GREEN MONKEY--- It Crawled From the Basement
Monkey Man Tom Dyer Blows Dust From Seattle's Post-Punk, Pre-Grunge Vaults
You can't even think about Green Monkey Records without mentioning The Green Pajamas, so there it was... I'm kidding! Seriously, all of these guys were green before it was socially acceptable. Ba-dum! Actually, the cool thing about Green Monkey back in those days was that they didn't take things seriously. That was the key. To them, music was fun!
Like Al Bloch's Hangin' Around--- If it had been placed on an Etiquette or Jerden sampler (Pac NW 60s music aficionados would appreciate this) , you wouldn't blink an eye, the in-the-armory vocals and basic organ sound straight out of the 60s. Or Tom Dyer's (Half the World Is Made of) Women--- This is the stuff from which the famed Dr. Demento made his millions. Is Dyer Jewish? Dunno, but he surely has a sense of humor. Okay, girls, let's go! Mr. Epp & the Calculations is way out there, true, but pretty cool in a noise art way. Mark Arm, after hearing this, jumped ship for Green River and then Mudhoney. See? There's history here! Listen and learn!!! Let's face it, if Dyer did not own the label, only one of his tracks would surface, but he does, so we have to wince our way through Van Vliet Street, Dyer's tribute to marching band music. I swear to God, if I didn't know better, I would think this was borrowed from Rhino Records, the early years. But this is true halftime pain, Green Monkey style. Captain Beefheart has sued, claiming royalties for the use of his real name. (Which was Vliet, for all of the dunderheads out there. Oh, no, I've done it now. Every Beefheart fan in the world is going to e-bomb me with corrections. I should learn to keep my mouth shut). It says in the liner notes that Me Three's Alien Breakfast was intoxicant-inspired. Must have been. Makes me want to drink, too. And laugh... Even in their embryo stage, The Green Pajamas had depth. So deep, in fact, they wrote an ode to love (My Mad Kitty). Why not? Everybody else does. Tom Dyer played a gig once and the word got out. He was banned from every bar and junior high in Seattle. He's diabolical, though, Tom is, and formed The Icons, making the band members take an oath to never refer to him by his real name. Fifties-inspired, Work Ethic Rock (Dyer-penned) shows a germ of talent. Like I told Tom, where's the Lysol when you need it? Raw and punkish, Europe After the Rain could have made Evan Schoenfeld a buck-three-eighty-five in royalties, but Dyer opted to include it only on the cassette version of Monkey Business (the Green Monkey Compilation), thereby shoving Schoenfeld out into Seattle's rain. Schoenfeld, in retribution, wrote the first book-umentary about Green Monkey, leaving Dyer's name out altogether. They have since had lawyers contacting lawyers, but what else is new in the music business? Prudence Dredge sound like they just stepped off the stage at The Rainbow Tavern on Problem Child. This could be the theme song from any number of Beverly Hills Cops-style movies. (Don't hit me, Kline. Just spend those royalties). Talkin' about the 60s, Liquid Generation stepped back 20 years to capture the raw feel and sound of early Brit Rock on I Love U. Had this come out in the 60s, it would have been Nuggets-ready. I'll give you a second to think about that. Back to The Green Pajamas next with Peppermint Stick, a bit of AM radio psychedelia—- pure ear candy. Nobody plays the psych bridge better than the Pajamas. The Icons do their demented Richard Thompson mimicry on Write Back To Me, and do it well. So well that the real demented Richard Thompson has filed suit. You'd think he was in the music business, wouldn't you? Pip McCaslin takes a shot at America in Americans Like That, a humorous but oh-so-true look at what really drives America (and the Republican Party). Light pop with a sense of humor and a lollipop tree. More pop from Al Bloch, this time not through the time machine. Nice rock with a ton of programmed percussion and a hook or two. The Walkabouts got a lot of press back in the day. The East Coast jumped on the press bandwagon as evidently did Europe. The West Coast, though, after an initial love affair, went cold. Makes you wonder, expecially after hearing 1+1, a bit of folk-rock manna. The Slater Brothers (Melting Fish) were so far under the radar, only a few people outside of the family knew about them, but damn, they had something. On Fiasco, I'm not sure exactly what it was, but they nailed it. Arms Akimbo evidently lived in their own strange world, feeding