stevenhager420

counterculture history, conspiracy theory & reviews

Scream (West Side version)

with 10 comments

I recently started listening to some old tapes recorded at my Upper West Side apartment back in 1986 when the band first started, and I was amazed at how great the band sounds using a Walkman Pro with stereo mike to record. One of the first things I did after forming the band was invest in a small PA system. If we were going to rehearse in my apartment, I wanted the singers to be able to blast over the amps and drums. And I didn’t want to rely on the crummy house PA’s that you always find in the bottom-tier of venues. On hot days we’d open the window and just let it blast! Saturday afternoons were our usual rehearsal time. I knew we had something when a bunch of people hanging out the windows in the building across the street on West End Avenue all started applauding and cheering after we finished a particularly rousing version of “All Night Long,” a ’60s garage tune from Texas that’s particularly hard to play. That first spring we actually developed a fan club in the windows across the street who knew our regular rehearsal schedule. Later, we moved the rehearsals to real rehearsal rooms and eventually to Giorgio Gomelsky’s, as my building started rattling sabers about the noise. It didn’t help that the super lived in the apartment next to me, or that we had clouds of marijuana smoke drifting into the elevators.

Bands and sports teams are very similar in that they rely on energy harmony and transference. Some days the energy and harmony and transference are working, and some days they’re not. Going into studios to record would always boost our energy, but it could never guarantee those transcendent performances. Flick especially seemed to do his best work when the band was alone, or even late at night when we were just hanging out drinking beers and smoking joints, when he’d suddenly bust into his Lil’ Miscreant cartoon character and start channeling the ghost of Elvis or anybody else he wanted to. But once Flick got on stage, much of that improvisational energy would evaporate, and while Flick always put on great performances, that special magic we knew existed deep inside him seldom surfaced full bloom in recording studios or even onstage. To give a little demonstration of this, in case people think I’m just talking shit, I just put an alternative version of “Scream,” the first rock song I ever wrote on bandcamp just so our fans can hear that other Flick Ford for the first time. I believe this was recorded the same afternoon as that rousing version of “All Night Long.” Certainly the performances are better on this than any other version I know. And this was the original version of “Scream,” before Gordon Spaeth told us my song sounded too much like “Have Love,” and I re-jigged the guitar riff and sped up the tempo. After Flick goes off you can hear Brandel step up to the plate and knock his guitar solo out of the park, and if you listen close, you’ll hear Brian do the same thing on his bass soon afterwards.

http://theoriginalsoulassassins.bandcamp.com/track/scream-west-side-version

In case you just stumbled onto this blog, I’ve been telling the stories about the Finchley Boys and Knight Riders (and Seeds of Doubt)  from central Illinois from 1966-69, while, at the same time, telling the story of the Soul Assassins, my New York City garage band from 1986-89. Check out my free eBooks, links top-right column. And thanks for stopping by.

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10 Responses

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  1. Shoulda done Death Ray Mama that night I was toxic-fied on who knows what… Brian popped in a cassette and played a mean little boogie he had recorded on his 4-track Teac playing all the instruments – and I sang, “Death ray mama mean lean and green, gotta vaporiza and a time machine, don’t put me inna ‘tomic vaporiza – gonna stick my head outta window and holla!” Then I actually did turn into Elvis and spat out some absurd scat, screaming, gurgling and writhing around. Lord, I was weird…. Steve I think you missed it, but Bob and Brian witnessed it, they were on the floor!

    Flick Ford

    February 19, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    • Pretty sure I caught a couple of those improv performances, one at Brian’s and one at your crib, and if I recall Elvis’ ghost made an appearance in both….if we just could have found a way to bottle that energy…..

      Steven Hager

      February 20, 2012 at 7:59 am

  2. Dig it!

    Dave Rodway

    February 19, 2012 at 7:33 pm

  3. Steve- you must have dug into the crypt for that. I think it was the first time we played Scream.

    and Flick – even though I was well-afflicted at the time, I could swear the title was “Martian Death Ray Mama”. I don’t remember many lyrics or much of the tune… but I do recall one part of my brain warning some other part: “this is some of the finest shit you’re EVER going to hear.”

    No recording… It belongs to the planets now.

    Brandel

    February 20, 2012 at 3:15 am

    • Could be the second, but can’t be the first, that tape is marked and I haven’t digitized it yet. I’ve transferred about 7 tapes so far, all from pre-1989, and this one tape really jumps out as superior, both in sound quality and band performance.

      Steven Hager

      February 20, 2012 at 8:03 am

  4. Talking about Urbana/Champaign bands – there was a rhythm and blues band from the North End in the mid 1960s. I can’t remember the name of the band but it had one white saxophone player who was in the same year of junior high/high school as me. Anyone remember them? They were pretty good and used to play a lot in the black clubs of Central Illinois.

    Don H

    February 20, 2012 at 4:15 am

    • Are you thinking of the Gay Poppers?

      Steven Hager

      February 20, 2012 at 7:11 am

      • Yeah, the Gay Poppers ;-) Though, at that time the name didn’t have the connotation it was to get soon after. They cut some records – can’t remember if just singles or an album with some independent. Would love to find out more about them. They played some good R & B.

        Don H

        February 20, 2012 at 8:38 am

  5. Marvin and the Gay Poppers, Brandel might know the story behind that weird name, he did play with them for a bit I think….

    Steven Hager

    February 20, 2012 at 8:01 am

  6. Yes, the Gaypoppers was an R&B band started by the Lane brothers and their dad in the late ’50s. I do not know what “gaypopper” was slang for in the ’50s, but I’m sure it had something to do with fun. The personnel and size of the band changed wildly over the years, from 3 to 14 pieces, the one constant being the drummer and leader of the band, Eddie Lane. Eddie was an amazing drummer, with a killer backbeat. And yes, the legend is true: Eddie could be playing on stage, fall asleep and not drop a beat.

    I had the opportunity to play guitar for them for a couple of years around ’68, when the group was called
    “Leroy Knox and the Gaypoppers”. We did play occasionally on campus, but mainly on the Chitlin’ Circuit
    from Rock Island, Ill. to Milan, Tenn. Gigs 3-5 nights a week. Wild times! I won’t say that trouble followed us around, but it did wait for us to show up.

    The final Gaypopper gig was in southern Illinois. When all was over, we had to take the name off of the van to help us safely get out of town. The next day we became “The Memphis Underground”.

    Great fun.

    Brandel

    February 20, 2012 at 8:08 pm


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