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!