The Record Collection: 1989 – 4

Beat Farmers | The Pursuit of Happiness | Curb, 1987 |

The Beat Farmers managed to combine hard hitting Southern fried rock with just the right amount of twang and jangle, including a ragged sense of humor, mighty fine songwriting and great musical skills. Now, that’s the recipe for a damn fine band in my book. Even though they never were spectacular, in terms of being visionary vanguards or anything, they were pioneers for roots based rock and paved way for numerous bands to come. Back then it was labelled as ‘cowpunk’, but in heart this is really classic all-American rock ‘n’ roll.

I bought The Pursuit of Happiness (1985) prior to this one, and it’s still my personal favorite – regardless of this here iconic cover art. But, standout tracks like “Hollywood Hills” and “Make It Last” ranks among their finest work ever, as does (as always) the deep sound of Country Dick Montana (“Big River”). The band dissolved after Country Dick passed away in 1995, while performing on stage.

Sidewinders | Witchdoctor | Mammoth/RCA 1989 |

Tucson, Arizona’s Sidewinders sure stepped up the game with their sophomore album Witchdoctor. Their mix of jangly guitars and hard rocking songs, acoustic beauty and electric rage, melted together just perfect on this album. On standout tracks like “Cigarette,” “Bad Crazy Sun” and the exquisite cover of Neil Diamond’s “Solitary Man” they’re not too far from the sound of city comrades like Naked Prey and Green On Red, but Sidewinders always had a more approachable side to their music. It all comes together on “What She Said”, just one of those great moments where melodic sensibility takes a turn and starts to explore the unknown. This close to 10 minute epic track is the highlight of an album that has plenty to give, even 30 years after it was first being released.

Rich Hopkins might never have received a massive commercial breakthrough, but he sure is an underrated songwriter and bandleader – and he’s a true desert character. Sidewinders later turned into Sand Rubies, and Hopkins has continued up until this day as Rich Hopkins and the Luminarios.

Various artists | Time Between: A Tribute to the Byrds | Imaginary, 1989 |

“It’s hard to believe that 25 years have elapsed since The Byrds took their first faltering steps into World Pacific Studios to open the chapter on a fascinating period of creative growth and bestow upon the music world an influence that is still felt to this day.” So says the album notes by Lyndon Noon. Well, it’s also hard to believe the fact that it’s 30 years since I purchased this here LP. However, the influence of The Byrds continues to live on, their songs will endure forever. More so than many of the bands honoring them on this tribute album. But the reason I bought Time Between was not first and foremost because of The Byrds, even though I already loved them in 1989, but the fact that so many of my favorite bands contributed here: Giant Sand (“Change Is Now” for sure), Thin White Rope and Dinosaur Jr. (“I Feel a Whole Lot Better” after this) all chip in, as does honorable names like Miracle Legion, The Chills, Richard Thompson, The Barracudas, The Moffs and many more. This is a wonderful homage, serving many of the purposes of a such a project: Paying respect to the mother band, creating unique versions of their original songs and expanding the understanding of their legacy. You want to dive into the original versions while listening to the covers at the same time. Well done.

Band of Susans | Love Agenda | Blast First, 1989 |

Band of Susans came from the New York City underground, and even though they basically remained there during their whole career, the band, made up of remarkably many Susan’s, sure left a mark in the history of art rock. They were students under composers like Rhys Chatham, and contemporaries with other NY bands like Sonic Youth, Live Skull and Swans.

Their second album Love Agenda, with Page Hamilton, later of Helmet fame in the line-up, has aged remarkably well. Here’s plenty of layers and layers of loud guitars and the start-stop dynamics we later came to love from Helmet, but restrained vocals and sweet melodies buried underneath the pillows of noise were not too far from British acts like The Jesus and Mary Chain or My Bloody Valentine. But, Band of Susans sure went their own way. As a matter of fact, it’s possible to map out several different schools of noise rock, with Sonic Youth as kids from the school of no wave, The Jesus & Mary Chain following the path of British post-punk and My Bloody Valentine doing what is now known as dreampop/shoegaze. Band of Susans is related to all of this, but also turned a slightly different direction with minimalistic mantras characterized with a wall of sound and a sea of noise. It all comes to life on Love Agenda.

