The Liquor Giants

 
 
 
 
 
 

Ward Dotson on stage with the Gun Club

Ward Dotson on stage with the Gun Club

I used to buy nearly all my cd’s at NYCD on the upper west side during my lunchbreak from the Museum of Unnatural Labor Practices. They had two or three milk crates filled with cutouts and promos. At the time New York City was the greatest place for promo copies as there were so many industry jobs around. A solid third of my collection is stamped For Promotional Use Only-Not For Sale. Anyway the cd’s in the milk crates were $2 each or 10 for $15, so I always found 10 I was willing to take a chance on. Later on they were 15 for $10.

A lot of them are now in the basement. Sometimes something will make it back upstairs to the collection, but probably more often the cd’s and artwork are thrown away and the jewel case recycled.
Occasionally I’d stumble onto something grand like Red Red Meat, or in this case, the Liquor Giants.

I knew who Ward Dotson was, as I had been a fixture in the LA punk scene, and used to hang out at the Go-Go’s house as my girlfiend (typo I’m letting stand) Thumbelina (not her real name but my post breakup nickname for her referring to the shape of her head) sublet Belinda’s room while the Go-Go’s were in England getting famous. I pierced my ear one night with a safety pin in their kitchen. We were both going to do it, but at the last second Thumbelina chickened out. I think it was watching me sterilize the safety pin on a gas burner to the point of glowing red that did it.
Ward was a member of the Gun Club whose first gig I attended at the Hong Kong Cafe. I knew them through Kid Congo, an acquaintance (and Gun Club member) also hanging out at the Go-Go’s house at the time. Later Thumbelina dumped me for New York Doll Jerry Nolan who was then slumming in Levi and The Rockats. After Jerry she latched onto Mr Gun Club Jeffrey Lee Pierce.

I’ve still never heard the Pontiac brothers, in fact, when I left California a few years later I didn’t bring any interest in new music with me.
I dropped out of the scene because I got tired of being with people trying to be “cool”, and or “tough”. Everyone was a poser in my estimation, so I tuned out and instead plundered the past, listening to old Jump Blues, Doo Wop, and Country.

Anyway I found The Liquor Giants Here amongst the cut-outs and bought it with nine other cd’s. Every week I’d buy ten and then spend a couple days listening to them, weeding out the bullshit. For every good one there were six awful ones, but finding treasures like Here made it worth the effort.
I was hooked the second it leapt out of the speakers. At the time I lived at 225 East 2nd Street, so the title “67 East 2nd Street” had special resonance. Eventually I even found a “Q” cd in the cut-out bin and bought it because of the name check (it’s really bad, by the way).

Sadly NYCD closed it’s doors the same day I ended my 13 year marriage, December something 2005, a day I knew signaled the end of an era in more ways than one.

The tunes come from Here(“67 East 2nd Street”), Liquor Giants(“Here”, “Fake Love”), Every Other Day At A Time (“I Know I’m Wrong”, “Fire Brigade”), and Up With People(“Whore”).

As smooth as Crown Royal

As smooth as Crown Royal

(by Mark Deming AMG)
Ward Dotson once said that he left the band the Gun Club because he got tired of playing for people in black leather who never smiled (emphasis added-ED) and he responded by forming the considerably lighter hearted hard rock outfit the Pontiac Brothers. Given this logic, it probably made sense that after the Pontiac Brothers called it a day in 1989, Dotson found himself moving away from the good-natured crunch of the Pontiacs and started indulging his fondness for ’60s-style pop and the result was a witty and tuneful new project called the Liquor Giants. The group released their first album in 1992, You’re Always Welcome (which was released in some overseas markets as America’s #1 Recording Artists), but from the start it was obvious that this was a “group” in only the broadest sense. Dotson, who handled guitar and lead vocals and wrote the lion’s share of the material, was the only musician who played on every cut of the album, with a round-robin crew of various L.A. cronies pitching in on bass, drum, and keys (among them former Pontiacs drummer Dave Valdez on bass; drummers Dan Earhart and Bill McGarvey, and keyboard man Dan McGough dominated the supporting cast). The material played down the hard rock stomp of Dotson’s work with the Pontiac Brothers in favor of hooky but enjoyably unpolished pop/rock tunes that made no secret of their roots in the sounds of ’60s AM radio. You’re Always Welcome was released by short-lived indie label Lucky Records, and the second Liquor Giants full-length, Here, was released in 1994 by ESD; this time around, Dotson was joined by guitarist Steve Dima and bassist Joel Katz, with Bill McGarvey returning as drummer. While this might have suggested Dotson was settling on a stable lineup for the band, that assumption was tossed out the window in 1996 with the group’s first album for Matador, simply called Liquor Giants, in which Dotson played everything except for drums (another former Pontiac Brother, Matt Simon, was this album’s timekeeper), a few keyboard parts, and female backing vocals. The album found Dotson refining and broadening his pop influences, dipping his toes back into hard rock while still embracing the tunefulness of British Invasion pop and melding snarky humor with a heartfelt but realistic romanticism. Dotson once again was most of the “band” for 1998’s Every Other Day at a Time; coming clean with his influences, Dotson tacked on a few obscure ’60s and ’70s pop covers as unlisted bonus tracks, which subsequently appeared on a separate all-covers album released the same year, Something Special for the Kids. Unfortunately, Every Other Day at a Time proved to be The Liquor Giants’ last album for Matador, and their next album, Up With People, was recorded for an Australian label, Elastic Records, owing to Dotson’s significant cult following down under.

