Saturday, December 02, 2006

Apologies, and a new clipping...

Apologies to the readers of Absolutely More! for the light (well, nonexistent) postings of late. The editors of this blog have just been plain busy. I do personally promise to post more in the near future. (The "near future" being in a couple of weeks, after my finals are over...) I did find the actual clipping from the New Musical Express review that Ken quoted in his last posting, so here it is. (You can click on the images to see a large picture.) Note that you can see fellow bloggers Phil and Ken just behind Colorblind James, in the exciting action photograph from this legendary gig. Also, could one of our British readers please tell us just who the hell the "Dagenham Girl Pipers" are/were?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Fulham Greyhound Part 3

My memory is not as robust as my esteemed blog-mates. I don't remember the sound check at all. What I do remember is being nervous before going on, which, believe it or not, was a first for me. We played well--pretty solidly--but we weren't our usual wild and loose selves. We were all more nervous than usual. On this and the first few shows, I had a paranoid feeling that much of the crowd was mocking us. It took me a while to realize that we had some seriously rabid fans who pretty much loved us unconditionally.

The most vivid memory for me of that night was Red Rhino and Cooking Vinyl execs courting us backstage after the show, and the first vague feeling that we were turning into a product.

I don't have a scanner, but here are excerpts from that review Dave mentioned (written by a young Stuart Maconie, now a pretty big music journalist over there):

The Holy Brail

Or How I Found God at the Fulham Greyhound

....Up until tonight I had heard one C.J.E record and I thought it was crap. But then I was a poor dumb sinner....
....The Colorblind James experience rolled into town like Jesus on the back of a flatbed truck...
....Lower your head penitent, and burn those U2 records...
....a gorgeous, anarchic cabaret that flirts with chaos thus disguising a single-minded precision....
....Sometimes (Colorblind James) reads the lyrics from a battered black ledger, like an amiable but sinister bible belt preacher...
....The crowd's devotion borders on the fanatical...
....they howl at every cheeky, demented solo....
....Long after they have taken our drinks away, pockets of stragglers remain, swaying drunkenly and chanting...

Mmmm...maybe we played even better than I thought.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Fulham Greyhound: the Uncle Phil's Eye View

Fulham Greyhound was one of the happiest and stressful days of my life. I don't know if we had slept since leaving Toronto as we were rushed from one interview to another, from a photo shoot to a meeting of players and entourage, for what seemed an eternity.

Kevin Hunter, our tour manager/driver/roadie, kept us hopping and on schedule the whole time as we went from NME to Melody Maker to the next. I couldn't keep anything straight except my bangs which were Johnny Ramone length.

The club looked like nothing special, basically a big flat-black room with strips and remnants of silver duct tape interfering with the otherwise glamorous decor. Ahem. We loaded in but as we soon came to realize, Kevin and Carl were committed to doing all the work. They had agreed together that we would be calm and rested whenever possible and that the stage setup and sound-check was their job, their responsibility. That was a first for me.

Back stage was beer and wine and yes, a chutes and ladders game: one of about 5,000 we would wind up with. Sadly, I doubt any of them made it back state-side. The soundcheck was quick and functional. The opening act, "I, Ludicrous" was one guy or maybe a duo and a boom-box. I believe John Peel had played something of theirs on his show as well.

While I, Ludicrous played, we sat in the dressing room and I'm going to guess I was just shy of totally freaking out. Kevin asked each of us what we wanted on stage drink wise and made sure cans of ale, lager or H2O were opened and at everyone's respective station.

When we strolled out onto the stage the sound was deafening. Yeah, Dave, it was our Beatle moment. And not the last. The place was absolutely packed. I don't remember what we started with, how long we played or anything except that my hands were shaking the whole time.

On "Considering a Move to Memphis" I used to play a pentatonic riff using all harmonics on the guitar during the second solo. What I remember is my hand trembling and moving over the neck and not a damn thing coming out but clicks or ghost notes. My thoughts were along the line of "Me terrible. Them hate me. Me very bad."

But that wasn't the case. The Sheffield Lads began immediately with their chorus of "Absolutely More!" and the other word new to our ears being shouted out was "Brilliant!" At the time we didn't know that Britishers use "brilliant!" like we would say "great!" For a moment we thought "Damn! They think we're fucking geniuses!"

The Lads met us afterwards and introduced themselves explaining that they were prepared with the itinerary to see just about every upcoming show. As I stated before, they were fun to be around soon becoming a welcome sight for sore eyes at each U.K. show.

At the end of the night, once the van was loaded, Kevin climbed into the drivers seat and quieted us down with a stern "I've got something important to say to you all" tone to his voice. We hushed and he said "WHO WANTS A BEER?" We all cheered as he pulled out beers for each of us as we drove back to our hotel.

