Saturday, April 12, 2014

Honoring The Replacements

Many bands and artists have inspired and shaped me. My musical influences are numerous. But there is only one band that influenced my live performances. The Replacements. I bought my first Placemats album at Appletree Records in Elgin, IL right around '82. The 'Sorry, Ma' record. Greatest album title ever? I was a power pop guy at the time. It sunk into the archives. Too hardcore. But I didn't quit them. Hootenanny was interesting. Purchased and absorbed. Closer to what I liked. And then … Let It Be. Hooked. Happy to report that I witnessed at least two Bob shows. Maybe three. I liked the albums, but the live bootlegs I began collecting were a revelation. You can do anything on stage! Good, bad, indifferent. To paraphrase Paul, "We just wanted a reaction. We wanted to be the best band you ever saw or the worst band you ever saw." I was all in. I never wanted to do the same show twice. As a performer, spontaneity was paramount. For better or worse. If I'm not feeling it, why would the audience enjoy it? OK. Let's wrap this up. Placemats released a song called, 'Nowhere Is My Home' on the Boink album, which was a trade between TwinToine and Glass. TwinTone got Jazz Butcher, which is a really great record. The one never before released song on the Glass comp was Nowhere Is My Home. They played that same song live last night at Coachella. I rewrote that song 25 years ago. Never did get a proper recording of it. But here is a demo version. I'm playing the drums. Poorly. Wish I could remember who the background choir was.

Friday, October 18, 2013

OB & The Attractions - Jersey City Sat Oct 26, 2013

My final performance of the year is fast approaching. And this is a dream come true for me. On Saturday, October 26, I will be performing an Elvis Costello tribute at the annual Ghost Of Uncle Joe's Historic Harsimus Cemetery benefit show in Jersey City. We kick off the festivities at 2:22 PM. I have reunited the Super Karaoke Fun Time Band as my Attractions. The first time we have played together in almost 5 years! This will be something. I have attended these events and I have performed in bands for it as well, but this will be my first time fronting and I GUARANTEE an excellent time for everyone. (Postscript: It was an excellent time for everyone.)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Happy 25th Birthday, They Might Be Giants' Lincoln!

Let's recap. In 1987 I was living in DeKalb, Il, home of Northern Illinois University. I was delivering pizzas for a living, making demos on my Tascam 4 track and playing bass in an almost all girl band. Doing the work to rock.

One Sunday night in early '87, I was watching MTV's 120 Minutes. As always. And I saw a video that literally changed my life. But I did not know how much it would change my life at the time.



Long/short, I ran out and bought their album. And loved it. Not long after, I sent them a fan letter, along with a 90 minute cassette of my home demos. And couple of weeks later, I received a greeting card.
It was just a week or two later that they  were playing a show at Cabaret Metro in Chicago. So Killer and I went. That night we met TMBG's sound man, Bill Krauss, (who would mix my album) and the Johns. They told me to send a tape to their label immediately. Which I did. That resulted in my record contract and my move to Jersey.

I first visited NYC in March of '88. I was introduced to some musicians and I recorded some demos. If you own the 'Time For A Change' compilation CD, you have two of the demos. I came back again for a couple of weeks in July of '88 to record some more demos. All done at DubWay Studios, the same recording studio TMBG recorded their first album. And Lincoln. This was also were I met the owner operator, Al Houghton. A novice musician could not ask for a better engineer. If I could go back in time, I would give him the production credit e deserves.

I eventually made the big move to Jersey in late August of '88. Throughout my visits, and eventual move, I was given cassette tapes of demos and early versions of the songs that would make up TMBG's Lincoln album. Those tapes never left my Walkman as I was traveling the subway going to work or to the studio recording my album. And I always wondered if the song, 'Ball & Chain' was somehow related to me. Not the lyrics, but maybe just inspired by the fact that they had met me. I never did ask them.

But anyways, here we are today. The 25th anniversary of Lincoln's release. TMBG's first album will always be my favorite, but Lincoln will always be a special album for me. I feel like I was kinda in the mix while it was being created.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Maxwell's: The First & The Last


It has just been announced that after 33 years of presenting many of the finest musical acts in one of the most intimate settings, Maxwell's in Hoboken, NJ will be closing their doors at the end of July.

I was aware of Maxwell's long before I ever stepped foot in it. I probably got my first bootleg cassette of a Maxwell's performance around '84 and it was likely R.E.M.. And then The Replacements. And The dB's. And Joe Jackson. And so many others. It was very clear that this was a special room. You could hear it on magnetic tape.

I don't remember the first show I saw there. However, I do remember the first time I visited Maxwell's and walked in the back room. It was the summer of 1988. I was visiting NJ prior to my move a few months later. Glenn Morrow of Bar/None Records invited me out to dinner to discuss plans for my moving out and recording my album. He suggested Maxwell's. Hallowed ground! I remember nothing of the dinner, nor the discussion.

What I do remember is, after dinner, Glenn asked me if I would like to see the back room.  To me, this was an invitation to Graceland, Sun Studios, Ardent Records or the Grand Ole Opry. "Really? We can go back there?" No bands were playing that night. The room was empty. A rock and roll sanctuary. I felt the stage floor. I climbed the steps and nervously stood in the same spot so many of my heroes stood in. The stage where so many great shows I had listened to over and over again were created. Not only that, but I was getting the tour from a member of the very first band to EVER play live music in Maxwell's. Before Glenn started The Individuals, he was in a band called 'a' with the original 3 members of The Bongos. They were the first band to walk into Maxwell's and ask Steve Fallon for a gig.

