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Mr. Hobbs and The Gargoyles

MR. HOBBS AND THE GARGOYLES “TOTAL AMNESIA/RADIX (LIVE)” 7″
(HOUSTON, TX- PRIMORDIAL, RECORDED 1982/1983)



Looks like a big, rectangular price sticker was removed from the right-hand front of this
sleeve eh.  Minimalist, homemade artwork and I love how Mr. Hobbs has the 3D/shadow effect
and the Gargoyles is in a total cheesy early 80’s font complete with “dramatic” horizontal
lines and shading.  For some reason that font brings back a lot of memories from that era
to me like the TV show That’s Incredible or something.


This copy is stamped #351 with what I am assuming was one of those hand-held stamping machines
that automatically advanced to the next number for you (I used to love pounding on those things
back then when I used them for school projects many years ago).  I guess that approach is less strenuous on your hand that handwriting each number with a pen, eh.  But how many total copies
of this record were pressed?  500? 1,000?  The record stamping device was set to go up to a
max of six digits, or 999,999 total, but I doubt that many copies are out there.

I likes how these labels look with the black lettering over the silver background, and the font used for the Primordial label and band name.  The label’s logo looks like one of those ancient computer-type fonts that are now all the “retro rage” in 2014.

Not a punk record or band but I think this is one of those outsider, homemade type of records with the do-it-yourself spirit and quirkiness that appeals to some punk fans (at least this one, eh).  And you gotta love the band name- who the hell is Mr. Hobbs and why was he associating himself with some gargoyles?!  Must be some inside, “wink wink, nod nod” band joke that none of us are privy to.  “Total Amnesia” is more of a psych song but maybe when it came out it fell into obscurity and/or was ignored because it was “too punk for psych fans but too psych for punk fans” and couldn’t find a big audience in either camp (?).  [I wonder what the Houston punk crowd (Really Red et al) thought of Mr. Hobbs, if they knew about them at all back in '82/83].  Plus the song length of 4:28 is very un-punk.  And then the flip is 7:27- ouch!  Way way more than the “2:36 max” song length rule for punk.  I am not really into the flip, “Radix”, but more about that tune later.  I want to concentrate on the song that continues to grow on me since I first heard it about 3 years ago (thanks again C.S.!), “Total Amnesia”.  I think the combination of the thin production, whiny guitar noodling, in-the-red bass playing and soft-spoken, whisper-y vocals hits it right on the money.  I find myself tapping some of the catchy drum parts that were probably purposely meant to have a hypnotic quality to them and the chorus is also catchy and hummable.  Charming little ditty and nothing over-the-top (not that it was meant to be) and really solid tune.  Too bad Total Amnesia has remained so obscure since it came out over 30 years ago.  The instrumental flipside, “Radix”, is rounounced like “Radicts” (‘member that late 80’s NYC band of the same name?) and not the phonetic pronunciation of “Ray-dicks”- at least the band says “Radicts” at the beginning of the song.  It was recorded live and maybe some of the punch was lost in the live recording process or something because this tune does not really grab me.  It kind of meanders along for me at a mediocre pace- and really feels like it’s over 7 minutes!  And maybe the absence of any vocals takes away some of the “umph!” it may have had if singer/guitarist/band leader “The Invisible Man” (aka Curt L. Schwebs) had sung on it.  Oh well, can’t win em all.  At least the A-side is a memorable one!

/files/98398-90993/02_Radix.mp3″>Radix (Live).mp3

ENDNOTES
I tried digging a
little deeper and couldn’t find out much about the band.  I found out that singer/guitarist/songwriter/band leader
Curt L. Schwebs (credited on the back of the sleeve in the band lineup
as “The Invisible Man”) also played bass for a stint in the Houston
“rock, punk and dance music” (?!) band The Businessmen sometime during the 80’s or 90’s.  On that Businessmen site, I also happened to notice that someone credited on the back of the Mr. Hobbs sleeve, Kenny Knight, had a stint playing drums in that other band too.  I have heard that some (how many?) copies of the Mr. Hobbs 7″
surfaced about 4 or 5 copies ago, supposedly from a band member or
associate (which one?).  A few copies have been sold on eBay over the
years, some of them out of Wisconsin, so maybe a former band member or
someone associated with the band relocated at some point from Texas to
Wisconsin with some unplayed copies of the record in hand (?).  It’d be
great to hear the back story behind Mr. Hobbs and The Gargoyles, or any
interesting info about them, so if you know anything please post a
comment.

