Secret Museum Correspondence
KTAO's Fogies Revealed
Who Are These Guys?
December 21, 2008
Michael Mooney & Jim Webb
We got mail
Top Gigs 2008
John “Sean” Byrne R.I.P.
Hi Jim & Mike:
I've been enjoying your discussions on the Horse Fly. Now I believe there is hope that there might be some like-minded music fans out there and I don't need to slash my wrists or vomit whenever I put on KTAO. Jim, my ADD almost got in the way of my noticing that you had compiled a worst music list starting off with Billy Squier who is from my home town Wellesley, Massachusetts. I thought you liked him! Jonathan Richman of The Modern Lovers grew up in the next town off of Route 9 where "it is bleak and nearly dying" and brought redemption to the whole area.
Well anyhow. What can be done to improve Taos music? I’ll do my part and continue to email KTAO anytime they play a song that I approve of. I heard Beck and Radiohead one day and couldn't believe my ears. Also, Nancy S. had some teenage girls on her show and one of them mentioned the term "freak folk" which Nancy had never heard, and one of the girls liked The Strokes. In Nancy's favor she showed an openness to learn.
So I emailed her with my suggested songs, among them Holly Golightly with The Greenhornes’ There is an End.
I've been hearing talk of this summer of love celebration next year, so once again I emailed KTAO and suggested that they should bring Roky Erickson of 13th Floor Elevators to Taos.
Roky holds an important place in music history, and is functional again. I saw him play in Dallas and it wasn't just old people there. Roky can still sing and scream. Also, Cyril Jordan of the Flamin' Groovies has a new band Magic Christian. They are on myspace and playing all over. Cyril Jordan will reunite with Roy Loney at Ponderosa Stomp in Spring '09.
Mike, I will add the Sonics (who are playing again) to the list of bands that should come here.If you know of any musicians of the garage rock vein or promoters can you put me in touch with them? If my husband can find some people to play with here, he won't need to travel away to play music. There is a Taos Music myspace but it isn't updated often.
(Garage/Punk fan who moved to Taos in June)
Hi Milissa, and welcome to Taos.
It seems there are just a few of us Rock fans around these parts or, I should say, Rock as I understand it. I personally know maybe 6 of them. If others exist, they're probably holed up in their casitas cos there's nothing to do around here. There’ve been a few attempts over the years to liven up the Taos music scene (I mean those that don't include the word 'solar’), most-notably by Mondo Marc. He had a free form program on KTAO for a few months, then moved over to 'The Mountain.' I think it's gone now. I never tuned in, and suspect he was only trying to impress (educate?) the kids anyway- Christ knows, there's nothing on the airwaves here for them- but he did walk the talk. I think he was also involved with a weekly Roller Disco something or other at the Family Center, so I know the guy’s heart is in the right place.
I listen to Air America or KRZA once in a while, but only in the car. There's an AM station based in Red River that plays the most bizarre mix of ancient rock 'n' roll and 70s disco hits. Almost like pirate radio- no on-air personalities and the range is extremely limited (once you leave Questa it vanishes)- but if you like your Silver Connection with a Little Richard chaser, see if you can find it next time you're up that way. It's brilliant. Otherwise, unless you’re a fan of ‘progressive’ talk radio (I am), or regional Spanish music (I am), you're left with four local stations (and that's a lot for a town this size) that, with the exception of certain local specialties like Kelly Clement’s Celtic program or Roots and Wires (plus a few syndicated shows), insist on almost exclusively playing crap.
Hippie Marc also tried his hand here at concert promotion, as did I. He brought in Daniel Lanois and did okay, apparently (he’s got experience.) I tried to book Calexico into the TCA, and got Will Oldham instead. Twelve bucks at the door. Brightblack and Faun Fables opened, 70 people showed up and witnessed a weird, great show. I lost my shirt. My mistake was trying to pander (just a little) to the typical Taos audience, and having the nerve to schedule a concert on a Wednesday in April (and probably not promoting it properly.)
Good luck with your K-Taos campaign, but as long as Brad is at the helm, I doubt the basic format will ever change. It’s his so he can do what he wants. Hockmeyer used to have garage sales of all the CD promos he was sent and never played. I got tons of great cheap stuff from him. One time, though, I spotted a Jackie Leven cd that I thought was tailor-made for his playlist. I put it right in his hand and said, "Brad, you have to keep this one- it's perfect for you, and as brilliant as any Van Morrison LP you can name. Jackie's better than Sting!" He told me he'd definitely give the disc a spin, and then put it back in the sale box when he thought I wasn't looking. The last time I listened to KTAO was one afternoon several years ago. Paddy Mac was doing the 5 o'clock celebrity birthday roundup. When he pronounced Ernie Isley's last name with a short i, that was the last straw for me.
If your husband has any luck locating like-minded musicians in Taos let me know. I searched for years and only found Blues, Country/Americana or Jam band dudes. There are some very good players here, but NOBODY rocks. If they don’t want to, fine, except I believe that many do. Maybe they don’t think anyone wants it, which is a poor reason for not doing something.
In my opinion, the only way to remedy the dearth of good music is to keep on demanding it publicly. That's part of our mission for the Horse Fly. Maybe there ARE others out there. If so, we’d like to hear from them.
