Posts Tagged ‘Mike Stax’

The rise of the Gravedigger Five

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

(Gravedigger Five co-founder John Hanrattie recounts his side of the renowned San Diego garage band’s short but eventful history.)

Detail: Ted Friedman, Leighton Koizumi, John Hanrattie, David Anderson, Tom Ward, the Gravedigger FiveI was 17 when I first played guitar for an audience. I was working as a roadie for a San Diego band called N/E One. They were a very good cover band that would occasionally write one of their own songs and include it in their set. They built up a loyal following among San Diego teenagers and started playing high-school dances and at a local “under-21” night club called Headquarters.

They started inviting me on stage to join them in covering the Rolling Stones’ take on Bobby Troup’s “Route 66.” I was using a six-string Rickenbacker and playing rhythm guitar with Rob Glickman, the lead guitarist. I had been taking classical guitar lessons, but I really wanted to play rock ‘n’ roll. I switched teachers to someone who could teach me Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly licks. It was a long process, and I learned some chords, but my skills were limited.

During my senior year in high school, the ASB started booking bands to play in the quad during Friday lunch. They eventually got around to inviting N/E One to play, and I joined them on stage for their set. Afterward, several people approached me, asking if I wanted to start a band. I was flattered, but I held out, hoping to find people who wanted to play the same kind of music I loved. I refused to have anything to do with playing Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin covers. I wanted to play British Invasion beat and 1960s garage music.

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The Tell-Tale Hearts: From the vaults

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

(Ray Brandes shares a long-lost track from his formative San Diego band, created with some production wizardry from Unknowns sonic prodigy Mark Neill.)

The Tell-Tale Hearts group shotTowards the end of 1986, as the Tell-Tale Hearts were heading toward an inevitable break-up, we headed back into Mark Neill’s Swinging Studios in Dulzura, Calif., to cut what would be the band’s final recordings with its first edition. Neill had produced the band’s highly acclaimed six-song EP earlier that year, and we hoped we might be able once again to pick up a little of his studio magic.

The band’s line-up included Mike Stax; Bill Calhoun; David Klowden; Peter Miesner (who had taken over guitar duties from Eric Bacher); and myself. Three songs were recorded: The Scorpions’ “Too Many Lovers”; “Promise” (Brandes); and “Nothing You Can Do” (Brandes). The first two were released as a single on Australia’s Cavern 7 label the following year, but “Nothing You Can Do” stayed in the can. (Bart Mendoza’s Sound Affects magazine included the song on a giveaway cassette with one of its issues.)

I recently discovered a rough mix cassette recording of “Nothing You Can Do” and rescued it with a little help from Audacity. I hadn’t heard the song in more than 20 years. Listening to the recording brought back vivid memories of the sessions, which were held on a rainy Saturday in November, 1986.

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Pretty Things preview in Carlsbad

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

(Bart Mendoza invites the gang to watch Reelin’ in the Years’ new documentary and talk to panelists Mike Stax and David Peck.)

On Jan. 22, 2011, at 2 p.m., The Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad, Calif., will host a special exclusive advance look at Pretty Things: Midnight To Six 1965-1970, an upcoming film documentary from San Diego’s Reelin’ in the Years Productions, part of its British Invasion series. Admission to the museum includes the screening ($7; $5 for students, seniors and museum members).

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Best San Diego record?

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

(Ray Brandes puts out a call for swinging singles.)

Later this month, Mike Stax’s Ugly Things Records will release a celebrated local recording, the Nashville Ramblers’ “The Trains.” If one were to rank the best recordings ever to be made by San Diegans, this one would no doubt place in the Top 10.

On any list it would face some tough competition, though, from Rosie and the Originals’ 1961 classic, “Angel Baby,” to my personal favorite, the Crawdaddys’ “5 X 4” EP, released in 1980.

What is your favorite San Diego recording and what is your personal connection to it? (Feel free to consider artists from San Diego who moved or recorded elsewhere.)

— Ray Brandes

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Nashville Ramblers release party

Monday, December 27th, 2010

(Ray Brandes alerts us to the long-overdue release of “The Trains,” with attendant parties in San Diego and LA.)