And on the back of the sleeve there is a memorial to
Douglas Yankus who died in 1982 at the age of only 32.  So I looked him
up and found out that he was in some late 60’s/early 70’s Wisconsin
psych band called Soup that psych fans are into and that he actually
died from complications related to diabetes.  An interesting aside, but nothing to directly do with Mr. Hobbs and The Gargoyles.  I am grasping at straws here…


Happy 30th Birthday, Spinal Tap!

I was reminded about a week ago that today, March 2nd, 2014 is the 30th anniversary of the theatrical release of one of my FAVORITE movies of all time, This Is Spinal Tap.  So I wanted to make sure I take a few minutes to recognize this milestone and put all of my other upcoming postings on hold for now.

For me, Spinal Tap is a timeless classic that I can watch over and over again, right up there with the skateploitation classic Thrashin’ (which is a movie I should discuss at another time).

Director Rob Reiner packed so damn many laughs throughout the entire movie that it takes multiple viewings to catch all the subtleties of everything going on.  And it takes age too, I think.  Because when Spinal Tap came out I was in middle school and remember being a bit baffled at the marketing campaign they had back then. Were they a real band?  If so, why had I never heard of them?  Oh, they’ve been around since the early sixties?  I remember seeing them on the cover of Billboard Magazine in the Spring of ’84 and assuming they must be real if they were on the cover of a magazine like that.  But then I got confused because I recognized one of the band members as Lennie from the TV show Laverne and Shirley and I thought, wait, how is he in the band?  I thought he was just an actor.  Then someone called it a mockumentary and at the time I had no idea what that meant.

But I finally saw the movie a few years later, then a few years after that, then a friend of mine (Dave, RIP) got heavily into the movie in about 1990 or ’91 and so then I watched it many times with him and we both laughed our asses off and would casually quote the movie or, out of nowhere, sing Stonehenge or Listen To The Flower People or Sex Farm.  Then some years later my brother bought me a Spinal Tap DVD for Christmas and it’s been viewed many times since then.  Do they have midnight screenings of Spinal Tap?  If so, I should probably go so I can sit in a room full of other fans who can quote in at will.

The trio of Michael McKean, Harry Shearer and Christopher Guest were/are just hilarious.  They all went on to Saturday Night Live, but I remember the ’84-’85 season of SNL very fondly as Guest and Shearer were in the brilliant cast that season.  But I think JUST that one season, along with Martin Short, Billy Crystal and many others.

Anyway, I could go on and on about Spinal Tap but I promised myself I would do a short posting and just quickly commemorate the 30th birthday and be done with it. So here’s to another 30 years of us treasuring Spinal Tap.  The original movie, that is- I personally never got into any of the reunion stuff or live concerts of the band post-1984.

P.S. As usual, I have a lot of good music postings planned so stay tuned in the coming weeks for a new post of something somewhat obscure.

Neck Tie Party

NECK TIE PARTY “STRANGER STILL” 3-SONG 7″EP
(LONG ISLAND, NY- LITTLE BORIS, 1981)




There is a LOT of funny stuff happening on the front of the sleeve (more commentary
on that later!)  And more later on the THREE different sleeve variations that exist
as well.  Perhaps an episode of It Never Ends is needed!  The record also came with
a sticker insert, but then some of those were an orange day-glo color while others
were white.




