On March 26th the cassette version of the first Towson-Glen Arm Freakouts compilation album will be released. In anticipation of the release, I have posted a few tracks from the TGAF1 record and excerpts of writing from the 40 page booklet of track notes which comes with this release. I’ve also put up some previously unposted TGA photos and images here:
‘Judge Wapner, BMOC’ by The Nudists (Towson, Md. 1992)http://nunsliketofence.bandcamp.com/track/the-nudists-judge-wapner-bmoc
…standing tall among Towson-Glen Arm’s most challenging works, there’s ‘Judge Wapner, BMOC (Big Man On Campus)’. Within a twisted framework of marching band thunder The Nudists re-cast the celebrity judge from the People’s Court t.v. show as a lecherous right wing berserker. For the full back story on this tune’s subversive/multi-layered purpose I’ll let original Nudists Bob Phair and Spence Holman fill in some of the blanks….
Bob Phair: The lyrics – “I want to fuck you night and day/I’m gonna make you, make you pay!” – are being sung from the perspective of any of those populist jock terds. And that attitude was by and large endorsed by the authority figures in our culture i.e., Judge Wapner who is the proverbial big man on campus aka jock terd. The music and lyrics convolve into an embodiment of the frustration that we experienced daily on a conscious and unconscious level…
Spence Holman: I’m with Bob. Being on the listening side as opposed to the composing side of those lyrics, that’s how I (vaguely) remember it. We were reacting to all that bullshit in school, all the meatheads and administrators who had such distilled views of the world, and who I think were stand-ins for the attitudes of the world at large, and vice versa…definitely some of that was on the unconscious level, but I do think in retrospect there were more levels than maybe we thought originally… One thing for sure was our reactive way of dealing – we’d never go out and pick a fight or something stupid, but we would go…and play crazy music for a couple hours…
(Nudists’ member) Chris Teret suggests that ‘Judge Wapner…’ was the product of the more “unconscious, sexual, absurd, fantastical, (free) associative side” of the group’s collective imagination. Bearing that in mind, I’d say that the true meaning of this piece exists somewhere between the reactionary and the subconscious. Ultimately, you can say the same about almost all of the music made by The Nudists and most of the Towson-Glen Arm works that followed in the wake of their formation.
With the release of (The Nudists’ album) “Live @ Lou’s” the insular world of Towson’s most far out freaks was brought up from the basement and into the light of day where it immediately began to instill a sense of hope and possibility in the few local artists like myself who wanted to work within a politically conscious/d.i.y.context without having to conform to the narrow parameters of the hardcore scene, the crusty peace punk world, or any of the other pre-fab counter-cultural traditions that many of our peers claimed as their own. Essentially, a’lot of the kids we knew who were clinging to these things did so in order to take advantage of the convenience offered by the large support network of fans and promoters who towed the time tested punk-hardcore-alternative “party line”. For me and other like-minded TGA kids, placing unconditional support behind any concept just because it was “time tested” symbolized nothing more than the boring blind acceptance of a defective surrogate for ideological legitimacy. This act was often associated with the kind of divisive elitism that The Man and other ‘Judge Wapner’-types propagated in order to weaken the greater unified struggle against oppression. Considering the fact that many of us saw our work as a direct part of that struggle, it’s easy to see how The Nudists represented such a liberating sea change for the north County underground…
‘Thistle’ by Spastic Cracker
(Baldwin/Glen Arm/Towson/Lutherville, Md., 1994)http://nunsliketofence.bandcamp.com/track/spastic-cracker-thistle
The most important early 90’s band from the Glen Arm underground was Spastic Cracker. Its two founders were visual artist/poet Tricia Lane and bassist/writer Lisa Starace. The pair met while attending Dulaney High School and shared interests in music, visual art, and literature, as well as leftist political beliefs, feminism, and a great desire to find their own special niche within the world of creative expression. As a duo the group had their first practice on Halloween night 1992 and shortly afterward Dulaney High student Cory Davolos came in on guitar along with drummer Laura Cerulli who Starace had befriended at a band camp at Towson State University in summer ’92. Guitarist/Dulaney student Dave Raymond soon came in to replace Davolos who only lasted a few months before quitting in order to concentrate more on The Retarded Dogs, a new band that he formed with myself and multi-media artist/Dulaney student Jon Woodstock.
