Saturday, February 14, 2015

A Valentine For Your Heart

Cardio 15 [Valentine's Mix] by Pete Bilderback on Mixcloud

Here's a Valentine for your heart (your actual heart, the organ that pumps blood through your body).

I've been posting 30 minute mixes optimized for cardio workouts over at Mixcloud. The idea is pretty simple: each song averages between 120 and 160 beats per minute (generally considered the ideal range for cardio exercise). Personally, I've found it really is easier to keep moving at a brisk pace when the music falls in this ideal range. I've got a number of other cardio mixes up at Mixcloud as well.

There's a Mixcloud app for both iPhone/iOS and Android devices, so it's quite easy to access these mixes on the go.


The Replacements - "Valentine"
Rockpile - "If Sugar Was As Sweet As You"
Talking Heads - "Love → Building On Fire"
The Modern Lovers - "Someone I Care About by The Modern Lovers"
David Bowie - "Modern Love"
The Slits - "Love Und Romance"
The Undertones - "Valentine's Treatment"
ABC - "Valentine's Day"
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings - "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours"
Marvin Gaye - "This Love Starved Heart Of Mine (Is Killing Me)"

Monday, January 26, 2015

Game Theory - Real Nighttime Pre-order Heads Up

I wanted to give you a heads up that the Omnivore Recordings reissue of Game Theory's Real Nighttime is available for pre-order now. The first 300 copies pre-ordered on LP from Omnivore will include a bonus flexi-disc of "Dead Center" that was originally intended to be distributed with copies of Option magazine. This was something Dan Vallor hinted at in my interview with him when he mentioned a "golden ticket" item, but he made me promise not to mention anything until plans were finalized. I kept my promise, but the cat's out of the bag now.

If you're a digital only person, don't freak out, the flexi-disc version of "Dead Center" was included on the recent CD reissue of Dead Center, this is really for the collector/fetishist types.

"Omnivore Recordings’ re-introduction of the Game Theory catalog continues with the 30th Anniversary reissue of Real Nighttime.

Their first in a long line of albums produced by Mitch Easter (R.E.M., Let’s Active), this version adds an astonishing 13 bonus tracks (10 previously unissued) to the original album’s lauded twelve. From hard-to-find compilation tracks to live and unheard material (including covers of songs by Gerry Rafferty and Queen), Real Nighttime now not only stands as the band’s breakthrough, but as a true document of their emergence into the annals of music history.

Available on CD and Digital, as well as a translucent red LP (with download card for entire CD program), Real Nighttime stands as a fan favorite, and as a truly classic release. Packaging includes rare photos and an interview with Mitch Easter and series co-producer Pat Thomas, as well as notes from Byron Coley (Spin, Forced Exposure) and a remembrance from Carl Newman of The New Pornographers.

The sun has risen once again on the Game Theory catalog. Now it’s time to prepare for the Real Nighttime."
    CD/LP/Digital Track List:
2. 24

     Bonus Tracks:
17. THE RED BARON (Live)
20. SHE’LL BE A VERB (Live)

     LP includes download card. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Tartan Horde - "Bay City Rollers We Love You"

Released by United Artists in 1975, The Tartan Horde's "Bay City Rollers We Love You" was a contract breaking scheme that backfired. Nick Lowe's band Brinsley Schwarz broke up in 1975 and Lowe found himself stuck under contract to their label, United Artists. Lowe was eager to move on, so he and manager Jake Riviera cooked up a scheme to get the label to dump him. Lowe produced a tongue-in-cheek homage to Scottish teenybopper phenomena The Bay City Rollers under the pseudonym The Tartan Horde assuming the label would be horrified by it and drop him straight away.

Unfortunately, the execs at UA liked what they heard and gave the song a worldwide release. The single predictably tanked everywhere in the world, except for Japan where it became a surprise smash hit. UA was so pleased with the sales that they demanded a follow up. Lowe obliged with a second Tartan Horde single, "Rollers Show" which sold miserably and finally got him out of his contract with UA leaving him free to record for Riviera's fledgling independent label, Stiff Records.

