Northwest Music History: Seattle

EVERYTHING’S GONE GREEN
The Green Pajamas: Part One

In 2012 music critic Nathan Ford wrote: “It’s doubtful whether there are any other acts out there who have amassed as impressive a body of work while reaching so few as Seattle’s long-running Green Pajamas. This seems to be a common theme – you’ve either never heard of the Green Pajamas, or you’re an obsessive, devotional fan. Ford, who was writing for New Zealand’s web’zine The Active Listener concluded “They seem to be the type of band that brooks no middle ground.”

In theory, this might be true, but it also might be valid on a more pragmatic level. The Green Pajamas were active from 1984 until 2018, with a few hiatus along the way. It’s hard to imagine any other group of Seattle musicians putting out more recorded material, either as a band or in one of its many permutations. Since 1984 the band has released 22 albums (not including domestic and international re-issues) 15 singles and EPs, five compilations of their music, and included on another 40. Their music has appeared on labels as far-flung as Greece, Canada, Sweden, Norway, Australia, New Zealand, The U.K., Germany, and at least a dozen U.S. Labels. None of this includes the solo or side projects recorded by band members.

It’s hard to imagine a more prolific songwriter than the band’s leader Jeff Kelly, or the consistent quality of his output. The other members that have come and gone over the years have also been exceptional, though not as prolific. One might have to be an obsessive, devotional fan to follow The Green Pajamas in places as diverse as New Zealand, Greece, or elsewhere. Still, over the course of 34 years, The Green Pajamas were practically ignored by all but the most obsessive, devotional fans in their hometown of Seattle. While many Seattle music fans followed, then moved on to newer trends, the Green Pajamas continued to do one thing; write, create and record music that holds together thematically and musically. The quality of their work has made many worldwide fans consider them reliably engaging, without treading the same waters. Each song is like a small, unique gift. Every album is a jewel to be examined over and over-each time with as much joy as the last.

THEY MET AT A PARTY

The band that would become The Green Pajamas formed on July 13th, 1983, when two young guys from West Seattle, Jeff Kelly, and Joe Ross, met at a party through a mutual friend. The friend was Kirsten Wilhelm, who Jeff was dating at the time. Joe Ross knew Kirsten from high school. “Joe and I had a mutual love of The Beatles, especially for their song “Rain,” Jeff says. “Joe had a rehearsal room upstairs in his parent’s house so the next evening, July 14th, Jeff, Joe, and drummer Karl Wilhelm (older brother of Kirsten, Jeff’s girlfriend) got together to jam. The following night, Friday, July 15th, the trio played at a party held by Nancy Thompson, an acquaintance of both Joe and Kirsten. The genesis of the band- from meeting to playing- had taken place within three days.

Illustration: Joe Ross

Jeff had a 4-track TEAC A-3340 reel-to-reel at the time. “I’d been recording stuff at home all my life, so this was a natural progression.” according to Jeff. “When I met Joe, we just started fooling around. We just got together and started jamming.” Jeff says most of the stuff was made up very spontaneously. “We’d think, “that section sounds good, so then we decided maybe we could make some songs out of that single part.” 

Both Jeff and Joe had been listening to the Rain Parade, the Three O’Clock, Green on Red, and other artists in the neo-psychedelic scene dubbed The Paisley Underground. “We just kind of liked that sound, I guess,” Jeff tells me. “It was kind of our psychedelic thing. We’d turn out the lights, light candles, burn incense and drink beer. Since it was at my parent’s house, they’d be in bed downstairs, so we’d turn the volume really low, make up songs, let the tapes roll while we noodled around, and then listen.” Two cassette tapes arose out of these jams that were designated Gothic Funk with Incense: One, and Gothic Funk with Incense: Two.

In the early days, Jeff and Joe relied on both Karl Wilhelm and Joe Bauer as drummers. Karl was the brother of Jeff’s girlfriend at the time. Joe Bauer was a drummer Joe Ross had been working with for about a year. In the end, it was Karl who became the drummer by default. “We never auditioned our drummer,” Joe Ross tells me. “It was really a matter of Joe Bauer becoming less available, and Karl getting divorced, leaving him much more time to devote to the band. ”

“I’m a self-taught drummer,” Karl says. “When I got out of high school, I jammed with friends. It was basically for fun. Usually, with a trio, but sometimes an extra person would come in. That’s where I got my start playing.

“Joe Bauer did some recording and gigging with Jeff and Joe Ross, but I ended up being the main drummer,” Wilhelm says. He also says he had to learn the parts Joe Bauer had laid down on previous recordings to play them live. “Jeff and Joe also had a number of people they knew that would sit in with them. There were different things that they were willing to play with us,” Karl continues. “One guy we worked with was an orchestral violinist. A lot of classically trained people can’t improvise, but he could, and he was good at it. We’d play a song, and he’d think something up. It was always a pleasure to work with him.”

“Jeff didn’t like to keep very many songs in the loop,” Karl says. “He was always creating new stuff. He’s such a consummate musician. If you write a song, it’s ingrained in your memory already, so he’d want to get it recorded almost immediately. The rest of us needed to practice it more so we could play a little better, but he was always rotating new songs into the setlist. That was a challenge, but it was also fun.” 

Both Jeff and Joe claim The Green Pajamas “weren’t a thing yet” when they started rehearsing, but by the spring of 1984, the trio of Jeff Kelly, Joe Ross, and Joe Bauer started playing casual gigs. They tried out several band names during this period.  A poster from March 2nd, 1984, shows they opened for The Eagertones at South Seattle Community College as Felix The Cat Explodes!

Their first gig-a house party at Nancy Thompson’s.
August 20, 1983. L to R: Joe Ross, Joe Bauer, Jeff Kelly

On April 20th, 1984 (Joe’s 20th birthday), the band played a party under the name Spanking Naughty Teens. The gig was taped and still exists, Joe says. He also explains that Spanking Naughty Teens was much more refined than Felix the Cat Explodes! Spanking Naughty Teens consisted of Jeff and Joe along with Joe Bauer on drums and Dan Gossard, an old friend of Jeff’s, on vocals. Even though Jeff and Joe were writing and rehearsing original material, Felix the Cat Explodes! was primarily a cover band.

Jeff and I put some thought into naming the band,” Joe tells me. “We’d considered The Flying Nun and The Pigeon-Toed Orange Peels but finally settled on The Green Pajamas.  The band name was based on a song that was already in our repertoire. We liked the idea that we would have a theme song.”

THANKS TO EVERYONE  WHO SANG AT THE PAJAMA PARTY

The song and band name were derived from the ‘Pajama Parties’ Joe and Jeff held in the summer of 1984- also known as ‘The Summer of Lust’ to band members for reasons that should be obvious. The ‘Pajama Parties’ were held in places like Seattle’s popular Alki Beach, Lincoln Park, or in Joe’s backyard where they held barbecues. Later in the evening, they brought out their guitars for sing-alongs. The credits of their debut album, Summer of Lust, include thanks to ‘All who participated in the Pajama Party’ In this case, the ‘Pajama Party’ referred to the last song recorded for their debut album, Summer of Lust. 

“We wanted a room full of voices for the chorus of the song “Green Pajamas”, so we had a party upstairs in my jam room,” Joe explains. “We got everyone there to participate in the live recording of the song.” One of the girls who had “participated in the Pajama Party” was Julie Lawrence. “She was always talking about her brother Steve,” Joe tells me.” She’d say ‘He’s coming out of the Army. You would love him so much. He’s a big fan of The Beatles and The Byrds.’ For months she kept telling us about him,” Joe says, “and she told him about us for months.”

Summer of Lust Poster, 1984. Illustration by Joe Ross

Basic tracks for Summer of Lust consisted of guitar, bass, and drums for eight songs that were recorded on Jeff’s TEAC 4-track reel-to-reel. Four were recorded in Joe’s attic with a single microphone hanging in the middle of the room. The other four songs had been recorded entirely at Jeff’s house. 

Jeff had written a new song called “I Feel Like A Murder.” It was about a recent experience he’d had on a date. He wanted to record the song right away, so he and Joe grabbed a boombox, an acoustic 12-string guitar, a snare drum, and Julie Lawrence and Nancy Thompson. On July 15th, 1984, they piled into Jeff’s champagne-colored mid-60s, Dodge Dart. He drove to a big amphitheater-shaped basin near Meyers Way in the Seattle neighborhood of White Center. “I think we assumed it would be a fun place to do a demo of the song, but it became the official version,” Joe says. “We never did make another recording of it. Just that one take. In the liner notes for Summer of Lust, it’s written’ “I Feel Like A Murder” was recorded ‘in a field featuring Julie on “wastebasket.” Julie confirms this by saying she picked up the tossed-away basket on their march from the car into the basin that day.

After recording the rest of the songs at Joe’s, the two took the basic tracks to Jeff’s house to do overdubs in his bedroom. The songs “Lost in a World” and “Anna Maria” had been recorded earlier but were included with the new recordings. Jeff and Joe spent a week mixing. The day after mixing was completed the two had 25 cassette tapes duplicated. As soon as the duplicates returned, Summer of Lust was in the Seattle record stores Cellophane Square and Fallout Records, the newly opened shop run by Russ Battaglia, his wife Janet, and Bruce Pavitt. Pavitt left the store about a year after its opening and went on to co-found SubPop Records in 1986. Fallout Records later became a large part of Seattle’s punk and skate culture.

Many discographies mistakenly state that Summer of Lust was first released by Tom Dyer’s Green Monkey Records. A few others claim the original cassette of Summer of Lust was self-released, and for the most part, it was- but Summer of Lust was also the first cassette released on Joe Ross’s label, Endgame Records. It would not be the only Green Pajamas record released on Joe’s label. Endgame would, in the future, release records by various other artists, including Jack Endino, Larry Wilhelm, Crypt Kicker 5, 64 Spiders, as well as Joe Ross’s solo output.

Summer of Lust cassette. One of the original Green Monkey releases.

Upon its release, Summer of Lust did not prove to be a milestone in Seattle music history. Only a few copies were made, and friends and family bought most of them. Like many other fantastic bands with fantastic songs, The Green Pajamas debut went mostly unnoticed, if for no other reason than a lack of proper distribution. The tape was released at what was probably the height of what was known as cassette culture.  This movement didn’t center around the commercial music scene, even though the major labels were pouring out more cassettes than the vinyl they’d produced in the past. The long-playing 12″ record hadn’t disappeared, but tapes were outselling them and it proved to be the beginning of vinyl’s demise.

The cassette was an inexpensive way for independent labels and artists to release or distribute their music affordably. Cassettes became the norm for soliciting labels, managers, or promoters who might be interested in any particular band’s music.  Tom Dyer relied exclusively on cassette tapes during the early years of Green Monkey Records. He admits he didn’t release them because they were trendy at the time. He relied on them because he could have small runs duplicated without laying out much cash. If any particular album sold out, he’d have more cassettes made. “I did it because it was cheap,” he says. Tom wasn’t alone, and neither was The Green Pajamas in copying and distributing tapes among family and friends…and sometimes even selling them,

The cassette tape became indispensable because for the first time individuals had both the hardware and software to control their music or even their favorite music by any other artist. It’s hard for people who weren’t there at the time to understand, but the cassette revolution was even more profound than the next two great leaps; when the CD overcame the cassette as the preferred format, and later when file-sharing online came into existence.

Green Monkey Logo                Design: Vicki Dyer.

On August 19th, 1984, the band played a show at Tonight’s The Night Discotheque on Mercer Island. Joe Ross says he remembers the date specifically because this was, again,  the eve of his 21st birthday. It was also the first gig which the band billed themselves as The Green Pajamas. Joe seems to have been a little disappointed because, for months, he’d imagined he would wait outside a bar to get “carded” at midnight to enter and have a drink. These hopes were dashed. “When the opportunity to play a gig came up, I had to take it, even though it meant wasting my 21st birthday in an all-ages club,” according to Joe.

“About four months after releasing Summer of Lust, I got a phone call from Tom Dyer,” Joe says. “He had just bought a copy of our tape and was writing a review of it for the influential alternative music magazine, Option. Tom admits it took a while to track the band down. Jeff and Joe had released the cassette without any contact information, and it was only by calling the company that had duplicated copies of the cassette that he was given a phone number for Joe. During their initial conversation, Tom mentioned to Joe that he ran Green Monkey Records and had an 8-track studio in his basement.” 

