The Skels: Sucks To Be Us + Be With That (Side A)

The Skels: Sucks To Be Us + Be With That (Side A)

Mike “Sport” Murphy: Vocals
Bill Hafener: Guitar, vocals
Will Liguori: Guitar, vocals
John Boghardt: Bass
John Phillips: Bass
Jimmy Colford: Drums


Side A:
Mary’s Grave *^
Green Eyes
I Call It Home
Train Song #
Mighty Sun *^
John Leslie ^
Cheryl *#
Knucklehead *

Side B:
You’re Too Cool
Jutt Butt
I’ll Read You Stories
[instrumental interlude]
John Leslie [whip it good mix]
Mary’s Grave [dig it mix]

Side A of Be With That:
You Can’t Stand Up
Trouble In The House
The Big Parade
Helen Rose

* Evidence Of A Struggle CD
^ I’ll Take The Low Road cassette
# 8 Pages cassette

Anyone who knows me knows the place this band holds in my heart. I will go the grave singing their praises. Their two “official” LPs, How Do You Like It Here Now and Be With That, are both classics that you need to hear (and will, stick around) — but my favorite Skels album was never released. I’m talking about Sucks To Be Us: the Smile of ’90s indie-rock: brilliant, ambitious, flawed, joyous, victim of circumstance, revealed incompletely. Until now, the number of people who have heard this album would neither fill my kitchen nor block my fridge. Actually, can I get a beer? Thanks. As a bonus, side B of this cassette includes side A of Be With That. Ain’t life grand?

I asked Bill Hafener for the story behind Sucks To Be Us. Here’s his reply:

“John [Boghardt] quit the band in the summer of 1990, just like he said he would, which was why we hastily recorded Be With That in our rehearsal space that February with Joe Chinnici. We wanted to get those songs recorded with John before he left but we were broke, so we did that and it turned out pretty well, even though we could only afford to have cassettes duplicated.

“We had a hard time finding a replacement bassist, as you know, because you and Chinnici sat in at various gigs through the end of 1990. We finally stumbled across a young woman named Sherri. She did alright on the bass, she could copy John’s parts from the recordings and she didn’t seem to mind hanging around with us. However she couldn’t contribute anything original when it came time to work on new material, so when she just stopped showing up one day we didn’t make any effort to go look for her.

“I don’t recall how John Phillips, aka ‘NuJohn’ came our way, but he could play ok and we started working on new songs. So now that we felt we had an acceptable bass player, we were ready to get back to recording. This was some point in 1991. So Joe Jed, who owned the Recordamatt studio where we did How Do You Like It Here Now, told us we could record there any time it was available and we only had to pay the engineer. So we went to town and recorded the songs for Sucks and pulled out all the stops with sorts of sound effects, overdubs, horns, piano and whatever other production ideas we could think of. But once it was all done the situation with NUJohn had reached its breaking point and he was dismissed and John B came back.

“So now we had a fully finished album, with bass parts we didn’t like (he turned out to be too noodly) and still no money to have anything pressed. We had John B go back and redo some the bass on a few of the songs (‘Cheryl’ and ‘Mary’s Grave’ for sure, maybe more. but I don’t remember from here), but we still didn’t do anything with them. Then in 1992 Jimmy quit and Al [Criscuolo] joined and that just put the final nail in the coffin for Sucks. We had an entire album, with a fired bass player on some songs and a drummer that quit on all of them. We just wanted to get on with something new with Al because we started gigging like crazy with him and the gigs were mostly great and we didn’t want to deal with this albatross of an album.

“We used a few of the songs on those two cassettes we put out, I’ll Take The Low Road and 8 Pages, but that was it. Some of the other tracks were used when Willy [Liguori], Diane [Campbell] and Sport put together the Evidence Of A Struggle compilation CD. We recorded a few more songs at Recordamatt before it imploded for good, two while we were between drummers that were supposed to be for the first Sport solo album, and a few others like ‘Tomorrow’ and the songs we used for our last release, the ‘Then We’ll See’ 7″. We also recorded four songs at Kramer’s studio in NJ one rainy day in early 1994 that turned out really, really nicely but… you guessed it, we didn’t do anything with them.”

3 thoughts on “The Skels: Sucks To Be Us + Be With That (Side A)

  1. I remember those recordings well, as I was one of the folks who would have fit into your kitchen as I heard them. This is Steve Kelly. I played piano on Jutt Butt and keyboards on a couple of other Skels tunes. They were indeed a great band and it was sad to see them part ways. I’ve kept in touch with Bill Hafener here and there, and wished I knew about their reunion a few years back. It would have been nice to see/hear them again, if only for a brief time.

      1. I still play at home but have not played with a band for years. I have a small “studio” set up in my basement and have recorded some piano parts for Bill Hafener over the past couple of years. I’d love to play again if I could find the time.

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