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Not Mystery Friday: Chaos Oblivion

Not Mystery Friday: Chaos Oblivion

It’s Not Mystery Friday in this Universe, but we do have a mystery here. No J-card, just a cassette with the number 2 and “Chaos Oblivion” scrawled in pen on a gray sticker. Not in the DU DemoBase™, so pre-Internet. What does the “2” signify? Side 2? The album’s title? The band’s name? It’s ambiguous.

I don’t know about you, but I’m kinda excited. Let’s assume the 2 means side 2, flip the tape over and listen to the (un-stickered)…

Side 1:

Hmm, OK, I guess I should have expected that. Fine, let’s go on to…

Side 2:

Well. Alright, then.

I feel like my past self is pranking me.

Mystery Friday Number Eight: Sorry Charlie!

Mystery Friday Number Eight: Sorry Charlie!

Welcome to another episode of Mystery Friday! You know the drill, so let’s get to it.

Tonight we have a rather impressive looking Maxell Studio Tape MS-20 cassette. Ten minutes a side, bitches! No idea what’s on it.

Side A:

1) The Rocker. Hard rock, almost metal. High tenor vocals. Chorus effect on the guitars, so ’80s? A whiff of early ’90s dissonance. Evident Led Zep influence. Decent solo. Slap bass break, ugh no. Not terrible, but I can’t pick out a title, so…lose.

2) The Ballad. Let’s call it “The Last Thing I See”. The mix on both songs is awful, hollow and veiled. Too much guitar. Drums sound like a plastic bat on a play pool: plop plop plop. The lead guitarist is damn good, though; hot n’ tasty. This band was better than they sound. Shame.

Side B:

Nothing on Side B. That was easy.

Yeah, so this is what happens when bands don’t label their cassettes. I lost your j-card (if there was one), your stupid press kit (there surely was), your band pic with big hair (ditto), and now you’ve missed a second chance at immortality. Sorry, Charlie!

Sorry Charlie

Mystery Friday Number Seven: The dog looks good.

Mystery Friday Number Seven: The dog looks good.

This is Koko:


She went to the groomer’s this afternoon, and she looks very pretty. Koko’s a good dog. Isn’t that right, Koko? ‘at’s a good girl.

Welcome to another episode of Mystery Friday on Saturday! Time once again to reach into the Box of Unknown, pull out a tape, play it, and attempt to describe it.

Tonight’s subject is a Maxell Epitaxial XL II 90 cassette, unmarked and in excellent condition, encased in a slightly cracked jewel box, with no j-card.

As usual, I haven’t a fig’s clue what’s on it. Hang on while I pour myself another drink.

OK let’s listen:

Side A
1) “Crawl In Bed” by The Del-Lords. One of THE great NYC bands. Scott “Top Ten” Kempner, Manny Caiati, Eric “Roscoe” Ambel, and Frank Funaro. Look ’em up if you’re not familiar and thank me later.

2) “Judas Kiss” by The Del-Lords. Well, I guess this is the 1988 Del-Lords album Based on a True Story. Here’s the cover:

Based On A True Story by The Del-Lords

And here’s the song:

3) “River Of Justice”. Oh cool, this is a different track listing. This song ends the original album.

4) “Cheyenne”. And this is #7. I did a profile of these guys for The Musicians’s Exchange when Story was released; maybe this is an advance promo?

5) “Poem Of The River”. Same spot as on the album. Folks, this record is so damn good. A shame it’s not better known.

6) “The Cool And The Crazy”. Roscoe plays several fierce solos on this one. The Del-Lords were murderous live, by the way; I saw them numerous times at CBGB and elsewhere. Here, watch this.

7) “A Lover’s Prayer”

8) “Ashes To Ashes”. This is #3 on the official release. I’m gonna assume Scott or Eric gave me this. No video for this one, for no reason whatsoever.

9) “Whole Lotta Nothin’ Goin’ On”. NYC rock n’ roll in excelsis.

10) “I’m Gonna Be Around”.  The #4 song on this album concludes this alternate cassette version.

