- Hangin' Around Al Bloch 3:39
- (Half the World is Made of) Women Tom Dyer 2:48
- Out of Control Mr. Epp and the Calculations 3:14
- Van Vliet Street Tom Dyer 4:08
- Alien Breakfast Me Three 3:31
- My Mad Kitty The Green Pajamas 1:57
- Work Ethic Rock The Icons 1:52
- Europe After the Rain Evan Schoenfeld 2:00
- Problem Child Prudence Dredge 3:33
- I Love U Liquid Generation 3:29
- Peppermint Stick Green Pajamas 4:23
- Write Back To Me The Icons 2:39
- Americans Like That Pip McCaslin 2:58
- Falling Star Al Bloch 3:54
- 1+1 The Walkabouts 3:02
- Fiasco Melting Fish 1:34
- This Is The Place Arms Akimbo 4:05
- Time Passes The Fastbacks 4:24
- For This Danger Bunny 3:08
- If You Could Only See Me Now The Queen Annes 3:19
- Botherin' You Prudence Dredge 3:13
- I Know That You Know The Elements 3:05
- What Do You Know About Love Bombardiers 2:48
- I Call Your Name Tom Dyer 3:42
- Kim The Waitress Green Pajamas 6:05
- If It Works(don't fix it) The Life 3:37
- Shadow of a Fish Glass Penguins 3:21
- You've Got Me Running The Queen Annes 4:14
- A Fine Young Man The Fall-outs 1:22
- Little Jane Keith Livingston 3:27
- If I Had You(for Natalie) The Life 3:36
- It's Not You The Elements 2:45
- She Moves Me Glass Penguins 4:11
- Julia Steven Lawrence 3:03
- Suzanne Green Pajamas 1:46
- Instrument of Love The Green Pajamas 4:40
- Crows Come and Go Rich Hinklin 2:24
- Electric Man Jon Strongbow 3:52
- Mona Lisa Capping Day 4:13
- Psychedelic Day The Purdins 2:13
- I Love Your Poems of Love The Hitmen 4:32
- Keeper of the Cage Mad Mad Nomad 3:32
- Thrasher's Corner The Hitmen 3:53
- Perforated Condom Slam Suzzane 2:36
- We Could Swelter Cacklebush 1:57
- Double Latte Slam Suzzane 1:57
- Life is Perfect Tom Dyer - Beautimus 3:22
1983 to 1991 in Seattle, Washington. All things were possible in the post-punk world – the Nirvana grunge explosion had not yet subsumed the city. In this world, Green Monkey Records came and lived and went.
It was rock. It was art. It was beautiful.
This 47 track masterpiece covers the label’s 44 releases, with tracks by 32 artists. This set is a vital link in the post-punk pre-grunge Seattle music world, it is history that rocks, fer chrissakes. Album features the Green Pajamas’ Kim the Waitress as well as two previously unreleased Pajamas tracks.
1. Al Bloch – Hangin’ Around
2. Tom Dyer – (Half the World is Made of) Women
3. Mr. Epp and the Calculations – Out of Control
4. Tom Dyer – Van Vliet Street
5. Me Three – Alien Breakfast
6. The Green Pajamas – My Mad Kitty
7. The Icons – Work Ethic Rock
8. Evan Schoenfeld – Europe After the Rain
9. Prudence Dredge – Problem Child
10. Liquid Generation – I Love You
11. Green Pajamas – Peppermint Stick
12. The Icons – Write Back To Me
13. Pip McCaslin – Americans Like That
14. Al Bloch – Falling Star
15. The Walkabouts – 1+1
16. Melting Fish – Fiasco
17. Arms Akimbo – This Is the Place
18. The Fastbacks – Time Passes
19. Danger Bunny – For This
20. The Queen Annes – If You Could Only See Me Now
21. Prudence Dredge – Botherin’ You
22. The Elements – I Know That You Know
23. Bombardiers – What Do You Know About Love
24. Tom Dyer – I Call Your Name
1. Green Pajamas – Kim the Waitress
2. The Life – If It Works (don’t fix it)
3. Glass Penguins – Shadow of a Fish
4. The Queen Annes – You’ve Got Me Running
5. The Fall-outs – A Fine Young Man
6. Keith Livingston – Little Jane
7. The Life – If I Had You (for Natalie)
8. The Elements – It’s Not You
9. Glass Penguins – She Moves Me
10. Steven Lawrence – Julia
11. Green Pajamas – Susanne
12. The Green Pajamas – Instrument of Love
13. Rich Hinklin – crows come and go
14. Jon Strongbow – Electric Man
15. Capping Day – Mona Lisa
16. The Purdins – Psychedelic Day
17. The Hitmen – I Love Your Poems of Love
18. Mad Mad Nomad – Keeper of the Cage
19. The Hitmen – Thrasher’s Corner
20. Slam Suzzane – Perforated Condom
21. Swelter Cacklebush – We Could
22. Slam Suzzane – Double Latte
23. Tom Dyer/Beautimus – Life is Perfect
The Liner Notes (GM1001):
So, dear listener, you have taken the plunge and have this unique and possibly dodgy collection in your possession. So what is it? Why is it?
