Pip pip & cheerio!
Another month is upon us and we have a pretty sweet Valentine treat for you. Under The Radar: A Bootleg History of The Green Pajamas” Vol. 1-3, available exclusively on Jeff Kelly’s St. Brigid Bandcamp site. thegreenpajamas1.bandcamp.com That’s right – no Spotify, no Amazon, no Apple Music. If you want this one, you must go see Brother Jeff (virtually). As I write this a day before its release, I’ve not heard the beast, just assorted the tracks that I’ve heard back when they were done mostly years ago. This has been Jeff’s baby. That said, I am quite looking forward to it.
Jeff: Tom and I started talking about a new, Green Pajamas collection — maybe a box set — a couple of years ago. I imagined a sort of alternate history to sit alongside of our best-of collections and most popular albums. So I went to work, going through my stacks of CDRs, DATs and cassettes in search of interesting artifacts. I ended up with about 3 1/2 hours of unreleased stuff: outtakes, alternates and live recordings but in the end it became clear, for various reasons, the box set we had talked about just wasn’t going to happen. Then, at some point Tom said, “What about your St. Brigid Bandcamp page?”
And SO, “Under The Radar: A Bootleg History of The Green Pajamas” was born!
We hope to follow this up with a proper Green Monkey Records compilation CD that compliments this set with some favorites and a few rarities not included here, later this year.
Tom: If you are a fan of Jeff’s work like I am, please go to his site and buy it. thegreenpajamas1.bandcamp.com Go get it right here. Please note, if you are reading at this on Friday, February 4, it is Bandcamp day – all sales of anything you buy goes to Jeff today – Bandcamp does not take a cut. To get you fired up, you can read his notes for the three releases at the bottom of this post.
In other exciting news,
I am close to sending our third Jon Strongbow release, What It Takes, out to manufacture. This one has been pulled out of the fire once again by the always nimble Steve Turnidge of Ultra Violet Studios, Seattle. I remixed one of the tunes for Jon and even added backing vocals. It is another most fine release in the Strongbow catalog for the discerning listener.
In the “previously rumored” category,
Maggie Teachout is returning with her second album shortly, now under the moniker The Vulture Queen. For those of you that like to listen to her on the dreaded Spotify, we will be changing the artist name for her first album to The Vulture Queen as well. We are shooting to get this out by March/April.
Which brings us to the True Olympian update.
We are progressing with the plan to get the Olympia: A True Story album out by fall. All the songs are written. Two thirds of them are recorded. I am working on it each and every day.
We have had a bevy of guest Olympia superstars recorded so far: the Oly Mountain Boys, Arrington de Dionyso (Old Time Relijun), fiddle virtuoso Lisa Ornstein, Dave Harvey (Nudity), accordionist Luz Gaxiola, percussionist Julie Bennet, chanteuse Virginia Sorrells and her loverboy singer/guitarist Nicholas Vroman, plus Bob Hart (No Toy Boys). We are scheduling more folks up on this next batch of songs: Calvin Johnson, K-Records, multi-instrumentalist Amy Denio, Steve Luceno’s Nu Oly Jazz Band, Danny Kelly (The Hinges), members of the Olympia Symphony Orchestra, the Olympia High School Choir, the Olympia High School Marching Band and of course, the mighty Jim of Seattle. So much action – pedal down!
We have released one song from the album so far, on the Ball of Wax #66 compilation – “It’s Mud” . It got this very generous review that I would like to share with you.
Ball of Wax 66 Songs: Tom Dyer & The True Olympians – “It’s Mud”
The last time I reviewed a song by Tom Dyer & the True Olympians, I closed it by calling the song “just damn fun” and heck if they haven’t done it AGAIN. I still don’t know where Tom Dyer finds the time to be involved in so many projects (most of which bear his name and all of which seem to have come from the playful end of the rock strata before bouncing through the various sands, soils, and waters of the rushing effluent and digging in among the sediment of Dyer’s own delta of joyous madness), but I’m thankful he does!
“It’s Mud” is a wild ride through that very delta, a pop song treading the depths of the aural spectrum where the bass, drums, guitar, and even Dyer’s vocal beat the bedrock like it’s the final barrier to getting every last ass in the place out of its seat and wagging with the rhythmic rumble of the sonic flood. Joe Cason has his hands full keeping this tectonic leviathan from cracking through to the mantle, but his electric piano does so admirably (love the way everything sinks away at the end, leaving only the keyboard to remind you that some things can never stay submerged) and gives the beat a touch of syncopation.
Tom Dyer’s vocals are always a blast, but on “It’s Mud” he sounds more like a man possessed than I think I’ve heard, hooting, hupping, and growling every lung-collapsing line in a frenzied competition with the True Olympians’ guest artist, one Arrington de Dionyso, who takes the title of the song as literally as possible and all but blows his bass clarinet to bits (gods bless the little reed that pulled off the Herculean task of being channeled from one to the other of its instrument’s four-plus octave [I’m including overblowing because I’ve heard other de Dionyso material and the man favors pushing his woodwinds to and often beyond their limits]). In fact, Dyer gives his guest complete freedom and lets de Dionyso exorcise every spirit in the immediate vicinity, clearing the nooks and crannies in double-tracked stereo glee (I hope, anyway—otherwise there’s a lot more black magic happening here than bargained for) for 30 seconds before the band explodes into action, at which point his guest kicks into high gear, coming up for air maybe twice over the next three minutes.