Man, what fun to hear these songs again. I hope you enjoyed listening with me! Of course, as always, I wonder if there’s anything on…

Side B
1) “Too Cool” by Tang S’Dang. From Bigger And Harder, our second album. Produced by Luke DeLalio and recorded by Gary Wade in 1992 at Soundscape studio, on 52nd Street near 10th avenue — a rough neighborhood in those days. Gary’s studio was up in the fourth or fifth floor and had no buzzer; we had to stand in the street and yell until he dropped us the keys out the window, in a Shure SM57 microphone case.

2) “Marie And The Minotaur” by Tang S’Dang. Is this alternate version night? “Marie” is #3 on the official release.

3) “Flood I” by Sisters Of Mercy. OK this is random. From 1987’s Floodland. #2 on that album.

4) “Lucretia My Reflection” by Sisters Of Mercy. Released as a single, May 1988. Great damn song. #3 on the LP

5) “1959” by Sisters Of Mercy. #4 on the album. “This Corrosion” should be next. Hope so.

6) “This Corrosion” by Sisters Of Mercy. Yes. The first single, 18 September 1987. Andrew Eldritch looks cute in this video. Not as pretty as Koko, though. I think this is the extended version.

7) “Flood II” by Sisters Of Mercy. This tape would make more chronological sense without the two Tang S’Dang tracks from 1992. I wonder if they were recorded over “Dominion/Mother Russia”, the opening song of Floodland?

8) “Driven Like The Snow” by Sisters Of Mercy. I wonder if the famous Carole made this tape. She was more into the Sisters than I was.

9) “Never Land (a fragment)” by Sisters Of Mercy. Carole pointed out that we don’t own this album on vinyl, and suggested it may have been borrowed from The Music Paper. Works for me.

Well, there it is. Two great, forgotten mid-’80s LPs, and a coupla Tang S’Dang songs. Could be worse.

Mystery Friday Number 7

Mystery Friday Number Six: How Many Fridays?

Mystery Friday Number Six: How Many Fridays?

Welcome to another edition of Mystery Friday, when I reach into the Box Of Unknown, pull out an unmarked cassette, play it, and attempt to describe it. Some of these tapes haven’t been played in more than 1,500 Fridays; who knows what’s on ’em? Not me, pal. Not me.

Tonight’s subject is a Sony HF 60 Type I Normal Bias cassette. As was customary, bits of Scotch™ tape cover each recording tab. I could record over this sucker right now. But no, I will listen to it instead. Here we go!

Side A
1. This is Tang S’Dang unplugged, rehearsing harmonies “Rear View”. The version on our Bigger & Harder CD was the only track I ever made money from, in the form of two BMI royalty checks totaling $69, for Australian radio airplay.

2. A sweet song I wrote that I had forgotten about until just now. Dunno the title; let’s call it “Private Eye”. We’re working on harmonies again. Just the opening, though, not the full song.

3. “Long Run”. A good Ricky song that we never properly recorded. Again with the harmonies.

4. “The Lovin’ Kind”. After more harmony work, Ricky tosses off a nice lead vocal on this great tune, which (surprise!) we never released.


OK this is the shit we recorded over. Moderately Gothic Mid-1980s Modern Rock, and all that implies. Hope this doesn’t last too lon


g. Big band jazz?!? “Tickle Toe” by Illinois Jacquet & His Big Band, says Shazam, just befo


re we’re back to the Brooding Modern Rockers. Shazam has no clue who this is, but this track is alright. Evidently I didn’t like it so much back in the ’80s, or I wouldn’t have taped over it. What’s that? Oh come on, get over it. What else was I supposed to do, throw it out? I’ve done that too, and it feels better to tape over, lemme tell ya.

Seems like this side is over. I wonder what’s on…

Side B

1. Eh, it’s this band again. Everything is so BIG in this mix. It’s THAT BIG ROCK SOUND. Not BIG AND TOUGH, no, BIG AND FLUFFY. Proggy bits in here, too. It’s like Mötorhead mushed with Rush, Love And Rockets, and whoever’s playing at McO’Spoonie’s this Wednesday night, mixed by the sound man at The Ritz circa 1988.