It is true that good things come to those who wait. The Nashville Ramblers’ song “The Trains,” which Steven Van Zandt once called “one of the most unspeakably gorgeous instances of romantic yearning disguised as a pop song,” will finally, after 25 years, get its own release.

Mike Stax’s Ugly Things Records will release “The Trains” at a special record release party on Friday, Jan. 21, at the Til-Two Club at 4746 El Cajon Blvd. in San Diego.

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It’s 1985: Do you know
where your bell-bottoms are?

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

(Ray Brandes reopens the case of People vs. the Che Underground.)

Thursday morning, during the last week of August, 1985, I arrived at work at 4:00 a.m. to begin my shift collecting and baling the cardboard boxes left scattered on the floor of the Food Basket on Washington Street. As I donned my apron, the hoots and catcalls began. ”Hey, Hollywood!” shouted one of the night-crew guys as he leaned back in the seat of the forklift, a smug look on his face. In one hand he held a can of New Coke; in the other was the latest copy of People, emblazoned with the headline, “Madonna Weds Sean.”

A few weeks earlier, my bandmates and I had made the trek to Los Angeles and endured a several hours-long photo shoot at the Cavern, music maven and cult impresario Greg Shaw’s modest live-music club located in an alley off Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood. The article, we had been told, would put Bomp! Records on the map and catapult the Tell-Tale Hearts to stardom. This would be my ticket to fame and fortune, I believed. I would quit my job bagging groceries and baling cardboard, take a few semesters off from college, and enjoy the good life.

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Che echoes from the Alps

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

(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.

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‘I was a Shambles drummer’

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

(Bart Mendoza of Manual Scan and the Shambles counts off drummers he’s worked with.)

“I was a Shambles drummer” pin (collection Bart Mendoza)No doubt about it: Kevin Donaker-Ring and I have worked with a lot of drummers over the decades, keeping in mind that we first began our team-up in 1976.

Here are a few of the incredible musicians who have spent time behind a drum kit with Manual Scan or the Shambles over the past 30-plus years. Not pictured: Paul Brewin, Morgan Young, Terry Moore, Rob Wilson, Trace Smith, Brad Kiser. … There’s a future post there.

1) “I was a Shambles drummer” pin. People have sat in with the band for one song to obtain one of these.

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From Scan to the Shambles

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

(Bart Mendoza of Manual Scan and the Shambles talks about how he got from there to here.)

Detail: The Shambles’ first lineup (collection Bart Mendoza)Of course the various members of the Shambles knew each other for years before the band’s formation, but I can put down the beginnings of the band to two events.

In the late ’80s, Kevin Donaker-Ring co-produced Manual Scan’s “Days & Maybes” EP with Ray Brandes (side note: humorous liners by Mike Stax), and we were all part of a group of musicians that frequented Megalopolis on Fairmount Ave., often playing round-robin style — David Moye and Jon Kanis amongst the round-robiners who didn’t end up in the band (though we did back up Kanis on a compilation-album track).

Detail: Shambles at the Casbah (collection Bart Mendoza)Detail: Manual Scan, Adams Ave. Theater (collection Bart Mendoza)Detail: Manual Scan, Tower Bridge (collection Bart Mendoza)Detail: Mark Zadarnowski / The Shambles (collection Bart Mendoza)

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You Never Give Me Your Money: IOUs and the Ché Underground

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

(Tell-Tale Heart/Town Crier Ray Brandes takes up a karmic collection with 25 years’ interest.)

Detail: El Cobrador del Frac 1In the cafés of Madrid, in the outdoor flea markets of Barcelona, and along the beaches of the southern coast of Spain, everyone is talking about “La Crisis.” The Spanish economy is now faltering badly, on the edge of a recession brought on by the collapse of a building boom; an average household debt 120 percent above the gross domestic product; and an unemployment rate of over 10 percent, the highest in Europe.

One company, however, which employs a curious and uniquely Spanish trade, has seen its business surge in this environment of unpaid bills. El Cobrador del Frac, the “debt collector in top hat and tails,” exists to humiliate debtors, playing on their sense of public shame. For a percentage of the collection, you can have your debtor’s footsteps dogged by a man conspicuously dressed like Fred Astaire and carrying a briefcase emblazoned with his trade. It is a shrewd and imaginative premise: that people are quick to repay the money they owe when their indebtedness is paraded in public.

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