Northwest Music History: Seattle

EVERYTHING’S GONE GREEN
Tom Dyer & Green Monkey Records

It’s September 15, 2019.  I’m on the phone with Tom Dyer from his home in Olympia Washington.  Tom was born in Des Moines Iowa, although his family moved to Olympia, Washington when he was five years old. Tom relocated back to Olympia in 2016 after decades of living elsewhere…mostly Seattle.  It seems fitting that he would have moved back to Olympia…he’s spent so many of his years dedicated to music that Olympia must seem a very comfortable place for him. It’s certainly a completely different town than the one he grew up in. The low-key but world-renowned Oly scene has been the birthplace of some of the nation’s best indie labels, among them K, and Kill Rock Stars.  Nowadays Tom Dyer’s label, Green Monkey Records, stands alongside them.

Olympia has had an over-sized influence on pop music from the late 1950s trio The Fleetwoods, through the riot grrrl movement that unleashed  Bikini Kill, Bratmobile and Sleater-Kinney to today’s Hounds or David Petty. For decades The Evergreen State College (TESC) has churned out rafts of musicians, artists, authors, and educators that have shaped pop and alternative culture.  A smattering of those include illustrator Charles Burns, musician/producer Steve Fisk, John Foster author and founder of OP magazine, author/professor Mark H. Smith, illustrator and author Lynda Barry, DJ and radio host Steve Rabow, K Records founder Calvin Johnson, Benjamin Hammond Haggerty (a.k.a. Macklemore), actor Michael Richards(Cosmo Kramer of Seinfeld), Simpsons and Futurama creator Matt Groening, professor, author, activist, and journalist Robert McChesney, comedian and advocate for the differently-abled Josh Blue, Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil, former ‘This Old House’ host Steve Thomas, and SubPop founder Bruce Pavitt.  The list goes on and on.

Rom Dyer in his studio. 2009

The college is also home to KAOS radio-one of the perennially finest college radio stations in the country.  KAOS hosts Tom Dyer’s weekly Freeform NW show (1-3 PM every Wednesday, streaming at www.kaosradio.org/listen). His dedication to the pop/garage format that has long been a staple of northwest music makes him a great candidate for the show’s host.

“I get to choose ‘northwest’ as I define it. If someone says ‘Hey! You can’t include those guys from Montana!” I’m not bothered”.  Tom explains that he plays music of all genres and doesn’t follow themes “There’s really no theme to that show at all, Tom says. “It’s just a grab-bag of shit” His tone is obviously more in jest than sincere.

“The fun thing with KAOS is that I get total control of what I play, Tom tells me.  Although Tom has just told me ‘there’s really no theme, he says “Three weeks ago I did an Amy Denio show. It was two hours of the 8000 bands that Amy has been in.” He also tells me that two weeks prior to our conversation he did a show built around the seminal ‘Life Elsewhere‘ EP released in 1980 by Olympia’s Mr. Brown Records.  The record jump-started the careers of Steve Fisk, John Foster and the band ‘The Beakers’. “So I played a bunch of stuff off ‘Life Elsewhere’, a bunch of K Records and Engram stuff…basically from 1979 to 1984.

I also play ‘John Coltrane-Live In Seattle‘ It’s a great record!.” Tom says with enthusiasm.

Although almost universally known as ‘John Coltrane: Live in Seattle’ the record’s official name is ‘John Coltrane Featuring Pharaoh Sanders Live in Seattle’. Perhaps the ‘Featuring Pharaoh Sanders’ part is dropped because the entire band recorded that night were not as well known at the time, but have since become far more famous and well respected.  Just a guess.  The live recording was thought to be lost, but in 1971,  six years after it was recorded Impulse! Records found the tapes and released them as a double album.

‘OM’. Recorded October 1, 1965 at Camelot Studios in Lynnwood WA . Cover Design: Robert & Barbara Flynn

For those that don’t know, Coltrane’s ‘Live in Seattle’ was one of the earliest live experiments showing the public his transition from  Bebop to his more atonal and avant-garde period. Pharaoh Sanders had been a practitioner of this sound, and it was Sanders who especially brought his more experimental nature into Coltrane’s band. The performance was recorded on September 30, 1965, at Seattle’s long-gone jazz club The Penthouse. The band consisted of Coltrane and a stellar line-up that featured Pharoah Sanders on sax, McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on double bass and Elvis Jones on drums. 

The next day, October 1, 1965,  the band set out from Seattle to Jan Kurtis (Skugstad)’s Camelot Sound Studios in Lynnwood; a town a few miles north of Seattle.  It was there they recorded the album ‘Om’  As the title suggests Coltrane was familiar with the Hindu Vedas and the Bhagavad Gita by then. The title ‘Om‘  refers to the sacred syllable in Hinduism that denotes the Infinite or the entire Universe.  Although Coltrane never called himself a Hindu (or any other faith) he was deeply interested in Vedic music and religion, and philosophy beginning in the mid-’50s.  It coincided with his recovery from heroin in 1957 which he attributed to a general spiritual awakening. In 1964 he had the chance to study with Ravi Shankar, the maestro of the sitar, and of raga.  He had also become familiar with the works of th yogi and philosopher Krishnamurti.  It’s thought Coltrane was on LSD for this recording session, but it’s never been confirmed.

The band was the same as the previous nights’ appearance at The Penthouse along with noted Seattle multi-instrumentalist jazz musician Joe Brazil on flute.  It’s said that Brazil had jammed with Coltrane and company live the night before. The session at Camelot was produced by the near-legendary Bob Theile.   Although recorded in 1965, the recordings were released on Impulse! Records January 1968, about six months after Coltrane died of July 17, 1967, of liver cancer. At the time of its release critics and fans savaged it, even calling it Coltrane’s “worst album”.  Eventually, most of those critics and fans would come to think much better of the album, and in some cases were heavily influenced by it. By the release of ‘The Major Works of John Coltrane’ in 1992 the 29:07 track ‘Om’ was included alongside ‘Selflessness’, ‘Kulu Sé Mama’ and ‘Ascension Edition I, and ‘ Ascension Edition II’

Life Elsewhere. Steve Fisk. The Beakers. John Foster. 1980

Back to Tom:  “My show on KAOS is pretty borderless although it needs whatever northwest connection I put on it. That shit doesn’t sound near as crazy as it did 40 years ago. When I got ‘Life Elsewhere‘ in 1980  I thought ‘this is just fucking cool!’…and it was pretty cool…I loved ‘The Beakers‘!”

“When I was in high school there was Captain Beefheart…that was crazy as shit, but it’s not so crazy anymore; now there’s a bunch of that sort of thing.  I get to play Zoot Horn Rollo,” (a.k.a. Bill Harkleroad, formerly of Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band). “He was my guitar teacher (via Skype).  He lives in Eugene Oregon.   Occasionally I play something from his solo album ‘We Saw A Bozo Under The Sea’.  I get to make up the rules.!

Tom has some other experience in radio.  In the ’80s he was host of the show Audioasis on the U of W’s alternative station, KCMU.  “That’s where I first met Jonathan Poneman”. (before SubPop).  Jon referred to me as a ‘Record Mogul’ back then.  I guess we know how that turned out!” Tom says, with a chuckle. “I don’t begrudge them their success. They occasionally put stuff I like besides Mudhoney, who I usually like anyway. I think they did a lot of clever label stuff when they started, and for better or worse, they got lucky. They got ‘hold of the magic ring. Who doesn’t want that?  I think it is great they’ve kept it going so long”.

Tom tells me that during his years at Olympia High School he was the singer in several cover bands. “I didn’t know many of the words, so I just made them up,” he admits. “One of the band’s name was Sahara Pack Frame. We played almost the entire ‘The Family that Plays Together’ album by Spirit. We also played my so-called composition Black Death.”

“After I graduated in 1970 I couldn’t get the fuck out of Olympia fast enough.  It was like ‘LET ME OUT!!! Tom bummed around the northwest between Alaska and Oregon for a few years before landing in Seattle in 1975. ’. “In my 20’s I took up guitar and sax,” Tom says. “My first Seattle band was The Adults.”

In 1979 Tom met Harvey and Deanne Tawney who, along with Tom, shared an appreciation of Ornette Coleman, Captain Beefheart, free jazz…and The Dave Clark Five.  In the beginning, they experimented with improvisation, going by the name The Pigments.  In early 1980 The Pigments changed its name to The Adults and mostly gave up improvisation in favor of straight-ahead rock. During their stint as The Adults, Tom, Harvey, and Deanne were joined by bass players first the author Adam Woof and later Howie Wahlen. Somewhere along the way Bob Blackburn would become their single bassist as well as doing some vocals and writing some of the band’s songs.

Poster by Tom Dyer & The Adults

t wasn’t long until another new name and a new format came about; The Adults became The Colorplates.  By returning to some experimentation the band was afraid of being pigeonholed into the cringe-worthy, catch-all lump of bands meaninglessly designated as ‘art-rock’The Colorplates ran like hell from that cursed label, and one of the best ways to do it was to dive deeply into another ill-defined genre called either punk-rock; or worse…post-punk. Later, in a partially tongue-in-cheek bio for The Colorplates Tom wrote:

“They mainly played punk joints like the Gorilla Room and the UCT Hall with bands like Student Nurse, The Pudz and Pell Mell. Mostly for friends, but occasionally for sailors. They managed to do a bit of recording…none of it made it to vinyl, which was the punk rock mark of success back then.”

Tom’s next move was to form The Icons, a band which lasted roughly between 1981 and 1985. The band included Tom on guitar vocals and keyboards, Steve Trettevick on keyboards and vocals,  Rick Yust on bass and back-up vocals, and Tim Nelson on drums…as well as back-up vocals on one song. The Icons recorded one album, ‘Masters of Disaster’ and a live album recorded at The Hall of Fame, a nightclub in Seattle’s University District.  The album is known simply as ‘The Icons at the Hall of Fame’ and according to some accounts, captured their final performance.  Recording at The Hall of Fame took place either on April 17 and 18 (according to the cassette’s cover) or January 3 and 4, 1986 (according to the cassette’s flip side j-card notes).

The Icons. Appointment with Destiny. 2010.  Cover Art by Martin Cannon

The Icons wouldn’t play again until 2010 when Green Monkey Records released a new album called ‘Appointment with Destiny‘.  It was a collection of about half of The Icons earlier songs they’d never recorded and half all-new materiel.  The Icons played one show for the album at the time.   After playing a show for the unveiling of ‘It Crawled From The Basement’ “The fellows had so much fun,” Tom tells me, “that they wanted to play more”  Tom tells me he wasn’t interested in gigging, but he was on board with making a second album.

At the time of its release, Tom wrote ” ‘Appointment with Destiny’ is the Sgt. Pepper’s of the 21st Century. They are the walrus.”

The Icons were Tom Dyer’s Seattle rock band in the ’80s,”  a thinly disguised entry posted by ‘anonymous’ on discogs.com says:  “They liked to rock, but were not very popular…” The ‘anonymous’ in this case seems to have been Tom himself. The giveaway is that Tom Dyer’s press releases, bios and just about anything else he writes is self-deprecating, includes a dry sense of humor and off-kilter observations.

Tom tells me that one night when The Icons were booked to rehearse their drummer failed to show up.  The remaining members chose to get drunk and make things up. Tom says it was “Fooking Brilliant.”  This configuration would become Me-Three, a band that never gigged, but released an album in 1983 called ‘No Money…No Fun’. By this time Tom was clearly was well-established in the early alternative Seattle music community.  In 1982 Tom was ready to record his own solo album.

Truth or Consequences. 1982. Cover Art Vicki Dyer.

The resulting was ‘Truth or Consequences’.  It included an impressive list of local guest musicians, including the late Eric Erickson (The Fishsticks, The Squirrels), Kurt Bloch (The Fastbacks), Kurt’s brother Al Bloch (The Cheaters), Pat Hewitt (of the ’60s band The Disciples, and later of the Range Hoods),  Peter Barnes (The Enemy and one of Seattle’s most in-demand producer/engineers), and Steve Trettevik former keyboard player for The Icons.   Dian Wells and Dick Manley did some of the backing vocals. Tom’s wife Vicki did the artwork, which would set a precedent for her doing covers for subsequent albums.  After completing the album in 1983 Tom intended to sell it through the new label he’d formed, the aforementioned Green Monkey Records.

In the late ’70s and the ’80s starting an independent label was a common pursuit among bands and their friends. Very few of those labels lasted longer than two or three singles. Tops. Tom’s Green Monkey Records managed to keep afloat during its initial run from 1982 until 1991. The label’s output in 1990 included  The Hitmen, Swelter Caccklebush, Mad Man Nomad and another highwater mark for The Green Pajamas, Ghosts of Love.  1991 saw the releases by The Life, Charlie & The Tunas,  Joe Leonard, and anther by Mad Mad Nomad. The Green Monkeys’ cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Story of Issac’ was included on the compilation The 4th Adventure released by the Danish label Guiding Light Records.  Green Monkey put out its own fantastic compilation in 1991 called  ‘The Young and The Restless’.  It included Black Happy, The Mono Men, Slam Suzanne, Bam Bam, Dr. Unknown, Blind Horse, Red Skeleton as well as 13 other artists.  Oddly enough, the album’s last two tracks ‘Non-stop Pokin’ Action’ by Slobberpocket and ‘Heavin’ Tiny Sandwiches Over The Side’ by B.L.O.G. are two separate recordings by two separate bands that segue into each other and are listed as “18a” and “18b” respectively.

Running an independent label must be, above all, a labor of love.  Returns on investment are rare and Tom resolved himself to that decades earlier. I ask Tom why he started his own label and got a patently obvious answer. One that was familiar to any person who’s started a small independent label-including me.

“It was to put out my music and my friends’ music. No one else was doing it. The first two cassette releases were my own album, ‘Truth or Consequences’ in 1982 and ‘Local Product’ in 1983…and so the die was cast.” 

Local Product (Compilation) 1982. Cover Art by Tom Dyer.

 

‘Local Product’ was a compilation of bands as diverse as Mr. Epp and The Calculations, The Fastbacks, Al Bloch, The Queen Annes, Eric Erickson, along with 10 other artists. “I recorded most of it on my 4 Track,” Tom tells me. “The cover was the UPC from a twelve pack of the old (generic) Beer Beer.” Tom says he took a half-rack to Kinko’s Copiers (Now Fed Ex Office) and made a copy…” so,” he says, “that was the cover.”

The bands on ‘Local Product’ were largely unknown-and some were created as impromptu get-togethers by musicians and friends. Dawn Anderson of the local music magazine Backfire ignored the compilation when it was first released. Later she listened and practically gushed over it.

“I considered myself warned when I noticed the same names over and over for various bands (Dyer himself appears with eight of the fifteen acts featured).  Inbreeding tends to lead to tunnel vision, as well as the worst form of “us against them” snobbery-always, of course, at the expense of the music. Well, apparently not always. To my surprise and delight, I found this tape was not made up of the pretentious spazz-art I was expecting–most of this is honest-to-God pop music!  Garage pop, perhaps, but definitely pop, the kind with guts as well as hooks.”

I ask Tom another question I’d wanted to know the answer to for years.

“Why the name Green Monkey Records?

I’d done some homework, so I knew the Green Monkey (Chlorocebus sabaeus) is a social, vocal and generally territorial inhabitant of West Africa. Some also made their way to the islands of the Caribean during the time of the slave trade.  The Green Monkey’s fur does have a greenish-yellow appearance. The most dangerous (and impolite) acts they commit are males seeking dominance by fighting and showing their blue scrotums and bright red penises in order to attract females.  Researchers have studied the Green Monkey extensively because the majority of the African population carry the Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV), similar to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)… but the SIV in the Green Monkey is not as virulent as the human form, and Green Monkeys who carry SIV do not progress to having  Simian Auto Immunodeficiency Syndrome. (SAIDS) , the equivalent of AIDS in humans.  

Research suggests African Green Monkeys’ SIV may have lost its virulence millions of years ago and Green Monkeys almost never get sick from SIV.  If SIV/SAIDS was once a monkey killer, the change in its virulence may shed light on the future course and timing of the evolution of HIV. Although it was once thought the Green Monkey had infected humans with SIV which became HIV/AIDS, it’s clear many more Green Monkeys have been infected with HIV/AIDS through research by humans than the Green Monkey passing off the virus to humans.  To paraphrase Peter Gabriel ‘Shock The Monkey, Indeed!’

Thankfully, Tom naming his label Green Monkey Records has nothing to do with showing off genitals or animal research.  In fact, it’s difficult to look at the Green Monkey logo without seeing a happy green fellow with arms raised in the air as if it’s lumbering toward the viewer to give them a big hug…sans the naughty bits.

Tom tells me that when he was a kid, his grandmother had an actual “stuffed but wise” Green Monkey in her attic. He says he acquired it around the time he launched his label.  “I had to call the label something,” he says, “so there it was. It wasn’t  particularly thought out.” He also notes that it is the very same “stuffed but wise” monkey that is pictured on the cover of the Green Monkey’s 2009 compilation ‘It Crawled From The Basement’.

“George Romansic thought it scary!” he adds.

“I used to lose money on the label every year, but the amount I lost was tolerable,” according to Tom. “Over a year I’d lose about a thousand or two thousand dollars,”  He says that loss was low enough that he was willing to fund the label. “I set very low expectations for people from the gitgo. I’ll do some stuff and presume this is just not going to be any big seller.  If I’m wrong, I’ll be happy.” 

 Those low expectations were one of the things Tom says he started anticipating from the beginning of Green Monkey.  “ I really didn’t want to have to deal with people that thought I was an asshole when I was trying to help them,” Tom tells me.  I’ve always set the expectations really appropriately. At the end of the day they may still think I’m an asshole, because I am, probably…or I could have done more, but I make it clear from the beginning what I’m going to do.” 

“Most bands want indie labels to do extra things for them,” Tom bemoans. “They want you to be their manager, their booking agent or errand-runner,” Tom says “That’s all the shit I don’t want to do. It’s way too much. I managed The Green Pajamas way back when, but I haven’t done it in a long time.  Jeff has wanted me to manage The Green Pajamas again.  I have no problem telling him “No, I don’t’ want to do that.’  I say ‘I’ll put your records out…I’m happy to put your records out.’  Management is just doing all the shit that’s no fun. If you’re doing it, and it’s a job you’re making money, maybe it’s OK, but it’s such a pain in the ass.  Who needs it?

DJ Steve Rabow. 1982

Tom found more allies in 1982 when Seattle radio station KZAM played punk, new wave and post-punk under the moniker ‘Rock of The ‘80s’.  Steve Rabow, a DJ at the station, promised to play one song from any cassette sent to him by a separate band on-air for what would become his first ‘Local Tape Extravaganza’.  The Rocket magazine (Seattle’s premiere music journal)  hopped on-board, providing free promotion for Steve’s project. With the wider promotion, hundreds of tapes got sent Rabow’s way. He played a song from each one of the tapes, as promised, in a four-hour marathon. In 2009 Green Monkey Records released a ‘Best of The 1982 Local Tape Extravaganza’.

One of those tapes was sent by Mr. Epp and The Calculations, an as-yet theoretical band named after their math teacher at Bellevue Christian High School, Mr. Larry Epp, The ‘cassette’ sent to Rabow was (like others)  presumably taped on a consumer cassette player with a condenser microphone.  Rabow did indeed play the ‘song’ on-air and then pronounced Mr. Epp and The Calculations to be “the worst band in the world”. 

Despite the title-or probably because of it-Mr Epp began to play live gigs in all-ages clubs and halls, partly because they were all minors, but also because they knew who their natural audience was.

Mr. Epp. Pravda Records. 1982 Cover by Todd Why & Mark Arm

In February 1982 John Rogers of the band Student Nurse produced the first and only vinyl single by Mr. Epp and The Calculations’.  The result was a 7” EP called ‘Of Course I’m Happy. Why? released on Seattle’s Pravda Records. The lead song from the EP, ‘Mohawk Man’.unexpectedly rose to number one on Rodney Bingenheimer’s influential ‘Rodney on The ROQ’ show out of Los Angeles station KROQ.  College radio around the country followed Bingenheimer’s lead. Despite being truly devoid of musicality the band created enough excitement and chaos to make up for their lack of mastery.  Within a year they became one of alternative Seattle’s biggest draws, especially among under-aged kids. The Eppsters knew who their natural audience was, and their audience loved them for it.

Musically they had nothing to do with what would eventually become known as “grunge” despite the insistence of clueless writers, historians, and even some fans to name Mr. Epp as Seattle’s first “grunge” band. It’s well-known lore that the term “grunge“ as applied to Seattle bands, came from simple self-mockery by one of Mr. Epp’s members.  A letter published in the July 22, 1981 issue of Seattle alternative journal Desperate Times called Mr. Epp “Pure grunge! Pure noise! Pure Shit!” 