3. No. I’m going to spare us all Side B. There is no Side B. Side B never happened.

Mystery Friday #6

Mystery Friday Number Five: What Time Is It?

Mystery Friday Number Five: What Time Is It?

Welcome again to another episode of Mystery Friday! Time moves in strange ways in the Demo Universe, especially when I reach into the Box Of Unknown, pull out an unmarked cassette, play it, and attempt to describe it.

Our subject today/yesterday is a Denon Anti Resonance Construction HD8/100 High Bias Head Cleaning Leader cassette. You can tell from the number of words that this is a premium quality cassette. It has a jewel box but no j-card and the cassette is unmarked except for bits of tape affixed to the upper left corner of each side, labeling Side A “1”, and Side B, “3”. Hmmm.

Time won’t tell me what’s on this tape until I play it. Are you ready? Let’s listen!

1. “Smile Happy” by War, from the album “Why Can’t We Be Friends” (1975). This earthy, majestic, catharic Latino-jazz instrumental kicks off side two. The great band from East L.A. are at the height of their powers.

2. “What Difference Does It Make?” by The Smiths. Nice segue from brown joy to white despair, mister. 1984. Was Orwell wrong?

This is a mix tape for a party Carole and I hosted about 20 years ago at our apartment in Sunnyside. I’m guessing New Year’s Eve, 1992. I won’t be streaming this on Soundcloud, obviously — it will get yanked instantly. But I’m still fond of you, so just leave a comment and I’ll set you up. No more apologies!

3. “Right Now” by The Creatures. Siousxie and Budgie swing out, John Barry style. 1983.

4. “Let the Good Times Roll” by Shirley and Lee. This has to be a party tape. 1956.

5. “How Bad Do You Want It?” by Don Henley. The sound of 1989.

6. “Memphis In The Meantime” by John Hiatt. Lead track on 1987’s superb Bring the Family — Hyatt’s big comeback and a cornerstone of his career. If you haven’t heard it, you should.

7. “A Town Called Malice” by The Jam. A have a lot of favorite Jam songs, and this is one of them. 1982.

8. “Put A Tail On Your Kite” by Gunbunnies From the 1990 album Paw Paw Patch. Led by singer and killer guitarist Chris Maxwell, who went on to join the amazing Skeleton Key with Eric Sanko.

9. “Great Fire” by XTC. This song was on every mix tape I made after 1983.

10. “The Lone Rhinoceros” by Adrian Belew. From his 1982 debut Lone Rhino. Among the greatest guitarists ever, in my opinion.

11. “Blank Generation” by Richard Hell and The Voidoids. Nineteen fucking seventy-seven. If you haven’t given to Heart On Fire: Ivan Julian Fund, please do so now. Thanks.

12. “Stray Cat Strut” by The Stray Cats. I spent a lot of time at Heckle & Jeckle’s music bar in Merrick, Long Island, and once saw these guys hanging out at the bar. Never saw ’em play, but I did get my first tattoo as a indirect result of this song.

13. “Slipping and Sliding” by John Lennon. From his 1975 covers album Rock ‘n’ Roll. Produced by Phil Spector with his customary restraint.

14. “I’m An Adult Now” by The Pursuit of Happiness. Somebody screaming in a leather jacket. The sound of Toronto, 1986.

15. “Telstar” by Joe Meek and The Tornados. It’s 1962 and I am running out of tape on Side 1.

At this juncture, it’s worth pointing out that this mix was recorded solely from vinyl recordings. Yeah. I’m bad.

Side 2

1. “Wild And Loose” by The Time. I swear to God I titled this post before I heard this! This is, of course, from the 1982 album What Time Is It?, co-produced by Morris Day and Prince. Somebody get me a mirror!

2. “Get On The Good Foot” by James Brown. This had to be a New Year’s party. 1990?

3. “Around the Way Girl” by LL Cool J. Proof I liked rap in 1990.

4. “Soul Sassy” by Neneh Cherry. From Homebrew, 1992. The most recent song on this tape so far.

5. “Humpty Dance” by Digital Underground. The other sound of 1989.

