So what the heck was this all about? Well, a story should be told here. Back in Feb '90 when I was in England with the reformed Blue Cheer (yet another story) I found myself, at the end of the album project, at a small London club where Cheer were headlining. Between bands, a fellow was DJ-ing, playing some way-wacked-out old psych rock; someone told me I should meet him, he played guitar in a band called Bevis Frond and was a Groundhogs fan, so we might have something in common. This was my first encounter with Nick Saloman. I got his address and later, back home, found some Frond records; we corresponded, and he mentioned this new magazine he was involved in called Ptolemaic Terrascope, previously unknown to me... thus I was hooked.
Terrascope comes out irregularly (masthead: "an illustrated occasional") and always includes a bonus 7 inch, though I think they may be switching to CD singles soon (boo hoo). The perpetrators are Nick himself, listed as "publisher" but also doing a good bit of writing; and the avuncular Phil McMullen, listed as "editor", and doing even more of the writing. Nick also gets first crack at the choice ad spots for his label Woronzow Records, and if you don't like it feel free to start your own magazine. The accent is on what must unfortunately be called "psych" for lack of a better term, but they are as likely to interview Tom Rapp or Silver Apples or other overlooked sixties/seventies cult icons as they are to cover modern stuff like Damon and Naomi, Bardo Pond, Jessamine, various garage bands, or, heck, even Skin Yard, god bless 'em. By "psych" I would say all forms of mind-expanding, interesting, non-Spinal-Tap kinds of rock music, with an accent on that which is non-trendy and overlooked by the mainstream. Terrascope definitely has its own niche; perhaps "Bucketful of Brains" mag was similar. I'll now refer you to their webpage at <www.terrascope.org>.
A couple years ago, the magazine was having some financial difficulties, so they hatched the idea of a benefit compilation CD; this grew to be the double-CD Succour project, with tracks from many of the bands they have supported in their mag. (Full disclosure: There's an Endino's Earthworm track on there that stands out by being rather uncomfortably "rock" in the middle of a lot of more atmospheric stuff; I cringe when I hear it in context, but Phil likes it and says I'm crazy.) Then someone got the idea to have a benefit rock festival, which became the first Terrastock, in Providence, R.I. last year. Only 500 tickets were sold, but it's already legendary; it was the first Frond gig in the US, and I wish I had been there. (I saw them play in Walthamstow, London in '95 and it was one of the most enjoyable gigs I have ever seen.) Also present were a version of Mick Farren's Deviants, Flying Saucer Attack, and, well, heck... I wasn't there.
Fast forward to April '98: Terrastock West, San Francisco, organized by Wendy Chien (from SF's Aquarius Records) and Kathy Harr, with Phil McMullen. Three days, 38 bands, sixty bucks, 700 tickets sold in advance, period... no longer a benefit for the Terrascope, but rather a very novel idea: a non-profit free rock festival, entirely organized by volunteers, where not even the bands or the lighting people recieved payment. (And there was a hell of a light show! This was San Francisco, after all, so you know they could find the talent to do it right.) Ticket costs covered hall and equipment rentals and expenses only. Having the bands play for free was a brilliant idea which separated the wheat from the chaff, so to speak; the result was that everyone who was there really wanted to be there, and it was about music more than commerce. A very pure experience in its own way.
I got a ride down with Joe Ross and Karl Wilhelm of Seattle's Green Pajamas, in Joe's old Ford Econoline van. Long ago, Joe was our roadie and extra driver for the Skin Yard "Chafe Your Membrane '87" tour (our first national tour); in fact, since we didn't have a van then, he let us take his! This was the same van so it was a bit of a nostalgia trip for Joe and myself. Sluggo and Laurian from SF's Ain't gave me a floor to sleep on, so I was ready for three days of just being a music fan, in a setting with no alcohol or smoking... excellent! No stinky bar atmosphere or obnoxious drunks to contend with!
I'd like to review the whole thing but unfortunately I can't remember a number of the bands; if I had been thinking I'd have taken notes, but that would have felt like work. So here's what the highlights were for me.
FRIDAY 5/17/98... In the sixties there was a band named 50 Foot Hose, who made one remarkable record and dissappeared. Wouldn't you know it, their current cult status called them out of retirement with some new, young blood infused. I knew nothing about them before this but they played a great set, really cool. I remember liking Grimble Grumble but I can't recall why. Kendra Smith, originally of Dream Syndicate and Opal, came out of semi-retirement to play a solo set, just her voice and an antique pump organ (No electricity, but really loud!). This took some guts but was well-recieved. I recall liking the Mountain Goats but again the details have faded. (Yeah, I know, I should have written this up sooner...my three recent album projects have displaced much of this in my brain.) Earlier, Nick introduced me to Mick Farren, a man who is far cooler than you or I will ever be. Mick was in a legendary 60's UK band called the Deviants, has collaborated with people like the Pink Fairies, Motorhead, Hawkwind, did a few solo albums, a single on Stiff Records during the punk era, and most recently has collaborated with Wayne Kramer (MC5) on his two Epitaph albums. Mick and longtime guitarist Andy Colqhoun did a very crazed, rambling set without any bass and drums, though the Frond rhythm section joined at the end. Truly something to behold. And, then there was the Bevis Frond, currently touring the US for the first time. On Guitar and Vocals: Mr. Nick Saloman, multi-instrumentalist, singer, record label exec and publishing magnate, a true renaissance man. On bass, Mr. Adrian Shaw, onetime bassist for Hawkwind and Magic Muscle; and on drums, Mr. Andy Ward, who drummed for Camel oh so long ago... and these geezers rocked, let me tell you. Thank heavens Flydaddy is finally distributing their records in the US.
