Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sampson's Army demo

            Much thanks to Rob from Kill the Heroes blog located in Northern Ireland.  He provided the Viva Las Vegas compilation that I re-posted here last week as well as some other treasures which I’m a bit unfamiliar with.  This cassette has demos from Abeyance, Remains, and Sampson’s Army.  I have no idea about the first two bands but I am familiar with Sampson's Army

            Fact is Sampson’s Army played at the first “punk” show I ever went to.  Me and my bud Jeff Hughes were completely naïve freshmen at Eldorado High, shit maybe we were still going to Dell H. Jr. High at the time?  We weren’t sure how to dress for a “punk” gig so I recall we wore surfer shirts hoping we’d blend in.  I’m talking Town and Country, Catchit!, Op, or similar crap we’d talked our parents into buying for us at the Meadows Mall.  We stuck out at the show but not because the crowd was stuck up.  Instead of being intimidated we were pressed against all manner of people which was comforting and uncomfortable at the same time.  It was a far cry from the butt rock arena shows we'd experienced.  Our first "punk" gig, for lack of a better word, was at the Troubadour night club and the headliner was The Damned on tour for the Phantasmagoria album.  Sampson’s Army was the opener.

            Sure the Damned were considered one of the first “punk” bands ever in the grand scheme of history but by 1986 they were far removed from “punk” in terms of sound and sentiment.  Yeah all that shit’s subjective and it’s pointless to split hairs on who’s punk, punker, and punkest.  But to give you some perspective the next underground show me and Jeff went to a few months later was Fuck Shit Piss, Schizoid, and Doggy Style at the North Las Vegas Elks Lodge.  That was a RAW punk show comparatively.  In 1986 that was as punk as you could get in Las Vegas, Nevada.  I'm sure right now somewhere in the world there’s an equally raw punk show happening in some shitty venue and the crowd is going apeshit.  That momentum is a train that will never stop until it’s reached unsuspecting teenagers at the ends of the Earth.  But I’m getting off base here.

            Jeff and I were familiar with Sampson’s Army from the radio.  We knew their hit single “Young Man, Old Man” and we thought it was cool pop.  But neither of us was all that heated over it.  In fact we knew very little about the Damned at the time.  I would go on to dig their Phantasmagoria album a tiny bit.  At least it was better then their next album titled Anything which was god awful.  Somehow I never listened to any of their “essential” early punk albums until just a few years ago.  When I finally did hear em I hated em.  Some shit just needs to be right place right time.  Maybe that’s partially why so much of that tin sounding 80’s hardcore will never be appreciated since the style has evolved so much since then?

           As pop sounding as it was Sampson’s Army is a special case.  It’s solid mid 80’s powerpop.  I went through a big powerpop phase some years ago and now I've got a real appreciation of the style.  That sound seemed to peak in the early 80's but S.A rode it out to good effect pretty late in the game.  That late 80's powerpop really stood out in terms of production as opposed to the bubblegummy, new waveish sound so prevalent in the early part of that decade.  S.A. seemed to have more dynamic songwriting which was much more guitar driven with less of a jangle pop edge making them border on the 70's glam rock style.  I wanna say I can also hear the Cure and the Cult vaguely.  That's probably just because that's the kinda shit I was listening to at that time.  If I'm approaching it from that angle I might as well throw the Church in that mix.  But S.A. don't really sound like any of that stuff, realistically I'd say they were in the same league as bands like SVT (who fucking rule), or Pezband (at their most rockinest), or maybe Game Theory at their most ballsiest.  I don't know... it's the only thing I could compare it to right now.  The sound was slightly aggressive but still super catchy.  I thought they were great songs even back then but it didn't hold a candle to Corrosion of Conformity in my teenage mind.  Probably why I never bought the album.  Now I kinda wish I had.       

            This demo is short but sweet and sounds like the hopes and dreams of the 80’s that were smashed like dreams often are.  Sampson’s Army never crossed over and never released another album to my knowledge.  But they were a great band nonetheless.  Even though I hate that fuckin name.  

          I was lucky enough to get to see them play one last time when I came down to visit the folks for Thanksgiving a few years ago.  They put on a good show in 2009.  But I’ll always remember them in the excitement of that night at the Troubadour.  Wondering if we were gonna get beat up and wondering why no one was slam dancing if this was a punk gig?  We were still figuring it out.  I suppose you never really stop figuring it out huh?            

            I recognize at least one song that was later featured on the Sampson's Army album which was entitled Where's Dan?  That song being Let It Rain.  The version on the album is way better produced and has a lot more energy than the demo version heard here.  But it was great to hear this version just to remind me that the song exists.  It’s been buried under years of memories.  Now that I've heard it again it's been playing in my head all week.  I'm glad it's back.          

            Todd Sampson passed away a few years ago.  If you’ve read this entire post you probably already knew that.  I didn’t know him so I have nothing to say about him as a person.  But the music is fucking great.  In fact it’s amazing.  It sounds like this demo was recorded right off the Rock Avenue radio show.  I’m sure we’ll never know.