It was Mark Arm (Mark Thomas McLaughlin) of Mr. Epp that wrote the sarcastic letter before the band had even played live. Ironically, Mark later became a member of Green River and Mudhoney, both of whom were two of the earliest ‘legitimate’ ‘grunge’ bands…inasmuch as the term “grunge” really means anything.  A few years after the letter to Desperate Times Bruce Pavitt and Megan Jasper of Sub-Pop Records used the term jokingly to writers who were noticing the rise of Seattle’s music scene. It was an inside joke, but it stuck.

In 1983 Tom produced Mr. Epp’s song ‘Out of Control’ at Jack Weaver’s Triangle Studios-later to become Jack Endino’s Reciprocal Recording. The track was slated for inclusion on the Engram Records compilation Seattle Syndrome II before the track was even recorded.  Tom says “That’s when the Mr. Epp guys were ‘Bellevue Brats’, Bellevue being an upscale suburb of Seattle.   I offer no objections because it is, for the most part, true.

Mr. Epp. The Metropolis Feb. 3, 1994

The band members had the kind of smarmy disrespect and distrust of all the ‘adults’ surrounding them that most teenage boys have. Their attitude at the time didn’t reflect teenage rebellion as much as it did smart-ass teenage sarcasm.  It didn’t seem to occur to them that all the ‘adults’ they were working with were only 6-7 years older and had created the template from which they would benefit.  This had been the attitude of those same ‘adults’ 6-7 years older..Later, they came to see that more clearly.

“I didn’t get credited as the producer on ‘Out of Control’…but no big deal,” Tom says. “The Mr. Epp guys hated that track,” Tom says. “They hated Jack Weaver,” Triangle’s Studios‘ owner who engineered the song. “They stayed back in the recording room while Jack gave the instructions, Tom recalls.  “I went back and forth and conveyed messages. It was pretty funny. Jack had a high opinion of himself.”

Aside from the John Rogers produced 7” EP and the later fiasco with Jack Weaver, Tom tells me “I recorded everything else Mr. Epp did. “I recorded most of the stuff on Four-Track.”  The irony is that Tom knew how to record Mr. Epp but none of their tracks were initially released on Green Monkey Records aside from ‘Falling‘ on the ‘Local Product’ compilation. Most of what Tom recorded for them was released on various members’ own small labels. Tom would later release their music on compilations or as re-issues.

Recently Joe Smitty (Jeff Smith) of Mr. Epp said:
“Tom Dyer is great.  He was a wonderful producer for Mr. Epp. He listened and helped us do what we wanted to do which was super rare in the 80s. Most tech folks wished they were working for Van Halen, not us!

Green Monkey was slowly building its early catalog. 1983 saw another solo release by Tom Dyer called ‘I Lived Three Lives”,  the previously unreleased recording of Me Three called ‘No Money…No Fun’ ‘and ‘Fight Back’ by the Bombardiers; a band led by one of Tom’s old friends, Al Bloch. 1984 saw releases by Prudence Dredge, Liquid Generation, The Elements and what would become Green Monkey Records’ flagship artist, The Green Pajamas.

In the summer of 1984, Tom discovered a self-released cassette at one of the many record stores that once were scattered along Seattle’s University Way (commonly known as ‘The Ave.’). The tape was ‘Summer of Lust’ by Seattle trio Joe Ross on bass, Jeff Kelly as the guitarist and lead singer, and Karl Wilhelm on drums.  They called themselves The Green Pajamas.

Summer of Lust. Cassette 1984. Cover Art by Joe Ross

On a whim, Tom bought the tape, brought it home and had a listen. He liked the cassette so much that he wrote a review of it for OP Magazine, then published by John Foster (another TESC alum) and the Lost Music Network out of Olympia. OP had become an internationally-known journal dedicated to alternative music and cassette culture. Later the magazine was sold to Scott Becker and well-known music and pop culture author Richie Unterberger. After relocating to Los Angeles OP relaunched itself as Option magazine and despite being a meticulously-designed glossy magazine it kept its credibility among readers.  A mention in OP or Option assured exposure to a very wide audience of independent music insiders, College DJ’s and forward-looking music fans.  The review was a great move for The Green Pajamas, for Dyer, and for Green Monkey Records.

Tom says he wanted to work with The Green Pajamas from the moment he heard their tape, but no contact information was on the cassette or its cover. He was finally was able to track them down through the shop that duplicated the tape.  They put him in touch with band-member Joe Ross. This connection would lead to the association of The Green Pajamas, it’s members, Tom Dyer and Green Monkey Records for 35 years and counting.

After connecting with the band’s members Tom invited them to come over and look at his studio. “Years later,” Jeff Kelly says, “Tom told me he said to himself, ‘I don’t know about this Jeff guy.’ He thought I didn’t seem very friendly when we came over and looked at the studio. I don’t know… I was slightly apprehensive because it was just such a little space and I’d already been in a bigger studio. Maybe I was a little…well, maybe he thought I was aloof, but I probably was just being kind of shy and a little guarded. We ended up recording and it and it was really fun.”

Summer of Lust LP. Ubik Records 1989 Cover Photo: Kari Dunn

Tom’s first move was to re-release ‘Summer of Lust’ on the Green Monkey label with a couple of additional songs-’Stephanie Barber’ and ‘Mike Brown’. “I was amused by the fact that Jeff Kelly would write songs about people using their real names,” Tom says. “When we licensed ‘Summer of Lust’ to the British label Ubik Records in 1989 and the Spanish label ViNiLiSSSiMO in 2014 ‘Mike Brown’ made it to the vinyl versions but ‘Stephanie Barber’ didn’t.

On other occasions, Tom and the band had their own fun preparing albums for overseas release. Tracks were changed around, sometimes there were additions and other times they included alternate takes of the version that appeared on the Green Monkey version.  Whether this was a conscious effort to make certain releases more ‘collectible’ there are plenty of Green Pajamas completist collectors who will track down even the most obscure variation. Although Green Monkey has always been a modest operation, the label and The Green Pajamas who practically never played outside Seattle both have a very dedicated worldwide cult following.

In the liner notes for the 2009 compilation ‘It Crawled From The Basement’  Tom wrote about the shift the entire label experienced once The Green Pajamas climbed on board:

The Green Pajamas. L.to R. Laura Weller Eric Lichter, Jeff Kelly, Scott Vanderpool, Joe Ross

I didn’t know my life was about to become Pajama-fied. Of the label’s remaining thirty-five releases (between 1982 and 1999)  fifteen of them would be by The Green Pajamas or one of their members; usually the brilliant Jeff Kelly. The Pajamas were one of only two bands I ever had a real contract with (The Life was the other). The Pajamas deal was that I paid for everything. I was going to be a real record company, just like Warner Brothers or CBS, honestly! Besides that, I was managing them, I was their producer, their recording engineer, I was booking their shows, I was their publisher.  It was fundamentally a conflict of interest situation, but no one else wanted to do it and it needed to be done. I was even Jeff’s best man at his wedding. Green Monkey to a large extent shifted from being the “Tom label” and became the “Jeff label”.

“When Green Monkey started we were releasing cassettes only. It wasn’t just because they were trendy. We just didn’t have the money,” Tom tells me. This was at the height of ‘cassette culture’-the first time in history artists had the ability to record themselves, then copy and distribute their work at an affordable price.  Major labels were releasing far more cassettes than LP’s at the time, and small labels and consumers relied on the cassette to get the music they liked spread more widely.

It was the golden age of the ‘mixtape’-a collection of people’s favorite songs, recorded from the original source that was kept for later play, given as gifts, or traded among friends. The wide availability of the cassette tape also freed up artists and small labels from having to manufacture large, set quantities of vinyl records that must be produced and most of them sold to break even.  If a person or label had the right equipment, cassettes could be released in modest or relatively large numbers. If the label copied either 30 or 300 cassettes, and they sold out, the label could go back and make more copies. There was a lot less risk of sitting on unsold merchandise.  Rapid cassette duplicating shops, who could copy dozens of tapes at a time, popped up all over the nation.

“I think the first 7” vinyl single Green Monkey released was ‘I Love You’ b/w ‘1/4 To Zen‘ by Liquid Generation in 1985. The first 12” vinyl release was another Green Monkey compilation called ‘Monkey Business’ that was released in 1986,” Tom says. “The Fastbacks, The Green Pajamas, Prudence Dredge, The Walkabouts, The Icons, Al Bloch and Arms Akimbo were among the contributors to the album.”

Monkey Business (Compilation) 1986

“The ‘Monkey Business’ compilation, which was actually released on the cusp of 1986, took everything up another notch,” Tom says. “My non-music life had been problematic, to say the least. I had a little construction business with a partner that I did not know was a cocaine freak. ‘Whoops! There went the money!’ I spent six months completing people’s kitchen remodels on my own. As I was getting to the end of all that bad voodoo, I wanted to bust out. ‘Monkey Business’ was the way I did it,” Tom tells me, adding “It was a serious piece of work to show what I could do. Unlike ‘Local Product’, this was mostly bands you could go somewhere and see”.

“It’s the compilation of emerging grunge bands called ‘Deep Six’ that everybody remembers from 1986,” Tom tells me… “but The Rocket gaveMonkey Business’ the prize for the best compilation that year. It did even better than those shitty old ‘Deep Six’ and Pop Llama Records12” Combo Deluxe’ compilations,” Tom says with a good-natured laugh. ‘Deep Six’ had included Green River, Malfunkshun, Mudhoney, The Melvins, Soundgarden, The U-Men and Skinyard -bands that would emerge during Seattle’s “grunge” era. Pop Llama Records’ ‘12” Combo Deluxe’ featured The Young Fresh Fellows, Red Dress, The Fastbacks, Moving Parts. Rob Morgan’s New Age Urban Squirrels and Jimmy Silva among others.

“Back in 1986, when ‘Monkey Business’, ‘Deep Six and ’12” Combo Deluxe’ were released, Seattle was Compilation City,” Tom says.

Green Monkey Records upped its pace in 1985 by releasing The Queen Annes, The Fall-Outs, Keith Livingston and both Icons albums ‘Masters of Disaster’ and ‘Live At The Hall of Fame’.

Although The Green Pajamas recorded a new single in 1985 it’s release was put on hold until May 1986. According to Tom, he kept the singles hidden in a closet and told everyone in the band except Jeff Kelly that the records had been held up in customs at the Canadian border. We were trying to be strategic,” Tom tells me. “We wanted to release ‘Monkey Business’ first and then allow enough time for the next Green Pajamas single to take over the attention.”

Kim The Waitress. 1986

The single included a song that is probably the most important release that Green Monkey has ever put out: ‘Kim The Waitress’. It turned the fortunes of The Green Pajamas and made Green Monkey Records a player on the local label scene. The song was a modest regional hit, and was played on college stations around the country…but it would find a bigger audience later.

In ‘Loser‘, Clark Humphry excellent book about Seattle alternative music culture he notes: “(The Green Pajamas) scored a regional hit in 1986 with the dreamy love-ode ‘Kim The Waitress‘, clocking in at over six minutes of ethereal innocence.  Dyer mixed a shorter version for airplay on (radio station) KJET, whose automation equipment couldn’t play tapes longer than five minutes.”  Tom tells me he made the shorter version simply by speeding up the tape a little and editing out parts, mostly during the song’ latter portions.

According to Jeff Kelly;
“We were performing at the time, but we weren’t getting much radio support.  KCMU (predecessor of KEXP) would play a little Green Pajamas once in a while, but we were still kind of a novelty. We weren’t ‘grunge’ so our music didn’t fit into anything like that…but Jonathan Poneman (later of SubPop) would play it when he was a DJ at KCMU on one of those late-night shows. We got on there, but never became any kind of a hit. I think in that sense local radio playing our version. The 1994 Sister Psychic version got played a lot locally.

Joe Ross also tells me  ‘Kim The Waitress’ was published by Tom’s ‘Half the World Publishing’  but Tom didn’t have the publishing machine to get the song out there. “One thing Tom made sure to do was to promote the single by sending it to almost every college radio station in the U.S.  “I wasn’t in the band at the time the record came out,” Joe tells me, “I was working as the activities co-ordinator at South Seattle Community College. We got a promo copy of it. Tom sent out about hundreds of copies. Anyone involved in Material Issue (who later covered ‘Kim The Waitress’ ) was probably in college in Chicago or somewhere else at the time. College radio around the nation received it, so there was some play outside of the Seattle area.”

Material Issue covered ‘Kim The Waitress’  for their 1996 album ‘Freak City Soundtrack,’  L to R: Jim Ells, Mike Zelenko, Ted Ansari

“I thought ‘Kim The Waitress’ could have been-and should have been- a  bigger record if I’d known what I was doing… or we just got lucky, but that’s how it went,” Tom says. “Kim The Waitress’ was covered by both power-pop trio Material Issue on their ‘Freak City Soundtrack’ and a notable video was created for it. Seattle’s Sister Psychic covered it for their album ‘Surrender, You Freak.  Ironically both covers were released in the same year-1994.  Andy Davenhall of Sister Psychic even sat in with the Pajamas on the live version of ‘Kim The Waitress’ that appears on the ‘Lust Never Sleeps’ album. “It was nice getting covered but I still like the original Green Pajamas version the best,” Tom says. He’s not alone in that regard.

In retrospect, Tom may not have had a huge publishing machine, but he was doing one of the most important jobs of a publisher-to get a song heard by as many people as possible and hope someone likes it enough to cover it or use it in TV, radio or film.  It’s a tried and true formula that is even more widely used today in the world of digital music. The only real difference is that small labels and unknown bands can do their own footwork without the expense of paying someone with PR connections, the costs of the physical product and postage costs that sending those copies to labels and publishers like Tom’s had to rely on. In the end, Tom’s strategy worked.

He then gives me some of the technical details that went into the recording of ‘Kim The Waitress’:
“The song was recorded on a Tascam 38-8 8-track in my tiny basement studio, with a Soundcraft 16 channel board with an assortment of inexpensive mics – SM-57, Sennheiser MD-421, etc. I think we tracked it with drums, bass, and 2 electric guitars. Vocals were overdubbed as was the sitar, played by the late Steve Lawrence. Mixing was done with minimal outboard gear – a couple of EQs, an Ibanez AD202 Analog delay. I think some kind of reverb but I don’t remember what. I did not own any compressors or other fancy outboard processing gear.”

1986 would also see another watershed moment for both Green Monkey and The Green Pajamas.with the release of The Green Pajamas’ second album, ‘Book of Hours’.  It had been two years since ‘Summer of Lust’ and the band had taken on keyboardist Bruce Haedt and Steve Lawrence on guitar. There had been considerable expectation that this album would be as good as ‘Summer of Lust’, or the single ‘Kim The Waitress’.

Book of Hours. 1986. Cover Art by: Ursula Bolimowski

‘Book of Hours’ was practically epic in its use musicians, including a choir, a horn section as well as Carla Torgeson of The Walkabouts playing the cello.  In 2010, critic Tim Peacock reminded readers that 1987 was the year “grunge” began taking hold in Seattle.  He wrote about ‘Book of Hours’  saying, “The idea of a Seattle band laying down a fragrant, patchouli-tinged psychedelic pop masterpiece in such a climate was brave at best.”

Elsewhere Peacock wrote:
“While ‘Book of Hours’ may superficially have been drenched in  Eau de 1967, if you’re expecting an unfocused sprawl akin to The Stones’ ‘Their Satanic Majesties Request’ then forget it because there’s also a modern-day energy at work here, not to mention Jeff Kelly’s redoubtable brilliant song-writing skills, all of which conspire to ensure the ...’ Book of Hours’ is an inspired listen over two decades on”.

It’s been three decades now, Tim.

Book of Hours’  set the stage for an even closer relationship between The Green Pajamas and Tom Dyer.It also became the first Green Monkey album to find labels and distribution outside the United States. The Bouncing Corporation in Germany released ‘Book of Hours’ in 1988, and Melbourne Australia’s Au-Go-Go Records released the album in 1989. Green Monkey and The Green Pajamas would continue to have albums licensed and released on labels across the world. Later releases would be picked up by Sugarbush Records in Britain, and Camera Obscura in Australia.

Between 1982  and 1991 the Green Monkey catalog grew to include more releases by The Green Pajamas, its primary songwriter, Jeff Kelly, Capping Day, The Life, The Purdins, Slam Suzanne, Goblin Market, and The Hitmen among others. By the end of 1991 Green Monkey Records had released  43 cassettes, 7” singles, and LPs.  Tom had either produced or engineered most of them. He decided it was time to shut the operation down…at least for the time being.

It Crawled From The Basement. 2009 Cover Art: Concept, Art Chantry. Photo: Tom Dyer

“What really happened.” Tom tells me, “was that I was doing too many things, to put it mildly.  I started teaching at the Art Institute of Seattle in 1989. I had no degree of any sort.  I decided that I liked teaching and I said to myself, ‘go back to school’.  At that point, I basically shut down the label and did go back to school. When I began I had no degree at all and ended up with a doctorate.  It was a fairly large project. I went to the University of Washington for a couple of degrees then I went out to Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island and got my doctorate…I’m not the kind of doctor you’d want operating on your leg,” Tom says jokingly.  “ I got my doctorate, headed back to Seattle and started up Green Monkey again. I’ve put out way more stuff now than I did the first time.”
Even while Green Monkey Records was ‘inactive’ the label still managed to release two solo albums by Jeff Kelly, Private Electrical Storm, mixed by Tom in 1992, and 1995’s Ash Wednesday Rain that Tom found time to master. Tom even edited and mastered The Green Pajamas ‘Carolers Song EP’ for its 2001 release on Urbana Illinois label  Hidden Agenda.  The EP would later be re-released by Green Monkey.

In 2009, after a 14-year ‘hiatus’ Green Monkey Records was relaunched with ‘It Crawled From The Basement’, a 47 song, two-CD set that included a 28-page booklet.  Tom says: It was a compilation that summarized the ‘80’s stuff. The CD was Green Monkey’s first release since Jeff Kelly’s ‘Ash Wednesday Rain’ in 1995.  It was a retrospective that marked the beginning of a new era. When ‘It Crawled From The Basement’ was released, Tom wrote: “This CD is the first of many new releases for the label, with re-releases of back catalog, various historical oddities and all-new material by GMR superstars on the way!”

Tom has kept his promise.

“Most indie labels never recoup the investment that they’ve put into their projects. That’s alright,” Tom says.  “I wanted to do ‘It Crawled From The Basement’  just so. I didn’t care how much it cost. I just wanted to make it how I wanted to make it. I spent $4000 putting out the compilation.  So I said ‘you know what? That’s really a lot of money to toss down the tube. You should recoup it’…but I didn’t come close to it”.  Tom says he didn’t really care about the loss.  He figured someone would come along and license the compilation.  Tom’s had a lot of luck licensing and distribution of his albums in the past.  He tells me he figured out how to make his product cheaply early on, and even makes a little money off his releases nowadays.  “My hourly wage is probably about 25 cents an hour,” Tom says, That’s a common wage modestly successful indie record owners usually make. “But I don’t lose money on it anymore”.

During our conversation, Tom tells me “I also do some publishing now.  I do it to help bands out but it’s really a question of what you’re going to do with it.  Most of the stuff we just get it played by people….we don’t get it covered. It’s just whatever royalties we can get from the internet.  You don’t get rich doing that! If you want to make some dough, you’ve got to get somebody famous to cover your shit. Jeff always wants people to cover shit, but I just don’t want to work that hard at it.” I say: ‘Jeff, that sounds like a fucking job to me.  I’m old now. I’m retired. I’ve worked hard.’ 

Since Green Monkey’s rise from the ashes in 2009 Tom’s friend and former bandmate Howie Wahlen has taken some of the burden off Tom’s go-it-alone work ethic.  I give Howie a call to get the lowdown:  He tells me:

“Tom and I met in the mid-‘70s. We kept in touch over the years.  He convinced me to join his band The Adults in 1980. I played with them for about six months. About two years later Tom ended up forming Green Monkey Records. After I left Peaches (the one-time national record retailer) he talked me into doing sales for Green Monkey. In about 1989 or 1990 I used to do record and tape consignments with all the record stores around Seattle. I also had my own small label at the time called ‘Other River Music. We put out two CDs; ‘Lightning Waltz’ by Like Rain in 1991 and ‘Bad Acid Comedy’ by The Malchicks in 1992.