The Denver Mexicans | The Denver Mexicans | Still Sane, 1988 |

A rather short lived band, The Denver Mexicans only released a couple albums during their time span. This is their eponymous debut, made up by legendary LA bassist Dave Provost (The Dream Syndicate, Droogs and many more), Aaron Price on guitar and vocals and drummer Steve Bidrowski (The Unknowns). This album is packed with raw and ragged tunes, ranging from garage rock and surf to cowpunk and desert rock not too far from other contemporary artists like Naked Prey and Green On Red (check out the centerpiece “Lonesome Road.”) Add some sweet acoustic numbers (“Ezras Parade”), cool instrumentals (“Dogs of Surf”, “Denver Mexican Theme”) and a more than decent version of The Dream Syndicate’s “John Coltrane Stereo Blues” in the mix, and you get a pretty wild ride of late 1980s underground rock Los Angeles style. Sadly, I never finished up ordering the t-shirt (slide 3), guess it’s too late now?

Various Artists | ‎Only 39,999,999 Behind “Thriller” – Down There Records 1981-1988 | Down There/Restless, 1989 |

The Dream Syndicate’s Steve Wynn started up Down There Records in the early 1980s. The label catalog is more qualitative than sizable impressive, with early and classic albums from The Dream Syndicate, Green On Red and Naked Prey as part of the roster. Down There also gave us awesome releases from The Romans, Russ Tolman and Divine Weeks, and quite simply ranks as one of the finest labels to document primarily a very vital Los Angeles music scene. This compilation is a pretty awesome place to start digging, it even includes several unreleased tracks, but I highly encourage chasing down the original albums right away. Highlights include Dream Syndicate’s untamed version of “Outlaw Blues” and Green On Red’s early tune “Tragedy.”

Neil Young | After the Gold Rush | Reprise 1970 |

I grew up on Neil Young. Old Ways played on repeat as the soundtrack to endless family summer trips when I was a kid, Ragged Glory and Weld being as heavy as any grunge album in the early ’90s – and later on in life, the thrill of discovering so many gems in this man’s astonishing catalog. It’s fair to say that Neil Young is one of my all time favorite artists, and After the Gold Rush is one of his finest albums. This is classic Neil at the dawn of a long career peak. You’ll find all his signature moves on this, his third solo album: The acoustic, husky folk tunes (“Cripple Creek Ferry”), the ragged, loud guitars (most notably on “Southern Man”), heartbreaking love songs (“I Believe In You”, “Only Love Can Break Your Heart”, “When You Dance I Can Really Love”), cowboy nostalgia (a slow version of Don Gibson’s “Oh Lonesome Me”), piano-led ballads (“Birds”, the eco-friendly title track)…. You know it’s a classic album straight from the get go: ‘Sailin’ hardships through broken harbors/Out on the waves in the night’ (“Tell Me Why”). Neil Young made some mighty fine albums before this one, and a whole lotta legendary ones after, but his long, sprawling career is compressed into these two sides of timeless music.

The Long Ryders | Native Sons | Frontier/Planet 1984 |

Native Sons is in many ways a seminal 1980s album, as a highly influential predecessor to the alt-country resurgence a couple years later, a cornerstone in the Paisley Underground movement, a blueprint for tons of rootsy/psychedelic indie bands to come – and of course a damn fine album on its own. Still is. The Long Ryders combined jangly guitars and sweet vocal harmonies (hey, even Gene Clark joins in) with a raw, ragged garage rock attitude, often cited as the missing link between Gram Parsons and punk rock.

This is The Long Ryders’ first full length, produced by Henry Lewy (Joni Mitchell, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen) and a tour de force of timeless songwriting from start to finish. Love it just as much now as when I purchased it 30 years ago.

Sonic Youth | Bad Moon Rising | Homestead/Blast First 1985 |

Bad Moon Rising is a dark, gloomy nightmare, slowly dragging us through post-apocalyptic city streets and desolate, industrial wastelands, a disturbing postcard from 1980s America. Just a couple years later Sonic Youth gave us Sister and Daydream Nation and forever shaped the face of alternative rock with their merge of underground noise and mainstream glam.

