(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!)
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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
Tags: Basel, Che Cafe, Feathered Apple Records, garage revival, Greenwich Village West, JP's, King's Road Cafe, Mike Stax, Rolf Rieben, San Diego music, Studio 517, Switzerland, the Crawdaddys, the Gravedigger V, the Hedgehogs, the Lyres, the Nashville Ramblers, The Rockin' Dogs, the Shamen, the Spirit, the Tell-Tale Hearts, the Wallflowers, Ugly Things