"USA Goes Pop!" (compilation curated by Don Campau. Lonely Whistle Music 1989)
To kick off this series of free download/streaming releases I am presenting a cassette I put together in 1989 on my Lonely Whistle label. At the time there was so much invigorating and exciting music in the home taped pop genre that I felt a need to get a collection out for people to hear. There was so much good stuff I didn’t even have room for my own material. This tape still stands up to me as a fine representation of independent songform with classic performances by many of the artists.
This tape was also released in Europe by SHM Tapes in Koln, Germany.
Note: the mp3 of this album got posted in the wrong sequence. However, it doesn’t really matter. All the songs are there and even if a little muddy, an excellent offering.
1. Dream Girl by Ray Carmen: a beautiful, jangly, catchy ditty by one of America’s pop treasures. As usual, short and to the point.
2. Every Summer Ocean Road by The Silly Pillows: originally this was the song that ended the tape and it was a fitting conclusion and uplifting. This is trademark Silly Pillows.
3.Falling Off The Boat by Mark Saucier: pronounced “so sure” this musician was from the southern coast of the US I believe and featured a forceful folk rock sound. I don’t know whatever happened to him but his tapes are wonderful.
4. Family Life by Eric Daum: This Bay Area musician had Steely Dan leanings that lended itself well to sing along goodness.
5. Fingerprints by Kevyn Dymond: one of the true American masters of originality and sheer gumption, Kevyn Dymond from Arcata, California produced one of the greatest runs of home taped albums in the early to mid 1980s. Mixing metres, throwing in odd sections, deftly and assuredly picking through difficult transitions and ultimately winning you over with his humor and panache.
6. Have Big Floating Heads, Will Travel by Bored Young Men: The duo of Ken Clinger and Beeg Srahka put out some very strange and wonderful tapes that mixed sly, inside joke humor with droney, mesmerizing backing music and a unique and unusual delivery especially when sung/spoke by Srahka. It’s head boppin and also head scratchin’ work.
7. I Wear Guns When I’m Dancing by Amy Denio: Simply one of the most talented and creative of home tapers ever, Amy inserts her humor and massive musical gifts into her songs. On this one, it is more overtly political and the transitions during the song serve as a metaphor for change not only politically but personally.
8. Looking For Daniel by Robin O’Brien: The paradox of Robin is that her strong and sure voice sits on the seesaw with her haunted and vulnerable heart. One of the finest singer-songwriters of this or any other era. I know, I’m biased.
9. Man Obsessed by Daniel Johnston: originally this lo fi chestnut led off this tape and set the tone with its bleak , insecure message offset by the music itself which is instantly hummable and involving. Johnston, of course, became the poster boy for home taping oddities especially after the film, “The Devil And Daniel Johnston” came out a few years ago. Certainly, a sad story but one with elements of hope.
10. Nice Lawn, Asshole by The Rudy Schwartz Project: lacing his high energy, complex music with zinging, ascerbic lyrics, Joe Newman ( at that time of Texas) delivered a masterful series of cassettes that rank among the finest ever produced. His homage to Zappa is obvious but he takes it into a personal realm of social catharsis that marks it like cat spray as his own.
11. Obsidian by Crispy: I believe I was introduced to this guy by Charles Laurel who was a Bay Area friend and associate during the late 80s and early 90s. Crispy’s melody here turns into itself and his keyboards add the support with an almost jazz/ progressive rock flair.
12. Pain Inside, Please by Lawrence Fishberg. A classic of the autochord casio genre, Fishberg uses his therapy as music and we sit there on the couch smiling and wondering how he can be so open about his problems and life. Our time is up, see you next week Lawrence. I love this one.
13. Pop Off A Girl by Lawrence Salvatore: Once calling Lawrence “Barry Manilow on acid”, that isn’t really far off the mark. Sensitive to the breaking point, Lawrence shows off strong musical chops on his tapes and a sure handed approach to songwriting craft. I’ll try not to belabor this point but he does not want any contact at this point and even told me he did not want to be named on the internet. For the most part I have respected his wishes ( always wondering why) but I feel strongly that Salvatore’s music is, in a way, bigger than him historically and would not be appropriate to let it dry up and die. A true origjnal.
14. She’s A Climber by Dino DiMuro: another mini epic by this Los Angeles artist who I once called “the greatest home taper in America”. Strong words but when Dino’s full oeuvre is dissected one can view a large canvas of masterly dimensions with parts seen for the first time even after years. This one builds and winds its way to a climax with an urging lead guitar line, pure Dino.
15. The Hamster Wheel by Heather Perkins. Anyone can take a drum machine, a guitar and a mic and do a song. Heather Perkins from Oregon, finds that these are just tools that need to be made personal. Her unique vocal timbre, her world view that incorporates allusions to other songs ( some cheesy), her coughing during the recording, the sweet, reverbed lead guitar and finally her oblique take on life’s events all add up to captivating and engaging listening.
16. The Other Way Around by Dennis Carleton. A garage rock legend in his native ( I believe) Cleveland, Denny Carleton’s pure pop attitude shines brightly through his music. This song becomes a sing along rather quickly and the turn of phrase indicates that everything is not the way it seems.
17. This Isn’t Arizona by Joe Menichetti. From Santa Cruz, California, Joe Menichetti and I go way back to our punk rock trio ( with Greg Gray) called The Desmonds. Even before that Joe was producing music in different bands and formats. He picked up a four track portastudio early and poured his cracked humor and high caliber musical traits into his perfect little pop songs. Later, Joe would graduate to jazz type compositions with his band, Catwalk.
18. What Goes Up by R. Michael Torrey: Mike submitted songs early on to my radio show and also made solo and band ( Mata Rata with Charles Laurel and Eric Muhs) appearances on the program. His direct and fine voice is the key element to his material . This is supplemented by solid guitar and the usual home tapers tools (drum machine,etc) and his standout ability to often create a hook.