In 1983, Tom had set up Green Monkey Records in his apartment in Seattle’s Fremont District. His first studio consisted of a TEAC four-track reel-to-reel and a TAPCO 6200B mixer. According to Tom, he bought the equipment “from a guy in a parking garage downtown.” It was in 1983 Tom recorded and released his debut album, Truth or Consequences on Green Monkey Records, Later in 1983 Green Monkey released, the first of many compilations. This one was called Local Product

Tom says he knew the first time he heard Summer of Lust he wanted to work with the Green Pajamas. Once meeting them, and agreeing to re-release Summer of Lust on his label, Dyer says he “devised a master plan-how we were going to conquer the world.” The “master plan” ended up with Tom as the head of the band’s record label, their booking agent, manager, and producer, as well as shopping for licensing to labels outside the United States. Later Tom said he would never have guessed he and his label would be ‘pajamafied’.

Jeff had also given Tom cassettes tapes of songs that pre-dated Summer of Lust. He’d recorded them on his 4-track TEAC reel to reel. Tom says he picked out the songs he liked, and along with three additional Jeff Kelly songs, they created an album Jeff named  Baroquen Hearts. “Jeff has always thought some of this stuff was not up to snuff,” Tom says. In 1999, when  Melancholy Sun, a four-CD boxed set of Jeff’s home recordings was released it didn’t include a single song from Baroqen Hearts even though there is, as Tom Dyer claims, “a tremendous charm in the young Jeff Kelly’s work.”

Tom goes on to say that he had already assembled a press list, and Green Monkey Records was becoming more experienced at getting people to write about the label. “We sent Baroquen Hearts out to all the usual suspects,” he says. “Green Monkey then re-released Summer of Lust along with a couple of added songs. 

“I was amused by the fact that Jeff would write about people using their real names,” Tom tells me. One song was “Stephanie Barber,” and another was “Mike Brown”. The song “Mike Brown” was recorded during the Summer of Lust sessions but pulled from its original release. Mike Brown was the boyfriend of Kirsten Wilhelm. She had dumped Jeff for Mike. Jeff didn’t want to ruin the chance of a reconciliation with Kirsten. He thought he’d have better prospects by excluding the song on Summer of Lust.

“Anna Maria” was recorded in October of 1984, so it didn’t appear on the original version of Summer of Lust. It was added to the 1995 Green Monkey re-release of the album. Joe feels the song, “Stephanie Barber” didn’t fit with the rest of the songs on Summer of Lust. “Mike Brown” made it onto the 1989 vinyl version of Summer of Lust that was released by Ubik Records in England, but “Stephanie Barber” didn’t. Because of vinyl’s time constraints, “I Feel Like A Murder” was also cut from the Ubik Records release.

ANOTHER “ANOTHER PORKY PRIME CUT”

Summer of Lust. 1989 Ubik Records 12″ vinyl re-issue. Also used for all subsequent releases. Photo: Kari Dunn.

Ubik Records was an indie label in London run by Los Angeles transplant Greg Shaw, one of the co-founders of Bomp! magazine and later, Bomp! Records. Unfortunately, his British excursion ended when the Ubik label became defunct with the closing of the near-legendary distributor “the Cartel” One distinction of Ubik’s vinyl release of Summer of Lust is that it was re-mastered by George Peckham who also cut the lacquer. Peckham is one of the most exceptional mastering engineers and lacquer cutters in music history. He famously signed his projects with a number of clever monikers, his most famous being “Another Porky prime cut”. His “signature” in various forms is found in the runout of the records he cut. The mark of his mastering and lacquer cutting is found in one form or another on many of the most iconic albums begining in the late 60s into the early 2000’s. From John Lennon’s Imagine and Electric Warrior by T. Rex to Blondie’s Plastic Letters and almost everything ever released by The Buzzcocks and Cabaret Voltaire. Other albums as diverse as Paul McCartney and Wings’ Venus and Mars

George “Porky” Peckham in his studio.

to Joe Jackson’s Look Sharp! and Led Zeppelin’s Houses of The Holy. Peckham cut albums for Pink Floyd, Traffic, Joy Division, P.I.L., The Jam, Supergrass, Stone Roses, The Stranglers, Badfinger, Nurse With Wound, Colin Newman, The Beatles Happy Mondays, and literally thousands of other well-known albums by well-known artists. During the 1970s and ’80 having the words “Another Porky prime cut” etched into the dead wax of a record was a badge or honor and put any artist in some very heady company.badge of honor for any artist and put them into some

 

“WE ALWAYS HAD THIS JOKE…”

In October 1984, Steve Lawrence, the brother of Julie Lawrence, who felt he and the Green Pajamas would be an excellent fit, returned to Seattle. The band met Steve shortly after his arrival. They all seemed to get along well enough, and of course, Julie had been recommending him for months. When Steve went into the Army, he had a taste for hardcore punk rock. He developed a kinship with another soldier, Tim Canny, who, along with Steve, dreamed of starting a punk band after the military. The plan was to meet up in Tim’s hometown, Cincinnati, Ohio, and find others to fill out a group. Even after being assigned to different military facilities, Steve and Tim remained friends, but their plan never came to fruition, possibly because of a change in Steve’s musical interests. Steve had joined the Army with a love for punk rock, but by the time of his leaving the Army in 1983, Tim Canny says Steve’s real passion was rockabilly.  It’s possible this came about because of a short friendship and correspondence with Brian Setzer of the Stray Cats. After being discharged, Steve headed to Tim’s hometown, Cincinnati, and the two wrote a few songs together.  Nothing came of the writing partnership, save one song, “I Hate (Everything)”, that was recorded by Musical Suicide, a local Cincinnati band.

Steve played electric bass, double-bass, and tenor saxophone. While he was in Cincinnati, he briefly joined a few rockabilly bands. Then he began backing an old Jump R&B singer called Billy Nelson- also known as Billy “Turban” Nelson, because of his usual head attire. Nelson was a Cincinnati native that had made a favorable impression on the mighty Savoy Records in the 1950s.  Nelson and the three remaining members of the Five Wings recorded four songs for the label, but Savoy only released two of them as the1955 single “Pack, Shack And Stack Your Blues Away” b/w “Walk Along”. Later Billy Nelson became the featured vocalist with the Boots Johnson Combo who released 1968’s “Hold Me Baby” b /w “If I Had The Chance (To Love You)” on King Records. King was a prestigious label based in Cincinnati. It had been the home of James Brown, Ralph Stanley, Redd Foxx, Little Willie John, Hank Ballard Arthur Prysock, and a host of famous C&W and R&B artists-an odd pairing of genres and musicians that would become the founders of Soul music.

Steve Lawrence. Date unknown
Photo courtesy of Julie Lawrence.

Tim Skidmore, an important figure on the Cincinnati alternative scene, was trying to help Billy make a comeback as Billy Nelson and the Skid Row Blues Band.  Skidmore recruited Steve as a member of Billy Nelson’s band. Shortly afterward, Nelson unexpectedly died of a stomach ailment. Friends say Steve was devastated, and with no gig in sight, he followed his sister’s advice and returned to Seattle.

Jeff Kelly, Joe Ross, and Karl Wilhelm met with Steve, and according to Joe, “We had kind of an awkward audition with him.” But they got along well enough that Steve ended up playing a couple of shows with them. One at the West Seattle Golf Course and one at Seattle University. “He was doing shows with us at the time, but he didn’t participate in any recordings,” Joe says. “He immediately liked the whole vibe. Steve loved whatever was trendy at the moment. He’d been in a rockabilly band, and he was a pretty exceptional rock guitarist. Steve loved the idea we were doing this new kind of psychedelic revival thing. We loved him right away because he knew what to do; what kind of songs we wanted to play. He went out and bought paisley shirts. He had the same references”.

“We always had this joke,” Jeff Kelly says.” You can’t be in our band unless you know the song “I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight?” by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart.”

Steve knew the song. It was a done deal. He was now a member of The Green Pajamas.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

In October of 1984, the band started recording a new project that would be called Happy Halloween! The album was a collection of eight songs Jeff and Joe recorded over a week. According to the credits, the basic tracks for six of the songs were recorded at the ‘Wilhelm Mansion Basement Studio.’ According to the cassette’s credits. Along with the songs recorded at Karl’s, two tracks previously recorded at Jeff Kelly’s house were added. Karl Wilhelm’s brother Larry had just bought a Casio MT-68 keyboard and it inspired Jeff and Joe to immediately buy one for use on their recordings. Larry Wilhelm is credited as playing guitar on two songs on Happy Halloween!,” Murder of Crows” and “Last Days Of Autumn”.  Julie Lawrence is credited as the drummer for the title track, “Happy Halloween!”. Jeff Kelly, an untrained cellist, had bought a used one earlier that fall. Despite not knowing how to play he added decent string parts to “All I Want To Do”,” Gothic Funk”, “Johnna Johnna”, “One Monday”, “Nearly Winter” and “Stephanie Barber”. The album was readied for a 1984 release. After copying only 10 cassettes, Jeff and Joe gave them to their closest friends and fans. The ten copies of the cassette of Happy Halloween were also initially released on Joe Ross’s Endgame Records.  

Happy Halloween! 1984.  One of the 10 original cassettes Design: Joe Ross

“Over the years people from England, Germany and all over the world would write to me asking me about Happy Halloween!,” Joe says. “I’ve made people copies on cassette, and later on CDRs. Happy Halloween! usually appears on Green Pajamas discographies even though virtually no one has heard it. Over the next 20 years, probably another ten copies were made and sent to inquisitive people around the world. This was in the pre-internet days,” Joe continues. “You know, it took a lot of energy for someone to write a letter from Germany and send it to a small label in 1984, but people did it. I always received stuff by letter. It was a great time for that kind of thing. It was really fun to exchange letters with people. It was fun to become pen pals. You would send a mix-tape of your rarest material just for being contacted. 

The Green Pajamas bio for the Happy Halloween! wider CD release in 2014 includes high praise from Paul Kerr of the webzine Americana U.K. Kerr called it “another welcome reissue from Seattle psych-popsters. If you dig the likes of Syd Barrett, The West Coast Experimental Pop Band, Robyn Hitchcock, Young Marble Giants, or The Bevis Frond then you might be well advised to check this out.”

THIS WINTER’S NIGHT

On December 19th,1984, The Green Pajamas recorded their first Christmas single, “This Winter’s Night”. “It was a big deal for us,” Joe says. “It was a big production-before we even knew Tom Dyer, so we recorded it at my house.” The song wasn’t released until 2009’s Green Monkey’s Christmas compilation Santa’s Not Dead; It’s a Green Monkey Christmas. The band also contributed “The Caroler’s Song” as well as their rendition of “O’Holy Night” to the 2009 Christmas album.

The 2010 Green Monkey Christmas album (with the less sinister title, It’s a Green Monkey Christmas) also included a version of “This Winter’s Night” recorded by a duo named ‘Ben and Kat,’ who were, in fact, Tom Dyer’s son and daughter. The Green Monkey Christmas albums have become an annual tradition with all proceeds going to charity. Both Tom Dyer and the Green Pajamas record songs for the albums in various permutations and plenty of other Northwest bands are always ready to offer something up.

“I remember for some reason Steve wasn’t there when we recorded “This Winter’s Night”. I‘m not sure why…it was just one of those things,” Joe says. “When we met Steve, he was into gigging with us but not doing recordings. Jeff and I recorded at the drop of a hat,” Joe continues,  but gigs were bigger deals. We’d have to make calls to get a gig. In the beginning, Steve didn’t record with us, but he always played live. I think the first live gig with Steve was at Seattle University.

New Year’s Eve 1984/1985. After-Show Party

The band played several shows in November and December of 1984. On New Year’s Eve of 1984/1985 Larry Reid, owner of Graven Image Gallery, held an event at Seattle’s notorious Meat Lockers. Reid had booked Henry Rollins (then of Black Flag) to perform. Seattle’s U-Men, who Larry was managing at the time played.  The line-up also included the bands Pop Defect and Baba Yaga. Tim Grimm, a magician who would later be a member of the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow, performed. Verna Doherty, who was instrumental in getting Henry Rollins to do his spoken word performance, also read some of her work. The Green Pajamas played an after-show performance at Reid’s Graven Image Gallery, going onstage about 3 A.M.

Steve’s first recordings with the band were at Joe’s jam room in his parent’ house. In January 1985, the entire band recorded “Thinking Only Of You (Lust Don’t Last)” and “All I Want To Do” The songs were eventually released as a limited pressing of 300 singles on lime green vinyl by Germany’s GOAR Magazine. Like many other alternative ‘zines at the time, each issue of GOAR included a 7″ record. The Green Pajamas single came with 1993’s #8 issue of GOAR.

A HORSE IS A HORSE

The Green Pajamas’ most auspicious recording of their early career, “Kim the Waitress” was recorded in January of 1985 but not released until May 1986.  The b-side “Jennifer” was written by Steve Lawrence. The songs were from the same recording sessions as “Peppermint Stick”, which was included on the late 1995 Green Monkey compilation, Monkey Business. The single “Kim The Waitress” would be instrumental to the band’s success, but until its release, it sat in the can for over a year. The entire story begins in the summer of 1984.