Maybe we sucked and maybe we were great. It really didn't matter. The show was huge, the crowd flipped for us, and it kicked off the tour awesomely.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

1988 Tour: Fulham Greyhound

When we arrived in Britain in October 1988 for our first tour, we didn't play any shows right away. We first spent about two or three days doing nothing but interviews, photo sessions and BBC recordings. Our first actual gig in front of an audience was at the Fulham Greyhound. We had absolutely no idea what to expect. In the rush of events, my memories of many of the details of that show are hazy, but a few details stand out. I remember doing a soundcheck in the afternoon, and noting the fact that the promoter had supplied a brand-new "Snakes and Ladders" board game in our dressing room, along with the usual refreshments. We learned that this was a clause in our contract rider, that each venue would provide a board game for the band. I played chess with Ken on a couple of occasions when a chess-board was offered. (Ken was a fine chess layer and always crushed me easily, even while spotting me a few pieces.)

After doing the soundcheck in the empty venue, we went somewhere for dinner and came back a couple hours later for the show. At this point, the place was absolutely packed. I cannot exaggerate this point whatsoever. I have never been in a denser crush of people in my life—it took at least 15 or 20 minutes for us to squeeze through the throng from the pub's entrance to the dressing room. It was unbelievably hot and humid from all of the bodies packed together. As we got on stage, I looked up and saw that the walls were literally dripping with moisture. I was so sweaty that I nearly dropped my saxophone a couple of times. Already nervous about the show, having to worry about simply holding my instruments added another layer of stress that I'd never experienced before. As we faced the audience, the crowd let out a deafening cheer that seemed to last forever. I remember thinking quite clearly to myself, "Now I know what the Beatles felt like..."

The actual gig is a complete and utter blur for me. Maybe Phil or Ken can remember something else, but I can't. I have no idea how we played. I don't think it really mattered that much. I dimly recall playing "Considering a Move to Memphis" and the roar being almost as loud as the band. Somewhere I have a glowing review of the show that I'll post if I can find it. After that, we were launched on the tour. Our prospects seemed limitless at that point.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Prequel to The First Tour (1988)

With all of the mail coming in from England, with all of the BBC airplay that continued unabated from mid-1987 onwards, and with our snazzy new distribution deal with Fundamental/Red Rhino all coming together, we naturally thought that a European (or at least British) tour would instantly be in the offing. Oddly, none of our record distributors seemed to be pushing this idea very hard. We however, saw the situation as a hot iron that needed to be struck if anything were to happen.

So when I went to London in January of 1988 (my wife Kathleen had to go there on a business trip), I thought I'd drop in on the folks at Red Rhino and see if we couldn't get that plan moving forward. I talked it over with Chuck and the band, and all agreed that it made sense to try to contact them and see about organizing a tour. I said "drop in" because they didn't have an actual phone number, or at least one that we had access to. I had no means of making an appointment. All we had was a street address in York. So I took a four-hour train ride up to York from London and walked around asking directions until I was guided to a fairly shabby part of town. I walked up to a doorway on the correct street with the correct number, but no other indication that I'd come to the right place. No sign saying "Red Rhino Records, Ltd," or anything helpful like that. I knocked. And knocked some more....

Eventually a bloke came to the door, opened it about two inches or less, and said, "Yes?" I asked if this was the location of Red Rhino Records. He didn't really say one way or the other, just more or less replied, "So, who wants to know?" I explained that I was a member of the Colorblind James Experience, that I happened to be in England just then, and that I happened to have taken a train to York to speak with them about help in setting up a European tour.

"Wait here."

So I stood in the damp chill of the doorway for a while, and eventually was invited in. The two gentlemen that received me were very gracious from that point onwards, and after some discussion they gave me the name of a booking agent in London who they thought would be interested in working with us. And also recommended a fine pub for lunch, whose steak and kidney pie was outstanding. The initial cold reception and mysterious behavior made a lot more sense a few months later, when we learned a bit more about this company that was handling our record in Europe. I'll explain further in an upcoming posting.

In my various wanderings around York, I had also stopped in at a local record shop, just to get a sense of the music scene there, and because I simply couldn't walk past a record shop in those days. As I walked in, what should be playing on the store sound system but "A Different Bob," from the first album. I walked up to the counter and said, "This is a fine record that you're playing here." A largish fellow looked up and said, "Oh, have you heard of them, then?" "Actually," I replied, "I play in that band." I have never seen a jaw drop in a more classic manner in my own life (or in a movie) before or since that moment. Priceless. He told me he was a huge fan of the band, loved the album and that it had been selling well at their shop. At this point, I had to get back to the station to catch my train back to London. I reviewed the day's accomplishments. I had: 1) made direct contact with Red Rhino, 2) conveyed the fact that we were eager to tour and been encouraged by the response, 3) been given the name of a booking agent (Paul Buck, who did help book our first tour), and 4) discovered firsthand that the buzz about the album was real. It felt like a fairly productive day. The strangeness of the experience didn't sink in until much later.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Thank You, John Peel