Once upon a time, there was a place called Seattle, Washington, without yet a speck of grunge. Like many places in America, it had a small music scene that had sprung up in the DIY ethos that followed the glorious Punk Rock Year of Our Lord, 1977. Little labels like Engram, Popllama, C/Z, King Tut, K came and went, some faster than others, with some lasting well into the Sub Pop explosion and some still at it. Occasionally bands put out their own singles, EPs and (brilliantly underground!) cassettes. For a long time you could buy every release by every Seattle band with no danger of going broke. There was a biweekly local rock newspaper, The Rocket, that covered local and national music, as well as smaller rags like Backfire and various ‘zines (more often than not short-lived) like Rob Morgan’s Poplust. On the radio, airplay was fairly minimal for locals, though there were occasional local basement tape shows like the one I did with pre-Sub Pop KCMU DJ Jonathan Poneman, where I first used this anthology’s title. The town had enough scenesters to support about 2½ to 3 bars where original bands could play.
That is the world into which Green Monkey Records was born. The label ran by and large from 1983 to 1991, putting out 44 releases in a variety of formats: cassette, 7″ vinyl, LP and at the end, CD. It was my label. It still is my label. If I were to describe its output in one word, I would say “eclectic.” If I got three words, I would say “eclectic underground pop/rock” (okay, four). If I were to describe the label’s financial status it always would have been “broke.” The bottom line was always “sub-prime,” scrapping to get the next thing out. It was mostly a one-person operation, augmented by a variety of wonderful folks who would volunteer their time for a while for the simple love of music. As much as possible, they shall be named.
And the story goes like this …
Part 1: Tom World
When I was three, it was all about Elvis Presley (and me) singing Hound Dog. At five, it was Johnny Horton and The Battle of New Orleans. Life was good. By high school in Olympia, Washington, I had progressed to the life-changing Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart. (The rest of the OHS football team did not enjoy Trout Mask as much as I when I played it in the locker room.) I was also the singer in a revolving band of sorts that would play semi-popular songs of the day at junior high dances (I wrote my first song for the band, the pleasantly-titled Black Death.) I goofed off for a few years and floated up to the big city, Seattle, where I would land my dream job working at Everybody’s Records (get free records, listen to music all day and get paid, too? Wow!) Eventually, I decided wanted to do music some more and this time I wanted to be a real musician, not just a singer. I wanted to be able to say things like “This is in A” and know what that meant. I took up guitar and discovered that if you plugged a brown Gibson SG with a whammy bar into an amplifier and turned everything to ten, it didn’t really matter if you could play anything; a glorious din ensued. I also took up saxophone and took lessons from Jabo Ward up on 23rd and Cherry in the Central District – I figured the world needed another Ornette Coleman and I was willing. I told my not-yet-wife Vicki that I was doing the music thing, and “I had no back-up plan” so she could get out while the getting was good. She didn’t. By 1979 or ’80, I had my first original music band, The Adults (later The Colorplates). We were an Art/ Punky kinda band – I would haul three variously-tuned guitars, two saxes, a Theremin, a synthesizer and a few other oddities to every gig at fine joints like The Bahamas and The Gorilla Room. Often my instruments outnumbered the audience.
