey." "That's an 'in' joke for all you 'out' people," Chris adds. Mark and Chris name-checked Rod Misey whenever possible (e.g., "Hi, Rod!!!").

At one point, Chris shouts into the microphone and Mark comments, "Thanks for that over-modulation, Chris. You don't have to shout into the microphone!" "I know," Chris retorts, "I took Radio 101!"

8. "Duck and Cover"

"You won't SEE the flash - you'll BE the flash!"

"Duck and cover, silly mother
Even Fallout people will smother
You won't SEE the flash, you'll BE the flash!" 

The Casio Kid muses about atomic annihilation over a stop-start beat until the middle eight when the song morphs into Question Mark and the Mysterians' "98 Tears" and the Kid raps "Too many megatons for just one country to drop on you..."

9. "Government Hates You"

This one sounds like another live broadcast, as Chris rails against people spending money on $30 shirts when he can only get an extra $4 from his Welfare check because, well, the Government hates him. And, of course, you!

10. "Orthodontic Appliance" (Performed live on WMUC, 88.1 FM)

"And now back by popular request, yes, by popular request...Casio Cowboys." - WMUC DJ

The Casio Cowboys appeared on University of Maryland, College Park's free-form radio station, WMUC, at a time when "Straight Edge" was at its peak. Here the boys satirize the "Hardcore" sound with the unlikeliest of instruments- the casio! - and Mark's mouthful-of -fury lyrics.

Chris: "Hi, thanks a lot. We met this girl on campus who was in a car wreck and we liked her a lot, so we wrote this song about her. She was wearing this thing in her mouth, so like we wrote a song about it."

Mark: "We just wrote the song not even 10 minutes ago, and we've been pretty influenced by this, uh, hardcore music we've been hearing on WMUC tonight, today, this afternoon, this morning. And this is our first hardcore song, we hope you sure like it a whole lot."

Sucks her thumb in defiance
Now she's got an orthodontic appliance
She was just a freak of science
Now she's got an orthodontic appliance
Orthodontic appliance! Feedback!

This remains one of my wife's favorite punk songs. Or is it Heavy Metal?

Listen to the Casio Cowboys play "Orthodontic Appliance."

It's interesting to note the similarities the student- and community volunteer-run radio stations of Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland, College Park. JHU's WJHU and UM's UMUC switched over from AM to FM at around the same time, both broadcast at 10-watts power, and both shared the same call numbers - 88.1 FM! After five years of "FM or Bust" license bidding and two FCC rejections, WMUC was finally granted an FM license in 1979. They began broadcasting September 10, 1979 and adopted their "free-form" format in 1982 so DJs could promote what Wikipedia called "underground artists and music that is under-represented by commercial radio." The Casio Cowboys and "Orthodontic Appliance" certainly fit the bill!

11. "American Gothic" (Performed live on WMUC, 88.1 FM)

"How about the burger place, paw?" "Which burger place, maw?"

Amy found an "American Gothic"-themed greeting card! Who knew the reach of this Casio Cowboys classic?

Mark and Chris take on the roles of Maw and Paw, respectively, as they try to decide where to eat in an unspecified world of Bored Suburban Sprawl. Paw rules out the "chicken place" because the chicken is too greasy and, besides, "You can't get there from here." Then they go back and forth debating whether to go to the "new burger place" or the "old burger place." Maw finally pulls out a coupon for 10% off something at McLean Stevenson's House of Chow Mein and Chips (how in the world did Mark ever come up with that? The mind boggles!). The skit concludes with Paw changing the subject to what's on TV. In my mind's eye, I picture R. Crumb's famous "What's on TV?" cartoon cry of despair, as pictured below:

What's good on TV? Why bother?

Chris Dennsatedt:

"The maw and paw thing made us laugh like crazy because we had to share one mic on a goose neck mounted to a table at WMUC. Each time one of us had to speak we had to grab the damned thing and pull it toward us and it made this insane creaking sound. We were choking back the laughter (badly)... 
The original version had Adolf [Kowalski, the "Spit" to Chris' "Poverty" in Poverty & Spit] as maw and some guy in a country rock band that I did sound for (very bad grammar) as paw (?!). I just wrote it, hit record, and played banjo. We had this 'outdoor nature' tape playing in the background and whenever there was a long pause, Adolf ad-libbed 'moo...moo'"

Listen to the Casio Cowboys perform"American Gothic."

