Check out the sign behind the band in this photo. Forty years ago today Hi-Techs played the back room of the Record Archive on Mount Hope. I’m pretty sure Richard Edic took the photo. There’s more here.
Hi-Techs were only together for two years before morphing into Personal Effects. There is only one video of the band but there are three songs in the video. It was produced by Channel 31 TV for a show called “After Hours” and it was simulcast on WCMF in 1981. We played live in their studio but they added some wacky post production. There was another band on the show the same night – Ozzy Osbourne with Randy Rhoads!
I remember how easy it was to record the Margaret Explosion album, “Skyhigh.” Pete and Shelley were in town for a few days. I think Bob came over the night before and we set up the mics and recording equipment. Ken came over the next morning and we made a few pots of coffee. We recorded the album in the basement, just started playing, and we got five keepers that first day. “Sleep of Reason,” named after the Goya print, was one of them.
Just before the pandemic Steve Black was here with videos he shot in NYC the week before. He picked “Sleep of Reason” to accompany his butterfly footage. Easy.
Short entry for a short song. Still sounds good to me. Personal Effects. Mid 80s. Video shot at a downtown Rochester bar called Club Mirage. Song clocks in at just under two minutes. Peggi Fournier – keyboards, Bob Martin – guitar, Paul Dodd – drums, Robin Goldblatt Mills – bass. Kevin Vicalvi – sound. Duane Sherwood – lights.
I was playing drums in the front room of our house on S. Milton Drive when three older guys rang the doorbell. I was certain they were going to complain about the noise but instead they wanted me to join their band. They had a couple of gigs that weekend and they would not take no for an answer. I guess I was taking Frank Canada’s place, the name on the business card they gave me. I played those two dates and Red, the rhythm guitar player, announced they wanted to get rid of Butch Miller, the leader. They had a young guy, who sounded exactly like Johnny Cash, to take his place.
They named the new band the “On Fours.” “You know, how we start songs, on four,” Red said. My brother, Fran, made the new calling cards in his high school shop class and enlisted my father to do the band’s logo type and graphic.
The band was was dyed-in -the-wool country, something I knew nothing about. We rehearsed once a month in Red’s trailer or the bass player’s barn and we played four sets every Friday and Saturday for the next year and a half. We played every smoke filled Elks Club, Moose Lounge, American Legion, VFW and Eagles Club in the area. One Sunday afternoon we played on the back of a hay wagon for a coon hunting convention. When Peggi and I moved to Rochester I gave the gig to Dave Mahoney. Dave told me they changed their name to “The Breakers” after the CB craze.
I grew to love the music. Peggi and I saw Merle Haggard when he came to Bloomington and we started buying Merle, George and Waylon records. When we moved to Rochester in 1974 there was only country rock, a hideous hybrid which took the rock out of rock and the country out of country. Bands like Old Salt were everywhere. Our next door neighbor, Sparky, was into country. We got to see George Jones before he passed. I’m thankful for the forced exposure.
Peggi accidentally Face-timed Phil and Ken last night while we were sitting on the couch. She was cleaning her phone with a Clorox wipe and suddenly we were connected through a group text. It was like a virtual band meeting with no agenda. Phil told us would be doing a FB live thing tonight so we tuned in. I sent it out to our tv from my desktop and we cranked it though the stereo. Phil’s solo performance was fantastic and I was really impressed with the whole presentation.
We were eating dinner while Phil played, some little white pizzas with mushrooms, and the computer was in the other room so the FB video feed just went along on its merry way when Phil finished. Duane’s video of homemade tea followed Phil, then a clip from the Daily Show of someone interviewing people at a Trump rally and then some crazy Corona virus exercise routine. Right into some dumb thing from the early sixties with guys on the beach ogling girls in two piece suits. It was a rapid descent from Phil’s brilliant performance.
We miss the people who come out to hear the band. We miss the Little Theatre Café, the rotating monthly art shows, the espresso, the Scotch Ale, the lively conversations and the laughter (all captured on the live recordings we make at the Café). But most of all we miss playing with our bandmates, improvising and creating skeletons of songs from thin air. We want to thank you all for supporting the band for so many years. We hope you all stay safe and we look forward to seeing you all on the other side.
