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- 01. THE BODYCOUNT (3:32)
- 02. HOBBIES GALORE (4:16)
- 03. BLUES FOR CATHY TAYLOR (3:51)
- 04. COVER OF "ROLLING STONE" (4:23)
- 05. EVERYONE, BUT EVERYONE (6:55)
- 06. ON THE SPOT (3:32)
- 07. NON SEQUITURS (1:40)
- 08. I LOVE YOU TOO MUCH TO BOTHER YOU (3:12)
- 09. ALL WELL AND GOOD/LOVE IS FOR THE BIRDS (7:01)
- 10. WHO KILLED DAVEY MOORE? (6:21)
- 11. BABY ON BOARD (2:26)
- 12. NO KNOW (3:01)
- 13. HOURS OF DELIGHT (1:37)
- 14. PLAY MYSELF SOME MUSIC (3:47)
- 15. NON SEQUITURS (1:11)
R. STEVIE MOORE has been producing smart, idiosyncratic and distinctly personal pop music at an alarmingly prolific rate for nearly 20 years now. Don't feel sad if you haven't heard of him, though. The iconclastic New Jersey-based singer/writer/multi-instrumentalist has functioned as a virtual one-man cottage industry for much of his career, recording at home on low-fi gear and generally bypassing the established conventions of the mainstream music industry.
The son of ace session bassist Bob Moore and the nephew (sic) of original Elvis Presley guitarist Scotty Moore, R. Stevie grew up in the intensely conservative environment of the Sixties Nashville establishment. He seemed likely to follow in his father's footsteps but, instead of pursuing a career as a studio hotshot-for-hire or continuing a job flogging country tunes for his dad's publishing firm, the younger Moore chose to devote his attention to his longtime infatuation with the tape recorder.
Since 1976 Moore has sporadically released vinyl compilations of his home recordings on a variety of indie labels. Two of these, Verve and R. Stevie Moore, 1952-19??, appeared in Britain during the past year. But the bulk of the artist's prodigious output is available through his mail-order cassette club. Moore's catalog presently includes approximately 180 C60 and C90 cassette titles - mainly his twisted melodic songs, but also minimalist instrumentals, sound collages, spoken-word material, radio broadcasts, documentary recordings and other marginalia - i.e., virtually everything he's ever written or recorded. Moore runs the operation on his own, dubbing the cassettes, scribbling the label copy, and shipping the packages to a devoted cult of RSM fans as far off as Tokyo.
Next month, New Rose in France will release Teenage Spectacular, an all-new Moore LP which like last year's Glad Music is a full -blown studio project rather than a home-made outing. And with the US college-radio underground dominated increasingly by acts with record-company support, Moore is itching to get the new album an American release.
"I don't need gobs and gobs of money," he says, "but it would be nice to get on a slightly higher plane than the one I'm at now. At this point, I'd probably sign on any dotted line that's put in front of me, in spite of myself. I've got so many gripes about the music business, but on the other hand I can hardly believe that I'm getting ready for my eighth album to come out. And I've got this huge backlog of dandy tunes. Which is more than a lot of other people can say."
Another year, another list. How very thrilling. The Year In Rock was pretty much a usual parade of vain, self-aggrandizing jerkoffs conning the youth of Western Civilization into believing that they've actually got something interesting and relevant to say, with the occasional U2 or Springsteen getting canonized for not being corrupt goofballs. Indie labels produced plenty of good, respectable music in 1987, but the underground, both musically and politically, feels more and more like the mainstream music biz every year.
It's pretty depressing that certain people are distracting themselves and us from the spectre of nuclear annihilation by making moves to censor popular music---it's even more depressing that one of these people is a leading candidate for the presidency of the United States. I also suppose it's good that pop-music people are still doing lots of benefit projects, but it would be even nicer if our governments did their jobs rather than leaving the salvation of humanity in the hands of a bunch of geeky rock stars. Jeez, are we in deep shit.
On a more intimate note, I got a CD player this year, and it sure is fun fiddling around with all those cute numbers. Digital yuletide bribes may be sent to: HD, Franklin NJ. Cheers.