Howie Wahlen.    Selfie by Howie Wahlen

Howie tells me he was booking some shows for The Green Pajamas around the time the ‘Ghosts of Love’ album came out in September of 1990. Besides doing consignment as well as managing the band Like Rain and his label, he says ”it was all kind of pulled together.”  He says he was also working with Terry Morgan, one of the most important independent promoters in Seattle.  “I took on booking at the New Melody Tavern in Ballard, which is now the Tractor Tavern,” Howie tells me. Terry had started an ‘unplugged’ event every Wednesday night.  I did that for a year.”

“Then I got a real job….one with a regular paycheck,“ Howie says. “That pretty much ended the consignment thing with Green Monkey. Tom shut the label down so he could study and eventually go off to Rhode Island.  When he came back to Seattle, I was a truck driver. Tom took a position as President of Argosy University, a small institution in Seattle that gives out master’s degrees.

Howie tells me that Tom called him one day after Green Monkey had been re-launched.  He says Tom asked him ‘Hey! You wanna do some stuff?’.  Howie says he was reluctant at first.  His truck driving job was really good, but it didn’t afford him a lot of time and the hours were horrendous.  “Tom asked me what I’d like to do.”  Howie says that he finally told Tom, yes, but this time he’d like to get involved in a more creative way. “I wasn’t really interested in doing sales. I didn’t I have the time or the desire to do it”

The two hashed it out and came up with Howie being in charge of video. “ It was a learning process, Howie says. “I was shooting, directing, editing, working as the videographer and doing all the production,” according to Howie.  “I happened to have archives from the late 1980s when myself and a friend had videotaped quite a few local bands. I’d forgotten about some of that stuff!” Howie tells me, he recently put together a video for the August 2019 release of  ‘The Incomplete Fabulous Stinking’ retrospective by The Chemistry Set.

“I happened to have a videotape of a show that the Chemistry Set played at The Backstage nightclub in Ballard years ago,” Howie says. “ I also had videotaped  The Life at The Backstage on a Green Monkey Night.  I’ve scaled back from the videos quite a bit, but I still help… What I do mostly is to allow Tom to pick my brain.  I’ve spent a lot of time in retail and working in warehouses, as well as booking shows.  He runs things by me and I give him my opinion. He bounces ideas off me and occasionally he’ll grab something from me and run with it.” Howie doesn’t mention that he also does a fair amount of writing both for Green Monkey and the press.  Besides video Howie was doing most of the updating of the original Green Monkey Records website and keeping content current. He usually set up the Album of the Month page with templates that Tom had already had set up.

I ask Howie how he would define his position at Green Monkey Records.  He laughs and says:
“One time Tom asked me that same question. I said ‘Gosh Tom, I’ve never been a Vice President of anything. You’re obviously the President, so can I be your Vice President?’  He said, ‘Sure! Why not?’ ”

Monkey Business III. (compilation) 2016

Since it’s relaunch Green Monkey Records has continued to release albums that had sat in the can for years.  The label has also re-released previously cassette-only tapes and long out-of-print albums. During the past decade, the label has released albums by Tom Dyer and the different configurations of bands he’s been in, The Green Pajamas, The Life, The Icons. The Goblin Market, Jim of Seattle, The Colorplates, Liquid Generation, The Queen Annes, Gary Minkler, Slam Suzanne, the late and sorely missed George Romansic,  Fur For Fairies, The Freewheelin’ Joe Ross, The Dehumanizers, AAIIEE. Amy Denio, The Chemistry Set…and that’s barely scratching the surface. Tom’s label has continued to release a total of three Monkey Business compilations, the second being in 2006 although one’s title is actually Monkey Business: Mach II released in January of 2016. It was made up of selections chosen by Howie, as was 2017’s Monkey Business III

This was obviously a great move because so many of the albums were initially put out on cassette tapes.  A newly mastered CD or a digital copy of an old tape is always attractive to fans of the original. Many of them were destroyed, lost or forgotten over the years. “I was worried about some of the older releases. I wanted them to have a public life again, Tom tells me.  I wanted to make them available so someone could find them if they wanted some really weird, obscure shit.”

“I  wrapped most of that up a couple of years ago.  There’s still a couple of little things, but I’m not much I’m worried about putting out old stuff.  I’m focusing on the new releases at this point.”

Tom Dyer at Easy St. Records with The New Pagan Gods.  Photo: Howie Wahlen

 

“I currently have a studio in my house,” Tom tells me. “I have a nice pro-tools rig but I don’t record whole bands that often. They usually don’t want to work that hard.  My own current band is ‘Tom Dyer and the True Olympians. (Tom Dyer, vocals and guitar, Joe Cason, keyboards and vocals, Gene Tveden, bass and vocals, and Tom Shoblom, drums, and percussion)  The band has been together since 2017 and has released two singles and one album and done two gigs.  “We’re working on our next album right now,” Tom tells me.
Tom’s been involved with other bands in the past couple of decades. Obviously The Icons were together when he first started Green Monkey and they held a reunion show and recorded an album in 2009 for the relaunch of the label. “
There was a 2 gig band of all improvised rock songs in 86 or 87 – New Pagan Gods – with a bunch of guys on the label, Tom says, adding “It was pretty fun”. In 1992 I put together a short-lived band called Beautimus, Tom says. They recorded 8 songs and did one gig In 2015 a different line up of New Pagan Gods recorded ‘History of NW Rock: Volume 1‘ and played two shows.  Tom adds “those shows were ‘so fun’.

I mention to Tom that I think Green Monkey Records has a very strong presence on the web.  The actual Green Monkey site is comprehensive and easy to navigate.  Aside from Green Monkey having a page for each of its bands, comments, albums of the month, direct downloads and a sales point the site also links to the websites that individual artists have put up themselves.  There are pages filled with what Tom calls his “rants” news and video. There is also a particularly fine hand-in-glove site at Bandcamp. 

 “I have fun doing it.  I do the parts that I like and if some magic thing happens and one of them gets picked up great!  If it doesn’t, that’s fine too. I like to make music that I like”.

Maggie Teachout

Tom gives it some thought and then says; “There’s stuff that I like better than others. Not every band that releases on the label are my favorite records, and I’ve put out a lot of them, you know? But I like all of them to different degrees.  I’ve been putting stuff out lately by kids. I put this record out by this 18-year-old girl from Olympia named Maggie Teachout. Tom tells me “Maggie has super-catchy pop songs. We haven’t done anything yet; I think only three shows in Olympia to promote the album. She didn’t care.  She just wanted to make a record, so I said ‘Let’s make a record!’ “It was really fun to do” Her first album, ‘Maybe I’m Still Peter’ was released on Green Monkey Records in August of 2019.”

Later I do a bit of research on Maggie and find out she grew up in Olympia around traditional American music. She was somewhat of a child prodigy who first started playing music when she was four years old and has been a songwriter since she was 13. According to her official bio “she is known in Olympia music circles for her powerful voice and moving lyrics,”  The bio also mentions Maggie’s passion for social justice, in several of her songs including ‘Waltz for my Daughter’ which features both Maggie and her younger sister, Ruby of The Bow Weevils...a teen band that plays old-time music, traditional music, fiddle tunes, and ballads. Maggie’s bio describes her first album as a mix of traditional American music with indie-pop.  That’s a near-perfect combination.

Mike Refuzor 1953-2017

Tom says he’s also got Al Bloch to record a new CD which he thinks is a great accomplishment. “I love Al Bloch’s stuff, Tom tells me,” He hadn’t done anything for ages. He’s writing new material again”.  Al played at the Crocodile Cafe on March 3, 2018, with his old band The Cheaters (more or less) for the 40th reunion of Seattle’s first punk rock club ‘The Bird’.  Along with The Cheaters, Penelope Houston of The Avengers, The Enemy and Shagnasty, “The official Ken Trader tribute band” played.  The show was fantastic but somewhat of a damper was put on it shortly after it took place.

Local punk rock legend Mike Refuzor who had started his career at ‘The Bird’ attended the reunion that night.  It was his last public outing. Three days later he was found passed out on a neighborhood sidewalk.  He was taken to Harborview Hospital and found to have had a stroke. Mike had suffered a stroke several years earlier that left him partly disabled. He was also in very poor health. Mike never regained consciousness and his family had life support removed after realizing he was not going to make it.   As Tom put it “None of us get to stay alive, so…”

Since I’m talking to Tom in mid-September he whispers and tells me in his most covert voice: “I’ve just taken over the most important job in the northwest small label-dom. I’ll be releasing the new Richard Peterson album on October 18. “Popllama producer Conrad Uno threw in the towel so Peter Barnes called me up and asked if I’d do it.  I said “Sure! Why not?!!”

Now it’s late October and Richard’s new album ‘Seven’ has indeed been released.

For those not familiar with Richard there is little more to say than ‘Richard Peterson is a Seattle legend’.  For decades Richard has been a fixture on the street and at sporting events busking by playing his trumpet (NO CANADIAN COINS!).  He is a savant who not only plays the trumpet…he’s quite a pianist as well.  Aside from the streets and sports events, Richard can be found playing at galas, parties or even on stage opening for his friend Jeff Bridges’ band, The Abiders (yes, that Jeff Bridges).

Richard Peterson. Seven. 2019 Cover Photo: Eric Johnson

Richard Peterson’s new album. ‘Seven’, is credited to ‘The Richard Peterson Orchestra, but in fact, every note on the album is his own. For decades Richard has been fascinated with the music for Lloyd Bridges’ role from 1958 to 1961 in the television drama Sea Hunt, hence his becoming friends with Lloyd Bridges’ son Jeff.  Music for Sea Hunt was credited to ZIV, en entity that was actually a production company named after Frederik Ziv.  Frederik Ziv was a radio and television producer who worked from the 1930s up until the late 1950s.  The composer of Sea Hunt’s mysterious underwater music was actually the work of David Rose along with stock music created by other composers.  Richard aspires to the same themes and moods used in the old series.  Tom tells me that the entire Richard Peterson catalog is now available as digital downloads.

A fantastic documentary about Richard Peterson called ‘Big City Dick’ is must-see watching for Seattleites as well as those not familiar with the city. It was shot in 2004 and won The Slamdance Film Festival’s ‘Sparky Award for Best Documentary Film’ that year.  It’s a touching look at Richard and his quest for fame and acceptance.  It’s even more poignant knowing that Richard is now 15 years older than he was during filming, and though he does well-enough financially, he is, as he always says “still on the streets”.  The documentary is available to watch free at the Green Monkey website….jut look for the ‘videos’ section.

Directed by Ken Harder & Scott Milam. 2004

There are few if any eccentrics left in Seattle that rise to Richard’s status. Richard’s albums have never sold well, but he has a leg up on most other musicians.  Richard is happy to stand on downtown Seattle street corners hawking his records to strangers and passers-by. The volatile but talented poet and performance artist Jesse Bernstein is gone. The Doghouse is gone. Dark fantasy author Wilum Hopfrog Pugmire (perhaps Seattle’s oldest punk)  is gone.  Pre-grunge hangouts like WREX and The Gorilla Room, and the straight-friendly Tugs, Belltown are loooooong gone.  Upchuck in his punk-dandy outfits that he wore day and night is gone. The Comet Tavern is still there, but it’s not really ‘The Comet’. Dee Dee Rainbow, who dressed just as you’d imagine is gone. So is the unfathomable painter Jay Steensma and the cheap warehouse’s artists used to rent that have been torn down to make way for a new skyscraper district in South Lake Union. The Green Pajamas, who Tom and Green Monkey Records had been so inextricably tied to has more or less disbanded, although various combinations of the members still record. 

But there are a few pockets of Seattle’s past culture that remains.  The welcoming neon and flashing-bulbed Elephant Car Wash sign still stands at Denny Way and Wall Street. Improbably in the digital age, the ‘Read All About It’ magazine and newspaper stand at First and Pike is still there. The mighty art maven/provocateur Larry Reid keeps things alive at Fantagraphics Books in Georgetown. Tom Dyer (who’s been around Seattle since 1975) is still here and so is his pre-grunge label…and no Christmas party at Peter Barnes’ Clatter and Din studios would be a real event without Richard Peterson at the ivories.

Let’s back-up a minute to Peter Barnes’ Christmas parties, and Christmas in general.  Since 2009 Green Monkey Records has released 9 charity Christmas albums (one year a charity event was held instead of releasing an album).  Each year the label puts out a Christmas download featuring Tom, his friends, his label-mates, and in some cases artists who no one seems to know anything about.  The collections are fun and as Tom wrote in 2016:

OKAY, YOU JOLLY CHRISTMATOLOGISTS!

“Welcome to another non-denominational Green Monkey Christmas!  Here at GMR, we welcome everyone who likes a little Christmas music, regardless of race, creed, color, gender identity, religion, preferred football team and/or voting record.”

Green Monkey on My Back.
GMR Christmas 6. 2015

Each year the entire proceeds from the albums go to MusicCares. 501(c)(3) organization that assists musicians in need, whether it’s chemical dependency rehab or day-to-day need for elderly and abandoned musicians. Charity Navigator has given MusicCares five stars (their highest rating).  According to the MusicCares mission statement:

MusiCares provides a safety net of critical assistance for music people in times of need. MusiCares’ services and resources cover a wide range of financial, medical and personal emergencies, and each case is treated with integrity and confidentiality. MusiCares also focuses the resources and attention of the music industry on human service issues that directly influence the health and welfare of the music community.”

This year Green Monkey will be releasing two Christmas albums.  The first is  ‘Hail the Jolly Christmas Monkey: GMR #10’. It will include Tom-n-Joe’s Holiday Agnostics (Tom & Joe from the True Olympians), Olivia Bloch (featuring Kurt and Al Bloch), Utterance Tongue, Wendy Dunlap, Rendition, Levi Fuller; Jeff Kelly & Ed Portnow, Duane Hibbard, Joe Ross, Steve Trettevik, Richard Stuverude, and Cabeza. More artists will possibly be included, among them Richard Peterson. Ben London & Stagg, Steve Fisk, and Toiling Midgets.  Tom says there will be a limited run of 100 of Hail the Jolly Christmas Monkey on vinyl this year.

The second is: ‘The Best of Christmas Boogie Woogie – 10 Years of GMR Xmas’,  Tom says “Howie is picking the “best of” songs.  So far he’s not telling.  Both albums will be available on December 1, 2019.

Nowadays Tom’s life seems more relaxed.  “I’m coming to Seattle less since I moved to Olympia,” Tom tells me. “I’ve been down here in Olympia a little over three years.  The traffic between Olympia and Seattle has gotten so fucking horrible. I still come up to see a show when the traffic isn’t so bad because it’s not so crowded when you’re driving home… but you’ve got to avoid the drunks on the way. My mom lives near Seattle’s Green Lake in a senior home so I get up to Seattle at least once a month. It just depends.  I don’t hang out in Seattle like I used to, that’s for sure,” he says.  

Green Monkey still doesn’t follow trends. It seems that Tom and Green Monkey Records will continue to release solid, unpretentious rock and pop music…just as it always has.  Some people may constantly be in search of the newest, the biggest, the most transformative thing.  At the same time, there is time to take in a bit of ‘comfort food for the ears’. Not bland, but tasty, fulfilling and made with love. Green Monkey Records delivers that ‘comfort food’.

Green Monkey‘s pace may seem to have lessened a bit lately, but since the revival of the label in 2009 Tom’s released an additional  59 CDs, 1 LP, 10 Christmas albums, 14 digital singles, 2 digital compilations, 2 digital-only album:  The Heats ‘Live at The Showbox 1979’ and ‘November’ by  The Green Pajamas. ‘November’.  In 2013 it was released as a CD.

“That comes to 131 releases by my count,” Tom says. “Today I do the parts I like. That’s the way it is.  My plan is to just keep putting music out until I’m dead.”

So, some things remain the same-like that happy “stuffed but wise” monkey with arms raised in the air as it’s lumbering towards us to give us a big hug…sans the naughty bits.

NEXT. EVERYTHING’S GONE GREEN PART TWO: THE GREEN PAJAMAS.

 

Author-Dennis R. White

Tom Dyer “interview with the author” (September 15, 2019). Howie Wahlen “interview with the author”  (September  28, 2019). Joe Ross “interview with the author” (October 3, 2019). Jeff Kelly “interview with the author” (August 30, 2019).  Eric Lichter “Interview with the author” (September 1. 2019).  Phil Hirschi “Interview with the author” (October 28, 2019) Laura Weller Vanderpool “interview with the author” (October 10, 2019).   Joe Ross Joe Ross “The Story of Kim The Waitress”(http://www.angelfire.com/poetry/greenpajamas/ABC/The_Story_Of_Kim_The_Waitress.html, retrieved September 10, 2019). “The Green Pajamas Website” (https://thegreenpajamas.net/retrieved September 2, 2019) “Green Monkey Records” (https://greenmonkeyrecords.com/ Retrieved September 20, 2019). Michael Nelson&  Jud Cost “Q&A with The Green Pajamas” (Magnet Magazine, June 6, 2012). Art Chantry “Grunge: Just More Snotty Bratty Punk Rock” (Madame Pickwick Art Blog, September 15, 2011). Tom Dyer correspondence with the author ( September 20- October 24, 2019). Laura Weller “Laura Weller” (These Streets, June 13, 2011). Tom Dyer “Tom Dyer Artist (Tom Dyer Sound, https://tomdyersound.com/ retrieved October 3, 2019). Michael Sutton. “Capping Day Biography” (AllMusic.com,https://www.allmusic.com/artist/capping-day-mn0000539656/credits, retrieved October 12, 2019). Tom Dyer “Album of the Month: Richard Peterson and His Orchestra: Seven” (Green Monkey Records, https://greenmonkeyrecords.com/oct-2019-richard-peterson-seven/, retrieved October 10, 2019). Slim HineyTom Dyer’s New Pagan Gods- History of Northwest Rock, Volume 1” (Daggerzine, October 2019). Stephen Howell “Mr. Epp and The Calculations” (Mudhoney blog,  https://tinyurl.com/y4pbeqjz retrieved October 12, 2019).  GMR staff “The Colorplates” Green Monkey Records). GMR staff “The Colorplates”. (Green Monkey Records,  https://greenmonkeyrecords.com/artist-the-colorplates/ retrieved October 21, 2019). GMR Staff “The Icons” https://greenmonkeyrecords.com/july-2010-the-icons-masters-of-disaster/  retrieved October 20. 2019). https://greenmonkeyrecords.com/aprilmay-2011-the-icons-appointment-with-destiny/ Retrieved October 21, 2019). Lee Somerstein Recalling the Heady Days of Progressive Station KZAM  (The Seattle Times, April 1, 2005). Matthew Keller “Chlorocebus sabaeus:green monkey” (Animal Diversity Web, The University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Chlorocebus_sabaeus/retrieved October 19, 2019). Tom Dyer & Michael Cox “August 2009: “It Crawled From The Basement-The Green Monkey Records Anthology” (Green Monkey Records, December 2008, https://greenmonkeyrecords.com/aug-2009-it-crawled-from-the-basement-the-green-monkey-records-anthology/ (retrieved September 29, 2019). AllMusic“Green Monkey Credits” “https://www.allmusic.com/artist/green-monkey-records-mn0001085822). Steven Tow “The Strangest Tribe: How a Group of Seattle Rock Bands Invented Grunge” (Sasquatch Books, 2011). Howie Whalen “Interviews Tom Dyer For 1+1=?” (Green Monkey Records.com, May 30, 2019).  John Sharify “Seattle Construction Boom Bittersweet for Street Musician” (KING5 News, November 16, 2017). Peter Blecha “The Legend of Camelot Records” (Northwest Music Archives: Discography and Labelography, 2019). Clark Humphrey “Loser: The Real Seattle Music Story” [Updated Second Edition] (Misc Media, December 17, 1999).   Richard Cook & Brian Morton ‘The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings’ [9th Edition] Penguin Books, 2008). Jacob McMurray “The Metropolis: Birthplace of Grunge?” ( The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, November 19, 2009). The Newt ‘Seattle Sister Psychic Goes Against The Grain of Grunge’ ( Ear Of Newt, April 28, 2014). 1+1=? Cover Art by Tom Dyer. Jason Parham “What Haunted John Coltrane?” The Fader, Fall 2019).

BEDAZZLED!
An Interview with Al Milman and Moshe Weinberg

            Bedazzled Discs Grand Opening
 Al Milman, John Keister, Moshe Weinberg

I’m sitting in Chuck’s Hop Shop on Seattle’s East Union St.  The huge variety of bottled beers lining the walls is overwhelming.  I don’t drink, but I’m fascinated by the colors of the labels. The evening is warm and the doors of the bar are open.  It appears Chuck’s Hop Shop used to be a large garage of some sort.  Did this place used to be a garage I ask myself?  I get a Coke from a vending machine. I’m expecting to meet Al Milman and Moshe Weinberg.  They’re the former proprietors of Bedazzled Discs.  They stuck it out through the 90s while the record business was crumbling around them up to the point that digital downloads were on the brink of overtaking every other form of music. Their store was geared toward imports, garage and pop classics and a bit of the more esoteric music that collectors are always seeking out. In the end the survived into the 21st century.  Despite an uphill battle they made it from 1991 ‘til 2003.