Spastic Cracker’s odd name was picked from a big list of of crazy names drawn up by the group in its earliest stages. Evergreen Flesh, The Fascist Rainbows, and Corn Punks(!?) were just a few of the names that didn’t make the cut, but for whatever reason Spastic Cracker was just simultaneously weird and symbolic enough to match the originality of the group’s music. Perhaps a sense of self deprecating humor concerning their status as an arty group of white kids freakin out in the suburbs inspired the name? Tricia Lane has stated that this is possible, even likely, but she also mentioned that a game of Madlibs or some similar activity may have been the source of their wild moniker.
Spastic Cracker’s sound developed quickly from a mesh of typical early 90’s and classic rock styles into something transcendent of any era. There was Raymond’s inventive fret work informed as much by the fluid playing of Slash and Jerry Garcia as it was by the avant minimalism of Sonic Youth and The Velvet Underground. Cerulli’s drums were driven by a rock solid 4/4 beat with occasional detours into more exotic realms of rhythm (she then counted latin pop as one of her main influences). No matter what though, Lane and Starace were always front and center. With lines like “it’s ok to be alone even when you’re not” Tricia’s trembling vocals and spoken word incantations conjured up a mystical deliverance from alienation while Lisa’s bass work complimented Lane’s sentiments with a churning melodic fervor more akin to that of a lead guitarist than a bassist. These elements all shimmer hypnotically here in this 1994 recording of the song ‘Thistle’…
‘Let The Beef Out’ by Lesbian Chicken Maggot Blasters (written, arranged, produced, and performed by Eli Jones – Cockeysville, Md. 1993 or ’94)http://nunsliketofence.bandcamp.com/track/lesbian-chicken-maggot-blasters-let-the-beef-out
Eli Jones….the name’s poetry seems to recall a colossal American legend whose reputation is perpetually re-energized by phantasmagoric hyperbole. In reality, Eli Jones was an artistically gifted kid living and struggling through the growing pains of adolescence just like any other American teen in the 1990’s. Stuck in the culturally vacuous routine of Cockeysville, Md. – a deceptively peaceful suburb only about a half an hour north of Baltimore city – Eli was surrounded by upper middle class youth with an excess of spare time and allowance money, an excess whose main by-product was the grotesque potluck of time killers which became manna to many teens there (i.e., recreational drug use, vandalism, hormonally charged irresponsibility, ad nauseum) Despite his easy access to all of this sordidness, Eli valiantly avoided any lemming-like peer assimilation while still attempting to make a meaningful connection to the bored teens around him. To understand what bold pursuit inspired Jones to rush headlong into Cockeysville’s molten core of youthful embarrassment you must first understand what is maybe the only title more mythical than the Eli Jones name itself: Lesbian Chicken Maggot Blasters!
…With his uncommonly developed musical skills quickly honed to perfection, Jones’ sonic adventures then really took off around age 14 when he acquired a Vestax four track cassette recorder. The young artist soon figured out exactly how to fill this compact machine with an infinite menagerie of other-worldly vibrations and melodies mostly created with an ever expanding selection of damaged electronic effects pedals he amassed via late night trips to the dumpsters of local music shops throughout Baltimore County, which is most likely where he also found his four track. Eli Jones could rescue all kinds of busted gear from oblivion and he even managed to salvage electric guitars often repairing these with an unorthodox formula involving duct tape, parts of other discarded instruments, and the copious but surprisingly helpful use of well chewed gum in lieu of soldering equipment. Pitch shifters, delay pedals, every variation of fuzz and distortion imaginable, wah wah and similar tone bending effects, the psychelicizing chorus, flanger, and phaser pedals – you name an effect that could be made with electronic circuits, vacuum tubes, or magnetic tape and Eli would bury his music in as many of those as he possibly could without ever compromising the emotionally charged melodies and dynamics that defined his work…
An excerpt from the article ‘Eternal Thanks To Scott Makowske’