Jeff and Joe had grown up in West Seattle. “There was a little all-night cafe called Mr. Ed’s,” Joe tells me. Jeff, Joe, and Karl spent a lot of time at Mr. Ed’s. They just sat around, sometimes into the middle of the night, drinking coffee and discussing whatever came into their heads.  

Joe had worked at Mr. Ed’s as a dishwasher in high school. Kim Chavey (now Kim Olson) was a young woman working the graveyard shift as a waitress. Jeff Kelly had a crush on Kim, and she became somewhat of a muse for him.

Kim Chavey, now Kim Olson.
The actual ‘Kim The Waitress’ at Mr. Ed’s 1984.

Jeff, Joe, Karl, and whoever was with them had a habit of writing dirty limericks on the coffee house placemats. Joe says he still has an original placemat on which they first wrote a poem about Kim Chavey “Me, Jeff, Karl and probably Julie Lawrence would be giggling, hiding, and bouncing around,” Joe remembers. “The poem about Kim was something along the lines of ‘I’m in love with Kim the waitress’. It was really juvenile. I remember rhyming ‘pert‘ with ‘a little squirt’.  We were giggling about it, but the rhyme later proved to be the basis of the lyrics for the song “Kim the Waitress” 

“We were getting very raunchy with these poems,” Joe says, but when it came to writing the lyrics to “Kim The Waitress” they took on a meaning of unrequited love. “The actual inspiration was juvenile…really juvenile…super juvenile, dirty lyrics,” Joe says. “Later, I got to know Kim on more of a social basis. In fact, a friend of mine and Kim were dating when the single “Kim The Waitress” came out. She really loved it. Her whole family knows all about it. Until a decade ago, I still got Christmas cards from her, and they were always signed: ‘from Kim the Waitress’ Kim even told me the song was played at her wedding.”

Joe says the origins of “Kim the Waitress’ are evident on the first of the two Gothic Funk with Incense tapesAfter writing “Kim The Waitress” Jeff and Joe knew the song was really good. “It came organically out of a jam session we did upstairs at my parents’ house,” Joe says. “Jeff was ad-libbing lyrics. I was playing guitar and noodling around. We did a few versions of “Kim the Waitress’ ‘with Jeff playing the bass drum with his right foot and high hat with his left. ‘Boom-boom-boom. Boom-boom-boom,” Joe recalls. “He was doing a simple drum part and playing bass at the same time he was singing. Then you’d hear the rhythm. When he was doing it, Jeff was inspired by Joy Division; not as intense, but with that repetitive beat and the bass. “A bunch of songs came out of those sessions,” Jeff says.

In early January 1985, The Green Pajamas went into Tom’s studio to record “Kim The Waitress”. A few days before the recording  Joe borrowed a sitar from the father of a  friend.  His friend’s father was a high school music teacher and Joe knew that he had played the sitar in the ’60s and early ’70s. Joe secured the use of the sitar just in time for the band to use it during the same session they recorded “Kim The Waitress.” Each band member had a go at playing it. “I thought I would be able to play it,” Joe says,” but Steve Lawrence was better at it so he played it on the record.  I played guitar and Jeff played bass with Karl Wilhelm on drums.”

We tuned the sitar to an A chord,” Joe recalls. “The sitar hadn’t been played in years.  When I got hold of the sitar there was no resemblance of proper tuning. (the band’s tuning it to an A chord is practically unheard of in classical Indian music).  “It was just a bunch of strings and the texture had little friction holes in it. There were no gears,” Joe tells me. “ I still have it.  I told the guy we used it in our recording and he asked ‘Do you wanna buy it?’ So I gave him 40 bucks.”

“Kim the Waitress” was recorded in January of 1985, but not released until May 1986 with the b-side “Jennifer” written by Steve Lawrence. The song “Kim The Waitress” would be instrumental to the band’s success, but until its release it sat in the can for over a year.

Tom Dyer did not press and release the single as soon as it was recorded. He wanted to give more time for his newly released compilation Monkey Business.  He intended proper promotion, distribution, and possibly sales for his latest compilation.   “Kim The Waitress” would have to wait.

The Green Pajamas The Vogue, Seattle, January 11, 1985.
L. to R. Joe Ross, Karl Wilhelm, Jeff Kelly

On January 23rd, 1985, The Green Pajamas played what they considered their “coming out gig” at Seattle nightclub The Vogue. It was one of the clubs that had was important during the era by providing a formal bar setting for the bands that would later become known as ‘grunge’ artists. The Vogue was one of the few small clubs in Seattle that consistently booked ‘alternative’ national acts as well as an eclectic mix of local musicians…most of them at the forefront of the music spectrum. The club had the same policy since 1979 when it opened as a punk club called WREX. That night The Green Pajamas played in front of a Paisley backdrop, and two dancers performed on either side of them- the dancers wouldn’t last more than a couple of gigs.

 

On February 2nd, 1985, The Green Pajamas were booked to play a frat party at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, about 270 miles east of Seattle on the hot and dry side of the state. Usually, the trip is about a 4½ hour drive from Seattle. The band hired David Cotrell, a roommate of Joe’s brother at the University of Washington to drive the group and their equipment to Walla Walla. The band piled into Cotrell’s Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon. It snowed all the way between Seattle and Walla Walla, so the trip was considerably longer than anticipated.

At one point, David and the band stopped for gas somewhere in Eastern Washington. At the time, the band was wearing full psychedelic regalia for their performances. During the stop, band members ran into the gas station’s coffee shop to gather up snacks and pay for them. Joe says they were all in paisley shirts, tight striped pants, and hippy-style leather jackets. A county Sheriff sat in the coffee shop and gave them a good looking over. The Sheriff ended up following the Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon for about ten miles down the road before pulling them over.

“Fortunately our driver was a small-town boy from Grayland, Washington,” Joe says “He politely explained to the officer how he was driving this zany band from Seattle to a legitimate gig in Walla Walla, and he’d make sure we didn’t get into any trouble.” It’s unclear if there was any real reason to pull the Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon over,” but,” as Joe says, “We didn’t get a ticket.”

Green Pajamas. Rock Theater (Gorilla Gardens) Seattle
Joe’s last show

Tension had been growing between Jeff and Joe during the lead-up to a March 16th show at The Rock Theater, part of The Gorilla Gardens complex on the edge of Seattle’s International District.  Jeff had broken up with Kirsten Wilhelm, and Joe had secretly started dating her…at least secretly until Jeff found out. This arrangement complicated the friendship between the two, and Jeff felt that Joe should no longer be in the band. It was Tom Dyer’s unenviable task to tell Joe “his services were no longer needed” since Tom had recently become The Green Pajamas’ manager. After Joe was asked to leave, the band played the West Seattle Golf Course on April 6th, and at Seattle University, the first live gig Tom Dyer booked. Another gig took place at the Golden Crown on April 26th, which was the first Tom Dyer attended. The band played the Golden Crown once more on May 10th. It was also in May 1985 that Steve Lawrence made his first short departure.

Jeff and Joe didn’t speak to one another for the rest of 1985 and much of 1986. “We both care a lot for each other,” Joe says, “but I had stolen his love from him. It was weird because Jeff and I really wanted to work together, but we couldn’t and wouldn’t. It was the closest kind of feeling I’d had when you want to be with someone, but they don’t want to be with you. It was really emotional. It was a unique experience for me.” 

By the time Jeff had gotten over Kirsten Wilhelm, fallen in love again, and got married to Susanne Dailey on September 5th, 1986, Jeff and Joe had repaired their friendship. Joe attended the wedding. He continued to write and record as a solo artist and as the bassist for at least two other bands, but it seemed inevitable he would return to The Green Pajamas one day.

Earlier, in May of 1986 “Kim The Waitress” b/w “Jennifer” (written by Steve Lawrence) was finally released.  The single had faced a few glitches at the pressing plant in Vancouver, Canada, but had still arrived much earlier than May of ’86.  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. “I was trying to be strategic,” Tom tells me. “I wanted to release the compilation Monkey Business first and then allow enough time for the next Green Pajamas single to take over the attention.”

Jeff says that the band was performing at the time but wasn’t getting much radio support.  KCMU (predecessor of Seattle’s widely broadcast KEXP) would play a little Green Pajamas once in a while, but the band was kind of a novelty.  “We weren’t ‘grunge’ so our music didn’t fit into anything like that,” Jeff tells me. Jonathan Poneman, who co-founded the label Sub Pop later that year played the singe when he was a DJ at KCMU during a late-night spot.  “We got on there,” Jeff says, “but “Kim The Waitress”  never became any kind of a hit.”

Joe believes Jeff never fully embraced “Kim The Waitress” with the enthusiasm he could have. “I think Jeff could have ridden it to fame.” Although the song was a staple of the band’s performance during its early years, especially when Joe wasn’t in the band,  Jeff admits he lost interest over the last ten or fifteen years.  

In later years, as Joe says, “Everyone in the band said, ‘Yeah, let’s play “Kim The Waitress.”  We’d write it on the setlist,” Joe says, “But Jeff said ‘No. We’re skipping that.’ Joe tells me of one disgruntled couple approaching him after a show, saying, ‘We came to hear” Kim The Waitress,” and you didn’t even fucking play it!.’ ”

It’s hard to say what would have resulted if the song had become more popular at the time. It’s even harder to envision the path the band might have taken. They certainly never became stars in the conventional sense, but they were part of an underground music scene that held them in high regard. The critics were uniformly positive for almost every release they issued. They might not have found the independent licensing they treasured and the ability to write, record, and release what they chose. Having a hit with “Kim the Waitress” on a major label could have just as easily led them to be one-hit-wonders or derailing the creativity that would later be so obvious. It’s better not to deal with hypothetical could-have-beens.  One thing Jeff tells in an almost covert voice “Here’s a piece of trivia.  If you look at the run out of “Kim The Waitress” you can see we had “A horse is a horse”etched in there… like in the show Mr. Ed.  Unless you know we used to hang out at that coffee shop Mr. Ed’s you wouldn’t have a clue what it meant.

Jeff’s reluctance might have been seen as self-sabotage. On the other hand, his approach could have been responsible for worldwide recognition and a career that spanned 40 years without ever sounding old and never having to rest on former laurels. Or it could have been, as Karl Wilhelm pointed out, “Jeff didn’t like to keep very many songs in the loop.” Locally it was “Kim The Waitress” the band was most identified with.  Throughout the world, they were more well known for a parade of brilliant albums.

“Kim The Waitress” could have been a bigger record if I knew what I was doing,” Tom Dyer says, “…or if the band just got lucky. But that’s not how it went,” he says. Despite anyone’s feelings, “Kim The Waitress” went on to be covered by both Material Issue and Sister Psychic. Andy Davenhall (of Sister Psychic) even sat in with the Green Pajamas on the live version of “Kim The Waitress ” for the album Lust Never Sleeps. The song became known to a broader audience, but Jeff Kelly and the band were never defined by it.

TELL ME SOMETHING GOOD: 64 SPIDERS AND CAPPING DAY

In 1985, during what would turn out to be his hiatus from The Green Pajamas, Joe Ross joined James Burdyshaw’s band 64 Spiders.  Joe and Burdyshaw had known each other since high school in West Seattle ” Burdyshaw says he talked Joe into joining the band, but it’s clear Joe had been looking for a band to take part in.

64 Spiders. From top clockwise: Joe Ross, James Burdyshaw, Scott McCullum. Photo: Cam Garrett

Originally James Burdyshaw played guitar. When Joe Ross joined he played bass, Eric Walker was on drums having replaced the original drummer Brian Wright. David Lee sang vocals. Since it was Joe and James writing the lyrics and because of personal friction, David Lee was booted from the band in the summer of 1986.  James  Burdyshaw and Joe took over as lead vocalists for the songs each had individually written. Eric Walker was replaced by drummer Scott McCullum (now known as Norman Scott Rockwell). Later in the year, the band, now a trio, recorded an album with Jack Endino at Reciprocal Recording Studios.  This was the line-up and the era in which 64 Spiders really hit their stride.

“This was a whole new scene to me, Joe says. “It was the nascent ‘grunge’ scene. It was completely different than what I’d become used to. Everyone was so supportive of everyone else. I really loved it, but I missed the music of The Green Pajamas. James was a real taskmaster,” Joe adds with a laugh. “He’d say ‘You’re not going to play bass like you did in the Green Pajamas. I want you to listen to this Big Black record. Listen to this Butthole Surfers record. This is how you play bass now’. He was kind of funny, but he and I had known each other for many years. We’d always had a love/hate relationship,” Joe tells me.  “James forced me to change my whole musical sensibility. It’s what I needed to do, but I thought the Green Pajamas and Jeff were right on the cusp of something big, and I hadn’t wanted to leave.”

