(cross-posted from Détective Music)
Hi, so my band Détective is going on tour, first stop Tempe AZ before we join up with Guided By Voices in Athen GA on September 18. I’ve agreed to write a sort of tour diary for The Believer magazine’s tumblr, so if and when that happens, I’ll post the link here, and probably cross-post over at our music site Détective.
In the meantime, we hope you’ll be come out to one or more of the shows, which are listed on the Détective site, except for Houston TX and Columbia MO, which have been canceled due to I dont know why. We might try to find replacement shows for those two, but at this late date it’s unlikely.
Anyway. Watch this space, by which I mean literally stare at this blank space on the internet for hours on end, forgetting to eat, drink, or sleep, and maybe something cool will happen.
[Editor's note: I'm re-running this piece from the vast North of Onhava archives in celebration of Guided By Voices' appearance on Letterman the other night, during the course of which bass player/lawyer Greg Demos fell on his ass. That's actually a quote from Greg to Mr. Letterman: "I fell on my [...]
[Editor's note: I'm re-running this piece from the vast North of Onhava archives in celebration of Guided By Voices' appearance on Letterman the other night, during the course of which bass player/lawyer Greg Demos fell on his ass. That's actually a quote from Greg to Mr. Letterman: "I fell on my ass." My point in re-running the piece is, as you will see, that it is not uncommon for members of Guided By Voices to fall on their asses. Or, in my case, to slice open their wrists while doing so. Enjoy!]
It happened in Philadelphia, which is a city on the Northeast coast of America, for those of you who don’t get out much. It features the Liberty Bell, which is famous for (inscrutable) reasons of its own but is best known for its cameo appearance in a Guided By Voices song called “Echoes Myron,” from the Bee Thousand album. We were playing a club in Philly’s Chinatown called the Trocadero, and a curious feature of the Trocadero was that it had two levels, on both of which you were able to buy beer in bottles (this was back when America was still a lawless and often awesome place, in other words in 1995). The show itself was unremarkable except in the sense that we were of course insanely great, as usual, and as a result, were called back for three encores. By the time we got to the third encore in those days there was often some discussion as to what we should play, because having released at that point only two or three albums that everybody knew, and learned not every single one of the songs on those albums for the purposes of playing live, our repertoire was somewhat more limited than that enjoyed by later iterations of the band, who were known for sometimes playing for three days straight without repeating a song. It doesn’t really matter: I remember the discussion, but I don’t remember what we played.
For whatever reason, my drink of choice that evening had been some kind of vodka concoction, consisting of vodka, ice, and a glass, and probably another ingredient I’m forgetting. It may or may not have been the famous “Pink Drink” surrounding which there has grown over the years some mythomania, mostly due to the song called “Pink Drink” that Robert Pollard wrote and had slated for inclusion on The Power of Suck album we never made, for reasons which have been detailed in earlier installments of The Further Adventures. It’s irrelevant, anyway. The point is, I was very drunk, all of us in the band were very drunk, and so as a consequence my memory in this instance has had to be padded out with the help of an obliging friend who happened to be in the audience that night.
What happened, in short, was this: between encores, our presence was requested back onstage both in the usual manner — by cheers and stomps and applause and the ritual chant “GBV! GBV!” that Bob inadvertently and artificially invented at the beginning of the album Propeller, and only slightly regrets — and by a shower of mostly-empty beer bottles rained on the stage itself, many of which shattered upon impact, so that by the time we shuffled back onstage for the third encore the stage was covered in shards of broken glass. Making that an inopportune time for Mitch Mitchell, in an admirable excess of rock’s natural spirit of excess, to awkwardly bear-hug/tackle me from behind. We both went down in a heap, and I cut open my right wrist on one of the bottle shards. It started bleeding. A lot. I noticed, but in a detached, third-person, kind of “huh” way. Pete Jamison, Manager For Life, also noticed and quickly found a towel to which he applied a quantity of soap (obtained where? obtained how?) and between songs I would go over to him and he would apply the towel to my wound in an attempt to staunch the wound. It didn’t work, because playing bass requires a lot of right-wrist movement, which obviated any amelioratory effects from the soaped-up towel. In my memory, I bled quite a lot, but I’m never sure how far I can trust my memory, which is sieve-like at the best of times, and through which entire events have sluiced under the effect of alcohol.