We watched the PBS special on Miles Davis las night. I loved it. There was a period there, 1968 to 1975, where each album he released blew my mind. I couldn’t get enough of the stuff. “On the Corner” and “Get Up With It” were my favorites but every lp or live double lp from this period is phenomenal in my book. Eventually I grew to love the earlier albums.
The song above, recorded at the Little Theater in 2014, is Margaret Explosion’s tribute to Miles. The video was just recently created by Stephen Black.
Steve Black is back in town with a new collection of video footage. It has been a joy to watch him work. He commandeered Peggi’s computer and finished this one last night in iMovie.
We managed to lose another set of Margaret Explosion music. Ever since Bob Martin left town it has been somewhat a struggle for us to get our sets recorded. This time we remembered to to turn on before we started but one off us unplugged the power before the Zoom recorder had written the files. You’d think the battery would take over in a situation like that but it doesn’t work either. There was some interesting stuff in the first set. Peggi played keyboards with her good hand and led us in a particularly good fugue. Mark Bradley played tenor sax and Roy Marshall played drums in the second set and made sound like pros.
Yes. The monitor is blown out. Steve would have gathered more info if he had taken this shot himself. He is shown here working on one of the two videos he created while in town. Check out the hat! It was cold here but perfect weather for shooting Margaret Explosion videos.
Steve’s iPhone footage used in “Disappear”, the video shown below, was all shot within a mile or so of our house. All locations we have walked by countless times. But we hardly recognized them. We kept asking “where was that.?” Steve couldn’t answer because he is not from here. We didn’t even recognize our own headlight.
Steve thinks cinematically. I square things off and go head on. Steve operates in another dimension and goes way beyond the point blank. He moves the camera and animates a scene like a musical passage. Steve explains his approach: “The video is one with the music. I am playing with you, just later, and with the luxury of time to make and remake decisions.”
I looked down at our land line expecting another scam call but found a familiar name instead. Steve Black was in town unexpectedly after being invited to a symposium at MIT on augmented reality where he met someone from RIT and then rode to town with him. He called us from RoCo where he successfully talked the attendant into giving him our Home phone number. And when we arrived he reminded us that many years ago he got off a bus downtown and called information for our number. The operator said, “Oh, I know Paul Dodd.” It was Betsy Nosco who I went to high school with.
The next day, a gorgeous winter day, Steve got right to work shooting scenes for a video for a Margaret Explosion song, “Tonic Party.” The footage, every bit of it from from near our home, astounded us. We should be way overly familiar with this location but we couldn’t tell exactly where it came from. The eye of a master.
We first met Steve when he was going to RIT. He asked Personal Effects if he could do a video to “Don’t Wake Me,” a song on our first ep. He printed out each frame of the film he shot, hand-colored the frames and then reshot the still images for the video. See “Don’t Wake Me.”
Back in 2003 when our “1969” cd came out Steve made a magical video in the back yard of our Hall Street house. See “Assembly Line.”
And his video for “Trophy Bowler”vaulted Pete LaBonne to YouTube sensation status. See “Trophy Bowler.”
We were at the Bop Shop for a “With The Cows” performance and I spotted this crude poster on the wall behind the band. I had not seen it since I did it. I was taking a silk screen class with my father at B.O.C.E in Fairport. Loretta Murawski was the teacher. I sort of remember painting the words with a rubber cement-like substance, something that rinsed off once the screen was coated with a fixative. You can barely read it. If you weren’t ready for the new wave in ’77 you could could have caught New Math (a much later version of the band) at the Lovin’ Cup last Saturday.
Amy Rigby has really hit the big time now. She was interviewed by Terry Gross in connection with her fabulous memoir, Girl to City.”