Wrapped in drones, decay and dissonance, there is not much glam to spot on songs like “Ghost Bitch”, “Society Is a Hole”, and “I’m Insane.” The frantic guitar riffs that would become a key signature element for the band, mostly comes to light at the tail end of the album on “Death Valley ’69” featuring Lydia Lunch. Already at this point in their career we find this clever mix of high and low culture, as they give references to Creedence Clearwater Revival, the painter Edward Ruscha and Charles Manson just to mention a few. This is pretty bleak and abrasive stuff, and even though it’s not an easy or immediate album to digest it’s highly rewarding.

Over the years Bad Moon Rising has become one of my favorite Sonic Youth albums.

Rank and File | Sundown | Slash 1982 |

The Kinman brothers, Chip and Tony, were part of the bourgeoning Southern California punk scene as members of the Dils when they decided to relocate to Austin and shift towards a more roots orientated sound.

For the debut LP Sundown they brought in phenomenal guitarist Alejandro Escovedo (formerly of the Nuns and True Believers, and still going very strong) and drummer Slim Evans. This is nothing but a seminal precursor to the whole alt.country and Americana movement, later popularized by Uncle Tupelo, Whiskeytown et al. At the time this vital combination of punk rock and country music came to be known as cowpunk. Rank and File stands next to the likes of Jason & the Scorchers, The Beat Farmers and The Blasters in pioneering this kinda lovely music, especially here on their debut album that is by far their finest moment.

Return of the Griveous Angels: Sid Griffin on The Long Ryders

Alt-country progenitors and Paisley pioneers the Long Ryders recently dropped their first new album in 33 years, Psychedelic Country Soul. It’s a triumphant return to form and their finest effort to date.

The Long Ryders (formed in 1981 in Los Angeles) are often cited as the missing link between Gram Parsons and punk rock. They were closely connected with the ’80s Paisley Underground scene (the Bangles, the Dream Syndicate, the Rain Parade), and widely considered as one of the forerunners of the alt-country genre. With their full-length albums Native Sons (1984), State of Our Union (1985) and Two Fisted Tales (1987), the Ryders became critical darlings with a dedicated following — especially in Europe. The band decided to call it quits just as U2 asked them to open for them on the U.S. wing of their Joshua Tree tour. But now, more than 30 years later, The Long Ryders are finally back.

I spoke with frontman Sid Griffin about the album they always wanted to make, recording in Dr. Dre’s studio and the Paisley Underground scene. Plus, he graciously shares the story of the fabulous the Long Ryders — album by album.

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How did you approach the songwriting and the recording process this time around?

Due to the Internet, we were able to demo all our song ideas and send them to each other. This proved crucial, as no one in the Long Ryders lives anywhere near another Long Ryder. Greg lives in Los Angeles, Tom lives east of Chicago, Stephen lives in Virginia on the East Coast and I live in Europe. So the Internet allowed us to learn the songs we decided to record long before we saw each other face to face.

We met in L.A. and had two days of rehearsals. Producer Ed Stasium wanted three rehearsals, but there simply was not time. In fact, Larry Chatman promised us seven free days in Dr. Dre’s studio and on the Wednesday I knew we were not going to finish in time, so I went to Larry’s office behind the band’s back and begged for an eighth free day. Which Larry graciously gave us.

The Long Ryders recorded as live as possible with everyone looking at everyone else in the big room at Dr. Dre’s studio. The Foo Fighters had been in there a few weeks earlier due to a malfunction at the studio at Dave Grohl’s house. It is a great sounding room and Dre’s engineer, Lola, was a big help, too.

There were some percussion overdubs at Ed’s home studio near San Diego by Greg Sowders, and Stephen overdubbed some keyboards in Virginia, but that was it. Ed mixed it at his home studio and BANG! The Long Ryders were back in the game.

Did you feel any kind of pressure making a comeback album like that?

No. Why would we feel pressure? I told the guys before we started recording, ‘If this album sucks, we do not put it out… simple as that.’  And the guys agreed with me. We also figured if we only cut half a good album we would put out an EP and if we only cut two or three good songs we would put out an Internet single or a Record Store Day single on vinyl and that would be that. So by knowing we were not going to release lousy or even mediocre product, we left with no real pressure on us at all.

You’ve said that this is the album ‘you’ve always wanted to make.’ What were you looking for in the first place?