Many tributes and appreciations of the great British DJ John Peel are spread across the internet. Here's one more. Over his 30-year career at the BBC, he broke many new and unknown bands to a national audience. We were one of them. Our European tours and our succession of independent-label releases between 1987 and 1992 are largely due to the effect of this single individual. Without his advocacy of our first LP, probably none of those things would have come to pass, or certainly would have happened much differently. Here's the sequence of events:

In 1987, the CbJE had completed its first album, released on the Rochester label Earring Records. This came out a few months prior to my joining the group in the summer of '87. At that point, G. Elwyn Meixner and Bernie Heveron had left to pursue individual projects, so the band's sound was retooled to include horns—myself on clarinet and saxophone and John Ebert on trombone; Ken Frank came in on bass. The group had a thousand copies pressed (LP only), of which about a third were reserved for promos, to be sent to radio stations and record companies. Someone (maybe Phil or Ken remembers who, I don't) suggested to Chuck that an English DJ named John Peel might find our music attractive. So we plumped up the requisite international postage, and Chuck mailed a single copy of the LP to Britain, addressed to "John Peel, c/o the BBC."

A few weeks later, Chuck came home from work to find a fan letter from England in his mailbox, enthusing about the album. Peel had been playing several cuts from the album, including "The First Day of Spring," "A Different Bob," and (most importantly) "Considering a Move to Memphis." Over the next few weeks, more mail arrived, from all over Britain. Chuck had included his mailing address on the back of the album, but there was only the one copy in England at that time. So that meant that people were calling the BBC offices in London in order to get the address. Another Radio 1 DJ, Andy Kershaw, also began to play the album on his show, with strong audience response. Momentum gathered. Other radio hosts on the Beeb like Liz Kershaw began to play the album as well and the strong audience response continued. Peel never seemed to let up in his appreciation for the album, playing nearly every song that was on it. He didn't care that it was on a tiny private label, that it was unevenly recorded, or that there was no product in shops at the time. He just liked the record. Because of this, we had a national reputation in Great Britain before we even had American distribution.

Some time afterwards, we were contacted by Fundamental Records in Georgia about licensing the LP. This deal would also include English distribution through an outfit based in York called Red Rhino. Fundamental was a more or less known quantity in the States, then mainly notable for releasing Eugene Chadbourne onto an unsuspecting public. We went for it. Fundamental also issued the first LP on CD and cassette. As this was the beginning of the exciting new CD format, bonus tracks were a big deal. We added two songs that had just been recorded by the new group at Saxon Studios (see Phil's earlier posting on this Rochester institution), as it seemed like a good idea at the time. Looking back now, those extra tracks don't seem to fit with the original set of songs.

In early 1988, my wife had to go to London on a business trip, and I tagged along. Mostly I knocked around London during the day and shopped for avant garde classical recordings, but I did take a train to York to contact the folks at Red Rhino about a tour. That adventure will require its own posting. The other thing I did was to call the BBC to ask to leave a message with Peel. I had no illusions about speaking to the great man myself, and I learned later that he generally tried to keep a bit of distance between himself and the artists he played. My call was transferred around the building for a bit and then a male voice suddenly came on the line; the most mellifluous "Hello" I'd ever heard. I explained that I was trying to reach John Peel's office in order to leave a message with him. The voice replied, "You've done even better, this is John Peel speaking!" We chatted briefly, and I ended the conversation by thanking him for all of the enthusiastic airplay that we'd received on his show. Ever gracious, he said, Well, thank YOU lads for making such a wonderful album."

Monday, July 03, 2006

CbJE at the BBC

Above is a picture of Phil Marshall and Colorblind James at one of our recording sessions at the BBC. I think it's from our Death Valley Boys session for Andy Kershaw in 1989. We did four of these over our three tours, including two on our very first tour, when we were considered a pretty hot item. These sessions all consisted of four songs, were all recorded in a single day at the BBC's Maida Vale studios and all were engineered by the exceptional Mike Robinson. Robinson is listed as producer on the cd insert, but Dale "Buffin" Griffin (the orginal drummer for Mott the Hoople) was also present in the capacity of producer for all four sessions. Griffin was supposedly possessed of a legendary irritability, but he seemed to like us and put in long hours getting the best mix possible. We were told he never did this for other bands.

British readers of this blog will simply regard these BBC recordings as an ordinary event, but there is nothing comparable to them in the United States. At the Maida Vale recording complex was a warren of studios recording all manner of music, all day, every day. As we wandered through its hallways on our way to lunch, we'd peer in windows to other studios and see jazz bands, choruses, orchestras and more, all being recorded for broadcast. A little bit like heaven, I thought at the time.