Our friend Duane, tells us “Parapliers the Willow Dipped,” the first show of Don Van Vliet’s paintings in New York in over a decade, opens January 31st at the Michael Werner Gallery on 77th Street. We may not be there for the opening but we plan to see that show. Years ago (1982) someone told us Gary Lucas was the guy to talk to about purchasing a Beefheart painting so we wrote him a letter. Peggi had a radio show on WRUR at the time and we told him she played Beefheart. We thought the prices he quoted were too high. We were part owners of ten Warhol prints and they weren’t even near a grand a piece. Our reasoning was seriously flawed!
Stan the Man gave me a box of Beefheart stuff from Justin Sherrill, someone who was leaving town or something. These photos were in there, from an opening at Michael Werner in 1995.
I was lucky enough to see the Captain a few times, in Cincinnati in 1970 for the Trout Mask tour, Columbus in ’71 for Lick My Decals Off and here at Red Creek in ’77. I recorded that show on our little Sony mono tape recorder.
Captain Beefheart performing Low Yo Yo at Red Creek in Rochester, New York 1977.
There must be plenty of snow around the corner. Until it flies we will keep walking. Cross country skiing calls on a whole different muscle group and they want their fair share.
We had dinner down the street at our friends’ (and neighbors’) place. Their Jamaican relatives were there and they were talking about how everyone in Jamaica has a nick name, a “yard name.” They were talking like no-one knows your real name. They wanted to know if I had a yard name. Kids called me by my last name for a few years in high school but that doesn’t really count. I told them my name was too short to be abbreviated but that didn’t fly.
I could use a nickname. My one syllable first name is hard to enunciate. When someone on the phone asks “who am I speaking with?” I try to say my name slowly but there is not much there to work with. It makes matters worse. I often just spell it out.
Someone in this morning’s paper described the orange one as a “popinjay.” We looked it up and have added it to our vocabulary.
Ucal Bernard lived in Jamaica where he made money by doing drawings for the tourists. Most of his family lives in Rochester so when Ucal passed away recently they held a celebration of his life at the Baobab Cultural Center on University Avenue. Ucal’s artwork, mostly pencil drawings on big sheets of paper, was hanging on the gallery walls.
Ucal was our neighbor’s youngest brother so the group moved to his house for food and drink after the celebration. Our neighbor showed us a big volume of Ucal’s drawings, dramatic fantasy-like drawings, many with voluptuous women. I found them inspiring.
One of the drawings in the show (above) was done when Ucal was in Rochester. It depicts his brother-in-law’s record store on Chili Avenue in 1996. I had heard about this shop from my neighbor and we had met Courtney, the owner, at his house. I asked Courtney what the address was and found out it was right next door to where the Dodd/Miller Tavern (formerly the Munich Restaurant) was, at the corner of Thurston.
I sent Duane the drawing. Duane went to West High and grew up in the neighborhood. In the late seventies we used to buy imported Jamaican 45s from Andy’s shop on Genesee Street and I remember checking out some other places with Duane but all he remembered the reggae shop by Bullshead or further down West Main near Jefferson. I see a date of 1996 in the bottom corner of this drawing so that is after our time and long after my grandfather’s.
There is not enough snow for us to safely ski down the big hill in the woods across the street so we put our skis in the car and drove down Hoffman to the golf course. The conditions there were somewhat shy of excellent but the sun was out and it was perfect for us.
I love how the ski tracks, going every which way, abstract the game that is intended to be played here in the warmer months. Something so orderly and controlled is entirely free. We followed someone’s tracks that skirted the periphery of the course staying just a few feet from the woods that surrounds the fairways. We skied most of the nine holes on this side of Kings Highway but we did it in an almost random order.
Last night’s Ossia program included this spellbinding piece, Tria ex uno by Georg Friedrich Hass. It was based on Agus Dei from a mass by Josquin in 1502, a piece described as “astounding in its control of harmony under fearsome conditions of polyphonic complexity.” I like that sentence and took it from the program but I really liked what I heard.
Tom Kohn at the Bop Shop asked me to dj a set on Record Store Day. I have the first slot, noon to one, and I discovered how fast an hour will go when I put this set together last night.
