"Me Favorite American Band..."

A journey beyond mainstream to rebel music

"Me Favorite American Band..."

Postby (wayang) » Thu Mar 12, 2009 2:04 pm

This is my favorite American band, no question...what rock-n-roll is all about for me.

In 1980-81, my roomate in the dorm at McMurdo Station was a young engineer named Kenny 'White Boy' Horns, a brilliant guy from Edina, Mn, just outside Minneapolis. He turned me on to his favorite 'hometown' band...had a tape of these guys that we listened to a lot that season, and when I got back to the states, I resolved to try to see them. I had been invited to Kenny's wedding, and while I was in the Twin Cities, I went to check them out at Prince's nightclub...but they had to cancel the show because of one of the guitarists coming down with appendicitis. I did get to meet them at the club, though. In '82, I saw them at The Ritz in Manhattan, in '83 at the old Mercury Cafe on Pearl Street in Denver, and in '84 at The Blue Note in Boulder...and the last time, in '86, at the Glenn Miller Ballroom on the CU campus in Boulder. At that gig, I mashed my way through the full house up to the stage, and as we waited for the show to start, a young kid next to me told me he was from Minnesota..."Do they stage dive here?", he asked me. I replied that, yeah, I think they do. He said, "If I do it, will you catch me?" Sure, I said, thinking he was just kidding around. Just then, the house lights went out, the stage lights blew on and the band hit the stage...the sound was huge and beautiful, and the place went nuts. Fifteen seconds into the first tune, the kid from Minn. leaps in one perfect shot onto the stage, dances his *** off for about three seconds, and then launches into space, coming right at me. I stopped his fall, more than catching him, and as we both got back up, I saw Beej, the crazy little guitarist/singer, rear his head back and spit a gigantic gob fifteen feet into the air above his head, straight as a laser beam. It came straight back down, too, and at the last possible second he ducked out of the way and let it hit the stage. This, I mused to myself, is rock-n-roll.

I sure miss this band...don't know if it's true, but the story I heard is that after releasing multiple albums, they finally signed to Polydor, and after doing a disc with them, they were called to a meeting with the label's president. In the meantime, apparently, Beej had married a millionaire's daughter, and was not much concerned with 'commercial success'. The Polydor guy starts laying out a list of do's and don'ts, and Beej went off and told the guy to f*ck himself. They were thrown out of the building, with the guy screaming a promise after them that they would never work for any label again.

Again I say: 'maximum rock-n-roll'...

Here are some clips of the one band that, for me, did the most to expose the 'David Lynchian' nasty weirdness and angst brought about by superficiality that underlies the tree-lined, lawn-sprinklered, Benjamin-Moore-painted, little-wooden-jockey-on-a-post streets of America: ladies and gentlemen,

The Suburbs...





I didn't get where I am today by being on time...
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Re: "Me Favorite American Band..."

Postby (lyle_from_minneapolis) » Fri Mar 13, 2009 4:25 pm

Hey, what a surprise! I know this band very well, even opened for them once at a gig in St. Cloud back in the early 80's. (I remember ribbing Beej backstage as he studiously applied Oxy5 in the mirror.) I must have seen these guys about 30 or 40 times, and I still run into some of them.

They were sizzling hot in the very late 70's, early 80's...I had no doubt they would do extremely well when they went national. But they kinda didn't. Nevertheless, their albums In Combo and Credit in Heaven stand up very well indeed, and I highly recommend their purchase. There are lots of hidden gems in those albums. They were a very original act, one of those New Wave groups, skinny ties and all. Their performances were exciting as hell, kinda weird, kinda funny, a little affected but in a good way. Probably THE MOST FUN band I ever saw, as long as we don't include Zappa or Talking Heads.

Beej had real star quality, but he just never found another good band for his talents. Too bad...I remember running into him at a mall and having an uncomfortable conversation, and I was saddened to understand that it was over for him...not sure if he knew it then or not, but I could tell the momentum was gone and he just didn't know what to do to get it back. Chan Poling kept playing over the years and is doing well in a band called The New Standards. Drummer Hugo Klaers worked construction, and I ran into him a lot whenever a new Rainforest Cafe was being opened...he was happy and healthy. Not sure what became of the other two.

They should have ruled the radio. I think they missed the bus by about a year, maybe less. So close, so close. They were like Minneapolis' version of The Creation, the one that should have been bigger.
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Re: "Me Favorite American Band..."

Postby (wayang) » Fri Mar 13, 2009 4:43 pm

Right on, Mark! If you ever do see any of them again, please give 'em my best...

They proved to me, among other things, that tight ensemble playing and well written hooks are better than sheer virtuosity any day, and since it was obvious they had been playing together since they were kids, they epitomized what a 'band' ought to be. Hugo and Michael Halliday (the jackhammerin' bass phenomenon) were like a well-oiled (pun possibly intended) machine every time I saw them...

A couple of years after The Suburbs had ceased to be, I saw Beej playing here at Herman's Hideaway with The Vees (Bobby Vee's three sons). After their energetic and enjoyable set, I made my way down the narrow backstage hallway to say hello. The Vees were all relaxing in a small 'green room' just in back of the stage. I thanked them for their music, then asked where I might find Beej. They told me he was downstairs. I walked down a creaky wooden staircase into the 100-year-old brick basement, and there was Beej, stark naked, drying his hair with a towel. I immediately thought I should split and leave him to his post-gig wind down, but he turned and saw me..."Hey man, what's hap'nin'?" He was as relaxed and nonchalant about the circumstances as a big-league ballplayer after a game, and we had a hilariously enjoyable conversation.

As I got ready to leave, he said, "Hey man, we're playin' tomorrow night up in Aspen...come on up, we'll 'smoke some down jackets'!"

Wish I had, Beej...wish I had...
I didn't get where I am today by being on time...
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Re: "Me Favorite American Band..."

Postby (lyle_from_minneapolis) » Fri Mar 13, 2009 4:50 pm

NOW you're really freakin' me out. When I said I opened for them once, it was in a pick-up band we called Felix and the Phallics, and our bass player was...Tommy Vee.

Small world, Wayang, small world.
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Re: "Me Favorite American Band..."

Postby (wayang) » Fri Mar 13, 2009 4:58 pm

lyle_from_minneapolis wrote:Small world, Wayang, small world.


Yes, lyle_from_minneapolis, but I wouldn't want to have to paint it...

Man...wish we could get together tonight for a beer at "Stand Up Frank's"....
I didn't get where I am today by being on time...
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Re: "Me Favorite American Band..."

Postby (lyle_from_minneapolis) » Fri Mar 13, 2009 5:10 pm

Indeed!

But in my experience with Stand Up Frank's, that standing up thing never lasted long. 8) Wow, this is like a travelogue of my younger years. I just checked to see if I could find Tommy on Facebook, but all I get is this Italian DJ...actually looks like him, so who knows, maybe he went over there and got famous in a different way. I haven't seen him in 20 years.
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Re: "Me Favorite American Band..."

Postby (wayang) » Fri Mar 13, 2009 5:19 pm

"Stand Up Frank's...where they spill more beer than other bars pour"...

Someday, Mark...
I didn't get where I am today by being on time...
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