The Long Ryders wanted Psychedelic Country Soul to reflect who we were, who we are now and how we got there. Hence Stephen McCarthy coming up with such a marvelously appropriate album title. What you read on the outside of the package is what you get inside the package with our music, dig?

And somehow this new album represents us, top to bottom, more accurately than any of our previous albums. One might think Native Sons is the definitive Long Ryders album, but this one is. It’s got it all: rough and ready rockers, two bittersweet ballads, some crazy, totally out-there psychedelia, country riffs, bluesy riffs, heartfelt vocals. It even has my dear friend Kerenza Peacock from the Coal Porters on violin sweetly sawing away and our old gal pals Debbi and Vicki Peterson from the Bangles adding the most ice-cool harmonies this side of the Beach Boys.

What more could a Long Ryder want?

Except being just a bit older and wiser, what has changed the most being in the music industry today?

The Long Ryders have seen the music industry change a great deal. We have noticed the consumer always, always, always goes for the ease of musical delivery and not the best sound quality. So Neil Young’s Pono and also WAV files are not that big a deal to the majority of listeners.

And while vinyl is on the rise, it and CDs or indeed any hard copy format will never again see the huge sales of the past. Not when a consumer can tap a few buttons and hear the music in seconds. Therefore most people have long dismissed going to a store to buy physical product, and that is a shame as record shops were such temples of community and bohemianism and fun.

A number of bands from the 1980s L.A. scene, also known as the Paisley Underground scene, have recently reunited and released new material. How did you relate to the term Paisley Underground back in the days?

Michael Quercio [of the Three O’Clock] coined the phrase ‘Paisley Underground’ in an interview with The L.A. Weekly back in the day, no one in the press thought of it. The real Paisley Underground is and always was the Salvation Army who became the Three O’Clock and of course the Rain Parade, the Bangles and the Dream Syndicate. No one else. You will note these are the exact four bands who are included on the recent Yep Roc album of Paisley Underground bands doing other Paisley Underground bands’ material.

Then the Long Ryders and Green on Red were included, which was nice. After all, we were all friends, we all knew each other, we all attended the other band’s gigs, and played music that was at least vaguely related to the other acts’ music. As time went on, True West, way up in Davis, California, were added to the Paisley Underground and Naked Prey out in Arizona were added to the Paisley Underground and then half of the 1960s-oriented guitar bands in southern California were Paisley Underground bands! It was really out of hand.

The camaraderie of the original four P.U. bands was diluted and then diluted further. Bands were called members of the Paisley Underground and none of us in L.A. knew who on earth they were.

So, originally, it was just the four bands I mentioned above and no one else. And yes, it was a real, organic thing and not some baloney created by the media. To this day, to this second, I am fond of all the bands above, very happy to be friends with them, and very aware how lucky I was to not merely be in a popular band but part of a popular, groundbreaking scene. One almost, I say almost, as influential as Memphis in 1954, Liverpool in 1963 or New York City in 1977. It was a wonderful time.

The Long Ryders - Press Photo 2016-2-kopi

How would you describe the 2019 live version of the Long Ryders?

Technically, we are better than ever. I am as serious as a heart attack here when I say this. Stephen McCarthy on guitar is a genius player. I was there when Chris Hillman told Stephen he was the only guitarist he ever heard who played Clarence White’s riffs correctly! Tom Stevens is a brilliant bass player, the best bass player of my age group, the equal of Mike Mills. Greg Sowders on drums and me on whatever are audibly better players today than we were then.

Our playing and singing is better than ever, as is our songwriting, and you hear evidence of this on the new album, Psychedelic Country Soul. The Long Ryders remind me of a prizefighter making a very successful comeback. Oh, sure, the youthful dash and verve are long gone, true, but the technical know-how and cunning thinking that experience has blessed us with are present in great abundance.

I feel like we are only getting started!

And on that promising note, we will let Mr. Griffin guide you through their marvelous recording history, album by album.

10-5-60
(PVC 1983)

This five-song EP came out in late 1983 and brought the Long Ryders immediate notice. Its success at college radio made us a band to watch and one that was considered influential right from the start.

The stark front cover caused heads to turn at The Gavin Report and Billboard, as the Long Ryders looked so unlike the synth-pop acts of the era. And our music was updated 1960s guitar rock & roll, with ‘roll’ as important as ‘rock,’ all due to the sweet production of Brian Wilson’s 1970s engineer Earle Mankey.