James Burdyshaw went on to help form Cat Butt while still playing with 64 Spiders. In March,  Scott McCullum left 64 Spiders for Skinyard, yet another of the best bands of the early ‘grunge’ scene. After McCullum’s departure, 64 Spiders tried out two new drummers but called it quits May of 1987.  At the time Jeff Kelly had asked Joe to re-join The Green Pajamas. Without McCullum and Joe, the band disintegrated.  Later Burdyshaw began a band called Yummy, with Tracy Simmons of Blood Circus on bass.  The band lasted for two years, and for about two months during it’s run Joe Ross filled-in for bassist Tracy Simmons as a favor to Burdyshaw.  Joe played on Yummy’s final single “Do Yer Fix” b/w”Candy Day” which was released in 1992  by Jimmy Stapleton’s Bag of Hammers label.

Burdyshw has started the band in 1984, but it was just over the last two years or so that 64 Spiders left an impression on many in the Seattle music scene.  One of their most loyal fans was Dawn Anderson, the editor/publisher of Backlash magazine. She took every chance she could to popularize the band.

Joe Ross released the Triangle sessions as a self-titled album on his  Endgame Records while he and McCullum were still playing with Burdyshaw.  Two of the tracks, “Bulimic Saturday”  and “There Ain’t” ended up on Daniel House’s 1989 C/Z Records compilation Another Pyrrhic Victory, subtitled ‘The Only Compilation Of Dead Seattle God Bands’ In the same year “Potty Swat” the short instrumental “Nope” along with “Rubber Room” was released as a 7″ on Michael Goodall’s Regal Select Records.

In 1987 Joe Ross and Scott McCullum saw a performance by Laura Weller playing guitar and singing alongside Bonnie Hammond playing keyboards and also singing. Joe and Scott were impressed with the duo but told Weller and Hammond they would be better with a backup band. Soon Joe and Scott became members of their group, Capping Day. Laura and Bonnie still remained at the helm, but when the quartet was filled-out, the band became popular with Seattle audiences. In 1988 they went into Reciprocal Recording to record “Mona Lisa” b/w “Slow Fade”. The single was co-produced by Jack Endino and Craig Montgomery, who (like Jack) went on to create a formidable career as a producer/engineer.  The single was initially released on Tom Dyer’s Green Monkey Records.

Almost as soon as it was released, “Mona Lisa” went into heavy rotation on Seattle’s college radio station KCMU. It was also among the top 10 songs of 1988 on the station’s yearly ‘best of’ list. The single got enough airplay that when EMI Records and Snickers Candy Bars launched a promo challenge in 1987 to find ‘The Best-Unsigned College Radio Band in the U.S.” KCMU entered the single. To everyone’s surprise (including the band’s), Capping Day won the challenge. The prize included a one-time recording deal with EMI records’ American affiliate Capitol Records.

Capping Day at the OK Hotel. Jan. 1990.
Top: Bonnie Hamilton, Scott McCullum.
Bottom: Laura Weller, Joe Ross.
Photo: Karen Moskowitz

Well-known Seattle promoter, festival organizer, and bassist Terry Morgan was Capping Day’s manager. He was also managing the Posies and had been responsible for getting the Posies their first major label deal with DGC records. Morgan says he saw Capping Day one night and liked what they were doing. “Bonnie and Laura were way ahead of their time and good at it,” Terry says, adding, “They had excellent tunes. It seemed like a natural as far as possibly getting them introduced to the masses that the label deal might have done. What they were able to do at that time-this was over 30 years ago, mind you-was pretty ground-breaking.

“When we got the paperwork for the record deal, it was totally one-sided and didn’t favor the band at all,” Terry tells me. He advised the band to refuse to sign the contract. “We retained Lori Salzarullo as our lawyer,” Morgan says. “She took us on pro bono and helped me negotiate a contract that was so totally in favor of the label, as most of these deals are. We were able to re-negotiate, so Capping Day was able to release something, but record and produce it themselves instead of risking having to go through Capitol Records,” Terry says.

“Once indentured to a major label, it could be several years that you couldn’t do anything outside that label,” Terry explains. When a young band signs with a major label, it’s common for the label to leave a band languishing for months or years. Often when the band presents a label with what they believe is a finished project, the label refuses it, sending the band back into the studio or back home. In the worst cases, band members become so disillusioned they break up. 

“If I remember correctly, the deal was for one record and either one or two first rights-of-approval options,” Terry says. “I don’t remember what the publishing deal was, but it was wrong for Capping Day at the time. We worked to negotiate out of the contract and get the band reimbursed the cost that Capitol would have spent on their ‘prize’. 

Capping Day took the money and chose to record their EP Post No Bills at Conrad Uno’s Egg Studios. By this time, Uno had made a name for himself through his work with The Young Fresh Fellows, The Presidents of the United States of America, The Fastbacks, and a parade of other nationally-known Seattle bands. Recording in a hometown studio with Jon Auer of the Posies as producer gave Capping Day a sense of independence. In 1990 the EP Post No Bills was released on Uno’s Popllama Records. A newly recorded version of “Mona Lisa” was included. 

 “Terry Morgan kept us from signing a terrible contract,” Laura Weller tells me. “He hooked us up with Conrad Uno. We had a fantastic experience with Terry! He got us some amazing shows. We opened up for Bob Weir of The Grateful Dead at the Pantages Theater in Tacoma. We opened for Robyn Hitchcock. We opened for Exene Cervenka. We got some outstanding gigs,” Laura says. “I love Terry. He’s still doing amazing things. He has a big place in my heart.”

LET’S REWIND A BIT

After Joe was dismissed from The Green Pajamas in 1985 the band put a “Musicians Wanted” ad in The Rocket-Seattle’s pre-eminent music journal at the time.  Bruce Haedt, who’d been doing collaborations with his wife and friends answered the ad.  “I’ve been composing music and performing music since my teens,” Bruce says,” I was enjoying the feeling of being with other musicians.” Bruce says he picked up a copy of The Rocket and found the ad placed by The Green Pajamas in search of a keyboard player.  It was one of the instruments Bruce played. He called the phone number in the ad and soon auditioned with the band.

Bruce hung out with the band and went to hear them rehearse at Jeff’s house in West Seattle to get an idea of what they were doing.  “We talked and jammed a bit,” Bruce says.  When Jeff and Bruce met they both were strongly influenced by  Leonard Cohen and ’60s folk-rock duo Richard & Mimi Fariña (Mimi who passed away in 2001 was the sister of Joan Baez). “They were one of my favorite acts,” Bruce tells me. “Crosby, Stills & Nash was also a cross-over influence between us.  Where Jeff and I met musically was in the Beatle-esque stuff and our shared feelings about Leonard Cohen.” 

Bruce Haedt.
Photo: Susanne Kelly

“It seemed like a good fit,”  Bruce tells me. “so I joined the band”. Soon afterward, the band started rehearsing in the basement of Bruce Haedt’s house at Whitman and 145th just north of Seattle in the suburb of Shoreline. “It was a big old room that was unused,” Bruce admits. “It was pretty rough, so it didn’t need to be protected, and it was easy to load equipment in and out. The Green Pajamas rehearsed there the whole time I was in the band,” Bruce tells me. “We started laying down tracks for what would become the album Book of Hours right away. It was full of Jeff Kelly’s new songs,” Bruce says. 

“I also write a lot of music,” according to Bruce. “I was curious if any of my songs would fit with what was being rehearsed, so I started bringing in my material.  My music was not as psychedelic as Jeff’s; it was more power-pop. A few of the songs ended up on Book of Hours

After Bruce started playing with the Green Pajamas Jeff taught him some basic keyboard parts for pieces he’d written. Bruce came up with the completed parts. The two also collaborated on some of the songs on Book of Hours.  Jeff and Bruce bounced ideas off each other then began developing them together. “One real collaboration I think of specifically“was “Big Surprise,”  Bruce says. “That was really a collaboration”. Two songs, “Higher Than I’ve Been“and “Stand to Reason”, written solely by Bruce were included on Book or Hours.  Bruce says “Stand To Reason” was his departure from psychedelia into an arty power-pop piece on the album.

Book of Hours, 1985.
Design: Ursula Bolimowski

The recording of Book of Hours was far more sophisticated and complicated than anything the Green Pajamas had done before. A brass section of Darrow Hunt on Baritone Saxophone, Eric Walton on Tenor Sax, Carl Miller on Trombone, and Al Paxton accompanied the band on the song “Paula”. The song “Time of Year” includes a chorus made up of Colleen Whorley, Joe Ross, Jordan Miller, Kelle Boyd, Kirsten Wilhelm, Lisa Witt, Nancy Whorley, as well as Susanne Kelly. and Highland bagpipes were supplied by Doug Maxwell. Steve Lawrence had another go at the sitar, and the album was topped off with a beautiful cover by  Ursula Bolimowski.

In 2010, when an expanded version of the album came out as The Complete Book of Hours, critic Tim Peacock reminded readers that 1987 was the year “grunge” began taking hold in Seattle.  He wrote about the original Book of Hours, commenting:  “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”.

That’s three decades now.

Green Pajamas 1985. L to R. Jeff Kelly, Karl Wilhelm (above) Bruce Haedt, Steve Lawrence. Photo: Ursula Bolimowski

“We were playing plenty of live shows. The whole thing was over two years of intensity for me,” Bruce says. “I was a full-time college student at the University of Washington. I was a single dad with a daughter who went from age seven to nine years old during my time in the band. I also worked with my dad. It was a really busy time for me”.
“We had a lot of fun and plenty of good beer,” Bruce says. “We did everything on Tom Dyers’ eight-track at his place. It was all analog, of course. I liked working with Tom. I liked his production ideas. There was always a process of conveying weird rhythm Ideas to Karl, and Karl was an awesome.drummer. I liked working with him too.”

The band was bringing in more of my songs that we had played live, but hadn’t recorded,” Bruce says. “There were two different styles of music within the band. I think at a certain point I had ideas of pushing into the power-pop thing. I was enjoying the music Peter Gabriel was putting out at the time.” During his stint in The Green Pajamas, Bruce was also recording a lot of his solo work, he tells me.

“The things that were influencing me were different than what Steve Lawrence, and especially Jeff, were interested in doing.” Despite heading in different musical directions, Bruce tells me “Steve Lawrence was super high energy, funny, a really, really good guitarist and bass player. He had a passion for psychedelia. That was his love, musically. I always enjoyed hanging out with him and he was fun to work with, fun to be onstage with. He was very complimentary and supportive of the things I was doing with the band. I  never had any conflict with him.”

In 1987 Bruce recorded a solo album called Miss Lyons Looking Sideways. Tom Dyer mastered it and released it on Green Monkey Records. Bruce started a second project which he says he wanted to spend as much time and attention to. He’d spent about 2½ years with the band. Bruce decided it was time to move on.

Bruce announced his intention to leave The Green Pajamas after recording one final album with the band.  That album came to be titled November. Book of Hours had taken almost two years to record, mix, master, and release. It was a grueling experience. The thought of creating another album made the band decide this time they would  record “live-in-studio.” Joe Ross was instrumental in getting the album recorded at Jack Endino’s Reciprocal Recordings studio. One night in November 1987 Jeff Kelly, Bruce Haedt, Steve Lawrence, and Karl Wilhelm entered Endino’s studio. They brought about 20-25 friends with them-among them was Joe- so they could be surrounded by friends as an audience. Jeff Kelly says as Jack let the tape roll, “We thought ‘Let’s record and be done with it’ .”

 “Tom Dyer was there,” Jack Endino tells me. “That’s what I remember. They just wanted to catch the whole band with a minimum amount of hassle. Normally their recording process is considerably more laborious. I think it’s one of the few times that they ever did that sort of thing.

Endino goes on to say “They wanted to record a bunch of songs that likely were not going to get played much after Bruce left the band. Jeff confirms this in the album’s liner notes, writing: “(Recording), I theorized, would be a quick and cheap way of finding a home for some of the old songs that weren’t recorded in the studio and the ones that weren’t scheduled for recording in the near future.”

“There were a couple of Bruce’s songs recorded during the session,” Jack continues, “and a couple of slightly oddball songs of Jeff’s that he wanted to record just for the heck of it. The band came into Reciprocal Recording and set up live and banged out the songs.” Tom Dyer tells me “After tracking the tunes, we took the tape back to my place and recut the vocals and oboe and did the mix.”

November.  (2013 re-issue)
Cover illustration: Susanne Kelly

After listening to the recording several times, Jeff says he became apprehensive about releasing it. “I agreed on the condition we remix most of it,” Jeff wrote in the album’s liner notes.”We spent several hours one Saturday remixing and beautifying it with delays and such, only to find that we preferred the original, rougher version. Typical.” 