1. THE REPLACEMENTS, Pleased To Meet Me
2. R.E.M., Document
3. THE CLEANERS FROM VENUS, Going To England
4. THE MEKONS, Honky Tonkin'
5. JOE "KING" CARRASCO Y LOS CORONAS, Bandito Rock
6. 10,000 MANIACS, In My Tribe
7. GUADALCANAL DIARY, 2 X 4
8. X, See How We Are
9. R. STEVIE MOORE, Teenage Spectacular
10. (three way tie) AZTEC CAMERA, Love;
ROBBIE ROBERTSON, Robbie Robertson;
and BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, Tunnel Of Love
The bulk of Moore's music is on cassette (a couple hundred of them) and available from his own RSM Cassette Club, but in recent years he's managed to release LP's culled from his tapes on small labels like Cuneiform, Cordelia and Hamster. Moore's work for New Rose has been a bit more ambitious, however, and Teenage Spectacular, like his previous New Rose release, Glad Music, is a polished, thoroughly professional studio job (maybe a little too polished for those used to the unfinished quality of his home efforts). This takes much the same folky, oddball pop approach as on Glad Music - Moore is probably sick of being called "whimsical," but it's true. It's also true that he's a brilliant songwriter, an engaging performer, and an excellent producer, all of which come to the fore here. The LP's only real disappointment is his way-too-long cover of "Cover of the Rolling Stone," which is immaculately done, but pointless - a couple of short originals could have taken up the space.
AMONG THE songs not on the album, Moore teasingly informs us on the sleeve, is the brilliantly-titled "I Wish Marvin Gaye's Father Would Have Shot Me Instead." I wish he had too. But living as Moore does in a remote village in the Earlyseventieswhiterock district of New Jersey, there seems little chance that Marvin Gaye's dad would have got close enough for a pot shot. Moore experiments with a lot of odd sounds and arrangements. All to the good, of course - let's have something new, yes please give it to us now Stevie. Unfortunately it's experiementation by inhabitants of that sad town that time forgot. Not experimentation at all really, instead some fair approximations of Kevin Ayers and Peter Hammill. The opening track "The Bodycount" greets us with a first line, "Just when you thought it was safe," which is enough to scare anybody off.
R. Stevie Moore is one of those American oddities that people hail or dismiss as "eccentric." Of course he's eccentric, but he also writes very good pop songs, and on Teenage Spectacular he manages to edit a touch of humour into these songs, by way of intercut "wackiness," various effects and the breadth of styles which he adopts. R. Stevie should be sponsored by the American people as one of the few realistic pieces of rock 'n' roll history they have left... and you should pick up on this album to complete your education and give you something to whistle in the bath.
It's difficult to say where R. Stevie Moore's showbiz career went off the rails. Somewhere along the line this guy, who, as a child, duetted with Jim Reeves, played guitar for Perry Como and whose father sessioned for Elvis (Presley, that is, dummy!) rejected the whole damn thing, preferring the company of a couple of tape recorders in his bedroom.
Although Stevie's had a good half dozen LP's of excellent pure pop madness released, the man's main medium of output remains his own, eponymously-named cassette club, which over the past five years has issued some 200 cassette albums (that's NOT a mis-print!). So, Mr. Moore, are you a rampant exhibitionist, or what?! "In an aural sense I guess it's true, I am, but I just want to make a complete picture. Being a record collector and something of a historian, hungry for any unreleased alternative sides or takes, I wanted to be completely honest and make EVERYTHING available - most of the tapes are filled up, as well as released, chronologically, so it's like opening up a diary."
Cassette club activities have, though, had to take a back seat recently due to the preparations for his new (vinyl) LP, Teenage Spectacular. New Rose, the label responsible, takes a dimmer view of Stevie's home-recorded excesses, preferring to concentrate on his not inconsiderable ability to write a good tune: they've sent him a few bob to record it in a proper studio, and, wait for it... they're even putting it out on compact disc! Isn't this going to alienate die-hard RSM fans? "Some people said I was trying to sell-out on Glad Music" (Stevie's other "proper studio" LP), "but as people won't have heard these songs on home tapes, they won't be able to bitch!... Well, they probably will, 'cause it's a high-tech production" (he grimaces) "...but it's still basically R. Stevie Moore!"