I’ve never met Moshe, but I know Al a bit. Al went out of his way to make sure we scheduled this meeting at a time Moshe was available. It seems he’s a very busy guy.  Al is a man obsessed by music.  He’s been that way since he was a kid growing up in New York City. Along the way he’s managed to rub a lot of shoulders with punk, garage, psychedelic and jazz artists…hell…all kinds of artists.  I also know he and his band The Alan Milman Sect were there at the beginning of the downtown punk explosion in the NYC during the 1970s.  His music and/or Bedazzled Discs have been covered in magazines from Trouser Press to  the NME and the BBC’s music sites to Billboard.  His music also the subject of a multitude of bloggers who are interested in anything punk…or anything off-beat..  The website Killed By Death once wrote ‘Hell, not even Poison Idea does it as good as Alan Milman Sect’. His song ‘Stitches in My Head’ was covered by Urge Overkill.  He has a visible presence on facebook, and he’s not afraid to tell anyone what he thinks online or in person.

Al’s recorded with his own band, The Alan Milman Sect, and managed and produced The Boss Martians.  He’s DJ’d at Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco in Los Angeles and graced the stage of CBGB’s in New York.  Eventually he’d find his way to Seattle and co-own one of the cities’ first stores to cater to those taking part in the record renaissance from the early 90’s and beyond.

Al arrives and we chit chat while we wait for Moshe to arrive.  Al and I are a bit early. Moshe arrives on schedule as planned. He appears much younger than I’d expected…but it must be attributed to good genes.  I know he’s not as young as he looks.  After I get the recorder set up and Moshe grabs a falafel from the food truck outside it’s time to begin.

I hate doing interviews.  I sound so vapid, and there’s only a limited supply of stupid questions to ask, I’m gonna leave this one to the two of them, I think to myself.

“So what was the genesis of your store?”  I blurt out.  Oh god…that sounds ridiculous.

“Al and I met in New York” says Moshe. We have a couple of common friends. I’d heard about Al but I think I met him about 1985 or 1986 for the first time. I was going to college and Al was good friends with my best friend and roommate Danny Israel who lives here in Seattle. I think it was either  Danny Israel, Gary Schrank, or Vinny Hayes; I’m not sure which one. Anyhow, we went to a couple of shows…I think The Lyres (from Boston) a couple of times, but we weren’t close friends at that point.  Later in the 80s I got to know Al better. I was going to college.  I would spend time making tape collections of other people’s record and CD collections. Al had a really cool record and CD collection he was just starting.  I thought it was great that he introduced people to a lot of stuff.  I was mostly aware of it-he thinks I wasn’t- but anyway I would go to his apartment and record a lot of his CDs and records and I think at the end of my time in New York we just ran into each other at random concerts”.  Al later tells me ‘We saw The Fleshtones and Chesterfield Kings (also from Boston) a lot”

Bedazzled Discs owners Al Milman and Moshe Weinberg

“I mentioned I was moving back to Seattle and that I used to work for a record store”. Moshe continues.  “Al’s response was “You’re never going to make money at record store, you have to own one.”  It was an off-hand comment…I think maybe he asked me what I was going to do in Seattle.  I don’t recall exactly why I said it, but for some reason I mentioned that when I got back to Seattle I’d like to work at a record store again.  Once again he threw out the idea that if you really want to make money you have to own a record store as opposed to working in one.  Now I know better. You don’t make money either way but I guess that was the start of “well, let’s look into that” and we decided to pursue it”.

“I moved back to Seattle.  Al was still in New York.  I started looking for a storefront property in different neighborhoods. Then he came out to visit. I think it was around Thanksgiving weekend of 1990. There was a big storm that week and Al  got to know Seattle. I took him around to a few neighborhoods and eventually we found this little spot in Pioneer Square and we went for it.  It was at 101 Cherry Street. It’s a barber shop now.  So Al moved to Seattle”.

I was living in what was my grandmothers house. She had recently been moved to an old age home so the house was vacant. In fact there was someone else living there part time.  Al came to town and stayed at my grandmother’s house for a month or two before he found a job.  We started planning opening the store. The grand opening was June 5, 1991. I think initially our focus was import CDs. Stuff that was not out in the US; mostly ‘60s or Garage or things like The Yardbirds. We didn’t have much vinyl at that point, so later we had to build up our record collection”.

“John Keister was at our opening by the way”. Al points out.

Keister was probably at the height of his celebrity at the time.  His local sketch show ‘Almost Live’ was airing each Saturday night locally, and had been syndicated nationally.  He’s remained on the Seattle comedy and cultural scene for years…as close as Seattle gets to conferring ‘icon‘ status.  Finally, last year Jon performed what he claimed would be his last stand-up comedy schtick at Seattle’s Benaroya Hall.  The show was called “Living and Dying in Seattle” It both lamented and celebrated Seattle’s one-time dowdy and beloved small-town atmosphere into becoming a major American city full of high-tech transplants, bursting with high rise buildings and a much more business-like approach. His show was held on September 9, 2017.  At the time Keister said “It’s a brand new city out there. Natives, Newcomers and anyone else trying to make sense of this town are welcome. Let’s have a party!”

Since then John has now settled into a life of writing and teaching script-writing at the Art Institute of Seattle.  But he says he’ll perform at corporate events and ‘wave from convertibles at whatever parades that will have me”’.

“Do you remember the SoundWaves store in Burien?” Al asks.

I have to admit I’m not familiar with the place because I’ve been to Burien fewer times than I have unbroken fingers on my right hand. That would make it twice.

“I wouldn’t say they were the prototype” Al says  “but they were one of the influences of ours.  Stores in New York like Bleeker Bob’s and those sort of stores”

Now, Bleecker Bob’s is a place I’m quite familiar with.  The online journal Dangerous Minds once called it ‘The most loved and most hated record store in New York City.’ I fall into the former category.  Over the years it was the nexus for oldies fans, proto-punks, punk rockers, psychedelic fans, garage and import enthusiasts, classic rockers, ‘60s folkies and post-punk affecianados.  You name it. Anything and every kind of music seemed to be available, and it became a great place to mix and hang out. Some folks would even trek to New York City just to visit this mecca of music.  Conversely “Bleecker Bob” would make trips elsewhere to find new and used stock to fill the store.  In the 1970’s he went to London regularly, buying crates and crates of British punk rock that wouldn’t otherwise have been available in any American record store.

I used to pass by Bleecker Bob’s about two times a week looking covetously into it’s windows because buying records was a luxury for me back in my NYC days.  I’d go in the store from time to time simply to browse the racks.  But it was hard enough to pay the rent and have extra money to get drunk on.  For a couple of years I had to curtail my obsession with obscure and/or import 7″ singles.

Robert “Bleecker Bob” Plotnik

The “Bob” in “Bleecker Bob’s” was Robert Plotnik who ran the store in it’s several iterations in New York’s Greenwich Village for almost 50 years.  Plotnik was a former lawyer who worked with the New York District Attorney.  In 1967 Robert Plotnik teamed up with  Al Trommers, a  Doo-wop enthusiast who referred to himself as “Broadway Al.”  The two opened a store originally called Village Oldies at 149 Bleecker Street. Because of the store’s location “Broadway Al” suggested Plotnik should take on the name “Bleecker Bob” It stuck. The location would change twice over the decades, eventually ending up at 118 West 3rd Street in 1981.

By this time Trommers had split from Plotnik.  Trommers says his reason for leaving the partnership was due to Plotnik’s abrasive character. Plotnik was often cranky and notoriously abrupt with his customers whether they were kids from the Village (East or West) or one of the many celebrity musicians who frequented his store. He had a sharp tongue and did not suffer fools-many of which were potential customers.  A 1993 episode of Seinfeld called ‘The Old Man’, features a character obviously based on Bleecker Bob, and part of the episode was actually shot in the store.

In 2012 Hazel Sheffield and Emily Judem’s documentary on Bob and the store For The Records. a conversation is captured between Bob and his girlfriend.

She asks him how they can keep the store operational when people weren’t buying records like they used to.

“They’ll buy them if I tell them to buy them,” Bob said.

Behind his temperamental facade Plotnik was well-versed in just about any pop music genre you could throw at him. and when he wasn’t showing his expertise, he was often curt and abrupt. Overall Bleeker Bob’s was a messy playground for music collectors, music stars, and off-the-steet music fans alike.  Bob was at the center of it all.  And as is true with all curmudgeons, there was kind heart at the center of his character.

In the mid-80s Plotnik opened “Bleecker Bob’s Golden Oldies Record Shop” at 7454 Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles.  Shortly after the L.A. store’s opening Plotnik suffered a brain aneurysm.  He’s now semi-paralyzed and lives in a nursing home on the Upper West Side.  Chris Weidner took over the day-to-day operations of the New York store and the Los Angeles store didn’t last long.  Weidner was almost as curt and temperamental as Plotnik, but he kept the store open until rising New York rents forced Bleecker Bob’s to throw in the towel. The storefront stayed vacant for a few months, then became the location of a national chain of frozen yogurt stores, Yogo. It went on to have several other tenants, and  today the space is the site of the Miyabi Sushi Bar.

It and much of the rest of old rock, jazz, folk.punk and the other trappings of the vibrant Village scene are gone, and not for the better.  The East and West Villages are now practically as touristy as Times Square and most artists and mucisians have been forced out of the neighborhood because of market prices.

It’s almost apparent that Milman takes on some of the characteristics of Bob Plotnik.  His entire approach to selling records seems similar. Dismissive when asked questions he finds stupid; invested in helping others with recommendations and spinning tales about just about everyone he’s met in the music business or talking about  fantastic bands and artists as well as rarities and obscure recordings.  When a customer is a serious collector or knowledgeable or an honestly interested  in exploring new music, he loves talking music with those who listen.

Returning to Al and Moshe’s story;

Al tells me “SoundWaves was the the closest store like Bleecker Bob’s and other New York record stores near Seattle, and they were stocking import CDs. They had a lot of Japanese imports, but they were out in Burien so we felt that Seattle could use a store like that, with maybe even a wider selection”

Moshe says “We opened our store and it was kind of a shoestring budget”I had to get my dad to co-sign a loan from the bank and Al borrowed money from his dad. There wasn’t a lot of money. We were really restricted so that’s how we started.”

“But we didn’t carry Genesis.” Al says.

Now Al is ribbing me about my first dumb question.  Nothing gets by this guy.

He says “We would have if it was with Peter Gabriel,  but by then it was Phil Collins.  We would laugh at people like Phil Collins because that was sort of the antithesis of what we are doing, Moshe would laugh if somebody asked for “I Just Called To Say I Love You” by Stevie Wonder, and I would laugh at almost anything.  Laugh at them or tell them “Get the hell out of my store!

“Get the hell out of my store!” would be a response to asking for some horrible commercial thing.

They both laugh.

“Gillian Gaar (author of She’s a Rebel and former writer and associate editor at The Rocket) was our  first customer.” Al tells me. “She bought The Chiffons”

“….and I think Little Richard too” adds Moshe.

I ask Moshe who he thinks their average customer was at the time they opened Bedazzled Discs in downtown Seattle.

“I would say the customers were those who wanted to pay $25 for a Japanese CD that was not out in the US.” he answers.

“What was the name of the guy who came and ordered a lot of Zappa stuff?” Asks Al “He was a short guy, really friendly. He was a very big customer. Our customers like that were completists. This guy wanted to order every Zappa CD he could get”.

“I’ve seen him recently, I mean in the last few years. But people like that, who were rabid collectors, they would be repeat customers, There were friends of ours like Shaun Lee or David Hersh, or guys that came in and bought the new “whatever” album, The new Ween album, the new Oasis album or whatever.”

“Were you selling mostly imports?” I ask

“We started transitioning pretty early” says Moshe. “I would say we started off concentrating mostly on imports from Japan and  England. Then I think we realized we were missing out on the Sub Pop thing or whatever you want to call alternative; the people who wanted to buy The Smashing Pumpkins.  Then there was K Records and C/Z and Estrus and all the other local bands and labels. Then we came in contact with the two owners of Sub Pop” (Jon Poneman and Bruce Pavitt)

“I still see Bruce Pavitt on the Hill. I still run into him at the grocery store” Al tells me. “I’ve known him forever and he’s a great guy and probably doesn’t live here anymore, but when they signed Nirvana they took us in the back of our store and told us the whole deal-how it happened which was very very interesting, How many record stores got that directly from the horse’s mouth?

I tell them  I also know Jon and Bruce and that Bruce still comes to Seattle, but spends most of his time at the home and property he bought on Orcas Island several years ago. I’m not a

bsolutely sure if that’s still true  because the fact is I haven’t seen Bruce in many years.

In 1984 Bruce Pavitt worked at store called Bombshelter Records, tucked away on the mezzanine of a small group of shops along Broadway Avenue in Seattle.  Russ Battaglia was working there at the same time.  Bruce and Russ decided to form a partnership and go into the record retail business on their own.  The intention was to present as many bands on indie labels from around the country and overseas as possible. They were also committed to selling local artists and serving skate culture. They named the store Fallout Records and the long-running store was opened in July of 1984.  It was in a tiny space at 1506 E. Olive Way on Seattle’s lower Capitol Hill and remained there until 2003.

The Official Fallout Skate Team

Russ Battaglia amicably split with Bruce about 18 months after the store opened.  Bruce left to pursue different aspects of his Sub Pop brand which included a fanzine, a regular monthly column in The Rocket magazine and his new start-up label Sub Pop. Russ brought his wife Janet on board to help him run the store. They introduced comics and the “illustrated novels’ that were beginning to become popular at the time. It was an important place for both the punk and the skate scene for years.  Fallout actively supported and sponsored their own travelling skate team and put on local skate competitions. although Russ and Janet culled their skateboard business along the way. In 1987 Russ and Janet, along with Larry Reid started their own indie label, Black Label Records.  They went on to release records by The U-Men, Gashuffer, The Hell Cows from Portland, Christ on a Crutch and a video of Big Black’s penultimate show at the Georgetown Steamplant on August 7, 1987.  Black Label later went dormant and Russ and Janet closed Fallout in 1999.  Tim Hayes, who’d been a friend and former employee of the Battaglia’s thought he could revive the business.  Since leaving Fallout for a few years Tim had worked at Seattle’s Fantagraphics Books.  In 1999 he set out to put Fallout back in business.  Russ and Janet gave him their blessing, saying

We worked really hard to provide an antidote to mall culture.  Tim intends to do the same, so we say ‘help him keep our community!’

At the time Tim Hayes told Cynthia Rose of The Seattle Times;

“There will be a lot more of everything. More CDs, more records and additional musical genres. I especially want to help support the local jazz scene. I love jazz, and I know the Seattle scene is really swinging right now.”

Tim did indeed expand the store and was able to keep it afloat until February of 2003.  Digital music was killing record and CD stores across the country.

My discussion with Al and Moshe then turns to the 20th anniversary showing of Robert Pray’s film Hype! The documentary covers the early ‘90s Seattle music scene.

“All the people we know are in Hype! “It’s the best local movie” Al declares. “Hype! nailed it, you know. Jack Endino. Megan Jasper making fun of ‘grunge‘ it’s wonderful”.

This is a statement not even worthy of debate.  Hype! IS a fantastic snapshot of an era.  It is without a doubt the best documentary of any moment in Seattle’s music history.

The 20th anniversary showing was September 25, 2017 at the Egyptian Theater, usually a Seattle International Film Festival venue (SIFF). The Hype! showing was sponsored by the Northwest Film Forum (NWFF) Their own space would have been far too small.

The anniversary screening included a panel discussion featuring Seattle music luminaries like Lulu Gargiulo and Kurt Bloch of The Fastbacks, Producer Jack Endino, Mark Arm of Mudhoney, Green River and Mr. Epp.  A proto-grunge spoof band The Schmitheads (a spin-off of legendary ‘80s bands, The Thrown Ups and Mr. Epp) did a pre-screening set. The Schmidtheads featured Leighton Beezer, Ed Fotheringham, Scott Schickler and Jo Smitty, who co-founded the band Mr. Epp with Mark Arm. The term ‘grunge’ famously stems from a self-deprecating, joke letter written by Mark Arm to Desperate Times magazine in 1981.  The panel was led by former KNDD music director Marco Collins.  Marco was an advocate for local Seattle music after arriving from San Diego and a stint as an intern and DJ at the Mexican-owned, influential  XTRA-FM (91X).  The station had so much power that it could often be heard over large areas of Northern Mexico and the American southwest.  It was also the  inspiration for Wall of Voodoo’sMexican Radio’.

Back in Seattle KNDD (also known as 107.7, The End) was reluctant  to play anything even remotely alternative unless it had already made a national splash (in other words Pearl Jam, Nirvana. Soundgarden. et al.)  The station seemed indifferent to local music.  In spite of this Collins was able to help many now well-known indie artists like Beck and Garbage, and spun records by Death Cab For Cutie, The Presidents of the United States of America, Foo Fighters, Harvey Danger and Sunny Day Real Estate on his all-local Sunday night show ‘The Young and The Restless’  

Marco left KNDD IN 1998 but still spends time in Seattle.  In 2015 Collins, who is openly gay, was the subject of the documentary ‘The Glamour and The Squalor’, directed by Marq Evans…and yes, the spelling’s right.  The film follows his early life and on to his wild success in radio even while dealing with addiction, and his eventual sobriety.  Mike McCready (of Pearl Jam) supplied the score for the the film.  It won the Audience Award for Best Documentary at Outfest in Los Angeles, Audience Favorite at The Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival,  Best Documentary at the Sidewalk Film Festival in Birmingham, Alabama, Best Local Feature at The Tacoma Film Festival and it was the runner-up for Best Documentary at the Seattle International Film Festival.  ‘The Glamour and the Squalor’ has also garnered nominations and awards from both LGBT and mainstream festivals world-wide.  Next to Hype!  it may be the second best film based on a musical figure and movement out of Seattle.

Back to Moshe.  He tells me that while the store in Pioneer Square was getting off the ground he was listening to a lot of things Al was listening to…and many other things that Al didn’t listen to like The Jerky Boys.

For the uninitiated, The Jerky Boys were a juvenile and stoopid comedy outfit from Queens, New York. In other words they were hysterically funny.  Especially when stoned.  Johnny Brennan and Kamal Ahmed were childhood friends. In 1989 the pair created a cast of fictitious characters that would make prank calls, record them and release them as tapes.  Their work was somewhat in the vein of Cookie Puss, the first indie 12” by The Beastie Boys but without the beats. The Jerky Boys were much, much more over-the-top in portraying a bevvy of voice characters.  Their tapes found their way to New York DJ and radio host Howard Stern.  His playing them on the air broke the Jerky Boys who went on to have phenomenal success.  Despite their success Kamal left Brennan and The Jerky Boys after a dispute.  Brennan continued producing Jerky Boys material on a solo basis.  Kamal released his own solo album, Once a Jerk, Always a Jerk, in 2000 and in 2001 Brennan put out The Jerky Tapes. It was the last album by Brennan.  He set The Jerky Boys aside after it’s release

Aside from The Jerky Boys Moshe says;

“I was listening to a lot of 60s Garage, a lot of great punk,  and after the store opened I got more into a lot of the indie rock thing. I learned a lot more about it. As we started carrying more and more labels we’d get promos and I could check out more stuff and expand more.”

“The core of our business” says Al “was like Matador and Touch and Go and all the related labels We would try to figure out the new releases but also try to figure out which catalog releases we should have.  We got some help sometimes. We’d have younger customers help us order stuff, to be perfectly frank, because we weren’t really experts on that

Billboard magazine says they were also getting new product through indie distributors like Abbey Road, run by Sam Ginsburg in Los Angeles, and Dutch East India Trading who was carrying Homestead Records, Giant Records, Grass Records and Rockville Records at the time.

I’m an expert on many different kinds of music but certainly not independent music. I mean, I’ve learned about it.  Most people really delve into it pretty heavily. I had some interest in it if I liked the band. I like Sonic Youth and I like Ween, but that doesn’t mean I like 100 other indie bands, I would gravitate toward things that I really liked, but that didn’t necessarily kill our inventory or what our selection had to be. Moshe made a lot of suggestions because he was listening to it much more closely than I was, I think”.

“Wouldn’t you say that was true?” he asks Moshe.