By late ’81 or so the band was breaking up and we went into Triangle Studios (the punk-rock place to record in Seattle at the time) to lay down some of our tunes for posterity. It was a fairly miserable experience. Following this, I got this wack theory I wanted to prove – recording could (and should) be fun. I decided to book my own session and test my hypothesis. I had a large record collection which started making its way to various used record stores for funding. I got Peter Barnes, the drummer from The Enemy, and Al Bloch, the bass player for The Deans and off we went. My theory was proven – recording was the greatest! Van Vliet Street on Disc 1 comes from those sessions. I did notice along the way I had spent $1,200, which was a large pile of dough for me at the time. I decided that the only semi-affordable way to have more fun was buy recording gear. The digital home recording revolution was still a long way off. More records went to the used stores and I bought this little Teac four-track reel-to-reel and a Tapco 6200B mixer from a guy in a parking garage downtown. I set up in the back bedroom of my apartment in Fremont and started figuring it out.
Early clients were noisemongers Mr. Epp and the Calculations, featuring future Mudhoney frontguy Mark Arm. Epp tuned (sort of) to the string on Todd’s bass that didn’t have a tuning peg. They liked to whack on cheap Japanese guitars with chunks of metal. After recording basic tracks at a band member’s parents’ house in beautiful Bellevue, the band came to my apartment to mix. Naturally, they wanted to add more inspired noises as I mixed the songs. Mark was out in my living room, making his guitar feedback, while Joe Smitty and someone else were in my bathroom doing their best Albert Ayler impressions on saxophone. Unbeknownst to me, the landlord was about to show the downstairs apartment. There was a knock on my door, and there was my landlord, all red-faced. In best tradition of all true recording engineers, I responded, “Just give me five minutes and I’ve got it!” Needless to say, I moved shortly thereafter, to the house on Queen Anne, where I built the little basement recording studio from whence nearly all the songs on this project crawled.
My studio, TDS Productions, was dinky. It had a recording room that would barely hold a drum set, a bass and two guitars. If you felt the urge to jump up in the air on the final chord of a song, you would brain yourself on the very low ceiling (did it!). The control room was tiny, asymmetrical and reeked of cigarette smoke – all three enormous sins in control rooms. At my first session there (with Epp), I had to run the mic cables under the door, because they weren’t even wired up yet. I was recording things ranging from noise-boys like Epp, Enstruction and the lovely Limp Richerds to songwriters where I would end up being the band for a magnificent ten bucks an hour. It was glorious!
I sent some of my songs out to major labels so they could sign me and make me an international rock superstar. Geffen was the only label that replied. “Too dark and brooding” they said. (A decade later they tried to corner the market on dark and brooding.) I thought, what the hell, I’ve got this pile of music that I’ve recorded. I shall put it out myself. Of course, I didn’t have any money to do this, but cassette-only releases were trendy and exceedingly underground, and of course, cheap. And there weren’t a million demo tapes out there like there were ten years later. There was cool cassette stuff on K Records and Citizens for a Non-linear Future and obscure guys like Tom Furgas from places like Youngstown, Ohio, who you could read about in John Foster’s OP magazine coming out of Olympia and trade tapes with.
The first two Green Monkey releases (1983) were the Local Product compilation, and Tom Dyer – Truth or Consequences. I made 150 cassettes of each, using three cassette decks (which meant 100 hours of sitting there copying), went to Kinko’s to make covers and we were off and running. I sent them out to a few magazines I liked so we could become famous. Someone asked for a press kit. I pretended we knew what that was and made up a bio. Dawn Anderson reviewed the cassettes in her magazine, Backfire, and made me sound like a genius. I was ecstatic! Oh yeah – the monkey. There is a real green monkey (stuffed, but wise) that was in my grandma’s attic when I was a kid. You saw him on the cover.
Local Product, which featured a UPC bar code from a generic beer twelve pack on its cover, was mainly songwriter/musician recording projects – only six of the fifteen songs were by groups that you could actually go see play somewhere. Someone who reviewed it said something like, “Dyer plays on eight of the fifteen songs, what’s up with that?” Hey, this was art, okay? Local Rock of the 80’s station KJET played Work Ethic Rock from Local Product one evening while I was driving up the freeway – it was my first time on radio and quite thrilling!
Truth or Consequences was my first solo effort, in large songs where I played it all, with the usual occasional guest superstars. It was more or less split into the edgier rockin’ side and the quirkier pop side. When I look at my own body of recorded material over the last twenty-five years, the basic blueprint is clearly here – it’s all over the place stylistically, but there is a certain level of sometimes implied and sometimes explicit dissonance that I favor. GM005, I Lived Three Lives, which featured nearly half instrumentals, was sorta leftovers from Truth, (though of course brilliant).