Our first session for John Peel (18 October 1988) included a very fast version of "Polka Girl," "Hey Bernadette" (a rollicking song dedicated to the actress and singer Bernadette Peters, who Chuck admired strenuously), Phil's terrific instrumental "Havoc Theme" (which my daughter Rachel often uses as title music in her videos; someday Phil will get a fat royalty check for that number), and "Wedding at Cana." All of these, except "Hey Bernadette" had been recorded previously, with two appearing on our second album 'Why Should I Stand Up?.' After we heard the exceptional quality of the recordings, we realized that it was foolish to duplicate stuff we'd already recorded, so after that we only recorded unreleased songs for the Beeb. The one exception to this policy was on our first session for Andy Kershaw, where we did record a too-fast and hectic version of "Considering a Move to Memphis," at his request. (Actually, he only requested the song, not that it be hectic...)

A couple years later, that first John Peel session was chosen for release on his Strange Fruit label, and was also licensed in the States on another label. On the Strange Fruit release there we are, listed alongside the likes of Joy Division, The Smiths, Siouxsie and the Banshees, New Order, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Syd Barrett and others. "Judge us by the company we keep," Chuck once said. The rest of the BBC material (sixteen songs in total) has resided in their vaults ever since. Some of it is excellent stuff—the "Rollin' and Tumblin'" Peel session (7 November 1989) found the band in especially fine form. We often discussed issuing an album of all this BBC material, but never got around to it. At this point, it seems unlikely that any of it will see the light of day again. A shame, as it comprises some of the band's most important recorded legacy (and many of Chuck's finest songs), and comes the closest to capturing what we sounded like as a live band.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Wir sind alles Berliner(s)

This picture was taken by our tour manager Steve Left, on our spring of 1990 tour of Europe. That's us, standing in front of what was remaining of the Berlin Wall. (Left to right, it's Ken Frank, David McIntire, Colorblind James, Phillip Marshall, Joe "The Bone" Colombo and James McAvaney.) Students of history will remember that the wall came came down in November of '89. We were touring then, and had some shows booked in Germany, including one in Berlin. Most of them fell through, being cancelled as we were flying to London. In the meantime, we plodded onwards with the rest of that surreal and depressing tour. We were aware that world-shaking events were unfolding, but we were preoccupied with our daily routine of travel and performing. At some point, we realized that our cancelled gig in Berlin had been scheduled for the very night that the wall came down. We would have been there for that momentous event. It was a bitter pill to swallow.

The tour concluded with us deep in debt and severely depressed as we prepared to fly home. The debacle that was our journey home will need its own separate posting, but suffice it to say, we were feeling low. But soon to be brought even lower, when, on the same plane as us was another band (I have no idea who they were) who HAD played in Berlin on that fateful night. They were exultant about the experience, telling people on the plane what a fantastic experience it had all been, how excited the East Berliners had been to hear American bands for the first time, how the clubs were all packed with enthusiastic throngs. I had an intense feeling that some cosmic plan had gone horribly wrong, and the fun, successful tour that was rightfully ours had been given to this other band somehow. It wasn't fair.

A few months later, we finally played in Berlin. By then, the excitement was over, and the gig was routine. We still took time to go to the wall and pay our respects.

Addendum: The title of this posting was a rough attempt to approximate the phrase from JFK's speech at the Berlin Wall where he declared, "Ich bin ein Berliner." The audience knew what he was trying to say and roared approvingly, but his statement more or less translates to "I am a jam-filled doughnut." Which should tell politicians to try out those phrases on native speakers BEFORE they make the big speech. Anyway, the actual plural would be "Berlineren."

Monday, May 29, 2006

1984-1987: The Bop Shop (Dave's take)

Phil's previous posting on the Bop Shop caused me as well to ponder the store's contribution to Rochester's musical culture. Since I have my own extensive history with the place, I thought I'd throw in my two cents. As Phil pointed out, the store is one of the hippest record shops anywhere. The owner, Tom Kohn, is simply put, a visionary. He has wide-ranging, yet discriminating taste, and an incredible memory for record minutiae. The Bop Shop's main focus has always been on jazz, folk and blues, but with many other genres represented as well. What you won't find is current pop, or anything that Tom deems unworthy of his store. (Ages ago I remember the look of astonishment on a Japanese tourist customer's face when Tom informed him that he didn't carry the latest Michael Jackson release. Many of Kenny G's fans were likewise astonished to learn that Mr. G's highly popular recordings did not make the cut either.) Over the years, his store's presence has had an incalculable effect on the Rochester scene, providing exceptional selection for music enthusiasts, sponsoring dozens of free concerts and offering a forum for musicians learn and grow.

