Friday, March 18, 2005

Presidents - 5 - 10 -15- 20 - 25 - 30 years of love

Digging through the crates, or in my case the boxes, I pulled up a disc by the Presidents on Sussex to share with y'all. I initially picked this up in some dusty thrift store cuz i recognized the name Van McCoy on the label. Van was raised in Washington D.C, and of course was a serious producer cat back in the day, whose main immortal work "The Hustle" is no stranger to dance floor warriors. The Presidents were a somewhat obscure DC vocal trio and as far as I know most of their stuff is out of print, despite hitting #11 on the charts with this infectious cut "5-10-15-20-25-30 (Years of Love)". A full album on Clarence Avant's Sussex label with the same title emerged in 1971, fellow labelmates at the time included Willie Bobo & Bill Withers who were among the first 5 artists on the imprint.

The tune was a real family values type thang composed by members Tony Boyd and Archie Powell joined by the third member Billy Shorter who completed the trio. Similar to the Impressions or even the Philly Soul sound, just check out the lovely soaring three-part harmony.

sample lyrics:

Look at the little kids playing
And having fun
Don't they remind you of us
When we were young
5 -10 -15 - 20 (25 - 30 years ago)
Weren't we happy

And we have so much to be thankful for
We've got
5 -10 -15 - 20 (25 - 30 Years Of Love)
Holding hands and talking
Walking in the park
Aren't we happy

Watching the kids play
Girl, brings memories to our hearts
Aren't we happy
And here I cry out
Thank you for giving me
5 -10 -15 - 20 (25 - 30 Years Of Love)

In 1970, when the 7" was released the group were on the Hollywood based Sussex label, which was briefly affiliated with the Buddah bumblegum rock empire until 1973, (later on in the mid 70's the label folded & the only other notable artist on the imprint at the time was Bill Withers who moved to CBS). Other than a few subsequent singles, The Presidents mostly dropped outta sight. I found some historical footnotes about them changing their name to Anacostia at one point, and anyone whose been to Anacostia will tell ya that prolly wasn't the greatest career move. Anacostia, aside from being a nasty river running alongside a large low-income Bronx like industrial wastelandia in south east D.C. isn't exactly a tourist attraction. I've read Anacostia recorded for numerous labels like Clarence Avant's Tabu label as well as Columbia, MCA, and Morris Levy's notorious Roulette racket, well into the 1980s. The pic below is from a 1977 Tabu release I've never heard.

This track I 've featured, "5-10-15-20-25-30 (Years of Love)" was the group at their early peak as The Presidents. The damn thing is so sweet, it just tugs at your heart strings with the over saturated strings and supple drum breaks. You can hear some of the techniques at work that Van employed a year later when he started to work with the Stylistics ("You Are Everything," "Betcha By Golly, Wow"). Van, who went on to produce ex-Temptation David Ruffins' last charting hit, was also a hustling bustling creature of the 70's disco era, and permanently left the soul scene in 1979, after a heart attack that took his life in his mid 30's.

I took the cut off an old 7" single I had, so excuse the lo-fi quality, as it's about 35 years old, and I had no other way to share it but jacking it into the laptop without a decent preamp. I tried to clean up the background noise a bit, but lost bass signal using some demo software. I decided to just leave the groovy crackles & hums in, otherwise the whole thing sounded a wee bit too filtered...anyhow, you just gotta ..uh, Deal With It & Dig It Baby!

Checkout a free sample of a classic track from The Presidents

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Me First & The Gang's All Here - Dag Nabbit !

Went to one of my most dreaded rock venues in the city last night. I won't even speak the name of the club, mainly because it's booked by some fat old crone, who I have no interest in hyping any further. She's the type of person who makes working around live music such an abhorrent pasttime. Not just for me, but countless others over the years. I try not to frequent the joint, but ocasionally I go where the party is. I don't think I'd been there since 2003, which was likely the last time Me First & The Gimme Gimmes performed there.

Check Out Me First & The Gimme Gimme's take on Yusef Islam's 70's AM Radio hit Wild World

Wild World was originally recorded under the name Cat Stevens back in the day...

I gotta admit a fondness for Me First & The Gimme Gimmes, the sorta punk band even your Mom might like. The last time I saw them there, even the venue couldn't diminish the grand time was had by all that early December Eve 2003.

Indeed it seemed our fair city was perhaps on the verge of a paradigm shift. The gig was a benefit for the mayoral run of upstart politico Matt Gonzalez, and the whole town seemed hinging on the contest. Even the youth seemed turned onto the political process by the radical lawyer candidate who claimed the Clash as an early influence. It was a unique show of energy surrounding a mayoral election for the first time in any one's memory. The battle so silly on the surface, a rich connected Marina guy in a thouand dollar suit running against the scrappy intellectual in wrinkled thrift store clothes.

Here is a look at
poster from that Matt Gonzalez benefit
designed by the debonair Chuck Sperry, the original print really stood out with day-glo metallic inks that don't really show in this scan. Click it and see the big ol' version via hosting on
the way cool website

Anyhow, needless to say, as for Gonzalez, the endorsement from former losing mayoral contender Jello Biafra did not put him over the top. In fact the guy recently gave up his post as prez of the SF Board of Supervisors , and went back into private law practice. Less public scrutiny of his every thought will probably do the guy some good.