This was supposed to be followed up by my new band, The Icons. If you look at the discography, the number for The Icons – Masters of Disaster was GM003. Needless to say, I never followed the excellent advice I gave everybody else: do the best you can do, get it out and move on … it didn’t come out for another three years, and that was after the band had broken up.
The Icons were 100% dedicated to having fun. One of my favorite things we did was the Death of Walter episode. As The Rocket was the reigning local rock rag in Seattle at the time, we thought they should write about us every month. One month we had nothing to send them a press release about, so we decided to “kill” a band member, Walter E. Gogh, who we said died in a car wreck in southern Florida while visiting his mom. We came up with the name Walter because Steve from The Icons had a bowling shirt he’d bought at the Goodwill with “Walter” embroidered on it. The Rocket respectfully ran the death notice in the next issue. We were pleased indeed – for the following issue we sent in a letter from Walter, who said he was not dead and was plenty mad about it! The Rocket realized they’d been had and were good sports – they ran the letter. In a slightly amusing final Icons note, a (very) short film about the band (The Icons: Proof That They Rocked) was produced by Jen Peel for a local film festival a few years ago.
However, another Icons-ish item did find its way to stores, No Money No Fun, a cassette by Me Three. This was me and The Icons when our drummer didn’t show up. We got a bottle of Wild Turkey and hit the record button and played. Rewind, hit record again, vocals done! There were two rules: 1) no prearranged songs; someone made up a title and we played it, and 2) that person sang it. We only made about thirty copies; most went to press. We made an LP-sized cardboard cover thingy and put it in a plastic bag with the cassette. At the record store, they couldn’t put it in the cassette case, it wouldn’t fit. Nor could they put it in the LP racks; it would warp the LPs. The only place to put it was up on the display shelf! The next step in our mastermind promotion plan was to drive up and down the Ave (that’s University Avenue in the U District if you’re someone in New Jersey reading this) with it cranked up really loud. The whole point of releasing Me Three was just this little guerrilla thing to mess with people and amuse ourselves.
Part 2: Expanding the Neighborhood
At this point, late ’84, we stepped up in the world, upgrading the entire studio to eight-tracks (no, not the kind you used to be able to play in your car). This was a huge improvement sonically over the four-track set up. This also marked the point where a fundamental shift happened at the label. To date, this had really been the “All-Tom” label – it was made for putting out my music, for my amusement. Now I began putting out mostly other people’s music. The next thing up was a cassette by Al Bloch’s band Bombardiers, Fight Back. These guys made a 12″ EP with Peter Barnes at Triangle, which I (Mr. Know-it-all) told them was just crap because it was too slick, it lacked any true guts and rocking appeal. I had recorded with them on four-track since for Local Product. Now we went and recorded a full album at my place and then mixed it down at Triangle in one night, finishing about 7:00 in the morning. They walked out of the studio and left for LA that morning to become superstars. That was the way it was done in ’85 – who had ever heard of a band from Seattle besides Heart becoming famous?
We then took the next step off the deep end – vinyl! Prudence Dredge’s Don’t Stomp Away/ Problem Child was the first single, recorded at my place and mixed at Steve Lawson’s downtown studio, a harbinger of their 1987 Big Ellen LP, which would be the first Green Monkey release without my sizable handprint on it somewhere. There’s not much else in the catalog that I didn’t have a chunky part in, whether it was recorded in my studio or I recorded it … Green Monkey was really personal in that regard. Keith Livingston makes his first GMR appearance on their single. Originally, I’d met Keith at The Icon’s main performance joint, the Hall of Fame on the Ave. He became The Icons’ live sound guy and then became the only other person to work my studio.
We did another 45, I Love You/1/4 to Zen, by Liquid Generation, which was Bob Blackburn’s band. Bob had played bass in the Adults and I’d recorded his “Bombsights Over America” single with him. Bob, whose dad was the Seattle Supersonics’ radio guy, was completely into the retro 60’s garage-rock thing at this point. All our singles were small run releases; five-hundred to a thousand and we pretty much sold all of them. I don’t have a closet full of vinyl sitting around. As a general rule, the bands paid the production cost and I did all the distribution and promotion. In theory we would split the profits, but they were never large. For the most part, we were just trying to cover getting the next thing done.