Here’s where audience member John Golden came to my rescue during a recent correspondence, through which it transpired that he had been there, and had been impressed enough by what he saw that the memory remains clearer for him than for me.
In John’s words (edited here because this is a family blog): “I was geeked enough to be right up front, but also clever enough to be sufficiently soused. The bad news is I have no recollection whatsoever regarding opening act(s). I don’t even remember if I saw them and forgot them, or spent that time working on the aforementioned sousing. The good news is that from the moment the first set ended and the encores began, the memories are indelible. To answer your question: yes, OH YES, I most certainly saw the blood. Everyone in at least the first 20, erm, rows (?) must have seen the blood. When I tell the story, I always say (I really do) that the blood was “pouring down (your) bass.” I also remember the meteor shower of beer bottles directed at the stage by an audience starving for another encore and reciting the obvious chant while putting said bottles into flight. One whizzed right past my ear — one of those delirious and dangerous moments that seem profound when one is young, drunk, and at a rock show. You know, in a no guts, no glory kind of way. So yes, you ambled back on stage, a stage positively strewn with broken glass, and Mitch tackled you from behind. You both went down, you both came up. You, with some major artery seemingly severed. The rest of the band came out. Bob launched into song. And you played, as I mentioned, with blood pouring down your bass. The other thing I often mention when telling the story is that at that point, it no longer mattered that I never saw a Kiss show back when they were in their prime.”
I have no idea who “Kiss” is, probably some local Philadelphia band, probably not as good as the Strapping Fieldhands (few bands were or are) but I appreciate his confirmation of my own impressions of that night. Here’s what I would add: in my memory, there was girl videotaping the show from just to the side of the stage, and I think she may have fainted. Bob didn’t notice that anything was wrong, because when Bob is in rock mode he notices nothing, literally, that does not directly impinge on his delivery of the song. I’m not sure what Toby or Kevin or Mitch noticed, because I was too busy trying to stop the bleeding and the urge to scream in pain. We made it through the three or four or eleventy-seven songs that constituted the third and last encore, and when I went backstage I was surrounded by well-intentioned people who urged me to go to the ER and have my wound (which occurred on the soft part of the wrist just below the hand, and was deep, but did not sever any arteries, obviously, or I would not still be alive) stitched. I refused, because there was still some alcohol left, and I believed, back then, it was bad form to go anywhere while there was still alcohol left. “I must have lost a pint of vodka,” I remember saying, and then tried to replace that pint as quickly as I could. Bob’s comment, when he saw the extent of my injury, was that “Guided By Voices don’t get stitches.”
Back at the hotel later that night, I began to regret my decision to leave my wound untreated, as I had trouble sleeping because of the throbbing pain in my wrist. And at the next show, in Washington D.C. (either at the Black Cat or the new 9:30 Club), I regretted it even more, because no matter how I bandaged the thing, the wound kept opening up, and Pete had to stand by the side of the stage and apply soaped-up towel after soaped-up towel to my wrist in a fruitless attempt to get the damn thing to stop bleeding. Luckily, that was the last show of the tour, and except for a taping of a few songs we had to do for a D.C. radio station, I then had two weeks or so to let the thing heal. And like all things eventually either do or do not, it did.
I’m left with a scar that will stay with me until I die, and what I guess is a funny, if gory, story. As for the bass — that poor early 1964 Thunderbird, I believe it suffered the worst. Try as I might, I could not get all the blood cleaned out of that thing. I took the strings off, and the pick guard. I used rubbing alcohol and q-tips, but the blood had poured down into the pick-ups and dried there, and I was not in the mood to open up the guts of my instrument and mess with its mysterious mojo. Somewhere, today, in the pawnshops or music stores of Dayton, Ohio, or possibly in the hands of a new owner — who if he or she knew its sanguine history would freak out at its indelible but essential grossness — you can find that bass, and in it, some residue of my blood. I am between happy and sad about that idea.
p.s. a late amendment via the aforementioned John Golden: “I directed my brother to your blog post. He was at the concert as well and, I can’t believe I didn’t remember this, the self-same Strapping Fieldhands opened the show, along with Portastatic. That was probably the first time I ever heard “Ussysses,” which remains a favorite.
