What do R.E.M. and Ted Nugent have in common? Probably not very much. But they did both make important (to someone) early recordings on this tape machine, which remains in the possession of Mitch Easter, who (along with Don Dixon) produced the early R.E.M. sessions for "Radio Free Europe" and Chronic Town in his Drive-In Studio, otherwise known as his parents' garage.
"I got it from The Sound Pit Studios in Atlanta, which had been associated with some Detroit label," Mitch told me (at his new, humble but handsome, studio, The Fidelitorium), as he dusted off the old rig.
"Ted Nugent had recorded on it (his debut solo album). When they were showing me the machine, they hit 'play' and the song on the master tape was 'Chevy Van.' It was an early ‘70s song, slightly sleezy, the theme song to a cheap movie called The Van. Like, 'Don’t come a-knockin if my van is a-rocking!'"
I drove up to visit with Mitch on Saturday at his studio in Kernersville, North Carolina. I'll blog some little nuggets as I type up my notes and shop around a paying feature on the former Let's Active frontman.
For the record (the vinyl record), my older sisters were in proud possession of the self-titled Ted Nugent LP when I bought Chronic Town soon after its release date in 1982. I remember being quite electrified by both efforts.
In other entertainment news, Chronic Town is now the namesake for a cafe in R.E.M.'s home base of Athens, Georgia, formerly known as Tall Shivah Hookah Lounge. I applaud owner Jeff Van Fossan for one of the more epic upgrades in venue names in American history.