Monday, July 28, 2014

Audioblogging: The Lightning Tape, 1985

My activities as a musician were sporadic and spasmodic. I wrote earlier about my first band which was basically a teen dada prank. After that, in 1984, I started making more "serious" music with a guy I'll call Joe Humble (he came up with this pseudonym), a fabulously talented guitarist who had previously been in Clean Dog, probably my favorite ever local Tucson art/punk band. Throughout the Summer of 1984, we played several two-man shows, achieving a bit of notoriety for our noisy, unconventional music. We used backing tapes. We were arty. We played at a bar in a shopping mall!

In 1985, I took a semester off college and returned to Tucson, and Joe and I picked up where we left off. This time, however, we found a great friend, Diane Griffin**,  a friendly and adept punk rock bass player, who was interested in working with us because she wanted to make some more interesting music. The name we chose, PS Bingo, is meaningless, and we instantly hated it. We ended up making flyers for shows using different band names (sometimes more than one for a single show) with (formerly PS Bingo) written underneath.

Practice space was a bit of a problem. We tried a couple of times in my brother's old bedroom, but the ambiance was wrong. One night, the three of us met at Joe's parent's house to work on some ideas. This was in the middle of an incredible thunderstorm with tons of lightning striking close to the house.

The music we came up with that evening wasn't all that great: a lot of "noodling" and meandering that didn't progress in any meaningful direction. What we didn't know, however, was the impact all the lightning was having on the 4-track recording we made of the session! In fact, "mother nature" considerably transformed this lackluster jam session: randomly switching on and off different inputs, muffing some tracks while exaggerating others, switching unexpectedly from one layer of noise to the next. Nature's remix really pulled this one off, and that is the first track on this "album". It's 15 minutes of audio catastrophe! If you like tape hiss, you will LOVE IT.

We needed a proper practice space where we could get loud. Joe asked the drummer from his old band, Dave Perry, if we could use his warehouse space, and were thrilled when he agreed. We were even more thrilled when Dave, bored with playing in lite Jazz and top 40 cover bands (dude had chops), offered his services as a drummer. Rhythm section completed!

We ended up playing quite a bit in Tucson, but I don't think we made much of an impact at all. Since Joe and I had basically picked up a rock band rhythm section, we sounded much more "rock" than we had as a twosome, but it was a weird, kinda Pere Ubu-type rock. No commercial potential, and we never tried to achieve any. The best parts of our live shows were when Joe and Diane, who was getting better and better each day, would both play bass for several pieces. We mostly played on Monday nights at a steakhouse. Sometimes we had a trombone player!

So the remaining tracks here are four versions of three songs from our earliest practice sessions with Dave Perry on drums. One of them is really bad. Can you tell which?

I don't know... I can't really judge this stuff objectively. It's awkward nerd music made by awkward nerd people in Arizona in the mid 1980s, OK?

Download the Zip archive (40mb), which includes 28 minutes of music and artwork, here.

**Diane Griffin, by the way, is the same Pony Pal™ Diane who frequently comments on this blog! Diane now lives in Boston, and you should follow her on Twitter here.

If anybody is interested in more, there is more.


Comradde PhysioProffe said...


Peteykins said...


Diane Griffin said...

I reposted this on my Facebook page. I am really proud of this band. I think it was my favorite one I was ever in.

True story: We rehearsed maybe a total of 9 times in the whole life of the band. At the end of the summer, Both Peter and Joe moved away. I was sad! But the next summer they both came back to town and on short notice Joe (I think it was Joe) got us booked to play the hipster hippest downtown club. No time for rehearsals, I think everybody just listened to tapes like these before we walked on stage.

I think it was just part of the attitude of the band: we really didn't care what people thought of us, it was almost a confrontational thing, except we weren't even that invested in it. We just played, and kind of expected people not to get it.

So anyway, after not having been all together in the same room for a year, much less played together, we played a perfect set. It was as though it had been a week since we'd played last.

I'll always remember that as one of the best musical experiences of my life.

And yeah, Peter, post more! :)

Comradde PhysioProffe said...

Yes! Loving this music!

Peteykins said...

Well then! For you, Comradde, and for Diane, I will post more!

joeh said...

ditto Diane: what a fantastic experience. my youngest brother saw the show you mention and has occasionally waxed rhapsodic about it.

PhysioProffe said...

Bulimia Rhapsody is my favorite song so far!