Saturday, November 22, 2008

Early recorded evidence of STL indie rock

Meghan Gohil, now of Hollywood Recording Studios and once upon a time one of the Mitch Easters or Spots of the St. Louis indie rock scene, is answering the call issued by Thomas Crone to cough up those old obscure local musical marvels.

Crone is asking people to digitize old tapes for possible play next week on one of two shows he will be producing on KDHX FM 88.1: "The Record Sto'" (2 -4 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 27) and "Silver Tray" (noon - 2 p.m., Friday, Nov. 28). Both shows will stream live on the website for two weeks after they air.

Here is the first batch Meghan culled from his personal archive, all run through some old Neve preamps to fatten up the bottom end, he said.

We have four songs from the St. Louis Schoolhouse tape-only release that Joe Z. Armin produced, at my instigation, when we were living together on The Hill in the early-90s (a similar trubute to Schoolhouse Rock, with covers by national acts, came out a couple of years later, by the way). All of these song titles link to mp3s:

* Brian Hennemann - at the time, after Chicken Truck but before The Bottle Rockets - plays "Gravity" (by Lynn Ahrens).

* The Boorays do a mod and swinging take on "Verb" (by Bob Dorough).

* Judge Nothing yuks it up on "Conjunction Junction," with frontman Doug Raffety making use of his neglected saxophone chops (by Bob Dorough).

* The Cookiemonsters, fronted by the late Dave Moorman (R.I.P.) and featuring Meghan himself on bass, have some fun with "The Five Song" (by Bob Dorough).

He also has found and remastered two rarities of mine - two of the first songs I ever wrote and recorded:

* "Steel Blue Eyes" features a girl from the Wash. U. dorms named Cindy (who could really sing) on lead vocals. I don't foresee this making the cut for Crone's radio shows, but if it does I've no clue what artist name to use since we weren't a band, I don't perform on the track, and I've so thoughtfully forgotten Cindy's name. The writer credit is (Chris King, Jeff Rouder) and Rouder produced it in Tietjens, the studio at Washington University.

* And then you have my first-ever effort as a songwriter and (God help us) singer, a song that was once enormously popular in several circles (including the Navy ROTC unit back at Boston University), "Plastic Cup Nightcaps," an image drawn from hoosier nightlife in Granite City, Illinois, where they put you out on the street at the end of the night with the dregs of your last drink dumped into a plastic cup.

This is another (King, Rouder) cowrite and another Jeff Rouder production, with Jeff playing that funky bass line, of which I recall his being rather proud. Joe Z. Armin and another girl from the dorms (the name "Jen" seems to emerge from the mire of memory) pitched in on vocals to back me up and bail me out.

It occurs to me now, as I struggle to remember these distant names, that an aptitude for organic chemistry is basically responsible for a decade of my playing music more or less full-time - which included running away from graduate school and never going back - and another decade of devoted dabbling in songwriting and production.

I aced that first Organic test. The guy who happened to be sitting next to me when the tests were returned, who turned out to be Jeff Rouder, decidedly did not. He asked if he could study with me before the next test. I said sure - I was a lonely transfer student with a hopelessly uncool off-campus housing assignment and was starving for companionship.

We studied for the next test in his dorm room. Jeff put on some nice music with a female vocal to listen to while we worked. I asked if it was Richard and Linda Thompson. He said no, it was him and Cindy down the hall - he had just made the recording as a class project for his recording studio course.

My eyes bugged. A recording studio course? A guy who could write songs with me and record them for us? I leapt at the prospect of turning all of my notebook poems into songs and recording them a and that's what I've been doing ever since.


The picture is a recent shot of Joe Z. Armin, producer of St. Louis Schoolhouse and second lead vocalist on "Plastic Cup Nightcaps," from the MySpace page of his current band, The Areosols, who are great. Crone also has, from me, recordings of Joe's St. Louis band Dirt Cousin, which was much better than many bands from town that went much further (including mine).


Anonymous said...

My friends Trish, Bill M. from London, and I were dicussing after a set by Auset Music Project that St. Louis has the greatest local music scene. London tends to find one trend that everyone rides till the next one comes (according to Bill). A few pints more and we decided that perhaps there is just as much variety in London, but the town is so huge that it's very difficult to find the gems. Just as many needles in a much smaller haystack here. Trish is a travelling live music junkie and swears that only Austin has it on St. Louis. Our town is immensely talented. Funny that our artists seem to be almost impossible to market to anywhere else. Anyhow, get out and get it while you can before it winds up on Thomas Crone's radio show or in Chris's basement/museum. Have you heard One Lone Car? Smoking hot pop chops from the wrong side of the river. Dale A. (who is heretofore anonymous because I can never remember my password on this fucking system and I ain't going to register again, dammit.)

Confluence City said...

I'd like to hear One Lone Car. And I'd like to suggest that many of our bands do find audiencees elsewhere, when they get there, but not here - or at least that was the paradigm when I had much more time to pay attention to this stuff.