I met Tom in 1980 when we were both electronic technicians at MXR Innovations, Rochester's guitar effect and sound-reinforcement gear manufacturer. Tom and I were there during the company's golden age; it was a really fun place to work back when they were prosperous. By 1982-83 the Japanese corporations like Roland and Yamaha had made huge inroads into that market and MXR struggled to compete. This, combined with some terrible, cocaine-addled management decisions brought the company to its demise around '84. By mid-83 we all saw the writing on the wall, and Tom had taken his profit-sharing and started the Bop Shop at the Village Gate Square, 274 North Goodman Street in Rochester. Back then it was called Peddler's Village, and was more or less a glorified flea market. Even then, Tom was one of the most successful vendors there. At this point, twenty-some years later, his is probably the only business left from that era.

In 1983, I got married and started working on a music degree at Nazareth College. A few months later, I stopped by the Village Gate and poked around Tom's new little retail space. We hadn't spoken in a while, and he told me that things were busy and he was thinking about hiring an employee. I became the first one. At the time I thought little of it; today it seems like quite a big deal. The place expanded rapidly, quadrupling in size over the next few years. Today the store is rated one of the finest jazz record stores in the country and it serves customers all over the world. And the fact that it has simply survived through these tumultous years is remarkable. Few independent record stores have been able to do so, and fewer still on the terms that Tom demanded.

The store had an enormous impact on my own musical education. Whatever I have learned from my coursework and lessons over the years, I have learned far more about musical style, artists and repertoire from my years of working at the Bop Shop, and later managing its sister store, Recorded Classics. All of Tom's employees were (and remain) musicians and/or music lovers with tremendous knowledge. We all had different interests, but we tended to get along well and to learn from one another. A day at the store would involve listening to dozens of recordings while we went about our duties, all with vigorous discussion. The store was like a huge library, and we all absorbed its contents as much as we could. We were some of its best customers, as well as its employees. This influenced the way we played, the bands we played in, the way we thought about music altogether. After I started playing in CbJE, the Bop Shop was where I expanded my listening, to fill in the gaps of musical history I needed. Bob Dylan, Blind Willie McTell, and Cannon's Jug Stompers became essential listening. I studied the sax solos of Herbert Hardesty, the great tenor man for Fats Domino, and the solos on Little Richard's early recordings. I tried to figure out a way to make my saxophone sound like Hubert Sumlin's guitar on Howlin' Wolf's records. (Still working on that one....) John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, Cecil Taylor and Anthony Braxton became role models. Steve Lacy shaped my concept of how to play the soprano saxophone. And Sidney Bechet showed me sounds from the clarinet I'd never dreamed of...

I stopped working for Tom in 1992, when I went back to school for my master's degree, but I still shop at the Bop Shop whenever I'm in Rochester. Tom always pulls out a dozen discs to play me, ("Dave, y'gotta hear these guys, they're amazing!!!") and yes, they always are amazing. My credit card groans under the strain and I ponder how I'll get it all into my luggage, but I go forth happy that I have the best, most latest sounds that have been made. Stop by there yourself, if you don't believe me.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

1985: the Bop Shop

The first time I saw the Colorblind James Experience after returning to Rochester, I believe they were going by the name Colorblind James and the Death Valley Boys. Eiter that or Chuck was letting it operate under the name "The Colorblind James Band".

Chuck had hooked up once again with White Caps guitarist G. Elwyn Meixner. He had also scored Personal Effects popular bassist Bernie Heveron who had just recently acquired an upright bass and a taste for "something different". Bernie was able to point Chuck in the direction of Jimmy MacAveney who had played with such local luminaries as The Dady Brothers and The Ken Hardley Playboys.

The quartet had already enjoyed a good response playing small Rochester bars like Snake Sisters at 666 South Avenue (now LUX), Schatzee's on Richmond St. (now RICHMOND's) and of course Jazzberry's at 713 Monroe Avenue (now a gift shop). On this day, however, they were playing on the upper level of the Village Gate Square right above the Bop Shop.

During a break, Chuck and the boys brought me down to the Bop Shop where I was introduced to the youthful proprietor Tom Kohn, who was already a big fan of Chuck's music and the band's sound. Working for him at the time was a young composer, clarinetist and ex-Zenith Effluvium member David McIntire. The Bop Shop was cooler than any record store I had haunted in San Francisco and I immediately had my heart set on working there.

