Pablo Novelas, (Paul Snyder) lead singer, guitarist for The Dirty Novels, the libertines of the local scene, is ditching the Dirt City for Philly (?) He's gonna play in an R&B/Soul garage band. I hope they wear 70's style afro wigs, that would be cool. The Dirty Novels brought style, class and some retro, boozy, "this is what the Stones would sound like if they had been Mods" rock & roll to this old town. The Dirty Novels will always rank as one of the very best local bands, their catalog of albums (they never recorded a bad one) is testament to their talent. Good Luck Pablo.
Friday, August 26, 2011
"So fill your pockets, lace your shoes, but keep your feet tied to the ground"
Grants, unlike other New Mexico cities has no distinguishing quirks to set it apart. Gallup has the Navajo Nation, Farmington has Mormons, Bernalillo has corruption and ignorance, Los Lunas has corruption and ignorance, Belen has corruption and rodeo livestock. Grants has nothing, with no uranium mining left, the interstate is its saving grace
Interstate towns in New Mexico tend to be a little different from the rest of the state. Just the fact that thousands of people pass by daily changes a town's character. Through osmosis these towns become mainstream and less provincial. For travelers along these mother roads they epitomize everything that is stereotypically American.
"My calloused fingers, pay their dues, by plucking strings to make sound"
Zagadka* hails from Grants, lead singer, guitarist Adam Abeyta, drummer Jameson Ray and bass player Matt Garcia formed the band in 2003. All three were chums at Grants Hs. (Go Pirates!) After graduation they all enrolled at UNM. Thus, Zagadka continued to rock in the bright lights and big city of Albuquerque (where they're now based). *Zagadka is Polish for enigma, puzzle or riddle
Funny how with all these genre tags and labels, nothing ever seems to fit quite right. That doesn't stop music fans, writers or me from categorizing bands. Zagadka is alternative, post hardcore, new metal, emocore... they're a fucking blender mix of styles. This band is the floppy eared American mutt that you can love to death. Small town guys, steeped in tradition with big heads full of big time dreams.
"If Minus the Bear met up with Portugal the Man would he eat him?"
The men of Zagadka kept up with their college classes, while playing regularly at local venues. They've opened for and played with a who's who of post hardcore/ emo bands including Lydia, Head Automatica, As Tall As Lions, The Dear Hunter, Tera Melos etc. They also toured during the summer of 2011 with Sputniq. Playing a variety of clubs, house parties and parking lots across the western states.
For part-timers the band is extremely competent. Musically they play a mash-up of melodic alternative metal and post hardcore. Adam Abeyta (I assume he's the primary songwriter) is an earnest bard, but the lyrics border on the obtuse and are at times almost nonsensical. It strikes me as the work of young man who has not yet fully experienced the world.
"We smell a finish in the near future"
In 2010, the band took a short hiatus while Jameson Ray recovered from a serious hand injury. Once back in action they focused on finishing up their debut album "Wells." (which was finally released this year) Four tracks and lyrics are posted on their otherwise abandoned MySpace Music page. The album is the basis for higher expectations, the songs I've heard are nicely produced, well crafted and energetically infectious.
For a young band they've done very well, and if this is as far as they get... they've still gone further than most. It seems that with school back in session, they've now returned to the classroom. The band's activity has subsequently dropped off. Their most recent appearance was a Duke City club date in June. An optimistic entry on their Facebook wall declares them "Still Alive" so we probably haven't heard the last from the Zags.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
In this age of genres and sub genres Math rock has got to be my favorite. At its core this genre is nothing more than an updated version of the same music Frank Zappa and the prog rockers of the 1970's were playing. Kidcrash certainly incorporate elements of Zappa's music into their own. They also follow the same noisy path as At The Drive In/The Mars Volta/Sparta to whom they compare favorably.
Math rock is a guitar & drum based style that flows along a complex jazz like groove. The drums are more prominent in this style, with the interplay between the drummer and guitarists the foundation of the sound. It's the stylistic difference between it and other styles, vocals and lyrics are just a small part of the mix. Unlike, Shoegaze or Emo-Screamo which tend to showcase the singers with the band doing little more than laying down a backing track.