6. Hmmm. “25 O’Clock” by Dukes of Stratosphear is almost immediately interrupted by “Give It Away” by Red Hot Chili Peppers, who were not a complete embarrassment in 1991. Dunno what happened here.

7. “From a Million Miles” by Single Gun Theory. Released as a single in November 1991. An under-appreciated electronic dance-pop band from Australia. This cut is radiant, and so of its time. Memories come flooding back.

8. What else could I play after that, but “Soon” by My Bloody Valentine? Words can hardly express how this song, and this album, changed me in 1991. An epochal recording.

9. “Mysterious Ways” by U2. Achtung Baby. After surviving a near-fatal bout of head-in-ass (an illness to which they would ultimately succumb), Bono and the boys rallied to hit it out the park in ’91.

10. “Golden Years” by David Bowie. The sound of 1976. I was seventeen, going on seventy. Run for the shadows.

11. “Once In A Lifetime” by Talking Heads. The sound of 1981. All these years later, still blows my mind. Listen carefully, or just dance.

12. “Tomorrow Never Knows” by The Beatles. The sound of 1966. See instructions for “Once In A Lifetime”.

Fade out…

Well, that was fun! I do hope to hear from some of you in the comments, as I’d be glad to share my mix tape with you. I wonder where Side 2 & 4 is?

Mystery Friday Number Five

Mystery Friday Number Four: Naked Came The Cassette

Mystery Friday Number Four: Naked Came The Cassette

Welcome back to another episode of Mystery Friday, when I play a cassette tape from the box UNKNOWN and attempt to describe it.

Tonight we have a TDK SA-X 90. Jewel box is in very good condition; just a scuff on the spine. The cassette itself is in mint condition, unmarked in any way.

Sherlock couldn’t guess what’s on this tape. Let’s listen!

Side A

1. “Hypnotized” seems to be the title. Prog-pop, like Collins-era Genesis or Foreigner or Rush. Works for what it is.

2. “She’s Just Living” I am guessing. An earnest epic for musos that’s really OK.

3. A very ’80s “modern rock” thing. I’m going with “On Every Sidewalk” for the title. Superior pop-song craftsmanship on show here. I have admit I like it.

That’s it? Apparently so. Can’t imagine there’s anything on

Side B

1. Wow, I didn’t expect to hear anything! This has to be titled “Welcome”. Is this the same band? This is brighter and brasher, the mix is raw, with loud vocal.

2. Minor-key, sort of Latin feel. Paranoid lyrics. Let’s call it “Virus”. This can’t be the same band as on Side A, can it?

3. No way is this the same band on Side A. Kinda glammy number here. “High High High”? “La La La”? Whatever. Cool song.

4. Old style rock n’ roll ballad style. British feel, like old Bee Gees. Bass heavy.

5. Hmm this one is a bit like Side A, but still, more raw. “The Goose Is Out”? Sure. This is a little Duran Duran. Side B has a more “demo” sound compared to A. I really have no freaking idea what I am listening to.

6. “A Refugee”? “Security In Numbers”? One of them. Great rockin glam song.

7. “Acting Out” is an OK ’80s modern rock song with sort of a Springsteen feel. Not pleasant.

8. “Is There Something I Should Know?”: Stompy, sneering, like early Who and not half bad.

9. “Sylvia”: Psychedelic rock, man. This is my favorite song on the whole tape.

10. Yikes, big change of sonic space! Big room reverb on this one. “Why Do I Love You?”, “Don’t Put Out Your Fire”, “Sociarama” (?) could all be the title. Decent song.

And I guess we’re done.

OK, well, this is an odd one. I don’t remember any of these songs and cannot name the band. Maybe somebody out there knows. Side A might be a three-song studio recording, although the mix is muddy. Side B is obviously demos, but it’s the more satisfying side.

Mystery Friday #4

Mystery Friday Number Three: I Know You Are, But What Am I?

Mystery Friday Number Three: I Know You Are, But What Am I?

Welcome to Episode Three of Mystery Friday! Time for another plunge into the box UNKNOWN.

