Filed under: Titan
A few weeks ago, Tom Sorrells and Park Prellberg took to the airwaves of Kansas City’s KFFI to discuss the history and spin the output of their power pop sanctuary, Titan Records. Even owners of our comprehensive box set Titan: It’s All Pop! will enjoy this guided tour through the little label’s potent catalog. Enjoy!
Perhaps some of you received Taschen’s Rock Covers as a holiday gift from a loved one? Did you realize a subtle abundance of Numero-oriented covers among the bunch? While not intentional, this is no coincidence. Long before he washed up on our doorstep, Jon Kirby was producing this book with New Yorker and former Wax Poetics colleague, Robbie Busch. Released in December, the book is already in its second pressing. Here are a few of the most significant Numero moments ℅ Jon Kirby.
Henry Diltz has taken approximately 9 trillion important photographs, among them, the cover to Ned Doheny‘s self-titled debut. Through Ned, I got to know Henry, who was patient enough to engage in this long-form interview.
According to an interview in Right On! Magazine, a few illustrators from Tron helped execute the cover for Andre Cymone’s full-length debut. By the way, the album cut “Trouble” is one of the greatest distillations of the Minneapolis Sound.
Moshe Brakha photographed Ned’s second album cover, and provides his account of the shoot in Baja Mexico. A few omitted passages from this interview got mixed into the lengthy liner notes for Ned Doheny: Separate Oceans.
We talked about Kim Fowley’s interactions with the Numero Group a few months ago in this blog post. Kim treated me to a few colorful history lessons over the course of this book. He summoned this final nugget from his hospital bed, a few months before his untimely passing. Kim! You were awesome!
We riffed on this album cover over a year ago amidst a purple snowstorm, due to the fact is was coincidentally photographed in Dez Dickerson’s father’s St. Paul office. Numero completists may recall that we issued an expanded edition of Husker Dü’s debüt a fü years back for Record Store Day.
A fantastic cover and fodder for a pretty robust Jay-Z sample, Ray Levin of Little Boy Blues told the story of shooting this album cover at the Skokie Lagoons on the outskirts of Chicago. We have just recently issued two previously unreleased Little Boy Blues singles on picture-sleeve 45.
Pretty much what we would expect on the cover of Circuit Rider. Glad to know they took a real snake skin in there.
A few select selectors were asked to provide ten-album bundles that embodied what great record art to meant to them. In this regard, Lenny Kaye is a no-brainer. Kaye will make his Numero Group debut via our upcoming Ork Records compilation, playing the part of Link Cromwell.
If you want to know what drove Kansas City’s Titan Records to make the kind of releases they did, look no further than co-founder Tom Sorrell’s rundown.
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.
Filed under: Boddie, Eccentric Soul 45s, Father's Children, Lists, Methodology, Nickel & Penny, Stone Coal White, Titan, Willie Wright
Every year we take the temperature of the Numero office to find out what people thought of all the crap we dreamed up in a year. Here’s the top 10 (of 14) weighted amongst the 11 full and part time staff members of the label.