“Some bands, yeah, And some bigger names” Moshe replies.

“You know we were working with with majors too-like Sony” Al tells me. “We also worked with Universal. They were going through different periods and there was stuff we would promote very heavily.  I worked very heavily with those companies. Capitol was a very strange case because there was a woman-I’m not going to even say who she was-but she was a very uncooperative promotional woman who was going out with somebody very well-known in Seattle.  She made a point not to be cooperative with our store so I contacted Donna Ross from Capitol Records in Hollywood (Ross was then national director of alternative sales at) and from then on we got the best service directly from Capitol in Hollywood because the original promo woman was not cooperative.”
“And then there was ‘Grand Royal’ (a vanity label set up by the Beastie Boys after they left Def Jam Records), They had this magazine and these guys were super into ‘The Beastie Boys’. I ran into ‘The Beastie Boys’ subsequently. I still listen to them-especially ‘Paul’s Boutique’ which is one of my favorite albums, But these guys would listen to The Jerky Boys and ‘The Beastie Boys’ night and day,  So did Moshe and his brother Mordy.  It was unbelievable. We even hung out with The Beastie Boys once”.

Moshe tells the story.  Actually what happened was, I think it was Grand Royal that got us into ‘Lollapalooza’ but they forgot to put our names on the guest list.   Al talked our way in…Mordy and Al combined…and we went backstage and Al didn’t recognize any of them.  Al went up to Mike D. and asked him where the food was. I said, ‘Do you realize he’s going on in half an hour or 45 minutes? He’s one of the Beastie Boys! You just asked one of the Beastie Boys where the food was!’

They both break into laughter.
Later Al tells me about smoking pot with them and having a generally bust-up time.

Al admits “I didn’t know what they looked like. When Urge Overkill came here-Urge Overkill recorded one of my songs called ‘Stitches In My Head’  (It was shortened to ‘Stitches’ on the band’s  EP, ‘Stull’).  Eddie Vedder was in the middle of the room when we went back to the motel. All these girls were clustered around this really diminutive guy. I didn’t know what Eddie Vedder looked like because Pearl Jam didn’t put their pictures on album covers. So I just asked Nash Kato from Urge Overkill ‘Who’s that diminutive guy attracting all the chicks in the middle of the room?  He said ‘That’s Eddie Vedder’…I didn’t know….and I’m from Seattle….but he’s not really from Seattle-he’s from California- so I don’t really feel that bad about not recognizing him”.

“We were at 101 Cherry from 1991 through June of 1996 and then we moved to Capitol Hill” Moshe tells me. “Actually we made two moves. To Capitol Hill in 1996 and another move to the University District in 1998.  On Capitol Hill we were next to The Oddfellows Hall. There wasn’t all that stuff that’s there is now, but the Molly Moon store was right by there. I think there’s an ‘H&R Block’ there now. Our store was in the Oddfellows Hall building on the ground floor.  There’s several stores there The address is 911 East Pine which was odd because it was like 9-11, Kind of spooky.

“I think people who live in Seattle, even people who live in the neighborhood always mix up Pike and Pine Streets” says Al. “I do myself-except when our store was there.  Obviously I knew which one I was on because we were on Pine, but now it’s: “Pine?…Pike?…whatever…”  Al goes on to say “The Pine store was a lot larger than the Pioneer Square store, but a little too large. It was HUGE.

Moshe agrees. “Yeah it was much too large. Because there was more space the rent was higher.  It was larger than we needed so it was a little bit of an uphill battle for us. That place only lasted a couple of years, but it had  a good stage if we wanted to have in-stores and bands play there. We had The Wailers play but the space itself just wasn’t great, In the other two locations the customers came in, and they could talk to you right away, so the interaction was better; but the Capitol Hill store was harder  because we were all the way in the back there. The interaction wasn’t great, plus theft was easier because you’re not going to run all the way across the store to catch somebody stealing CDs. The move never really justified itself in sales. Now we did carry a lot of great records there and that’s when our record thing really started to expand, so it was good for that, But we decided to move.”

“We decided that the University District was gonna be the best and probably only reasonable location to move to” Moshe says. “We talked about…it was a different time frame..we talked about the Pike Place Market and all these other locations.. We did find a place in the University District. We moved there in 1998. The first two locations had put us in a bit of a situation…I would say, without getting into too many specifics about the finances, where it was a make or break thing.  We could have easily closed up the shops at either earlier locations because we had debts and all this stuff, but we were both kind of stubborn and decided we wanted to keep this going. You know, find the best way with how to deal with it.

In a 1998 article Billboard magazinefocused on Bedazzled Discs, and it’s impending move from 911 East Pine. They wrote;

    Bedazzled Discs Capitol Hill location

“With more than 5,000 titles the mix of the Capitol Hill store was approximately 50% CD and 50% vinyl.  The music runs the gamut with modern jazz, Jamaican, reggae, ska, psychedelic, garage, grunge, surf, rockabilly, hip-hop, soul, funk, comedy, vintage country and vintage rock and roll.  The store also carries a large number of indie releases, including the entire catalogs of K Records in Olympia, Trojan Records from Jamaica on LP and CD  (Trojan is British, actually) and Blue Note Records on LP and CD.

‘We try to carry real roots music’ Milman says.  ‘Anything with a lot of energy and passion.  The move to our new location in the University District, although slightly smaller with about 1,200 square feet gives us the opportunity to showcase more inventory with a much better lay-out”.

Al says “At one point Moshe tried to buy me out but he didn’t have any money”  I can’t tell if this is tongue-in-cheek or not.

“But you know, I was a pain” Moshe says “because Al did have a lot of knowledge of records so we looked for spaces that were ideal locations…in-between the pursuit of chasing the right size. We needed something bigger than the store in Pioneer Square but smaller than Capitol Hill location.  We didn’t need the extra space and as far as space goes the University District store was perfect, plus the bathroom was another good selling point”

“A good place for people to shoot-up in!” Al says in mock joy.

“We couldn’t fit so many records in the Pioneer Square store” Says Moshe. “We could on Capitol Hill, but as I said the customer interaction was really awkward there.  So the U-District was good, and we moved there in 1998.  Business did actually improve for awhile. quite a bit. The store was on University and 43rd Street, across from Rudy’s Barber Shop.  We were at  4742 University Way, also across the street from the 7-11.  So we were in the U-District, and it took a couple of years for Al to alienate the customers”.

“I did pretty well with alienating customers” says Al.

“So the location was great’ Moshe tells me. ‘The size was good,  the layout of the records was really good and we were big enough that we could have in-stores. There was a bit of an issue with theft, like there was in the other two locations.

“It was generally bad in that neighborhood” says Al. “But both of us were very good at catching shoplifters. Mostly because I was a very good shoplifter when I was younger, so I knew what they were doing.  I use to steal from our shoplifters, I was picking their pockets while they were stealing our CDs. Seriously, we’re both very good at stopping the attrition rate from shoplifting. We would catch people and we only had to have one guy arrested because he stole the whole Johnny Thunders and Iggy Pop sections. I won’t say his name even though I can because he was convicted-but I won’t. This guy shoplifted at every record store in Seattle that had something he wanted. He was a bad shoplifter, though, and we had to press charges”.

“At the third store in the University District-that’s when we were selling the entire Trojan record label”. Al tells me. “We had every record that was in print on Trojan at the time and that was a large part of our business, Also we bought Adam Bratman’s Sub Pop collection, which was another big part of that location. It greatly expanded our market for records”.

Seattle music fans obviously know the Sub Pop label but fewer people are familiar with Trojan Records.

Trojan was originally set up in 1968 by music retailer Lee Gopthal and ‘Island Records’ founder Chris Blackwell in London.  Trojan’s initial output consisted of 7”Jamaican singles released in Britain by artists like Jimmy Cliff, Dave and Ansel Collins, Lee “Scratch”Perry, Desmond Dekker, Toots and The Maytals and many more artists we now consider classic Jamaican stars. In 1972 Chris Blackwell decided to give up his interest in Trojan and by 1975, without Island Records’ resources and overspending Trojan went broke.  At the time they had been trying to re-mix, provide new arrangements and re-master former Reggae recordings for a wider British market. The assets that remained were bought up by Marcel Rodd and his label ‘Saga Records’.  Rodd didn’t have a particular interest in the music of Jamaica, but the company wasn’t an expensive buy and Saga dealt in discounted records. At the time no one knew the Trojan catalog would become a cash cow. There were some thin times financially under Rodd, but Trojan was a source for the many British Skinheads who listened to and danced to the music of Jamaica.  It was also a source for former Carribeans to find and enjoy the music they’d left behind.  Still, this wasn’t a large market. Trojan ultimately succeeded on the strength of the “Ska Revival” of the late 70s and early ‘80s, sparked on by bands like The Specials, The Selecter and Madness. Rodd and his Saga Records then sold Trojan believing that the ‘Ska Revival’ was a fad that would soon implode.  It was later sold to a rabid fan of Jamaican music, Colin Newman (not that Colin Newman) He would be the first of a few that would know how to exploit the label and bring it back to it’s then-fabled history. Newman also knew more than anyone how valuable the Trojan back catalog would become.

One very smart move Trojan had made from the start was gathering up licensing deals for many lesser-known artists and with many smaller labels.  They often released these artists locally on their smaller licensed labels to the Jamaican market rather than internationally. Their catalog included ‘reggae’, ‘rude boy’, ‘ska’ and ‘rock steady’ artists.  A lot of these were deep tracks that would later become essential.  Suddenly Trojan became the label to find these artists on as re-releases, and their original pressings became highly prized by collectors. In 1998 Trojan started compiling that would be a series of 69 boxed sets (so far) each made up of 50 tracks on 3 CD’s.  They’ve also put out three similar box sets that are only available in Japan or as Japanese imports.  Since 2000 the label has changed hands several times, but has made millions of dollars (or more?) off it’s extensive back-catalogue.  Trojan remains one of the most profitable and respected small labels in the world, even though it is now part of the EMI group.  2018 marks its 50th year in business.  Pretty good for a label that started out as labor of love, and a good label to carry for any struggling record store.

“We also bought out ‘Backtrack Video’s’ inventory” Moshe says. “We were undecided whether to rent or to sell them so we ended up doing a little bit of both. We tried to do a rental thing but it really didn’t work out too well. We weren’t really set up to be a rental business so we sold some,  It didn’t make us much money but it was kind of a cool.  I kept some for myself, like a bunch of Russ Meyer movies.  They were on VHS though”.

Several bands played at The University District store.  Moshe tells me. “The Boss Martians and the Alan Milman Sect (‘never heard of ’em’ says Al”) They played at the last store…Pop Slavery and  I think the Fixx played there too when they were in town.  The Makers played in the third store too”
In 1998 Billboard reported that other in-store’s at the Capitol Hill location included Dub Narcotic, Truly, and The Rob Clark Five.

“We had our ups and downs there like we did at all the locations” Moshe admits. “During that time personally…I’d gotten married in ‘95 and I wasn’t making enough money to pay for both of us so I worked at my father’s company. I didn’t so much the first few months in the Pioneer Square days.  Neither my father nor the company are around anymore.  It was a dry cleaning and laundry supply company.  Depending what year you’re talking about I worked 20 to 30 hours a week.  Maybe even sometimes 40 hours so I was struggling with that job, the store and I’d gotten married in 1995 and became a father in 1999. So by the time ‘99 came around we had been one year at the U-District store. It was a struggle for me to find time to really work and do stuff at the store. I was at home a lot because I was with the baby. He’s 18 years old now.”

“Well you brought him to the store a lot” Al says sympathetically.

Moshe continues by saying “I was working at another job, and trying to deal with a marriage that ended up failing around the same time the store failed. There was a lot going on for me personally. It was hard to find a lot of time to be at the store and do a lot of things that when I look back on, maybe I would have done differently, but you know…”

“What killed off the store?”  I ask them.

“The truth is there was debt that was accumulating from day one, and the reasons are numerous. I would say our first location choice, while there were some good parts about it, maybe it was a little bit pricey for us. We had started on a shoestring budget and when we moved to Capitol Hill we took out more loans and put more on credit cards, I feel we kind of put ourselves in a situation where we were, from a business standpoint…well there was a lot to manage.”

Al Milman & Moshe Weinberg

“For instance I was doing a lot of the accounting”. Says Moshe. “So who do I pay?” I’d ask myself. “You have to pay the rent. And the suppliers-you don’t want to hold them up.  It was a struggle to pay our bank loans every month and you have to put people off and people got angry. As I said we could have easily closed after the Pioneer Square store, or after the Capitol Hill store but we had an emotional attachment to the store and we decided to find that ideal location, so when we got to the University District it got better for a couple of years and I felt that even though it would take us years and years to pay-off all our loans we at least had hope. There were a few things like 9-11 that played a part in this, There was some construction project on the Ave”.

“That was the biggest thing…the renovation of the Ave.” says Al.

I should explain here to non-Seattlites although the main street in the University District (or U-District) is ‘University Way’ For some obscure reason the street has been known for decades as ‘The Ave’ short for ‘Avenue’.  It’s a Seattle-thing not even the natives understand.  We just accept it at face value.

“I’m not going to get into personal things” says Moshe “but I think at times Al’s customer service, depending on the type of customer, they could be put off by his approach. Some customers stopped coming to the store-I think in each location- so I think all those things played a factor and then there was the general economy. I could list ten or twelve things. But I think both of us going into it lacked business experience; and this says a little bit about myself.  My dad had a business, but I didn’t have any experience running a business and I think when Al and I both look back on it we would have done a few things differently.  Maybe partly in locations or partly in…who knows?  But I would have done certain things differently. I have a lot more experience now-I learned a lot-but at the time it put us in a bit of a hole”

“It’s a struggle, vinyl is very popular now, but it’s had its ups and downs” says Moshe

“Records are popular too” Al chirps in.  I know he’s being sarcastic.  This is a sore point for him; calling records ‘vinyl’ or ‘vinyls’ drives him nuts. Maybe this has gone over Moshe’s head I think to myself.

“They were very popular at the store when we were in the U-District” Moshe continues.

“I think we helped bring records back into prominence” Al says.

“I think the real major issue” says Moshe “was that we weren’t able to turn our inventory over enough because of our cash flow issues; to keep some of the regular customers. They would come one day and then come a week later (and that wasn’t always the case) we had some weekly customers but it wasn’t on a consistent basis”.

“Al and I had these monthly meetings where we both got really stoned” Moshe tells me. “I had to tell Al that unfortunately we had a budget, because we had to pay the rent and we had to do this and that. So I put a budget on Al for what we could buy, and that was a struggle because we couldn’t get everything we wanted and we were buying things coming in off the street”.

“We should have bought more used records” Al admits. “ I used to go out-of-state and buy records. That’s one of the things that kept the store going for years because we had vinyl that other people didn’t have.  I hate to use the word vinyl, it’s RECORDS. You know what I really hate? The word ‘vinyls’ People who say ‘vinyls‘ are morons” Al says with conviction.  “Ask Mike Nipper about that. He has an epileptic seizure if he hears that word  ‘vinyls’. Millennials use that expression.  Millennials are morons anyway.”

I tell them that once in an article I referred to ‘a chunk of polychloride vinyl on a press’.

That’s a record!” snaps Al

“No I didn’t call it a record because it was a glob pressed into a record.

Moshe says “In my previous job I was with a company that was making equipment and I bought a lot of vinyl. But that was actual vinyl. I tried to put it on my record player but nothing played!”

“I just want to say a couple of things” Al announces.  “We sold more copies of The Small Faces compilation The Darlings of Wapping Wharf Launderette.  We sold 400 copies of that double CD compilation. We sold more in Seattle than any English record store. That compilation sold like Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’. It was over a period of years, but that was incredible. It’s because there were three or four bands in Seattle that covered The Small Faces. The Small Faces are extremely popular in Seattle and that’s very unusual in any city.  It was mostly The Faces, but people who like The Small Faces are more specialists and this is an area (the northwest) where they apparently had a large fan base, It was part of the zeitgeist and it’s unbelievable. When you talk about The Faces ‘ehhhhh’  but when you talk about The Small Faces. ‘Brilliant! Genius!’

.”Moshe talked to Steve Marriott once” Al says.

“Yeah, I talked to Marriott” Moshe says, adding “it was terrible. He was at the end of his life. He was really wasted”There’s a slight pause here because I know how big fans Al and I are of The Small Faces.  I assume Moshe is as well. It’s a bit unsettling thinking about his demise.

We move back to Al and Moshe’s story;

“People like Peter Buck would shop at the last store. We had a Garage and Psychedelic section that was all like Sundazed (a great reissue imprint) and other related labels. That stuff would fly out of there, because nobody had a garage/psych section. Maybe Satellite Records did”.

“Oh, they weren’t around then” Moshe reminds us.

“I know” Al says. But they were the only ones that would have anything comparable. They wound up in a whole different place. I don’t even want to talk about Scott. I actually got to know him later. He was really cool, He burned me a Tony Joe White box that I really treasure”

“We had the largest James Brown section that I’ve ever seen. We had every James Brown we could order. We’d order 36 of them at a time. We had 80 Johnny Cash albums at one time. That’s what made the store different.”

“What was that MTV show? The Real World? Al asks. “They came and filmed in our store. They filmed in our store because they heard we had all these James Brown records and a lot of other great records. They came and shot and they said if they wanted to use it  they’d let us know, but they didn’t. They promised us they’d send us the video but they never did.  So “Fuck You Real World! Fuck You MTV!  I Hate My MTV! 

I tell them occasionally late at night I will watch a bit of I Want My ‘80s

“I HATE THE 80s!” Al tells me abruptly. “I love The Jesus and Mary Chain. I love Echo and The Bunnymen and I love specific groups. But people used to come in the store-and this is where I used to get riled up- people would come in the store and ask ‘Where’s your 80s section?’ and I’d say ‘We file by category and music by genre’.

“That was the thing” says Moshe. “The way Al is talking now. Sometimes that could put people off”.

“But some people were down with that” says Al.  “I had a conversation with somebody the other day; that people have to pick one album by an artist that precludes the rest of the artists’ output. There are certain artists like The Kinks or Pink Floyd or The Beach Boys or Lou Reed or whoever…artists who’ve made multiple great albums, and you don’t have to pick one album. It’s so lazy-minded…like ‘what’s their greatest album?‘ Top 10 lists. Top 40 lists. Bullshit!

“But” says Moshe “Other record stores would tolerate opinions and…”

“But should the come to the store to buy one record?” Al counters.

Moshe responds by saying “Well if they’re giving me money to buy that one record…”

“But I sold a lot of those ‘one records‘ Al says.  “Obviously if it was Love it would be Forever Changes, but that doesn’t negate Love’s self titled album and and Da Capo and Four Sail. We had that conversation”

“Well one time we had a customer come in and say Love Lost is my favorite Love album” Moshe looks at Al “and you’re response was

“Well I’ve heard that cliche before” and I was like ‘Al why are you…”

Al tells me “Moshe’s absolutely right about that. I disagree with it philosophically, but he’s right because there’s no point because favorites are legitimate…

“Moshe looks at Al and says “But this was a guy that has similar tastes in music as you”

“No, no you’re right because favorite is legitimate” Al repeats. “Best is not legitimate. I go off on people on facebook all day when they say“best”. I just had a thing on a facebook thread about T.Rex. Some critics there are are lovely and very nice to me and I like the guys and everything.  I respect them. But this guy didn’t really have any reason to be hostile…he said ‘T.Rex didn’t make any good records after ‘Tanx’…and I said ‘I’m sorry…records YOU didn’t like after ‘Tanx’ didn’t mean they didn’t make any other good records’. That’s the distinction I make between the subjective and the objective. I could go on and on and on; I’m verbose…”

“That’s part of my ethos” says Al.“I bought those albums when they came out. I was one of the three people in America that actually bought The Velvet Underground. I actually went back to The Velvet Underground and started with ‘Loaded’ but I always bought The Small Faces when they came out; The Kinks-I bought them all when they came out. I bought Pink Floyd when they came out.  We had all these people at the shop that would buy all these records and they’d keep coming back to the store and they wanted the next record…they basically wanted something else. They wanted ‘The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society’ and then they wanted ‘Arthur’.

Moshe turns to me and says “This is what the store was like. Al would be like an Al Milman Stage and Word Show.

“I’m not involved in music except listening to it” Moshe says “Once the store closed…I’m not really a musician so there’s no avenue.

“Well you’re a collector” Al tells him.

“I wouldn’t define myself as a collector” Moshe responds “because to me a collector is an obsessive person. I’m a buyer of records”.

“Eventually we’ll call you an obsessive person with a lot of records. It’s all the same.” Al tells Moshe.