Anyway, that's the story. There's just one problem: I think the song is really good. Sure it's clear that Nick is having a bit of fun here, and there is an element of absurdity involved. But the craftsmanship is extremely solid and the song gets under your skin like only really great pop music can. More than a little effort was put into creating this confection. No right thinking rocker would have admitted to it in 1975, but I detect at least a hint of genuine affection for the Bay City Rollers in this contract-breaking tribute.

Nick discusses his mixed feelings about the song below. He calls the song "utterly ghastly" and "truly awful," but also expresses a certain amount of pride in it at the same time.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Small Business Saturday Mix

Here's another DJ set, this one from Small Business Saturday. Don't forget to support small business this holiday season.

Mudhoney - I Like It Small
Led Zeppelin - Trampled Under Foot
Tyrannosaurus Rex - Deboraarobed
Ty Segall - It's Over
White Reaper - Conspirator
The Flamin' Groovies - Slow Death
The Stooges - Down In The Street
David Bowie - Cactus
Adam Ant - Desperate But Not Serious
The Flying Lizards - Money (That's What I Want)
Big Audio Dynamite - V. Thirteen [Extended Remix]
The Jimmy Castor Bunch - Troglodyte (Cave Man)
Tom Tom Club - Wordy Rappinghood [Special 12" Version]
Blondie - Rip Her To Shreds
Family Fodder - Debbie Harry
The Marvelettes - Beechwood 4-5789
The Stroke Band - Son Of Sam
Game Theory - Nine Lives To Rigel Five
The Three O'Clock - On My Own (With Strings)
The Teardrop Explodes - Reward
Echo & the Bunnymen - Angels And Devils

Thursday, November 06, 2014

King Kong's Thanksgiving Shindig: A Musical Tribute To The Eighth Wonder Of The World

A little early perhaps, but I put together a playlist inspired by the original 1933 King Kong as well as WOR-TV's annual Thanksgiving broadcast of King Kong, Son Of Kong, and Mighty Joe Young. Have A Monsterous Holiday!

Max Steiner - "Entrance Of Kong"
David Bowie - "Beauty And The Beast"
The Kinks - "King Kong"
Lee "Scratch" Perry & The Upsetters - "Super Ape"
William Onyeabor - "Jungle Gods"
David Carroll And His Orchestra - "Jungle Drums"
New York Dolls - "Stranded In The Jungle"
The Dickies - "You Drive Me Ape (You Big Gorilla)"
OFF! - "King Kong Brigade"
The Jimmy Castor Bunch - "King Kong"
The Time - "Jungle Love"
Bow Wow Wow - "King Kong"
Alex Chilton - "Forbidden Love"
The Cramps - "Jungle Hop"
Junior Walker & The All Stars - "Monkey Jump"
K. McCarty - "Like A Monkey In A Zoo"
The 13th Floor Elevators - "Monkey Island"
Departure Lounge- "King Kong Frown"
Tom Waits - "King Kong"
Pixies- "Monkey Gone To Heaven"

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Game Theory - Dead Center, etc. Reissue

Omnivore's comprehensive reissue campaign of Scott Miller's seminal 80s band Game Theory continues on November 24th with the reissue of the band's 1984 French compilation LP, Dead Center. Omnivore will also reissue the two EPs that much of Dead Center's material was drawn from, Pointed Accounts of People You Know and Distortion, on 10" vinyl EPs for Record Store Day Black Friday on November 28th. The music on these releases represent a critical, but often overlooked, period in Game Theory's history.

Pointed Accounts Of People You Know (1983).

Game Theory followed their home recorded debut, 1982's Blaze Of Glory, with a studio recorded six-track EP, Pointed Accounts Of People You Know in 1983. This was followed in 1984 by the Michael Quercio produced, five-track EP, Distortion in 1984. Both these EPs were transitional efforts that featured some outstanding new songs from rapidly maturing songwriter Scott Miller, including the wistful "Penny Things Won't" and "Metal And Glass Exact" from Pointed Accounts, and "Nine Lives To Rigel Five" and "The Red Baron" from Distortion. These are brilliant songs that can stand proudly alongside anything that came out of the American independent underground in the 1980s and remained staples of the band's live sets for years. "College Rock," "Alternative," "Indie Pop," "Power Pop," "Paisley Underground," call them whatever you want, these songs conform in some ways to each of these labels but are also what Duke Ellington liked to call "beyond category" (his highest compliment and mine).