from the same food source that made Skokiaan a big hit for (who was it? The Four Lads? In White Bread America, probably). A bit of African rhythm is only possible with arms akimbo, I guess. Good stuff. The Fastbacks are legend among the old New Wave set, a little harder edged than The Shoes, not quite punk. People like Greg Shaw and Ken Barnes fed off of this kind of music a lot. Every time the band announced a possible comeback, light tremors passed through Southern California. Danger Bunny cranked up the bass on For This, musical dementia made more demented by Nancy Clarke's over the top vocals. Great sound on the guitar, too. Crunching rock usually wouldn't fit in with Green Monkey's philosophy (Wait! They have one?), but The Queen Annes lay pop vocals over their crunch like barbeque on fried chicken. A bit of the sixties in this one. More Prudence Dredge--- theyreturn with a bit of a fifties edge, jazzy combo-backed. You remember those tacky fifties movies revolving around strip clubs and murder? This would be a perfect night club track, especially with Joey Kline's semi-Elvis Vegas voice. Confused music from The Elements next (read the liner notes) with folk rock harmonica and simple backup. I Know That You Know is a hybrid of early Grass Roots and maybe Government Cheese. All I knew about The Bombardiers back in the day was that The Rocket loved them and they played everywhere, judging from the posters they had pasted up at every construction site in Seattle. Of course, posters can be misleading (ask any 'street team'). They did have a rock flair to them, though, as the music shows. And what would you do if you owned the label and thought you had musical talent? Why, you'd end a compilation CD with one of your own tracks, that's what, and that's just what the incredibly egotistical Tom Dyer does. Dipped in fifties teen ballads, he jingles and jangles his way through a song “dedicated to every girl I ever loved, wished I'd loved, should have loved...” Even plays lead guitar. I heard him play once. That's balls!
Capping Day/Behind the Wheel
Disc Two--- (assuming you knew the preceding was Disc One--- otherwise, just read on)--- If anyone ever asked me what was the best pop rock to ever come out of Seattle, I would have to say Radio Van Gogh's I Hope I Get It All and The Green Pajamas' Kim the Waitress, with its sitar-laced sixties pop attitude and undying love for the lady who served them coffee. Funny. When a waitress serves me coffee, I feel an emotional attachment as well. Must be the caffeine. When Material Issue covered the song in the 90s and even did a music video, Kim had somehow changed from saviour to psycho-killer. Must not have been the same waitress. If It Works (don't fix it) took The Life into the mainstream rock of the time, with touches of The Call and maybe Tom Dickie and the Desires at their most pop (especially the production). Glass Penguins was one Michael Cox with local unknowns Scott McCaughey, Curt Anderson, Christy McWilson and Riki Mafune supporting. Good enough pop that Dyer once again had to get in on the act (backing vocals). Some guys... Here come The Queen Annes again, this time with a great semi-garage rocker (You've Got Me Running) and sounding quite British. Dig the mouth harp, double leads and end of song freak-out! Ow! Flashback... and whiplash... Short and sweet, the crunching trio rock from The Fall-Outs is too pop for punk and too punk for pop. Not sure, really, what they were doing, but it works, even today. Little Jane is Keith Livingston's contribution to the worldwide folk/psych library, intriguing percussion, great lyrics and sparing use (I think) of the twelve-string taking it over the top. Impressive in its restraint, impressive in its sound. The Life recorded a tribute to Natalie Wood because, well, she's Natalie. If I Had You (for Natalie) is musical tribute to all the wet dreams of pubescent boys everywhere. Not too shabby musically, either. The Elements sound a bit like Jonathan Richman on It's Not You. Then again, maybe not. The production is sparse, the song is light if not light-hearted. Sometime around the time Michael Cox was recording the earlier Glass Penguins track with Dyer, he was recording tracks with Jon Auer of the Posies up north. Thanks to the guitar, She Moves Me is very folk rock-y. Dyer comments: “I have low resistance to songs featuring nachos and guacamole.” Cox probably knew that and wrote the song with that in mind. “Actually, I was just incredibly hungry when I wrote that,” said Cox in an interview with Gasbag Magazine. No