A quick look back at some of the best shows I saw in 2008:
Santa Fe Brewery
A smokin' set from that little 'ole punk band from LA that had the full Secret Museum staff in attendance. Billy Zoom's guitar still bites, John & Exene's vocals still have the passion. They restored my belief in why rock music matters.
2.) Steely Dan
Sandia Resort & Casino, ABQ
An unbelievably tight group in a great outdoor setting- Ray Charles would've enjoyed their r n' b sound that included horns and backing singers. I'm ashamed at myself for not checking them out earlier.
3.) Bruce Dunlap / Claudia Villela
Gig Performance Space, Santa Fe
Guitarist Bruce Dunlap is Santa Fe's best-kept secret. This turned into a magical evening when Brazilian singer Villela appeared unannounced. Melodic guitar maestro Dunlap walks the jazz improv high wire without a net as good as anyone. His cat and mouse game with Villela's vocal's was superb.
4.) Lyle Lovett and His Large Band
Paolo Solieri, Santa Fe
This turned into an old time revival meeting. A full Baptist Choir from ABQ was added to the Large Band on several Gospel numbers. The mix also included a large helping of country and bluegrass, served up by the always-entertaining Lovett as MC, bandleader, vocalist, guitarist and chief storyteller.
5.) The Who
Wachovia Center, Philadelphia
A solid show that provided a great retrospective of their classics from the last 40 plus years. Daltry and Townshend are now both over sixty. I hope this isn’t the last time I see them.
6.) Blue Oyster Cult
Camel Rock Casino
Nice to see a band that's been around awhile and not simply going through the motions for a paycheck. Original axe man Buck Dharma and vocalist Eric Bloom are still in the group, pounding the highways and visiting state fairs and casinos with their trademark intensity.
7.) Blue Cheer
Still loud n' proud. The ultimate in old school crunching guitar riffs, with basic four on the floor drumming. A bit one dimensional (I know that's the point), but fun.
Big Rock Casino, Espanola
It was a bit surreal to find oneself in a parking lot behind a bowling alley in Espanola, watching ex-members of Yes, King Crimson and Emerson, Lake and Palmer play. The highlight was seeing drummer virtuoso Carl Palmer straining with every ounce of his lifeforce to play the simple disco shuffle on Video Killed The Radio Star.
9.) Wynton Marsalis & The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra
Traditional jazz in the big band Ellingtonian style. A lot of great soloists, chief among them trumpeter Marsalis.
10.) Nguyen Lee
Gig Performance Space, Santa Fe
Vietnamese-born guitarist Nguyen Le performed in a rare solo setting on electric guitar with evocative backing tracks from his laptop. The intimate Gig Performance Space created a perfect atmosphere for his music; Bruce Dunlap joined him at the end of his set in a freeform jam session.
This was a tough list to compile, a lot of good shows got left off including: Donovan, Guy Clark, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Sugarland. I only hope 2009 is as good.
Of all the no-hit/one-hit wonders from the First Psychedelic Era, only San Jose’s Count Five made no attempt to disguise the fact that they were kids. And unlike peers The Music Machine, Standells, Syndicate of Sound, Seeds, Chocolate Watchband, or even Love and The Elevators, you’ll hear no pseudo-Jaggerisms in the vocals of John Byrne, who truly captured the restless teenage spirit of 1966. I’m not just talking Psychotic Reaction either. The common complaint about the Five is that they never had another song to equal their acknowledged classic. But who does? And although Count Five’s sole album was recorded, in a mad rush, to capitalize on the hit, it contains a wealth of surprisingly good original material (plus, oddly, two Who covers), all of it composed or co-written by Byrne. Regarding the frequently cited Yardbirds rip-off claims, I don’t buy it. It’s one song, for Chrissakes. And as Byrne himself said, “If you look at the records, the Yardbirds never came close to the popularity of Psychotic Reaction. I like the Yardbirds, but they did not influence Psychotic Reaction” (the Yardbirds biggest U.S. hit -by a wide margin- was For Your Love. It peaked at #6 in June of ’65 with the colossal strength of CBS behind it. Psychotic Reaction made it to #5 in October ’66 on the tiny Double Shot label. So there.)
It kills me every time I see Kenn Ellner listed as the singer for Count Five. He WAS the singer until Byrne joined the group, and his dad did manage them (very well, too, it would seem.) But Ellner only sings the two Who songs on the Psychotic Reaction LP, and little else. It’s not difficult to tell his vocals from John Byrne’s in terms of quality and color. I think John is a great singer. While he sounds nothing like the young Dave Davies, there’s a similar glee in his voice. It’s as if he, like Dave, can’t believe his luck at the opportunity to sing in a recording studio. In Byrne’s case, though, that luck ran out quickly.
It’s true that Count Five turned down over $1,000,000 (1966 dollars) in bookings in order to return to college and avoid Selective Service. John, an Irish citizen with no Draft concerns, pulled the plug on the group. His music career was over. It upsets me to think of him stuck behind some desk in the accounting department at Montgomery Ward. He should have been out there rocking with Mouse, Butch, Roy and Ken. Thank Uncle Sam.
John “Sean” Byrne died of cirrhosis complications in San Jose on December 15. He was 61.