#15    SUMMER OF 2003



Gary Pig Gold sees a Simply Saucer

It was during the Spring of long ago 1977 that, in the hunt for interviewees to be a part of The Pig Paper’s gala Kinks Kommemorative Issue, my photog and co-publisher Johnny Pig (nee Pinto) recalled an encounter several months earlier at an Ontario College of Art concert. There he had met and taken part in a fascinating discussion with an intense young man named Edgar Breau, who as that evening ended offered a gracious invitation to continue ruminating upon all things pop(ular culture) any old time we felt like visiting his home turf in Canada’s most musical of all cities, Hamilton.

John had been particularly struck by Edgar’s remarkably keen insights into Raymond Douglas Davies, so we arranged to talk with him further on this very subject when it came time to compile our Kinks Paper. Consequently, no sooner had Government of Ontario Transit deposited us at the Hamilton Bus Terminal that, as per Edgar’s explicit instructions, we found ourselves following the railroad tracks crosstown to the only house still standing on Ferguson Avenue South. Therein we duly took our seats at the kitchen table, only to become suddenly overwhelmed by the sound of a band rehearsing in the basement directly below. Yet no more than a handful of bars had passed before we realized this was a band making sounds we had never quite heard anywhere ever before: An incongruously seamless blend of Modern Lovers, Stooges-meet-Syd Barrett, Reg Presley, ELVIS Presley, Can, Pink Fairies, Hawkwind, Sun Ra even, and of course those aforementioned Kinks to boot. Now remember, this was still very early 1977, and those initial Blondie and Ramones long-players – to say nothing of Metal Machine Music -- had just barely crept into only the most discriminating of Canadian record racks. Which made what we were hearing that afternoon in Hamilton all the more disarming and, courtesy of 21st Century retrospection, most utterly visionary as well.

After a half hour or so the nice noise abruptly stopped, then four sweat-soaked miscreants emerged from the depths to join us ‘round the Formica. There was Edgar, John whooped in instant recognition, along with fellow guitarist Alex Pollington, a Beatle-browed bassist named Kevin Christoff, and a Neal Smith sound-and-even-look-alike drummist name of Don Cramer. aka Simply Saucer, circa 1977.

As planned, we spent the remainder of that fateful day talking Kinks with Edgar (when not talking Revolver with Kevin that is), but traveled back home afterwards with a wholly other plot developing: Trying to talk some of our Toronto friends into giving this incredible band a gig or three. Fortunately for us, but as it turned out kinda unfortunately for Edgar & Co., the subculture du jour known as Punk was just beginning to rear its razored head; therefore it wasn’t that difficult at all to slip Simply Saucer onto very-late-night bills alongside the likes of various Viletones and even fellow Hamiltonians Teenage Head. In fact, when my own brave combo The Loved Ones rented a YWCA to play with Saucer one gloriously Labatts-soaked eve, OUR guitarist (ex- T. Header Steve “Sparky” Parks) soon ended up strumming instead within Edgar’s motley fold, replacing the strategically fleeing Mr. Pollington. Then very soon after that precipitous turn of events The Pig Paper found itself somehow permuting directly into our very next limited legal partnership, Pig Records.

First signing? Need you even ask??

Now by now Edgar and I had talked often and at length on how his band didn’t really fit in with what was already becoming, by 1978, a dangerously fashion ‘n’ fad-conscious music scene (indeed, the dreaded milquetoast terminology “New Wave” was already being recklessly tossed about to describe any band which didn’t subserviently subscribe to the A.O.R. M.O.) As a result, from the absolute dozens of delightfully disparate numbers within the Breau songbook, we decided upon the two most Pop of the bunch with which to launch not only Simply Saucer’s “official” recording career, but our wee li’l label too. Hence “She’s A Dog” (a fervent fave at most every live Saucershow) and “I Can Change My Mind,” the latter ever-so-subtly hinting at the utter raucousness and roll with which we planned to fill subsequent singles and then eventually an entire SS LP by decade’s end.

I so vividly recall recording these two raw gems in one single evening inside a white bungalow-slash-recording emporium known as JB Sound somewhere atop the Hamilton mountain (the only other local studio, none other than Daniel Lanois’ Grant Avenue facility, being well out of financial reach). Needless to say, as feared our proud homeowner/audio engineer of the moment, one John Boyd, instantly became so, um, non-plussed with our Pistols-as-opposed-to-Eagles approach to the finer sonic arts that he suddenly leapt up from behind the board, barged back upstairs to “Hockey Night In Canada” (leaving only his college intern beside me to somehow complete the session), and ordered us to just leave the damn money by the back door on our way out, thankyezverymuch. That’s how I became a Record Producer, I think (eg: by the time we got to the B-side I’d finally discovered the bass fader …which explains why Kevin can barely be heard on “She’s A Dog”; if I haven’t already apologized for this unavoidable error, Mr. Christoff, I most certainly do now).