The Elements were an acoustic guitar-driven trio who made the label’s first full-length vinyl LP with Honest Enough. U-Dub students, they had only been playing for a few months when they recorded this, having raised the funds to record playing a summer’s worth of frat gigs. The cover (by Scott) was pretty stark black-and-white stuff (and by definition, arty). The music was stark too, stripped down and basic with Kevin favoring the humorous in songwriting while Jon and Scott did the social thing. Scott and Kevin made a very entertaining cassette-only release, ART, a couple years later that featured a very fine acoustic version of the always-popular AC-DC hit, You Shook Me All Night Long. Its cover was black and white, too.
The biggest change at the label came for me when I bought a cassette by The Green Pajamas, Summer of Lust. I just loved this thing and wrote a tiny review for OP, but they had put their tape out without any contact information of any sort on it. There was a number for the guy in Bothell who duplicated the cassette, so I called him up and he knew how to get a hold of them. Shortly thereafter they were recording at my studio and though I didn’t know it, my life was about to become Pajama-fied. Of the label’s remaining thirty-five releases, fifteen of them would be by the Green Pajamas or one of their members, usually the brilliant Jeff Kelly. The Pajamas were one of only two bands I ever had a real contract with (The Life was the other). The PJ deal was I paid for everything. I was going to be a real record company, just like Warner Brothers or CBS, honest. Besides that, I was managing them, I was their producer, their recording engineer, I was booking their shows, I was the publisher, fundamentally a conflict of interest situation, but no one else wanted to do it and it needed to be done. I was even Jeff’s best man at his wedding. Green Monkey to a large extent shifted from being the “Tom label” and became the “Jeff label.”
The PJs started as two guys in the attic, Jeff Kelly and Joe Ross, on Summer of Lust. By the time they got to my studio, they had added Karl Wilhelm and Steven Lawrence. We recorded Kim the Waitress and Peppermint Stick and I thought “this is magnificent.” I was hooked. I was in love in the most musical way.
I came up with my Green Pajamas master plan — how we were going to conquer the world. Jeff had given me two cassettes of songs he’d done on his home four-track before Summer of Lust. I picked out the songs I liked best and with the addition of three new songs, they became Baroquen Hearts. Jeff has always thought some of this stuff was not up to snuff – when he put out his four CD boxed set of home recordings, Melancholy Sun, he did not include BH. Me, I still think there is a tremendous charm to the young Jeffrey. We sent BH out to all the usual suspects; we actually had assembled a press list of sorts by this point and were getting decent at getting people to write about us. Summer of Lust was reissued on Green Monkey, with a couple of additions,Stephanie Barber and Mike Brown. I was amused by the fact that Jeff would write songs about people using their real names. Mike made it onto the later vinyl version of Lust we licensed in England, Stephanie did not. Somewhere around this time we encountered Phil McMullen, who started this long-running ‘zine Ptolemaic Terrascope in England and would later start the international Terrastock festival. Phil was as big a Pajamas fan as I was and quickly became our most valuable English connection.
The next part of the plan was to put out Peppermint Stick on the Monkey Business comp as the lead track, follow that with Kimand then get a PJs album out. The world would soon be our oyster!
Part 3: Here Comes the Big Time.
The Monkey Business compilation, released on the cusp of 1986, took everything up another notch. My non-music life had been problematic to say the least. I had a little construction business with a partner I did not know was a cocaine freak. Whoops, there went the money and I spent six months completing peoples’ kitchen remodels on my own. As I was getting to the end of all that bad voodoo, I wanted to bust out. Monkey Business was that for me, a serious piece of work to show what I could do. Unlike Local Product, this was mostly bands you could go somewhere and see. Three Seattle comp LPs came out that year, Monkey Biz, Popllama’s 12″ Combo featuring the Young Fresh Fellows and Red Dress, and C/Z’s Deep Six, which launched the infamous Grunge movement. Between the three you get a fairly decent feel for what was going on rock-wise in the town at that time; Monkey Business was picked by The Rocket as Compilation of the Year. You can hear the whole thing here.