Distortion (1984).

The EPs also feature several songs from the band's bass player Fred Juhos, including "I Wanna Get Hit By A Car" from Pointed Accounts and "Kid Convenience" from Distortion. Juhos was a fine songwriter, but he was not Miller's equal, and his songs do not always sound of a piece with Miller's which gives the EPs a slightly disjointed quality. There are worse things than a young band with two talented songwriters moving in different directions.

Later in 1984 the French label, Lolita, who had taken an interest in the California "Paisley Underground" scene to which Game Theory was tangentially connected, decided to re-release some of the EP material on a compilation LP. Dead Center includes two songs recorded specifically for the LP, "Dead Center" (which had also been released in an entirely different version on a flexi disc) and a cover of The Box Tops' "The Letter." All of Juhos' material, save "37th Day" was dropped from the LP, and the result is a more coherent sounding release, which one could almost consider Game Theory's second album, depending on how much of a discographical purist you are.

Dead Center (1984).

Omnivore's reissues of Pointed Accounts Of People You Know and Distortion will be available only on vinyl, and will match the track listings of the original releases precisely. Omnivore chose to break from strict historical accuracy by shrinking the records' size from 12" to 10" and pressing them on colored vinyl. Each EP will include a digital download card that allows the purchaser access to MP3s of the recordings featured on the EPs, plus the eleven bonus tracks featured on the Dead Center reissue (more on that in a moment). These are being released as part of Record Store Day's Black Friday event and will be limited edition pressings.

Dead Center will be reissued on CD only with slightly different artwork than what was featured on the original Lolita LP. The Dead Center reissue does not feature any of the Fred Juhos penned songs from the EPs (my understanding is that this was done by Fred's request), and will include all of the Scott Miller songs from the EPs, plus the two songs recorded specifically for the LP. It also includes 11 bonus tracks, 10 of them previously unreleased. These include live cuts, covers (including Badfinger's "No Matter What," Roxy Music's "Mother of Pearl," R.E.M.'s "Radio Free Europe," and Them's "Gloria"), as well as the flexi disc version of "Dead Center." If you are confused, that's perfectly understandable. I present the track listings for each release below.

UPDATE 11/28/2014: The MP3 downloads for the two RSD EPs contain the contents of respective EPs only (no bonus tracks).

Dead Center (release date 11/24/14) CD/digital track list:

3. DEAD CENTER (French LP Version)
14. TROUBLE (Live)
16. GLORIA (Live)
17. TOO LATE FOR TEARS (Michael Q’s “George Martin” Rough Mix)
20. SAY IT AIN’T SO JOE (Radio Session)
21. DEAD CENTER (Flexi Disc Version)

 Pointed Accounts Of People You Know (release date 11/28/14) vinyl 10" EP track list:



Side 2:
3. 37th DAY

Distortion (release date 11/28/14) vinyl 10" EP track list:
Side 1:

Side 2:

David Bowie Fan Club

Ch-ch-ch-changes...David Bowie fan club flyer from 1977. This came with some original copies of his brilliant Low album. Adjusted for inflation the $5 membership cost would be $19.64 today.

Friday, October 24, 2014

This was my latest DJ set. I stuck mostly to R&B and Soul rather than my usual mix and match approach.

Five Du-Tones - "Shake A Tail Feather" 
Ronnie Mitchell - "Having A Party"
The Swingin' Medallions - "Double Shot (Of My Baby's Love)"
Big Maybelle - "96 Tears"
Raphael Saadiq - "Heart Attack" (for Guy Benoit)
The Mar-Keys - "Banana Juice"
Bunny Sigler - "Lovey Dovey & (You're So Fine)"
Rex Garvin & The Mighty Cravers - "Emulsified"
Shorty Long - "Devil With The Blue Dress On"
The Velvelettes - "He Was Really Saying Something"
The Bandwagon - "Breakin' Down The Walls Of Heartache"
Booker T. & The MG's - "Time Is Tight"
The Mad Lads - "No Strings Attached"
Chuck Wood - "Seven Days Too Long"
Marvin Gaye - "That's The Way Love Is"
Ray Bryant Combo - "Madison Time"
Aretha Franklin - "Spanish Harlem"
Billy Preston - "My Sweet Lord"
Curtis Mayfield - "(Don't Worry) If There's A Hell Below We're All Going To Go"
The Mystic Moods - "Cosmic Sea"
Nina Simone - "To Love Somebody"
Al Green - "L-O-V-E (Love)"