There’s little documentation of the inventive mayhem caused by Scott Makowske, an eccentric early 90’s high schooler from Jacksonville, Md. …Scott and I met sometime around late 1990 while we were attending Dulaney High School. There we shared a few incredibly boring classes. At the time I was just getting heavy into the political activism thing, so consequently the public education system began to seem like a heartless factory of conformity and obedience. As a result, I felt it was my duty to constantly disrupt most of my high school classes. I really felt that by doing this I would protect my fellow students from what I then saw as graduation’s somber fate: a tragic life suffering in enslavement at The Man’s beck and call. That I knew of, Makowske held no strong political beliefs, but nonetheless he too thought pretty ill of our school, so consequently the two of us began to tag team our classes in action packed blasts of unrelenting absurdity… any kind of wacky creation that could transform our school’s boring lessons/”indoctrinations” into surreal festivals of euphoria. Scott…referred to these things as “attacks”…The term “attacks” really made a’lot of sense to me because, as a form of political direct action, I saw these things as attacks on the school authorities’ fascist presumption that we would be happy to blindly accept their narrow definition of success…The Living Theatre, Andy Kaufman, and The Fluxus Group all could’ve been influences on Scott Makowske, yet Scott didn’t know anything about that stuff…he was actually a jock kid heavy into playing lacrosse, and watching WWF and ‘Beavis & Butthead’ on tv when we weren’t busy savagely shredding the fabric of public high school reality…
‘Scott Chester, Boy Next Door’ by The Preschoolers (Towson, Md. 1994)http://nunsliketofence.bandcamp.com/track/the-preschoolers-scott-chester-boy-next-door-1994
You can’t talk about Towson-Glen Arm without mentioning The Preschoolers, the most beloved band to emerge from the entire scene and the single most innovative American ska band ever. The group formed in autumn 1993 from the ashes of The Nudists, a musical performance art ensemble then already legendary for giving birth to the Towson-Glen Arm movement back in summer 1992. The main musical trait that made The Preschoolers’ music unique within American ska was the fact that their compositions were almost exclusively influenced by the 60s Jamiacan ska sound and all of its pan-African inspirations and related genres(i.e., rock steady, reggae, dance hall, dub, American jazz, blue beat, soul, 70’s funk, early r’n’b, etc.), a swath of influences at odds with that of most 90’s “3rd wave” ska bands whose work tended to be primarily informed by alternative rock and ska-core. With the eccentric leftist Dave Willemain as their front man, main lyricist, and a composer of much of the group’s material, The Preschoolers’ shows and recordings were one-of-a-kind revolutionary tributes to everything that was irreverent and subversive at the end of the 20th century. This heady take on the Jamaican sound captured the collective imagination of kids from all over Baltimore County who in turn regularly filled Preschoolers gigs to capacity. Throughout their 2+ year existence they endured many personnel changes, but here on the 1994 version of their most popular tune ‘Scott Chester,Boy Next Door’ The Preschoolers included Willemain on trombone and lead vocals plus Bob Phair on trumpet, Eddie Macintosh (then known as Eddie Piper) on saxophone, Lee Versoza on bass, Chris Teret on guitar, Luke Mysko on baritone horn, Joe Mysko on drums, and Stephanie Rabins on violin with a blaring back up vocal overdub consisting of all these members. Few tracks to come out of our scene got rowdier than this one with its mesh of absurdism, suburban teenage in-jokes, political name dropping, and Willemain’s ecstatically blasphemous lyrics: “Who’s the new messiah?/His name is Scott Chester/I say who’s the new messiah and who is the bestaaahhh!!!?”
Add a monumental composition (complete with an intro lifted from the theme to Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’), a wild loose performance, and a perfectly distorted production, and what you get here is an all time classic of musical pandemonium; in other words, the quintessential Towson-Glen Arm recording.
If you like what you’ve heard and read here then please check out the *digital* versions of TGAF1 and TGAF2 which are both *out now* on the brand new Towson-Glen Arm-centric record label *Nuns Like To Fence* (nunsliketofence.bandcamp.com). Here you can stream or buy copies of these albums.
The bandcamp version of the TGAF1 download features a truncated version of the TGAF1 cassette’s booklet notes and almost the same track list as the TGAF1 tape.
Individual track notes on the bandcamp version of TGAF2 will be posted sporadically from now until the release of the cdr version of that record. TGAF2 will be released on cdr at around this time next year or maybe sooner.
(unless otherwise noted, all writing contained here represents the solely expressed opinions of Mike Apichella)