SATURDAY 5/18/98... Elf Power, added at the last minute, were vaguely prog but actually pretty OK. Seattle's own Young Fresh Fellows played a typically demented yet rocking set. Damon and Naomi, well, they are on Sub Pop and I found them pleasant but kind of a snooze. Tom Rapp was in a sixties band called Pearls before Swine, and he was recieved like royalty; various members of other bands joined him onstage for a very special semi-acoustic set of old and new. The evening was closed by two bands from the Elephant Six collective, Neutral Milk Hotel and Olivia Tremor Control, both of whom were large, stage-filling ensembles playing interesting rock music; I was resolved to chase down their records.
SUNDAY 5/19/98...Loren Mazzacane Connors played some of the starkest, bleakest, most low-key electric guitar improvisation I've heard, with only a single blue light on the stage and a single Fender Twin amp. The audience was absolutely hushed for much of it. Since I grew up with some Italian friends named Mazzacane I've always wanted to ask him about his ancestry but he said he was Irish... odd. Seattle's own Green Pajamas, who are a Terrascope favorite but can't even get arrested in their hometown, played a stunning set, really good. This band has been around for about 15 years, and has several albums and a bunch of singles to their credit, but has never been acknowledged as part of Seattle history because of their low profile here at home. As with the Walkabouts and Dead Moon, they are better known overseas... Spaceheads, from the UK, were a drummer and a trumpet player. Wait, I know this sounds questionable. This trumpet player had some GEAR: he'd play something and then sample himself "live", shift the pitch way down and loop it to make an instant bass line, then the drummer would start cooking on top of the loop, and then the trumpet player would go OFF with massive echo and effects on his trumpet, making huge layers of sound. My jaw was on the floor the whole time, they were one of the best things I saw. Silver Apples, now, there's a story to tell; another legendary 60's band, one of the original "electronic rock" pioneers, reactivated by their keyboard/electronic whiz Simeon; now, as then, a drums/electronics duo. Interesting and pretty freaky. They have two new albums; check their website at <http://www.silverapples.com> for the full story. There folowed several other bands about whom I recall little; then someone I knew from long ago greeted me with a hearty hello. It was Joe Culver, who once was in a Seattle band called Big Tube Squeezer for whom I did one brilliant, lost album. He now lives in Philly and drums for Bardo Pond, who were noisy and cool. Good going, Joe! Clockbrains were unknown to me but I really enjoyed their set, being driven to purchase their records, which I should get around to hearing sometime in 2001... And finally, our very own Mudhoney were next-to-last, playing one of their most psychedelic, sludgy sets ever, consisting entirely of all-new material from the forthcoming album, notably including a Roxy Music cover and a Cheater Slicks cover too (!). The event was brought to a close by Brother JT and Vibrolux, who were amusing and did a good job of keeping our attention as people began drifting toward the doors, exhausted from the three long days of music.
There was a separate merchandise room for the bands to sell stuff, and there were also booths for several local stores and a number of private collector/dealers. I came away from the event with far too many CD's and vinyl records to ever possibly listen to; maybe some enormous job will fall through at the last minute this summer and I'll have two months off.
Here's my quintessential Terrastock moment: I was there browsing the record bins of dealer/collector Jack Teileman, from Nanaimo, B.C. who has his own label called Lance Rock; he has put out things like a Gas Huffer single and a live Fastbacks CD, and is the licensee for New Christs (Australia) records for North America. I bought a whole bunch of records from him at full price before even realizing who he was; we'd corresponded but never met in person. (So much for my schmoozing ability.) Later we were talking, and he was bringing various things to my attention. I happened to pass a Sonny Bono [R.I.P.] LP from 1967 entitled "Inner Views". Just looking at this thing, oh my god, you'd have to see it. Jack flipped out and began insisting that I needed to own this record. I looked at the titles: "I Just Sit There" (length: 12:15), "I Told My Girl to Go Away", "My Best Friend's Girl is Out of Sight", and the apparent piece de resistance, "Pammie's on a Bummer" (7:45), sample lyrics:
Pammie's on a bummer now
And nobody knows where she's at
She could be almost anywhere
Maybe someday she'll be back...
She started smoking pot
Just to keep herself from flipping
But it wasn't strong enough
So she graduated to tripping [ETC...]
Yeah, I thought, real funny, but do I really need to own this? There's plenty of goofy/stupid records out there. Right then, who should come by but Byron Coley himself, of Forced Exposure notoriety. We were introduced, and then he recognized the record... "Hey, 'Pammie's on a Bummer.' Jack, you gotta get that one." I looked at them suspiciously; I've never heard of this record in my life. "Come on, are you guys joking? Do I really need to shell out 20 bucks for this record?" Jack T. insisted, offering to give it to me for ten. So then Steve Turner walks up, sees the record in my hand, and instantly blurts out "'Pammie's on a Bummer!' Jack! You need this record!" I'm surrounded, looking at the three of them, thinking, you bastards.
So I've got it here with me now, this 1967 Sonny Bono record, and I'm frankly scared to listen to it. Some day, I will.
© 1998 Endino
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