The Kim the Waitress single followed a couple months later. I actually had the singles hidden in a closet before I put outMonkey Business, but we were being all strategic and putting Kim out second. I told everybody in the band except Jeff that they had been held up at the Canadian border. Kim got us by far the most airplay on college radio. Locally, airplay was trickier. KJET was one of the first stations in Seattle to use broadcast automation. (Who needs DJ’s?) Program Director Jim Keller told me that they literally couldn’t play any song over five minutes and Kim was 6:02. I sped it up slightly and chopped some bits out of the middle, and finally got it down to 4:59. The shortened version was later included on the Australian issue of Book of Hours, creating an international collectible. Kim would prove to have legs – it was later covered on releases by Sister Psychic and on a “major label” by Material Issue. The success of Kim the Waitress was followed by a slight hitch in the Green Pajamas’ master plan: the recording of the follow-up LP, Book of Hours, wasn’t finished, nor would it be for another year.
By this time, we were sending our releases out to print media in Europe as much as possible, because it seemed pretty dang hip to have people in Germany or Greece write what geniuses we were in our little Seattle basement. This resulted in our first licensing deal, when Kim and Peppermint Stick came out on a German label single.
We continued to put out cassette releases all along the way, though it was not so much a matter of trendy undergroundness anymore as economics. However, if I thought it was worthy, we would put it out as far and wide as we could. We put out five more cassette releases that year. Something Quick by The Queen Annes collected their previous couple years of recordings and showed what a powerful band they truly were. The Fall-outs, who would go on to put out releases with Estrus, Super Electro and Regal Select, were three young guys who came in and just revved it up. They weren’t exactly slick, but they had tons of raw energy and could make two minutes go by very quickly. I thought they were way cool. Keith Livingston put out a very pop tape; i’ve got this room, which we affectionately referred to as wimp rock for losers. We completed the 1986 year with the swan song of The Icons, finally releasing the Masters of Disaster and an echoey recording of their last show. I was now bandless and just being the label and studio guy.
1987 started with Prudence Dredge’s Big Ellen, followed by the finally completed Book of Hours. Jeff and I put almost two years into trying to make the greatest record the world had ever seen … I don’t think we ever actually said anything that silly at the time, but that’s really what we were trying to do. Joe had been given the boot from the band and been replaced by keyboardist Bruce Haedt. We recorded basic tracks with the band, but then the fun had just begun. Because we only had eight tracks, we would stick in little bits wherever we could, the backup vocal track would get an oboe stuck in the middle, with tambourine hits stuck in holes around that. On Murder of Crows we had so much going on in the middle that there was no real end – I simply stopped the tape and made a fake end and then spliced that to the rest of the song. Book was a studio record plain and simple; we were doing lots of things the band simply could not do live, which was not exactly considered the punk rock way at the time. Although no one would consider the Green Pajamas punk rock in the Sex Pistols sense, there was definitely an underground recording ethos at the time that things were supposed to be “real,” as opposed to studio trickery. We ignored that. During the sessions, we recorded five-six songs more than appeared on the American version of Book. Over the next year, we licensed it in Germany, Australia and Greece, every one of them with different songs, just like import albums we bought – we wanted every version to be unique. When the album came out, it was an exciting time – we had fans writing asking when it would come out and where they could get it, teenage girls from Bellingham were waiting for it at stores! Book of Hours got piles of raving underground press in America and Europe. In all, it was our best-selling release, but keep in mind that meant a few thousand of copies world-wide.
We also put out an all-new solo Jeff cassette Coffee in Nepal at this time, a simple and stark home recording and the fairly artsy Miss Lyons Looking Sideways cassette from Bruce Haedt. Bruce would leave the band after the next single, Sister Anne, and Joe would start easing his way back into the band.
The other big thing for us that year was The Life. I think I had heard about them from Keith seeing them live. I thought they were magnificent. Jimm McIver was the rock god – perhaps a little too Morrison-like at the time, but the real deal – transformational live. Tony (Alex) Bortko was the guitar monster. He had played with The Whiz Kids (saw ’em open up for the New York Dolls) and then fledgling metal band TKO and had chops coming out his ears. Keith produced their album Alone, with me joining in to help mix If It Works (don’t fix it) cuz I was sure it was “the hit” and wanted to give it just a little more edge.