It would take about six months and a stormy exit from the young men's department at Sibley's before that dream would be realized. It would take another 2 years before Dave McIntire would officially join the fold. That day, however, I was happy to acquire a vinyl copy of Muddy Waters: Down on Stovall's Plantation and to realize that however little money I was to make, most of it would go into Tom Kohn's cash register.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Dave's Clipping Archive (I)

The above review is from the British music weekly, New Musical Express, November 18th, 1989. (Click on this image for a larger, readable version.) The show was at a London venue called the Powerhaus. The first band, God's Little Monkeys, was a sort of punked-up folk band from York, I think. We played several shows with them on our first and second tours. Originally they were called Malcolm's Interview, a name which meant nothing to me, but I thought sounded better than GLM. Nice folks, though for me their songs had a sort of opportunistic quality, in a political sense. They had an anti-apartheid song, a song about religious repression, etc, covering the general scope of Britain's left-wing scene. Because some preacher had railed against their name in public, they worked this into the conclusion that they were somehow being persecuted. Right. They were a decent band, though. Veldt, I do not remember at all. Must have been backstage or something. And actually, I don't remember too much about our portion of the show, either. I do suspect that the booing the writer refers to was not actually directed at our second album, so much as Chuck's refusal to play some stuff from the first album. "The First Day of Spring" was often requested by beer-soaked punters, and was not in our repertoire at that time because it was Bernie Heveron's song, and he was no longer in the group. Chuck would try to explain this to audiences, but it did no good. They would get angry anyway.

This is a pretty typical example of Britain's pop music press reportage. While it's generally favorable, (except for that snip about the second album being booed), it doesn't really report on the event in any meaningful detail. It always annoys me when a writer resorts to obscure references to items in their own record collection to bolster their authority, rather than doing the hard work of writing in clear descriptive language. I have no idea what he's talking about in most cases, and I was at the show. (And that's a vibraphone, pal, NOT a xylophone.) These writers tended to take a faintly sarcastic, weary tone to their writing. I often wondered if some of them even liked music at all. I do enjoy the reference that perhaps suggests that my saxophone playing is "squirty," though it's too clever by half. And valuing cleverness over substance is what plagued nearly all of Britain's music writers.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Happy Buster Cornelius Day

"...and that is why, on the Third of May,
We all celebrate Buster Cornelius Day."

Ever since I started teaching in middle-school band in Florida back in '96, I've always tried to observe Buster Cornelius Day. I play the song to my students, I explain that Buster Cornelius Day is not a widely celebrated holiday, but that for those familiar with this person, it's an important day of the year. A few former of my former students and my daughters even send me BC greeting cards every year. This year, Buster Cornelius Day is celebrated across America and as far away as New Zealand. So, take a few hours off from work. Go to the parade. Buy some Buster Cornelius balloons for your kids. Watch the PBS special about his life. Spend a moment at his statue in the city square, and reflect on this great person. Or surf to eBay and buy a used copy of the Colorblind James Experience's second album, 'Why Should I Stand Up?,' and learn more about this great American.

The proprietor of the Blessed Thistle Bakery in Rochester NY even created a Buster Cornelius sandwich for the occasion, offered once a year. I had it once and it was pretty darn good, though I don't now recall what was in it. (In its place, I recommend smoked turkey on oat bread, with swiss cheese and slices of fresh tomato and avacado. And mayo. Sprouts are optional.)

Friday, April 28, 2006

Here's Our Card...

This image is the CbJE/DVBs business card from about '85-87 or thereabouts. I'll rely on Phil to fill in the details, as this piece of memorabilia dates from before I joined the group. I think Phil gave me this at some point when we both worked at the Bop Shop together, probably in '85 or '86. The drawings are Phil's, and they presage the use of cartoons in our album art for the first two Experience albums and for the Death Valley Boys album. The lineup shown is that of the first album. I like how the character of both the band and its repertoire was conveyed by the card. Note that Chuck and Bernie's phone numbers do not contain an area code. This was a local band.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

San Francisco: 1983-1985

From the tracks recorded at Peter Miller's studio, Chuck initially wanted to put out a 7" EP of four songs titled "Four Songs!" Eventually, it was pared down to a single featuring Talk To Me b/w Kojak Chair. We had a thousand copies pressed up and immediately dropped off 20, one for each DJ, at KUSF, the University of San Francisco's super cool station devoted to promoting the most au courrant in underground, punk and 'alternative' music. Fully expecting that within 24 hours it would shoot up to heavy rotation status, I was needless to say disappointed that it in fact received virtually zip in airplay.

Undaunted, we continued to play out as often as we could at the Sound of Music in the Tenderloin, the Fab Mab (Mabuhay Gardens) on Broadway, the Hotel Utah south of Mission and Heaven's Gate at the end of Haight St. Along the way, we hooked up with Scott Young, a pot-smoking trombone player from Keuka, Iowa who, while fully capable of tossing off a great solo, often required a nudge to remind him to play.

Eventually, bassist Dave Fisher grew tired of endless rehearsing of fine points and details only to have all hell break loose at a gig. Kevin, released from the basement where his drums were muffled with t-shirts and blankets, would turn into the Incredible Hulk while I would nudge my amp up louder and louder obliterating any trace of Chuck's scrub-board rhythm. With Dave walking, the rest of us were faced with hunting down what would be the fifth bass player or packing it in.

I decided to pick up a bass and join up with my new wave heroes Exposure, a partnership that lasted about nine months. During that time, Chuck hibernated in his basement and began to work on his vibraphone skills. What eventually emerged was one of his best songs ever: Why'd the Boy Throw the Clock Out the Window?