Another fun note, the Trocadero’s usual policy is to allow drinking on either the upper or lower level, not both. They decide which based on the band (and their best guess at the audience’s degree of alcoholism). The both-bars-open policy that night was a concession I’ve never seen repeated.“
Since I have a lot of work to do, still, even though it’s Christmas Eve, and won’t be able to post anything here for a while, I thought I’d take the opportunity to share an old Guided By Voices song that has never been properly released: It’s called “Pantherz,” and it was meant to be [...]
Since I have a lot of work to do, still, even though it’s Christmas Eve, and won’t be able to post anything here for a while, I thought I’d take the opportunity to share an old Guided By Voices song that has never been properly released: It’s called “Pantherz,” and it was meant to be a track from our long-lost concept album The Power of Suck. The song contains the line “If he comes round here again, I will have to take my teeth out,” which derives from one of Bob Pollard’s old friends, who had a habit of removing his false teeth before getting into a fight. On one such occasion he tossed his teeth to Bob (or possibly Jimmy Pollard, I don’t remember), asking him to hold them for him. The experience apparently impressed Bob sufficiently that he included it in a song lyric.
“Pantherz,” according to the concept story (which I wrote but have never published anywhere), was the name of the original band, a version of Guided By Voices from the years during which it toiled in obscurity, and perhaps wasn’t (at least to Bob’s mind) the best rock band in the world. The ascent to greatness would come later, after years of rejection, whereafter the band would rename itself “King Shit and the Golden Boys,” which as many of you will know is the band name-checked in “Don’t Stop Now,” also slated for inclusion on The Power of Suck. (And which Bob has more than once called “The Ballad of Guided By Voices.”)
The story was meant to be semi-autobiographical, but since at that time we had only just released Alien Lanes and ended the process of deciding on a label, Bob was undergoing a great deal of ambivalence toward his new-found higher profile. He wrote a bunch of songs about that — “Gold Star For Robot Boy” and “Game of Pricks” come immediately to mind — but The Power of Suck was meant as a kind of summation of the trip from cellar to penthouse, if you will.
So here’s the song. Enjoy.
It won’t be available very long. [Editor's note: It's gone... but there's a whole new Guided By Voices album available for your listening pleasure, and while I doubt anyone reading this has yet to buy it, if there is, you should buy it.]
[Editor's note: In honor of the publication of Experienced: Rock Music Tales of Fact and Fiction, I am going to re-post an excerpt from the Hunting Accidents anecdote I contributed to that fine compendium of rock ünd roll arcana. This is part one of what was originally a two-part post about the [...]
[Editor's note: In honor of the publication of Experienced: Rock Music Tales of Fact and Fiction, I am going to re-post an excerpt from the Hunting Accidents anecdote I contributed to that fine compendium of rock ünd roll arcana. This is part one of what was originally a two-part post about the time Guided By Voices were courted by Warner Bros., who flew (some of) us to Los Angeles to meet various executives of that record company.]
By late August of 1994 Guided By Voices had determined that there were really only two serious contenders for our future record label: Matador Records, in New York City, and Warner Bros., all over the world but based, at that time, when major labels were not shriveled, powerless husks and record stores dotted the landscape like baseball diamonds or Starbucks, in Los Angeles.
This story is about the time Warner Bros. flew us to Los Angeles to try to convince us that they would be the better choice. I forget the legal technicalities, but because Matador at that time had a deal with Atlantic Records, and Atlantic was shaded by the same WEA umbrella as Warner Bros., it was not, unfortunately, possible for Warner to simply throw a bunch of money at us. You laugh, especially you in the third row, but this was a time when major labels were throwing a lot of money at unlikely prospects, because some band named Nirvana had made a very successful record and… well, you know the rest. If you don’t, go read one of the many helpful books on the subject, including but not limited to Artificial Light, which is kind of an alternative universe view of the alternative universe.
Upshot: there was some weird kind of non-compete clause between Matador and Warner Bros., so the latter could not woo us with money. What, then? Booze, cocaine, hookers? Please. There is not enough booze in the world to bribe Guided By Voices, we have mostly drunk it all already, and the rest is for pussies.
Food? That must have been the oblique strategy of Warner Bros., because I have never eaten so much food in my life as during that brief trip, and I have eaten a lot of food. The problem with this strategy is that when you bring Jimmy Pollard along, as we did, and you try to offer him anything other than cheeseburgers or pizza, you will have made (unknowingly, but still) an egregious error.