Math rock is today's thinking man's rock music, which was the role of musicians like Frank Zappa, King Crimson, Gentle Giant etc. in their day. It's defined by hard rock instrumentation, complex stop and go rhythmic changes, with the instrumental interplay carrying the melody rather than the vocals. The most devoted Math Rock bands don't even bother with a singer, preferring the instrumental approach.
The genre's name comes from the (mathematical) complexity of the music, its asymmetrical time signatures and syncopated meters. Or, you can believe Matt Sweeney, singer for math rock pioneers Chavez. He claims that a friend of his would bust out a calculator and start calculating just how good he thought their music was... as a way of making fun of them.
Complicated like algebra and mind boggling like trigonometry, but you don't need a calculator to know how good Kidcrash is. They are an experimental post hardcore / emo / screamo / math rock / mathcore band..(say that three times and Cedric Bixler-Zavala will magically appear) Kidcrash started out in Santa Fe in 2000 (they're now based in Portland) Over the years they've maintained the same line-up. (Alex Gaziano, John Gee, Kevin Brouse & Buster Ross) This stability shows in their music, they are fucking tight, both in the studio and on the stage.
Alex is also known for having recorded an ep with Zach Condon "Small Time American Bats" shortly before Kidcrash was formed. A recording that didn't offer any clues as to the direction both would take. Much has been said about the band's change in "sound" after the "New Ruins" album in 2004. Which was more a result of their label Lujo Records screwing them over than any artistic differences. The dispute over I-Tune sales forced the band to ask fans not to buy the mp3 tracks, but rather download the entire album from their website. To this day all of the band's music is available for download either for free or for a donation... by all means please donate.
Kidcrash went from emocore to math rock, the band's subsequent releases Jokes (2007) and Snacks (2009) showed the band evolving into a cohesive and mature unit. It gets harder to pull off the whole Emo thing as you get older, what with beer guts sagging over skinny jeans, porn star mustaches and full beards. Plus, no matter what anybody thinks Chuck Taylors look stupid on men pushing 35 (I'm looking at you Jim Ward) With this in mind, Kidcrash have grown up, they've put their sad eyed ways behind them, even if their fans haven't.
this ain't your typical pretty boy emo band
Saturday, August 20, 2011
During that same period, Zach did issue one ep called "Small-Time American Bats, under the name of "1971" That project was a collaboration with Alex Gaziano ,who also hails from Santa Fe. Alex is a founding member of Kidcrash, a band that started out in Santa Fe but has since relocated to Portland.
Before Gulag Orkestar shot him to fame, there was Zach Condon, teenager and future UNM student recording alone at home. In this makeshift studio Zach recorded at least 21 tracks, under the working title of "Realpeople" Not to be confused with the "Holland" ep released as a two-fer with "March of the Zapotec" Those tracks were also credited to Realpeople, which tricked some people into thinking that "Holland" included some of Zach's home recordings, which it did not.
The Realpeople recordings have been floating around since Gulag was first released. These bedroom recordings had grown to legendary status due mostly to their rarity. Well, that's no longer the case as 21 tracks designated as "The Joys of Losing Weight" (don't know if that title came from Zach or other sources) are now up on YouTube. Keep in mind that these songs are works in progress, seminal in nature and not fully realized. Although, with some TLC in the studio, they would sparkle brilliantly.
It's often been said that these tracks emulate Magnetic Fields, the principal creative outlet of singer-songwriter Stephin Merritt. To a certain degree..yes, but overall Zach was pursuing a wider range of influences. Like James Mercer he was tuned in to the Elephant Six collective of bands and musicians. (Robert Schneider- Apple in Stereo, Bill Doss & Will Cullen Hart- The Olivia Tremor Control, Jeff Mangum- Neutral Milk Hotel etc.) And of course we know of the support he received from Jeremy Barnes (Neutral Milk Hotel) & Heather Trost (Foma) early in his career.