Being the youngest employee at Numero, it seems fitting that Little Ed and the Sound Masters would be my first full design project. I throw around the term “pixel pusher,” but seriously, by having an extra hand in the design department, we were able to integrate design into every element of this release, making this box set more than just a few records thrown haphazardly into a box. For those familiar with Light: On The South Side, the Little Ed box answers any remaining questions about this family bar band backed/fronted by their 8 year old drumming brother. For those who aren’t, may I suggest you buy both? —Nate Phillips
09. Doc Rhymin “Dictionary Rap”+2 12”
Rap was its own greatest recruitment tool; what rap fan in the late ’80s wouldn’t want to be a rapper? Lyrical marathons of this ilk start in the cafeteria, gain momentum by the lockers, and are debuted on the bus. Was enough afterschool revenue squandered to record, but not enough to press? Unfortunately, these rhyme practitioners still elude us. Even contributors from the Cleveland Style compilation, a regional rap survey from the same era, failed to recognize any of these three impressionable emcees by name or nature. The lone rap entry in Thomas Boddie’s everyman recording log, Doc Rhymin’ is a idyllic artifact of inland rap in its emergent stages. Short explanation: It’s bonkers. —Jon Kirby
I admit it, I can be had by colored vinyl. So I felt no burn when a scant 500 copies of this dove headlong into the red—a translucent red, no less, about as transparently candy-like as the bulk of the pop confections within. Numero’s first foray into the non-black, 024V upgrades the tidy original 2CD package’s contact-sheet chic into an assault on the senses carried out by pic sleeves, glossies, and mimeographed posters, all in glorious 12×12. The hook-mining of Titan’s Mark Prellburg and Tom Sorrells, though, is the coup de grace, especially considering the LP version’s 10 extra tracks, all future candidates for that “Wait a second, I’m singing along to this” moment. You know it’s coming, too. —Judson Picco
What I love about this record is not just its casual, tossed-off, one-take vibe, its youthful innocence, or its almost-Motown-if-only-for-lack-of-a-full-production potential. No, what I really love about “You And Me” is that it’s a hit. The sole musical focus and turning point of “Blue Valentine,” an independent film that found its way out of the art houses and into the hearts of couples everywhere, “You And Me” sold like McFuckingRib. At its peak we were averaging 500 downloads a day and burned through our first pressing faster than the FBI burned through Waco. A great song? Yes it is. A great song that everyone loves? Shit, isn’t that what this business is supposed to be about? —Tom Lunt
In the liner notes to Cali-Tex’s first album in three years you’ll find the words, “as unique as anything recorded anywhere at the time”. It would be quite hard to argue with that statement. The rare sound of these hazed out psych-funk trailblazers is unprecedented, no matter how deep you dig. The 45’s captured on this release, plus the additional four we scraped off a waterlogged tape, shine a light on a midnight hour, raw as steel, black as smoke motorcycle scene that no other place and time could ever replicate. Stone Coal White just feels like a dark relic that has every right to be preserved, up there with the finest to come from the already unique Dayton, Ohio funk scene. Also, we got an actual tombstone cut for the cover, which sits in our yard and is pretty awesome. —Ryan Razowsky
This nugget of previously unreleased soul from D.C.-based vocal group Father’s Children might of been the most slept on Numero release of year. In 1972 Father’s Children found their home outside the Chocolate City, nestling into DC’s vanilla suburbs at Robert “Jose” Williams DB Sound Studios. Like Kohoutek, touted by Time Magazine as “The Comet of The Century,” Father’s Children passed by Earth in 1973 and was quickly forgotten. Who’s Gonna Save The World is a hypothesis of the album that could have been, a comet for this new century that’s still circling around your local record store. —Zach Myers
The first time I heard Willie Wright’s Telling The Truth was when our friend Douglas Mcgowan of Yoga Records had sent us MP3s of that LP which he had found in a Massachusetts thrift store. Needless to say, we listen to a lot of music at the office and our attention span is pretty kinetic and highly opinionated—Numero HQ is not for the faint of heart. But Willie Wright’s soulful folk songs seemed to immediately transcend all of the snarkiness and critical nature of everyone’s various tastes in music. And therein lies the beauty of this simple but unforgettable album. To me, it crushes anything in Terry Callier’s catalog—the immediate touchstone for this type of music. It was my go to album throughout most of the year because really, what is better to put on then some breezy sunshine music as a coping mechanism to get through the wretched Chicago winter, or to cruise around with the windows down along the Pacific Coast highway. According to my iTunes & iPod I listened to these crude MP3s over 150 times before we got the new masters late in 2010, and I haven’t stopped listening to it since then. For some reason these simple songs never get old to me, they just keep getting better. — Michael Slaboch
The cuts compiled from Pegue’s Nickel and Penny labels are, in a way, a love letter to the magic of the man himself. He was moved by these tracks, and he wanted to share that with the masses. Admittedly I’m generally not into ballads, but the opening to “Never More” by Little Ben & the Cheers just sends chills down my spine. And it just gets better from there; the groovy, girly sounds of “Fall In Love Again”, Jerry Townes’ rockin’ “You Are My Sunshine”…and then Little Ben and the Cheers just absolutely slay it on “Mighty, Might Lover” a choice mid-album burner. Things heat up even more with a couple of stunners by the South Shore Commission, and ultra funky, but not related, Brothers & Sisters. Then, as the album progresses, the production gets weirder and weirder, culminating in the completely whacked out “Sign of the Zodiac” by South Suburban Electric Strings, a nice little instrumental cut with a bit of off-kilter drumming complimented by brilliant orchestration and some great funk guitar work. Then to bring it all full circle, “The Ember Song” is the perfect capstone, because the ember of Pegue’s influence really is and should be forever.