I wish I could remember the first show I saw there. It was likely The Original Sins. The first handful of shows I saw once I moved out were, for the most part, Bar/None related shows. I was broke. I had just moved from DeKalb, IL and I didn't even have a job yet. I was living on my brother's couch in Brooklyn. But I was invited to all the Bar/None shows. On The guest list! Which narrows down that first show to The Sins or TMBG, almost certainly.

As time went on, I quickly moved to Hoboken and eventually wormed my way into a job at Pier Platters in the spring of 1989. (That story is posted here.) Soon after I started at Pier, Maxwell's became my third home. For the next 6 years, I spent my days at Pier,my nights at Maxwell's and I crawled home to sleep in-between. And what a time it was. If you scrape the pole in the back room, you will certainly find plenty of O Ball DNA samples.

I have forgotten far more shows that I saw there than I remember. But there are many that stand out. A "secret" Replacements show in '89, the first Holsapple/Stamey duo show ever, the first solo Bob Mould show ever, numerous shows by Superchunk, Mudhoney, Redd Kross, Jon Spencer, Fluid, Alex Chilton, Dinosaur Jr., Freedy Johnston, Bewitched, Unrest, Poster Children, Finger, Phil Gnarly & The Tough Guys, The Electric Nubians, Pavement, Sleepyhead, Cell, Das Damen blowing out the power EVERY DAMN TIME! SO many more! As well as my own performances there.

And all the people I met! To have Peter Buck or Bob Mould or any one of The dB's come over to say hi and chat, well, I still thrill at the thought. Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.

When Pier went down in '95, it was a body blow. It took a lot of the wind out of my sails. My visits to Maxwell's were far less frequent, though I would manage to get my ass over there a couple of times a year. Once I was even hauled out on a stretcher!

The last time I was there was in March. My old label mate, Brother JT of The Original Sins, was playing. I don't think we had seen each other in 25 years. He still puts on a show. And makes those guitars scream! It was awesome. I got to chat with my old Maxwell's pals John O'Toole, Charlie Charas and Mike Rosenberg. I ran into Lyle Hysen, Brian Musikoff and Todd. If Steve Fallon and Bill Ryan had been there, I think my head might have exploded.

After the show, I hung out with Brother JT for a while and we played catch up, swapping stories in shorthand that only labelmates would understand. It was a great night. And it is why I would like to believe that The Original Sins were the first band I saw at Maxwell's. I dunno. Maybe I'll change my mind and slip into the back room one more time, But I think I prefer to leave my last visit right here. Not knowing it was my last visit, closing the circle the way it started and spending just another night back home.

Thank you, Steve. Thank you, Todd. Clubs come and go. But to be a part of something so magnificent that has left so many memories with so many people? That's a legend. And legends never die.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Death Of New Wave Medley - DeKalb 3-22-90

I have posted the medley before, but I believe this is the first time I have posted the entire show.

The March 1990 tour. Grula on bass, Butler on drums. Stemcell on recording equipment and all necessary off stage expertise.

I believe this was the penultimate show of the tour. Hundreds of hours locked in a tin can will make any sane person not sane. Many discussions in our sardine can revolved around the state of the music industry. March of 1990. Pre Nirvana, post 80s. Many discussions about the end of New Wave.

For all the talk, we did this one time only. The Death Of New Wave Medley. Returning to my home town, I wanted to do something special. We got the encore stomping. Clearly, this was the night that all the talking had to put up.

The medley did not have a set list. I can tell you that I don't think we had ever played an of these songs on stage or in rehearsal. Nor did we have a set list for the medley. What you hear is being created in real time. I can tell you that this version of The Chains was tight, professional and as fine a rhythm section as anyone could hope for.

In a different world, where awesome bands that pack venues are paid for what they're worth and record labels promote their bands, we might still be on the road. I love this band. Butler and Grula are as fine a rhythm section as any front man could hope for.

(photo courtesy Greg Dunlap/THIS Magazine)

MP3 zip

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Theme from 'That Darn Pope'

To commemorate the recent popeification, I offer a never before told tale.

In the late 90s, a couple of old friends of mine had moved to Hollywood, in the hopes of breaking into the television show stuff and happening and gimme a bouncy 'C'.

They wrote a pilot episode for a hilarious sitcom. It was a Buddy Hackett vehicle. Buddy would star as the first Jewish Pope. The pilot script was awesome. Seemed like a no-brainer to me. My pals asked me to write a spec theme song. I could not have been more thrilled! Buddy Hackett? TV theme song? I was gonna be rich!

But, unfortunately, Buddy got a firm offer for a part in the Fox show Action!, and That Darn Pope never happened.

But, in honor of the new pope search, I offer you my never before released theme song to That Darn Pope.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Digging Through The Crates #1 - My First Record

My folks have often told the story that when I was an infant, my first favorite TV show was Batman. They tell me that whenever I heard the theme song, I would dance around in my crate with total joy and abandon. While I have no memory of this, I have every reason to believe it is true. As well as photographic evidence.
My Pops had a reel-to-reel tape recorder in the 60s. (While I wouldn't call him an audiophile, he has always been an early adopter of all home audio/video capture equipment. Which he passed down to me in his DNA. But more on that in future installments.) He was so entertained by my unbridled joy that he went out and bought the Batman soundtrack LP and made a 30 minute reel-to-reel recording of nothing but the theme song. And I'm sure I was happy to play the dancing monkey.

Decades later, long after I stopped reading comic books, I still have a primal fondness for The Dark Knight. The only films I ever get excited about anymore are new Batman and James Bond films. (007 also being another discussion for another time.)

But while Digging Through The Crates today, I found the Batman album. The actual Batman album that my Pops bought to make that endless loop. I stole it from his collection years ago. And I will travel with it wherever the road may take me.