During this period Zach was experimenting with different sounds and ideas (dub, electronica, lo-fi) And through this tangled mess of inspiration, we start to see his precocious talent building. (He was in his mid-teens at the time) Synthesized beats and low key vocals dominate the proceedings, with some occasional brass instrumentation and strings dropped into the mix. None of the tracks on "The Joys of Losing Weight" have titles, they are designated simply as Untitled 1, Untitled 2 etc. which makes reviewing individual songs rather pointless.
Untitled 1 is a crude, sparse instrumental version of "Payne's Bay" from "The Rip Tide" Untitled 15 is an early version of "The Shrew" from "March of the Zapotec" Untitled 6 with its disembodied voices and electronic auto beats shows another direction that Zach could've taken. "The Joys of Losing Weight gives us a glimpse of Zach Condon in the midst of an ambitious phase of his early musical evolution. The songs are charming in their simplicity and understated brilliance. His dalliances with electronica and lo-fi pop make it clear that had he chosen to follow that path, he would still be worshipped as a band geek god. To summarize: I can't help but think that Zach's infatuation with Balkan music and Chanson were the side-projects, and that the future for Mr. Condon is in fact... his past.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
The lights are down, go on inside, they've paid.
It's a joyous sound...come forth... Zach Condon has come down from the mountain top and holds not stone tablets, but a new album "The Rip Tide." The new songs are almost sublime, awash in soothing vocals and musical sounds. The music is relaxed and loose, unlike Gulag Orkestar and The Flying Club Cup, the fellas seem to be having fun. Both of those previous albums felt like academic studies.. Euro Music 101. While they were beautiful and groundbreaking they lacked a warm fuzzy center.
Gulag Orkestar was a radical departure from everything we had ever heard. "The Flying Club Cup" was showy and cocky flaunting it's French chanson influences like a line of can-can dancers. But we see now that both of those albums were a whimsical indulgence, an artistic exploration of musical boundaries. On this album Zach's vocals ooze with confidence, gone is the beerhall bellow of old, replaced by actual soulful singing. This is the first album from Zach since 2009's "March of the Zapotec/Holland" a release that was to say the least... underwhelming. Although, in retrospect "Holland" was a dress rehearsal for "The Rip Tide"
The colloquialism of "March of The Zapotec" was hard on the ears for casual listeners (unless you have a Mexican brass fetish) The flip side, Holland was not "The Joys of Losing Weight" just a close approximation. On "The Rip Tide" Zach throws everything into the blender: Pop, Balkan and Mexican styles. The brass on "The Rip Tide" is accessible, but there is a subtle shift away from the Eastern European influences.
headstrong today, I've been headstrong
"Payne's Bay" starts soft and sweet with strings and accordion, "I can't belong to the dirt.. I can't put on your fire" then it breaks into a stunningly beautiful brass recital backed by muted drums and serene vocals "This town's alone and therefore, I see no end in sight" On "Port of Call/Cuixmala" Zach uses horns where others would use guitars or strings, the result is awe inspiring. "Santa Fe" like other songs on the album sounds vaguely familiar. Zach's pays homage to the city he grew up in without relying on stereotypical imagery. "The Peacock" builds to a quiet climax, achingly beautiful and introspective.
"The Rip Tide" strikes me as the hit "And this is the house where I feel alone" a David Letterman showcase tune for sure. Wanderlust and regret are the topic on "Vagabond" "Left a trail of stones to find my way home" Beauty incarnate, describes "A Candle's Fire" horns usher in Zach's yearning vocals."Tonight we rest beside the fire, a smile upon your face, Just don't forget a candle's fire is only just a flame" We float on air over the New York City skyline on "East Harlem" Zach's love for his adopted home shines through. "Goshen" takes the emotional level up a notch. I'll admit that it's a song that leaves me with tears streaming down my face. It really is that hauntingly beautiful "You're the face in stone, through the land I own, you never found it home."
shake the tree and see what falls out of there
So often, the long wait between albums is hardly worth while, that's not the case with "The Rip Tide." After "March of the Zapotec/Holland" I told myself, the next album will have to be a masterpiece. The music is drop dead gorgeous, the album is nearly flawless, it exceeds the craziest of expectations. "The Rip Tide" was set for an Aug. 30th release, but was leaked to YouTube and has been out for a few weeks already. While it's good for music fans, it can't be much good for the musicians. Buy the album, you won't be disappointed.