The back of the sleeve is more tame and we see that this was the band lineup:
Antino Teterone- Vocals
Bwap Masterson- Bass
Caleb Macabre- Guitar
Mike Ock- Drums


You will also notice that the credits section include “Maxx The Dogg” for his
barking on the last song (listen carefully and you will hear it).  This has to
be the first time I’ve ever seen a dog credited for helping to add additional
audio on a punk record- hilarious
!



Here’s the insert sticker that came with the record,
in its orange color variation.  I think I heard one
time that this thing measured at like 5 x 7 inches,
but of course you would never know that from this
tiny-sized scan.




The band (l to r): Antino (vocals) / Caleb (guitar) / Bwap (bass) / Mike Ock (drums)
This is the original picture that was used for the above sticker insert.
Dig the singer’s moustache, which I think is a solid runner up for “best punk moustache”.
(#1 of course goes to Pat Fear (RIP) from White Flag…)



First off, gotta love the band name which is a slang phrase from the old West for someone being hanged.  Or it sounds like some kinda phrase that the Mafia would use.

Secondly, whatever the record sounds like (only one song will appeal to “purist” fans of crazy KBD-ish punk), you can tell these guys were having a good time and having FUN which is always a plus and brings a smile to my face.  The whole fun thing was lost on many bands from the KBD years who took themselves too seriously eh.

I mean, just look at the crazy artwork on the front of the sleeve (see above)- a band member with a big, unkempt 70’s beard has a sockpuppet (?!) on his hand and he looks to be having some sort of serious, pissed off dialogue with it.  Hilarious. And then the other artwork- two outstretched arms are reaching out (and about to be bit by) what might be snakes.  But they actually look more to me like two electric eels.  And then one arm has this heart tattoo on it, like one of those heart tattoos you may see with a heart and the word “Mom” above it.  However, this tattoo has a 13 letter(!) abbreviation on it and god knows that those 13 letters stand for.  Must be some kind of in-joke that only the band (or maybe only the artist) understood.  The artwork definitely lives up to the record title “Stranger Still”…

The good time vibe comes through on all 3 songs, from the over 6 minute(!) title song which is a post-punkish type of thing done at a slooooowww pace.  During this song, they try a little bit of everything as various sound effects and instruments pop up all over the place.  According to one of the sleeve variations, this song was in the Top 5 for airplay at WUSB SUNY Stonybrook in Long Island at the time, right up there with Agent Orange’s “Everything Turns Grey”.

The second song, “Little Dahlin”, is kind of a punky send up of a doo-wop song from the late 50’s or something.  With repeated listens, this song is a catchy one that has a tongue-in-cheek vibe throughout it from the self-mocking “Wee ooo-ooo-ooo!” chorus to the hilarious spoken word part near the end of the song between a guy and his lady.  The guitars sound nice on this tune and the pace is a nice, quicker one.  And then the sound effects at the end of the song with the sped-up noises is funny.

For my ears, the highlight is the last song “Squash…” in which they really let loose and play fast, like they’re racing each other to the end of the song (which I think is always a good thing for bands to try to do).  The vocals get all snotty during the chorus, the guitar is on-point, and the drumming is one of the real highlights of the song.  Total manic crazy drumming which- as one person properly observed- brings to mind the hyperactive drumming on the 1st Damned LP.  The way he plays, I myself picture him practically standing up from his drum chair so he could play so manic and maintain that pace for the length of the whole song.  And dig those “Oh my” falsetto background vocals.  And listen carefully to the crafty lyrics that maintain the “squashing” theme throughout them- first a dog meets his maker, then a cat, then a duck, and finally someone who unfortunately gets drafted into the Army who doesn’t want to be squashed.

I first heard of the band back in 2005 when “Squash…” was included on the last-great vinyl KBD comp, Staring Down The Barrel.  It was a total standout track, and when I first heard it I was like “What the hell is this?  Where’s this record been hiding all these years?  How come I never heard of them before?!”  I’ve been wanting to hear the entire EP for some time, so thanks to Andrew for providing the rips!

