Che echoes from the Alps

(Rolf “Ray” Rieben of Feathered Apple Records describes how the San Diego underground reached Basel, Switzerland, and shares his cache of memorabilia from the Che Cafe and other points southwest. Stay tuned for much more of Ray’s trove from the Tell-Tale Hearts, Crawdaddys, Howling Men and more!)

Tell-Tale Hearts; Che Cafe, Oct. 5 (collection Rolf "Ray" Rieben)I was working as a record salesman in Switzerland when the first Crawdaddys LP (“Crawdaddy Express”) on the German Line label had hit the market. Most of the Bomp! catalog was licensed to Line Records from Germany. Line Records had the best possible distribution, since because they were connected to a major label. They’ve helped to make The Crawdaddys and some of the other bands from Greg Shaw’s Bomp label famous over here in Europe.

Kings Road flyer (collection Rolf "Ray" Rieben)“Crawdaddy Express” rates as the first modern ’60s garage LP ever made (after probably The Flamin’ Groovies). It was first advertised on the back cover of the July 1979 issue of Goldmine magazine. The sound was very British: wild raving rnb like the early Kinks, Downliners Sect, or the The Pretty Things, but undoubtedly influenced by Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry and the likes. There’s even a few cool northern soul ballads featured on both of their LPs, too. These four fine young lads from San Diego knew what they were doing, they had the right spirits, and they could deliver in authentic ca. ’64 – ’65 style, too. It was exactly the type of brand-new LP that I was hoping for.

Read Ray Brandes’ definitive Crawdaddys biography!

The other employees at the record shop seemed to like the Crawdaddys LP, too, so much that about three of the five of us actually bought a copy of it! Obviously, it was played quite a few times at the shop. I can still remember the expression in the face of some surprised ’60s fans that came down into the shop while the record was playing. They could hardly believe that the record was actually played by a brand-new band, but they’ve wanted to buy it anyways. It sold nicely.

The Hedgehogs; party flyer, Dec. 4, 1981 (collection Rolf "Ray" Rieben)Tell-Tale Hearts, Rockin' Dogs; Studio 517, Oct. 31, 1984 (The Hedgehogs; party flyer, Dec. 4, 1981 (collection Rolf "Ray" Rieben)Tell-Tale Hearts, Nashville Ramblers; party, Nov. 1, 1985 (collection Rolf "Ray" Rieben)The Wallflowers, the Tell-Tale Hearts, the Rockin' Dogs; After Dark, April 5 1985(?) Tell-Tale Hearts, Nashville Ramblers; party, Nov. 1, 1985 (flyer by Jerry Cornelius, collection Rolf "Ray" Rieben)The Tell-Tale Hearts, the Nashville Ramblers, the Wallflowers; J.P.'s, August 15, 1985 (collection Rolf "Ray" Rieben)

During the following months and years, the ’80s garage scene was starting to bloom, until it reached its height about 1984. It was thanks to some quality garage bands of the very first hour such as The Cramps, The Crawdaddys, The Chesterfield Kings, Lyres, Milkshakes, also The Tell-Tale Hearts and some others, but also because of all the many great fanzines, fans and labels that the whole thing eventually got so big.

I found out about The Tell-Tale Hearts back in around 1983 or 1984. There were some live tapes of them floating around; some of the fanzine editors were already starting to write about them, too. The Tell-Tale Hearts quickly took over the position of the (by then already gone) Crawdaddys, of which Mike Stax had also once been a member.

Most of the better international garage mail orders back then were carrying copies of Mike Stax’s brand-new second issue of “Ugly Things,” featuring the Music Machine on the front cover, so I’ve picked one up. Then I’ve got in touch with Mike Stax to offer him my help with the distribution of his recently started fanzine. He turned out to be a ’60s fan like myself, so we immediately became friends.

The Tell-Tale Hearts, the Gravedigger V; Greenwich Village West, Feb. 25, 1984 The Tell-Tale Hearts, the Gravedigger V; Greenwich Village West, Feb. 25, 1984 (collection Rolf "Ray" Rieben)The Tell-Tale Hearts, the Gravedigger V; Studio 517, Dec. 17, 1983 (collection Rolf "Ray" Rieben)The Tell-Tale Hearts, the Hoodoo Gurus, Limbo Slam, Women on Top; Spirit, Oct. 19, 1984 (collection Rolf "Ray" Rieben)The Tell-Tale Hearts, the Gravedigger V; Studio 517, Dec. 17, 1983 (collection Rolf "Ray" Rieben)The Tell-Tale Hearts, the Shamen (pre-Gravedigger V; party, 1983 (collection Rolf "Ray" Rieben)

I collected ’80s garage flyers, and posters for a couple of years while it was happening. You could not get them that easily. You usually had to ask around for them. They were mostly sent in by friends, fanzine editors, band members, record shops, labels or distributors. I was also working as a booking agency for a few cool international garage-punk bands during the ’80s and into the ’90s, too. I only ever collected some flyers of a few of my favorite bands. The best ones were usually sent in by the band members.

