The Rockstars: 1+1=Death

1Plus1EqualsDeath

Happy New Year! Todd Stachowski and his video-savvy friend Paul Brown have launched a YouTube channel called donotwatch, which promises to post a new unwatchable video every week.

ToddUndPaul

Donotwatch’s Todd and Paul and a black pussy cat.

So far, they’ve released “Drive By Hater” (featuring Baltimore’s Turd Tsar, Chris Jensen of Jensen Plumbing Service) and “Harlem Shake Budd Dwyer Remix” (because you can never see enough footage of a municipal wonk blowing his brains out with a .357 Magnum on live TV).

All fine work, lads. But the highlight so far is their upload of the entire album 1+1=Death, the lone sonic release by Todd’s death metal band The Rockstars, in all its 10-song, 38 minutes and 22 seconds of g(l)ory. And as a tie-in, they’ve issued a “Rockstars Video Challenge,” promising prizes and a posting on their channel for any user-created video of a Rockstars song. Below, for your listening and donotwatch viewing pleasure is the complete 1+1=Death album:

road_warrior_lord_humongous

Lord Humongus steps to the mic

Recorded at Orion Sound Studios in January 2006, 1+1=Death has a sound as thick and heavy as I imagine Brontosaurus poop would be, and Todd’s hoarse Norse vocals have never sounded more Satanic or more in need of throat lozenges (in fact, his voice is exactly how I imagine Road Warrior‘s Lord Humongus – the Ayatollah of Rock ‘N’ Rolla – would sound if he fronted a band). Beautifully illustrated by Stachowski himself (a triple-threat artist who can write, draw and play music), 1+1=Death is equal parts humor and outrage, like Todd himself, and (again like Todd) is always entertaining. Todd wrote all ten songs and plays guitar and bass, while Tasha Levine pounds the skins and longtime collaborator (and live performance madman) Tony Himlin contributes backing vocals. The resulting music has true cross-over potential, as I can see it entertaining metalheads at Dundalk’s old Zu as well as being put to use by the U.S. military to torture high-value detainees at post-Abu Ghraib secret holding cells. It’s that good!

But the highlights for me are the sound bites from cult movies that Todd samples in between songs. Always clever and to the point, like the Hairspray soundbite that precedes Todd’s homage to big-haired East Bawmer hons, “Hair Hoppin’,” and the Joe Pesci sample from Raging Bull“You gotta shot. If you win you win, if you lose you still win. You just gotta get down to 155 pounds you fat bastard. Just stop eating!” – that leads into “No Way To Win.”

Things start off with a real punch in “DW730W,” the most commercial-sounding Rockstars metal song ever (written about a box label!), with Todd sampling some dialogue from a fight film (“You can hit him as hard as you have the God-given ability to hit…The people who make the rules intended for you to hit ‘em hard!”). The song also also provides the CD’s title, with its classic New Math equation:

Subtract yourself, ’till there’s nothing left
Divide by nothing: 1+1=Death

Giant Rat

Todd never did like math. I also like the romantic bickering dialogue that precedes “Yer Gonna Git It,” which sounds like it’s from some biker flick, “Get out! If you don’t drag your ass out that door I’m gonna cut you…I’m gonna cut your ass!” This is followed by such old Rockstars’ chestnuts as “Cat” (a deeply symbolic paen to female genitalia highlighted by Tasha Levine’s great cowbell-driven beat), “Giant Rat” (no doubt about Todd’s former housemates in Armistead Gardens, pictured left) and the very poppy “Hair Hoppin’” (this is my favorite tune, and it’s the one song in which Todd drops his Lord Humongus voice – he should try to get it on the soundtrack of the Broadway-version Hairspray movie because it would be perfect there). I love the soundbite for “Giant Rat,” too: “That thing is dangerous, it took my child. Now I’m gonna see to it that I destroy it!”

Watch Rockstars play “Giant Rat” live below:

1+1=Death is rounded out by “Leroy, Loretta & Hector,” “Operation,” “The Irresistable Force Meets the Immovable Object” and “Move Your Feet” (which has the great lines: “Sally was a bar stool/At least she looked the part/Born with a perfect body/She had a face like abstract art”).