Quarter-inch tape of our lightning endeavor firmly in hand by the midnight hour, all that remained was to throw ourselves a charity corn roast, I kid you not, even higher up Hamilton Mountain that Saturday, which handily paid to immediately press a thousand copies of Pig Record Number 1. I then set to work in my parents’ rec room armed with scissors, Sharpies, envelopes and mailing labels aplenty. Perhaps you can then imagine our common disbelief and sheer joy when, within mere weeks of its 6 / 78 release, this seven-inch labor of true semi-monophonic love actually rated as Single Of The Week upon the hallowed pages of the Record Mirror of London. You BET we were all shocked. And stunned.

Then what happened, you may well be asking? Well, the band continued to perform in and around Toronto (tearing the ceiling – LITERALLY – off the even-then-pretty-legendary Beverly Tavern that October, and later sharing an historic stage farther up Queen Street West with ultra-kindred spirits Pere Ubu), while several other with-it zines continued to sing the band’s praises high and very wide (“Canada’s last great hope!” opined no less than Flipside). But I suppose it was all a classic case of quite too little and somewhat too late; after all, the band had been beating their guitars against the wall for nigh on eight long years already. So as the Seventies unceremoniously limped into the Reagan decade, this particular Saucer shot no closer towards what should have been at least undeniable and everlasting international cult status.

Nevertheless, THIS here tall rock tale has a most happy ending you see, as Edgar continues creating and even performing to this day, remaining, I am SO pleased to report, every inch the round hole against the music industry’s multitude of square pegs he was that afternoon all those years ago when John and I first dropped by his Ferguson Avenue Village Green. Plus Pig Record 1 has now even entered the digital age as Bonus Tracks tagging the Sonic Unyon Recording Company’s gala re-issue of Simply Saucer’s remaining period audio (said collection, originally unleashed circa 1989 on vintage Mole label vinyl, immediately became hailed as “the best Canadian LP ever” over at Forced Exposure). Of course this deluxe Cyborgs Revisited disc is, to say the very very least, Required Listening, as lifelong fans the likes of Byron Coley, Thurston Moore, not to mention original “She’s A Dog” howlers Steve Wynn and Cub Koda would most happily join me in telling you all right here, right now. So if you haven’t already, stop by www.sonicunyon.com and get your very own without further delay, okay?

Godspeed then, Edgar Breau and Saucers everywhere, and long may you share your nice noise with us all.

All the images on this page come from sonicunyon.com. Go there RIGHT NOW and order the CD reissue of Cyborgs Revisited, one of the most Blastitudinal albums of all time!






Gary Pig Gold recommends

As yet another twelve months bite dust, tis time again to whisk ears back upon what the year past had to offer within the “Rock,” “Pop,” “Pop-Rock” and (my personal favorite pigeonhole) “Otherwise” competitions. Now this time, I present an alphabetical mix of curios both new and re-issue – with even a couple of beauts which technically came out a month or twelve or twenty outside our strict chronological criteria but failed to reach MY full attention til A.D. 2002 – each and every single one of which, if they aren’t already, do most definitely deserve an immediate place deep within your daily listening habits.

All set then? Ears open, if you will, to…..

The Museum Of Me
(Future Fossil)

The man, the far-from-myth, yes the supreme audio architect which is still Chris “I Used To Be A Square Peg, But I’m Alright Now” Butler has finally packed the absolute crème of his home-recorded (on Edison wax and Webster wire recorders, direct-to-lathe-and-PortaStudio, and even the Rolling Stones Mobile!) crop onto this one great big disc. Complete with just about everything from mini-song sketches (lifting off with the soothing benedictory “Hole In The Sky,” which opens “The Museum Of Me” just as “Meant For You” introduced the Beach Boys’ “Friends”) through to full-blown soundscapes of near-cinematic stretch (the lasagna western theme which is the Beatles’ authentic Studer four-track-recorded – Really! -- version of “Bad Moon Over Mel Bay”), these seventy-one full minutes go a good sonic mile and then some past what one may rightfully expect from such an assemblage of perfectly unapologetic retro-fi’ness. Why, “The Idiot Trail” deftly chews up then spits straight out the comparative self-pomp of The Eagles at their most, yes, idiotic, while “The Bottom Of A Workingman’s Beer” and the Con Edison-powered “Power” sound nothing less than Lost Lennon Tapes for the End Times! Similarly, “The Man In The Razor Suit” takes but five-minutes-twelve to completely demo-lish such recent big-budget collections of triteness as those by Ryan Adams (et al et ALL). Intricately interspersed with snips of dialog and comparable found sounds, then trailed by a doubling helping of fascinating Bonus Footage to boot, this is one musical museum you undoubtedly will be returning to quite often after your initial visit …though you really should try to keep from thinkin’ bout them gurls so much you know, Chris!