Virtually all the material which I’m going to post onto this blog originally came from Mike Stax. It nicely relates to each other. I’d offered him some rare Swiss ’60s garage stuff (tapes and even some rare 45s) for a couple of their latest flyers and posters; then we ended up trading flyers, tapes, records, and even videos for the next couple of years. We are still friends today.

— Rolf “Ray” Rieben

Check out related bands, people, venues and gigs!
Che Underground Trivia Question
The Penetrators

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26 Responses to “Che echoes from the Alps”

  1. Mmrothenberg Says:

    Among the highlights of this small sample of Rolf’s collection: a flyer for a party with the TTHs and “the Shamen,” the pre-Gravedigger V band I b’lieve had Matt Johnson on drums; a flyer for the 1984 Halloween party Claudia Brandes described for us; and a promise of videotaping at an event featuring the Hearts and Rockin’ Dogs at Studio 517!

    I would go ape for that video. Any clues?

  2. Mmrothenberg Says:

    PS: Stay tuned for some gorgeous Jerry Cornelius designs in future posts! If anyone were to do a flyer show in SD, Jerry’s oeuvre deserves much more exposure than it’s gotten.

  3. Paul Allen Says:

    I saw a TTH bootleg from Belize once. You can’t stop this thing.

  4. Mmrothenberg Says:

    The lettering on that Jerry flyer for the Wallflowers/Tell-Tale Hearts/Rockin’ Dogs is wonderful!

  5. markmul Says:

    Very cool story.

    Was there any attachments to look at? Maybe I missed them?

    Rolf / Ray,

    I’m the origional drummer for the Morlocks, did you ever have any Morlocks goodies?

  6. Mmrothenberg Says:

    >>Was there any attachments to look at? Maybe I missed them?

    Mark: Yeah, there are, like, a dozen flyers in this post. Are you using Internet Explorer on Windows? We’ve had some problems before … I think it was a Vista thing.

  7. Ray Brandes Says:

    That last flyer is the one I’ve been looking for: the debut of the Tell-Tale Hearts at a Clairemont party with the Gravedigger V (nee Shamen)!

    Flyer is by Rick Wilson, I believe.

  8. Joe Piper Says:

    >>We’ve had some problems before … I think it was a Vista thing.

    Still are! I can’t see ‘em!

  9. Mmrothenberg Says:

    >>Still are! I can’t see ‘em!

    Argggh! OK, so here’s what I believe is the deal:

    Internet Explorer + Windows XP + the current version of WordPress = can’t see the images.

    1. Is anyone having problems using any browser other than IE and any OS other than XP?

    2. Can someone having problems on IE try viewing this post via the Firefox browser? (Or some other browser, I don’t really care.)

    I’m going to try to get our blogging software updated in the meantime.

  10. markmul Says:

    I opened Mozilla and I could see the flyers.

    FYI

  11. Mmrothenberg Says:

    >>I opened Mozilla and I could see the flyers.

    Mark: Thanks! Now I think I’m going to try to tweak WordPress. Blog, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change …

  12. Feathered Apple Records Says:

    Oh yeah, there were some early Morlocks flyers amongst this post too, and of course it would be great if you could send in your Morlocks flyers too. I’d love to see them!

    I was submitting about a hundred flyers and photos of mostly The Crawdaddys, Howling Men, and Tell-Tale Hearts by email to the blog owner.

    The highlights from my collection are undoubtably all the ultra rare ancient Crawdaddys, and Howling Men flyers. I’ve never seen one single Howling Men flyer pictured anywhere in my life. There’s a few collectors/old fans out there that would go nuts for them today!

    The Tell-Tale Hearts were rated as the “West Coast Garage Kings” of the mid 80s by many. My Tell-Tale Hearts poster and flyer collection is quite unique, and probably the most complete collection of them there is. There’s some real highlights amongst it, such as the ultra rare poster from their gig with the Royal Nonesuch at the Primitive A Go-Go, or a full set of flyers/poster from their November 1985 SDSU Backdoor gig with The Chesterfield Kings.

    Too bad that the photos of my flyers won’t show up on your computer, but I’m facing the same problem over here too, I can not view any of them either!

    I’m using Internet Explorer 8 for Browser which unfortunately does not seem to be compatible with this particullar blog entry.

    I hope that the blog master will be able to fix this notorious problem. Thank you!

  13. Mmrothenberg Says:

    >>I was submitting about a hundred flyers and photos of mostly The Crawdaddys, Howling Men, and Tell-Tale Hearts by email to the blog owner. … Too bad that the photos of my flyers won’t show up on your computer, but I’m facing the same problem over here too, I can not view any of them either!