Saturday, August 13, 2011
The last part of Dirt City Chronicles' tribute to Borderland Radio legend Steve Crosno. Steve in all his glory, told in his own words, decked out in his fab Tina Turner wig, the pompadour and shaggy dreadlocks, what more could you ask for? "And I say that with all humility... with this hair"
This installment of Dirt City Chronicle's tribute to Steve Crosno comes to us from Manuel Rivera, author of Crosno Blog.com. The website is a labor of love that honors that great borderlands disc jockey and personality. It's also a treasure trove of El Paso musical memories... a tip of the hat to Mr. Rivera. Steve Crosno was always sharp, but on this particular day, he was spot on, hitting his cue and funny as hell! "All accordions...all the time, day and night, night and day, all accordions all the time day after day, week after week...." http://crosnoblog.com/
Friday, August 12, 2011
So it came to be that on a beautiful Indian Summer afternoon, as the sun went down and it started to cool off, we waited for our dedications. We weren't alone, thousands of folks in Southern New Mexico were doing the same thing.. listening to Crosno. Nothing would ever be this right or good again, a moment forever fixed in time. Within a year Steve would pass away, it shows in his voice but not in his spirit...
I recorded this on a cassette tape straight off the air, I later converted it to an mp3 file.
He was inherently a small-town guy, in love with his hometown and it's people
Steve Crosno embodied the community that he grew up in, he was a product of his surroundings. His appeal to Mexican-Americans has always struck some people as a novelty. Plenty has been written often with great emotion, about how Chicanos felt accepted and their culture validated by his efforts. But the truth is that it worked for him and he knew it, he was a white man embracing Chicano Culture, it made him different. His multi-ethnic appeal gained him a loyal following and endeared him to subsequent generations of listeners.
Crosno's own ethnic background (Greek, Italian?) made it easier for him to gain acceptance within the Hispanic community. For the most part, his fans assumed he was Chicano or just didn't care one way or the other. Steve's career mirrored that of Art Laboe, the d.j. credited with coining the term "Oldies but Goodies." Laboe (who is Armenian, born Arthur Egnoian) became closely associated with SoCal Chicano culture by releasing a series of Oldies compilation albums. His syndicated "Killer Oldies" radio show and live music dance shows are things of legend on the west coast.
Lots of labels could apply to Steve, he was full of contradictions. Flamboyant, outrageous, attention seeking and yet humble, spiritual and generous to a fault. His self deprecating humor made him the butt of his own jokes and gags. Steve often second guessed his career choices, suffering through bouts of anxiety and self doubt. Despite his personal demons, he always stood up to his program directors to maintain control of his playlist and the format. It was that dogged determination got him run from almost every station he worked at.
We're not superstitious, We're Mexican!
Steve got his start in radio as a sixteen year old while still enrolled at Las Cruces Hs. In 1956 he started hosting a one hour Saturday afternoon show on KGRT. By 1959, KELP El Paso's Top 40 powerhouse had lured him away. After starting out on the overnight shift, he moved to days and got good ratings. This led to an offer from a station in San Diego that he couldn't refuse. In 1961, for the first and only time in his life, Steve packed up and left home.
His stay in San Diego only lasted a few months, he soon found himself hopelessly homesick. Worse yet, Crosno's El Chuco schtick that played so well back home went over like a lead balloon in the Southland. He returned home to rejoin the staff at KELP. Upon his return, Steve landed a weekly television show "Crosno's Hop" that can only be described as Mexican-American Bandstand. That show would run for eight years making his gaudy pompadour and lamb chop sideburns a common sight around Southern New Mexico.
Crosno's enjoyed his greatest success at KELP. His show shot to number one, pulling in average Arbitron ratings of over 12.0 peaking with a 14.5 in 1965. That year KELP switched over to Drake's Boss Radio format, and the thought of Steve Crosno sticking to the script and working within the restrictions of a tight format seemed impossible. However, Steve did just that and it made him the top disc jockey in the El Paso/Las Cruces metroplex. Around this time he also founded his own record label: Frog Death which was home to a number of local garage punk bands and soul combos. Working out of his home studio he produced several 45rpm vinyl 7 inchers, which if you can find them today are prized collector's items.