(Sympathy For The Record Industry)

With Robbie Rist at the controls (of not only the van but the CD player as well), an afternoon stuck in traffic somewhere deep in Orange County, California CAN have its benefits. You roll down the window, take another bite off your Double-Double In-N-Out Burger and inquire of your host, “Heard anything real real good lately?” Last time I asked, a thoroughly delightful series of tunes started pouring from the dash that sounded a bit like “Armed Forces” Costello here, then rather akin to a Disney-ized version of “Apeman” Kinks there, and all topped with the sweet-tart vocal stylings of one Lisa Jenio, in whose mouth commands such as “I Want A Pony” sound anything but cupie-pie. For those already skilled at reading between the lines of Ronnie Spector’s mascara, deceptively diet-lite confections such as “Cherry Picker” take on much more sweetly vindictive undertones, while quite conversely “Slayer” and “Fake It” will patty-melt hearts faster than Kirsty MacColl at her finest. Lyrically at least, Lisa’s sensibilities, as she herself croons, lie pointedly further south than the Romper Room approach her music often suggests (as if The Playboy Channel had very early one Saturday morning broadcast some alt. children’s programming), yet everyone involved are equally adept at tackling even Allen Toussaint’s “Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky (From Now On)” …and sounding every beat more LA. than L.A. for their trouble. File this album most assuredly under the More Than First Meets The Ear and Eye category then, absolutely, and join us all in sitting right tight for the sophomore release.

The Pawnbroker’s Wife

From the initial Buck Owens and Rose Maddox duet-in-double-hell-style weeper “I Love You” until the final dreamwork of Lee Hazlewood’s “Sleeping In The Grass” has faded three quarters of an hour later, Johnny Dowd and his loyal associates have for the fourth year running now dented one dirt deep impression upon my musical year. Jeez, wherever to begin?! “Rose Tattoo,” the perversely sly Family Stone out-take that never was? “On Shakey Ground We Stand,” wherein Garth Hudson escorts John Doe and Exene down some condemned carnival’s midway? Or how about “Monkey Run” and “Judgement Day,” as Johnny’s ace band continue their long-standing neurotic dance upon Jimbo Morrison’s remains? Listen closer still, please, and you will meet Billy Blu, “the keeper of the flame [who] repairs radios with alien transistors.” Toss in a couple’a Christmas songs too, including the quite possibly definitive “Jingle Bells” I kid you not, and flavor all of the above with Kim Sherwood-Caso’s alien-transistorized vocals, Justin Asher’s barb-wire guitar (which shoots several of these songs straight to their knees during the final bars), then put beneath the hood drummist Brian Wilson (yes, but not THAT, Brian Wilson), and you too can experience one of 2002’s – or probably even 2020’s – most thrilling recordings. Or, as the man himself explains, “There have been some good times and some bad times and a few times I lost the faith, but I’m still a true believer in the power of music. Rock ‘n’ roll is my religion. It’s all I know. Thanks for your time.” Anytime, Johnny. Anytime. See ya next year I bet.

This Time Long Ago
(Ranbach Music)

Pardon me, but may I get just a wee bit patriotic right about here for MY Home and Native Land? I speak, just in case you wonder, of that sleeping giant of a nation which has produced far more than its fair share of musical wonders this past century or so, yet seems forever overshadowed by not only that big loud country immediately to their south, but (in the Sixties especially) by the sounds and stylings of Swinging England in particular. Yet didja know that in the days when those Beatles were still skifflin’ round Liverpool basements for jam butties and Benzedrine, the frozen prairie burg of Winnipeg, Manitoba already housed one working legend of a guitarist who was quickly beginning to carve his swath throughout – and eventually far out of – the Canadian pop-rock wilderness? I speak, as you should already know, of Randy Bachman who, alongside Burton Cummings, proudly led Canada’s very own Fabbest Four during the afore-mentioned Sixties and well beyond. Sure, you’ve heard the hits (“American Woman,” “These Eyes”) and then the spin-offs (the most mighty Bachman Turner Overdrive, anyone?) However, “This Time Long Ago” finally tells the story BEFORE those stories, with over two-dozen live and studio examples of just why the classic Guess Who line up (Bachman and Cummings alongside the king rhythmic section of Jim Kale and Garry Peterson) were then, and remain today, a quartet to be unabashedly marveled over. Just hear these guys out-garage Paul Revere’s original Raiders (“It’s My Pride”), conjure the definitive Neil Young interpretation (“Flying On The Ground Is Wrong”), and then eat the Doors and even Cream for dessert in the process (with superlative workouts on “Light My Fire” and “White Room”). No, this is not only exciting and enlightening, but in every way essential listening my friends …regardless of what side of the 49th parallel you happen to reside on.