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

The Chills - BBC Sessions

Fire records will release a compilation of the sessions The Chills recorded for the BBC on November 3rd, 2014. The Chills recorded three separate four-songs sessions for the BBC in 1985, 1987 and 1988, and all three sessions are fully accounted for on this release. This is great news for Chills fans, as the band's studio releases did not always capture the full power of which they were capable due to the limitations of the studios they worked in, and some occasionally questionable production decisions.

Track list is as follows:
1 "Rolling Moon (12/11/1985)"
2 "Brave Words (12/11/1985)"
3 "Wet Blanket (12/11/1985)"
4 "Night Of Chill Blue (12/11/1985)"
5 "Dan Destiny & The Silver Dawn (05/04/1987)"
6 "Living In A Jungle (05/04/1987)"
7 "Rain (05/04/1987)"
8 "Moonlight On Flesh (05/04/1987)"
9 "Part Past, Part Fiction (18/12/1988)"
10 "Christmas Chimes (18/12/1988)"
11 "Effloresce and Deliquesce (18/12/1988)"
12 "Dead Web (18/12/1988)"

Friday, September 12, 2014

Dan Vallor On Reissuing Game Theory's Blaze Of Glory

I had the privilege of chatting with Dan Vallor, who co-produced Omnivore Recordings' recent reissue of Game Theory's first LP, Blaze of Glory. Originally released in 1982, Blaze of Glory has been unavailable in its original mix since shortly after its original, limited release. Dan and I chatted about this reissue, the late Scott Miller, and Omnivore's plans for the rest of Game Theory's long out-of-print catalog. Dan's enthusiasm for Game Theory's music and his determination that his friend's music be released with the love and care it deserves was evident at every moment during our conversation.

Could you give me a little background on your involvement with the band?
I met Scott and the band in the late winter/early spring of 1983, shortly after Blaze of Glory came out. I was introduced by a friend of mine who was a DJ at San Francisco State's college radio station, and was friends with Steve Wynn [Dream Syndicate] who was at UC Davis's radio station at that time. Scott was friends with Steve, and so we met through that connection.

And you served as a tour manager for them?
Yeah, I was their tour manager and sound engineer. My first tour was after Distortion was released and shortly after Real Nighttime was recorded, so this was the Fall of 1984. I had done some tours with Tav Falco's Panther Burns, The Rain Parade and The Long Ryders and I had worked with Game Theory around California and after Distortion came out. After Distortion's release we did a cross-country tour that ended rather catastrophically (we sacrificed the return home half of our tour when a better offer was dangled in front of us but that offer never came through…this resulted in a level of stress and poverty that eventually splintered the band). And then we did another tour in '85 with a new line up (just Scott and I from the prior tour) when we recorded Big Shot Chronicles in Winston-Salem. And then I took some time off and didn't do any touring for several years until the last lineup, the unreleased lineup, with Jozef Becker and Michael Quercio. We did a couple brief West Coast trips with that lineup. That was, by far, the best of all of my touring experiences.

I think there might be a track that came out on the Tinkers To Evers To Chance compilation from that lineup.
Right. Scott had mixed feelings about some of the original recordings on some of his older material. At the time, he wanted to re-record an Alternate Learning [Scott's pre-Game Theory band] song. He very much wanted things to be in a perfect state based on where he was at a given time creatively. So he wanted to re-work some of the original tapes, re-record some things, remix other things. He did that for Tinkers To Evers To Chance and for the Distortion of Glory CD that was released on the Alias label.

