WHAT “ON VINYL / TO THE STARS” 7″ And for those who don’t know, Akron is about 40 miles due South of my hometown of Cleveland. So I always love hearing records from the Cleveland / Northeastern Ohio area and am usually impartial to bands from there. Cleveland, of course, has such a great history full of original, groundbreaking punk- and music in general for that matter (jazz and other genres). And outsiderness/creativity! Akron’s nickname is “Rubber City” which comes from the fact that two huge tire companies (Goodyear and Firestone) were based out of there beginning in about 1900. Goodyear is still headquartered in Akron but Firestone nearly imploded by 1979 and was restructured and moved out of town but that’s really yet another depressing story for the local Akron economy, and Ohio in general.
(AKRON, OH- WHAT RECORDS INC, 1984)
CLEVELAND-AREA SERIES, PART 2
These labels for this sleeveless record provide some clues related to the band
(but not for any actual band members themselves)- see my “Endnotes” section below
for the details…
Here is a record and band that is pretty much a mystery. It’s not a punk record, but the A-side has those outsider qualities that will appeal to punk fans (at least it does to me). If anything, I’d describe the great song “On Vinyl” something like garage-y hard rock if that description makes any sense. Whatever it is, I dig it and it brings a smile to my face because from the goofy “Rock Me” intro and the opening riff you know you’re in for a good, weird time. The band is very enthusiastic– especially that drummer!- and so darn excited that they’re in the studio making a record. And the vocals- wow, they really stand out. The singer sings in a faux high-pitched style for some reason unknown to all of us (that CAN’T be his regular talking voice) and the vocals are what really make this song stand out. Blog commenter Clayton Silva who hipped me to this song about two years ago (and provided rips of both sides- thanks again!) said the singer reminds him of Snuky Tate, and I think that’s accurate. But kinda like if Snuky inhaled a helium balloon to get all high-pitched, eh.
The lyrics are totally awesome and talk about- you guessed it- how the band is making a record and is going to be on vinyl. It sounds improvised to me at times which only adds to the charm of this song. I kind of picture the band getting sauced up at someone’s house one night and then saying “Godammit, let’s make a record tonight!” and then promptly going over to a studio on a whim to record “On Vinyl” and just totally winging it with the playing and the vocals and only having a rough road map of how the song was laid out when they hit the record button. The extended noodling in the guitar solos (plural!) totally point to some improvising, me thinks, especially at the 3:37 mark where things seem to slow down until he launches into another solo. Great tune. And, at a total time of over 4 minutes, far past the usual 2 minute punk song length.
The B-side is a slow, dreamy tune which meanders too long for me with a total running time of over 5 minutes (!). My ears are used to 2 minutes, and I can do 4 minutes but sometimes when songs go into the territory of 5-plus minutes then my mind starts to wander and I lose interest. There is some sloppy playing in it and some off-key parts where the drummer loses pace and stumbles and the guitar player goes out of tune, which is nice, but it can’t match the A-side’s inspired nature. Not that anything else they recorded could have. Maybe they recorded “On Vinyl” first while buzzing and feeling good but then they toked up and got totally wasted (and totally mellowed out from too much smokey) and recorded the B-side while hallucinating or something while the night was winding down (?). Like I said at the beginning of this post, I really don’t know anything about the band or the backstory of the record- information is very scant on the interwebs- so this is all speculation. Googling “What On Vinyl Akron Ohio” emits predictable dead-end results and a bunch of horseshit totally unrelated to the band or record.
Any filling in of details or information you have would be greatly appreciated.
/files/98398-90993/02_To_The_Stars.mp3″>To The Stars.mp3
I know nothing about the band, but thankfully the information provided on the labels provide some related clues. Well, first of all, the address on the labels is a residential address (thanks, Google Maps) and NOT an office or business address. So this was someone’s house, presumably one of the band members.
Anyway, Akron is most well known for being the original home of The Rubber City Rebels before they moved to Los Angeles. And OF COURSE Akron is well-remembered for the awesome Hammer Damage song “Laugh”. And now the great song “On Vinyl” by WHAT, eh. And the home of the eccentric Clone label. The Bizzaros were also from Akron and were more of a rock band sometimes and not punk per se.
Let’s go back to the labels on the WHAT record- which is their second of two 7″s by the way- more on that later. We see that writing credits were given to two people with the last name Murdi, as well as Nooch and Hable. Searches on these names led me nowhere. However, the production credits got me somewhere. The record was produced by Jim Newcomb, Lanny Walter and WHAT. I happened to find out that Lanny Walter was actually Landolin “Lanny” G. Walter who was an Akron radio engineer and radio announcer for many years. His radio name was “David Steele” (almost sounds like a porn name, eh) and had a long stint at WAKR 1590 AM between 1984 and 1999. In Akron’s sister city of Canton (home of the football hall of fame- which was always a school field trip for kids from Cleveland by the way), Lanny was also an announcer at stations WINW, WOIO (WRCW), and WQIO (WRCW) and Chief Engineer at WHLQ (WOOS) from 1975 to 1977. How did I find this all out? Well, he actually died in late 2011 and this was all in an online obituary. Ah, the power of the internet. So maybe someone connected WHAT with this local announcer Mr. Walter, or the band got his attention somehow, and that’s how they were able to record the “On Vinyl” 7″, etc. Perhaps that person was the other production credit, Jim Newcomb, who also produced the first WHAT record. Through some online research I think Jim Newcomb might actually be a nickname for one “Harold James Newcomb” but that is speculation again.
Oh yeah- that first WHAT record. It was a 3-song EP which was released in 1983 but Clayton Silva warns me that it’s a pretty bad traditional rock record and NOTHING even closely resembling the great freakout of “On Vinyl”. The 3 songs on it are “Hard Rocker,” “The Cynical Blitz,” and “Killer Machine” (all suspicious sounding, cock rock-ish titles I think). Plus the song “Hard Rocker” clocks in at over 7 minutes (!)- cover your ears and run for the hills! I happened to find an old auction listing on Collectors Frenzy from early 2010. Of course the record is hyped- er, I mean “described” by the seller waterpolo85– as “Excellent lo-fi bedroom psychedelic rock” and “Rare Rock Psych 45” which is funny given how Clayton warned me of its crappiness. Here’s a picture of the labels:
WHAT “ON VINYL / TO THE STARS” 7″
And for those who don’t know, Akron is about 40 miles due South of my hometown of Cleveland. So I always love hearing records from the Cleveland / Northeastern Ohio area and am usually impartial to bands from there. Cleveland, of course, has such a great history full of original, groundbreaking punk- and music in general for that matter (jazz and other genres). And outsiderness/creativity! Akron’s nickname is “Rubber City” which comes from the fact that two huge tire companies (Goodyear and Firestone) were based out of there beginning in about 1900. Goodyear is still headquartered in Akron but Firestone nearly imploded by 1979 and was restructured and moved out of town but that’s really yet another depressing story for the local Akron economy, and Ohio in general.