And a quick listen to some of the new mixes reveals that it certainly IS! Don't waste a minute, invest in this man today!
"Underrated" is not the word for iconoclastic musical polymath R. Stevie Moore. "Criminally underexposed" is more like it. For well over a decade, Steve has been producing prolifically (there are over 180 self-made cassettes available from his tape club), work after work of amazing brilliance. Slowly but surely, this king of the do-it-yourselfers is making his vast musical catalog available on vinyl as well. Teenage Spectacular, the latest of his half-dozen commercial releases, is the second to be done entirely in a "real" recording studio, and the crispness of the production only highlights those characteristics which endear him to listeners: his cantakerous wit, his love of radio montage, and the incredible scope of his musical vocabulary. As always, he can be heard here lampooning the music biz and its legion of albatrosses, but that's just a part of his repertoire. "The Bodycount" is a zesty evocation of the primal urge, and his haunting arrangement of Dylan's "Who Killed Davey Moore?" will give you the chills. Simply, one of the most gifted guys around today.
Teenage Spectacular (New Rose import)
R. Stevie Moore, the legendary king of the home recordists, makes yet another appearance on vinyl with his third LP for the French label, New Rose (and eighth overall). What Moore does is record music-- lots of music-- in his home studio, then sells it directly via his Cassette Club, the catalogue of which currently includes nearly 200 cassette-only titles.
Every so often, compilations of his homemade music find their way to vinyl, but Teenage Spectacular is different in that it's a full-blown studio effort. Good tunes, good production and a clever cover all add up to a thoroughly professional effort.
Moore's brand of warped but melodic pop/rock/whatever is difficult to describe: try to imagine a rock and roll band that includes Frank Zappa, John Cage, Todd Rundgren and Tristan Tzara and you'll begin to get the idea. This LP is a little less strange than than his home efforts, but it's still plenty odd. Write him for a club catalogue– he'll be glad you did. (RSMCC address)
This lengthy album is a generally strong selection of songs boasting a broad array of styles, strikingly unusual and effective chord progressions, wry and clever lyrics, and inventive arrangements. The sound quality and performing level is mostly good, more consistent than in some other of Moore's releases. "Hobbies Galore" is a fine singer-songwriter tune delivered in sighing, echo-drenched vocal manner with acoustic guitar and click-track accompaniment. The whimsical "Blues for Cathy Taylor" exhibits no trace of a blues progression, but does have cunning lyrics sometimes set off-kilter to good effect; the song begins like a thinly twangy R.E.M. number and then turns country-like when the vocals commence. "I Love You Too Much to Bother You" sets creepy-funny lyrics to funky XTC-tinged music. "Everyone, but Everyone" is a lengthy midtempo Todd Rundgren-influenced number. "On the Spot" is a cheezy jazz-lounge blues-progression-based selection complete with "Okay, we're going to take a short break...me and the band will be right back" voice-over. There are five tiny tracks entitled "Non Sequitur" that juxtapose minute snippets of music, voice, sounds, and tape loops like Edgard Varese's Poeme Electronique or "Revolution 9" by the Beatles. Two highly inventive covers also appear. "Who Killed Davey Moore?" uneasily mixes Bob Dylan's muckraking lyrics with an oddly upbeat musical arrangement; the Dr. Hook song "The Cover of 'Rolling Stone'" is done first half a cappella, second half energetic rocker. Despite a few weak tracks, this is a highly recommended release.
01: "(I'm not your) Stepping Stone"/Sex Pistols/ "We don't need permission for anything"
02: "Cover of the Rolling Stone"/R. Stevie Moore/ "What do you mean no one reads Rolling Stone anymore?"
03: "Call of the West"/Wall of Voodoo/"I used to be somebody, god damn you...Don't walk away!"
04: "Boredom"/The Buzzcocks/"De dum de dum"
05: "Neon Forest"/Iggy Pop/"Oh I get it, one, two..." or "Okay, to the next part"
If I gave this more thought, I'm sure I'd come up with a lot more.
HANDLE: Bill Smith, Chicago, Wednesday, June 12, 2002
26 August 2016, Official Ltd Ed Cassette reissued on Post/Pop Records, UK
TeenageSpec at MY SPACE myspace.com/teenspecrsm