Once completed, he put up the money to record it at Peter's and reassembled the band for the occasion. Along with Kevin on drums, me on guitar, Dave on bass, Scott on trombone and Chuck on vibes and rhythm guitar, Chuck enlisted the help of a creepy fellow with virtually no affect on his face to speak of who called himself My Sin on keyboards as well as Peter Strauss, a friend of Dave's, on alto saxophone.

With the recording completed, the band agreed to play one gig together at the Bannam St. Art Gallery on Saturday, March 24, 1984. This gig marked a turning point for Chuck as the response from the odd assortment of artists, writers, musicians and eccentrics was overwhelmingly favorable. Chuck began to feel that his vision of a small town orchestra comprised of a bunch of working class types with a repertoire of roots rock n roll, original two-beats and spoken word songs could actually find an audience.

The set that night, preserved on a Memorex normal bias 90-minute cassette, was as follows:

Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby
All By Myself
If You Love Each Other
A Different Bob
Talk To Me
Blues in G
Jugband Music
Lie To Me
Rodeo Night
Considering a Move to Memphis
Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On
Sendin' Up My Timber

Shortly after, however, Chuck and Jan decided to move back to Rochester. Chuck's father had been having heart problems and had recently undergone open heart surgery (a quadruble bypass, no less). Proximity to his family became paramount and for the two of them the San Francisco phase was over.

Me? I stayed on in S.F. for another six months. By the end of the six months I had no job, no band and a horrible break-up with a girl that put me on everybody's shit list. When Jan called me to say she was pregnant with their first child, I was excited. When my parents asked me to help them pack up our home of 16 years in Oswego because they wanted to move to Rochester too, I made myself available. When Chuck told me he had put together a band in Rochester and there would always be a place for me in it if I came back, it was time to go.

In February of '85 I flew east to my new home.


Hello, readers of Colorblind James and Me, and welcome to this newest collaboration of Phil, Ken and myself. I have been blogging about my time in CbJE for a while now, and recently Phil suggested that we join forces in our writings. It's a fine idea, and I've never been able to turn Phil down whenever he's asked me to participate in a project. When he suggested that I try out for CbJE in the spring of 1987, I couldn't say no. When he wanted to try out an all-improvisational rock band (The Hotheads) and invited me to join, I couldn't say no. When he asked me to sit in with LaLaLand, I couldn't say no. All of those experiences were musical highlights of my life and Phil's and Ken's extraordinary musicianship has my permanent admiration. Changing my policy now seems like pure folly... so, yes, yet again.

If you're a reader of Phil's unfolding saga of CbJE, you may wish to also read some of my earlier longwinded thoughts about the group and our work together. Simply click on the "Colorblind Days and Nights" link to be instantly transported to that blog. I'll try not to duplicate any of those postings here, though I may transfer some of the photos and memorabilia to this site, in a shameless attempt to get Phil and Ken to comment on them. As for "revisionist history," I will try to do my best to avoid it, although I may be tempted at points. Plenty of warts on my contribution to the band... Let the liveliness begin!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

New Blog Title and...The Sheffield Lads

I've changed the title of this blog from Colorblind James and Me to The Colorblind James Experience: Absolutely More! for a couple of reasons. As the story begins to move towards the period of European tours, I've invited Dave McIntire, saxophones and clarinets, and Ken Frank, bass, to contribute directly to the blog. With individual points of view and the likelyhood of fuzzy memories and the potential for revisitionist history, this account should be quite lively at times.

The phrase "Absolutely more" followed us throughout the U.K. and was coined by a pair of blokes we affectionately christened The Sheffield Lads. After the first song of the first gig at the Fulham Greyhound we began to hear what would become a familiar and welcome chorus from the audience: "Absolutely more! Absolutely more!"

Paul and Russ, the lads, took it upon themselves to follow us on just about every step of our first tour save for the stint across the channel. I've been able, sporadically, to stay in touch with Russ who is now married with children who in turn has kept me abreast of the ongoing antics of "his best mate" Paul. At the moment, I've lost touch with Russ having lost his email in a pc crash. If you're out there, either of you, write!!

The Sheffield Lads were there from the start and continued their support on both subsequent tours. They were always a welcome sight and lifted our spirits with their northern working class humor and sensibility.

Thanks Paul and Russ, for having been there and helping us get through it all!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Colorblind James Experience, San Francisco 1981

Colorblind James

Thaddeus Iorizzo

Phil Marshall

Kevin McDevitt

Photos by K. Regan

These photos were taken at our first rehearsal spot deep in the mission district of San Francisco. William, the English bloke with the girlfriend named Bluh, rented the space to us. Oddly enough we reconnected outside the Electric Ballroom on the night of our big final London showcase. He was happy to see us but the entire time he had this incredulous look on his face that seemed to scream "What the hell are you lot doing here?"