But Blaze of Glory is coming out now in its original form, re-mastered from the original master tapes?
That's correct. The band formed in August 1982, and I think they recorded Blaze of Glory in December of that year. It was fast-moving because by late winter it was out. And that's what you hear with this release.

I was curious about the artwork. I've never seen a copy of the original album, and I go to a lot of record stores.
You wouldn't have necessarily seen it unless you lived in Northern California, the Sacramento/Davis or Bay Areas. I think Scott sent some out to some radio stations and record stores to try and get greater distribution. But, the album was pretty hard to come by outside of Northern California.

So it was originally packaged in a garbage bag?
It was packaged in a small, white kitchen garbage bag. Inside was a lyric sheet and on the outside were stickers pasted onto the plastic bag. The Omnivore LP reissue is on a plain white sleeve with stickers that are similar to the original stickers that were pasted on. It was their idea but it's pretty much what my original copy looks like now, because storing an LP in a plastic bag is not really ideal. I remember the day we left for the tour in '84, I had a stack of the LPs that were already slightly warped from not being stored in jackets. I gave them all to a DJ friend from Berkeley who had driven up from the Bay Area to see us off.

That can be problem that with innovative packaging for LPs. You'll find that with copies of Public Image Limited’s Metal Box too.
Yeah it's funny, the first Alternate Learning 7" EP, which well preceded Blaze of Glory, was packaged with about ten pages of small inserts of varying sizes inside the sleeve, and some of those warped as well because there was so much bulk inside the sleeve. That imaginative packaging that Scott did was great, but sometimes it was hard on the vinyl.

Whose idea was to get this stuff reissued? Who was the prime mover behind this project?
Well Scott and I had been working on getting things out again for quite some time before he passed. And it was kind of a long process that had become rather frustrating. He had turned the effort over to me to figure out where to get them reissued. After he died it took a while for me to have the strength to revisit the project, it was hard but I eventually continued to work on it…it remained as important to me as it had been to us.

So this is very personal for you?
Yes. Immediately after he was gone I was sort of out of my mind. I couldn't think about reissues. Then in December of last year I tentatively approached a label that I thought he would've been really happy to be on, and they were very receptive but it didn't fit into their release schedule. Essentially we were in the midst of conversations with that label when I got a note from Robert Torin (who was the photographer for Game Theory and Loud Family) saying I should talk to Jonathan Segel from Camper Van Beethoven. They were in the process of reissuing their Virgin albums on Omnivore and Jonathan approached me and asked whether we would be interested in working with Omnivore as well. I knew Pat Thomas from his days in San Francisco (he owned Heyday Records and released albums from Barbara Manning, Chris Von Sneidern, Crazy Horse and many more), so when the discussions with the first label broke down, I went straight to Omnivore and said "let's do this." It was very easy to come to terms with them and they were very enthusiastic. Most importantly for me, Omnivore were in total agreement with Scott Vanderbilt (whose label owns the original albums) and myself about releasing these albums without exploiting Scott's passing and with respect for Scott's family.
I can't say enough good things about Omnivore. I knew we were in the right place when Pat went to pick up the original master tapes from Scott Vanderbilt, and he had all these boxes of tapes in his car, and he called me and said it was emotionally overwhelming for him to have all that stuff with him. To be honest, it was emotionally overwhelming for me to hear his response and to know that the tapes were finally in the hands of a label committed to doing them right after all these years. When you hear something like that you really know you're in the right place.

Were the original master tapes all available and in good shape?
Yeah. So far everything has been usable. We had some trouble finding a few tracks, but ultimately we located everything. We had to bake the tapes to make sure that they were pliable so they wouldn't fall apart when they get put on the machine. We have all of the original recordings and they sound excellent. 
Beyond that, when I was working with the band I sort of obsessively archived and documented them. I would frequently run the sound that I was mixing into the PA and run a sub mix into a tape recorder to record their sets. So I've got a whole lot of live recordings. And Scott had also turned over a whole lot of recordings to me over the years (I suppose he was less sentimental about those sorts of things than me in many ways…probably less of a hoarder too). Scott gave me a lot of recordings that no one had ever heard and we did some recording together as well. Kristine, his wife, and I went through what he had kept, and I'm working on doing high resolution 32 bit digitizations of those tapes for Omnivore. There's a whole lot of unreleased material. Some of it is unusable, and some of it is transcendently beautiful. For instance, for Blaze of Glory we reached all the way back to junior high. We used some little humorous tapes that Jozef [Becker] and Scott made when they were in seventh or eighth grade. He and Jozef would do these little musique concrète kind of things, little experimental vignettes, mashup kind of things. And what I guess you could call little skits. They were sort of done in an Ernie Kovacs style (he was an experimental comedian from the late 50s early 60s). 
We also took one track off the first Alternate Learning EP, three tracks off the Alternate Learning album, and then a batch of songs that Scott had given to me. And we had some good live takes that were from the original version of the band. These came from a local show in Sacramento and a live in the studio radio broadcast from when the band was first starting out. 
Have you heard of The Twinkeyz? They released two singles in 1977, one was called "Aliens In Our Midst." It was this amazing DIY record and is considered a classic by the DIY crowd, and I agree with that assessment. The band broke up in around 1979, and we included a recording of the leader of The Twinkeyz, Donnie Jupiter, making his first appearance since the band broke up performing with Game Theory. That’s one of the bonus tracks on the album.

Dan shared a lot of information with me about the other upcoming Omnivore Game Theory reissues, but since the details are still in flux out I can't share them with you (yet). What I can tell you is that all of the original Game Theory releases, both EPs and full length albums, will be represented. Current plans include a special "golden ticket" item that will be randomly included with one of the releases. All the albums will be remastered from the original master tapes, and each will include bonus tracks. There will be some unexpected covers, and at least one song will appear as a bonus track in a much longer version than was previously released.

In addition Dan told me:
All the bonus material that was on the Alias CDs of Real Nighttime and Big Shot Chronicles will be on the Omnivore releases. Although there are a couple switches. The Alias version of Real Nighttime was taken straight from the Enigma CD that was very briefly available. So it was basically the same digital master used by both Enigma and Alias. And the mistake that they made on Real Nighttime was they took the cover of Todd Rundgren's "Couldn't I Just Tell You" that was recorded for Big Shot Chronicles and they put it on the Real Nighttime CD. And then they took the song "Faithless," which was actually Fred Juhos' (from the Real Nighttime lineup) song, and they put that on Big Shot Chronicles. So those and one other will be switched back to their proper places. It's the kind of small thing that I think needs to be corrected.

Now that you mention it, sound-wise it's kind of obvious that "Couldn't I Just Tell You" doesn't really fit on Real Nighttime. It does sound more of a piece with Big Shot Chronicles.
Yeah. Particularly the difference in drumming style between Dave Gill and Gil Ray. You know, Scott's work with drummers can't be understated. He picked great drummers with their own styles, and the drummers that he worked with tended to be very interesting and integral to the projects that he was working on. And the recording is also different. Real Nighttime was recorded in Newark, California in the East Bay, Big Shot Chronicles was recorded at Mitch Easter's Drive In Studio in Winston-Salem, North Carolina (where REM's early records and Pylon's wonderful albums were recorded). So it is a different sound with each recording.
Having received my copy of Blaze of Glory (on pink vinyl, of course), I can echo all the positive things Dan said about Omnivore. Every aspect of this reissue has been done right: the packaging, the liner notes, the bonus material, the sound quality. Omnivore even gets the little things like the metadata on the downloadable MP3s perfect. The music was beautifully remastered for LP by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio, and the pressing on pink vinyl is noise free.

The music itself is the work of an extremely precocious young man and his talented cohorts who are bursting with melodic ideas and discovering the power of the recording studio. Finally hearing the album the way it went down back in 1982 is a positively electrifying experience. Occasionally, Miller's grasp exceeds his reach, but the home recorded quality has a substantial charm all its own. If this were the last we heard of Scott Miller and Game Theory, Blaze of Glory would be hailed as an obscure masterpiece among those who dig smart pop music. As it is, Miller would go on to create better, more fully realized music, but this Blaze of Glory reissue demonstrates that everything that made Game Theory great was in place from the beginning, just sometimes in embryonic form.