12. "Stranded in Mondawmin" (performed live on "The Rod Misey Show," WCVT, 89.7 FM, September 1983)

Watch the Casio Cowboys play "Stranded In Mondawmin."

This epic, politically incorrect, two-part medley is a musical travelogue to two Baltimore City retail shopping hubs, each as different as night and day - or, more accurately, Black and White. To wit: Mondawmin Mall and that tourist's "pride of place," Harborplace.

Rod Misey: "Amazing, indeed...an actual live, in studio performance by the Casio Cowboys!""

It was performed live on Rod Misey's local music radio show on WCVT (Towson University, 89.7  FM). Mark - with tribal chants straight out of the zombie-infested jungles heard in the Slickee Boys' single "The Brain That Refused To Die," Mark evokes an urban jungle at Mondawmin Mall:

I was stranded at Mondawmin 'cuz I missed my bus
Listening to some brother teach his son how to cuss
Three businesses closed while I was standing there
Then I noticed an aroma, smelled like burning hair
I turned around, you know, just to see
Then I found out that they was a-frying me!

Meanwhile, back at Harborplace, Chris intones:

Prime Potato [an actual Food Court vendor], let's get some skins
You know that Pac Mac is out
But the Smurfs are in
I paid $4 dollars for a glass of beer
I'm not a tourist, I'm a conventioneer
Oh yeah!

After the song, Mark and Chris chat with WCVT DJ Rod Misey and plug the upcoming 3rd annual "World SubGenius Convention" that was held September 16-18, 1983 at the Fabulous Galaxy Ballroom, upstairs in the Congress Hotel on W. Franklin Street.

Flyer for the "1983 World Subgenius Party" at the Galaxy Ballroom (from Tonescale magazine)

This was the 3rd SubGenius Convention, organized by Sam Fitzsimmons (The Motor Morons) and tENTATIVELY a cONVENIENCE (Michael Tolsen). The 1st SubGenius Convention was in Dallas in 1981 and the 2nd Convention was in Chicago in 1982. But it was the Baltimore SubGenius Convention that gave the Church of the SubGenius its first international notoriety as a "devil cult" after tENT was arrested for the infamous "Poop & Pee Dog Copyright Violation Ceremony." Mark Harp, who was a SubGenius Reverend and a tENT collaborator, made a limited edition recording of the ritual called "t he Inner Scoop of t he Poop & Pee Dog Copyright Violation Ceremony." (See "His Name Is Not Legend" for more on this event.)

13. "New Wave Boutique" (Recorded live at the Marble Bar, early '80s)

"New Wave Boutique, New Wave Boutique
Where Goodwill clothes take on a new mystique
It's a metro retro Salvation Army store
Come on down and be terribly bored"

"New Wave Boutique, New Wave Boutique
Where leather and vinyl and polyester meet
We'll sell you dad's old coat and mom's old purse
At the New Wave Boutique!"

The New Wave Boutique is tres chic. Another song performed live at the Marble Bar, it's basically Chris' snarky lyrics set against an uptempo version of the same Casio riff used in "Reaganomics," interspersed with parodies of Elvis "Pencil-Necked Geek" Costello's "Allison" and Joe Jackson's "Is She Really Going Out With Him?" Plus Mark Harp shaves his beard onstage!

H&H Building on Eutaw and Franklin Street

I wonder if the song was inspired by The Looking Glass, the "New Wave Boutique" that used to be on the 2nd floor of the H&H Building on Eutaw and Franklin Street back in the late '70s. (It was Baltimore's low-brow answer to DC's Commander Salamander.)

Commander Salamader in Washington, D.C.

Chris: "We had a Wednesday night residency thing going on [at the Marble Bar]. And, yeah, he [Mark] really did shave his beard. We also used to have a hot plate on stage and we served baked beans with Ritz crackers and aerosol cheese." No doubt this was an early indication of the budget gourmet recipes Chris would later share with the world as the Hobo Chef.

"Once I got a haircut while we were playing at the 8x10," he adds. "Didn't get it on tape, though...think that was the Charlie [Chadwick] Beatoes."

14. "Chasing the Myth" (Recorded live at the Marble Bar, early '80s)

"Let's hear it for the Casio PT-20!"

Mark debuts his Casio PT-20 (Chris: "Let's hear it for the PT 20!") onstage at the Marble Bar as he states the obvious with lyrics about all the platitudes we hold to be sacred. Blink and you'll myth it!