The Life got all the Seattle media Next Big Thing props, were named best new band by The Rocket, made the cover of the Seattle Times arts section, but it was pretty local; the rest of the world wouldn’t notice Seattle for a few more years. We did a fine single with them a couple years later, but really these guys probably needed to be on a big label. I always thought Jimm had the goods and talent to be huge. In retrospect, I just think we didn’t have the mechanism and the means to break out of our dinky little backwater at that point. Jimm has put out a couple fine CDs in recent years, Polaroid Angel and Sweet Petunia Modern and the Holograms of Düm.
I also put out a cassette that year by Glass Penguins, which in some ways was symptomatic of what was going on with the label going forward. Michael Cox was basically a songwriter who was sending me these weird, very pop tapes down from Bellingham which I thought were très catchy; I wanted to do something with him. We got all these players from The Posies, Young Fresh Fellows, The Fastbacks and Green Pajamas to record with us for the Glass Penguins’ raspberry. I just loved raspberry, which I considered a frothy confection of pure pop music. For a little while, I hooked Michael up with the post-Gerson Elements, but the bottom line is Michael never got a band together so he could go out and rule club land, and remains at best an obscure footnote in Northwest music history. Still, I loved this music and thought it deserved to be heard. Still do!
Part 4: Heading for the Finish Line
In many ways, 1986-87 was Green Monkey’s heyday. My basic attitude was, by God, we’re going to conquer the world, but then the world did not fall. By ’88, I had my first kiddo, my beautiful daughter Kate and priorities were necessarily changing somewhat. For the label it was basically, we’re out of money, we haven’t made any money on this stuff … so how do we hang on to this somehow and keep it moving forward? It would have to scale back some. All eight releases after The Life’s Alone, through Jon Strongbow’s Something Different LP in ’89, were either singles or tapes.
1988 was a year spent in main working on recording, promoting the PJs, and licensing their albums and songs for comps. Seattle was rapidly becoming Sub Pop City, working toward the Nirvana inspired feeding frenzy of 1992. We put out Rich Hinklin’sContradiction cassette, which was all this sampled Oliver North testimony from the Iran-Contra hearings. I’m sure Rich asked for permission to use it!
The only other release that year was the Green Pajamas’ November. Originally it was Jeff’s idea when we were coming back from a gig in Victoria, BC to do a live cassette recording of the various odds and sods that we hadn’t recorded. I initially thought it was a horrible idea for a follow up to the meticulously crafted Book of Hours, but came around. We decided we needed a bigger room than my tiny studio to do it and headed into Reciprocal Recording (the former Triangle Studios, which by then had virtually become Sub Pop’s house studio), where it was recorded with Jack Endino straight-up live, like the band was playing a show, including a small audience. We took the tapes home and re-cut the vocals the same way; tape is rolling – you get one take! It was mixed with the same ethos. By the time we were done with it, Jeff and my positions were reversed, I thought it was animal genius and Jeff was iffy. More than anything else we recorded, November captured the feel of what the PJs were like live during this period, they were such a different band live than their studio recordings. This was also Steven Lawrence’s last show with the band.
There was some nice recognition of the work. When The Rocket did their “Top 100 NW Records of All Time” in their 1989 10th Anniversary issue, I had six records on the list that were on my label or from my studio. Of course, when they did another list ten years later, I was down to one!
1989 also saw me make a change that would impact life and direction – I started teaching audio classes at the Art Institute of Seattle. I was rather surprised I knew something people were interested in learning. Over time, higher education would become my calling.
Still, ’89 and ’90 saw a lovely bunch of vinyl singles and EPs, from The Green Pajamas, Capping Day, The Purdins, Mad Mad Nomad, The Life, Swelter Cacklebush and The Hitmen, many of which are featured here (The Green Pajamas’ Sister Anne brought Jeff’s obsession with nuns and Catholic girls to the fore!). By necessity, we got focused on how to recoup costs faster, and not keep money tied up. I invented the record release party trick, where you charged more to get in than you did at a normal show, but everyone got a free single. You could usually pay the production costs that night.
During that same period, we did three LPs, by Jon Strongbow, The Green Pajamas and The Hitmen. Jon was this folky/ethnicy hippyish guy who I knew vaguely from high school. I put out a cassette he had already recorded, A Normal Sort of Guy, followed by the LP, Something Different. His stuff is really rather different from anything else we did on the label, a loose, somewhat rambly feeling affair, with “songs about love, sex, confusion, life, death, and the new being inside!” Jon, who was also writing and drawing comics at the time, did the cover art.