The version of “Squash…” that was on Staring Down The Barrel has the ending sound effects edited out but here I included the unedited version of the song.  And the ending part is pretty funny to me- the singer’s voice is slowed down to a sludge pace where it sounds like he’s saying “Sheee-ittt, Mo Fo’s!!” and “C’mon, little doggies”.  Very funny.  Thanks for the laughs, I chuckle every time I hear it.

When I first listened to the EP in its entirety from start to finish “Little Dahlin” and “Squash…” kind of blend into each other and play together like one long song but I split them apart here.  If you want to be a purist, then open up yer sound editing software and cut and paste both songs together so they’re one long track in their original incarnation.


The band has a cool Facebook page, so check out it out- there’s lots of great, fun, vintage pictures of the band playing (both on stage and off-stage).


/files/98398-90993/02_Little_Dahlin.mp3″>Little Dahlin.mp3

Updates From Former Band Members!

Happy New Year,

I’ll finally have a new posting up soon- the holidays got the best of me, plus work has been way too busy.

I also wanted to let everyone know that former members of various bands have stumbled upon my site since the Fall which is GREAT, so check out the below postings and their comments section with the info they provided:

DEPROGRAMMER
Former singer Nita Banyaga left a lengthy comment with lots of great info about the early days of the band and her time in Deprogrammer.

INANIMATE OBJECTS
Heard from two band members- the guy who sang on their 1982 EP as well as a longtime member Ron Obvious who is still with the band- their most recent gig was on December 28th by the way.

(+other postings!  I’ll provide links when I have more time)

The Reaction

THE REACTION “ON THE BEACH / THE KIDS ARRIVED” 7″
(ST. JOHN’S NEWFOUNDLAND, CANADA- NEUTRON RECORDS, 1979)






Here is one variation of the painfully rare sleeve (maybe only
50 to 75 copies total?).  Rick Harbin on guitar; Terry Carter
(ex-Da Slyme!) on drums; and Mike Fisher, bass and vocals




A rather plain, no-frills back sleeve eh



In my view, this record not only teaches us about old Canadian music, but also teaches a few grammar lessons eh.  Nine times out of ten I usually eliminate “The” from the beginning of band names; I usually find it useless.  BUT in the case of this band, I think the “The” must be included before the band name so that we can accurately understand the meaning they were trying to convey with their name.  Just saying “Reaction” sounds kind of flat and non-descriptive like, “Eh, whatever”. But saying “The Reaction” has more umph! to it like they are in the lab doing a science experiment and pouring chemicals that are about to explode out of its beaker.  I picture the band getting on stage back in the late 70’s and introducing themselves by saying “Hey everyone- we’re The Reaction!  Are you ready for a reaction?!”  Followed by them wildly launching into “The Kids Arrived” or something.  Imagine if a band just got up there and said “Hi, we’re Reaction” (without the “The” in front of their name)- no punch or hook to it!

Speaking of hooks, “The Kids Arrived” has some very catchy ones.  Overall, I think the song is very late 70’s Canadian in some ways- full of melody, as was a lot of late 70’s Canuck punk songs.  But, for my ears, too much late 70’s Canadian stuff had just TOO MUCH melody underlying it and not enough punch.  But not here!  “The Kids Arrived” is a great punk rave up, if you will, with a nice mixture of melody, drive and punch throughout it.  As well as sounding so darn URGENT which is always a plus.  The melodic, high-pitched guitar hook at the various breaks is very catchy.  But add to that the dirtier guitar strumming that follows the chorus- this adds the drive, bite and punch to the song. During these parts the bass is running a parllel track with the guitar and both sound like they are racing each other in a way with that “duh nuh nuh nuh, NUH nuh nuh” type of effect.  And some well-placed hand clapping (again, very late 70’s Canadian) is a nice touch in the middle.