If You See Kay...Tell her, I love her
As always Steve wound up butting heads with management, and by 1968 he was gone from KELP and back at KGRT. For Crosno it was like driving a Cadillac one day and a go-kart the next. He made the best of it, supplementing his income by hosting a weekly schedule of live dances across El Paso and Southern New Mexico. His KGRT Top 100, New Year's Day countdowns were classic all day affairs. "Tears of a Clown" was #1 in 1969, I know this because my sister and I sat there and wrote each one down as they were announced and played. (Hey Jude was #1 in 1968)
In 1972 Steve was hired as program director and morning host at XEROCK-80, but the canned format was stiff and management quickly pulled the plug*. His often abrasive relationships with station p.d.'s turned Crosno into a radio gypsy as he wandered the airwaves for several years. By 1980 he had settled in at KSET where he rode a second wave of popularity, spinning hits for the disco masses (who were in the majority around El Paso/Las Cruces)**
* Crosno hired Chicano D.J.s from San Antonio's KONO (Rudy Rocha etc.) investors apparently got cold feet at the thought of a station aimed primarily at Mexican-Americans and went in a different direction. The syndicated programming that augmented the live broadcast was a lame format called "Rock of the World" it failed miserably.
** Crosno's success at KSET came on the heels of XEROCK-80's demise, that legendary border blaster having switched to a Spanish language Norteno Music format.
"Get out of the wheat field, mother, you're running against the grain".
During his stay at KSET his trademark became an Afro wig.. which brings us to the subject of his baldness. Contrary to the story that Steve would tell: (A hiking accident in the Gila Wilderness that left him with a broken arm and leg, caused all his hair to fall out.) By his mid-twenties he was already going bald. A series of tacky wigs, starting with the pompadour, became his trademarks.
He had a rat's nest of them, an 80's rocker wig with a skunk stripe, a heavy metal hair farmer wig, one he called Tina Turner, and his favorite which resembled a dreadlock experiment gone horribly wrong.
As the years passed by, Steve moved from one station to another. He always found work either as a program director, on air or both. His mother whom he lived with and took care of passed away. Steve retreated into his custom studio at home, he was starting to have health problems of his own. By the year 2000 he was down to a weekly show on KVLC, an oldies station that is by far the most listened to of all Las Cruces stations.
Uh! Uh! Uh! will you look at the time...
Every Sunday afternoon the sound of Cruzin' With Crosno floated along the lower Rio Grande Valley... El Paso, Las Cruces, Hatch, Hot Springs, Anthony, Canutillo, Clint, Fabens, Tornillo. North to Alamogordo and the Tularosa basin, through the mountain gaps west into Deming and on good days Silver City got in on the action. For those four hours the world belonged to Steve Crosno, and we were happy to be a part of it.
My favorite memory of Steve Crosno and I have many...will always be shooting hoops in the driveway on a glorious Sunday afternoon in the fall of 2005. We had called in a dedication and were biding our time till the man acknowledged us and gave us his blessing. It's a moment in life that you can't easily describe or forget.
Within a year of that day, Steve Crosno passed away, having suffered from a myriad of health problems in his last years. Every week his voice had grown progressively thinner and weaker, but his enthusiasm never failed him. True to his generous nature and due to expenses incurred during his long illness, he died practically penniless. At the end he was reduced to living in two rooms of the house that he once owned.*** Steve Crosno was not a big man, but he did have a big heart.
***A fan of Steve's had bought the house to save it from foreclosure, he allowed Steve to live there and use the custom studio. Upon Steve's death KVLC announced that they would broadcast archived shows every week, but then quickly backed off that plan. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of hours (airchecks) of Steve's shows out there.
