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Purchase CD from OSR, and Zach certainly deserves your business; but also you can download and stream at bandcamp, and can stream on YouTube* and Spotify.** Orig. cassette 1984, CD reissue 2016. [UPDATE JUNE 2017: OSR have closed down, so the YouTube and Spotify streams will go dark one of these days. However, Zach says that the bandcamp will stay up indefinitely. Hurrah!]

Frank Kogan • Red Dark Sweet • The Pillowmakers

Two thirteen-year-old boys went out to fight each other in 1967, when I was in eighth grade. I and a friend of mine went along to watch the fight. It turned out that the boys were afraid to really fight, which both relieved and disappointed me. The boys made up rules: no punching, no hitting in the face. So the fight was just a shoving match. After watching the boys push each other for a while, I said to my friend, "This reminds me of that song from last year..." "Yeah," he laughed and finished the sentence for me. "You're pushing too hard."

YouTube playlist.

I started listening to pop radio when I was twelve. I liked songs by the Cyrkle, Kinks, Count Five, Buckinghams, Beatles, Troggs, Human Beinz, Simon and Garfunkel, People, Easybeats, Electric Prunes, Eric Burdon, Bee Gees, Monkees, Neil Diamond, Music Explosion, Outsiders, Grass Roots, Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs, etc. The two songs that hooked me on rock and roll were were "Hanky Panky" by Tommy James and the Shondells and "Mother's Little Helper" by the Rolling Stones. I was attracted by the intense sound of this music rather than by the lyrics, though in retrospect I realize that the lyrics reflected my feelings. I couldn't listen to "96 Tears" because it upset me too much. Most of these songs were variations on the Dylan-Stones-Yardbirds transformation of rhythm and blues into hard rock. They took r & b's call-and-response and turned it on its head, so that it felt like separation and alienation. The epitome of this was the Stones' "Get Off Of My Cloud." The best of the '60s stuff still kept a sense of r & b rhythm. I was impressed by singers like Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, and Iggy Pop, who used the voice as a rhythm instrument.

In the late 1970s in New York I thought about joining or putting together a band. My friend Rich Campo told me to listen to James Brown. I did that, and also listened to a lot of '70s disco and funk I'd been too stupid to pay attention to the first time around. I got the idea, stimulated by watching the Contortions, that a new music could be created if I took the emotional edge of a group like the Velvet Underground and give it a firm base in swinging blues and funk. I was excited by Spoonie Gee's "Spoonin' Rap" and "Love Rap," which felt like punk and sounded like disco. I wanted to make music that went beyond the narrow (and narrowing) emotional range of hard rock (a.k.a. punk) without denying its truth. This tape is evidence that I didn't succeed. Rich and I made several attempts to put together a band, but nothing jelled. Finally I met up with Andrew Klimek and Charlotte Pressler, who had little interest in disco-funk but a lot of ideas of their own. We played out together as a trio in September 1981 under the name Red Dark Sweet. Shortly after that we added Charlotte's friend Donna Ratajczak on drums. Donna stayed with the band until early the next year, when she quit and was replaced by Rick Brown.

Charlotte and Andrew had a knowledge of music that ranged from medieval to early country to avant garde, but its core was the same '60s garage-goes-Velvets stuff I'd grown up on — except Andrew and Charlotte had heard interesting possibilities in the music that I hadn't. I explain it like this: freedom, expansiveness, improvisation, and noise experimentation are a logical extension of music like that of the Byrds and Bob Dylan (Bringing It All Back Home is a good example). These qualities already belong to rock and roll; they needn't be brought into the music from some other tradition (such as jazz, art rock, or the serious avant garde). I truly believe that Red Dark Sweet was (and still is) playing the essence of '60s and beyond rock and roll. Red Dark Sweet differs from the current punk revival groups because Red Dark Sweet plays the music for its possibilities rather than its notes. In any event, club owners immediately classified us as an art band, which says more about their fear than our music. It also limited where we could perform, and who would see us. This frustrated me. These frustrations eventually caused me to quit the band. I wanted to take the show on the road, so to speak. I wanted to go out and find an audience, as the Dolls had, as Black Flag had. The other band members thought that this was unrealistic, given our lack of money and connections.

Ironically, Red Dark Sweet is now in Cleveland where they are performing and actively trying to promote an alternative music space. I've spent the last year and a half working on this tape and failing to put a band together.

When I left Red Dark Sweet I got together with Stefano Arata, a guitarist who liked the Troggs, Television, Pere Ubu, the Thirteenth Floor Elevators, and other groups like that. This was what I wanted. I'd decided to abandon the idea of punk-disco fusion (a fraudulent version of which was beginning to dominate radio) and stick with my garage roots. This was a mistake. Without Andrew my music lost its expansiveness and I fell back on sounding like junior-high meanness. I broke out of that towards the end of the Pillowmakers' existence by writing ballads. As did Stefano. That period of the Pillowmakers is not documented on this tape because I don't like the concert tapes of those songs. Stefano and I spent months auditioning drummers, most of whom thought we sounded weird or that we were doing art rock. I thought we sounded limited. Finally we asked Stefano's friend Carol Meinke to drum with us. We worked hard, and eventually were able to put on some tight, intense shows. But I never could convince myself that our music mattered.