Tonight’s tape is a Scotch BX 90 135m Normal Bias. Scotch brand cassettes were not commonly used during this Universe; Memorex was much more popular at that time. And I can hear why — the spools rattle like mad as I fast-forward to limber up the tape.

In any event, the cassette is in brand-new condition, the j-card has but a few scratches, and it is not marked in any way. I haven’t a clue what’s on this. And neither do you. Let’s listen!


1) It’s Tang S’Dang! My power trio with Ricky Street and Frank Patterson. This is an instrumental version of “Mr. Misunderstood”, one of my favorite songs that didn’t make it onto an album. This is a smokin’ take, too.

2) “Hard Hard World” Yeah! Lead-off track to Adult Love Boutique. Another instrumental. Holy shit this is intense.

3) “Marie and The Minotaur” This song of mine goes back to Techno-Peasants, the mid-80s band I had with Vinnie Fabiano and John Mazza. It’s a lyrical mashup of Bob Dylan, Pablo Picasso and Homer’s Odyssey. This sounds great. But we only released “Marie” as a live version on Bigger & Harder. Are these rehearsal tapes? Studio roughs? Not sure.

4) I forget the name of this one. Punky rockabilly, like Ricky loved and still does. It’s really fun to hear the instruments so clear and clean.

5) “I Turn Into You” Another frantic spastic toon by yours truly. Also dating from the Techno Peasants era. This is an early recording for sure. Way before the first album. 1987?

6) “Carnivores” I always loved this little song of mine. Nice changes on this. Good energy on the middle eight. We waited too long to put out an album, I have to say.

7) “Love/Hate” Geez, I have a lot of songs on this tape. Killer take on this, yes, unreleased tune. Damn.

8) “The Love You Thought You Found” A fab collab between Ricky and me. One of our best songs, oh man, this take is kicking. Why the fuck didn’t we release this? And where are the vocal stems???

9) “Enough To Say” Smokin little blues rock number that I always loved to play. Get my Humble Pie on. This recording sounds and feels very much like a live performance. Whoever recorded it did a great job.

10) “Dominoes” OK this one we released, on ALB. Always a favorite. I was just starting to get into African music, can you tell? Frank is brilliant here. This is so much better than the album version! I am losing my mind.

11) “Tiger By The Tail”. This became one of our signature tunes for some reason. I have mixed feelings about it, but that’s my problem, not yours. This is a solid instrumental version, despite a weak solo from this guy.

12) Wow, what is this? Definitely a Ricky song. Awesome changes! Intricately arranged power pop. Patterson is a monster. I fuck up. (Update 4/9/2016: Ricky identifies this as “Cathy Cried A Snowball”)

13) “I Remember” I love The Who, can you tell? WOW the ending!

Jim: “Still running.”
Ricky: “I think that’s about it for this side.”



1) “Cupcake Man” The CBGB live version on BAH hits harder, and has vocals. But this is fine.

2) “Boys And I” Audio problems at the start. Distorted hi hat. Calms down once we get into it. Another tune we did at CBGB for BAH. This tape is shaping up to be a record of our entire repertoire.

3) “Empty Boxes” Nice tune. Released on the first LP. My lyrics are silly, but this is an instrumental, so lucky you! Good guitar solo by El Santo.

4) Yow! Another great, forgotten tune! No clue what this is, but it’s kicking my ass.

5) “Nine On The Spine” Top 10 fave of songs I have written, and we play it perfectly here. I should release this as a single!

6) Ah geez, what is this? Another great power-pop song. We played this a zillion times. Balls.

7) Rock n’ roll! No memory! Gimme a break, it’s been 30 years.

8) Nope, no clue. We obviously knew it well, ’cause we kick it down the street.

9) Cover of a fucking great song that I need to google because my brain is in the cloud

10) ‘allo, memory? have ya got any? No sir.

11) “Who’ll Be The Next In Line?” Kinks!

12) “You Got It Bad” I wrote this about someone.

13) Mmm, no. Anyone?

14) “Good For Him” says me or Ricky, but it don’t sound much like it.

15) “Long Run” If I hadn’t heard the title, I wouldn’t have remembered. But I did, and I do, although I could not recite the lyrics, even though I wrote ’em

16) “Vampire” Go!