"Men are stronger/Blacks are longer/And blondes have more fun
Atomic bomb protects me/a shapely ass is sexy/And I'm gonna get me one
Chasing the myth, I do it any which way
Chasing the myth, it still beats the Truth any old day

Beauty is Youth, a New Wave of Truth
And I think that I shall never see
A poem as lovely as TV
And rock 'n' roll is here to stay"

15.  "Mad Dog 20/20"

"Mad Dog 20/20" is a song that gives the "heave-ho" to one of nastiest cheap drunks ever. Along with Thunderbird, Wild Irish Rose, Cisco Strawberry, and Night Train Express, MD (for Mogen David, but called "Mad Dog" for its kick) 20/20 is a "brown bag vino" (technically "fortified grape wine with citrus spirits") that perennially gets ranked among the "Top 5 Bum Wines." You won't see the purge, you'll be the purge!

A real rocker, it's remained a popular live number in the Beatoes set list.

Gonna blow my paycheck, gonna blow my lunch
Gonna have it for breakfast, with my Captain Crunch

Watch the Beatoes perform "Mad Dog  20/20" on The Scott & Gary Show (April 6, 2013).

Watch The Mark Harp All-Stars perform "Mad Dog 20/20" and "I'm Too Ugly for MTV" at the 2013 SoWeBo Festival in Baltimore.

16. "Twister On My Heart"

Left hand Red, right foot Green
She played Twister on my heart
And you know what I mean

Ah, Twister! The Game of Love can be cruel and leave no winners. A knotty problem, with a twist ending.

17. "At the Beach"

The subject matter of Chris's lyrics and the tone of Mark's guitar riff remind me of nothing less than Frank Zappa's "Trouble Comin' Every Day" from the first Mothers of Invention album, Freak Out.

But according to Chris, the song was inspired by a preschooler's picture that he saw on the wall at the Rotund in Roland Park. "She said the only place her parents didn't fight was at the beach," Chris recalled. "Charlie [Chadwick] and I always called it 'Normandy Girl.'"

There's trouble in Iran, there's trouble in Thailand
There's trouble in Japan, there's trouble where I stand
Trouble in Afghanistan, trouble in Ireland
Trouble on the Rio Grande, trouble right here in this band
You can shake your fist, you can break your wrist
You can scream and shout 'til your lungs give out
You can stretch a point and still not reach
We could be fighting or we could be at the beach

18. "Mouse in a Blender"

"You can't get chocolate in here!"

Mouse in a blender

Watch Poverty & Spit perform "Mouse in a Blender" at the SoWeBo Festival on May 26, 2013.

A simple concept - a mouse in a blender - serves as the most complex song on the compilation, with Mark adding layer upon layer of sound effects ("Hooray!") and riffs, including the "Muriel Cigar" commercial "Hey Big Spender" made famous by Edie Adams ("The minute you walked in the room, I could see you were a mouse in a blender, a piece of hamburger/Hey there lunchmeat, there's a little manwich on mousemeat for me").

Edie Adams for Muriel Cigars

19. BONUS TRACK: "Mr Pooper Uses the Bathroom" (Recorded live at WJHU, 88.1 FM)

One of Mark's most famous broadcasts was "Mr. Pooper Uses the Bathroom," wherein Chris Dennstaedt ran down to the WJHU women's bathroom ("Since I'm in the Ladies' Room, do I have to wipe from front to back?" he asks) with a microphone in hand and took a dump - that Mark broadcast live over the radio! (Chris placed some tissues over the toilet seat and washed his hands before and after excreting, so at least he exercised good hygiene, if not good taste!) And, like a good DJ, Mark made sure that he announced the station's ID ("You're listening to WJHU, 88.1 FM")!

Listen to the "Mr. Pooper" broadcast.

Alas, the station didn't appreciate the stunt, and it got Mark kicked off the air! (Perhaps it was inevitable; Mark was good friends with tENTATIVELY a cONVENIENCE and collaborated with tENT on various audio pranks and experiments - but that's a story for another day!)

Related Links:
The King of Peru on the Web (Oddiooverplay.com)
24 Hours with Mark Harp
"2011 Natty Boh Film Festival" w/The Beatoes (Media Maxi-Pad)
"Radio Station Field Trip: WMUC" (Spinning Indie)
Radio Days at WJHU (Accelerated Decrepitude)