Here’s wishing Todd and Paul all the best with their new channel. Baltimore Or Less is looking forward to not watching more donotwatch videos!

Related Links:

For more Rockstars live clips, check out “Rockstars 4Ts“@ AardVarkAudioVideo (YouTube)

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Posted in Baltimore Babylon, Baltimore Films, Baltimorons, Chris Jensen, Media, Music, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Judies Fixation Tapes

“We are Punk Rock, honey, and we’re not gonna compromise for anything!”

CassetteTape

Thanks to Craig Stitchcomb for unearthing this “crappy cassette” tape of a May 8, 1980 Judies Fixation show at the Marble Bar. The former Judies Fixation drummer recently located this three-track rarity and enlisted the salvaging skills of Henry N. Cross, who then uploaded the analog audio to Soundcloud (www.soundcloud.com) for the digitized masses of the world to enjoy. The songs are “Judy in the Alley” (a ditty that tries to sneak “Long Tall Sally” through the Judies’ alley), “Kryptonite,” and “Punk Rock Honey,” the latter a sound-check rap by singer Vaughn Keith (aka “Ben Wah”) discussing a gig at Severna Park High School that emphasizes “We are punk rock, honey, and we’re not gonna compromise for anything!”

Listen to Judies Fixation’s May 8, 1980 show at the Marble Bar (Soundcloud)

Our manager ‘Big C’ recorded this on one of those little cassette recorders using the equally crappy microphone that came with them,” recalls Stitchcomb. “I think what Henry salvaged from that source is nothing short of miraculous.”

30SEcondsDC

“Martyr Me” appears on :30 SECONDS OVER D.C.

 

Got that right. Especially since, to date, the Judies Fixation discography consists of a lone song, “Martyr Me,” that is only available on two compilation albums, 1978′s extremely rare local sampler LP, :30 Over D.C.~~Here Comes The New Wave! (Limp Records) and Hyped To Death Records’ Hyped To Death #22: US and Canadian LP Punk R-Z (though how Judies Fixation ends up being alphabetized with bands named R through Z remains a mystery!).

Which is a real shame, because these guys were tight and tough (especially thanks to their unpredictable singer who would jump into crowds and open beer cans with his teeth!), with a setlist of good rockin’ tunes. “Kryptonite” (not to be confused with a song of the same title by 3 Doors Down) was a highlight of their set and I’m glad it finally has been recovered from sonic obscurity, being one of the best Comic Book Superhero-referencing rock tunes (a long list that includes R.E.M.’s “Superman,” The Kinks’ “Wish I Could Fly Like Superman,” Macca & Wings’ “Magento and Titanium Man,” Suicide’s “Ghost Rider,” Dukes of Stratosphere’s “Brainiac’s Daughter,” and locally ’80s Baltimore pop quartet Boy Meets Girl’s “The Girl With X-Ray Vision”). Before the song, Vaughn intones “Klaatu barada nikto” and dedicates it to all DC comics lovers. You can also hear him say “Hello, tENT” (a shout-out to tENTATIVELY a cONVENIENCE?). The band clearly know their Superman lore, with Vaughn referencing the mysterious radioactive rock in all its various hues (red, green, white, etc.).

Kryptonite_Varietals

Green or red or white
There is no Kryptonite tonight
Look at me, am I not Bizarro?
Awkward today, but awesome tomorrow
There is no rock that can hurt me!”
- Judies Fixation

And back when I played drums for Thee Katatonix, I especially enjoyed their cover of Arthur Conley’s “Sweet Soul Music,” in which Vaughn changed the lyrics into a shout-out to other Marble Bar bands: “Do you like good music? (Yeah Yeah)/Like Da Moronics? (Yeah Yeah)/And Thee Katatonix? (Yeah Yeah).”

Judies Fixation, 1983.

Judies Fixation, 1983 (Photo: Colin P. Varga)

 

Judies Fixation was the best band I encountered when I first starting going to the Marble Bar in 1979, both musically and aesthetically with their wonderful fliers (which often re-purposed Silver age comic covers such as “Mystery in Space” and “Detective Comics”; additionally, Stitchcomb drew a number of original fliers).