    Thanks again for the wonderful material, Rolf — I am going to try to solve the compatibility problem ASAP (before I post the bulk of the flyers you sent me in a couple of sets titled “the Rolf Rieben Collection”). :-)

    Apologies for the technical difficulties for those viewing with IE 8 on Windows XP, and stay tuned for the highlights of the Rolf Rieben Collection!

  14. Joe Piper Says:

    Me too- same as before -- IE8 & Vista.

  15. Ray Brandes Says:

    Internet Explorer works great for downloading Firefox.

  16. Mmrothenberg Says:

    Fun facts about our user base … According to my tracking software, in September to date, the platforms our users employed were:

    Windows 68.3 %
    Macintosh 14.8 %
    Unknown 13.7 %
    Linux 2.9 %

    Plus a smattering of other Unix systems, BSD, Sony PlayStation Portable, Symbian OS, Commodore 64 (!!!) and Irix.

    The primary browsers used broke out thusly:

    Internet Explorer 34.5 %
    Firefox 33.3 %
    Safari 7.8 %
    Unknown 6.8 %
    Mozilla 6.1 %
    Opera 5 %
    Google Chrome 4.4 %
    Netscape 1893 1.3 %

    I’m hoping the Commodore 64 users are running Netscape!! It’s like some sort of groovy time machine, baby!

  17. Bruce Injection Says:

    We only used our Commodore 64 to play Pong! Time to break out my Apple II SE!

  18. Mmrothenberg Says:

    Compatibility update: MAN, that’s annoying … We upgraded WordPress, and it’s still not displaying thumbnails on IE 8 on XP. (I just tried it on my Dell laptop.)

    I don’t have what you’d call major bandwidth for tech exploration — if there’s a WP maven in the house, please e-mail me at cheunderground@gmail.com. Thanks!

  19. Jeremiah Cornelius Says:

    Matt, Thanks for the kind words. Rolf, we always knew of friends all ’round the world -- really great to hear from one of them!

    I had forgotten many of these flyers. The “Poe” was done specifically because of a chat with Mike Stax. If the lettering holds up to scrutiny, I’m amazed. These were usually done at kitchen tables and Cafe bars, on typing paper -- with whatever pen was handy.

    Does anybody yet know what happened with Rick Wilson? He could free-letter with precision and consistency that I envied.

  20. Jeremiah Cornelius Says:

    Irix?

    I’m guilty! :-) And Linux -- too.

    My mac is also in the mix…

  21. Ray Brandes Says:

    The Poe flyer Jerry makes reference to is for the infamous After Dark show, where the Tell-Tale Hearts escaped under cover of darkness amidst flying shards of a broken mirror!

  22. Joe Piper Says:

    If I go to the Flyer Gallery page I can still see those thumbnails and view the linked images.

    Maybe the key to the invisible thumbnails mystery is there?

  23. Mmrothenberg Says:

    >>If I go to the Flyer Gallery page I can still see those thumbnails and view the linked images.

    Joe: Without geeking out too hard and giving short shrift to Rolf’s good works … The flyer gallery (which is long overdue for an update) was built the horrible, old-fashioned way before WordPress generated pretty thumbnails automatically; I cropped each of the photos in Photoshop to create two files for each image, uploaded both, placed the cropped version on the page, scaled it and linked it to the full-size image.

    It really was hell with multi-image posts!

    Nowadays I just optimize the image in Photoshop if needed, insert it where I want it, and WordPress automatically generates a nice thumbnail according to pre-set formatting.

    It’s a Godsend, but I can’t make it display nicely for XP users employing IE8.

    A kind WP wonk is looking into the issue for me. I hope to have some good news soon!

  24. Dave Wallflower Says:

    I’ve never before seen that flyer from the After Dark show in Escondido. Oh boy, there’s a story there…

  25. Jeremiah Cornelius Says:

    Hey Dave! There’s definitely a story!

    You didn’t get to play -- and even supplied the PA that night. I even chipped in my very last cash to rent that Peavey, from Eric at College and Euclid.

    So, the whole broken glass, freaked bouncer thing makes some small amount of sense…

  26. Dave Wallflower Says:

    Glass is overrated anyway. We contributed in our day to reducing the level of glass in the world.

    If I remember, we did play, it was the Tell-Tale Hearts that didn’t get to go on. In any case, there were only about a half dozen folks that made the trek all the way up there to see that show, and after about three songs into our set, they started announcing over the PA that we only had time for one more number. If my memory serves, the show in Escondido was from the era of Rick Fox presents. I still feel sorry for that poor guy. He tried to make his mark as a concert promoter, and lined up a series of shows for the CU bands, including the Rockin’ Dogs and the Tell-Tale Hearts. We didn’t prove easy to work with…

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