Whatever the case, we flew to Los Angeles — Robert Pollard, Jimmy Pollard, Tobin Sprout, James Greer — on an airplane, which despite Bob writing and singing so many airplane-related songs, and despite the fact that the Wright Bros, from Dayton, OH, invented the airplane (or possibly because of this fact) Bob hates to fly. He will do it only in extreme circumstances and then very reluctantly. We had to leave Mitch Mitchell and Kevin Fennell at home because Bob was wary of briar-related mayhem if he brought the whole band. That may or may not be the real reason. He then made us all drink Jack and cokes during the flight, because he had read that the Beatles had drunk Jack and cokes on their first American tour. None of us enjoyed Jack and cokes, especially Bob, but we were just following Beatles protocol, so, you know.
As a brief aside, you should probably know if you don’t already that it had been a life-long dream of Bob’s to be on Warner Bros. Records. He had hand-drawn the Warner Bros. logo on fictitious albums by fictitious bands in the fever dreams of his youth, so although they didn’t know it, WB had a big advantage simply by virtue of the fact that they were who they were. They had an equally big disadvantage for the same reason — because they were a major label, representing potential major change, Bob worried that they would in various unknown (but for that reason all the more terrifying) ways mess with us, screw up our sound, force us to do all kinds of unseemly promotion, and even more serious, screw with our money.
We were greeted at the airport by the A&R guy from Warner Bros., a not unsmall person I will call Beowulf to protect his identity, because he may still be alive somewhere despite his really impressive eating habits, which included but were not limited to roasting and devouring babies. Beowulf was affable, intelligent, possessed a giant record collection and the obsessive record geek knowledge that generally comes from owning a giant record collection, and a Warner Bros. credit card. He also drove like a maniac, because everyone in LA drives like a maniac, but also maniacs drive like maniacs, and how are you supposed to know the difference?
We were taken first to the Hollywood Hills house of one of the people who ran Warner Bros. I am to this day confused as to which one of these people, generally named Mo, or Lenny, or Curly, was our host, but I guess that’s not important. I think we then went on a guided-by-Beowulf star maps tour, tearing around the narrow and bendy Hollywood Hills roads like Sacha Baron Cohen in Talladega Nights. We would stop briefly at an overlook: “There’s Madonna’s house.” “There’s the house where the Manson murders took place.” We were a little confused by the tour, and more than a little thirsty, when we were finally deposited at the Roosevelt Hotel, which I have always consistently mispronounced as the Rews-a-velt, when everyone knows it’s pronounced Rose-a-velt, and which at the time was the standard rock hotel for those bands not rich enough to afford the Sunset Marquis. I don’t know if this is still the case, but I must have stayed at that place one hundred million times in the 90s. I don’t remember what happened next, except that the Roosevelt has a bar, and we woke up the next morning.
Bob was in a foul mood because Jimmy had ordered a pot of coffee from room service, which cost something like eighteen dollars, and Bob was not yet aware that Warner Bros. was paying for our incidentals as well as our rooms. We then went out to visit Lollapalooza, a kind of floating circus in vogue at the time, and said hello to a few bands we knew, and saw Drew Barrymore, which is only one of several times we saw Drew Barrymore throughout the course of our career, though I was never really sure if she was aware of that fact. Beowulf then came and fetched us to the Warner Bros. corporate offices in Burbank, where we were given another bewildering tour, and glad-handed a few more executives. One of the selling points that Beowulf stressed was that Warner Bros. was very faithful to its artists, and almost never dropped anyone, case in point our friends the Flaming Lips, who despite (at that point) never having sold a single record in ten years were still on the label. This selling point was almost immediately undercut when we sat down with the head of publicity, another very nice and knowledgeable rock fan, who played us a song from Nick Lowe’s new album, which he declared “genius” before telling us that unfortunately the record would not be coming out on WB, as Nick had just been dropped by the label.
