Northwest Underground rock 1980 'til the End of Time


April 2014: The Beakers – Four Steps Toward A Cultural Revolution

Welcome to April!

This month we feature some lovely NW historical racket – THE BEAKERS! The Beakers were a quite fine Seattle band that was really kind of an Olympia band. Greeners. They were part of the arty punk scene, opened up for the Gang of 4 at the Showbox, etc. Their first single came out on Mr. Brown Records from Olympia. I got it. It made me laugh out loud. So great.

K-Records has put out a CD of all their stuff that you should go buy right away. For the AotM, I decided not to do the whole CD. Instead, just a taste. A righteous, semi-historical taste. These little slivers of delight are presented in the exact order I heard them when they were brand new. It is slightly different from  the order they were released. Close enough. Tom World. If you go to the K site (or Amazon) you can get them all plus 8 more. Yup.

Now there are some of you who when listening to Track 3, may note this lyric: “I went downtown to see Fred Brown. He gave me a nickel. I bought a pickle.” This lyric burned its way into my brain in 1980, never to leave. Brilliant! Some youngsters may not appreciate or understand just who Fred Brown is. You will need to Google your Seattle history. A very important person. Get it done. Track 3 was on the Seattle Syndrome Volume 1. For noisy, punky musicians it was a big deal that this record came out. Nothing like it had ever come out of Seattle before – a snapshot of some of what was going on around town at the time. For that matter local singles were not common either. I worked at Everybody’s Record Company in those days with Howie and would hear this stuff as a result.

Tracks 4 & 5 were from the Life Elsewhere EP with other tracks by Steve Fisk and John Foster. I believe it was the debut for Mr. Brown Records. It’s number is 667. The mark of the beast +1. Those darn greeners! Track 6 was from a Subpop cassette. Part of Mr. Bruce Pavitt’s Subpop fanzine. One issue would be a Xerox fanzine, the next a cassette. Cassettes were cheap and tre’ chic. Part of the Cassette Mythos underground. Sub Pop Records was not yet considered.

Tracks 7 & 8 come from a Mr. Brown cassette comp, Absolute Elsewhere. Mr. Brown also put out great singles by the Macs and the Westside Lockers (yet another band named after an actual Olympia artifact, a cold storage place up on the Westside. Been there. Grandpappy had a locker there. This trend goes back to The Fleetwoods who were named after a Oly phone prefix and later Sleater-Kinney, who are named after a road in Lacy). And Track 9? Well, you gots to end somewhere don’tcha? Consider it a bonus track.

When The Beakers went away, Jim went on to Little Bears From Bangcock (Oct 2010 AotM). They made a cassette which you can hear right here. Mark and George went to Three Swimmers and released 2 pretty cool EPs. They are hard to find and hear. Frankie went and played with Sue Anne Harkey in Children of Kellogg. They never recorded anything, but you can hear Frankie on Sue Ann’s Listen Little Man (July 2010 AotM) which you can hear here and read about here.

Thanks to Calvin and K for letting us stream The Beakers this month and thanks The Beakers for just being cool.

As for everything else, we are still working on everything we were working on last month except we are working on it even harder. Till next month.


April 2014

From Last FM:

The Beakers were a Seattle post-punk band made up of George Romansic (drums), Mark H. Smith (guitar, vocals), Jim Anderson (sax, vocals) and Frankie Sundsten (bass), which existed between January 1980 and January 1981. While active, the group only released a 7’’ titled ‘The Red Towel’ and one track on a local compilation album. In 2004, K Records released the 7’’ along with fifteen other tracks on the ‘Four Steps Toward a Cultural Revolution’ CD.

1. Red Towel (from Mr. Brown single #668)

2. Football Season’s in Full Swing (from Mr. Brown single #668)

3. 4 Steps Toward a Cultural Revolution (from Seattle Syndrome Volume 1)

4. Fig. 21 (from Life Elsewhere EP Mr. Brown #667)

5. I’m Crawling (from Life Elsewhere EP Mr. Brown #667)

6. What’s Important (from Subpop #5)

7. 3 Important Domestic Inventions (from Absolute Elsewhere cassette comp – Mr. Brown)

8. Bones (from Absolute Elsewhere cassette comp – Mr. Brown)

9. Christmas Letter From Home (later covered by Little Bears From Bangcock)

All songs by The Beakers

From K Records site:

Beakers were a hack fit of four art-bashing funk wave arbiters who skronked into action Jan. 1980 and expired in Jan. 1981. In between they toured up and down the west coast, released a 45 and songs on two compilations, played shows with Delta 5 and Gang of Four, and recorded several times. The majority of the 17 songs on Four Steps Toward a Cultural Revolution (KLP163) have never been released before; the handful that were once available are now long out of print. The four BeakersGeorge Romansic, drums, Mark H. Smith, guitar and vocals, Jim Anderson, sax and vocals, and Frankie Sundsten, bass, were an abrupt, powerful force on the Seattle musical scene, who through the force of their personalities and charmingly abrasive music made that town quake, dance and smile.

“Red Towel (Mr. Brown) takes at least two listenings to come through, then kicks in hard. Push-pull rhythms, stuttering horns, laced and livened with farcical tootings, clever asides and nonsense ravings. Who are these guys? The address on the sleeve is in Olympia, Washington. Nowhere! Out there! Crazy cross-eyed American funk keeps on swinging.”

NME, 1980

“In the early 80’s, GOF shows were the most intense when we lucked into supporting talent who could make the evening rock. We loved Mission of Burma, Pylon, REM & the Beakers Scarily fine talent. Great bands show their stuff from their first moves, and Mark H Smith‘s team had talent by the truckload. Spiky guitars, left field words, great rhythm section…what more could you want. I loved their awkward intelligence and tunes. We all had a lot of fun as well, which was a plus. They were key movers in developing the alt West coast artpunk sound.”

Jon King, Gang of Four

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