Jeff wrote that November was “a representative record of our live show circa 1987 (not including Book of Hours or Summer of Lust material). It’s raw, untampered with, and gets better with volume.”

Leaving the original mix also elicited more critical praise for the band.  Jack Endino has called November “Sort of the great lost Pajamas album”

A 2013 re-issue of November was mixed again, this time by Joe Ross and Jack Endino.  It was released as a CD with the newer mixes, but the original mixes were added as bonus tracks to the digital download.

After the 2013 re-issue, fanzine Americana UK  declared November “has a rawness and intensity that is one of the album’s strengths, and the album still manages to portray these feelings even after 20 odd years of obscurity” (again, it’s now more than 30 years!)

Mark Denning of All Music wrote: “November is a document of a very specific moment in time for the Green Pajamas; it finds them young, wiry, and enthusiastic…”

“I did another solo project I wanted Green Monkey Records to release,” Bruce Haedt says “…but Tom didn’t feel like putting it out. I felt a bit snubbed by that.” Bruce went on to play with the band Room 9 for a short period. “I was just a sideman keyboard player,” Bruce says, “but I was a neighbor of Ron Rudzitis (a.k.a. Ron Nine), so we hung out a lot.  I still have some tapes we did together that were really fun. Bruce remembers two of the shows he did with Room Nine were at the annual Bumbershoot Festival. “Then they broke up,” Bruce says succinctly.

Steve Lawrence unexpectedly quit shortly after Bruce Haedt ended his tenure. Almost as soon as November was recorded Joe returned as a member of the Green Pajamas.  With the departure of Steve and Bruce, Jeff Kelly, Joe Ross, and Karl Wilhelm were once again the trio The Green Pajamas had started out as, even though Joe Bauer had alternated places with Karl in the very early years.   “We started hanging out again, Jeff tells me.  “ I think we played some periodic shows with just the three of us.  We played in Tacoma at some hall and at Al Milman’s and Moshe Weinberg’s record store Bedazzled Discs when it was in downtown Seattle. I was doing periodic solo efforts that Tom Dyer was putting out on Green Monkey Records.”

The three played together and recorded for about a year. In 1989 Steve asked to rejoin the band. They happily welcomed him back.  “We definitely never asked Steve to quit the band,” Joe says. “He quit three times over his course with us, but always of his own volition… Anytime he asked, he was welcome to come back. He re-joined us for much of 1989 and 1990. 

THE PAJAMAS ALL BUT SELF-DESRUCTED

Ghosts of Love, 1990.
Design: L7 Graphics. Illustration: Susanne Kelly.

The band was gearing up for the album Ghosts Of Love to come out on Green Monkey as a co-release with Bomp! Records and Ubick which, by virtue of Greg Shaw’s involvement with both labels had become Bomp! Records’ British affiliate.  Joe reports that there was a flurry of activity at the time. Once again the band brought in back-up vocalists,  strings, bagpipes, and a host of instrumentalists. It was another huge project.

The band called it quits after Ghosts of Love was released on August 1st, 1990. The album had seen multiple delays and ultimately went nowhere.  During the recording of Ghosts of Love, the band entered into a period  that Joe Ross calls “a flurry of activity.” It may have been that  ‘flurry of activity’, the recording and releasing problems of Ghosts of Love that was the band’s undoing.  Despite the sluggish sales, it got the same kind of stellar reviews that Green Pajamas records always seemed to get. 

Phil McMullen of the British fan’zine Ptolemaic Terrascope wrote: 

“An astonishing album of such incandescent intensity that the Pajamas all but self-destructed during its making.”

McMullen was an English writer that had been following The Green Pajamas and had even covered them earlier in London-based music magazine Bucketfull of Brains. The band would go on to develop a strong relationship with McMullen.  But that’s getting ahead of ourselves.

The cassette release of Ghosts of Love included two extra tracks-“Ginny” and “Song For The Maid”.  When the CD was re-issued in 1991 by the Greek label Di Di Music it included the extra tracks as well as the 45” version of the song “Emily Grace”.

 In 1991 Ghosts of Love was released on vinyl by the Greek label, Di Di Music, and again in 2000 by Pittsburgh Pennsylvania label Get Hip Recordings.  Bothe contained the songs “Ginny” and “Song For The Maid” as well as the single version of “Emily Grace.  In 2011 Tom Dyer’s resurrected Green Monkey Records released a  digital-only download of Ghosts of Love.   The above songs-“Ginny”, “Song For The Madd and “Emily Grace” were also included. Clearly the band had been disillusioned enough to break up over the initial reception of Ghosts of Love, but in the end, it proved to be an important part of their catalog.   Jeff tells me after Ghosts of Love he had decided that he didn’t want to play rock and roll anymore, so he hibernated for a while.

In 1991 Tom Dyer began the process of shutting down Green Monkey Records. Joe bought Tom’s 8-track studio gear and set it up in his old jam room upstairs at his parent’s house. Jeff and Joe continued recording together, working on Jeff’s solo album, Private Electrical Storm, released in 1992. Steve Lawrence played bass guitar on “Find A Way” and contributed backing vocals, tabla, and bass guitar on “Lavender Field.” Jeff’s wife, Susanne Kelly, did backing vocals on “Dr. Diane,” “Heather,” and “All The Maids In France,” and Alicia Clemens provided the voice a the end of “All The Maids In France.” It became somewhat of a Wilhelm family affair with Karl playing drums on the songs “Find A Way” and “Lavender Field.” His wife, Barbara, and daughters Lindsay and Shannon Wilhelm sang backing vocals for two songs: “Dr. Diane” and “All The Maids In France.” 

Tom Dyer mixed the album at the Art Institute of Seattle, where he was teaching. Even while Green Monkey Records was ‘inactive’, Tom found time to master another Jeff Kelly solo effort, 1995’s Ash Wednesday Rain. The Green Pajamas Carolers Song EP was edited and mastered by Tom and later released on Urbana Illinois label, Hidden Agenda. Green Monkey Records would later re-release the EP after it’s resurrection.

Tom Dyer and assistant Keith Livingston in Tom’s studio. 1988

Tom tells me, “I was doing too many things, to put it mildly. I had started teaching 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 shut down the label and did go back to school. It was a fairly large project.” Tom says his original intention was to attend the University of Washington to get a bachelor’s degree. He ended up getting both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. “Then I went out to Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.” After receiving his doctorate in Educational Leadership, Tom became an Associate Professor. He specialized in teaching studio recording and ended up at the Art Institute of Seattle for ten years. He then taught Communications at Seattle’s Argosy University, where he also became a dean.

“In 1993, Jeff and I started recording with Karl again as The Green Pajamas,” Joe tells me. “We recorded “Song For Christina” and “I Have Touched Madness”. Steve Lawrence  came into Joe’s studio to play sax for “I Have Touched Madness.” “Steve was back!” Joe says enthusiastically. The songs were released as a single on Joe’s Endgame Records. “We played some good shows. We were featured on the cover of Backlash magazine.

“We started hanging out again, Jeff tells me.  “ I think we played some periodic shows. Just Joe, me and Karl.  We played in Tacoma at some hall and at Al Milman and Moshe Weinberg’s record store Bedazzled Discs when it was in downtown Seattle. “I was also doing periodic solo efforts that Tom Dyer was working on.

 PREPOSITIONS, COMMAS AND CANNIBALISM

Kim The Waitress by Material Issue. 1994.

In 1994 Chicago power-pop band Material Issue covered “Kim The Waitress” for the album Freak City Soundtrack-which was not actually a soundtrack. Jeff remembers Jim Ellison, Material Issue’s frontman, telling him about first hearing The Green Pajamas version of “Kim The Waitress”. “He told me, ‘I just couldn’t believe it. It came out, and it was so weird sounding’. He was saying this like it was a warm memory about the bass being a little out of tune. The whole thing was a little skewed and funny, and he said: ‘I just fell in love with that 45.’ “

Material Issue’s label, Polygram Records, brought in Australian/British producer Mike Chapman who was known for delivering hits. Despite Chapman’s involvement Freak City Soundtrack only sold about 50,000 units after it was released. In the face of disappointment, a video was made for Kim The Waitress”. The video caught the attention of viewers, industry insiders and went into rotation on MTV.

The Material Issue video was set in a darkish café, with a demented waitress (presumably Kim) presiding over a cartoonishly stereotyped family, two political operatives with Nixon/Agnew campaign buttons on their lapels, and a couple of other figures seated lazily throughout the café. Kim looks on with an evil smile and seems to be the protagonist of acts that include human butchery and cannibalism. A dubious-looking cook is seen in the kitchen grinding sausage-ostensibly of former customers. In case the video’s storyline is a bit too subtle, it ends with Kim unveiling a human head on a silver platter.

The video was shocking in a very juvenile way. Its storyline was incredulous and laughable. Most listeners and viewers assumed the song had been written by Material Issue’s  Jim Ellison. The assumption was misguided since we know “Kim The Waitress” had been recorded almost a decade earlier and released nine years before the Material Issue cover appeared. It was Jim Ellison’s admiration of the song, not his writing of it that caused “Kim The Waitress”to appear on Freak City Soundtrack. If nothing else, the cover by Material Issue might give Jeff and The Green Pajamas a higher profile.

Kim the Waitress as portrayed in the 1994 Material Issue video.

Dementia, human butchery, and cannibalism were the last things on Jeff Kelly’s mind when he wrote the song. The entire raison d’ être of the Material Issue song, and especially the video, hung on one tiny grammatical change. The chorus of the song Material Issue recorded changed the original preposition “but” to “from” for no real reason except maybe in the service of the song and a video’s attempt to be shocking. Jeff’s lyrics were written and sung as “No one can save us ‘but’ Kim the Waitress” The Material Issue version changed the tenor of the song by altering the preposition ‘but’ to ‘from’ as in: “No one can save us ‘from’ Kim the Waitress.” It seemed to be a poor attempt to dump a faux horror movie pall over what was meant to be a song about unrequited love and insecurity. It’s a mystery how anyone thought Material Issue’s version could reconcile the sinister video with Jeff’s original intent, especially with lines like:

“Writing poems in a corner booth
That I’d die if she read.”

That single lyric might be the most poignant message to any young, sensitive person who has loved someone from afar. It evokes one of the most à propos images of total humiliation that’s possible; accidentally allowing an unrequited longing for another person to be revealed to the subject of that longing. It’s a stomach-churning fear probably everyone reading this story has felt. Jeff and Joe had turned something absolutely ridiculous and crafted it into an incredibly poignant and meaningful song.

“Material Issue put out a video where Kim was a cannibal or something,” Jeff says.“It was a little annoying, but don’t get me wrong. I get the money (royalties). When they changed it, it didn’t really…well it became corporate rock. Material Issue was pretty small-time as far as the corporate rock machine…”  

On July 23rd, 1994, a capsule review of Material Issue’s version of Kim The Waitress” appeared in Billboard magazine. The unnamed reviewer touched on something that seemed to be lost on fans and everyone involved in the Material Issue’s version of the song.

“This guitar-driven song grapples with feelings of being lost and lovelorn in the twenty-something generation. As the object of desire, “Kim the Waitress” serves as a metaphor for that unattainable love that elludes (sic) the jaded and insecure among all of us…

It’s almost as if the reviewer had mistakenly put the Green Pajamas version on the turntable. Both Jeff and Joe admit Material Issue’s version was a decent piece of power pop, but it didn’t capture what Jeff and the Green Pajamas had sought to accomplish. Joe goes further and adds, “Material Issue just didn’t get it.”

The same year Material Issue’s cover of “Kim The Waitress” was released, Andy Davenhall’s Seattle/Los Angeles band Sister Psychic released its own version.  Joe says, “Andy captured it more honestly.” The Sister Psychic version is hard to find, but with some deep investigation, listeners will find it worthwhile.

I have to ask Jeff what it was that only Kim The Waitress could save us from. Even though we’re talking on the phone, I can ‘hear‘ a smile coming over Jeff’s face. “I was ending a relationship,” he tells me. “The lyrics are actually ‘No one can save us’ (in reference to the failing relationship with his then-girlfriend), ‘but Kim the waitress always turns me on.’ One entire sentence, rather than two. It suddenly dawns on me that I had misinterpreted the meaning of the song for years, and it was probable that many others had also mistaken that lyric. Material Issue and Jim Ellison were not the only ones that had played with grammar in the lyrics. Jeff had used his own sly grammatical trick.  A very sly one.

 By 1996 things were slowing down again,” Joe says. “Jeff and I were content to gig now and then. Steve, being very impatient, opted out of the band for the third time. I’m sure that he was disappointed and frustrated with The Green Pajamas’ lack of direction and ambition at the time. 