Dedicated to the ones we love
The Borderland has long had a love affair with radio, nothing in Albuquerque can really compare to it. El Paso's radio scene has always been highly competitive, this kept El Chuco's on-air personalities constantly looking for an advantage. Steve thrived in that environment, he was a man constantly on the edge, re-inventing radio as he went along. Over a period of almost fifty years, day in and day out, Steve Crosno gave it his all....God Bless the D.J. man.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Noise: is the general word for any loud, unmusical or disagreeable sound
The old axiom says that if you sit a monkey in front of a typewriter, eventually he will produce a novel. It would also reason that if a human being tweaks knobs on a shitload of electrical gizmos and gadgets, after a while he may coax something that resembles music from them. Many of us were first exposed to noise as music by the caterwauling of Yoko Ono. Who not only killed off the Beatles, but tried to do the same to music in general. However, time the avenger has been kind to Yoko, music historians have revised their views and now heap praise on her.
Lou Reed was the first artist on a major label to purposely pose the question: "Is this music or is it just noise?" The release of Metal Machine Music in 1975 left many fans scratching their heads and holding their noses. Some people even tried returning the album thinking the vinyl was defective. As a member of Columbia House, I got the album as punishment for not mailing back "the card." I wrote back (no e-mail in those days) "I'm not paying for this, it's not even music!" By then it had started to grow on me, but I wasn't fooled. Reed in order to get out of his contract with RCA, had dumped this turd on the paying public. Fuck you Lou!, he did however inspire an entire generation of noise aficionados.
Dude! play that drone with the funky break
This is an underground scene, and experimination is its calling card. It's not pop or rock music, in fact it's hardly music at all. Mostly what you get is a droning stream of monotonous hiss and hum accented by feedback or static. It could hardly be classified as entertainment, not that it's meant to entertain in the traditional sense. The mavens of sound art, sit or squat on the floor and diddle about like they're playing with an etch-a-sketch. In some cases like The Haters (you don't hate them...they hate you) they lurch around while swinging or stroking suitcases. There is a random variable at work, which can change the outcome of each performance. The indeterminacy of composition allows the artists to constantly create music sound rather than relying on a catalog of rehearsed musical works.
The underground noise/ electronica scene is a response to the herd mentality of commercial music fans and major labels. It's the deconstruction of the pop idiom, however The Residents and the No Wave movement have already done this, with more creativity and better results. If the idea is to create something that will shock 'n awe the squares, it fails to do so. Maybe you have to be hip to get this... I'm not hip and I don't get it, but then I'm a conventional guy. I want my music to be discernible and my thoughts free of pretension. Take me to the edge, assault my eyes and ears, just don't fucking bore me.
The no fuss and no tears formula
Baby Shampoo are not boring anyone, Peyote Tapes describes them as "New Mexico's crustiest (and only) all girl noise unit" They build around the sound of an electric guitar laid out on the floor, which is manipulated with pedals and switches. The drones and distortion move along at a languid pace while maintaining some semblance of a "rock sound" Which is what separates them from other noise acts, by comparisson they're downright listener friendly.
Baby Shampoo is Malinda Monster (no relation to Gila) Nico Nice and DJ Tahnee. Live @ muykind the sole track posted on their MySpace Music page rocks out unexpectedly. It sounds like someone recorded Jimi Hendrix, passed out with his guitar still plugged into a live amp and his teeth clenched onto the strings. There's also a link on their page to a website where you can stream or download their entire set from Titwrench 2010. Which I would recommend, it's an efficient performance that cooly walks the fine line between chaos and control.
MySpace Music is one of my favorite research tools. Which makes me a music archaeologist, digging through the remnants of a people that mysteriously vanished. Though gone with the wind, they left us their band info, photos and music. For all I know Baby Shampoo could be defunct... if they are it's a cryin' shame. It's hard to keep your finger on the pulse when exiled to outer reaches of the territory. I live in the desert and lately it's been hot as hell.
The enlightened blog Things in Light recently posted an 8-track podcast that includes Baby Shampoo performing at Titwrench and some other really nifty cutting edge Albuquerque music.
