Hey Hey May Waddya say?
Welcome to the latest GMR release, Agony and Ecstasy by The Colorplates. Who dat (you may ask)? The Colorplates were my first all-original music band. The name comes from “color plates” in fancy art books (as opposed to crummy black and white), so that tells you something about where we were coming from. It started when I met Harvey who worked at Rubatto Records out in Bellevue, WA. I had been playing guitar for a few years and was taking sax from Jabo Ward up in the CD, so I was ready to put it into action. Harvey was married to Deanne who joined in our racket. Somewhere or the other I met Adam Woog who joined up and increased the din. (He also connected me to this kid David Richard who wrote good pop songs and who would do a few numbers with us at gigs). At first we just did improve stuff. After a while, we decided playing songs was fun and started doing that. We started playing shows, Adam left, Howie (yes, that Howie) joined and left and Bob Blackburn joined. We had a couple-year run before it all ground to a halt. Bob has been after me to release this stuff for the last few years. I hadn’t seen Harvey or Deanne since the band broke up and didn’t want to release it without their say so. Bob tracked them down and here we are. After 31 years, The Colorplates debut! For the album I took whatever stuff I could get my hands on, cleaned it up as much as seemed reasonable and let fly - hope you enjoy it! Oh yeah – Howie (yes, that Howie) is working on a Colorplates video for "Purple Haze" this minute – we’ll see what happens there.
For next month I think we are probably going to feature Henry Boy as AotM. After that it gets pretty busy, with the debut of the King County Queens, the reissues of Oh It’s the OF (from my 2012 Top-10), The Green Pajamas - November, The Queen Annes - Something Quick (1980-1985), Jeff Kelly - Coffee in Nepal II, The OF - Escape Goat. Somewhere in there I going to have time to work on my new Tom Dyer album. I have plenty of ideas – just need to get it cooking.
The Colorplates – Agony and Ecstasy
The Green Monkey history squad is proud to present The Colorplates, starring in the very rocking Agony and Ecstasy. The Colorplates were a Seattle band circa 1979-82, loosely connected with the art/punk scene. We were equally (though not exclusively) inspired by Ornette Coleman and the Dave Clark Five. We started life briefly as an improvisation unit, The Pigments, spent a while as The Adults and switched over to The Colorplates midstream. As The Adults, we had two previous bass players, Adam Woog (nowadays a Northwest author!) and Howie Wahlen.
We mainly played punk joints like the Gorilla Room and the UCT Hall (with bands like Student Nurse, the Pudz and Pell Mell), mostly for friends, but occasionally for sailors. We even played a some friends’ wedding, which wasn’t exactly like having Adam Sandler as the wedding singer. They divorced eventually. We managed to do a bit of recording (which is featured here) – none of it made it to vinyl, which was the punk rock mark of success back then. In fact, the recordings on this album have never been released beyond a couple songs on cassette or CDR compilations – they come from a variety of recording situations with a variety of results. While every effort has been made to capture the best possible sound quality, our first concern was to paint as true a picture as possible. Mission accomplished!
Tom Dyer: Guitar, Vocal, Saxophone, Keyboards
Harvey Tawney: Guitar, Vocal, Clarinet, Keyboard, Theremin, Percussion
Bob Blackburn: Bass, Vocal
Deanne Tawney: Drums
1. Agony and Ecstasy –The title track is from our last sessions at Triangle Recording, which was where all the cool kids recorded at the time (no, we weren’t all that cool). A great Harvey Tawney song. The band did basically half Harvey songs and half Tom songs. The collection favors Tom songs for the simple reason we recorded more of them.
2. Call On Me (#1) - my most recorded song, two similar versions here plus a new very different version on last year’s I Ain’t Blue Any More (I have another version hiding somewhere still).
3. My Little Red Book – We were all pretty big Love fans and this was their first great single. A pretty straight cover, just faster and a little more edgy as suited the times. I love singing this song.
4. Ornette – named for Mr. Coleman, this was very much inspired by the sound of his Prime Time band. Unlike the master of free jazz, there is little improvised here – it is a pretty set piece with everybody playing parts. Though I wrote the song, I always thought Harvey’s guitar on this tune defined it.
5. Macho Woman – Another Harvey tune from Triangle.
6. Purple Haze – In those days I had this tendency to take songs I liked and make versions of them where the band parts (other than the vocal) were as non-recognizable as possible. On this one I came up with the guitar arrangement (Harvey plays it) which we built the rest of the song around. This song was always considered Deanne’s – people always said she was a runaway freight train on this.
7. Bye - Bye Johnny – I wrote this for Mr. Lennon shortly after he died. I wish there had been no reason to do that.
8. It Was A Very Good Year – Featuring Harvey on the Theremin! This seems much less ironic now than it did then.
9. Kamikaze Teardrop – A song with lyrics written from the theoretical perspective of a Kamikaze pilot. This was basically Bob’s tune that he brought in and we put some singing on. Bob was responsible for all the machine gun and bomb effects. Bob loves that stuff.