“The Kids Arrived” also teaches us the other grammar lesson in my view, that of plural words vs. possessive words.  For the longest time I thought the song had an apostrophe-s in it like “The Kid’s Arrived” (aka “The Kids Has Arrived”) and thought the band was talking about one, singular kid arriving all by his lonesome some time ago.  But after a while I realized the proper song title is actually “The Kids Arrived” and described a plural GROUP of youngsters taking over the town.

I (and many other people, I assume) first heard “The Kids Arrived” when the song was included on 1999’s great, legit Smash The State Volume 3 comp LP put together by Frank Manley.  Volume 3 (and the first two in the trio of comps for that matter) was a great comp with well-done research and a great, informative booklet insert and was released during a time when lots of disappointing, sub-par, barrel-scraping, hit-or-miss, quickly thrown-together KBD-type comps were coming out far too often.  Volume 3 was also the first time I was actually able to hear tunes from the almighty Da Slyme double LP so I am forever grateful for this, as 1999 AD was back in the pre-internet blog days when Da Slyme was a mythical type of record and no one had it on their tape trading lists except for one person I eventually discovered.

Anyway, for many years I wanted to hear the- gulp!- “other side” of The Reaction 7″.  As usual I was worried that it would be a dreadful, throwaway “other side” as happens far too often with many KBD singles.  Earlier this year I was able to hear it (thanks again P.R.!) and, while “On The Beach” is not a wild punk rave up like The Kids Arrived and is much more mellow, I was pleasantly surprised by how soothing and catchy it is.  It has grown on me with each successive listen, but I don’t mean “It’s grown on me” like I hated it at first but repeated listenings has numbed me and eased the pain and I’ve gotten used to it.  No- I liked it at on first listen and it’s subtlety is further appreciated by me as time goes by.  I think there’s some DIY-ish aspects to it which is always a plus when applied properly.  And the type of “DIY-ish” quality that I refer to in regards to this song are not the ramshackle, sloppy, out of tune DIY- which, of course, is great in its own regard- but more of the “charming U.K. DIY” kinda like The Record Players’ Don’t Go Backwards.  On The Beach is a long song (over 6 minutes!) by traditional “2:36-max-length” punk standards but it’s very hummable and I think it’s a nice song to wind down with when you need a break from whatever wild, raw, frothing mad KBD song you just wildly pounded your fist to (does that sound too dramatic?!).

/files/98398-90993/02_The_Kids_Arrived.mp3″>The Kids Arrived.mp3

Thanks again to P.R. for the rips of both sides of this single!



ENDNOTES
If you are interested in hearing more by The Reaction, you can go here on YouTube to see them playing an unreleased song called “Get The Rods Out”.  The song was uploaded by the band over 6 years ago actually, and it is from circa 1980 when it looks like The Reaction was appearing on a local public access-type of TV show in Canada.

Here are the great, very informative 1999 liner notes from Smash The State Volume 3 related to The Reaction with some key info highlighted, and with also some of my commentary in brackets:



“Believe it or not, St. John’s, Newfoundland’s first punk band may not have been the mighty Da Slyme.  According to Wallace Hammond, Da Slyme’s bassist, co-founder, compiler and archivist, among other things, recorded Mike Fisher and Rick Harbin’s art-rock, hard-rock band sometime in 1977.  Apparently, at least two of the tracks he laid down on tape were borderline punk.

In any case, the Reaction’s real birth occurred when Terry Carter (aka Pasquale Neutron), another co-founder of Da Slyme, returned from broadcast school in Halifax, Nova Scotia where he’d been turned onto the raucous sounds of the Sex Pistols and the Ramones.  Since Carter’s departure for Halifax in early 1978, Da Slyme had replaced him on drums with, according to Carter, the more competent Justin Hall.  Luckily, when Carter returned to St. John’s in December 1978 he spotted an ad Fisher and Harbin had placed in the Memorial University of Newfoundland’s Thompson Students’ Centre looking for a drummer to play punk and new wave music, and so the Reaction was born.  They took their name from a line in the Jam song “All Around The World”.  Their first gig was around a month later, opening for Da Slyme.

Although the Reaction was modelled after The Jam and other Mod bands, their set lists also included numbers by Elvis Costello (“Less Than Zero”), Eddie and the Hot Rods (“Do Anything You Wanna Do”) and the Sex Pistols (“Anarchy In The U.K.”).  In the early incarnation they played mostly covers- to guarantee club gigs.  They initially snuck in a few originals, including “The Kids Arrived”, “No Excuses”, and the “Rest of It All”; the last two songs were never recorded.

Gig-wise they started by playing at the university and the legendary scumpit Middle Earth bar, where Da Slyme also played.  In the oddly named town of Old Shop near Trinity Bay, the Reaction had a fairly decent following, where the local youths had been exposed to the Ramones and caught the punk bug.  Whenever the Reaction played St. John’s, the so-called “Old Shop Army” kids would pile into town for the gig.

Later, the Reaction went out on the “Bay Circuit”, a tour of bars along the coast outside St. John’s, initially playing contemporary punk and new wave covers. However, Carter admits that was a less than successful recipe: playing songs by underground British bands did not go over too well with musically conservative bar audiences who’d never heard the originals.  They soon learned to throw in some high-energy 60s classics such as “Satisfaction”, “Ready Steady Go” and “Respectable” and often ended the evening with “My Generation”, which allowed Carter to indulge in a Keith Moon once or twice, kicking his kit over while the guitarist and bassist did the splits and hammered their instruments.

Still, it was tough being in the forefront of the new music scene.  Carter penned “The Kids Arrived” in response to people who were really negative about this new breed of musicians.  At a gig outside of St. John’s, one unhappy bar patron bought a copy of the record so he could smash it while the group was on stage [Idiot!  He's one of the reasons their single is so damn rare!- ed].  ‘”The Kids Arrived” is a bit of self-vindication: it’s a big ‘fuck you’ to people who did nothing but criticize”, declares Carter.



He’s gonna be on the stage tonight
He’s gonna kick it out with rage tonight


They never call him for a loss
He’ll finally show them who’ll be boss
Move over- the kids arrived
He’ll be alright…
Climbing the greased ladder rung by rung
Singing a song that must be sung


[Pretty urgent lyrics!- ed]


They recorded the single at Echo Recording Studios in St. John’s in March 1979, later pressing around 500 copies at World Records in Toronto.  Mike and Terry came up with different picture sleeves, but they only made 50-75 of each [Ouch!- ed].  The single quickly made it into local jukeboxes, including the one at the Middle Earth.  Distribution, like all the records on this compilation, was DIY.


Also in the spring of 1979 the band recorded three more songs at Echo Recording Studios: “In Tune With The Times”, “Trials In Error” and “Till Midnight”.  They appeared on a posthumous cassette entitled “Underexposure” that was released in 1981 on Wallace Hammond’s Vicki Beat label [anyone have this cassette?- Ed].  The original group lasted for 10 months, until Carter left the band in October 1979.

Postscript
Harbin and Fisher recruited another drummer and continued gigging, including a trip to Toronto where they played a few gigs (one at the Ontario College of Art) and recorded a number of tracks while Tom Atom at Cottingham Sound.  Interestingly, Tom Atom was also the engineer of the Arson and Fits’ singles (see Smash The State Volume 1).”

Strychnine September 14th Reunion Show- Updates?

Back in mid-April I happily reported that Strychnine of “Jack The Ripper” fame was having a reunion show in a Cleveland suburb on September 14th (thanks to former member Spike McCormack for getting in touch and providing that info to me back then).  Since then I was of course planning on going to this once-in-a-lifetime reunion show, but unfortunately something came up and I was not able to make it to the show this past weekend (damn).

So my question is- who went and how was the show?  Please either leave a lengthy comment; post a feed of some pictures and provide a link; or- better yet- post some video or audio somewhere and give a link to it.  Or, best yet- Strychnine members: how do ya think the show went?

Thanks!