The band played a gig at Ballard’s Tractor Tavern in March of 1996. Eric Lichter, formerly of the band, The Life, played keyboards. Jeff had seen Lichter play drums in one of Lichter’s former bands. In 1997 The Green Pajamas asked Eric to join them officially. “By that time, Joe and I were working together again full-time,” Jeff says. 

 PEERING THROUGH THE PIN-HOLE OF A DARKENED ROOM

In 1986 an Australian, Tony Dale, contacted Jeff asking permission to release albums that had formerly appeared on Green Monkey Records. He explained that he ran an independent label called Camera Obscura out of Melbourne, Australia, and asked if he could release some of the older Green Pajamas recordings. Jeff thought about it and then asked Dale, “Why don’t we just make a new Green Pajama’s album?” Dale was ecstatic. 

Tony Dale started as a music writer. He was a dedicated fan of psychedelia, neo-psychedelia, dream-pop, space-rock, acid-folk, and an eclectic mix of the avant-garde, as well as pure pop music. His writing caught the attention of Perfect Sound Forever and Addicted to Sound-both of them among the earliest online web’zines. Through interviews and his writing, he created a network of fans musicians, and independent record labels. He gained a prominent place in a rabidly devoted niche group of lovers of the same sorts of music Tony loved.

In 1996 Tony Dale began his Camera Obscura label, and it developed the same kind of rabid fans that were part of an underground movement focused on little-known but worthy bands around the world with die-hard cult fans.

In 2003 Tony Dale told Dave Lang, writing for Perfect Sound Forever:

“(Camera Obscura) is really just a mirror of my own tastes, rather than being specifically designed as a psychedelic label in the retro sense of being a conduit for bands that conformed to a certain set of codes set down in the late ’60’s psychedelic music movement. That’s why there are releases on the label that don’t fall into the psychedelia domain directly, like the free noise of The Azusa Plane, and Our Glassie Azoth, the free jazz leanings of Rake, the dark folk of Sharron Kraus, or the alien singer-songwriter work of Marianne Nowottny. If it seems like it would be fun to do or unexpected, I try to fit it in to keep a sense of play going.”

The Green Pajamas fell squarely into what Tony Dale was seeking for Camera Obscura, and they rose to be one of his favorite bands. Dale was to become one of the most influential allies in creating a world-wide following for The Green Pajamas.

Joe admits putting their first album for Camera Obscura was put together over several months without many expectations. “We were recording the songs and put them in the order that we felt would make the best record we could,” Joe says the band quietly worked on the recording without anyone looking over their shoulders. It was probably that lack of expectations from others that allowed the band to escape any apprehension, thus allowing them to stretch out further than they had before.

Strung Behind The Sun, 1997. Painting: Suzanne Kelley

“When we finished, we said, ‘Hey, this is a pretty neat record!” Fans around the world agreed.  It was a revelation to those who listened as well as the musicians who created it. The album the band delivered to Dale turned out to be Strung Behind The Sun, thus launching the band into their most creative era

Strung Behind The Sun was well received, and the band felt that now EVERYONE was watching and anticipating them to produce a brilliant follow-up album. Their next record was All Clues Lead To Meagan’s Bed. The band had to make conscious decisions about which songs would be included and would not. Joe says while they were recording All Clues Lead To Meagan’s Bed, the band was acutely aware of the pressure that was put on them; by fans, not Tony Dale. “We weren’t aware of the weight of the final product until after All Clues Lead To Meagan’s Bed was done.” according to Jeff.

Upon its 1998 release, Tony Dale wrote: “Following on from their 1997 ‘back from the wilderness’ album Strung Behind the Sun, the Green Pajamas return with arguably their strongest album to date in All Clues Lead To Meagan’s Bed. If it wasn’t already self-evident from earlier releases, there should be no doubt after this one that Jeff Kelly is the finest practitioner of the mid-period Beatles influenced psychedelic pop song around today.”  

All Clues Lead To Meagan’s Bed. 1998.  Illustration: Susanne Kelly

The album found the same kind of critical response from every corner of the neo-psychedelic pop world. In 2019 the U.K. label Sugarbush Records re-released All Clues Lead To Meagan’s Bed as a limited double vinyl set that included bonus material and outtakes. Over two decades after its initial release, the album on Sugarbush Records found great critical success again.

Steve Lawrence didn’t take part in the recording of All Clues to Meagen’s bed, but he played occasional live gigs just before it’s recording. The band says he all but vanished, although Jeff mentions, “We both worked at Group Health Co-Operative (Now part of Kaiser Permanente). “I had seen him, but I never really talked to him. He seemed like a ghost,” Jeff adds.  “We never made contact with each other.

After he departed The Green Pajamas, Steve’s marriage had broken up, and he’d become involved with a woman many of Steve’s friends believe introduced to heroin.  Steve made a few unsuccessful attempts to quit and eventually went to stay with his sister Julie, who had moved to Los Angeles. He seemed to have gotten clean there. After a few months in Southern California, Steve returned to Seattle to visit his son and ex-wife.  There were no prior arrangements to meet with them, so Steve spent his first day searching for them. He was unsuccessful. Steve gave up for the day and returned to his room at a motel on Aurora Avenue. The first night he was back, Steve bought heroin.

The next morning, July 4, 1998, Steve Lawrence was found dead in his motel room from an overdose.

“It’s too bad he went that way,” Jeff says. “Steve was a really funny guy and a great musician.” Although Steve was no stranger to drugs, Joe tells me “Steve didn’t do heroin when he was in the Green Pajamas”. Steve’s family, his friends, and the members of The Green Pajamas were stunned.

The band’s output on Camera Obscura included Strung Behind the Sun, All Clues To Meagan’s Bed, Narcotic Kisses‎Hidden Minutes, Box Of Secrets: Northern Gothic 2, and an EP of outtakes known as Strung Out. The single “These Are The Best Times” b/w “Vampire Crush” was pressed as a limited edition 7″ single and a compilation of Jeff’s solo work, Melancholy Sun was released as four CDs in a special box that included a 24-page booklet. Camera Obscura also released Haunted by The Goblin Market, one of Jeff’s side projects.

THE TERRASTOCK NATION

In May of 1989, two Brits, music journalist Phil McMullen (referred to above) and Nick Saloman created the fan’zine Ptolemaic Terrascope. According to McMullen, ‘Ptolemy’ was the name of a tortoise who lived at ‘Terrascope Towers’. McMullen made up the name “because,” he says, “It matched the artwork by ‘Cyke’ Bancroft for the magazine’s first cover. McMullen was also a fan of Captain Beefheart, and he liked the song “Tarotplane.” Since McMullen was already a fan, The Green Pajamas was covered in the first issue of Ptolemaic Terrascope.

Phil McMullen (left) Bob (right)

Later McMullen became the instigator of seven international Terrastock music festivals directed toward fans, musicians, and media individuals with similar interests in music and ‘Psychedeliaon’ culture, which included Ptolemaic Terrascope and the music it covered. Eventually, this loose-knit group of fellow-travelers identified themselves collectively as the Terrastock Nation. The Green Pajamas became part of the Terrastock Nation and played at several of the Terrastock festivals. Tom Dyer called McMullen the Green Pajamas “most valuable English connection.” 

By 1995 Ptolemaic Terrascope was facing a financial crisis. The ‘zine put together a two-CD benefit album called Succour (The Terrascope Benefit Album). The compilation included a dizzying array of artists including Peter Buck & Scott McCaughey, Robyn Hitchcock, Coil, Bardo Pond, Flying Saucer Attack, The Bevis Frond, Jack Endino’s Endino’s Earthworm, Captain Sensible, Seattle super-group Wellwater Conspiracy, Nurse with Wound and, of course, The Green Pajamas. Overall, the collection includes 35 tracks-each by an individual artist, with an 8-page booklet and liner notes by Phil McMullen and Nick Saloman.

The following year a U.S. version of the compilation CD was released by Newport, Rhode Island’s Flydaddy Records, a label set up by two former SubPop vets, Kevin O’Leary and Adam Silverman.

In late 1996 Phil McMullen and Robert Jaz of Providence, Rhode Island band V. Majestic began organizing another Ptolemaic Terrascope benefit. This time they envisioned a one-night concert. Mark Stone of the Providence band Medicine Ball (not the Denny Martin band of the same name) joined the two in the organization of a concert. Kevin O’Leary and Adam Silverman of Flydaddy Records also offered their support. 

Terrastock 1. Providence RI
April 25 –27 1997
Poster: James Draper.

Although the benefit was initially envisioned as a one-night benefit concert for Ptolemaic Terrascope, it snowballed into a three-day music festival at poster artist James Draper’s Renegade Gallery and Rogue Lounge between April 25 and April 27, 1997. The venue was inside the old Atlantic Mills, a 19th-century factory that had produced woven cotton fabric and worsted yarns. The mill was closed down in 1953 but later re-purposed into an art-friendly industrial space. Today the old mill is home to working artists, performance spaces, community organizations, and a few commercial businesses. The music festival hosted 33 bands, among them The Bevis Frond, The Azusa Plane, Olivia Tremor Control, Medicine Ball, and V. Majestic. It was such a success that it got covered even in the mainstream media, and prompted a series of six other Terrastock music festivals, each held in a different city.

The Green Pajamas were invited to play the first Terrastock event, but Jeff says the cost of the band flying themselves and their equipment to the East Coast was prohibitive. He adds he also had to work that week.

The second Terrastock musical festival was held at San Francisco’s Custer Avenue Stages between April 17 and April 19, 1998. The official title of the event was ‘Terrastock West, the Left Coast Ptolemaic Perambulation’, but often referred to simply as ‘T 2’.

McMullen recruited Windy Chien, of Aquarius Records in San Francisco’s Mission District, and booking agent Kathy Harr to help organize the event. Originally the planned venue was The International Ballroom near San Francisco’s City Hall. Three days before the festival, the site was changed to the Custer Avenue Stages in the India Basin section of San Francisco. India Basin had once been the center of San Francisco’s bustling shipping trade, but in 1997 it was primarily abandoned or turned into a faceless industrial area far from the center of the city. India Basin was also home to three major San Francisco garbage dumps. 

Terrastock 2. San Francisco CA
April 17-19 1998

The venue was a better choice since it contained three separate rooms that isolated the sound within each one of them. Most festival-goers had booked hotel rooms near the city’s center, and India Basin was quite far away. To make the site more accessible, the organizers provided shuttle busses from central San Francisco directly to Custer Avenue Stages. India Basin allowed a sense of being outside the buzz of modern-day, commerce-driven San Francisco. In the end, many who attended ‘T2’ were pleased with the change of location. The event included performances by The Green Pajamas as well as Bardo Pond, The Bevis Frond, Damon and Naomi, Masaki Batoh and Michio Kurihara of Japanese band Ghost, Kendra Smith, formerly of The Dream Syndicate, Scott McCaughey, Mudhoney, Neutral Milk, The Olivia Tremor Control, The Silver Apples, The Young Fresh Fellows and another 30 bands.

Jack Endino joined Joe and Karl, driving the bands’ equipment from Seattle to San Francisco in Joe’s grandfather’s van. Karl took on the first third of the drive. He says that once he began driving, he was shocked to find that the universal joint was so bad that, according to him, “I had to rotate the steering wheel nearly 180 degrees just to turn.

Karl says Jack Endino’s portion of the drive began in Oregon. Jack was already familiar with the van since Joe had driven Jack’s band, Skinyard, on their first national tour. The group later referred to it as ‘The Tour From Hell.‘ Jack began driving faster and faster along I-5, eventually passing tractor-trailers and rolling along at over 70 mph. Karl says the roads were icy, especially around Grant’s Pass and along the winding and dangerous 50 miles through the Siskiyou mountains. It snowed nearly the entire way to San Francisco, and the van’s floorboards were so worn out there were holes. The roadway below was visible. The holes also provided a perfect way for ice and wind to be blown upward into the van. Jack and Joe seemed unfazed. On the other hand, Karl was terrified that the van would veer into one of the semi-trucks or tractor-trailers on the interstate alongside them. 

“The rest of the band flew to San Francisco,” Endino says. “I got to watch the Green Pajamas play at Terrastock. They tore it up. I’d never seen Jeff do guitar heroics like that before. I thought, ‘This guy’s like fucking Neil Young on the guitar!’ I had no idea. That was a very formidable Green Pajamas performance.”

Joe recalls playing in front of a large scrim on the main stage. The bands had obtained the services of one of the light show technicians from San Francisco’s psychedelic heyday. The Green Pajamas played in front of the scrim among strobes, lighting effects, and a full-on liquid light show behind them.