Tang S'Dang Live Rehearsal Demo

Mystery Friday Episode Two: None More Blank

Mystery Friday Episode Two: None More Blank

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.

None More Blank

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.”

Mystery Friday Episode One: It Came From The Basement

Mystery Friday Episode One: It Came From The Basement

Today surfaced a cardboard Eddie Bauer boot box, marked “Unknown,” in which was about three dozen cassettes, half lacking jewel boxes, most if not all unmarked. The sort of thing any sane man would have tossed out years ago.

But I can’t help wondering: What’s on these tapes? I’ll bet you’re wondering too.

Welcome to Episode One of Mystery Friday! Every week I will grab a tape from the Unknown Box, play it for you, and attempt to describe it. Here’s the first one:

Skels Unplugged

This is a Maxell XLII 46-minute cassette — an unusual length. When looking at side A, there is a small piece of transparent tape covering a missing recording tab on the left side (thus allowing recording to occur on Side B, right?). Someone, possibly me, has scrawled on the transparent portion of side A, in red marker, something that looks like “SKELS LIVE AT CBGB,” or possibly, “SKELS LIVE AT GCBD” or equally likely, “SKELS LIVPUSGCOO.”

UPDATE 3/25/2016: Upon further study, I have discerned The One True Title: SKELS UNPLUGGED. This is, of course, a regrettable reference to the long-running MTV series.
UPDATE 3/26/2016: Sport Murphy responds: “Interesting find. I’m guessing this was prep for a show that happened downtown probably at one of those Thom Jack rooms with maybe just us 3, circa 93 or so. It was near, but prior to the band’s end. You did play guitar.”

Let’s listen:

1) Sport Murphy on vocals and harmonium, Willy Liguori on acoustic guitar, and yours truly(!) on second acoustic guitar, perform “The Big Parade.” Sounds like a one-mic recording. Definitely not CBGB.

2) Same line-up, “Mighty Sun.” This evidently is a tape I made of a rehearsal for a show that, as far as I can recall, never happened. I’ve played bass and dulcimer on gigs, but not guitar — again, as far as I can remember, which is a stone’s throw. Nice harmonies on this.

3) “Unbecoming” – Good, strong version.

4) “She’s The One” – Arrangement notes, deliberately spoken close to the mic, are the only “flaw” here. Spirited and joyful. What’s with the crickets?

5) We work for a while on a cover of Scott Walker’s “The Bridge.” Starts to come together just before the tape runs out (here’s a cruelly unfair comparison that you will doubtless thank me for).

Well, well. I wonder what’s on Side B?

1) “Weeping Icon” – Did we really not play this show? Did we play this show? My mind is gone. It is impossible to play this song without smiling. That’ll show them Jews!

2) “Lord Help My Poor Soul” – Late period Skels song, inspired by Poe’s dying words. Fittingly it was released posthumously. I will love this song until my dying day.

3) “Pterydactyl” – thanks to Sport for reminding me of this title of this seldom-heard gem.

4) “Boy In The Sky” – Man, we are digging deep into the Skels’ repertoire. Nothing yet from Willoughby. When was this tape made?

5) Whoops! Suddenly cuts to the middle of “Ghosts Of New York,” the B-side of the first “7 by Time Or Dirt!

6) “Ghosts Of New York” again. Alternate mix? This song was inspired by Luc Sante’s Low Life — a book every New Yorker should read.


Dating this tape is tricky. It seems post-Skels, but it’s definitely pre-Willoughby; only the Walker cover hints at ambitions greater than the Skels Greatest Hits we recorded that day. So, sometime between 1994 and 1999 — more likely earlier than later.

According to Sport (see update above) this was recorded shortly before The Skels split, circa 1993. Since “Ghosts” was not finally mixed until October 30 of that year, this would have to be late ’93 or early ’94. We did play the gog, according to Sport, but I have no memory of it.

Where was it recorded? I’ve no clue.

So ends the first episode of Mystery Friday! I look forward to doing more in the weeks and months to come. I hope this inspires some of you to dig out your old tapes — you never know what you’ll find!