Welcome to Episode Two of Mystery Friday! Every Friday, I pull a cassette tape out of my box labeled UNKNOWN, play it, and attempt to describe it.
This week’s tape is Maxell UDS-II 90-minute cassette. The cassette is clean and in very good condition; however, it is unmarked in any way. The jewel box encasing it is badly scuffed and the front has a big crack in it. It too, is unmarked, There is no j-card.
I have no idea what is on this recording. Let’s play it!
1. “Then We’ll See” by The Skels. This was on the 1993 cassette-only EP I’ll Take The Low Road, but this not the mix I know. Bass is overloud, hard stereo pan on the two guitars, no effect on vocals too low in the mix. Sport counts off 1-2-3-4 to end it. Must be a rough mix.
Bill Hafener: “Then We’ll See” rough mix. Different lyrics than what are on the final release. originally intended for an early Sport solo thing. Willy and Jim V. on guitars, Al on drums and me on bass.
2. More Skels. A rolling, Caribbean feel on the verse, breaking into a classic Skels chorus, all Celtic heroism and pathos. I have only a vague memory of this one. “I don’t know what I’m going to do about tomorrow.” Oh wait this is the one with the Annie vocal coda. Aggh, I know this, what is the title?
BH: “Tomorrow” rough mix. One of the first recordings after “Sucks”. Played very often on stage, was never released.
3. Guitar scratch counts us in. No vocals. Obviously a studio rough mix. This a big epic Crazy Horse-like minor key monster. Again, the title escapes me.
BH: “Soon I’m Gonna Fall” instrumental rough mix. One of the last songs we recorded at Recordamatt, maybe the last. Al [Criscuolo] on drums. This ended up as one half of our only 7″ single, the last thing released before it imploded.
4. “I Call It Home”: Third track on Sucks To Be Us. Rockin’!
5. “Knucklehead”: One of the greatest songs on Sucks To Be Us. An ambitious arrangement, with swirling organs and chiming guitars, elevates a tune with good advice for youth: “Nobody gives two shits/For poor little misfits/You gotta be strong now.” Although penned long before their arrival, I imagine Sport singing this to his kids.
BH: FYI my daughter Cailie was the “angelic infant” the song’s about. She’s 25 now and most certainly not a knucklehead.
6. “Jutt Butt”: A close to final mix of this classic snatch of good-natured, carnal silliness. Guess it’s Sucks To Be Us time again! And why not? Such a good damn record. Who played piano on this one?
7. “John Leslie”: Triumphant? Yep. Ridiculous? You betcha. Unforgettable? Faggetaboudit. I don’t think it’s a stretch to name “John Leslie” the apotheosis of the Skels’ career. I will never be as aroused by a rock show as I was that night at The Golden Oak, when the set collapsed into glory and we fell out onto Sunrise Boulevard, drunk and sweaty and unconquerable.
BH: I THINK I remember the Golden Oak. If it’s the gig I’m remembering I got real angry because I was beat and the band before us took way took long to clear the stage after they played for too long and I yelled at them.
8. “Mary’s Grave”: First track on Sucks. Blast off!
And that’s it for Side A. Who knew I had two copies of the “lost” Skels album? Wish I could remember the titles of tracks #2 and #3; I suspect I will before long.
I wonder if there’s anything on…
1. Big guitar rock. Who is this? Is this Cowpatch, Bill Hafener’s post-Skels outfit? I think so!
BH: Cowpatch- “Target Sign”. My first attempt at doing something on my own. The song was by a band from Buffalo called “Cannon St.”. I don’t know if they ever found out I recorded it. I tried to sing it in the original key and it does not work.
2. Country-tinged rock with a slinky guitar and a Bo Diddley beat. Time has erased the titles from my memory, which is a pity. Fortunately I have a few well-labeled, official Cowpatch cassettes here to refresh it!
BH: Cowpatch- “Whiney Boy”. One of my tunes. Recorded same time as the previous one at Recordamatt. John [Boghardt] on bass and I honestly can’t remember if it’s Christopher [Ozone] or Jimmy [Colford] on the drums. I don’t remember the timeline too well. I know that I came up with the Bo Diddley style riff and that John, Jimmy and I would play it before Skels rehearsals but I don’t remember if Chris and I had started Cowpatch yet when this was recorded. The song is a good one, but my playing and singing on the recording are weak, and it should have been shortened.
3. “Amazing Grace” meets Neil Young at his heaviest. Hafener rides the feedback like a cowboy.
BH: Me- “Amazing Grace” recorded with my 65 SG Jr and two HIWATT half stacks on a Portastudio at our rehearsal space. Glad you found this because I don’t have a copy of it.
And that’s all she wrote.
Update 4/1/2016: That’s Steve Kelly on piano. Thanks Jimmy!
Update 4/2/2016: Bill Hafener added vital info on Facebook, which I have incorporated above.
Also, Christopher Ozone confirms he was the drummer on the Cowpatch recordings: “Yep that’s Cowpatch V.1 on Target Sign & Whiney Boy. Bill, John & me. Christ that had to be ’91 cuz I moved to Bklyn by ’92 and we were already on V.2 or maybe even V.3 by then.”