In the July 1987 issue of Aural Innovations, Steve Burton recalled the band at the San Francisco Terrastock saying: “The Green Pajamas demonstrated their mastery of the psychedelic pop-song. Spot-on performance and an excellent arena-sized sound system provided an all-too-rare demonstration of what this largely-unsung outfit is capable of. In an equitable world, these guys would be superstars!”

Terrastock 3. London England
August 27–29, 1999

The third Terrastock music festival was held in and around the University of London from August 27 through August 29, 1999. The Green Pajamas played at the Student Union Building. The line up that year included Lucky Bishops, Windy & Carl, The Azusa Plane, Green Ray. Bardo Pond, Man, Damon and Naomi, Air Traffic Controllers, The Bevis Frond, Tom Rapp, Spacious Mind, Bablicon, White Hotel, Arco, and 15 other bands including the Green Pajamas. Phil McMullen had paid to fly them from Seattle to London and back home. “It was such a fun weekend,” Joe tells me. “We made a pilgrimage to the Village Green that Ray Davies wrote about, to Muswell Hill and the Highgate cemetery. We went to the British War Museum, which is near Waterloo Bridge”.

I couldn’t help asking if they were there for the sunset. Joe says they weren’t (a shame for any fan of the Kinks). Joe tells me, “I don’t believe we played another gig in London or anywhere in Britain after our appearance at Terrastock 3”. It’s clear that if they had chosen to, they would have drawn fans up and down the U.K.

In 1999 Hidden Agenda Records began releasing The Green Pajamas’ records, which were also released by Sugarbush Records, based in Tunbridge Wells, England, about 48 miles southeast of London. Sugarbush is a brick and mortar shop with a large mail-order business and a mecca for deep vinyl, out of print cult-records, and obscure labels. Tom Dyer and The Green Pajamas (as well as Jeff Kelly, solo artist) have a long-time relationship with Sugarbush Records. The Green Pajamas, Green Monkey Records, and/or Jeff Kelly license their albums (old and new) to Sugarbush Records. Sugarbush normally presses a limited edition of 300 vinyl records packaged in their original cover art.  50 copies of each Green Pajamas albums make their way to Green Monkey Records for distribution in the United States. The special editions of Sugarbush Records are another reason for the band’s worldwide following.

In a June 12, 1999 interview on Hackettstown New Jersey radio station, WNTI-FM Jeff said, “The cool thing about Terrastock is that many of the bands that play there would normally play on tour to about 20-25 people in each town.” Joe piped in saying, “One of the reasons you don’t like to tour is that you don’t want to play before the same 20 or 25 people all the time. But when you get to Terrastock, there are maybe 20 people from every town all over the world there, making up about 1500 people who know who you are. Terrastock is not driven by money or by who’s selling records or who’s on the big tours like Lollapalooza or the Reading Festival. It’s just about the Terrascope magazine and what records they enjoy. They invite those people. Many people have only played a few shows in their whole lives or several little local shows. But here you are playing for something like a thousand people who love your records because they’re Terrascope readers, and they’ve bought the records because of the reviews.” 

1999 also marked the year Laura Weller became a member of the Green Pajamas. Laura was one of Joe’s former bandmates in Capping Day, which was mentioned above. Laura had appeared live with The Green Pajamas doing high harmonies with Jeff. She’d also contributed vocals on the albums Strung Behind the Sun, and All Clues Lead To Meagan’s Bed.  Joe says one day he asked her: “Hey Laura, do you want to join Green Pajamas?” She did. Laura says her only regret was not being recruited into the band before their trip to San Francisco.

Between November 3rd and 5th, 2000, Terrastock 4 was held at the Showbox in Seattle, The Green Pajamas’ hometown. In all, 32 bands played, along with The Green Pajamas and other Terrastock regulars, The Bevis Frond, Damon and Naomi, and Bardo Pond. The festival showcased several Northwest acts, including The Minus 5, Scott McCaughey of The Young Fresh Fellows’ band that included a revolving door of local and national artists. For their Terrastock 4 appearance, the Minus 5 included Scott McCaughey, former R.E.M. member Peter Buck, and Seattle’s own late Bill Rieflin, then of Ministry and, more recently, King Crimson. Other local acts billed were Kinski, Crome Syrcus (one of Seattle’s most prominent psychedelic bands of the 1960s), The Monkeywrench (Mark Arm and Steve Turner of Mudhoney, Kim Kerr of Poison 13, among numerous other groups. Tom Price, formerly of the U-Men, The Wellwater Conspiracy (including members Matt Cameron (Soundgarden/Pearl Jam) Monster Magnet guitarist John McBain, Martin Bland (Lubricated Goat/ Bloodloss / The Primevils) along with über-producer and Skinyard bassist Jack Endino. Other notable performers included the ex-Velvet Underground’s Moe Tucker and another V.U. alum, Doug Yule. One of the highlights was the appearance of ’60s icon, Country Joe McDonald. Country Joe was joined by The Bevis Frond’s Nick Saloman and Adrian Shaw to perform as ‘Country Joe and the Frond-Fish.’  The Green Pajamas played Saturday, November 4, the second night of Terrastock 4. Their set included older favorites and new material from All Clues Lead To Meagan’s Bed. Chris Nosal of the Philadelphia City Paper was in attendance. He noted that the band played “Emily Grace,” a song written for Phil McMullen’s daughter, who was 13 years old and at the event. Nosal also notes that the band played a song from Jeff Kelly and his partner Laura Weller’s duo, Goblin Market. The Green Pajamas garnered one of the best receptions of the festival. Hometown fans and those who had traveled to Seattle from around the world found the band in top psychedelic form. The Green Pajamas was the only group of the entire festival to get an enthusiastic call for “One more! One more! One More!”

THE GOTHIC, THE GOBLINS AND A GUY FROM BOSTON

The Goblin Market,
First Edition Frontispiece.
Design: Dante Gabriel Rosetti.

In 2000 Laura and Jeff Kelly formed a side project they called The Goblin Market. The duo named themselves after a poem written by Christina Rosetti, who’s brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, had co-founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in England. The Pre-Raphaelite movement consisted of painters, illustrators, and artisans dedicated to the detail, compositions, and vivid colors of Italy’s 15th-century painters. The most prominent of these being Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (known as Raphael in English). Their subjects ranged from British vernacular family life to the myths and legends of northern European literature to biblical tales. Although the Pre-Raphaelite movement consisted mostly of painters and illustrators, some literary practitioners sought to synthesize the Pre-Raphaelite aesthetic with the Romantic and Gothic movements popular in Victorian Britain. Christina Rossetti was at the forefront of these writers.

Her poem, Goblin Market is, at first glance, a child’s tale. A closer look reveals what is actually a work of a psycho-sexual nature. In it, the poem’s protagonists, two young sisters, Laura and Lizzie, are tempted with fruit by goblin merchants selling their wares near their home. A great deal of sexual themes are thinly veiled based on this premise. Christina Rosetti herself admitted that even though the characters of her poem were young girls, and the story was fantastical, the poem itself was not meant for children.

Ghostland, Jeff and Laura’s first album as The Goblin Market was released on Camera Obsura in 2000. It was influenced by 19th-century poets and writers, including Christina Rossetti, Robert Browning, George Meredith, Algernon Charles Swinburne, and John Ruskin, the social and art critic. The 20th-century Gothic writings of Joyce Carol Oates were reflected in their next album, Haunted, which was released by Camera Obscura in 2005.

The Goblin Market.
Laura Weller and Jeff Kelly
Photo: Susanne Kelly

“I’d already been thinking about leaving the band,” Karl Wilhelm tells me. “We were playing out about twice a year at best, and Jeff was synthesizing so much stuff in his studio”  Karl adds that Jeff was incredibly talented at studio production, but he was doing little or no drumming on albums.

“I think the straw that broke the camel’s back was when The Goblin Market, opened for Jonathan Richman at the Showbox.”  The date was April 5th, 2002. Nobody told me about it. I thought, ‘Thanks, you guys. You’re opening for Jonathan Richman, for God’s sake!’ My sister was the one who mentioned it to me. Jeff and Laura had neglected to tell me they were doing the show. I really don’t know why. No one has ever explained that to me. I thought, ‘Well, I gotta go check this out.’

“They were using my gear, my drums, and I thought, ‘Oh, I see how it is. You can use my equipment, but you’re not going to tell me.’ Karl laughs while re-telling the story but admits that his feelings were hurt more than anything else at the time.  “I wondered what was going through their minds, Karl says. “I wouldn’t have been concerned about not playing with The Goblin Market because that was Jeff’s baby. He had rotated musicians that had played at various times with The Goblin Market. I didn’t play every time. I couldn’t figure out what it was all about. It wasn’t even a nasty situation. I was just confused more than anything else, but I thought, ‘Well, it’s drifted this far, I might as well call it quits. I still stayed in touch with everybody. Not so much with Jeff for a little while. Since then, Jeff and I have patched things up,” Karl says. “Before leaving The Green Pajamas, I played at three of the Terrastock festivals; San Francisco, London, and Seattle. They were very memorable events in my life. Being in The Green Pajamas was a great ride.” Karl adds. “I enjoyed every minute I played with the band. It was fascinating to go from being a fledgling drummer to honing how to play the drums in action. We got in front of people almost immediately. I had to figure out how to be in front of people and not be terrified. It was a real expansive experience for me, and I’ll never forget any of it. I don’t regret any of the things that we did. It sparked my creativity and inspiration.”

“I was there the night The Goblin Market played with Jonathan Richman,” says Scott Vanderpool, Laura Weller’s husband since February 1993. “They had me get up for one song to bang the tambourine,” Scott says. “I still get shit to this day from Jason Finn, the drummer for The Presidents of the United States of America. He says to me, ‘Oh, that was a GOOD tambourine performance! Boy, you were SMOKIN’ on that thing!’ “

“That show was amusing,” Scott adds. “I got to watch Jonathan Richman give a little lecture to Jeff and Laura. ‘You really should work on your microphone technique,’ Scott says, imitating Richman. Scott tells me Richman went on to say, ‘I did enjoy the performance of the last set, so I had the sound man turn your volume down 20% because I will NOT be upstaged.’

“So here’s this Boston guy who sings happy little songs about chewing gum wrappers and the corner store.” Scott tells me. “but he’s actually a shrewd businessman.”

THE REVOLVING DRUMMER SYNDROME: TWO-MAYBE THREE-IN 35 YEARS

Scott Vanderpool

Scott moves on to his joining The Green Pajamas. “It was a natural thing,” he says. “After Karl quit over The Goblin Market incident, Laura came home and announced that I was now the new drummer for The Green Pajamas”.

“I was just a drummer in The Green Pajamas, but I sing, and I do a lot of other things,” Scott tells me. Scott has done stints with The Chemistry Set, the King Country Queens, Noxious Fumes, Down With People, and has done some production work with the U-Men. “I still play in The Young Pioneers,” Scott says. “The band started at The Evergreen State College in October 1982. We’ve been playing gigs again for the last couple of years. In 2017 The Young Pioneers recorded an album called High Again for Calvin Johnson’s K Records. “It didn’t sound that great,” Scott admits. “We haven’t been playing live because we’re taking time to come up with new stuff”.

“The highlight for me with The Green Pajamas was going to Providence Rhode Island to play Terrastock 6”, Scott says. “Terrastock 6 was the only one of the seven Terrastock festivals to be held in the same city twice.” (Providence, Rhode Island).

Terrastock 6. Providence RI
April 21- 23 2006

The festival was held April 21st through April 23rd, 2006 at AS220, a community artists’ studio space and the Pell Chafee Performance Center. That year the Green Pajamas were joined by other Terrastock stand-bys The Bardo Pond, David and Naomi, and Seattle’s Kinski along with another 30 bands.

“After Providence, we did a little thing on WMBR, the M.I.T. radio station in Boston.” Scott continues. “We also played at a basement club called T. T. The Bear’s Place in Cambridge. Despite the club’s too-cute name, it was a hotbed of the emerging local, national and international punk and alt-rock scene beginning in 1984 until its closing in July of 2015.

By the time the albums Seven Fathoms Down and Falling (1999) and This Is Where We Disappear (2002) Jeff was doing most of the writing and recording. He was not only a prolific writer, but he was also excellent in the studio. Jeff had the opportunity to record in his basement where he’d amassed some very high-end recording equipment and kept it well-stocked. By that point in the band’s life, Jeff wrote spongs and recorded all the instrumentation, including drums, bass, guitars, and vocals. When he needed Laura to sing harmony, he’d bring her into the studio, and sometimes add a little percussion. “The band wasn’t playing more than two or three gigs per year, which was the only time we actually played together,” Joe says. “The Green Pajamas had become Jeff’s solo project more or less, and the rest were playing the parts Jeff had written in a live setting and coming in and out of the studio.”  Jeff says that during those years, Eric contributed five or six of his best songs. He also says Laura’s song “Landslide” from This Is Where We Disappear was significant enough that the band members played it at almost every live gig after the album came out, even up to their last show.