10. Camouflage - a Tom song. I actually came up with all the guitar and bass parts on this and everyone kindly played them as requested.
11. Running Your Heart Away – one of my earliest songs. Kinda cheesy lyrics.
12. Leave Me Alone – this was recorded at Michael Lord’s and never mixed. I found it when I was going through the piles of badly recorded live tapes. Amusingly, when I sent this to the band members, none of them could remember playing on it. They did!
13. Twenty-Five – true story (unfortunately) about a guy named Tom O’Shaunessy. I did a new version of this for The Icons – Appointment with Destiny!, never suspecting this version would finally surface.
14. Call On Me (#2) – in general I think the band considered this our theme song – the tune that most reflected the core essence of the band. Not for the timid.
15. Help! – who doesn’t like the Fabs?
16. The Armory Show – this was the best version I could find of this great Harvey song about the 1913 Amory Show (featuring Picasso, Matisse , Cézanne, Gauguin and Duchamp) which introduced modern art to America. “ Thanks to Stiegletz, they’ll all go down in history!”
17. Break on Through (To The Other Side) – this was our most covered song. We had three arrangements, the Chinese (#1), the Avant-Horn-Funk (#2), the Sludge-O-Matic (#3). This is a 4th version – a straight up jam with our pal Eric Erickson starring on guitar. Eric (a.k.a. Tonal Damage) was a crazy talented guy who among other things, played with The Frazz and with Rob Morgan in the New Age Urban Squirrels and the Fishsticks. I met Eric when we worked together at Everybody's Records when he was nineteen. He had a used record store for a while (1980) with Howie called Rare Find up on Capitol Hill by the Comet Tavern where we played their grand opening! Eric died long ago. (This is a very brief and incomplete history of Eric.) It’s nice to have this piece of him left.
18. Woodworking – the first of four improv pieces. We have hours of this stuff, all horribly recorded. The goal was to find a few (listenable) pieces that captured this aspect of the band. Harvey Deanne and me on this one.
19. New Shoes – another improve, this time with Harvey, original bassist Adam and me. These first two were recorded on a little crappy Radio Shack tape recorder at our practice place.
20. Okay – this is recorded live at a UCT (United Commercial Travelers) Hall show, which was a hall you could rent out about two blocks from the current downtown Silver Platters (it was Tower Records then). It was kinda like having a grange hall downtown. Bring in your PA and a keg or two – two bucks at the door!
21. Drunk Munchkin Marching Band – again live at UCT. This was Bob’s idea. Get a bunch of music boxes, wind them up and make some more noise on top. I found out last week my pal Christy Cronn was one of the official music box winders! Bob used the Drunk Munchkin Marching Band name as his alter ego to send weirdo tapes to Steve Rabow to play in KZAM local tape shows.
Agony and Ecstasy, Macho Woman, The Armory Show by Harvey Tawney.
Call On Me, Ornette, Bye - Bye Johnny, Twenty-Five, Leave Me Alone, Camouflage, Running Your Heart Away by Tom Dyer.
Kamikaze Teardrop by Bob Blackburn, Tom Dyer and Harvey Tawney.
All songs © Half The World Publishing except:
My Little Red Book (David/Bacharach); Purple Haze (Hendrix); It Was A Very Good Year (Drake);
Break on Through (To The Other Side) (The Doors); Help! (Lennon/McCartney)
Woodworking, New Shoes, Okay and Drunk Munchkin Marching Band are improvisations.
Woodworking: Deanne - Marimba; Tom - Tongue Drum; Harvey - Wooden Flute.
New Shoes: Tom - Saxophone; Harvey - Clarinet; Adam Woog - Suona.
Okay: Harvey - Clarinet, Electric Piano, Theremin, Drums, Little Instruments, Voice;
Tom - Guitar, Saxophone, Drums; Deanne - Electric Piano; Bob - Bass; Bill Wikstrom - Trumpet ;
Bill Grauss - Drums; David Jones - Bass Clarinet.
Drunk Munchkin Marching Band: Bob - Music Boxes, Jack-in-the-box, Voice; Harvey - Melodica, Voice, Whistles, Flutes, Little Instruments; Tom, Deanne or Harvey - Drums, Theremin, Synthesizer.
Mastered by Tom Dyer at TDS Productions 2013.
Agony and Ecstasy, Macho Woman, Twenty-Five, Call On Me #2 recorded by Pat Hewitt at Triangle Recording 1982.
My Little Red Book, Bye - Bye Johnny, Leave Me Alone recorded by Michael Lord 1982.
Kamikaze Teardrop recorded by Tom Dyer at TDS Productions 1982.
Call On Me #1, Purple Haze, It Was A Very Good Year, Running Your Heart Away, Camouflage recorded by Terry Gotlieb at American Music 1981.
Ornette recorded live by John Rogers 1981.
Other songs recorded live to cassette in a variety of situations.
Cover illustration by Harvey Tawney, Cover design by Tom Dyer.
The Colorplates wish to thanks their friends, relatives and other appropriate entities.