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Category: Rehearsal

Michael “Sport” Murphy: “My Limbic System (Is Fucked)”, Demo, 1995

Michael “Sport” Murphy: “My Limbic System (Is Fucked)”, Demo, 1995

PERSONNEL: Michael “Sport” Murphy, Vocals, guitar

“My Limbic System (Is Fucked)” is the B-side to the Time Or Dirt “Matilda Mother” 7″, released July 1995 on my Dive Records label. You can read all about TOD and the recording of the single, including the story of how “Limbic System” was chosen:

The B-side was picked in true Time Or Dirt fashion. I asked Sport if he had an unused song that I could record. He offered “My Limbic System (Is Fucked)” and I accepted it on the basis of the title alone. Fortunately for both of us, it turned out to be a good song.

Now, this single has been publicly available for 20 years; you can buy it today, as a matter of fact. But what we have here today is something only two people for certain have ever heard: Sport, who made this simple demo, complete with step by step instructions and suggested performance notes; and me.

If you’re inclined to record your own version, please have at it; post in the comments! In the meantime, here’s Time Or Dirt, featuring Sport on tam-tam, James Mastro on e-bow, and the final recording of Andy Moore on drums with JenCon.

Phantom Tollbooth: Seven-song demo, 1985

Phantom Tollbooth: Seven-song demo, 1985

Jon Coates: Drums
Dave Rick: Guitar, vocals
Jerry Smith: Bass, vocals

1. Jack Of All Phobias
2. Ohm On The Range
3. Saturday Afternoon
4. More Paranoia
5. More People
6. Good Luck
7. The Fuck

Unless I am mistaken, this is the original seven-song demo from which four songs were chosen for re-mastering and 2014 release by PT5Speed as the Demolition EP. Judging from the sound quality, this likely was recorded live in the band’s rehearsal space, possibly on Jon Coates’ 4-track. There are probably a few copies of this floating around the world (Willfully Obscure has a copy), but only a few. The trio is in ferociously fine form on this session. The extended version of “More Paranoia” is particularly earthshaking and volcanic. As a bonus, we get “More People”, which as far as I’ve been able to determine, was never formally released.

Phantom Tollbooth: Seven song demo, 1985. cassette

Jenifer Convertible: Live at Brownies, March 31, 1995 + Robert & Raymond at First Avenue Rehearsal

Jenifer Convertible: Live at Brownies, March 31, 1995 + Robert & Raymond at First Avenue Rehearsal

Lenny Zenith, guitar
Andy Moore, drums
James Pertusi, bass
Jim Santo, guitar


Side A – Live at Brownies, March 31, 1995
Here is the original Jenifer Convertible, with Andy Moore on drums, at our best! This show happened on a Friday night during the New York University Independent Music Festival (although, as The New Yorker clip proves, it was not an official festival event). But there was no cooler place to be in the East Village in 1995, and the place was packed. I surprised Lenny by taking the stage in a little black dress.


1. “Co-dependency” – Our first single and frequent set opener at that time.
2. “Wild Sugar Brown Thing” – Retitled “Rewind” for release later that year. I don’t remember why we changed the title.
3. “Awakening From A Disturbing Dream” – Different lyrics from the version on Wanna Drag?
4. “Speedracer” – Our next single. About to become that song we played forever.
5. “Beg” – It’s a pity this one never made it onto an album. So many decisions I don’t remember making. “My doctor gives me little courage pills.” I’m playing like a lunatic, cuz I was one.
6. “The Car Song” – New parts and body work made me what I am today. “The transsexual menace should unite!” We loved fucking with people’s heads.
7. “Timothy” – I had forgotten this song until today. Background vocals are dodgy, but we’re kickin’ ass regardless.
8. I forget the name of this song; I know there’s another version recorded. Let’s call it “Come Around Again”, though it probably had one of those one-word titles we liked so much in the nineties. The vocals probably sounded better if you were there, but I can’t complain.

A tight, 27-minute set. Happy about that.

Side B – In the JenCon rehearsal space, beneath the Hani Deli on First Avenue at St. Mark’s Place, Spring 1995.

Our space was under the sidewalk. Fluffer, Ultra Bide, Alice Donut, and D Generation all rehearsed there. A damp, squalid box, separated from the madness of East Village 1995 by a steel door in the sidewalk. Not infrequently, random strangers would lift the sidewalk door and invite themselves in. Just such a night is recorded here.

1. “I Need You” – A song of mine that I had forgotten until today.
2. An inexplicably better recorded version of “I Need You” or whatever we were calling it. I only ever had two songs in the repertoire, and that’s fine.
3. “Timothy” – Again with the dodgy vocals; we should have worked on them, but we didn’t, and that’s why I forgot about “Timothy” ha ha!
4. We introduce ourselves to our guests, Robert and Raymond, and play “Wild Sugar Brown Thing”. Why did we re-title it? The original title came from “Wild Thing” by the Troggs, plus Bob Mould’s band, Sugar, and, like, the Stones.

This is quite a good recording; I wish I could remember how we did it. I’ll bet Pertusi remembers.

Robert and Raymond are from Midtown West. Slummin’, James says, and they were.

5. “Wild Sugar Brown Thing” again. Great song.

6. “Speedracer” falls apart.

7. “Speedracer” holds together, but the recording does not.

8. “Awakening From A Disturbing Dream” – fidelity returns. Lenny’s vocal resembles the Brownies’ show, so I’m figuring this happened either shortly before or after the live gig on Side A. In any event, Andy quit in May, so these are among the last recordings with this line-up. So good!

9. Another forgotten JC song. Sounds like James on lead vocals? Heavy blues-rock groove on this one. I could not tell you the title, but it’s more than alright. “I don’t know why I get this way.”

10. “Used To It” – that’s TERRIBLE


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 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 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!