The publicity executive then made the mistake that resulted in Bob deciding not to sign with Warner Bros. There were other factors, sure, but this was to Bob’s mind the finishing blow. Bob had insisted to everyone, from the start, that Alien Lanes be released as is, with no re-recording, no re-sequencing, no fussing with of any kind. The publicity guy made some kind of joke about how the cassette he first got was defective, because it sounded just like mud. “I know this is supposed to be lo-fi, but this is ridiculous,” is what he said, referring to the defective tape. Bob didn’t hear it that way, though. Bob thought the publicity guy was referring to the actual recording, and though he laughed and nodded at the guy’s joke, I could sense a certain temperature change in the room.
After this gaffe-tastic meet-and-greet came the grand round of eating, and more eating, including one particularly disastrous trip to some kind of gourmet Chinese restaurant where the menu was in Chinese, and which took (it seemed like) four hours to drive to, and eight hours back, and then stuff with me and Jimmy in a hot tub afraid to take our shirts off and Bob convinced that we were all going to Hell, for reasons which will have to be explained tomorrow, because this story is already too long, and I have other things to do. [Note: none of this will be explained tomorrow — that was then and this is now the time for you to buy the book wherein this anecdote is told in full, along with a fine assortment of wonderful stories, some fact, some fiction, all true, by writers who are not me. It's available both as a physical artifact and in the popular e-book format by clicking on the link above.]
Specifically, the magic of disappearing posts. The more obssessive fans among you will perhaps have noticed that I have taken down most, but not all, of the Hunting Accidents posts. I’m not sure why this would matter to you, since you doubtless have already read them. According to [...]
Specifically, the magic of disappearing posts. The more obssessive fans among you will perhaps have noticed that I have taken down most, but not all, of the Hunting Accidents posts. I’m not sure why this would matter to you, since you doubtless have already read them. According to Google Analytics, you’ve read them about 70,000 times. I think that’s enough, don’t you?
I’ve taken this step not just because I enjoy frustrating people, but in preparation for the thing that I have previously hinted at but am still not in a position to officially discuss.
I’m sorry I can’t say more, but hope to be able to do so soon. In the meantime, a few recent episodes remain available for those who have not yet had the chance to read them.
I leave you with a morsel of late-period GBV for your enjoyment. Stay tuned.
Wow. I didn’t know this footage existed, but I’m glad it does. Very rare live video of my Vox Teardrop bass (subject of a recent but now sadly unavailable Hunting Accidents post), and incidentally Guided By Voices tearing through “I Am Scientist” on May 19, 1995 in Seattle. According to GBVDB, this [...]
Wow. I didn’t know this footage existed, but I’m glad it does. Very rare live video of my Vox Teardrop bass (subject of a recent but now sadly unavailable Hunting Accidents post), and incidentally Guided By Voices tearing through “I Am Scientist” on May 19, 1995 in Seattle. According to GBVDB, this would have been at the Crocodile, but then it also would have been May 17. Either way, this would have been the private show we played for R.E.M., the subject of yet another Hunting Accidents post. [Sadly, neither of the HA posts referenced above are available, at present. But do not fret: you'll get to read them again, soon enough. Tout vient à point à qui sait attendre.]
Video by the incomparable Lance Bangs.
I always hate using that phrase because it’s not really Latin, but a corruption of fama volat, which is something that Virgil (sort of) wrote in his Aeneid. Over the years it changed to rumor volat because people got confused by “fama” and thought it meant “fame.” Thus when someone said fama volat it began [...]
I always hate using that phrase because it’s not really Latin, but a corruption of fama volat, which is something that Virgil (sort of) wrote in his Aeneid. Over the years it changed to rumor volat because people got confused by “fama” and thought it meant “fame.” Thus when someone said fama volat it began to be mistranslated as “fame is fleeting,” which is also true, but not what fama volat means. Then some bright kid came up with rumor, which in Latin has a meaning related to but not exactly the same as fama, to make sure everyone understood: “Rumor flies.” (Or I guess more literally, “rumor has wings,” although how that’s more literal escapes my understanding. But that’s what the internet is telling me this morning.) Fascinating, I know.
All this is by way of saying that certain whispers and hints that I have let drop concerning a potential book-length compilation of my Hunting Accidents episodes from this site are true, or rather possibly true, but that nothing has been concluded yet. First, I will need to flesh out the episodes already collected here, and to translate them into readable English rather than the caffeinated hypertext (that is not the usual meaning of hypertext, thank you for noticing) in which they are usually written. Second, I will also need to add a fair amount of new material. While I have been talking to a/some publisher(s), and this/these publisher(s) have expressed interest, I have not made any kind of deal, and I likely will not for some weeks at least. I promise to keep you posted.
