The past month or so has been an especially tasty one in regard to the acquisition of new (old) records, including some long (long, LONG) time want list items (for here and over at Funky16Corners).
It was during the digimatization process, and plowing through the crates to prep for the next episode of the Iron Leg Radio Show, that I happened upon an especially old record that I had unjustly neglected for years.
Flash back to the very early 80s, and my brothers and I are hanging out in our parents backyard, doing nothing remotely productive, and we happen to hear on the radio that REM were going to be playing that evening at the Capitol Theater in Passaic.
We rapidly dragged ourselves out of our lawn chairs (without spilling our beer) and hightailed it up to Crazy Eddies.
You see, back in the olden days, before the computers and the beep-beep, bloop bloop and what not, you used to have to go somewhere special to buy concert tickets, usually Ticketron (anyone remember those rainbow colored tickets?).
There were a couple of Ticketron outlets nearby, one inside of a Macys department store (?!?) and the other inside Crazy Eddies.
Crazy Eddies was (for those of you too young or too far from the NY area to remember) an appliance/record/tape chain, with lunatic TV commercials, that eventually collapsed under the weight of its founder’s criminal activity.
Though I wouldn’t generally go to Crazy Eddies specifically to buy records (for guys like us it was a place to get stereo equipment and blank tapes), if I’m in a store, and there are records to be had, who am I to look the other way??
So, we buy our tickets for the show, and I headed over to the “imports” section, where in addition to overpriced French prog rock albums, you could find all kinds of domestic independent label stuff.
Though I can’t be 100% sure, I think this was also the day I grabbed the Vipers Jem/PVC LP, but the real score (though I didn’t know it at the time) was a remaindered copy of a four or five year old release by a band called DMZ.
DMZ, formed in 1976 and dead in the water two years later, is now best known as the band that introduced the world to the charms of Jeff Conolly, aka Mono Mann.
It was still a few years before I would hear about the Lyres, so that meant nothing at the time, but I did recognize that the album included a cover of the Sonics ‘Cinderella’, so I forked over my 99 cents, and headed home.
While my ears were still stuffed full of sweet, power pop/new wave candy, I had started to develop a taste for punk (zee raw, seexteez zound) and DMZ brought it.
I found myself dropping the needle on the opning track, ‘Mighty Idy’ a lot, but the cut that really rattled my cage is the one you see before you today, a cover of the Wailers 1966 slammer ‘Out of Our Tree’.
The importance of the damp, depressing Pacific Northwest to the development of punk, 60s and beyond cannot be underestimated.
Bands like the Kingsmen, the Sonics, Don and the Goodtimes, and Paul Revere and the Raiders all made awesome sounds (some, like the Sonics far beyond awesome), but the mighty Wailers were there first.
The group had their first hit with ‘Tall Cool One’ in 1959 (again in 1964), and over the next few years their R&B/frat sound morphed in sometimes savage garage punk.
‘Out of Our Tree’ was released in 1966 and it is one of those records that wears the era like a badge of honor.
You get pounding drums, combo organ, fuzzed out guitars and wailing (of course) vocals, and the overall effect is powerful enough to shoot grandma out of her chair like a roman candle.
Conolly, one of the great rock and roll maniacs and a devoted record collector brought his love of 60s punk to DMZ, and the result was very cool indeed.
Now, if you were to set to Googling, you would discover that there is something of a critical consensus out there which suggests that the DMZ album suffers from sub-par production by Flo and Eddie.
I am here to tell you that this is bunk.
Whether this is a case of “I don’t think it sounds punk (read, INEPT) enough!” or “I love the Lyres and this doesn’t sound enough like the Lyres!” I can’t say for sure, though both schools of thought seem to be in play.
Having been around then, I fully understand the tendency to associate clean, professional production with ‘the man’ and loosey goosey indie 45s recorded in a basement somewhere to be the ne plus ultra, but as is often the case, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
I would suggest getting yourself a copy of the album (or just download the MP3 here), and turn it the fuck up.
The production is right on the money for 1978. DMZ sound like an era-appropriate punk band and Flo and Eddie gave the bass and drums (especially the drums) quite a bit of sonic punch.
Jeff is solidly savage, and while the organ could be a tiny bit louder, it is there, and you’d have to be a fool to deny that DMZ does the Wailers proud.
Not long after DMZ imploded, Conolly, Rick Corraccio and Paul Murphy went on to form the Lyres, one of the greatest live bands of the 1980s and beyond.
As always, I hope you dig the sounds, and I’ll see you next week.