67 East 2nd Street
Here
I Know I’m Wrong
Fire Brigade (Move cover)
Whore
Fake Love

LiquorGiantsPlayAlongVinyl

The Amazing Kelley Stoltz

 
 
 
 
 
 

Kelley Stoltz and his Miss Sweden 1985 trophy

Kelley Stoltz and his Miss Sweden 1985 trophy

I saw Kelley Stoltz open for someone easily forgotten at Maxwell’s, in Hoboken, shortly after the release of “Below The Branches”, in 2006. I cornered him and he gracefully accepted the profusion of compliments I hurled in his direction. I told him his music at first listen is somehow familiar in all the right ways, like it’s always been there, yet is completely original.

Onstage he was charming and made being prodigiously talented look easy. He had a band, but on record plays all the instruments himself.

Prepare yourself for a “I can’t believe I’ve never heard this before” moment.
Here’s your new favorite artist.

I’ve included songs from several of his releases. “Wave Goodbye” and “Ever Thought Of Coming Back” are from “Below The Branches”. “Perpetual Night” and “Jewel Of The Evening” are from “Antique Glow”. “Mother Nature” and “Talk To The Girl” are from his latest, “Circular Sounds”. Buy some of his stuff, he deserves recognition, and stardom, if that’s what he wants.

On Stage (right)

On Stage (right)

wiki:
Kelley Stoltz is an American singer, songwriter and musician. He currently resides in San Francisco, CA. His music has been compared to that of Brian Wilson, The Velvet Underground, Nick Drake and Leonard Cohen. (!)-Ed
Kelley Stoltz was born in 1971 and grew up in Michigan. He moved to New York in his early twenties. While living in New York in the mid 1990s, Stoltz served as an intern with Jeff Buckley’s management company where he worked as a “fan-mail” sorter. In the late 1990s he relocated to San Francisco and began his own musical career.

Stoltz recorded his first album The Past Was Faster in 1999, released on Telegraph Records. Stoltz self-released his second album Antique Glow in 2001. The original release was 200 vinyl LPs in hand-painted sleeves. Later the album gained wider distribution when it was released by Jack Pine Social Club in the US, TKTK in the UK and Raoul Records in Australia. His next project was recorded in the last week of 2001: a track by track cover of Echo & the Bunnymen’s Crocodiles album recorded on his 8-track tape recorder.

In late 2003, Stoltz toured Australia for the first time and recorded a 4 track direct to disc EP at Corduroy Records. In 2004, Mojo magazine gave Antique Glow a four (out of five) star review and featured an article on Stoltz in their “Mojo Rising” column.

In 2005, Stoltz signed to Sub Pop and released “The Sun Comes Through” EP. He also toured Europe in April and Australia for a second time in Dec 2005-January 2006. His first full length release for SubPop, entitled “Below the Branches”, was released in February 2006.

In tandem with the release of “Below the Branches” was an industry first: “Below the Branches” was the first record in history to make an on-package claim about renewable energy use with the Green-e logo. Stoltz tracked his electricity use and with the help of the Green-e program, offset the all the electricity used to record his record with green tags from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation. In Kelley’s words: “Using renewable energy to offset the electricity I needed to power my guitar amps and my recording machines was a simple and effective way for me to do something about my impact on the environment. Green-e certifies that I am buying 100 percent renewable energy. Hopefully, people will see their logo; check into what they do, and make renewable energy a part of their lives, too.”

Stoltz and his band were the opening support band for The Raconteurs, on their July and August 2006 tour. Stoltz also performed at the 2006 Lollapalooza in Chicago.

His song “Birdies Singing” from “Below the Branches” has been used by Volvo for the Volvo C30 commercial in Sweden in 2007; it has also been used for the Regions Financial ad campaign of 2007 in the U.S. Stoltz’s song, “Memory Collector” is featured in a Marriott Hotels ad, and several of his songs were used in the hit FX series, “Damages.”

In early 2006, Stoltz produced God’s Boat, the debut album from The Passionistas – which was released on June 5, 2007.

On February 5, 2008 Stoltz’s album Circular Sounds was released by Sub Pop.