Last Poets This Is Madness Ornette Friends and Neighbors Silver Apples Oscillations Suicide Ghost Rider James Brown Funky President Bo Diddley Ooh Baby James Blood Ulmer Are You Glad Tao Be In America Margaret Explosion Juggler Miles Davis Miles Runs The Vodoo Down Peggy Lee Fever David Essex Rock On Beach Boys Do It Again Marvin Gaye Got To Give It Up Donna Summer I Feel Love
Peggi is about halfway through Amy Rigby‘s memoir, “Girl to City,” and she’s loving it. I will get my hands on it next. Amy was in town last night and she alternated between reading and playing songs. The songs, many of them older, were related to the passages she read and the combination compounded the experience.
She started reading a chapter called “Elton Girl,” (her nickname in middle school because she was such a fan) and she got to the part where she wins two tickets to an Elton John concert from her hometown Pittsburgh radio station. She stopped to tell something that wasn’t in the book. Something that had just occurred and that surely will be in the next edition.
While traveling across the country on this book tour she has been listening to the Elton John’s autobiography, “Me,” and Elton has a chapter in there where he talks about calling Stiff Records and offering to play keyboards for a tour they were putting together, the ulterior motive being he had a crush on Wreckless Eric. Amy’s husband! Amy stopped the car and called Eric.
Amy finished with a bang in a string of songs that began with the anthem, “Do You Remember that?” (video below), her Tom Petty karaoke song, “The President Can’t Read,” and the perfect closer. “Hey, I love you. You’re perfect. Don’t ever change.”
We waited for the rain to stop and took the shortcut to the Point Pleasant fire house, our polling place. We cast our ballots and then used the bathroom in the back. They have the coolest little bar in the back of the building, a firemen’s social club. I think they rent it out and each year I contemplate organizing a gig there for Margaret Explosion.
As great as the Little Theater Café is we really need to get out more. We’ll be there each Wednesday in November.
Here’s a song recorded at our last gig in September.
“Wednesday night I found myself at The Little Theater Café wallowing in the ether and digging the images this group routinely paints in my head. As the open-minded melodies really kicked in, the brain candy got more acute and I started hearing words coming out in a sort of celestial-Beat cadence. “Shit, I gotta write this down.” But alas, I had no paper, So I clicked on my phone’s notepad feature and began to write:
Space cowboy Got stars for spurs He’s got his You’ve got yours Rocket to the moon On a Wednesday night It was a tight flight Out of reach And outta sight“
Hope you can come out tonight or some Wednesday this month.
I looked for a picture of all three of us from that time period but couldn’t find one. This one is from almost a year later. The “D” on the wall was the last of three letters. The first was an “L.’ Dave Mahoney and I went down to the Woodstock festival in Joe Barrett’s family car, a Corvair. We bought our tickets, three day passes for eighteen dollars, from a local radio station. We were most excited to see Sly & the Family Stone. We left a day early but I don’t remember bringing any food or anything to sleep on.
By Thursday afternoon the small roads leading to the festival were already jammed with cars. We left ours on the side of the road and joined a long procession of people on foot. At an intersection lines were moving in two directions and each seemed equally sure the festival site was ahead. We picked one and decided to take the acid we brought down with us.
Things got stranger. We stopped at a house where can goods had been arranged along the railing of the front porch. The contents of their cupboards were being offered for sale. We fumbled with our money and bought something but I don’t remember what it was.
We found the festival site where they were soundchecking the system. The sun was blazing and there was screeching feedback and dogs barking. We tried sleeping in a cornfield but I couldn’t sleep. We were exhausted the next day and Dave was worried that this was all going to be a disaster scene. He was mostly afraid that there wouldn’t be enough food. He suggested we leave early but I insisted we hear some of the first night’s acts.
We ran into a friend from high school and he sold us some blue mescaline tabs. We drove home with those and all slept over at Joe’s. We took the mescaline and went down to the Stutson Theater where a matinee of 2001: A Space Odyssey was showing. We started out in the seats but found it more comfortable laying on the floor in front of the first row of seats. The only other patrons were little kids who were all running around, laughing and throwing things.
My brother and Brad Fox stayed the three days. They brought home tents and sleeping bags for everybody, stuff they rounded up when the festival was over. I kinda wish I had got with them.