Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Whatever Happened To Dr. Rhythm? (Velvet Monkeys News)

Long out-of-print, and originally a cassette-only release, Everything is Right will once again rock the world, this time as a digital release. To the best of my knowledge, the debut release by Washington D.C. rock legends the Velvet Monkeys has never been reissued in full on any format until now.

According to a recent press release:

The digital reissue of Everything is Right is the first release on Don Fleming’s Instant Mayhem label since partnering with digital distributor IODA.  The audio was restored from the original analog tapes and remastered by Fleming. Instant Mayhem will release reissues of Fleming’s older catalog (w/Velvet Monkeys and Gumball) as well as new projects.  The next two releases for the label are a new solo EP titled Don Fleming 4, and a new album by To Live and Shave in L.A. called The Cortège.

Skip Groff, producer of many notable Washington, D.C.  bands, first recorded the Velvet Monkeys in 1981 at Don Zientara’s Inner Ear Studio. "Drive In" and "Shadow Box," were featured on Groff’s Connected LP, a sampler of D.C. bands released in 1981 on Limp Records. The band followed with the 10 song cassette-only Everything is Right, released on their own Monkey Business label in July 1982. Three additional live songs from a show at the Chancery in D.C. on New Year’s  Eve 1981 have been added to the original release for this reissue.

During this era the Monkeys lineup featured Fleming (later of Gumball, and producer of Sonic Youth, Teenage Fanclub, Screaming Trees, Hole, Alice Cooper, Joan Jett, Andrew W.K., and others) on vocals and guitar, Elaine Barnes on vocals and keyboards, Stephen Soles on bass, and Jay "The Rummager" Spiegel on drums.

The story of these four Velvet Monkeys, their rise to the top and subsequent celebrity exploits are well documented, and I see little point in rehashing the details here. (For more on this, I highly recommend Kitty Kelley's controversial, but impeccably sourced, biography of the band, Monkey Business: Life in the Rock and Roll Zoo with Don Fleming and the Velvet Monkeys.) But the band member that I have personally always been the most curious about is the original drummer, Dr. Rhythm. Sometimes referred to as "the Fifth Monkey," or "the Missing Link," not much is known about the reclusive and mysterious Dr. Rhythm. 

So just what happened to Dr. Rhythm anyway? Dr. Rhythm's metronomic drumming was an incredibly important ingredient in the early Velvet Monkeys' sound, but the reasons for his sacking, as well as his current whereabouts, have remained shrouded in mystery for decades. Some claim the good Dr. was fired after he was caught moonlighting on a Depeche Mode session. Others say that extensive electroshock therapy sessions had made him increasingly unreliable. Still others claim Fleming fired him in a jealous rage when he caught Elaine Barnes fooling around with him. I have even heard it said that Dr. Rhythm was Don DeLillo's inspiration for the character of Bill Gray in his 1991 novel Mao II.

But, as with anything related to the Velvet Monkeys, the truth is rarely what it appears to be. Rest assured, dear reader, that I am doing everything in my power to get to the bottom of this mystery. In the meantime, enjoy the first chance to hear Everything Is Right in any format for the first time in a long time.

[BTW, I believe the take of "Everything Is Right" that I am streaming on SoundCloud is slightly different from the one that appeared on the original cassette release. I'll replace it with the correct version when I get it.]

Update: The correct audio is up now. This is the newly remastered version of the song that originally appeared on the Everything Is Right Cassette, and that will be available for download on June 7th.

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