Latest album

Latest album

Wave Goodbye

Perpetual Night

Ever Thought of Coming Back

Jewel Of The Evening

Mother Nature

Speak To The Girl

Big Star Got Kinda Lost



 

 
New $$$$ Box Set

New $$$$ Box Set

Not enough chairs?  Or too many?

Not enough chairs? Or too many?

Here is my mix of a demo found on the new Big Star Box Set. A different version of this song, “Got Kinda Lost” also appears on Chris Bell’s posthumous “I am The Cosmos”.

Big Star happened when Alex Chilton, singer of the Boxtops, joined Chris Bell’s band, Icewater.   The name, “Big Star” came from a local supermarket.  Bell departed after the release of “#1 Record” (1971) which was already largely written and recorded when Chilton joined. When they began work on #2, “Radio City”, Bell rejoined briefly and is said to have contributed, but not participated. I’m guessing this refers to “Got Kinda Lost”.

This song is on the bootleg of studio outtakes that’s been around, mine’s called “What’s Goin Ahn”, and it is the only song not on either album. The bootleg version is frustrating because all the instruments are in one channel and all the vocals in the other. Just selecting “mono” doesn’t really help. I tried to turn it into something like stereo, added a little something to the voices. I just checked the Box Set on Amazon and listened to the preview and it’s mixed a lot harsher than mine, heavily compressed with the vocals way out front. Maybe it’s better. A great song in an imperfect form.  At the end Alex askes,”How was that?”, after a pause, the reply, “It’ll do.”

I’ve included  Chris Bell’s version of “I Got Kinda Lost” which is probably also a demo.  His solo album, “I Am The Cosmos” (1992), was put together posthumously by his Brother, David, from whatever was left behind after his untimely death , in 1978.  Chris Bell’s life fell apart with the unsuccess of “#1 Record” and Alex Chilton’s takeover of the band.  It’s an album of staggering beauty, and an equally heartbreaking a document of missed opportunities and unfullfilled potential as Big Star.   (I’m not counting “Third” as I consider it an Alex Chilton solo album, more than a Big Star enterprise)

wiki says: Big Star is an American rock band formed in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1971 by Alex Chilton, Chris Bell, Jody Stephens and Andy Hummel. The group broke up in 1974, but reorganized with a new line-up nearly 20 years later and is active today. In its first era, the band’s musical style drew on the work of British Invasion groups including The Beatles and The Kinks, as well as The Byrds, The Beach Boys, and other U.S. acts. To the resulting power pop, Big Star added dark, nihilistic themes, and produced a style that foreshadowed the alternative rock of the 1980s and 1990s. Before it broke up, Big Star created a “seminal body of work that never stopped inspiring succeeding generations” in the words of Rolling Stone,[1] earning recognition decades later, according to Allmusic, as the “quintessential American power pop band” and “one of the most mythic and influential cult acts in all of rock & roll”.

Got Kinda Lost

I Got Kinda Lost

Yellow Pills

 

This pop gem caused a series of events to occur resulting in the existence of this blog.  I’ve always thought “Yellow Pills” was brilliant, perfect power pop, but never bought the record.  In 1980 I used to live in a hovel in West LA, during the LA punk scene.  I went to all the shows I could, and even started a band, King James and The Bible Burners.   I listened to KROQ nonstop, so I heard “Yellow Pills” many many times.  I saw 20/20 more than once, probably at The Whiskey and while they were very good, “Yellow Pills” was head and shoulders better than any of their other songs.  It’s not a bad thing to write one great song.

Aptly titled

Aptly titled

It’s many years later and I’m in temporary possession of a Power Pop anthology with “Yellow Pills” as the opener.  Of course it was the only memorable song on the whole thing, including another near-miss by 20/20.  My evil i-Pod had just died 3 weeks post warranty so in protest I went back to cd’s.  I made a new car cd for listening on surfari down to South Jersey.  “Yellow Pills” was the obvious opener.  After that came “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor” by the Arctic Monkeys.  22 tracks later I was finished and needed a title.  I scribbled “now that’s what I call bullshit” around the hole in the middle, referencing a series of popular top 40 cd’s.  I liked it so much that I made another one the next week.  I called it “now that’s what I call bullshit 2”.  I made one every week for the next 16 weeks.  Then I got hit by a car on my bike, which is a whole other story.  Anyway, it interupted my flow.  When I resumed production I made them slightly less often, but now there are almost 50.  Today I renamed the blog  now that’s what I call bullshit where music worth listening to hangs out.

Original document

Original document

The only interesting trivia I found was this list of singles in a discography.

None of them were “Yellow Pills”.   “Backyard Guys”?

Singles

* 1978: “Giving It All” b/w “Under the Freeway” (Bomp! Records)
* 1979: “Cheri” b/w “Backyard guys” (Portrait Records)
* 1981: “Strange Side of Love” b/w “People in Your Life”/”Child’s Play”

Yellow Pills