The pounding title track, the psychedelically mesmerizing melody of ‘And She Rides,’ and the Lovin’ Spoonful styled whimsy of ‘Born to Believe in You’ set out the parameters for the Long Ryders straight away. Yet it was Stephen McCarthy’s ‘You Don’t Know What’s Right, You Don’t Know What’s Wrong’ that became a signature song and a signpost pointing to Americana and alt-country, two phrases that did not exist in 1983 and that were not yet a musical genre on radio or in print.

Native Sons
(Frontier 1984)

In summer 1984, Los Angeles hosted the Olympics. The public was warned frequently about traffic gridlock. The Long Ryders found out A&M Studios was available at a rock-bottom rate, as there was concern no act would want to record during the tourist invasion of the summer Olympics.

Choosing the legendary Henry Lewy as producer (Joni Mitchell, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen), we moved into A&M Studios before Herb Alpert had time to deposit our check and started work. Psychedelia was toned down save the atmospheric ‘Close to the Light’ and country, bluegrass and Sun Records rock & roll was emphasized. ‘I Had a Dream’ made a great, great single in Europe and Elvis Costello signed us to his Demon label in London.

We were becoming an American answer to Rockpile, and soon Native Sons was the #4 album on the College Radio/Indie charts. Back then, this meant radio airplay, record sales and positive reviews in every newspaper in the country.

State of Our Union
(Island 1985)

Our March/April 1985 tour of Europe saw us greeted like Caesars returning to Rome after foreign conquest. We holed up in London’s Columbia Hotel as label after label visited us, each anxious to sign us and put us at the top of the charts. We went with Island Records’ London office as the great Nick Stewart, the man who signed U2, had the best rap.

We recorded in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, with Will Birch at the controls and Neill King engineering, both experienced music industry veterans. A cook was on hand to feed us our culinary requests and a large keg of beer was placed at our disposal. The recording went well, but mixing proved a chore with the first mix having hit technical difficulties. The album was remixed at R.G. Jones in south London by Neill King, Will Birch and I, the band having flown home as scheduled. Yet from this worrisome hassle emerged ‘Looking for Lewis and Clark,’ our pulsating signature song.

Two Fisted Tales
(Island 1987)

Back to A&M Studios in Hollywood, which was Charlie Chaplin’s old studio in the 1930s. Our producer was Ed Stasium (the Ramones, the Smithereens, Jeff Healey Band) and he crafted a radio-friendly record that did not sacrifice our Americana/alt-country principles one iota. Ed drilled us and rehearsed us like the U.S. Marine Corps, even down to deciding kick drum patterns. It was terribly exciting. I thought we were going to be the next R.E.M. by Christmas.

We were now with Island Records USA and those Noo Yawkers were thrilled when they heard what we had cut. NRBQ’s ‘I Want You Bad’ was the lead-off single with ‘Gunslinger Man’ a powerful follow-up release. Two Fisted Tales contains more Long Ryders songs that were covered by other acts than any other record we made. We were indie rock stars and Hollywood heroes in our L.A. neighborhoods. Life was sweet.

Psychedelic Country Soul
(Cherry Red 2019)

After thirty-three and 1/3 years (!) the Long Ryders returned with a brand new studio album, an album most fans are calling our very best one. On our last tour in 1987, we befriended Larry Chatman, a dear pal, and Larry never forgot it. Flash forward 30 years and Larry is now Dr. Dre’s main man. Larry offers us a week’s free studio time at Dre’s in L.A. as repayment for our helping him 30 years earlier. We immediately accept this extraordinarily kind offer.

Exchanging demos via the Internet, we decide which songs to record. Ed Stasium is back in the producer’s chair and the sound, the feel, the vibe of the record is largely down to him. We worked 16-hour days and accepted no visitors to the studio. It was time to live up to whatever legend had grown up around us in three decades, the Founding Fathers Of Alt-Country and so forth.