Fight Songs

Man! Oh, MAN. My upstairs neighbors are already fast asleep so I’m gonna have to resort to headphones for this one but, like the regal ruckus recalled in Eddie Cochran’s barefeet-slappin-on-the-floor fests of yore, these Kings of Nuthin’ pick right up where Little Richard’s original band of Upsetters left off circa Sydney, New South Wales 1957. You bet, this great big Boston-based beat and blue band savagely swing with sixteen cylinders, fire on all fours, bop like a spitting top, and in lead shouter Torr Skoog especially contain one greasy galoot easily the equal of Stiv Bators, Shane MacGowan, or even the denizens of practically every rock combo ever to crawl out of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada alive. In fact, had Lemmy and all his Motorheads made some dreadfully wrong turn, lost a bet and wound up on the Twin Tone label late one lubricated night, this album would only BEGIN to tell the sordid tale. ie: “The Kids Will Have No Say” demonstrates exactly where the mockers of Pete Townshend’s first songs went horribly, happily wrong, “Callin’ To Let You Know” smells precisely as if Russ Meyer instead had directed “Grease” (and immediately hired Ruben & The Jets to star), and then “La Chupacabra” exactly evokes some sultry Saturday night box-cutter brawl between Louis Jordan and Los Straitjackets. In other words then? Crazily kamikaze Punkrock of the Buzzcock variety recast in some long lost Alan Freed C-feature, or more precisely a Brian Setzer orchestra with big huge balls instead of cereal box tattooery. My party platter of the year, Your party platter of the year, THE party platter of the year!

John McMullan

Second only to our good pals over at JAM Recordings in the Comp And Tribute Album Appearance sweepstakes, Mr. McMullan (as The New York Times shall someday be calling him) at last presents his first full, fully solo release …“thirty-eight years in the making!” as he proudly proclaims. And such a real good one it certainly is too: Launching immediately off upon the rock ‘n’ rant which is “Law School” (precisely the sort of feeding-hand biter that’s SUPPOSED to be filling Tom Petty’s latest) and enlightening upon all the most proper of musical touchstones from then onward (vintage Twilley and Seymour here; Harrison-produced Badfinger there), John has assembled the kind of purely pop package that focuses upon craft as opposed to mere craftiness. “Mrs. Reginald” perhaps does suggest a sequel to “The Graduate” in one way, yet quickly counterbalances any possible Buck Henry pretentions with the sort of brazen bounce best exemplified by the “Mr. Webster” of John’s beloved Monkees. The man’s lyrics can wax wistfully upon evocations of the heartlands, as a song(title) the likes of “Kissing To A Soundtrack Saxophone” certainly suggests, but again without cloying or tugging at misspent emotions. So, to sum up? Strictly, always brilliantly though, meat and potatoes rock, most assuredly Well Done throughout. As Dick Dawson might say.

Smell The Parade
(Gloomy Tunes)

In its promo card’s own words, “Milo is a novelty songwriter, lo-fi producer and one-man band. He records in the living room of his tiny apartment in Atlanta, Georgia. This collection of post punk, indie pop, alt-country, goth-folk, cabaret and garage blues is his first CD release.” Then no less than The Johnny Lazybones Lost And Found Music Review And Preview characterized “Smell The Parade” as, I again quote, “Kim Fowley meets Ben Vaughn.” May I simply add that besides being impressed right from the get-go, before a single note was even heard (upon loading this disc into the trusty Pig Player and noting its ten tracks total a mere 28:28), I was quite floored at the sheer diversity this man can crank from an obviously budget-challenged palate. See, the listener is giddily whipped from the quirkful no-wave of “Roach Under Glass” to the They Might Be Even More Giant “Mirko’s Car” to the uncannily Zappa’d “Love Chained” and on to the wholly Cryptic Corporate “Cheated Lied Left” (which brings back fretful memories of the time I once saw Conway Twitty duet with The Residents on very-late-night TV). Hey! And there’s even a couple’a bonafide love tunes on here too! All this from a self-described Minimalist (“…I still listen to the Ramones, I have sex alone”) who, it bears repeating, records in the living room of his tiny apartment in Atlanta. Kindly check your self-imposed musical restrictions at the door if you dare and, well, Smell The Parade at least once for me, alright?