The Hitmen were a pretty interesting case. In retrospect I think of all the records, I did, Smashface was one of the funnest and hippest (kiddo two Ben says it is the best). Some of it was that guitarist/ songwriter Joe Leonard was simply a rather bent individual in a very nerdy but endearing way, and part was the work I actually did with them. First, I recorded a single with them that came out pretty stylish, featuring Tiger Carpet, which always seemed spiritually linked to the Bonzo Dog Band or some such. Their Smashface LP was by far the most I’m-the-boss production job I’ve ever done with a band. Initially I was just the engineer, but then they decided they wanted me to produce it. I pulled out a razor blade and chopped up their master tape, rearranging their songs. Then the real party began! The record featured the usual raft of local guest stars from The Posies, The Green Pajamas, The Life and in what was probably a total suck-up job to get airplay (didn’t work), KZOK DJ Mike Jones. Eventually I had them reading quotes from a text book about the ear being a non-linear device, cuz it sounded, well, interesting. Lovely record, but the fact remains, they never did develop a local following and the record was largely unheard.
In comparison to their unified earlier works, the last Green Pajamas album for Green Monkey, Ghosts of Love, was pieced together from some songs recorded up to a year earlier and others recorded on a loaned sixteen-track machine. We were using a variety of approaches at that point. Some songs were recorded starting with Jeff and a click track and then overdubbing everything else, including drums. We ended up leaving the click track on The Thousand Days just because we got so used to it. The Ghost of Love was the completely the opposite – Jeff decided he wanted to record live at midnight, so we crammed everyone in and did it.Ghosts also features one of my favorites, Melancholy Sun, which featured Jeff and Jimm from The Life singing together. Despite its varied sources, Ghosts stands up really well as an album. I licensed it to Bomp Records, who put it out as a joint release. We also licensed it in Greece – more recently it is available on CD from Get Hip.
By 1991, GMR was starting to wind down. That was the year I sold my recording gear and closed the studio. But the Monkey wasn’t going to sleep without issuing its first CD, the punk rock fun fest of Slam Suzzanne’s On The Floor With Your Mom. Keith told me about these guys – we knew Phil from the Dehumanizers who had recorded the semi-notorious Kill Lou Guzzo single at TDS. I saw them playing live and thought I would die; hilarious and total rock at the same time. They didn’t really sound like anything else on the label. They were also the only GMR band that actually got in a van and went out and toured. Their band pretty much got short circuited when Tymber got hit by a drunk driver at a gig in Olympia. By the time she recovered, things had moved on (she’s fine nowadays).
At the label, my attention was clearly waning. If you start looking at catalog numbers you’ll go “what’s up with that?” because the Mad Mad Nomad – Snap Out cassette and Jeff Kelly’s Private Electrical Storm have the same catalog number. That’s because I apparently forgot I put the Snap Out tape out! Joe Leonard’s Breathe cassette, I don’t even know what the number was. (Michael Cox says his copy has no number on it!)
Private Electrical Storm and Breathe were for all intents and purposes Green Monkey’s final releases, both radically different:Storm was another fine set of Kelly’s home recordings which would be reissued along with Coffee in Nepal and Portugal in theMelancholy Sun boxed set. Breathe was a splendid and goofy rock opera featuring such diverse guest stars as Jimm McIver, Chris and Carla from The Walkabouts and Popllama owner/producer Conrad Uno.
We’d started out trying to make these little recordings that I thought were cool. At the end, we were still making recordings I thought were cool, but we’d gone through the push-push cycle of “can we make this something bigger?” and said, “okay, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.” It was time to move on. There has been the occasional release since. In 1995, before Jeff revived The Green Pajamas, we put out his Ash Wednesday Rain. In 2000, there was a limited edition Pajamas Christmas CDR, The Caroler’s Song, since reissued on Hidden Agenda.
Which brings us, dear listener, up to the present. In the future, you will likely see some more of these beautiful Green Monkey recordings coming your way. I hope you enjoy this music in the spirit it was created – truth, beauty and fun!
— Tom Dyer (with an assist from Michael Cox), Dec. 2008