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.
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!
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.”
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.
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.
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”
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
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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 tapes. After 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.
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.”
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!.’ ”
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.
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.
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.”
“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.
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 Bruce Haedt’s then-wife, 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.
“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.”
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
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 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
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.
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.
“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.”
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 Kisses, Hidden 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.
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.
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.
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!”
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
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.
“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 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).
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 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 ” (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, email@example.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).