            Rob from Kill the Heroes blog promised to include the Abeyance demos in the future.  I don’t know anything about that band but if you are interested in hearing them go here.

 Download Sampson's Army demo below

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The War Prayer

     This book with illustrations by war correspondent John Groth was originally published in 1970 at the height of the Vietnam war.  I'm sure you're familiar with the author, this short story is one of his lesser known works.  It was published again in 1984 and is currently out of print.  I scanned this beat up library copy and I'm making it available here.  Copyrights be damned.       

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Viva Las Vegas Compilation

            This comp documents a scene I know very little about, and I got almost nothing to go off of.  I wanna say it came out in 1983 so in that respect it’s well ahead of my time.  I heard rumors of Vegas having wildly disparate “punk” scenes that actually went all the way back to the 60’s with numerous parties and shows happening at Pabco and other roundabout places.  Shit, back then Pabco was like 15-20 miles outside of town!  That must have been the shit.  Who knows what happened?  Better tell your stories now...  Maybe we'll get some deathbed confessions?  

            I guess every snot-nosed generation that comes up makes a big racket, at least since the 50’s, maybe even earlier.  Perhaps there were some ornery bluegrass pickers out on Frenchman mountain kickin up their heels in 1905 keeping their hootenannies secret and trying not to piss off the old folks?   It could have happened.  Am I repeating myself?    

            It’s a predictable cycle; each generation that comes down the pike thinks they’re the shit until they get jobs and families and stop making that Ruckus©.  Some of them anyway.  Something tells me people who went to shows featuring the bands on this compilation think Fuck Shit Piss was chump change years later and they especially think the Boba Fett Youth/Leap Frog Society years, if they know about that shit at all, were an absolute joke in comparison.  They're probably right?  

            We all become that old codger telling the kids their music is shit compared to what we went through.  I like to think I’m more open minded but I’m no different.   I went to a basement show here in Portland when I first moved to town hoping to support a guy I knew from Vegas as his new band was playing.  The sound was awful.  I couldn't hear his vocals, and yet tons of kids were jumping up trying to sing his lyrics into the microphone.  It was cute, totally derivative of Crimpshrine, and it made me want to throw up.  I've rarely gone to a punk show since.  So yeah.  I'm just like every generation from before.  I'm not that interested in what "punk" is doing today and I haven't been to interested in it's evolution, or stasis, since I stopped contributing to that scene.  For me it's equal parts "that's not how I'd do it" and "been there, done that."  Fuckin kids these days....

             I’ve been hoping for the next exciting youth explosion of music for a while now but since it hasn't been forthcoming I've instead regressed into loving R&B dating from the 60's through what's happening today, along with golden age Hip Hop. Rarely I'll get a wild hair and stumble over some  hardcore thrash classics in my record collection but that thrill only lasts for one side of one record usually.  If the latest and greatest for today’s generation is Dub-Step I feel sorry for the kids today.  Maybe I've only heard the shitty dub-step and I'm missing out on the really solid stuff?  Well, I'm at least thankful Nu-Metal died a thousand deaths so the kids aren’t completely without taste.  But you can set your watch to revivals so the Nu Metal revival is probably only a short time away from exploding again.  I was bitching about the lack of spark/originality in new music to a friend some time ago and she remarked that music has gone downhill since they took music out of the public schools curriculum.  Maybe there’s something to be said for that? 
            Truth is there’s a million underground scenes all over the world today.  I just don’t know about em cause I don’t get the text messages.  Arena rock is also on it’s last legs so what comes next has the potential to be exciting.  Since I'm approaching middle age chances are good I won’t find out about the new shit until it’s not cool anymore.  

            This is a page out of Las Vegas history.  I don’t know shit about so I won’t bother to try and analyze it.  I don't know if it was the pinnacle of what the Vegas underground had to offer but I'm sure the folks who went to the shows with these bands will say it is.  The MIA songs on here are good finds.  I recall seeing the Self Abuse logo spray painted on the wall at the unofficial smoking section around the corner from Eldorado High School in 1988.  I'm sure I bought weed from some hessian while standing in front of it.  I spray painted that logo on numerous walls myself because I liked it so much even though I never got a chance to hear em until checking em out here.  Good stuff.  I’m glad I defaced property in their name. 

            Anyway.  I got no pictures of the tape cover, no pictures of the bands, no nothing.  I'm not even sure if that's the real title of this cassette.  And yet the music lives on.  I have little or no connection to the scene documented here.  I just thought it was interesting.  Vegas was a small town until about 1990.  It must have been something back in 83 for the bands and the audiences.  Making punk rock exist out of pure momentum out in the middle of nowhere.  Good for them.  And us. 

            I got this compilation from some guy in England of all places.  Weird.  Good show old chap!  In addition to this comp it's worth mentioning that I found this guy from France who's got some weird Vegas demos I've never heard before including a Sampson's Army demo, Abeyance, Remains, and Personal Regrets.  He don't speak English so good so I don't know what he's going on and on about in the emails we've exchanged.  Maybe you'll have better luck talking to the guy.  Although he did share with me an obscure Self Abuse demo you can play online but not download.      

Download Viva Las Vegas Compilation below