Figuring out how to start off a retrospective about the late Jon Woodstock’s creative ouvre is a monumental task. His artistic canon (much like his complex personality) had so many compelling and wildly conflicting sides: there was mystical hippy poet Jon Woodstock with long flowing curly locks looking and often acting like he just stepped out of a William Blake engraving; there was Jon Woodstock the angry contrarian who refused all gods and all masters, and had no fear when it came to shock value and provocative outbursts; there was Woodstock the melancholy psychedelic, experimental singer-songwriter whose chiming acoustic guitar and rough hewn vocals simultaneously recalled the rural bliss of Mississippi John Hurt or Beck and the intense east coast neurosis of the two big Lou’s (Barlow and Reed); the acerbic wisecracking Jon Woodstock, an outspoken commentator on socio-political tension and pop absurdity, sorta like the one-man equivalent of George Carlin riffing on stage with Steve Martin after a night of perilous hedonism; or should we highlight the “skin bangin animal (who’ll) never be tamed”*, the cow bell obsessed drummer/percussionist Jon Woodstock who crafted 5 years of solid poly-rhythm for some of the 90’s weirdest avant garde/improvised music?
The answer is ‘ALL of the above’.
There was one Woodstock work that best represents the full breadth of his own work and that of Towson-Glen Arm’s unified effort. This would be Bomb, a two volume various artists compilation series which the artist assembled from around 1992 to August 1994. These cassettes were made up of excerpts from the mountain of tape recordings made and horded by Woodstock which documented most of his early 90’s audio output: private home recording sessions, practice tapes, one-off jam sessions, snippets of spoken word poetry pieces, and sound collage. Woodstock’s participation in many of these cathartic moments represents the only recurring theme that ties the Bomb series’ recordings together. A visionary graphic designer, Woodstock created all of the artwork for these bizarre 90 minute extravaganzas, and he also supervised the replication and free distribution of these tapes which were issued in editions of roughly 10-20 copies (but probably also copied and dubbed unofficially thus making an exact number for the editions unknown).
The simply titled Bomb was the first volume. It was released in July 1994; the second volume, titled Bomb Droppings, was probably the bigger therefore more well known edition of the two. Bomb Droppings came out in late August of ’94 just before Woodstock briefly relocated to Eugene, Oregon.
To put it lightly, the Bomb tapes were all over the place. The innovative melodies and improvisations of T.E.A.M. were presented randomly with 10 second long recordings of impenetrable inside jokes and stoned crowd banter lifted from a lofi bootleg of a 70’s James Taylor concert. The sprawling noise-laden experimental music of Eve Pagoda and Big Huge Fucking Machine rubs shoulders with a sample of anthemic Donna Godchaux vocals from a DEAD show. There were baffling quiet versions of songs by ‘Rabelaisian hardcore’ band Lard Star recorded by LS itself. We hear Woodstock drumming in a trio with Lou Thomas on bass and future indie music hero David Berginder (of Celebration and Arbouretum) playing acoustic guitar, a recording that shares space with audio pastiches made from public domain interviews and performance excerpts that feature Woody Guthrie, Bob Marley, and even a raw confessional from an anonymous elderly black man who had been under aggressive surveillance by the KKK and racist police. Woodstock’s own one-of-a-kind introspective solo recordings were sprinkled liberally throughout all this chaotic weirdness.
The Bomb series also showcased the work of numerous TGA artists other than Jon Woodstock: Dave Willemain, Mike Apichella, Cory Davolos, Jim Sajor, Devon Till, Violet LeVoit, David Richardson, and the aforementioned Thomas all are well repped, plus there are guest appearances from members of the jam band Driver who featured the aforementioned David Berginder. Some of Berginder’s Driver band mates who might have been on the first Bomb include Dave Heumann, Scott Dorfler, Jason Wallace, and possibly others.
While the debut releases by Lesbian Chicken Maggot Blasters, The Nudists, The Preschoolers, and Spastic Cracker all did an amazing job of illuminating the wide artistic scope of work by individual TGA groups, so much of what made Towson-Glen Arm special was the intense feeling of community which bonded the young artists together making the entire scene itself occasionally seem like one big amoeba-esque collective that just kept shifting its conceptual form with each of its various artistic evolutions and ideological epiphanies.
The Bomb series stands as the major vintage document of Towson-Glen Arm’s work because it shows how the scene was defined by an ever evolving aesthetic and an unbridled force of art-as-community. Woodstock put these records out in order to showcase some of the scene’s high points and its most spectacularly messy works in progress, fleeting moments of hidden camera intimacy, his own unique ability to create a single work within many contexts, and everything in between.
Ultimately, the Bomb series is Jon Woodstock’s eternal tribute to the artistic movement that he helped create, warts and all.
Re-issued Bomb tracks that appear in The Towson-Glen Arm Freakouts compilation series:
The version of “Engine #11” on TGAF is actually two Bomb tracks edited together: “Engine #11” and “Tuli In A Box”. The combinartion of the two tracks is a restoration of their original/pre-release form as one long extended improvisation.
This track appears on the Bomb tape cover’s track list with the name ‘Thick’ spelled incorrectly with a ‘c’ ; Eve Pagoda member Dave Wilemain was the creator of this song title which originally featured the word ‘Thikk’. Assembling/preparing the Bomb collections for release was generally a solitary activity for Woodstock which found him rarely consulting any of the other artists featured on the tapes for any reason. This is probably why the Bomb series includes many credit errors.
The following two T.E.A.M. recordings appear as c.d.-only bonus tracks on the Towson-Glen Arm Freakouts 2 compilation album: an excerpt from “Fencelicker Jones” (originally released on Bomb) and an excerpt from “Crisis” (originally released on Bomb Droppings)
* This is a paraphrasing of the lyric “This skin bangin animal will never be tamed” originally from The 6 O’Clock Alarm’s 1995 Jon Woodstock tribute song “Rock’N’Roll Man”