Love’s Oblivion
(Morty Shallman)

Another fabulous find brought to my attention during a trip way out West last fall (thanx, Fran!), Morty Shallman boldly presents a 45-minute “novel in twelve pop songs” chronicling one typical relationship’s ups and downs. And downs. But rather than tugging us too deep into some “Pet Sound”-ing emotional morass, “Love’s Oblivion,” via its bright-sparkling arrangements especially (just LISTEN to those background “ahhh”s supporting the first, and my favorite track “Amy”) keeps the mood airborne even when the lyric may take a turn towards the bleak (“I never knew love could be such a crashing bore”; “your friends and family line you up against a wall like a firing squad”). So whenever the proceedings do begin to lean towards the bombastic, a strategically placed acoustic-based reprieve such as song – I mean, Chapter number six, “I Never Knew Love,” will magically appear to cleanse the aural palate before diving back headfirst into the story at large. Overall as well, Morty’s spiraling vocals are kept full, alive, and very up-front indeed -- why, it’s a Nashville Mix, I tell ya – and when all is said and sung we are indeed left with, as the tray card insists, “not your typical boy meets lesbian, boy loses lesbian tale.” Instead, “Love’s Oblivion” reads as one gripping, thoughtful song cycle, but one which never ever sacrifices the Love and Lust for the Literal. So, listen. Learn. Read On, everybody.

Big Boy Pete Treats
(Rocket Racket)

“Big Boy Pete” being veteran Brit popper Pete Miller (whose original combos The Off-beats and Jaywalkers concocted several Sotheby-worthy vinyl collectables all those years ago) and those subterranean Squires of course the nom-de-group of upstate New York’s resident sound surfer Christopher Earl. The result of this collaboration made in Rock and Pop Heaven? Three quarters of an hour’s worth of expertly reverb-drenched, clipped ‘n’ crafted Merseybeat-with-a-tweak (best example being the long-lost Herman’s Hermits B-side-that-should’a-been “I Do Declare”), wholly Anderson Council-worthy semi-psychedelia (“Genius Man” and especially “Henry Nut”) and even some slyly slick nouveau-Lounge (ie: “Down In The Street”) the likes of which haven’t been heard much at all since the first season of “Twin Peaks” (those last couple of Wondermint releases notwithstanding at all). Interestingly indeed, all fifteen gems herein were originally composed by Mr. Miller for various London music publishers over three decades ago but considered entirely inappropriate for the Carnaby-catered Tops of the Pops of those days. What were Denmark Street’s losses then make for nothing but intriguing yet never annoyingly retro listening today, luvingly produced by none other than Big Boy Pete himself. Then exit it all out on two minutes of the Squires’ patented sonic SMiLEs and you’ve got one album which honestly can stand alone against The Move or even Who (Sell Out) within the bravest of international record collections.

Fall Love
(Bus Stop)

Lane Steinberg and Steve Barry, formerly one half at least of that most rightfully acclaimed The Wind are, with this short but extremely sweet four-song EP, at last beginning to “officially” release their just-as-beguiling work d.b.a. Tan Sleeve. Yet while our subtly dynamic duo continue to flourish round the grand tradition of Messrs. Nilsson, Williams (as in Paul), Rundgren (as in his “Todd” album) and even Bacharach, the songs themselves are now taking straight off towards ever loftier, more adventurous but always charmingly so heights of fancy (as the deceptively simple title track immediately demonstrates in lush modulating abundance). True, these are deliciously multi-tiered, keyboard-derived compositions …then suddenly the guitars come out in wide acoustic force for the classic John Sebastianesque “It Doesn’t Snow In New York Anymore,” a track that could’ve so easily brightened even the “Midnight Cowboy” score (for starters)! Possibly a harbinger of rockier roads to come? Perhaps, as Lane and Steve debuted a full-on band at their most recent International Pop Overthrow appearance. Nevertheless, the root of the Sleeve’s approach will, deep down, always remain imbedded within the rich beauties of Steve and Lane’s delicate songcraft, and with that remaining the core of their approach, the melody will forever haunt the heart of their matter.