“None of my kids understand” Moshe says. “I have four kids now but they don’t understand the mentality; but there are people, and you always know who they are, who are collectors, but I’m not a collector.”

“Oh no no no” Al says as he laughs “You’re not ready for a psychiatrist, but you’re an avid fan and you are a collector on some level.”

   Al Milman sockin’ it to Moshe Weinberg

I admit to them I have a distaste for the collectors market after spending so much time around indie artists and financing indie artists’ projects…and having run three independent record labels. I tell him I’m always disappointed to see collectors make more money off the sale of one record than the band ever made off an entire run of a thousand records. Of course this is kind of a dumb thing to say to someone who has made a living off selling collectible records.

“I don’t mind the collectors market on some level” Al tells me. “I don’t necessarily have a problem if they make money selling it if they like the music. If they don’t have any interest in the music, that’s when I take offense. But I can’t begrudge if they like it, and they’re actual, genuine fans that bought it when it came out and sell it for market value later.  I can’t begrudge them at all because if they sell it cheaply the guy they’re selling it to is going to turn around and sell it for $200. If they just buy it and they don’t have any respect for what it is, that’s another story”.

“It’s just supply and demand. In other words, if you don’t like indicting the whole of capitalism- and capitalism has its drawbacks-but it’s all one whole, and we’re all within that system. So I’m not going to hold it against just one guy. I’m not going to point the finger at one guy because he’s not going to sell it cheap, and get ripped off by some other guy who’s playing for himself. I grew up in New York. We’re wary of things like that. I hope the guys got a good game.  If he couldn’t sell it for that price and they try to talk him down so they can do to sell it at a good price. “I’m not going to fall for that. I don’t fall for any scam”

I tell Al I know artists who have re-pressed their own records if they become valuable much later after their first release. They make them look just like the originals and sell them on the collectors market. They only put out a few at a time so they don’t ruin the price.  I tell him these are not bootleggers.  These are artists who actually own the material.

“Actually it’s diabolical” he says. “I don’t respect it, but these are not stupid people. I’ll tell you what. If they’re getting luxuries from it than I think it’s scummy. If they’re surviving and eating and paying rent from it I think it’s alright. If they’re surviving from it that’s OK.”

“You know what Yoko Ono said about the Beatles and the John Lennon records? She doesn’t care about bootlegs if people are just paying their rent from it. If they’re making millions she’s going to go after them, but she doesn’t go after the small guys that are just eating and paying their rent from it. Paul McCartney does…well he did at one time. I read a story that he allegedly went to a stake-out of a bootlegger and hung out in a surveillance truck. It was in Japan and that’s crazy-obsessive. He seems like a nice guy but that’s nuts.”

Al tells me “We’d like a chapter of your Northwest book if you’re game for that. We know Gillian Gaar and Clark Humphrey. They have great books.”

I don’t have the heart to tell them that I am, in fact, writing a book…but it’s a completely different subject than music.  Then I tell them that recently I saw something about  the 20th Anniversary Edition ‘Loser’ the excellent chronicle of the Seattle music scene written by Clark Humphrey. In the ad the cover of the book’s new edition is shown and beside it copy announcing the release of ‘Loser’ by “Clark Humphries”

“Unbelievable!” I tell Al and he agrees. Clark’s proper name is clearly spelled on the book’s cover in the ad but no one took the time to look at the cover, then the ad copy and back to the cover a few times, and try to figure it out.  A misspelling of the authors name, when the cover of the book clearly shows the authors name?  Anyway, I pray Clark never saw it.  He’s a really good guy and might let it go…but on the other hand if it was me…but then, it is kind of funny knowing what a huge mistake was made.

“My friend had a power pop group in New York called Radio City” Al tells meThey were included in a Power-Pop book and the authors got all the information wrong. In fact I helped them correct it.  One of our friends would have been very insulted; that guy was omitted. I made sure he got reinstated. The other main guy in the group got reinstated too. They (music writers) do this all the time”.

“I’ll tell you what. If you have a chance to proofread when people are doing these things and they don’t proofread than it’s your own fault”.

I have to agree, but somewhat sheepishly, because I’m not able to rely on a proofreader and I make plenty of mistakes that I ask my readers to point out. I’m not above mistakes.

“I proofread a Zappa book with a guy I’m not talking to anymore” says Al “It was translated from French, but because I was  friends with Zappa I did it as a favor. We proofed for accuracy. We corrected all the mistakes.”

We begin to wrap things up.  All of us have more things to do.

“I just wanted to make sure I didn’t talk over any of Moshe’s stuff” Al tells me. “I don’t even know I’m doing that half the time. It’s not like it’s a malicious thing.”

Moshe admits “There were some conflicts with us at the store, but we’ve cleared it up. No one can put up with Al for more than ten minutes!”

“It was a miracle” according to Al. “There’s two different kinds of people. With some people it’s unconditional. I think our friendship is pretty unconditional, but I understand what you’re talking about. With some people it doesn’t rub, but with some people it does rub. I want so say most of the people I know that have had record stores together busted up and wanted to kill each other and I’m not going to mention any names. Moshe knows exactly who I’m talking about.”

“But I did want to chill out at some point” Moshe says. “It wasn’t necessarily before the store busted up. It was a long time before that.”

“I understand that” Al says to Moshe “Usually in a record store there’s one guy like me and one guy like you. It’s not abnormal. And most of these guys never speak to each other again. I think it’s really attributed to dishonesty more than anything else. We never had a dishonesty issue.”

“No” Moshe replies.

Al tells me “I’ve worked with people that run the gamut. People that had your job and people that were very technical. Music is at its freshest no matter how you do that whether it’s primitive or really technical.”

Al stops for a moment and says “I just want to mention people who worked for us before I forget about it. Robert Roth, Matt Sullivan from Atlantic Records and Brandon Pitts, a very good friend of ours.  Another personal friend of ours, Adam Bratman.  Todd Kluger and Rob Gardner.  No offense guys, I don’t remember everybody. I remember a guy named Eric and Gabe and Tom Brady-we have to mention him-not the asshole football player…that guy’s really an asshole, but I don’t have to tell you guys. I’m not a football fan but I can’t stand his politics.

We finish.  Al’s parting words of wisdom?  “We don’t look for trouble. It finds us.”

 

The new Alan Milman Sect record will be out at the end of this year. The Alan Milman with Evan Foster of The Boss Martians will be appearing at Darrell’s Tavern in Shoreline on August 25th. The Alan Milman Sect hasn’t done a show in 20 years so this is a golden opportunity!

Darrell’s Tavern is at 18041 Aurora Ave. North, Seattle, WA, 98133.  If you get lost on your way there, call (206) 542-6688.  Maybe they’ll answer.  Maybe you’ll get a recording of upcoming shows!

 

 

 

 

-Dennis R. White. Sources;  Al Milman and Moshe Weinberg (interview with the author); Jonny Zchivago ” The Alan Milman Sect-Stitches (1977-1988) Bedazzled BCD007″ (DIE OR DIY, April 18, 2014); Fallout Records (www.falloutrecords.com, retirieved July 6, 2018); Cynthia Rose “Legend Of Fallout Records, Books & Comics Evolves As Energetic New Owner Takes Over Capitol Hill Store” (The Seattle Times, August 27, 1999); Kory Grow ” Broken Records: The Final Days of Bleecker Bob’s Golden Oldies” (Spin Magazine, April 24, 2013); Nicole Brodeur “John Keister’s last stand: ‘Almost Live!’ Star Straddles Old and New Seattle” (The Seattle Times, August 25, 2017); Sarah Ravits ” Meet The Man Who Discovered All Your Favorite ’90s Music” (UPROXX, 1October 15, 2015); Zach “Remembering One of Seattle’s Greats on the Eve Of Record Store Day: Fallout Records 1984-2003” 107.7 The End, April 15, 2016); Sean Nelson “Seattle Music Vets Gathered to Revisit Hype! 20 Years Later and It Was Kind of Intense” (The Stranger, September 27, 2017); Michael Canter ” Bleecker Bob’s & The Demise Of The Independent Record Store” (The JiveWired Journal, October 15, 2012); Ira Robbins “The Alan Milman Sect” (Trouser Press, http://www.trouserpress.com/entry.php?a=alan_milman_sect retrieved July 6, 2018); The Alan Milman Sect-Punk Rock Christmas EP” (Old, Weak, But Always A Wanker-The Punk Years, April 21, 2017-retrived July 5, 2018); Rachel Belle”Legendary Seattle DJ Marco Collins is the Subject of the new SIFF film ‘The Glamour and The Squalor” (MyNorthwest.com, January 25,2018); “The Trojan Records Story” (www.trojanrecords.com/the-trojan-records-story-retriveved July 6, 2018); Tony Sokol “Rudeboy: The Story Of Trojan Records:Boogie on Reggae Women and Men, Rudeboy: The Story of Trojan Records breaks down ska beats” (Den of Geek, June 6, 2018); Steve Traiman “Bedazzled Discs Makes A Mark On Seattle Scene” (Billboard, Oct 10, 1998); Chris Morris “Abbey Road’s Inspiring Altruism” (Billboard, Apr 27, 1996).

FLOATING BRIDGE

In 1958 five Tacoma Washington friends formed a group they originally called The Nitecaps.  Later that year they recorded a demo for one the seminal songs of the first great music movement in the Northwest.  The band consisted of John Greek (guitar, cornet), Rich Dangel (lead guitar), Kent Morrill (piano and vocals), Mark Marush (tenor saxophone) and Mike Burk (drums). As you may have already guessed the group re-named themselves The Wailers, and became one of the most important bands to come out of the region in the late 50s and early 60s. Today the band is generally agreed to be one of the first to popularize “Garage Rock”

“Tall Cool One” was their biggest and best selling single It’s said the song was co-written by Rich Dangel and fellow Wailer John Greek while they were still students at Tacoma’s Clover Park High School.  The demo came to the attention of Long Island based Golden Crest Records and it’s head, Clark Galehouse. Galehouse liked what he heard so much that in February of 1959 he arrived in the Northwest, and after a Wailers gig at Lakewood Washington’s Knights of Columbus Hall he had the band re-record the song which became one of the great singles in Northwest and Garage Rock  history

When the song was released in 1959  it made The Wailers a household name among teenagers across the country.  The single peaked at number 36 on the Billboard charts and at number 24 on the R&B charts; not exactly spectacular positions, but higher than any previous Northwest rock group before them.  Beside the song’s fans were not the same crowd that was used to more popular sanitized acts like Pat Boone or Connie Francis who seemed to be everywhere at the time.

Tall Cool One” garnered The Wailers a featured spot on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, a spot on Alan Freed’s Big Beat show on New York’s WNEW-TV, and set them on an East Coast  tour.  For the next few years The Wailers would continue to release singles that became regional hits and played endless gigs on the northwest teen-dance circuit.  In 1964 Golden Crest Records re-released “Tall Cool One”; this time the single would reach number 38 on the Billboard charts.

The shine between The Wailers and Clark Galehouse had worn off, and Golden Crest Records lost interest.  Galehouse wanted the band to remain in NYC, but the “Boys from Tacoma” weren’t interested.  The wanted to return to the Northwest where they had found their biggest success.  The Wailers were effectively dropped by their label and ruined many of The Wailers plans to tour and record hits…but that wasn’t exactly how things worked out. In fact the move away from Golden Crest Records would be one of the best decisions of their career.

Soon after returning to Tacoma  The Wailers added “Rockin ‘Robin” Roberts (born Lawrence Fewell Roberts II) to their line up. Roberts had formerly been with another well-known Tacoma outfit, “Little Bill and The Blue Notes” headed up by Bill Engelhart.  During his time with Little Bill, Roberts had begun doing and calypso influenced rendition of Richard Berry “Louie Louie”. Roberts tracked down a used copy of the song that had originally been a minor hit for Berry on Los Angeles couple Max and Lillian Feirtag’s Flip Records in 1957.  It had been a flop nationally an It’s reported that Roberts paid ten cents for it- to decipher the lyrics.  Others believe Roberts stole the single from the record store he’d been working at.

Roberts began performing his own rock version that was enthusiastically received by fans of Little Bill and The Blue Notes, and later The Wailers among other Northwest Sound bands.  Another Northwest band, The Sonics recorded a cover of Richard Berry’s “Have Love, Will Travel,  It was originally released in 1959 as an early R&B song.  In 1965 the song  was revised into a garage-rock classic on the Sonic’s debut album “Here Are The Sonics”.  Northwest fans were familiar with Richard Berry for his frequent visits to Seattle, Tacoma and beyond.

After the loss of interest by Golden Golden Crest Records the band felt somewhat dejected, but decided to form their own label, Etiquette Records with Buck Ormsby, Kent Morrill and Roberts as the principal owners.  The decision for a nationally-known band  to record on their own label was unusual for the day, but it set the newly launched Etiquette Records on a run that would last about 60 years.  In the early 1960s the label had a roster that included The Sonics, Gail Harris, The Galaxies as well as The Wailers themselves.

It was in 1960 that The Wailers recorded the song “Louie Louie” sung by ‘Rockin’ Robin Roberts at Joe Boles’ West Seattle studio.  They also recorded an upbeat version of Ray Charles’s “Maryann” during the session.

Buck Ormsby recalls;

“In early 1961 I happened to be in Seattle visiting ‘Dolton Records’ and heard my friend and former band member ‘Little Bill (Englehart)’ recording “Louie Louie” in the studio in back of the building.  Solution solved.  We agreed it would be released under Robin’s name as the artist.  The label copy was sent to the manufacturer and our first 45 single was released early 1961 on ‘Etiquette Records’

Louie Louie 1985 re-release

Since The Wailers were technically still under contract with Golden Crest the single was released under the guise of being a solo project by ‘Rockin’ Robin Roberts’, but it was actually The Wailers who had recorded the song and everyone knew it.

Little Bill’s version of “Louie Louie” was recorded at Kearney Barton’s Seattle Audio Recording for Barton’s label Topaz. The back-up band used for this session was “The Adventures” rather his regular band The Blue Notes.  It’s noted that The Wailers version had been recorded with Seattle’s other sound engineer legend, Joe Boles.  It seems unclear where Ormsby actually heard Englehart’s recording, but Boles had a falling out with Dolton Records and for several months in 1959 and 1960 he’d worked at Barton’s downtown Seattle studio.  Barton was involved in several hits for the short-lived Dolton Records including The Frantics, The Ventures and a number one hit with The Fleetwoods (“Come Softly To Me).

No matter where Ormsby remembers hearing Englehart’s version, The Wailers camp rushed  an unlabeled copy to KJR, the most popular rock and roll radio station in the city.  The Wailers  were determined to have first crack at the song on local radio.  Pat O’Day, the  general manager and program director loved the single and put it into heavy rotation. A few weeks later Englehart released  his version, but it simply could not compete with the excitement The Wailers delivered with their version.

Peter Blecha, in his book Sonic Boom recounts the story from Englehart’s perspective;

“Well, so the next day on KJR I hear a record of Rockin’ Robin and The Wailers doin’ “Louie Louie”!  I didn’t know how they did it that quick-whether it was an acetate copy or tape or what it was-but it buried me I’ll tell ya! The fuckin’ guy (laughter) I could have killed them!”

This was more than two years before The Kingsmen’s recording that mimicked the original Wailers version. Rich Dangel re-arranged Richard Berry’s original song into its now well-known garage sound. Rockin’ Robins ad-libbed the ‘yeah, yeah, yeah’ s, and “let’s give it to ’em right now”. Dangel also lent his own universally recognized   A A A –  D D – Em Em Em – D D) intro to the song that’s been covered onstage and in garages by everyone who ever wanted to start a rock band.

“That solo (on “Louie Louie”) he did was copied by everybody,” said Buck Ormsby, The Wailers’ bassist and Dangel’s lifelong friend. “Tons of musicians and wannabe musicians actually used to come and watch Rich play, because he was so good, and so innovative.”

By 1963 Dangel had become tired of playing with The Wailers.  Although he had co-written a huge hit (“Tall Cool One”) and created what is arguably the most recognizable intro in rock history-maybe only second to Keith Richards opening to “Satisfaction”.  Dangel’s first love was jazz and he longed to find himself among the finest jazz players.  Eventually he’d reach that goal but for several years he found himself in rock outfits-but ones that would allow him to incorporate jazzy riffs and solos into their music.  In an interview shortly after Rich Dangel’s in 2002 his son Corey told the AP;

“The whole rock ‘n’ roll thing, he thought it was funny, almost. He wanted to play jazz and he wanted people to respect him as a serious musician, and not just some guy who could lay down three chords. I don’t think it was until recently that he became comfortable with his legacy.”

In 1964, after leaving The Wailers Dangel formed a four-piece band called “The Rooks” another garage band that released two singles.  The first was “Gimme A Break b/w “Bound To Lose” on Mustang Records-mostly known as the label that released The Bobby Fuller Four’s hit “I Fought The Law”,  The Rooks second single was “Believe In You” b/w “I’ll Be the One” released on Dangel’s former label Etiquette Records. “I’ll be The One” was written by Kent Morrill,one of the other founding members of The Wailers.

After two years Rich Dangel left The Rooks to join mother band “The Time Machine” The outfit had been formed by former Willow Creek Ramblers Paul Gillingham, and Paul Poth, Charlie Morgan (Yes, that Charlie Morgan of Morgan Sound) who’d started out in The Valiants. Fred Aldredge, Mike Allen (also of Magic Fern) Scott Letterman and Jim Wolfe (both who’d been in Tom Thumb and The Casuals) . There’s very little recorded  about  The Time Machine but seems they were popular during their existence.  Walt Crowley mentions them in his book “Rites of Passage: A Memoir of Seattle in The 60s”.

The Time Machine as well as Magic Fern, The Daily Flash and Crome Syrcus were playing regularly at Seattle clubs.  He reports The Time Machine playing “The Underground Rock Festival” held at Eagles Auditorium alongside Magic Fern, Crome Syrcus, Clockwork Orange, Good Karma Lawn Service,  Willowdale Handcar Jug Band, United Flight Service, Chimes of Freedom and Prism. 

On September 1, 1967 The Time Machine opened for The Peanut Butter Conspiracy at Eagles Auditorium.  The Peanut Butter Conspiracy was a pop/rock psychedelic band from Los Angeles that had once included  drummer Spencer Dryden,  After his short stint Dryden would move on to The Jefferson Airplane as a replacement for Skip Spence.  Even after Dryden left the Conspiracy they still had cult status in the Bay area as well with hippies across the United States.

Crowley also mentions The Helix magazine and KRAB radio coming together to present a “Media Mash” also held at The Eagles Auditorium.  The headliner was Country Joe and The Fish, supported by The Time Machine, Magic Fern, Uncle Henry, Indian Puddin’ and Pipe, Canterbury Tales, Blues Feedback, The Excelsior Jazz Band and Murray Roman. Roman is a now forgotten hippie-esque cross between Lenny Bruce and George Carlin.  During this period he was near middle-aged, smoked a cigar onstage and frequently appeared at rock shows with his sharp-witted routine that mocked both the “establishment” as well as having fun at the expense of the counterculture.  Roman also appeared at the The Seattle Pop Music Festival in 1968.

Charlie Morgan says Dangel was never in The Time Machine while he (Charlie)  was in the band.  Since Morgan was a co-founder his word should normally be good enough to dispel any rumors. However, there was a reformed version of The Time Machine later that both Poth and Gillingham were part of, but not Charlie. There’s no contemporaneous proof  of Dangel being in that iteration of the band, and Paul Gillingham who’d been in both incarnations of The Time Machine also says Dangel was never in the band.  The confusion may be due to the nature of the internet.  Somewhere along the way Dangel was named as a member of The Time Machine, and the mythology was simply repeated over and over again by “authors” or commenters who simply didn’t do the footwork to find out, and  repeated the claim until it became accepted as fact.  In 1966 The Time Machine released a single, “All or Nothing” b/w “Take It Slow and Easy”on what is probably their own label “New Sounds”, but no information I’ve found tells us anything except this single was recorded, and that it was actually released-so far I know of no copies that have surfaced and there are no digitalizations I’ve been able to find.  Any clues to this mystery are welcome.  If any copies of the single exist they would be highly prized on the collector’s market.

