Earlier this year we teased three double 45 releases in the mysterious “700 series.” After being distracted by Buttons and Omnibus over the spring, we finally circled back around to these last week and knocked them out. Details:
701 Pretty: Mustache In Your Face
When tape rolled on these songs, guitarist Bob Theen and drummer Alex Love were a decade deep into their tenure as Kansas City rock n’ roll journeymen. After spending two years holed up in the real-life underground chambers of Cavern Recording Corporation, they emerged with eight songs and a temporary name—their fourth in a string that necessitated five business-card reprint orders. Their band—dubbed “Pretty” by engineer and producer Michael Weakley—managed to spelunk only two songs out of the cave, which were issued in 1969 as a promo-only 45 wearing the truly un-pretty Squeakie label, a madman’s face in red-on-white, howling out of the spindle hole. The rest of Pretty’s eight-song experiment was shelved, and ultimately given away to a record collector, along with a trove of Cavern tape archive spoils, when the studio closed in 1986. This subterranean body of work might so easily have been pitched into a dumpster, but instead the tapes got carefully packed away in a caring Kansas City attic.
Thirty years later, we’ve secured these tapes, and are reissuing the two song 45 alongside a twin single of previously unreleased material. Group members have been sourced, interviewed, and paid. Sessions photos have been secured. Replicas of the original labels are being printed now. Feast your eyes:
702 Wicked Lester: You Are Doomed
Gene Klein and Stanley Eisen had moved well past the calling themselves Wicked Lester by 1979. Known to the record-buying world as Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, they’d ditched their original handle back in 1973, to take on the name and greasepaint combo that catapulted them to worldwide rock superstardom: Kiss. Repossessing Wicked Lester would take a certain level of gumption, but none too much for Bill Arth, Pat Singleton, and John McLaughlin, three West Side Clevelanders plotting their own rock ascent while riding the St. Edwards High School football team’s bench. Mark Cleary, the fourth Wicked Lester, went to Holy Name, but he and Pat had been neighbors since the age of five. They’d already burned through the Fyre and Decoy brands before coming of high school age. Wicked Lester, named after and in awe of Kiss, was to be a more serious endeavor.
Wicked Lester’s sole vinyl release, a 1981 7” that Thomas Boddie jotted down as W-8110, paired teener throwback and distorted guitar on “Here Comes My Girlfriend” with the shifting meter, lovesick late Pink Floyd moves, and creepy kid laughter in the coda of “Say Your Prayers,” recorded on the same ominous day that John Hinckley Jr. shot President Ronald Reagan. The single proudly wears Louise Boddie’s hand-scratched label design, with Wicked Lester’s brash “WL” logo, nicked whole-cloth from Van Halen’s early LPs and displayed brazenly during Lester stage shows. Much to the chagrin of VFW patrons who happened to be hanging about the Halls they sometimes played to, Wicked Lester hung an altered American flag, with that flashy logo replacing our 50 stars, as their backdrop. The band also put the Boddie cassette duplicators to work, though only briefly. With a five-song demo cassette run of no more than 100 tapes, Wicked Lester barely had enough to place in the hands of classmates and friends.
Four of those songs are now being unleashed from the Boddie tomb. Housed in an attractive gatefold sleeve, Rob Sevier’s essay attempts to capture the angst of suburban Cleveland hard rock in the early ’80s. Success abounds.
703 Cave Dwellers: Run Around
In Jack McPhal’s August 20, 1965, article on the Cave Dwellers for the Chicago Sun-Times Midwest Sunday magazine, the esteemed crime reporter considers himself “a square, unable to appraise judiciously the nuances of rock ‘n’ roll.” He spends the bulk of the five-page article discussing the group’s hair, quoting an aggressive and unidentified mother with “If a boy looking like that came calling on my daughter, I’d kick him out of the house.” Cave Dweller organist/guitarist Gary Goldberg offered this sheepish justification: “You gotta do it. Ever since the Beatles, the kids expect it. A new rock ‘n’ roll group with crew cuts couldn’t get off the ground.”
The Cave Dwellers’ “You Know Why” was recorded at Universal Studios and laboriously laden with horns and strings, Buckinghams-style, after the fact. Given just a few minutes to produce a b-side, the Dwellers unleashed their primitive and theretofore-unheard power. “Run Around” ended up a punk precursor that took contemporary rock to its tough, angry, and logical conclusions, scorching past anything the radio ran in its day. Intending only to tear off something fast and easy, the Dwellers had achieved one of Chicago garage rock’s most ferocious moments.
Trading in the mid hundreds, the Cave Dwellers loan single is finally rejoining society, paired with two previously unissued cuts from 1967. Requests for Gary to cut his hair for the reissue have gone unanswered. We’ll keep trying.
All three titles in our 700 line should be available in late September.
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