matter. It worked. It's here. Steven Lawrence was part of The Green Pajamas' saga, but he also recorded solo. Julia has a very 60s pop sense, not unlike the Pajamas. Previously unreleased, from 1988... Followed by a Green Pajamas one-two punch. First, the Jack Endino-engineered Suzanne, with semi-fuzz guitar and wimp organ. Harder edged than a lot of their songs, it hits a nerve. That nerve gets scratched a year or so later with Instrument of Love, keyboardist Bruce Haedt taking over lead vox for a Jonathan Richman-leaning ride. Also previously unreleased. That Dyer guy digs deep, don't he? Don't really know who Rich Hinklin is, but crows come and go samples (correct me if I'm wrong) John F. Kennedy's speeches, backwards and forwards, in an art noise tour de force (or is it force de tour?). You could build a great performance art piece around it. If you told me Jon Strongbow's Electric Man was recorded for Ork Records back in the late 70s, I wouldn't argue. Strongbow has that very early Talking Heads flair about him on this track. One thing, though. I listened hard and can't hear the tongue drum. What the hell is a tongue drum, anyway? Capping Day, according to Dyer's liner notes, were on their way to Capitol Records thanks to Mona Lisa, a great folk-pop song with solid rhythm section, great sounding guitar (a twelve-string?) and very early and excellent use of xylophone long before bands discovered cool instruments you could not buy in a guitar shop. Vox by Bonnie Hammond and Laura Weller (now with The Green Pajamas) hit the spot. What The Purdins were drinking the day they wrote and recorded Psychedelic Day, I want a case of. Hardly psychedelic, it reeks of surf/hot rod with weird effects like those used in those teen beach movies. The bass run is classic. I've tried to figure out what The Hitmen were trying to do on I Love Your Poems of Love, but I'm clueless. You've heard of psychedelic stew? Well, this is hardly stew, but trips along the psych edge, thanks to echo chambers, numerous short overdubs, a sense of funk and a handful of other things it would take a good equalizer to sort out. At the very least, intriguing. Very intriguing. Mad Mad Nomad could have recorded Keeper of the Cage yesterday, it fits into the indie world so well, but it was in fact recorded in 1990. Caz Murphey has a yodel-hook in his voice which is perfect for the song, the mandolin/keyboard (sounds like a recorder) break is a great bridge and it rocks. All it really needs is a bit more of Jaqueline Grad's violin. You didn't think Dyer was going to get off with just one track by The Hitmen, did you? Power guitar carries the beginning of Thrasher's Corner to red meat rock and beyond. Even the verse's bump-dip piano chords can't disturb the pop metal aura.
Say what you want about Slam Suzanne, if they had (have) nothing else, they had (have) grit. The punkish Perforated Condom is Sex Pistols and Motorhead rolled into one. You might not want to play it loud. Known to perforate eardrums... Swelter Cacklebush. Four teens from Puyallup. Who knew? They walked into the studio, banged out three tracks in six hours, one of which was We Could. Sounds like a Kearney Barton production out of the 60s, remixed for the 90s. Slam Suzanne comes back for another slashing caffeine-induced rocker, Double Latte, vocals recorded with deep reverb and sounding like the guy needed one less coffee. Short, powerful and topical. That Tom Dyer is relentless, I know, so he gives us one more Dyer-infused tone poem. Tom Dyer/Beatimus caps off the two-disc extravaganza (but not the day... get it? Capping Day? Ouch! Tough room) with Life Is Perfect, a 1992 semi-Springsteen rocker perfect for rolling credits. They could have dragged out the end forever, like Springsteen has been known to do, but didn't, thank the gawds.
An aside: While it may sound like I have something against Tom Dyer, it is far from the truth. Without Dyer, Seattle would have been far the lesser musically during the post-hair, pre-grunge days. Recording these bands did not make him a boatload of money nor did it bring him (or the bands) much in the way of fame, but it wasn't meant to. If Dyer has been nothing else, he has always been about the music and the musicians. You can tell by reading his extensive history/track-by-track booklet inserted within. It's amazing reading and great music, even if you were not there. I missed a lot of it, but hearing the few songs I did catch and the many I did not reminds me that music is timeless, and when heard with historical perspective, a treasure.