Growing up in suburbs of Chicago, I’ve always loved the role that WGCI has played in Chicago’s soul scene. To me, the old soul and dusties that were played were almost otherworldly compared to the alternative rock radio and pop overload I was used to. And nobody championed those dusties better than WGCI’s own Richard Pegue. When he told you he was playing “the best music of your life,” it wasn’t just hyperbole. Pegue meant it, and it was gospel truth. Because when you heard those cuts, they became part of you, and not in that annoying can’t get it out of your head sort of way, this was deep. Real deep. — Dustin Drase
Our only regret this year was making the record so limited. Just 1000 LPs, 1000 CDs, and 300 cassettes exist, which is a shame for a record of this caliber. Such is the life of a mix tape. When we first excavated the Boddie archive in the summer of 2009, we were pleasantly surprised with the volume of tapes by non-Boddie labeled artists that were still on the premises. And not just tapes, but unused labels, order forms, stampers, dead stock, jackets, test pressings, acetates, and all manners of record pressing-related ephemera. We knew a project existed among all this detritus, we just needed to listen to the tapes to find it. Using Dante Carfagna’s discography and a red binder kept in Thomas Boddie’s desk drawer that listed nearly every record ever made on site, we cobbled together a dream compilation. We assigned a half number not to denigrate the album, but rather to tie it in as a companion to the larger Boddie box we knew was coming (The concept was grabbed from the classic “split label” releases that Dischord employed in the ’80s and ’90s). Tracks like the Imperial Wonders, Los Nombres, and Harvey & the Phenomenals were shoe-ins, but it’s the outliers that really made this record special; Slippery When Wet, Donald Eckert, and Wicked Lester are among my favorite discoveries of the year. And that’s saying a lot because we uncover cool shit almost everyday. Perhaps most remarkable is the possibility of a sequel, as we left an equal number of treasures on the cutting room floor. I suppose this is what 10 year anniversary editions are made for. —Ken Shipley
It’s no surprise that Boddie Recording Company galloped easily to the #1 slot. Six years in the making, with over two years spent just evaluating the material. Five trips to Cleveland, countless meals at Yours Truly, hundreds of master reels listened to, thousands of pages of documents sorted, dozens of letters written to artists and group members… the Numero office has really been the Boddie Historical Society for the last few years. To see the massive, extraordinary results is a triumph around here. Sure, it was delayed weeks by a shipping crisis involving a lost trucking container and a drunken train conductor. But as Boddie was plagued by rotten luck during their time, we expected some of it would rub off on our box.
Some have called Boddie our finest work and wondered where we can possibly go next. The kids in the mail order department have pleaded with us to not do anything like it again. Only one group is going to be disappointed. Sorry Nate Phillips, it’s going to be yours. —Rob Sevier
Filed under: Titan
Danny Shonerd from the Boys sent us this killer photo from the night they recorded the live 10″ we’re including with the Titan 4LP pre-order, and we couldn’t think of a better time to remind you to buy now or regret later. After just a few short weeks, we’re 2/3rds of the way sold out, and we’re likely to be out of the pre-order goodies by the second week of September at this rate. The test pressings arrived last week and we’ve been scouring and devouring them since. To hear the Boys as a single LP is a pretty rad experience, and having all of Gary Charlson’s tracks isolated in one place is probably the way Gary would have liked it to begin with.
We just got all the original Titan vinyl in here last week, and we’ll be featuring some of it over the next week. For now, get thee to the pre-order page and grab your 4LP box three weeks before the October street date.
On Monday, we announced the pre-order goodies for Titan: It’s All Pop 4LP. We had hoped to floss the gorgeous box, but a few delays in Hong Kong made it impossible. Today, we rectify that with the above. The thing feels like a brick, and sets a new quality bar for future Numero double CD to four album conversions. We’ll be tackling Eccentric Soul: The Tragar & Note labels in a similar fashion in 2013.
Vanity Fair desperate needed a picture of the Boddie box by 11PM yesterday. Using only the blue lines we had received from HK, we constructed the above in under and hour. We’ll be doing a full package spread on the LP and CD when the dummies arrive next week.