Vicki and Debbi Peterson from the Bangles sang on several songs. My dear friend Kerenza Peacock played violin like the world class virtuoso she is indeed. Featuring our best songs, each specifically written for this project, everyone brought their ‘A’ game. Psychedelic Country Soul is our best written album, our best sung album, our most thought-out album, and I think our best sounding album in pure sonic terms. It hit #1 in the UK’s Official Alt-Country/Americana chart shortly after its release.

I am very proud of it and very proud of the guys in this band.

The Record Collection: 1988 (51-60)

The album collection in chronological order from when it was bought. Revisited one at the time. Part 5.

Sonic Youth | Daydream Nation | Blast First 1988 |


Bought in late October 1988, when this was brand new I guess. I knew Sonic Youth a little bit from before, had been scared off by ‘Confusion is Sex’ and fell in love with ‘Sister’ earlier in the same year. But this is still my gateway album into a band I’ve never tired from. Sonic Youth will forever be one of my definitive favorite bands. ‘Daydream Nation’ was a mind blowing experience back then, and it’s just as good today, 30 years later, ranking as one of the true masterpieces of not only 1980s guitar rock, but as a beacon in American underground culture.

R.E.M. | Green | Warner 1988 |


Is ‘Green’, their major label debut, the last great album of R.E.M.? I don’t know, I’m well aware of the enormous success they were about to enjoy later on, but for me, this was actually the final album I bought and enjoyed from start to finish from a band that was tremendously important to me. “World Leader Pretend” will forever remain an eternal favorite, but the whole album is just gorgeous. A soundtrack to the indian summer of 1988.

Divine Horsemen | Devil’s River | New Rose 1986 |


A Lee & Nancy kinda dark cowpunk romance set in the LA gutter, based on equal love for punk rock and honky tonk; Divine Horsemen are one of the true alt.country pioneers – but arrived a bit too early to cash in on the thing. ‘Devil’s River’ is their finest moment, and it has aged well too. Chris D and Julie Christensen was a mighty fine unit back in those days. And hey, it’s engineered by Mr Brett over at Westbeach.

Black Flag | My War | SST 1984 |


How much damage did this album cause for a young innocent kid, unaware of the sludgy nightmare on the b-side? I was already a fan of early Black Flag, “Six Pack”, TV Party” and such stuff, but this was a whole other ballgame. Little did I know that ‘My War’ became the gateway album to my grunge phase, right around the corner. The Pettibon cover is brilliant, too.

Green On Red | Green On Red | Down There/Enigma 1982 |


The musical roots to this EP can be traced back to the 1960s and bands like the Seeds and Electric Prunes, infused with the nervous tension of the early 1980s. ‘Green On Red’ is a dense masterpiece from a band in its very infancy, a night road trip from the Arizona desert to the backstreets of Los Angeles, where our protagonists evolves from youthful naivists to dark-eyed realists. “I made a pact with the devil that night” snarls Dan Stuart, while Chris Cacavas clings on to a steady organ drone. This might be a prediction of greater albums to come, but Green On Red never captured this almost dreamlike state of past and present ever again. I love it.

Thin White Rope | Red Sun EP | Demon 1988 |

“Red Sun” is the one majestic centerpiece in a catalog full of them, and it’s still the perfect song for those sweltering 100 degrees summer evenings on the porch. The grinding cover version of “Some Velvet Morning” is also worth mentioning, those guitars stems from a whole other solar system. Such a great EP, such a great band.

The Long Ryders | 10-5-60 | Zippo 1987 |


Six wonderful tracks of paisley power, where ‘60s folk rock meets ‘80s garage revival. “Born To Believe In You” was my favorite back then, and it still is.

True West | Drifters | Zippo 1984 |


The combination of chiming guitars, rootsy sound and retro-friendly jangle pop sure is irresistible. True West did it better than most of their peers, and ‘Drifters’ is their masterpiece. Especially side 2, including some of their most memorable songs, “And Then the Rain”, “Morning Light” and others, is standout. ‘Drifters’ is a mighty fine album.

Lee Clayton | Naked Child | Capitol 1979/1983 |


Where the heck is Lee Clayton today??

Motörhead | Ace Of Spades | Bronze 1980 |


Everything is cool about this album. I believe I bought it – in the fall of 1988 – mostly because of the cover art – I mean, what’s not to dig about those three mighty grim lookin’ cowboys posing in the desert. But the songs are killer too, of course. Timeless on all levels.