Le Bon, 1986, Sixth Avenue, Portland, Oregon. Video clip of “Who Do You Love.”
Billy Kennedy, vocals; John Jensen, trumpet; Warren Rand, alto saxophone; Danny Schauffler, tenor saxophone, keyboards and percussion; Terry Robb, guitar, Denny Bixby, bass, Carlton Jackson, drums; Bobby Torres, congas; Rick Mitchell, maracas.
This was Easter Sunday, 1986. Weird gig. Billy was behaving strangely. I later learned he had dropped acid. But the performance art thing with the mask is kinda brilliant. Hoodoo, indeed. See for yourself. Great solos by Terry, Warren and Bobby Torres, who had just moved to Portland from Las Vegas, sitting in on congas. You can’t play a Bo Diddley tune without maracas. Thanks to the late Billy Triplett for recording this, and to Carlton for posting it on YouTube, where my daughter found it a few years ago.
Bon/Mal, 1986, Satyricon, Portland, Oregon. (Six audio tracks)
John Jensen, trumpet and vocals; Danny Schauffler, tenor saxophone, keyboards and percussion; Dan Balmer, guitar; Denny Bixby, bass; Carlton Jackson, drums; Rick Mitchell, percussion and vocals; Carl Smith, percussion.
This cassette sat in a shoebox for almost 25 years until I came upon it while preparing for our reunion gig at the Oregon Music Hall of Fame ceremony in 2010. I think this was in the fall of 1986 or early winter of 1987. Billy was hiding out in Southern Oregon, so I asked Calvin Walker, who had been the singer in my other band, Gran Mal, to fill in. We called it Bon/Mal, which means Good/Bad in French, and Calvin called the absurd stage persona he adopted Maurice Chism, or “Mo Jam” for short.
These six tracks comprise side one of the tape, and do not include any of Calvin’s antics. This is all original material, except for a snippet of Coltrane’s “Ascension” at the end, with Mark Sargent from the opening band Defenestration launching into an anti-apartheid poem as the tape runs out. Terry Robb had a gig with his own band this night, so Dan Balmer, who had been the original guitarist with Le Bon before he began working regularly with Tom Grant, sat in. To the best of my memory, this was the only time Dan and Denny played together, until the reunion gigs.
I think we had one rehearsal. Balmer plays like a man who has just been let out of a cage. Check out the “sheets of sound” on “Lebonomie,” the blazing comet’s tail finish on “Bumblebum,” and the full-shred blues solo on Denny’s Miles-meets-Zappa “Batman Boogie.” The whole band is on fire, with wild solos by Dan, Denny, John and Danny on every track. I even have a piece of the action, getting after it with Carl Smith (from the band Crazy 8s) on congas on “Kill TV, and trading solos with Carl (on bongos) and Carlton during the percussion interlude on “Lebonomie.” It sounds so good I can’t believe I’m part of it, but Carlton and Carl were pushing me to go for it. Some of the odd time-signature stuff Carlton does here is just ridiculous, and the groove is always rock solid. What a drummer.
Since Billy wasn’t around, John did the vocals on “Kill TV,” which he co-wrote, and I did the vocals on “Bumblebum,” which I co-wrote. Don’t think of it as singing; think of it as “beat poetry.”
Satyricon was Portland’s premier punk club, supposedly where Kurt met Courtney and the members of Pearl Jam played before they were Pearl Jam. I think this was the only time we played there, at least as a headliner. It was really loud. There were these skinheads down front with their heads in the speakers, jumping up and down and screaming. In the intro to “Ascension,” I called out Lockjaw, a racist skinhead punk band that had played the club the previous night. I had more to say, but you can hear Carlton in the background going “Come on, Rick.” Whatever I said was enough. When I went to my old Datsun station wagon after the gig, someone had thrown a brick through the windshield and stolen my backpack with my tape recorder in it. A year or so later, some of the members of Lockjaw and their fans were implicated in the fatal beating of an Ethiopian immigrant on the street behind Music Millennium Records.
So anyway, here’s to playing avant-garde funk-jazz in a punk-rock club. One of those skinheads – presumably from the anti-racist skinhead faction – came up to me after the set and said we were pretty amazing for old guys. I think John, Denny and I were the only ones over 30. We are still alive, by the way, in case anyone wants to book us. Seriously. This is the shit. Give it a listen.
First Gate (Jensen)
Kill TV (Jensen, Kennedy)
Full Frontal Lebonomie (Mitchell/Le Bon)
Bumble Bum (Captein, Mitchell)
Batman Boogie (Bixby)
Johnny Bush, “Tequila and Teardrops.” Audio track from the album Kashmere Gardens Mud (Icehouse Music, 2007). 05 Tequila And Teardrops
This is from the album I produced with Johnny Bush and Andy Bradley at Sugarhill Studios in Houston to accompany the book I wrote with Bush, Whiskey River (Take My Mind); The True Story of Texas Honky Tonk(University of Texas Press, 2007). In one way or another, every song on the album relates to Houston, Bush’s hometown. This one honors the Latino influence on Texas country music, which goes back to Bob Wills, Roy Orbison, Willie Nelson and Freddie Fender.
“Tequila and Teardrops” was written by Dale Watson, one of the heroes of traditional Texas country music who grew up Pasadena, a working class suburb outside of Houston that is now predominantly Hispanic. Dale comes in singing harmony at the end. After a couple of takes, he asked me, “What do you want me to do?” I suggested, “Sing like the young Johnny Bush.” He nailed it.
The rhythm section is Jesse Dayton on guitars, Brian Thomas on steel, Billy Dee on bass and Eric Tucker on drums. These are some of the best country musicians in Texas. Of course, they nailed it. We needed an accordion player to add the Tejano flavor. Andy knew a guy named Ruben Laredo, who played in a local band called Los Pescadores, or something like that. He came in and nailed it. The percussion is credited to the Gabacho Rhythm Kings. That would be Jesse, Billy and me. We nailed it.
The lead vocal is by Johnny Bush, one of the all-time great country singers in Texas, or anywhere else. He nailed it.
In another universe, this song could have been a big hit. The album Kashmere Gardens Mud is sold out at Icehouse Music, but it is available at Bush’s website, www.johnnybushmusic.com. The book Whiskey River (Take My Mind) is available at Bush’s website, and at the University of Texas Press website.