Except for "Hero Of Fear," an old Red Dark Sweet song, the solo material on this tape was written in the last fourteen months. I wrote the music to "Baby Doe" on my thirtieth birthday.

Miscellaneous Notes—In "Mrs. Hanson" I repeat one note for seven minutes. "Di Conti" is narrated by Di Conti's boyfriend, impersonated by Charlotte. "Hero Of Fear" is also known as "Bagel With Schmeer." "Linda Lu" was originally a Red Dark Sweet "song"—really a bass line and words that the band tried to make into something. Stefano's guitar playing on the Pillowmakers' version pulls the song together. The bass line was inspired by "Funky Nassau." Andrew is the only person who has understood the third verse of "Fire Hydrant" without it being explained to him. "Baby Doe" uses the same rhythm as "Sister Ray." FK's lyrics: Early stuff ("Worms," "Hero Of Fear," "Stars Vomit") are about people being addicted to their own oppression. "Transit Cop" is based on a true story. At the Canal Street subway station in Lower Manhattan you can transfer from the BMT line to the IRT line. The BMT goes into middle-class Queens, the IRT goes into the ravaged slums of the South Bronx. The cop didn't want the bum riding into a good area, I presume. After he's kicked off the train, the bum starts babbling. The other songs are all "Hey Joe."
Frank Kogan
December, 1984

tracklist )

Personnel and credits )

Accolades and a few recent thoughts )
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As some of you know, I've performed in a number of rock bands, though my first group was a folk trio. We were high-schoolers playing a student dance, doing rousing sea chanteys and battle anthems in a headlong, banjo-picking style. We excited the crowd. (I was in elementary school, age 11 or 12, when I first came up with the idea; can't say I had much of a clue yet what would excite an eventual high-school crowd.)

In early 1967, just when I'd turned 13, John Lennon quit the Beatles to form a band with me. I had two intense, emotional melodies that became hit songs. We toured the country, playing smaller halls, despite Lennon's fame. The small venues fit the sparer, more emotional music I had in mind. The two melodies did in fact exist; I remember one of them still, though I'm not sure it's all that intense and emotional anymore. Neither of the melodies ever got any words or became real songs. The only actual song of mine up to that point was a funny one called "Out on the Autostrada" that I’d composed at age 10 on a trip from Rome to Sicily. Its lyrics, in their entirety, were "Out on the Autostrada/We put some ham in their chowder," auto pronounced "ow-toe" in the Italian way, chowder pronounced "chow-duh" in the Boston way.

I don't distinctly remember the bands I put together right after the Lennon one. I'm sure there were many. I do remember that at age 16 I briefly had a band with Grace Slick. Grace was a goddess to me at the time, though a very scary one. Lots of male rock stars were up on my wall. She was the only woman among them. I was in awe of her and completely infatuated but very intimidated too. "Either go away or go all the way in" really unnerved me. She was beautiful, but I don't know how much I was attracted to her. I almost never have sex fantasies about stars, anyway. I prefer people I know. I had a masturbation daydream about Grace, once, that eventually succeeded, but it was work. I kept picturing her hard unblinking stare; I didn't know if she'd relent to actually liking me. Maybe if I were to meet the real Grace — loud, emotional ex-drunk that she's supposed to be — my fantasy life with her would improve.

After the Grace band, I was the star )
koganbot: (Default)
Ah, this is the Mark Sinker passage I was looking for but not finding last weekend when I wrote my little critique of Spin's "Top 100 Alternative Albums Of The 1960s." It was here at koganbot, four years ago, down in a comment thread, coming later in the overall discussion than I'd realized:

here's what i'm objecting to, cast as a fable: [band xyz] arrives in our purlieu, announcing that it comes as envoy of the emperor ["We are influenced by Television"]

the assumption seems to be that (i) the emperor's writ runs -- viz that you the listener respect and acknowledge his power; and (ii) that the emperor's imprimatur is discernible -- that the envoy can and does act in the emperor's name; not to mention (iii) that in so far as [band xyz] are not the emperor, they can nevertheless be taken to extend and deepen his power

how and why do envoys get their power? what is the cultural equivalent (if any?) of political power? what is it about [band xyz] that demands they cede authority to others, rather than seek to foster their own?

in all of these -- in cultural terms -- the key bit, where the interesting questions lie, can be cast as something like: "if power is here, how and why is it here? in what way is it passed on? in what way is difference not the opposite of 'being influenced'"

(this doesn't even begin to tackle examples where the envoy claims the imprimatur of rival emperors: "we are influenced by Television and Funkadelic")

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Feedback loop )
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An entity called "Cassetto Editions" has uploaded several Red Dark Sweet tracks onto YouTube:

"Mrs. Hanson," words & music by Charlotte Pressler
Charlotte Pressler: vocal, keyboard, tapes
Andrew Klimek: lead guitar, backing vocal, keyboard
Donna Ratajczak: drums
Frank Kogan: rhythm guitar

"What's That Sound I Hear?" words & music by Andrew Klimek
Andrew Klimek: guitar, vocal
Frank Kogan: guitar
Charlotte Pressler: keyboard
Donna Ratajczak: drums

Recorded on 4 tracks and mixed by Andrew Klimek and Charlotte Pressler, December 6–8, 1981 (but mic bleeding limited our mix options).

Also, "Oh! Carol."

Notice that I put T-ara in the tags. Some future post will explain why.


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