MysteryInSpace   DetectiveComics

The Annapolis-based band’s ranks included charismatic frontman Vaughn Keith (“Ben Wah”), drummer Craig Stitchcomb (aka “Dick Goesinya,” “Jacques Strap”), bassist-turned-guitarist Bill Sutherland (aka “Brian Jones,” “Lumpy”), and bassist Wayne Murphy. Suntherland took over guitar duties when original guitarist Bill Smith left the band (he later died from a heart attack). Shortly thereafter, Tim Campbell (aka “Fido Fetch,” “Phideaux Phelch”) joined as lead guitarist (see his recollections here), though I mostly remember them playing as four-piece ensemble.

 

Judies Fixation singer Vaughn Keith

Judies Fixation singer Vaughn Keith (Photo: Colin P. Varga)

 

Vaughn Keith’s tragic 2006 death from AIDS made the news in the New Yorker, where he was fondly remembered by music critic Alex Ross:

Quo usque tandem abutere
On World AIDS Day, I’d like to remember my high school Latin teacher, the fierce Vaughn Keith, who was also the lead singer of the obscurely famous DC [sic] punk band Judie’s Fixation. Their hard-hitting anthem “Martyr Me” can be found on the 1978 compilation :30 Seconds Over DC. It holds up.

It sure does.

Sutherland and Campbell would later play in The Monuments, whose early ’80s lineups featured Russell Stone on guitar, Jay Turner on bass, Cindy Borschardt on vocals, and an assortment of drummers. Jim Moon has a ton of great Judies Fixation and Monuments photos (not to mention Slickee Boys and other notable Marble Bar acts) from that period in his Jack of Hearts Flickr albums. (Moonie’s a real camera pro and his pics provide the best, and in some cases the only, archival record of many of the bands that played the Marble Bar, Galaxy Ballroom, Trenton Street Station/Parrot Club circuit.

 

The Monuments, 1983.

The Monuments, 1983. (Photo: Jim Moon)

 

In his band post for Richard Taylor’s The Marble Bar Documentary, Tim Campbell described the evolution of Judie’s opening act, Oral Fixation: “A bunch of carpenters we knew from Annapolis got so inspired by us that they cut out plywood guitars and sang all the instruments parts into a tape recorder. They called themselves the Oral Fixation and used to open for us. Over time they slowly mutated into the Motor Morons. Craig Stinchcolmb from Judie’s plays drums with them.”

Oral Fixation

Oral Fixation (Photo: Jim Moon)

 

Judies Fixation’s manager was Frank Yates, better known as “Big C,” a larger-than-life character whom Campbell described as “a huge red-haired, one-eyed, manic depressive who helped contribute to the constant chaos surrounding Judies.” Yates passed away June 25, 2014 (see obit here).

The Judies were a great, energetic band – and the pride of Annapolis! Along with Baltimore’s Da Moronics and DC’s Slickee Boys, they ruled the roost at the Marble Bar in the late ’70s and early ’80s. So please, Craig Stitchcomb, try to dig up more of these blasts from the Fixation’s glorious past!

 

 

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Posted in 1970s, 1980s, 70s Rock, 80s Rock, Music, Punk / New Wave, Roadside Attractions, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Baltimore in Song

BaltimoreRecords

Thanks to Chris Richardson and his fantastic blog zeroto180 (“Zero to 180 – Three Minute Magic: Discoveries of a Pop Music Archaeologist”) for his recent piece “90+ Years of Baltimore in Song” – a comprehensive listing of tunes that reference ‘Baltimore’ in the song title, from Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake in the early 1900s to more recent homages by local musicians Caleb Stine (“Doin Time in Baltimore“), Milkshake (“Christmas in Baltimore“), and Howard Markman (“Welcome To Smalltimore“). (Of course, we’re partial to Jules Verdone’s “Baltimore Or Less” because, well, we took our name from it!) We could only think of two ditties missing from Richardson’s well-researched list, which appears later in this post, plus one remix mashup.