Both Seven Fathoms Down and Falling and This is Where We Disappear were released on Waroznow Records. Nick Saloman of The Bevis Frond who had started the Terrastock festivals with Phil Mcmullen founded the label in 1984 as a vehicle to release his music and the music of like-minded, totally original, and somewhat out-there music (‘out-there’ being in it’s best sense). Saloman is the only consistent member of The Bevis Frond, and since 1984 he has released 26 albums, 19 singles, and at least 16 collaborations or under pseudonyms. 

A GUITAR GENIUS, A HIDDEN AGENDA  AND A SCARLET SONG

The Bevis Frond sound is hard to pigeonhole since there are so many influences and so many fundamental approaches by Saloman. Some hear Hendrix; others hear the best of what Americans call “pop”. The addition of grunge, space-rock, grizzled folk, and all-out psychedelia makes Saloman one of a kind. Saloman’s recorded output is not only prodigious, but he’s also done an astounding amount of live appearances. Although practically unknown in the U.S., the fans he has are profoundly dedicated to his music. Nick’s work has been released by his own Waronzow Records, Reckless, Flydaddy, Fire, Funhouse, Bongo Beat. Fruits de Mer, Kasumuen Records, Damaged Goods, Cherry Red, and at least a dozen other independent labels. Brandon Stosey of Pitchfork magazine has written, “Nick Saloman is my choice for king of the ’60s psychedelic revival when it finally comes back around.”

Nick Saloman: The Bevis Frond.

Nick Saloman has been one of the guiding lights of the Terrastock music festivals, performing at five of the seven festivals. He’s a long-time friend of both Phil McMullen and the members of The Green Pajamas.

In 2002 The Green Pajama released the album Northern Gothic. The record is the first of a trilogy that includes Box of Secrets: Northern Gothic Season 2, released in 2007 on Urbana Illinois’s Hidden Agenda Records, and Phantom Lake: Northern Gothic 3, in 2018, after having once again moved back to Tom Dyer’s resurrected Green Monkey Records. The thread that ties the three albums together is their literal gothic themes-not “gothic” as in a contemporary musical genre but gothic as in the mid to late 19th-century movement that The Green Pajamas (particularly Jeff Kelly) has taken much of their inspiration. The albums in this trilogy are drenched in the kind of rainy, forested distance of a dark winter day in the Northwest. Many songs in this cycle, as Tom Dyer evokes, are “The grey skies, the endless evergreens, the ‘black and blue moon’ and ‘a thousand crows’ which hang over small lakeside West Coast towns populated by the lonesome, the unlucky-in-love and even a few slightly eerie children.”

The first of these three albums, Northern Gothic, was the last Green Pajamas album on the Camera Obscura label until 2009. The relationship between the band and Dale had been fruitful, and the pairing produced many of the band’s most beautiful moments, but The Green Pajamas then released seven albums and an EP on Urbana Illinois label Hidden Agenda.

The Caroler’s Song EP a and  In A Glass Darkly were both released in 2001, followed by Through Glass Covered Roses,(2003), Ten White Stones (2004) 21st Century Séance (2005), The Night Races Into Anna,(2006), Box of Secrets: Northern Gothic Season 2 (2007), and Poison in The Russian Room (2009). The label also released two solo albums by Jeff Kelly (Indiscretion in 2001 and  For The Swans In The Hallway in 2004).  Hidden Agenda also released  Palm Wine Sunday Blue by Eric Lichter in 2002. “Wildly Polite”, a song from Lichter’s solo album also appears on a 2002 compilation released on Hidden Agenda’s parent company, Parasol Records called  Parasol’s Sweet Sixteen, Volume Five.

“There was no falling out or hurt feelings with Tony Dale or Camera Obscura,” Jeff says. “Hidden Agenda had been interested in releasing Green Pajamas stuff and offered me nice advances for each album I gave them, including my two solo records. I was making so much music at that time that it was some very nice and much-needed income; not that Tony didn’t pay me,” Jeff is quick to point out. “On the contrary, he was always fair about that. It was just nice getting a big chunk of money all at once!” That was something Hidden Agenda could do. The Green Pajamas he no releases on Camera Obscura between 2002 and 2009, but Jeff reminds me that Camera Obscura had released Haunted, by The Goblin Market in 2005.

Tony Dale started Camera Obscura in 1996. During its existence, the label released 86 albums, at least five limited-edition, signed runs of lathe discs, and ten EPs on Camera Obscura’s sister label, Camera Lucida. During the latter half of the 2000s, Tony’s output became less regular, and in 2008 he was diagnosed with cancer. He continued to do what he could to keep the label going, which included releasing records, operating a digital download site, and a substantial mail-order business. The Green Pajamas’ last album on Camera Obscura was Hidden Minutes, released on March 24, 2009. It would be the second to the last of the label’s releases. In August of the same year, Camera Obscura released Incoherent Lullabies by the Denver, Colorado musician Josh Wambeke, working under the name Fell. After the last release on Camera Obscura, Tony Dale started sorting out all of his business having to do with the label. He intended to save his family from being left with unfinished deals with artists, his distributors, and tax authorities after he had gone. Dale concluded all of his dealings by June 30 of 2010, the end of Australia’s tax year.  At that point, Tony shut his label, distribution and mail order down.

During his last summer, Tony Dale sent Jeff and Susanne Kelly round-trip tickets to visit him in Australia. Jeff says Tony tried to be a cheerful and accommodating host.  Jeff says “He was such a good person, and even while he was dying he wanted to show us a good time.  We look back on our trip to see him and his wife Carol with very mixed emotions – sadness but fond memories as well… We miss him very much.” Two weeks after Jeff and Susanne returning to Seattle, on August 2010, Tony Dale died.  His loss reverberated around the world among the friends and fellow-fans he’d met around the world.

Upon his passing, Dave Lang of the web’zine Lexicon Devil wrote: “The music biz is littered w/ the kinds of jerk-offs you’d probably never really want to know on a personal level, and to state the obvious, Tony Dale was not one of them. He was a fan first and foremost and ran his label to spread the gospel.

Jeff Kelly wrote: “If he believed in something, he would find a way to do it. Sometimes I would write to him with some crazy idea, and he would come back and top it with an even crazier idea. No thought as to how many we’d sell; this was about art and beauty and the proper representation of the music he loved.”

Most fitting was a photo of Tony Dale run on several online memorial tributes, showing Tony’s name with the years of his birth and death underneath  and an inscription reading “We will miss you so very much.” Above Dales photo is a lyric from the Green Pajamas’ “Scarlet Song” (written by Eric Lichter)

“...I wonder how the angels look
All strung behind the sun.”

 

 

 

Author –  Dennis R. White.
Special thanks to Kim “Kim The Waitress” Olsen. Jeff Kelly “interview with the author” (September 25, 2019 & November 12, 2019). Tom Dyer “Interview with the author” (September 28, 2019). Eric Lichter, ‘Interview with the author’ (October 1, 2019). Joe Ross “interview with the author” (October 3, 2019 & November 14, 2019). Scott Vanderpool “interview with the author” (October 7, 2019). Jack Endino, ‘Interview with the author’ (February 2, 2020). Laura Weller, Interview with the author’ (October 11, 2020). Bruce Haedt ‘interview with the author’ (December 7. 2019). Eric Lichter ‘interview with the author’ (October 30, 2019) Eric Lichter (correspondence with the author’ November 20, 2019). ‘The Story of Kim The Waitress’ https://tinyurl.com/rj76bfy, retrieved September 10, 2019). Gil Kaufman. “Terrastock Psychedelic Music Fest Heads West” (MTV News, January 21, 1998). “The Paisley Underground: Los Angeles’s 1980s psychedelic explosion” (The Guardian, US edition (May 16, 2016).“The Green Pajamas Website” (https://thegreenpajamas.net/retrieved September 2, 2019) “Green Monkey Records” (https://greenmonkeyrecords.com/ Retrieved September 20, 2019). Michael Nelson “The Green Pajamas – Kim The Waitress – Forgotten Song” (f-Measure, September 27, 2013). Jeff Ankeny, “The Green Pajamas” ( All Music,https://www.allmusic.com/artist/the-green-pajamas-mn0000155068/biography, retrieved October 10, 2019). Jud Cost “Q&A with The Green Pajamas” (Magnet Magazine, June 6, 2012). Jud Cost “The Green Pajamas: Something a Little More Comfortable” (Magnet Magazine, October 10, 2012). Sonic Mosquito“The Green Pajamas-Kim The Waitress [1986]” (The Sonic Mosquito Soup, January 29, 2019). “The Green Pajamas Interviewed” (Worship Guitars, http://www.worshipguitars.org/Interviews/greenpajamas/index.html, retrieved October 11, 2019). Larry Flick[Editor] “Kim The Waitress-Material Issue” (Billboard Magazine, July 23, 1994). John M. Borack/Jem Aswad “Material Issue” (http://www.trouserpress.com/entry.php?a=material_issue, retrieved October 10. 2019). Erik 4A “Green Pajamas” Tape Op, September/October 2019). SF Weekly Staff “Woodstick” (San Francisco Weekly, April 15, 1998). “The Green Pajama Party” (Interview originally broadcast on White Noise,91.9WNTI, Hackettstown NJ, June 12, 1999. Ptolemaic Terrascope #25, 1998 [date of publication and date of original interview do not comport]. Jack Endino “Terrastock ’98: San Francisco, Ca., 5/17-5/19″ (endino.com, retrieved October 12, 2019). Green Pajamas and Grip Weeds: classic albums, vinyl reissues from Sugarbush Records‘ (Bucketfull of Brains, Jeff Kelly’s Beneath The Stars Above The River and Green Pajamas’ Poison In The Russian Room; limited vinyl release on Sugarbush” (Bucketfull of Brains, September 12, 2019). Art Chantry “Grunge: Just More Snotty Bratty Punk Rock” (Madame Pickwick Art Blog, September 15, 2011). Tom Dyer correspondence with the author ( September 16-October 20, 2019). “‘Top Modern Music Tracks” Billboard Magazine July 23, 1994). William Yardley “Seattle Bids Tuba Man a Sad Goodbye” The New York Times (November 13, 2008). Lord Rutledge “Retro Reviews: Material Issue – Freak City Soundtrack” (Faster & Louder, Wednesday, May 2014). Branfionn NicGrioghair, ‘ Myths & Legends : Brigid, Bright Goddess of The Gael’  (Mythical Ireland,  © 1997, NicGrioghar, branfionn@mindspring.com. Retrieved  November 17, 2019). The Green Pajamas ‘Tony Dale 1958-2010’ (Secret Day: The Official Website of The Green Pajamas, August 15, 2010). Tim Canny, Correspondence with the author (December 23, December 24, 2019). Joe Ross. The Green Pajamas ‘Summer of Lust (Forced Exposure, June 3, 2014). Rhode Island Art In Ruins, ‘Atlantic Mills’ (www.artinruins.com/arch/?id=stillinuse&pr=atlantic retrieved February 22, 2020). Steve Burton, “Terrastock II: San Francisco, CA, April 17-19, 1998’ (Aural Innovations #3, July 1988). Gil Kaufman ‘Terrastock Psychedelic Music Fest Heads West’ (MTV News, January 21, 1998. http://www.mtv.com/news/2758/terrastock-psychedelic-music-fest-heads-west/  Retrieved January 21, 2020). Jack Endino ‘Terrastock ‘98: San Francisco Ca. 5/17-5/19’ (www.endino.com/archive/terrastock98.html retrieved January 20, 2020). MC Tom, ‘64 Spiders: What Life Was Like Before Cat Butt’ (Lamestain, lamestainnorthwest.blogspot.com/2006/11/64-spiders-what-life-was-like-before.html, retrieved January 22, 2020). Chris Nosal ” Puget Sounds: Psychedelicists, Experimentalists and Indie Rockers gather at Seattle’s Terrastock IV’ (Philadelphia City Paper, November 16–23, 2000. [ Archived at My City Paper, New York City, https://mycitypaper.com/articles/111600/mus.terrastock.shtml ].Retrieved April 3, 2020). John Davis “Phantom Lake: Northern Gothic 3” (exposé  [Canada] October 25, 2019). George Peckham “Porky’s Prime Cuts” (abcor publishing, 2018 [retrieved from Mersey blog, June 2, 2020]). Nick Talevski “Rock Obituaries: Knocking On Heavens’ Door” (Omnibus, 2004).

 

 

 

 

 

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 tells me he was born in Des Moines Iowa, although his family moved to Olympia 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 be 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.

Tom 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 “The Story of Kim The Waitress” ( https://tinyurl.com/rj76bfy  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)