In 1967 Dangel teamed up with his old friend Joe Johansen to form Unknown Factor.  Both played guitar with Joe Johnson on bass and Michael Marinelli on drums. Johansen was already a seasoned-veteran having played with The Adventurers; the band that backed-up Little Bill Englehart on his version of “Louie Louie” and other important Northwest bands like  The Dave Lewis Trio, The Frantics and The Checkers-a band from Yakima that had started to make waves in Seattle in the late 1950s.  In 1960 some of the Checkers met a high school kid from Richland WA named Larry Coryell.  Coryell was drafted into the band on the spot and began a stint with The Checkers that would soon lead him to Seattle and the University of Washington playing and jamming with other local bands and eventually on to New York City.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Joe Johnson was a transplant from Texas who had played in Seattle band Sir Raleigh and the Cupons (often misidentified as Sir Walter Raleigh and the Coupons) alongside future Buffalo Springfield drummer Dewey Martin (born Walter Milton Dwayne Midkiff, in Chesterton Ontario in Canada), Dewey had made his way to Nashville and worked as a side musician for Roy Orbison, The Everly Brothers, Patsy Cline, Charlie Rich, Carl Perkins, and Faron Young among others. In 1963, he left Nashville for the west coast  on tour with Faron Young.  He ditched Young’s band in Las Vegas and ran off to Los Angeles. Dewey decided to base himself in L.A. but spent time backing up some of the country stars he’d worked with on tour. In 1963 he met Mel Taylor of The Ventures who advised him to find work in the Northwest.  Martin was soon in Seattle and playing with “Lucky Lee and The Blue Diamonds.

Sir Raleigh & The Cupons 1965

“Sneaky’ Pete Kleinow was a guitarist in the band, but had spent time as a stop motion animator in the film and television business.  Kleinow  had  worked on The Outer Limits (1963–1965), The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao (1964), and the long-running children’s shows Gumby and Davey and Goliath,  Soon after his time with Sir Walter, Kleinow found himself back in L.A. and playing his first love-the pedal steel guitar for The Flying Burrito Brothers.  He’d later go on to be one of the most in-demand session players of the 20th century.  Any artist remotely involved in the Los Angeles Country Rock scene during the 60s, 70s and 80s seemed to call on Klenows talents.

Before Martin and Kleinow had a chance to run off, the band recorded a demo at Kearny Barton’s Audio Recorders studio.  Lucky Lee, a very odd Hillbilly/HonkyTonk singer who billed himself as“America’s Most Colorful Hillbilly Indian”.  It makes perfect sense that Dewey and Sneaky Pete would have hooked up with Lucky Lee since they were C&W influenced players and would go on to be important members of Hollywood’s Country Rock scene.  So The Blue Diamonds went into the studio as a budding C&W band and came out as the garage-rockers Sir Raleigh and The Cupons. The band was made up of Dewey Martin (drums) ‘Sneaky’ Pete Kleinow, Al Harris and Norman Raleigh (all on guitars) and Johnny Meeks (bass) under their new name. Lucky Lee went on to continue as a moderately well-known country singer.

Kearny Barton raved about the band’s demo, and they soon came to the attention of Jerry Dennon of Jerden Records.  In 1965 Jerden released their first single the Tommy Boyce/Steve Venet song “Tomorrow’s Gonna Be Another Day”b/w “Whitcomb Street” which became a regional hit and landed them a contract with A&M Records.The band would go on to record four more singles, two  for A&M and two for Tower Records, though none of them made much traction, and constant personnel changes were continual..

By this time Dewey Martin was the frontman and he brought in guitarist Steven Green, drummer Lyall Smith and keyboardist J.C. Reik.  The band  never recaptured the regional attention they’d found with “Tomorrow’s Gonna Be Another Day” but the song was later popularized by The Monkees on their self-titled 1966 debut albumafter all the song was co-written by Tommy Boyce who with Bobby Hart would become a “hit factory”  for The Monkees and others. The Monkees attempt is worthy but toned-down for popular consumption. For a truer representation of the garage rock of the northwest sound, Sir Raleigh’s version wins hands down.

In 1965 they also recorded their second single, a hopped up version of “The White Cliffs of Dover” b/w “Somethin’ Or Other” (written by Dewey Martin) that was released by A&M.  A follow-up “While I Wait” (written by Martin)  b/w “Something’ or Other” for a second time.  After these two singles the band moved to Tower Records and released,  Tell Her Tonight bw/ If You Need Me”.  The A side was another composition by Steve Venet and Tommy Boyce.  Their final single on Rocket Records was  “I don’t Want To Cry” b/w” Always” the B-side being credited as written by “Dewayne Midkiff” (aka Dewey Martin). The band finally broke up leaving  Dangel’s buddy Joe Johnson ready for another gig.

Drummer Michael Marinelli had come to Seattle by way of New York along with keyboardist Howard Wales. Wales had worked with The Four Tops, James Brown and Ronnie Hawkins before first joining Rich Dangels’ next projects, Unknown Factor and Floating Bridge.  Wales ended up playing  organ on the  Grateful Dead album “American Beauty”  as well as playing on two collaborative albums by Jerry Garcia and Howard Wales. “Hooteroll?” released in 1971, and “Side Trips Volume 1” in 1998. In the very late 1960s Garcia and Marinelli’s former partner Howard Wales had performed in small venues in the Bay area;notably at free-form jazz jam sessions on Monday night at The Matrix in San Francisco  and a handful of clubs on the east coast.  This allowed Garcia to stretch out a bit, playing jazz and experimenting in front of smaller audiences. Several gigs included Bill Vitt on drums and occasionally bassists like Richard Favis, or one of Garcia’s other friends and collaborators, John Kahn.  These jams became the inspiration for the album “Hooteroll?”  During recording the band brought in Howard Wale’s old friend Michael Marinelli to play drums.

Joe Johansen was a Washington native from Mossyrock, a speck of a town in Lewis County.  He learned to play from a door-to-door guitar teacher. He was a natural and moved to Seattle after high school to play with a band called the Adventurers,.  He also played with Northwest legend Dave Lewis and alongside Little Bill Englehart .It’s said that Jimi Hendrix idolized him and it’s obvious that bands like The Sonics, The Kingsmen and The Wailers weren’t above stealing licks from him.  They too idolized him. He was always the guy to watch.

“He IS the Northwest Sound,” says Robert Browning, a Spokane Washington rock ‘n’ roll history buff. “Joe is one of the great unsung heroes of guitar. He was there from the beginning of Northwest rock ‘n’ roll.”
In 1996 Rich Dangel said  “Joe was an awesome guitar player and a major influence to a lot of people.”
Johansen says it was Englehart that first introduced him to the blues and jazz. One night they listened to blues master B.B. King. 

While performing at The Spanish Castle one night Johansen noticed a teenager hanging around the club night after night.

The boy kept listening and asking for a chance to sit in.

Johansen refused each time.

“No way I was letting some weird-looking, skinny 15-year-old kid play my guitar,” says Johansen, exploding with a laugh. “Even if the kid turned out to be Jimi Hendrix.”
“My tastes, the way I played, everything went through a major lifestyle change right there,” he says.

Finally in 1967 Dangel, Johnson, Marinelli and Johansen got together to form a band.
Unknown Factor was a band with an incredible pedigree and not to be taken lightly. The band was ostensibly created as a back-up band for legendary Seattle’s blues and soul singer Patti Allen and Ron Holden-also from Seattle, who’d toured with Hank Ballard & the Midnighters, James Brown, Brook Benton, Etta James, The Coasters, Big Joe Turner, Bill Haley and scores of other popular R&B acts of the 1950s.  Holden also had a huge hit in 1960 with the song “Love You So” that reached number 7 on the Billboard Charts in June of  1960.

During its short stint as a backing band and guns-for-hire Unknown Factor met vocalist and keyboard player  Pat Gossan during a performance at a popular,  rundown tavern in Ballard called Mr. P’s. It’s said Gossan had  jumped onstage to sing with the band- to the surprise of everyone, but of course the mythology isn’t as interesting as what really happened.

Pat Gossan says;

“I was 20, and my girlfriend at the time (who later became my wife for a couple of years) was a regular at Mr. P’s.  She walked in in front of me and Irene Johansen-Joes wife-worked the door. Once she saw my wife Karen, she said “hello” and it was like nothing to breeze right in  the door behind her”.

Gossen was young at the time, but had already put in time in The Ambassadors, playing keyboards in a popular Mercer Island based band called The Punch as well as doing a short stint with Papa Bear’s Medicine Show.  

“The way I’d gotten up on the stage at Mr.P’s in Ballard” says Gossan “was I went up to Joe Johansen and said ‘we have something in common.  We’re both from Mossyrock Washington. You went to school with my cousin Trev’ and we started talking,  Ron Holden hadn’t shown up that night and I asked if I could sit in and he said ‘I don’t know.  Are you any good?”  He was a very intimidating fellow.  I said “well, my friends think I am” and he said ‘I don’t give a fuck what your friends think “Are YOU any good!!?” and I said, “well I think I could probably sing some songs with you and so they invited me up and I did a few songs.  Then they conferred and by the end of the night they asked me to join.  They were playing as ‘Unknown Factor’  at the time and they were backing Patti Allen. 

After Unknown Factor made Gossan their new singer they re-named themselves Floating Bridge  

The name Floating Bridge  was chosen because it referred to one or both of the major floating bridges that connected Seattle with the bedroom communities of Bellevue, Mercer Island, Medina and beyond.  The first of these bridges was opened in 1940 as The Lake Washington Floating Bridge” (now the Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge, or simply the I-90 bridge).  This bridge is commonly referred to as the “first floating bridge” that was not used exclusively by the US  military.  This is untrue, but it may be the first floating bridge made with concrete pontoons. The Persians had used floating bridges centuries ago and two earlier 19th and 20th century floating bridges still span The Golden Horn between the European and Asian sides of the city of Istanbul  The band name might also have been inspired by The Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, (officially the Governor Albert D. Rosellini Bridge) but commonly called the 520 Bridge….or the Hood Canal Floating Bridge that connects Kitsap County to the Olympic Peninsula.  All of this is moot and just a bit of fun at guessing since the band had probably named themselves for a series of structures that are more prominent in Washington than any other state in the union.  Today there are even two more….and of course the name sounded cool.  

The band was a hit right out of the box.  Soon they became the house band at Eagles Auditorium. They played the first Sky River Rock Festival that took place outside Sultan WA between August 31 to September 2, 1968.  It’s reported their set was one of the best of the entire festival. They were playing the Seattle club circuit and venturing more and more outside the city-especially to the Bay Area.

It was their heavy psychedelic blues that attracted more and more fans.  They used twin guitar leads that found Dangel and Johansen veering off into heavy, blues and jazz influenced interweaving solos that were well-grounded in Marinelli and Johnson’s rhythm section.  The band played a mix of original material as well as their own interpretations of songs by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Byrds, each one delivered in a heavy thunder of psychedelic blues.  It’s not surprising that soon they would be  the most memorable acts of Seattle’s bohemian/hippie scene.  Pat Gossan did the vocals and was seen as genial and generous, despite his work as a blues singer.

During the first Sky River Rock Festival an A&R man from L.A.s Vault Records spotted the band, no doubt with the prompting of the bands’ manager at the time-Frank d’Aquila. The spreading word on the street about the band, their reception at the festival as well as their sound got them signed almost immediately.  Vault Records had been releasing surf bands for years, but they were looking to expand their roster since surf music was becoming less and less popular.  Floating Bridge was signed to Vault Records right away,  and in October of 1968 the band flew to Los Angeles to record their first album with producer Jackie Mills. A single from their upcoming self-titled album was released in December of 1968 did well locally but failed to make the national charts

In retrospect Mills may seem to have been an odd choice as producer.  He had spent many years as a jazz drummer working with luminaries from The Dorsey Brothers to Billie Holiday to Erroll Garner to Dizzy Gillespie, Barney Kessel, Benny Goodman, Harry James, Red Norvo  and scores more. He’d also drummed in the studio with Frank Sinatra, Anita O’Day, Benny Carter and many many more artists.  For over twenty years he was one of the most renowned jazz drummers in the music business.  At the time he met up with Floating Bridge his production credits were largely soundtracks by Elmer Bernstein, and The Pete Jolly Trio.  Mills had even composed the score for the 1960  Marilyn Monroe/Yves Montand film “Let’s Make Love”.

It was 1968, the same year Floating Bridge recorded their album, that Mills began working with other rock musicians.   In ’68 Jackie Mills recorded Floating Bridge  as well as producing an album by the band Kaleidoscope titled “Incredible!”  The band was originally comprised of Chris Darrow, who by the time of “Incredible! had left for The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and was replaced by Stuart Brotman, formerly of Canned Heat. The original drummer John Vidican was replaced by Paul Lagos who had a jazz and R&B background, having played with Little Richard, Johnny Otis, and Ike and Tina Turner.  Solomon Feldthouse had worked with Leonard Cohen among others, and is the father of the actress Fairuza Balk. Max Buda, who had worked with Chris Darrow before Kaleidoscope has continued to work with him as a duo to this day.  Last of all there was David Lindley, an American musical treasure and highly respected session man and live musician. Lindley has played on albums by Bob Dylan, Linda Ronstadt, Warren Zevon, Jackson Browne, Ry Cooder, James Taylor and David Crosby and Graham Nash along with others.  He’s been called “a “musician’s musician” who’s had a years-long collaborative relationship with Henry Kaiser and formed his own band, El Rayo-X in 1981.

After returning to Seattle Floating Bridge there were a couple of huge concert events ahead of them. On December 6th and 7th opened  opened for The Moody Blues at the Eagles Auditorium and on December 27 1968 the band opened for both Vanilla Fudge and Led Zeppelin at the Seattle Center Arena.  They continued playing opening slots for major acts that came through Seattle;  BB King, Johnny Winter, John Mayall and Elliot Randall-a session player who would break out on his own and also record with Donald Fagen and Walter Becker-soon to be ‘Steely Dan’

Then suddenly Dangel quit the band In early 1969.

He had a family to maintain and the small amount of money the band made simply didn’t allow him to continue playing in it.  Aside from the lack of money, Dangel still had the urge to be a jazz musician. The parting is said to be amicable-and this is probably true because Dangel and the other members of the band would often gig with each other, and it was Dangel who would, over the decades, bear the standard for the band.  Dangel was replaced by Denny MacLeod who is said to have brought a bit more of a traditional Americana sound.

Despite Dangel leaving Floating Bridge they still remained popular and even struck a non-exclusive deal with John Nyberg’s and Paul Barboras’ new agency Far West Entertainment.  Bigger events and festivals were interested, and Far West was happy to set up out of town dates for them.  They were also eager to pair them with more and more touring bands who’s bookings Far West was handling and producing.  It also made it possible to hook up shows through other agencies-like Far West’s rival Seattle agency at the time-Concerts West.

Floating Bridge also took part in the Seattle Pop Festival organized by Boyd Grafmyre. The Festival was held at Gold Creek Park in Woodinville, WA from July 25 to July 27, 1969. Besides Floating Bridge and another popular Seattle band, Crome Syrcus the line-up included  Chuck Berry, Black Snake, Tim Buckley, The Byrds, Chicago Transit Authority, Albert Collins, Bo Diddley, The Doors, The Flock, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Guess Who, It’s A Beautiful Day, Led Zeppelin, Charles Lloyd, Lonnie Mack, Lee Michaels, Rockin Fu, Murray Roman, Santana, Spirit, Ten Years After, Ike & Tina Turner, Vanilla Fudge, Alice Cooper and The Youngbloods.

Although there have been bigger festivals in later years – only 50,000 people attended The Seattle Pop Festival – but there’s no doubt it still remains the most influential and star-studded festival to ever be held in the northwest.

Floating Bridge were also on the bill for the second Sky River Rock Festival that took place August 30 through September 1, 1969 in Tenino, Washington. Also performing at the festival were Anonymous Artists of America, Black Snake, Blue Bird, Cleanliness & Godliness Skiffle Band, Collectors, Congress of Wonders, James Cotton, Country Weather, Country Joe and the Fish, Crome Syrcus, Crow, Dovetail, Flying Burrito Brothers, Frumious Bandersnatch, Grapefruit, Guitar Shorty, Buddy Guy, Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks, Dr. Humbead’s New Tranquility String Band, Juggernaut, Kaleidoscope, Los Flamencos de Santa Lucia, Fred McDowell, Steve Miller, New Lost City Ramblers, Pacific Gas & Electric, Peter, Terry Reid, Mike Russo, Sons of Champlin, Mark Spoelstra, Alice Stuart, Yellowstone, Youngbloods, and Elyse Weinberg.  

Some of the shine had come off the second festival due to not even knowing if it would take place up til the last moment. After the first Sky River Festival held in Sultan Washington there were pressures from conservatives and local police to pass laws severely restricting the rights to hold large public rock festivals.

The second Sky River Rock Festival almost didn’t happen.  The Festival’s producer, John Chambless had looked in vain for a suitable place to hold the Festival, but was met with restrictive laws or angry citizens everywhere he sought to hold the event.  Finally he secured The Rainier Hereford Ranch, among small hillocks created millions of years ago by glacial activity.  The area is locally known as “the mounds” and hold both Native American and New Age mythology.  The Tenino Chamber of Commerce and adjacent property owners were granted an injunction blocking a permit Thurston County had already issued, but as the case wound through the courts a sympathetic judge asked The Chamber of Commerce and property owners to post a $25,000 bond against any possible losses. The plaintiffs couldn’t come up with it (surprisingly!)  and with only days before the Festival was set to open Chambless had won the right to hold it.

Floating Bridge appeared at “The Vancouver Pop Festival” which took place at The Paradise Valley Resort in Squamish, British Columbia between August 22 and 24, 1969. Their name is not included on any posters, news articles or festival-related ephemera; the history of early rock festivals are muddled, Bush is quite right and whichever band announced to show up might not make it-and conversely others might show up out of the blue.  Pat Gossan remembers, and when asked if they played he says;

“We absolutely did”.  ‘Canned Heat’ and ‘Little Richard’ played on the same might as us. The promoters were kind of shysters” he adds
“They ended up burning a lot of bands.  Eric Nelson was our manager at the time,  We played sometime in the evening after ‘Little Richard’.  Now, ‘Little Richard did get paid because they demanded their money up-font.  A lot of us got shorted or completely stiffed,  but our manager was able to get a little bit of money for us, but not anywhere near what was in the contract, so our manager made up the difference because we’d driven such a long distance.  It actually wasn’t in Vancouver it was quite a bit north’.

In fact it was 53 miles north of Vancouver and the route along the way was the very old and somewhat decaying Highway 99BC.  The same Highway 99 that still exists along most of the west coast of the US.

“I looked pretty closely at the poster and and found that our name wasn’t on there ” says Gossan” but that’s kind of like the Sky River posters.  I have some posters from that era…there are some that don’t  have our name on it, and some that do.  I think it was due to the fact that they would put out a poster for the initial bands and others were added later.  I think in our case on the Vancouver one and the first Sky River we were added later.  I think that poster was an early version of The Vancouver Pop Festival”

Despite this observation, later versions of the Vancouver Pop Festival poster don’t seem to mention Floating Bridge.

 The Grateful Dead who had been given as one of the major headlines is said to have not played as planned; but Jerry Garcia himself says they played, and his biographer, Blair Jackson, also claims The Dead played at the Festival.  On Garcia’s official web page 1,222 people claimed they had attended the concert-which is a pretty high percentage since it was estimated only about 15,000 attended the festival…but as we know millions have claimed to have been at Woodstock.   Even the local online journal recently carries a recent headline “Remember When The Grateful Dead Came To Squamish?”  It features two articles from The Squamish Times..,but neither of the 1969 articles mention the Grateful Dead. One would think that if they’d played there’d be some contemporaneous documentation of it. Over the years there’s been some misunderstanding where The Grateful Dead were on August 23, 1969, the date they were set to play The Vancouver Pop Festival.  A listing in The San Francisco Express Times  (dated August 21,1969) advertises for the day for the supposed presence at Vancouver Pop Festival:

“Hippy Hill: Trans-Cultural Rip-Offs, Inc. presents Steve Gaskin & the Grateful Dead in concert with Shiva Fellowship. Bring dope (the sacrament) and good vibes. noon. Free”.

In May of 2012 San Francisco historian Corry Arnold wrote:

“The event on “Hippy Hill” (the eastern edge of Golden Gate Park, close to the entry from the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood) was canceled at the last minute, and everything associated with it was subject to change. I’m sure that Stephen Gaskin (a hippie icon/guru/lecturer who would go on to found “The Farm” in Summerville Tennessee in 1971) hoped the Dead would show up, and I’m also pretty confident it didn’t happen. The whole weekend is rather murky, but escaping from a farm in rural Oregon is not like loading out of a Sports Arena that’s near an airport. I don’t see how ‘the Dead’ and their equipment were ready to roll by Sunday afternoon, even if they bailed on British Columbia”.