Meanwhile the Gimme Gimmes rock & roll on, and they don't need no stinkin' politics.
During a post show conversation last night, bassist Fat Mike could barely recall the politician's name he'd raised a few thousand for a year or so back. His bands aren't exactly PC, and make doltish gay jokes onstage, but then head with their suburban corn fed posse over to the Eagle afterwards to suck 'em down at everyone's fave leather bear bar.

It was here I ran into Brian Baker, a guy I hadn't talked with in well over a decade. He was a guy I first met at a community center in Vienna VA over 20 years ago at a "battle of the bands". We were both smart assess and sorta hit it off.
Brian was kinda like the token wannabe rock star kid in town, where everyone else in the D.C scene pretended they were serious and uninterested in such things. But, we all kinda knew Brian really was gonna be a rock star dammit, so it goes. He drove a bitching red hatchback, a CRX, not quite as cool as a Camaro, but it worked & got better mileage. He had Marshall stacks and knew how to get the tones just right and was in the best bands. We even joked in one of my goofy punk bands songs we were just "Brain Baker's Army!"...

Brian in A VOID T-shirt

He had just finished a stint playing guitar in Minor Threat, and before that had been in G.I. and was now starting a new band with two of my fave musical pals Roger & Colin of Bloddy Mannequin Orchestra. He asked me outside of D.C Space once to try out as a singer for his new project, but the rehearsals were gonna be in Colin's basement in Maryland. I had no car, I was basically a screwed up teenage runaway living out of a box in the woods near my girlfriends house. I wasn't able to commit, had to decline, and sorta felt like a real loser. My friend Sean Brown got the gig, he was straight edge, and he was possibly an even worse singer than me.

Hear Evidence From A 1985 Demo Recording
I Wouldn't Cry

Sean recorded a demo with the guys, and everyone I knew was psyched for the band at the time. Their first big show was opening for the Dead Kennedy's at WUST RADIO HALL ( now the 9:30 Club).
Hear a rare mp3 excerpt of that show in August 1985. This is just an intro, as Brian was basically wailing away trying to get the attention of late arrivals milling about, drinking outside and being too cool to come in and see the unknown opening band.

Despite Sean's cool guy look, awesome energy onstage, I think he was outta the group shortly. Brian even had new vocals over dubbed for some of the same tunes with a guy from Boston with a bigger rep on the scene.

A year or two later I had fled to SF on a Greyhound, and ran into Brian when that band now known as Dag Nasty was playing at The Mab.

They were on their third singer, and 2nd bassist. Brian seemed genuinely worried that I was hanging out in SF, where the streets were littered with needles and lost souls and invited me to move back to DC and stay at the Dag house. I was broke but loved SF and had no intention of deserting. It seemed people always seemed to doubt my survival skills. Often they've assumed just cuz I'm hyper energetic, talked fast & looked nuts that I must be on some kinda drugs. Truth was, despite my refugee status, I was less a rock n roll casualty than most of the guys touring around in bands that I met.

Brian has gone on to record and perform with lotsa groups over the years including the Meatmen, Sam Hain, Junkyard, Doggy Style & Joan Jett, and eventually joined Bad Religion in the mid nineties. Last night he was onstage in a Hawaiian shirt with Me First & The Gimme Gimmes, doing John Denver covers and whatnot and having lotsa fun as a 40 year old man.

Chris Rest, Lil Mike Martzke, Brian Baker, Fat Mike Burkitt @ Eagle

It was good to see him, even though he was kinda in a job that used to belong to my friend Barry, one of the original Me First & The Gimme Gimme guitarists. I once put together one of the Gimme Gimmes early gigs in SF at a nutty bar I worked at. People I Knew were mad at Mike as usual at the time, this time because he was using the name "Me First", since another local band also had a similar moniker. The guy can't win, but actually always does.

I remember once hanging out at his old apartment across from the scary Sutter St projects, when he busted out a new 7" he had just pressed on his new lable Fat Wreck Chords. It was called "(My Girlfriend's) On The Rag". He played it for me while she bopped about the apartment drunk and i visibly winced, wished him well and hoped he wouldn't lose money on it. Well needless to say , he's doing quite well, and is one of the handful of Punk Rock Millionaires I know.

I consider him to be the Rodney Dangerfield of Punk Rock. No Respect, but it's sorta like he doesn't need it. Last night Mike was telling how the other bands hate Me First & The Gimmes Gimmes because it's just too easy, they never practice, and can drink for three hours before the show instead of the usual two... and still please the crowd.

Back in the day, we had no metallic inks and the color silkscreen printing like Chuck Sperry does was a far fetched fantasy. I was in the "toner underground" and designed lots of xerox copy
flyers , mainly for shows that I also booked...

Me First & The Gimme Gimmes were just
getting started and only had one or two 7 " singles floating around when I put
this gig together at the late Chameleon on Valencia. Somehow we even got the
name of the opening band wrong and it was spelled Nerf Driver instead of Nerf

click and see the big bad version