Monday, September 16, 2013

"Mein Leben"

Rasende Stümper
(Clarita Gomez Tapes, 1989? 1990?)

Jan and Kai Damkowski were a couple of really cool brothers from West Germany with whom I was pen pals in the late '80s/early '90s. Jan put a song from one of my old bands on a compilation tape he released and Kai took some pictures of my band that we ended up using on the back cover of one of our records. Kai also sent me tapes of a few bands in which he and/or his brother Jan played. One of those bands was Stümper, a loose-knit band composed of a bunch of energetic German teenagers.

Kai sent me a couple of Stümper tapes and they are a big mess of chaotic fun. I can't find the booklet he sent that went with this tape, so I have nothing at the moment but the song titles and a note in English that he stuck in the tape box. I don't throw stuff away, generally, so I'm sure I have the booklet somewhere, but I've been searching for days to no avail. Anyhow, per Kai's note:

We rotate on instruments. We use no distortion or effects mechanisms and no fuzzbox apart from one guitar on 'Gitarrenkampf'. . . . We never played a song twice and we are not planning to do it.

The song I've chosen for today is Mein Leben, and Kai had this to say about it in his note:

Translates as 'My Life' and has everything in it. Love, Pain, GG Allin, Highway-deaths, Oliver North, Freezer, Horst Hrubesch, money, sex, HSV, Genscher, Aussiedler, and more. A song about life that offers you absolutely everything. This is the ultimate tragedy.

Tragically, one of the founding members of Stümper, Flassoff, drowned in the Elbe River in the early '90s.

I stupidly lost contact with Kai and Jan ages ago, but I did some research this weekend and discovered that Kai was later in a band called Hrubesch Youth, named for the apparently famous footballer Horst Hrubesch. They released at least a few records and a CD, so I'm hoping I can find copies. Also, Kai is a published author!

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Screaming Gypsy Bandits

The Screaming Gypsy Bandits
In the Eye
(BRBQ Records, Inc., 1973)

The world is full of unexpected connections. For instance, one would not be likely to think a link might exist between avant garde art punks MX-80 Sound, Top 40 popsters Looking Glass, mid-'70s metallers Starz, and contemporary jazzers like John Zorn, Tim Berne, and Satoko Fujii.

I'd like to introduce you to that link. Ladies and gentlemen, The Screaming Gypsy Bandits.

Their output during their lifetime was scant: this album and the compilation LP Bloomington 1, where I first heard them, released on the same label a couple of years later. Their members went on to stardom as the years wore on, however. Guitarist Bruce Anderson went on to fame, of a sort, with MX-80 Sound and its various offshoots. Guitarist Brendan Harkin joined Looking Glass, after their mega-hit Brandy (You're a Fine Girl) but in time to play on their final single, and stayed with them as they morphed into Fallen Angels then Starz. Bassist Mark Dresser (who left before this album was recorded) has played with the above jazz luminaries and scads more.

Three of the songs from this album were added as bonus tracks to the CD reissue of vocalist Caroline Peyton's 1972 album, Mock Up, so I've chosen one of the remaining six for today's post. It was written by Mark Bingham, who penned all the tracks on the album plus all of the songs on Mock Up. Junior is the longest track on the album and allows the members to really stretch out.

The liner notes for the Mock Up CD mention a Screaming Gypsy Bandits album that was never finished, Back to Doghead. In 2009, that album hit the shelves, finally, in compact disc form. Unlike In the Eye, it's a much more out there affair, with obvious inspiration from Captain Beefheart and The Mothers of Invention. I think it's pretty fabulous.