One thing is clear; The Grateful Dead and The New Riders of the Purple Sage were scheduled to play a gig at Seattle’s Green Lake Aqua Theater on August 20, 1969,  The show was rained-out so the date was set for the next day, August 21. Since the band was available they made an unannounced surprise gig at Ballard’s El Roach the night of the 20th.  We know both shows took place because they were documented with photographs from both the El Roach and the Aqua Theater gigs. On August 23 they appeared at the Bullfrog 2 Festival at Pelletier Farm near St. Helens Oregon.  The Pelletier Farm gig was two days before their scheduled gig at the Vancouver Pop Festival.  It would be a long haul to Vancouver, but not so long that they couldn’t make it. All we know for sure is thatThe Dead were in the neighborhood.

When asked if he remembers the Grateful Dead playing at the Vancouver Pop Festival Gossan frostily says:

I don’t remember ‘The Grateful Dead’ playing at the ‘Vancouver Pop Festival’; as Far as San Francisco bands I remember ‘Canned Heat’ playing; but we went up and hung out for the afternnon and played in the evening after dark and seeing Little Richard.  I think the fact is that we’d gotten soured for being stiffed on our money  so we really didn’t care about sticking around,  We saw such a small part of that fesitval, so they very well could have.

The band seems to have been quite impressed with Little Richard’s performance:

“It was something seeing him.  He had a mirrored vest that when the lights were on it the reflections were flying everywhere”.

Another reason Floating Bridge may only have seen a small portion of The Vancouver Pop Festival is that the promoters hadn’t bothered to arrange places to stay for many of the bands.   The weather was wet and chilly and they didn’t have any accomodations…just having to get in our cars since there was no place to stay. They chose to drive home.

We played all over”, says Gossan  “The Walrus of course, the El Roach,  We played the Buffalo.  You know we were kind of an odd group to play those places,  We played at The Clockwork Orange, il Bistro in Vancouver B.C, The Emergency Exit and the B.F.D. I was undergaged when I went to see The Daily Flash.   I think The Bumps-this psychedelic-garage rock band, probably played too.  The Time Machine could very well have played there; their salad days were from 65 to about 67.  And then they opened the second B.F.D. north of 205th Street on Aurora Avenue and it didn’t last very long.  It was very short lived.  It was like when Jerry King opened The Warehouse on Eastlake-I think we might have played there once.

There’s a picture we took down at Seattle Center with an old “Floating Bridge” sign; I gave that to Jerry King.  It’s been mistakenly said it was in The Blue Moon Tavern, but I gave it to King and he had it at The Warehouse.  That’s not to say it wasn’t moved to The Blue Moon when The Warehouse closed because King owned them both.  The Warehouse Tavern opened  a second Warehouse in Bellevue and it also went belly-up; when they tried to double their exposure it didn’t work for these places.

Since Vault Records were pleased with their first album. Floating Bridge set off for San Francisco to record a second album.  Manager Eric Nelson set up recording time at Columbia Studios in North Beach.  The band felt more in control, since the project was being financed by their manager and they were allowed to help produce the album and in some cases even taking part in the mixes.  The band was happier with this outing than they’d been with their debut.  People who’ve heard it claim it is a classic mix of psychedelic blues; especially a 21 minute track by the name of “Ode To Crazy Ray” that has been called their “masterpiece”,

When their manager Eric Nelson and the band presented the finished master tapes to Vault Records the label chose not to pick the album up. It’s possible that Vault was having jitters because owner Jack  Lewerke was negotiating to sell his entire company to National Tape Distributors of Milwaukee. 

“As far as Vault Records turning the second record down” Gossan says  “it was because of a 21 minute track called ‘Ode to Crazy Ray’ and ‘Today’s Pig is Tomorrow’s Bacon’ and some other titles like that; and the 21 minute of ‘Ode To Crazy Ray’ was so psychedelic, and Johansen absolutely killed on it. His guitar playing on “Ode To Crazy Ray” is stratospheric; I would love for the masses to hear it, Vault Records turned it down because it was too outside and they wanted us to record more middle-of-the-road material; they wanted covers. They didn’t care about our songwriting so much although they would have benefitted by it with the publishing so I don’t think they would have turned down something that would have been pleasing to their ears

Floating Bridge with Crazy Ray

Crazy Ray’ is about the band’s roadie. If you look at the  page for “Helix Redux” there’s a picture that I posted fairly recently of Floating Bridge playing at Seattle’s Volunteer Park If you look closely at that picture there’s a head sticking out of the bushes, He looks like an FBI agent looking at the crowd  well that was Crazy Ray!

I became at odds with Pat Hewitt over the length of “Crazy Ray” After Johansen’s solo it goes into an electric kind of backwards tapes playing the Joe and Denny McLeod played along with,  It gets a little bit frenzied. I think if it were to be edited by three or four minutes it would be stonger and there are a couple of other songs on there that would do pretty well.

Guitarist Denny MacLeod (who’d replaced Rich Dangel) finally became disillusioned and quit.  Despite his leaving a hole in the band, Floating Bridge invited Michael Jacobson to perform with them on electric cello and saxophones.  Andrew Lang Jr. was drafted to play trumpet; Lang was originally from New Orleans and had played on Robert Parker’s classic R& B song“Barefootin’, Jacobsen had a strong background in music having been performing since the age of three.   The band was stretching out, but even going into more of an experimental stage the magic was lost, and the band seemed directionless.

The newly re-invented Floating Bridge showed up at The First Buffalo Party Convention and Pig Roast on July 3rd, 4th and 5th of July 1970 at ‘Buffalo’ Don Murphy’s “Flying M Ranch” near  Eatonville Washington.  Albert King, Muddy Waters, Canned Heat, Van Morrison, Chuck Berry and James Cotton along with about two dozen other artists were announced to play, but there’s no record  of who actually showed up. Some of those who attended report that  James Cotton, The Strawberry Alarm Clock A.B, Skhy (with Howard Wales) played.  Some remember the Northwest Sound contingent of The Wailers, The Sonics and  Don and The Good Times playing as well as Mojo Hand and Crome Syrcus from Seattle.  All of these bands were likey (but not certain) to have played.  Other mentions are Fever Tree, Clear Light, Country Joe McDonald, and The Portland Zoo; but like many of the smaller festivals of the day we have to rely on anecdotal evidence rather than contracts and tight timelines by stage managers to tell us who and who did not play.  Adding to the confusion was the fact that since this was an anti-authority “political” gathering many bands had agreed to pay for free…hence no records at all.  So we have to rely on attendees who all seem to have been high on acid, full of alcohol completely fried or otherwise too zonked out to remember the same day, not to mention so many years later.  One thing that most attendees agree on is that much of the time cassette tapes were played through the huge loudspeakers.

The Buffalo Party had been and would continue to be a thorn in the side of Washington State and Thurston County authorities.  The Buffalo Party was able to pose as a political party but in fact were joined together in an attempt to keep authorities from crashing their “conventions” that allowed Buffalo Party “members” and their “guests” to roam freely in any state of dress (or undress) openly use drugs, skinny dip, have open sex and generally defy the status quo.

According to a post at geocaching.com:

“Sheriff Carl Peterson was onsite with 35 deputies to enforce (an)  injunction, assisted by state troopers. But there was no turning back the tide. Unfortunately, because of the injunction, portable restrooms were never delivered, so a large ditch had to serve instead. Drugs were sold openly, but the crowd turned out to be more peaceful than rebellious, causing almost no property damage. Local residents even cautiously joined the crowds, more to gawk at the “hippies” dancing and skinny dipping in nearby ponds than to listen to the music. Unfortunately one man died during the festival when he slipped and fell from the top of nearby Little Mashel Falls”.  

The man was Don Christiansen from Lakewood , Washington.

In the final analysis ‘Buffalo” Don Murphy came to a deservedly horrible end.  He was killed by his wife who he’d abused (along with the kids) for years. In 1977, Francine Murphy set fire to Buffalo Don’s bed as he was asleep. The ensuing fire killed him and burned the house down; Then Francine bundled up her five children, put them in the car and drove into Eatonville to confess what she’d done.  When she went to trial for murder the jury found her ‘“not guilty by reason of temporary insanity”.  They realized it was 13 years of physical and emotional abuse that drove her to kill her husband. It’s thought that this was the first case using what would come to be called the “battered wife syndrome.” as a defense.  People in and around Eatonville helped  pay her court costs and in  1984 Farrah Fawcett starred in a well-known movie based on the incident called “The Burning Bed

Later in 1970 the Floating Bridge van was involved in a wreck.  The van had actually rolled-over, but no one suffered any major injuries. Soon after the van rolling over it was stolen with most of the bands equipment in it.  Even though a charity event was held to recoup the loss of their equipment there seemed no reason to continue.  Their second album had been turned down by their label, audiences were getting smaller, tastes were changing and no one was sure how long the band could continue to face adversity;  Johansen had blown out his knee and he was having some issues with prescriptions  and self-medicating himself  He was done with it, We asked Doug Hastings from The Daily Flash to see if something could happenm so when that didn’t happen we just let it go. The band officially broke up in December of 1970.  Marinelli took a job at the top of the Sheraton with Corky Ryan and Joe Johnson went on to play with a band called Easy Chair” which was not the original “Easy Chair.  The original  band’s name was appropriated by the sleaziest of promoters, Matthew Katz.  Dangle had long since moved on and Johnson eventually found music and sobriety did not mix well for him.  Pat Gossan went on to a series of successful regional bands, and at one point even toured in Doug Kershaw’s band and his band Freddie and The Screamers has been Peter Noone’s back-up band on many occasions.

Their influence of Floating Bridge may have faded like most music of the psychedelic era, but more fans worldwide have found their way to Floating Bridge and their album. No less than a dozen re-issues of the first Floating Bridge albums have been pressed around the world since it debuted.

The deal with National Tape Distributors went through in 1971 and the second Floating Bridge album is still unreleased.

Gossan says:
Our former manager Eric Nelson who had foot the bill for the second album in San Francisco happened into this house of a former girlfriend in Seattle and he found the tapes down in the basement,  I thought the tapes were ruined and that I’d never see them again.  Eric’s ex-girlfriend called me and said “I’ve got these big boxes of tapes of the Floating Bridge. Do you want them? Well, of course I did,..this was probably 15 years ago and I hung onto them and hung onto to them trying to find somebody who had a Skully eight-track in Seattle so I could do a transfer, I was able to do that a couple of years ago at a studio in Wallingford. We put them on thumb drives and my old playing partner Pat Hewitt who I played together for the past 45 years off and on started going through them and got them up so that they would be able to be released, My intention is still to release them, So I contacted Michael Marinelli who is the only other living survivor of the original band and the second Floating Bridge album,  and I later found out Jake Jacobsen was living in L.A, but he didn’t have anything to do with the album.  Gossan says it’s always been his intention to release the second album.  Now only if there’s some label (large or small) willing to put it out.  It’s ready to go!

A bit on the cast of characters here:

Rich Dangel eventually went on to form another well-known Seattle band called Sledgehammer.He worked with them for years and participated in several Wailers re-unions and even went on tour with them in 1969. During the late ’70’s he put together a crew of outstanding musicians naming it ‘Rich Dangel & The Reputations,  By the 1980s and 90s years of dependence on alcohol and harder drugs got out of hand,  In the early 1990s Rich sought help overcoming his addictions, and even became a certified drug counselor. In 1997 he founded his dream group “Butterbean” along with Michael Kinder and Buck England.  The band re-inspired Rich’s deep interest in mixing jazz with blues, R&B and rock,  In 2001 he took part in recording The Wailers CD “Cadillac to Mexico”. Dangel died of a brain aneurysm on on December 3rd 2002, a week after his birthday.

Buck Ormsby  became the last living member of the original Wailers died of complications from lung cancer on his 75th birthday-October 9, 2016.  Buck died in Tepic, Mexico in a bid to find alternative treatment for his cancer.  His long-time partner, Pamela Mills Ruzic said that Ormsby had died immediately after a fall. Ormbsy was a dedicated champion of The Northwest Sound as both a member of The Wailers and Little Bill and The Bluenotes. His founding of Etiquette Records provided the template for nationally successful bands to create and distribute their own music. In the ensuing years he became a much-loved figure on the Seattle and Tacoma music scene.  He took part in Wailers re-unions and made sure to re-release albums and singles on his Etiquette Records. He also played the occasional date with The Sonics as well as being their soundman from time to time. There had been years that Etiquette was not active, but it was still very much alive. Buck’s son, Gregory Ormsby, intends to continue Etiquette Records as an active label  In 2020 Etiquette will celebrate its 60th anniversary.

Joe Johansen retired from music in 1972 and slipped into obscurity after his escape from Seattle to Spokane in 1980,  He moved in order to get away from the influence of decades of addiction

In a 1996 interview Johansen said:

“All my musical heroes were junkies so I became one, I blew some of the best He had just come back to Spokane after a triumphant four-concert return in mid-May to the Seattle blues scene.years of my playing career. I’ll never know how good I could have been because I was always loaded.”

His interviewer Dale Clarke wrote:

Johansen played Carnegie Hall twice while touring with headline acts. After five years as an L.A. studio musician, he retired with a substantial amount of money in the bank. He bought a house in Seattle and a pound of pure heroin in that order”

Broke by the late 1970s, Johansen went back to playing. After a relapse, Johansen was forced to choose between the guitar and sobriety. “Sobriety won” he told Clarke.. Johansen sold his guitar and moved To Eastern Washington, Johansen, like Dangel also became a drug counselor.

One day Joe  was recognized on the streets of Spokane my music historian Robert Browning. They were soon fast friends, and it was Browning who had bought Johansen’s last guitar and encouraged him to play again.

In mid-may of 1997 Joe made one last trip to Western Washington and  played a triumphant four-concert return to the Seattle blues scene. His last performance was at The Swiss Restaurant and Pub in Tacoma.  The gig attracted his old music friends to support and share the moment he played from his soul.  Later he told Dale Clarke of The Spokane Statesman-Review:

“That last night was a high point.  I’ve never cried on stage, but I was blubbering like a damn baby. It was heaven, I don’t think anything could match that experience. So why try?”

He vowed never to play again.  His words were prophetic. Joe died of a heart attack in room 601 of The Delaney, a low-income apartment building in downtown Spokane.  He was found by the apartment manager.

Joe Johnson  went on to play with several local bands, most notably with Blind Willie.  Joe died June 4, 1977.

Pat Gossan went on to play keyboards in several bands from the 70s though 21st century. including, Prairie Creek, Freddie and The Screamers, Fat Cat and the Vududes (pronounced Voo-Dudes, geddit?) Pat now performs alongside Charlie Morgan, Steve Boyce, and Rick Bourgoin in the band “Two Sheds Jackson”.  He was asked to join after a concert to raise money and awareness of breast cancer.  The event was called Boobapalooza and raised more than $15,000.

Denny MacLeod died April 15, 2001, After leaving  live music behind him he became a radio disc jockey and went on to have a decades long career as a DJ and radio talent in the Spokane and Eastern Washington area, winning several awards along the way..  He spent his last years at the now defunct KZLN FM in Othello Washington.  Co-workers said he was a wonderful friend, mentor, and big brother and he often remarked about how he’d enjoyed his time playing guitar with Floating Bridge.

Little Bill Engelhart is still at it after over six decades in music.  Unfortunately he’s outlived all of the original Blue Notes, but musicians and fans still seek him out.

Michael Marinelli would go on to play on the original soundtrack for the cult film El Topo. Alejandro Jodorowsky had written and directed the film as well as creating it’s score..  John Lennon and Yoko Ono had been so impressed with the film they convinced  Allen Klein,who was then manager of Apple, to buy the rights to the film, and the soundtrack was released on Apple Records.  Lennon was so smitten by Jodorowsky’s work that he even advanced $1 million for Jodorowsky’s next movie,“The Holy Mountain” The latter soundtrack was released on Allen Klein’s own label ABCO.  In the 70s The members of the now-defunct Beatles entered into a series of legal battles with Klein and the rights to the entire Apple catalogue.

Michael then became an actor.  When “Freddie and the Screamers” were together Buck Ormsby had been able to secure a pilot to do fours songs for the TV show Northern Exposure.  The bass player was left out because Buck wanted to play, so the band went to Roslyn WA where they were filming the pilot. While they were sitting in the comissary area some guy walked past them and it was Michael.  Pat Gossan who hadn’t seen Marinelli for fifteen years  yelled “Magooch!” and the guy turned around and it was indeed Michael,  He was  was working as the stand-in for Barry Corbin.  He and the band  had a chance to catch-up. Marinelli had moved to Hawaii with his then-wife who was a flight attendent and he had secured a couple of things on Magnum P.I. and and a TV for an ad for a Home Alert system.  Gossan says he’s been in touch with Michael periodically. He’s living in Taos New Mexico and in poor health-he injured his hip and he has other health issues that are going on.  He’s content staying in his place and somewhat of a recluse

 Rockin’ Robin Roberts may be the most tragic figure in this story.  Roberts had sought out Richard Berry’s original “Louie Louie’ and turned it into a rock classic even before Rich Dangel added his signature intro.  It was his vocals on The Wailers recording, the first version of the song ever released. Rockin’ Roberts, more than anyone. turned a minor song into what is said to be the second most recorded song in history-only eclipsed by Paul McCartney’s ‘Yesterday’.

Early in the morning of December 22, 1967 Rockin’ Robin Roberts was killed on impact in a head-on collision after leaving a party. He was the passenger in a car traveling the wrong direction on a divided freeway south of San Francisco.  He was only 27 years old.


All corrections to this story are welcome.  Leave your comments below.

 

 

-Dennis R. White.  Sources: James Bush “Floating Bridge” (Encyclopedia of Northwest Music, Sasquatch Books,1999); Floating Bridge; Seattle, Washington 1967 – 1969 (Pacific Northwest Bands, pnwbands.com/bridge , retrieved May 20, 2018); Tony Engelhart “The Tall Cool One: Rich Dangel 1942-2002” (Blues Onstage, February 2003): “Floating Bridge” (Bad Cat Records Biography” (http://badcatrecords.com/BadCat/FLOATINGbridge.htm, retrieved May 20, 2018): Rich Dangle (Etiquette Records. www.etiquette-records.com/artists/dj-smiling-10/, retrieved May 19, 2018); “Floating Bridge” (Forced Exposure, www.forcedexposure.com/Artists/FLOATING.BRIDGE.html, retrieved May 19, 2018); “Floating Bridge” (AllMusic, www.allmusic.com/artist/floating-bridge-mn0000639749/biography , retrieved May 19 2018); “Floating Bridge; Floating Bridge” (Forced Exposure, April 18, 2012,  rockasteria.blogspot.com/2012/04/floating-bridge-floating-bridge-1969-us.html, retrieved May 19, 2018); Simon Stable “Floating Bridge [liner notes UK] retrieved May 20, 2018);Doug Clark “Guitarist Takes Final Bow On A Good Note” Spokeman-Review [Spokane WA] June 10, 1997); Eric Predoehl “Memories of Robin Roberts” (The Louie Report, December 14 2002 louielouie.net retrieved May 20 2018); Peter Blecha “Sonic Boom: The History of Northwest Rock From “Louie Louie” to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (Backbeat Books, 2009); Ian Ith “Richard Dangel, seminal guitarist, inspired luminaries” (The Seattle Times, Decembe 5, 2002); Jason Ankeny “Sir Raleigh and The Coupons” allmusic.com, retrieved May 22, 2018); Walt Crowley “Rites of Passage: A Memoir of the Sixties in Seattle” (Universtiy of Washington Press,1997); Johnny Blogger “Vancouver Pop Festival,1969” www.djtees.com/blogs/djtees-blog/vancouver-pop-festival-1969, retrieved May 24, 2018); Corry Allen [post] “Where Was The Grateful Dead August 24,1969?” (Jerry Garcia’s Middle Finger, May 9,2012); K2D2 “The Eatonville Rock Festival” (Geocacheing.com, retrieved May 24.2018); ZIBI “Floating Bridge ‘Floating Bridge, 1969” [Polish Translation] (Rock Dizziness, June 29, 2017, retrieved May 21, 2018) Don Rogers “The Time Machine, Seattle, Washington, 1966 – 1968 (pnwbands.com, retrieved May 21, 2018) The Time Machine” (rateyourmusic.com, retrieved May24, 2018); Don Randi with Karen Nishimura “You’ve Heard These Hands: From The Wall of Sound to the Wrecking Crew and Other Incredible Stories” (Hal Leonard Books, 2015): Dave Clarke “Jimi Hendrix’s Guitar Hero Now Lives Quietly In Spokane” (Spokesman-Review [Spokane WA] Oct. 8, 1996);Associated Press “Northwest music icon Rich Dangel dies” (December 6.2002); Pat Gossan “interview with the author”, May 31,2018)