Friday, August 5, 2011
After a desperate job search I found myself working at a fire damage restoration company. It was the spring of 1981 and I kept running into people from Seattle. It seems that jobs were scarce in the Northwest, not that jobs were all that abundant in Albuquerque either. Anyhow, it was a weird, dysfunctional company run by a creepy egomaniac and staffed by assorted goofballs (myself included)
I soon found myself working with Joe, an amiable fellow from the state of Washington. He quickly became known as Joe from Seattle and he was far more pleasant than my previous work partner, Clint, or as we liked to call him "The prick from the sticks." He was from some podunk town near Austin, and he swore that everything from McDonald's to toilets were bigger and better in Texas. Clint didn't last long, he broke under pressure (i.e. everyone was ready to kick his ass), but Joe was cool he smoked weed so we hit it off from the start.
Joe called me one Saturday morning and asked if I had any smoke. I did, and after a quick daredevil bike ride from Chelwood down to University, I arrived at his apartment. Joe was a musician, I never met someone from Seattle that wasn't. He was an above average guitar player and it wasn't long before he was strumming along to whatever tune was in his head. That's when Brad got there, he wasn't from Seattle, Brad struck me as midwestern, Cleveland maybe, an uptight skinny blond dude in a land where that makes you stick out like a sore thumb. Once we sat down, he told Joe to play some Beatles, when Joe asked him which one, Brad turned to me "What do you want to hear?" without hesitation I told him "She's a Woman" Joe immediately started playing the intro and Brad joined in "My love don't give me presents.." These guys were good, they had their phony Beatlemania licks and British accented harmonies down pat.
Brad then pulled out a file folder full of notes, drawings and lyrics, he spread them out on the coffee table. It was his template for rock stardom. He had a band name "The Crackers" he had a logo, a Ritz cracker with "Crackers" stamped on it. I raised an eyebrow as he explained "Just think of the sponsorship deal we could make with Ritz" Next he explained that the band members would dress like Revolver era Beatles, he then turned to Joe and admonished him "You'll need to lose weight, you know that?" chubby Joe looked hurt and anxious, but said nothing.
Brad continued, their first video would be shot on the roof of a downtown building, just like the Beatles. Joe blurted out in a Liverpudlian accent "I've got blisters on me fingers" Brad wasn't amused. Their first album would be enclosed in a round cover sleeve that would resemble a Ritz cracker. "What do you think?" he asked, I shrugged, the weed was taking hold, the conversation lost its momentum. "Pipe dreams" I thought to myself, It's time for me to go home. Joe got fired a month later and I never saw him again.
A year or so later, I opened the local paper and there's an article describing a new band and their lead singer. The band was The Crackers, I checked the photo, Brad was front and center, Joe wasn't in it. About a week later while watching the local news, I saw a report that a local band was filming a video downtown, it was the Crackers. I rushed off to find the album, but nobody had it in stock. A disturbing glitch in Brad's master plan, after a few trips to Natural Sounds I gave up on finding a copy of the disc.
Brad had hedged his bet that a blitz of publicity would offset the band's lack of name recognition. He was hoping to build a fan base without grinding it out in shitty local clubs. Instead he would let the media do the work. It was a brilliant plan, maybe even ahead of its time, but it was doomed to failure. Ultimately all the shrewd marketing tricks up his sleeve weren't enough to save the band from the trash heap of indifference.
Let's jump ahead to 1983, I'm at the 7-11 on the corner of San Pedro & San Antonio in the far Northeast Heights. I'm waiting to make a phone call (before cell phones, we used pay phones at convenience stores) when I saw a familiar face restocking the USA Today rack. It was Brad, he looked at me but failed to make the connection. He looked around nervously, either embarrassed or afraid he was going to get robbed. Before I could call him over, he quickly jumped back into a shitty Subaru, piled high with newspapers and sped off.
I had to chuckle as I watched him, what a strange turn of events. The best laid plans sometimes go asunder, fate is fickle and fame is fleeting. Today a video star...tomorrow a chump. One of my buddies came out of the store in time to see Brad scramble. "Who the fuck was that?" he asked, "That was the lead singer for The Crackers" I replied, "No shit, looks like a paperboy to me." he answered.