  • One is the early Tori Amos’ rarity “Baltimore,” which she recorded as a 16-year-old in 1980 under the name Ellen Amos. Tori’s song was a family affair: she co-wrote it with her brother Michael and her dad pressed 500 copies on MEA Records (the initials of her full name, Myra Ellen Amos). Tori’s promotional anthem even earned her a citation from the then-mayor of Baltimore, William Donald Schaefer! (Read more about it at “Tori Amos’ ‘Baltimore.’”)
  • The other was local group BLAMMO’s “Sweet Home Balt-amore,” a humorous tribute to “the home of Schmoke and beer, the Ori-oles and Ripkin the “Sacred Cal,” where “it’s the same old shit, the city that reads the obits.”
  • Then there’s the brilliant mashup “Baltimore What?,” in which VJ Jon Corun (AV Club) remixes DJ Yummy‘s music with scenes and dialogue from Brian DePalma’s  film “Scarface.” (Don’t forget, Michelle Pfeiffer’s gangster moll character in “Scarface” – Elvira Hancock – is, as in the Fleshtones song, “The Girl from Baltimore“!) – Tom Warner (BoL)

90+ Years of Baltimore in Song

By Chris Richardson (www.zeroto180.org, 1/23/2015)

Myla Goldberg, a self-identified and staunch “Yankee,” contributed an essay in State by State:  A Panoramic Portrait of America that relates, in amusing fashion, how her “incipient sense of state pride” as a grade-school student “was dependent upon Maryland’s Northern-ness.”   Maryland’s decision, for instance, to fight for the Union cause, Goldberg reasoned, validated her unquestioned assumption that the Free State had, indeed, “chosen the correct side of history” — in spite of the fact that Maryland, after all, was a slave-holding border state located below the Mason-Dixon line.

Goldberg was forced to confront a much more complicated truth, however, when she tried to get fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Henley, to lead the class in a sing-along of Maryland’s state song.  This Confederate marching song and plea for secession (sample lyric:  “Maryland!  She is not dead, nor deaf, nor dumb.  Huzza!  She spurns the Northern scum”), was written, Goldberg would later learn, in violent response to the sight of Federal troops disembarking in Baltimore en route to protect the nation’s capital, i.e., The Baltimore Riot of 1861.  Myla would eventually figure out why Mrs. Henley had failed to honor her request.

Maryland-Oh-Maryland

I, too, went through a similar psychological journey and process of “civil re-education” after my move to Maryland in 1992, as I tried to make sense of the state’s history.  Baltimore’s mayor (I was late to learn) – along with the city’s council, police chief & entire police board – were all imprisoned in Fort McHenry during the Civil War due to their Confederate sympathies.  The plot to kill newly-elected President Lincoln on his railway journey from Springfield to Washington in 1861, I discovered thanks to Smithsonian Magazine’s special report in 2013, would be foiled by detective Allan Pinkerton in Baltimore, a hotbed of anti-Northern sentiment at the time.

But Baltimore’s big-city charm and strong industrial past obscure its Southern heritage — at least to relative newcomers such as myself, who commuted there for a number of years.  Charm City also has a vital arts scene, as evidenced by its annual Artscape festival, quirky Visionary Arts Museum, prestigious Maryland Institute College of Art, renowned music conservatory, the Peabody Institute – and John Waters.

Most interestingly, Baltimore – like Cincinnati – would inspire a surprisingly vast number of songs that bear the city’s name in their song titles — thousands of thanks to the esteemed music writer Geoffrey Himes for his invaluable assistance with the research:

  • Baltimore Buzz”     Noble Sissle & Eubie Blake     1915 -or- 1921
  • “Baltimore Blues”     Eubie Blake     1919
  • The Baltimore”     Bix Beiderbecke     1927
  • Baltimore”     Katherine Henderson     1927
  • Baltimore Fire”     Charlie Poole     1929

Continue reading “90+ Years Baltimore in Song” at www.zeroto180.org.

Related Links:

The Strawberry Alarm Clock Tolls for Baltimore (“Barefoot in Baltimore” reviewed by Michael Yockel, Baltimore Fishbowl)

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Posted in 1900s, 2000s, Baltimore Songs, Decades, Music, Roadside Attractions | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment