OPUS “GOOD PROCEDURES/THE ATROCITY” 7″ (LOS ANGELES,
CA- CATATONIC, 1979)
Ah, here is one of the “holy grails” of punk rekkids-
this mega rarity supposedly only had about 200 copies pressed. But out of that small number, not many
survived- the story goes that bassist A.J. Terry had most copies of the small
pressing, but when he and his friends were kicked out of the Silverlake, CA
house in which they were residing most copies Mr. Terry had were thrown away by
the people who promptly gave them the boot.
And the rest is history for fans of the obscure micro pressings. About four years ago uber punk detective #1
Ryan Richardson cracked the case, the details of which are on the Opus page of his great Break My Face
site so I am not going to repeat them all here.
From hearing some differing opinions over the years about
this record, there seems to be a line drawn in the sand about it. Seems that the people that hate it and/or
don’t think it’s that great of a record think those who hype it up, love it and
cream their jeans over it do so only because it’s so painfully rare and NOT
because the music is that great. Or they
think people grow to like the record and give it a break only because of its
rarity. The detractors say that had the
Opus 7″ been a common punk disc with thousands of copies floating around
(imagine that!), it wouldn’t be such a revered classic.
From the perspective of someone who places listening to
music over physically owning a record, I think the Opus 7″ is pretty good. I wouldn’t call it a Grade A, top notch, raw,
wild, timeless punk classic a la the best of the Pagans (to which it’s actually
been compared by one person!). But I
wouldn’t put it on my “B Team” either.
I’d give it like 7.5 out of 10 stars.
I would definitely put this record in the good ol “happy accident”
category, meaning that I don’t think the band intended the record to quite
sound this raw and ratty, especially the superior B-side. Thankfully the recording and, er, “production” was so bad, because I think with good, clean production these two
songs would not have been as memorable to us fans of good bad music. What makes me chuckle is the fact that they
list the names of the mixer and engineer on the back of the sleeve. Did those guys think they did a good job and
wanted their names associated with such a superior recording effort? If so- then LOL!
It sounds like the 7″ was recorded live in the studio-
the thick bass is way up in the front of the mix most notably, and that’s one
of the things that makes it charming for me.
And I definitely prefer “The Atrocity”- it charges right along with nice
guitar noodling and an evil vibe underlying it, and the break in the middle of
the song where the bass really rumbles in gives it a really nice “umph!”. It sounds like the band was trying to do
something more mellow and softer (perhaps more commercial?!) with “Good
Procedures”- just listen to the attempts on it to create a happy guitar sound and a melodic, more mellow vibe. But the rough bass playing that kicks in
during the breaks voids out that good feeling and instead makes it all dirty
and unpolished just how we like it.
I do not own a copy of the Opus 7″- who the hell does
other than a handful of people who all probably know each other?! But someone taped me a copy many years ago,
and unfortunately whatever copy this taping originated with was not cleaned and
has some noticeable surface noise. I
ripped a copy of the B-side from its appearance on 1998’s
Killed By Death #14 so that song sounds clean here. Audiophiles- take off the big noise-canceling
headphones while listening to “Good Procedures” or you may be
climbing the walls. Hey- if someone has
a clean rip of the A-side please get in touch and send it my way.
OK, on to my sidebars (I love these although you may not). According to a friend of the band, the first
copies of the 7″ came with the yellow sleeve and the white sleeve came
after. Which, due to its extreme rarity,
translates to mean that 1 or 2 surviving copies have the yellow sleeve while
the other 10 or so known copies have the white one. Here is the yellow sleeve- I don’t want to
call it a “variation” because it’s got the same pictures and layout as the
white sleeve and is just a different color of paper really.
The photo on the back of the Opus sleeve is lifted from
one of the most well-known images from the VietNam war. The picture was taken by American
photographer Eddie Adams in Saigon on Feburary 1, 1968 and shows South
Vietnamese National Police Chief Brig Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan publicly executing
a Viet Cong officer. The photo was
broadcast around the world by the Associated Press, Mr. Adams won a Pulitzer
Prize for the photo in 1969, and it has even been called one of the Top 10 photos that changed the world.
What I didn’t know until doing some research on the photo
for this post is the post-script that follows the picture being taken. The General pulling the trigger later moved
to Virginia and eventually tried to open a restaurant in the late 80’s but that
failed after people figured out who he was from the 1968 photo and it
culminated in someone writing “we know who you are” on the restaurant’s
bathroom wall. He then died of cancer in
Virginia in 1998. The photographer,
Eddie Adams, apparently felt guilty about the picture for years and felt like
he ruined General Loan’s life with that one still image. He even apologized to the General’s family
for what he felt he did. Here is some
footage of Eddie Adams talking about the picture.
Er, on to a happier topic… the surface noise on the above
A-side brings up the issue- MY issue- of trying to properly clean records as
best you can before ripping / trading / selling them. There are several ways you can do it but only
a few really work. My method for a
number of years was the ghetto method of taking one finger (after washing my
hands of course) and running it along the vinyl and hoping some crud would come
off. When this didn’t warrant very good
results I got “high tech” and bought the popular $20 Discwasher D4 kit and used
that for years.
I thought the Discwasher was doing a good of a job as it
could, as certain records still had noticeable noise on them and I just chalked
it up to the nature of vinyl, or to the fact that maybe my Dischwasher kit was
worn out. But then someone tipped me off
to the joys of real nerdy record cleaning when they recommended Nitty Gritty’s
budget-minded KAB EV-1 kit.
Now of course I had heard of these expensive audiophile
cleaners for a while but when I saw the price tags for some hovering around $500
(and even as much as a fucking grand!) I said forget it for years. The KAB EV-1 is on the low end of cost at
around $150 but it does a bang up job of cleaning most records. It looks a bit odd
hooking up your vacuum cleaner to the EV-1 but it vacs most of that grimy
shit away. But of course some records
are too far gone with too many scratches or to get them sounding Near Mint
again. So in those cases, make sure
you’re vague and say it’s a “vintage pressing in pretty good condition” as you
try to sell it on eBay. The future owner
will love you for it.