Friday, February 24, 2006

Colorblind James & the White Caps, Circa 1979

This is the White Caps in all their all-night-long glory at the Market Street Music Hall. From left to right: Colorblind James sporting his pre-red-painted Guild T-50, Kevin McDevitt, Rush Tattered, Terry O'Neil and G. Elwyn Meixner doing the slash-and-burn on his Telecaster.

1977 Buffalo, NY

It was the fall of1977 and I was in my third semester at the University of Buffalo. The band was Pretzel which we named in honor of our drummer Jeff "Pretzel" Carlo. The other guitar player pictured here is Jay Goldberg, my best friend during the two years I endured U.B. The singer, standing behind me, is Ginny. She was a theater major and had a very non-rock'n'roll voice but no one else in the band saw themselves as singers.
The first semester, we played out as an instrumental rock band doing covers like "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" and "Rocky Mountain Way" without words. The second semester, the infamous winter of 1977, saw us playing with a couple of self styled hippies on keyboards and saxophone who wanted to play Traffic covers and call the band Spring Thaw. I remember saying "Spring Thaw? Why don't we just call ourselves Sludge?" The relationship didn't last although when the Ellicott complex was snowed in for a full 10 day stretch, we were the very much in demand.

This picture was taken at the pub located in the Ellicott Comlex on the Amherst Campus. Our hits at this point were "White Rabbit", which I always hated, and a version of "Free Bird" which we timed at seven and 1/2 hours long. Six of those hours was my guitar solo.

At this point I was beginning to see myself as a real guitar hero. There was only one problem, tho': I had absolutely no sense of rhythm. I spent long hours learning how to play fast leads but when it came to playing with the rhythm section I was lost. My rhythm playing really didn't come together until I started playing with Chuck, for whom rhythm was everything. Beyond that, it was playing with the rhythm section of Jimmy Mac and Ken Frank that really helped me pull it together.

1976 Oswego, NY

This picture of me was taken during a typical evening at the Holiday Harbor Hotel. In my pre-Les Paul days I played the 1968 Guild Starfire V seen here which I had purchased a few years back from a real guitar hustler who lived across the street from me. The guitar was beautiful and went with me to San Francisco although it always took a back seat to my Les Paul.

Before I left S.F. I was hard up for cash and ended up selling it to my friend Andrea. She is literally my oldest friend on the planet (since I was five) and when I finally re-connected with her via email, she assured me she still has the Guild.

The awesome hippie necklace was made for me by a 25-year-old French exchange student named Colette on whom I had a huge crush.

Where it all began? The Roots of Rex?

Yes, my friends, that's yours truly on the far right at the ripe old age of 17. From left: Paul Vandish (19) , Bill Barlow (21), Jack Barlow (37) and Joe Trionfero (24). The year was 1976 and I was on the verge of graduating from Oswego High School when I joined up with this "50s, 60s and light rock" band after answering an ad in the Oswego Palladium Times. It was my first band and we landed a regular gig at the Holiday Harbor Hotel playing every Wednesday through Friday night. Saturday night's we played at the Fulton Bowl-a-rama.
Russel Tarby, aka Rush Tattered, was writing for the Palladium times then and he gave us favorable reviews although I think he was just being kind. Chuck, who I didn't know at the time, thought we were awful. Of course.
Paul and Joe went on to form Side By Side which Ken Frank speaks of favorably to this day and without a hint of irony in his voice. For those of you who weren't there, the jumpsuits were pink (!) and bought at a women's clothing store. The suits were complemented with 4-inch heeled disco shoes. The outfits and the shoes were not my choice. My friends, the money was good.
I stayed with the band until I left for SUNY @ Buffalo that August. By that time I had been able to purchase the white Les Paul and Music Man 4X10 that stayed with me through all my San Francisco days.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Saxon Studios, cont

The folllowing was contributed by Dave McIntire:

The next lineup of CbJE also recorded at Saxon in '87, making a 45 for Jim Huey's AFM Records with "Sophisticated" as the A side, backed with Phil's great instrumental, "Havoc Theme." The single was released locally in Rochester, and these songs later made their way onto the

Fundamental Records cd release of the first album as "bonus tracks." I like the songs and the recording isn't bad, but would say that they didn't really fit in on that first album release; the newer band's sound had changed too much. Also, John Ebert, Ken Frank and I had not been in the band too long, and our sound was still coming into focus.

We (along with many other bands back then) were in a strange limbo back then, as recording formats were in such flux. 45's were still considered important for "breaking" a group, LPs were still going strong, and CDs were largely an unknown commodity, but seemed to be important. And cassettes were still a strong format, so until we made 'Solid! Behind the Times,' everything was issued on three formats, an expensive and irritating necessity.