There’s also the question of bonus material, such as a CD or a DVD or a link to a download of… stuff. This is being discussed, but involves questions of logistics and rights and licensing and I don’t even know what else, so that may take a while, too.
In the meantime, please rest assured I will continue to churn out episodes of Hunting Accidents at an alarming rate to feed your insatiable appetite for stories about my public humiliation.
- It's a long climb up the rock face at the wrong time to the right place
- James Greer's books on GoodreadsGuided by Voices: A Brief History: Twenty-One Years of Hunting Accidents in the Forests of Rock and Rollreviews: 24
ratings: 195 (avg rating 3.70)Artificial Light (Little House on the Bowery)reviews: 6
ratings: 71 (avg rating 3.66)The Failurereviews: 9
ratings: 59 (avg rating 3.65)EXPERIENCED: Rock Music Tales of Fact & Fictionreviews: 4
ratings: 6 (avg rating 4.60)Two Letters Collection, Volume 2ratings: 5 (avg rating 4.60)
OCDabsolution abstract rendition of a definite condition a contest featuring human beings advertising A la recherche du temps perdu anecdotage Artificial Light a yellow coincidence book reading Book Review books caffeinated rambling Curbside Splendor Détective Everything Flows experiments do not always work which is why they are called experiments fiction fictionaut film France great rock bands of the united states Guided By Voices interview James Greer Jean-Luc Godard literary magazines movies music parody photography proselet reading reading in public is scary Robert Pollard self-promotion short fiction short film short story Slake The Failure The Power of Suck The Rattling Wall this is the modern world W.I.P. we are all immortal now
Friendly Fire"James Greer, one of the nimblest and most multilayered American fiction writers, has, with his latest novel The Failure, pulled off a sublime and shivery-smooth literary hat-trick-cum-emotional-gotcha. I defy anyone to come up with an equation to explain how this book's first impression as a ridiculously clever, funny crime story can gradually disclose a metanovel built from far more encyclopedic scratch only to reveal upon its conclusion a central, overriding thought so heartfelt literally it trembles your lower lip. This is one stunning piece of work."—Dennis Cooper"James Greer's The Failure is such an unqualified success, both in conception and execution, that I have grave doubts he actually wrote it."—Steven Soderbergh"Greer has done it again: a big-city, techno-jargon-filled thrill-ride with slick medium-brow drop references to our (once-shared) mythological hometown. What could be more poignant?"—Robert Pollard"How do you assess if your life has been a success? For starters, take time and turn it on its head. You'll first need to find its head. Luckily, James Greer's novel The Failure will help--it's a brainy, boisterous, unsettling, and unsettled look at a group of people thrust into the most confounding of existences, complete with petty crime, high science, love, sex, and cars. The narrative winds and darts, gleefully uncooperative. The characters have funny names and sometimes funny existences. Still, you will recognize them. They are us."—Ben Greenman
- The Believer
- Ben Loory
- Ben Tanzer
- The Breeders
- Caeli Fax
- The Cinefamily
- Curbside Splendor
- David Roth
- Death to Kenny Rogers
- Dennis Cooper
- False Binary
- Her Jazz
- Joseph Mattson
- Kate Zambreno
- Large-Hearted Boy
- Marathon Packs
- Mark Gluth
- Matthew Simmons
- Nathan Larson
- Nick Eddy Relents
- The Nervous Breakdown
- The Paris Review
- Project Gutenberg
- Shane Jones
- SmokeLong Quarterly
- Some Came Running
- June 2013 (1)
- May 2013 (2)
- February 2013 (1)
- November 2012 (1)
- October 2012 (2)
- September 2012 (2)
- June 2012 (1)
- April 2012 (2)
- March 2012 (4)
- February 2012 (2)
- January 2012 (2)
- December 2011 (3)
- November 2011 (3)
- October 2011 (10)
- September 2011 (12)
- August 2011 (5)
- July 2011 (12)
- June 2011 (20)
- May 2011 (20)
- April 2011 (11)
- March 2011 (10)
- February 2011 (1)
- January 2011 (4)