As a whole, “It’s Mud” is spiritually and emotionally (and almost physically) cleansing, washing over everything in a deluge of delirious sound, and Levi’s choice to close this volume of Ball of Wax with it is simply inspired. In fact, this has been one of my favorite volumes yet, and each time “It’s Mud” ends, I have to catch my breath and shake off the silt before realizing that another spin of this whole Ball of Wax is desperately needed.
See you next month.
Here’s Jeff’s notes on the three releases:
I wanted to start near the beginning, hence the inclusion of “My Mad Kitty,” live at Seattle U, in 1984. At the time, we fancied ourselves, Seattle’s answer to the Paisley Underground, but for some reason I can’t quite recall, we ended up playing a dance. Suffice to say we didn’t have a lot of dance tunes and had a bit of hard time winning over the majority of the crowd. That’s the late Steven Lawrence you hear at the start, quipping about reading a poem. The evening was a bit like that throughout: at one point somebody in the crowd shouted out, “Lynyrd Skynyrd!,” and Steven replied with, “We love you,” and we launched into ‘With a Flower In Her Hair” or one of those… when I sat down at Joe’s drum set with his Japanese SG bass and started ad-libbing with Joe fooling around on guitar. So this is the very first time I did the famous riff on the bass and you can hear the melody and lyric ideas starting to come. Joe would regularly tape these sessions on cassette and I would play them back the next morning, in the car, on the way to work to see if we had hit on any good song ideas. This is an excerpt of that recording. Evidently, I liked what I heard the next day.Sounds like I’m saying – “Nobody can make up…” Another reference to the end of a romantic relationship I was still hurting from at that point, later refined to, “No one can save us but Kim the waitress always turns me on.” Jim Ellison of Material Issue obviously didn’t get it at all when he changed the lyric to “no one can save us FROM Kim the Waitress.” The funny thing nobody knows about that song is that the bass riff, later recorded with sitar, was totally inspired by Peter Hook playing on Joy Division’s ‘Closer’ LP, which I was listening to a lot at the time.I was hesitant to include this track as it’s not really a song yet, but as this project evolved, Susanne convinced me that it was interesting enough to share…We were mixing ‘Kim’ at TDS around the time ‘I Want You Back’ and Steven’s, ‘Something Always Brings You Down,’ were both recorded in my old bedroom at my parents’ house. ‘I Want You Back,’ had Karl playing drums while I strummed my 12-string guitar. ‘I Want You Back’ ended up on my ‘Baroquen Hearts’ cassette album released by Green Monkey and we would sometimes start our live ‘Book Of Hours’ Pajamas sets with ‘Something Always Brings You Down.’‘Such A Lovely Daughter,’ which I originally called, ‘The Princess,’ was recorded after Joe had left the band. (Though it sounds more like “The Green Pajamas,” than the previous two recordings, it was recorded within weeks or maybe days of those two songs.) It’s just Steven, Karl and I recording guitar, drums and bass in Karl’s living room and, later, Steven and I overdubbing vocals, cello and mandolin in my bedroom. This song was previously released as well, by Unhinged magazine on a flexi disc in 1990.Tom Dyer and I did many mixes of the songs on ‘Book of Hours.’ I’m not sure we were ever totally satisfied with any of them. I found this alternate mix of ‘Paula’ on an old cassette and thought it was interesting enough to include here. I spiffed it up a little with a little high-end that brings out the horns quite nicely. I remember I wanted horns on there, just like a Beatles record, and Tom rounded up four really good players. Maybe a superior mix? I don’t know but it sounds pretty good when you turn it up…‘I Wish That It Was Christmas’ was just one of my many little dystopian fantasy songs, made up in about 5 minutes. I never could have guessed that it would go on to become THE most popular song in our live set.The whole lyric of ‘Ten Thousand Words’ actually consists of very few words and somehow I manage to forget some of them here, but this live version is fun to hear for the playing. I loved being bass player and, digging through these old recordings, I am so happy to rediscover Steven’s performances on guitar. It’s something I think I took for granted at the time. It was just what he did and I don’t think we ever talked about it, but listening back now to all of these live performances, I realize he wasn’t just one of the funniest guys I ever knew, but a truly extraordinary musician.Bruce had a beautiful Art Deco (Wurlitzer?) upright piano and no place to put it at the time so it was at my house. I wrote ‘Just Like Seeing God’ on it that we ended up recording for the ’November’ album. You can hear me playing it here, along with Bruce on acoustic guitar, rehearsing with a couple of his friends who played the woodwinds on the recording.By the time we were recording ‘Ghosts of Love’ I was enthralled with the novels and poems of Margaret Atwood. I first read, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’ and then went right through a bunch of her earlier books including, ’Surfacing,’ which inspired the first song on that album. I had also written a poem with a purposely Atwood-ian feel, ‘The Autumn Sky.’ We recorded the whole poem, translated to French and recited by Leslie Taber, with Susanne reading the “interpretation” back in English, to include on ‘Ghosts.’ This is an excerpt of that. In the end it was way too long but we ended up using a tiny bit of Leslie’s recording at the beginning of the record.‘You’re Losing Me’ was a pretty big misstep on my part. Nothing really worked here but it’s interesting now as a curio: the only “band” song recorded at TDS that has never seen the light of day. Until now…Before Steven quit the band for the first time, he said to someone he didn’t want to be in the “Coffee in Nepal Pajamas,” a reference to my album of acoustic oriented songs recorded at home and released by Green Monkey. He didn’t like the direction the band was heading in with ‘Ghosts of Love’ and apparently thought it was too much like a Jeff Kelly solo project. So he started recording alone, working at home and at TDS with Tom Dyer. ’Strange City Day’ is a very good remake of the song we first recorded during the ‘November’ sessions with Jack Endino. We had since performed this song live many, many times but never with the bridge section he added here, when he re-recorded it, playing all the instruments himself, around 1990.In researching this project I found so many things I had almost forgotten about. One of the joys was hearing a few of these tracks, like ‘Emily Grace’ – recorded after Bruce left the band but before Steven did – again after so many years. I only now realize what a potent thing it was – Steve and me, both on electric guitar. Joe was back on bass, Karl on drums, both playing great here, in the line-up we started out with. There is very little record of this live dual guitar attack on tape so I’m very pleased to be able to include a few songs from this short, post-‘Ghost of Love’ time period, on this compilation. I don’t think Steve ever asked me much about what I was playing, he would just listen and make up some counterpart that fit perfectly. I love, for instance, the descending line he plays in ‘Emily Grace’ after I sing, “And if someday you’re off without a trace…” His beloved Rickenbacker is to the right, my Telecaster more to the center of these live radio mixes.The Green Pajamas performed ‘Love Song’ live a few times but it was never recorded by the band. This is another very nice find from Steven’s sessions at TDS.‘Dr. Dacey’ was a home recording I made alone. I always thought it would have made a great Green Pajamas track. It certainly would have fit just fine on ‘Book Of Hours’ with the ‘Paula’ horn guys!I couldn’t believe it when I saw the note indicating Dr. Dragonfly’ was first recorded in 1993, four years before ’Strung Behind The Sun’ was released! This is that original version. Steven and I were still hanging out some and he helped me out with this one. My memory is hazy as to whether he had quit the band and rejoined and quit and rejoined again or just what had happened by this point. But we were obviously still having fun working together.‘My Elizabeth’ is a song I’ve recorded many times. I had forgotten all about this version, recorded with Joe playing drums in his basement studio, around 1996. I was happy to come across it again!I’ve included ‘Woman, Woman’ from the same cassette ‘My Elizabeth’ was on because virtually every other song on that tape of home recordings ended up on the ’Strung Behind The Sun’ album. When Tony Dale called me from Australia and said he wanted to put out a past Green Pajamas album on his new label, Camera Obscura Records, I knew that I had a bunch of finished recordings just lying around so I said, ‘Why don’t we just make a whole new Green Pajamas album?” and he said, “Great!” So we put together ‘Strung.’ I don’t think we thought ‘Woman, Woman’ sounded appropriately Pajama-esque but in retrospect I could have replaced the goofy synth solo with some ringing electric guitar bit and it might have fit just fine…Joe has been talking about releasing ‘Cathy’ and some other old things via his own label for decades but it hasn’t happened so I thought it might finally fit nicely on this collection. Joe had heard an earlier recording of this and suggested we redo it as a Pajamas thing. So this is us in his basement again, him playing drums while I sang and played acoustic guitar in 1997. Joe is of course known as the bass player in the live band but not many know he’s a very good drummer with a keen sense of rhythm.“Conceiving Kim” is just what it states. That’s the night Joe and I went back to his jam room after a few hours of coffee and cigarettes and the company of Kim the Waitress at Mr. Ed’s cafe in West Seattle, a place we would go regularly to and hang out with Karl and other friends. I had a thing for Kim and she was obviously on my mind
‘Agent 99’ was recorded around the time Joe and I were putting ‘Strung Behind The Sun’ together. It’s a silly song but sometimes when an idea comes to you, you just have write it down, you know? So I did. I think I was trying to write a 1960’s style pop song, like the Hollies or something like that and it works in that sense but it never found a home. To novel for ‘Strung’ and when I sent it to Tony Dale for possible inclusion on the ‘Narcotic Kisses’ compilation his only reply was, “What a song!” I wasn’t sure what that meant exactly, so… Here it is, finally, around 25 years later. the guitar sound bigger. Or at least weirder. Lots of songs about girls and sex and love and desire and sex. Seemed like it would stay summer forever: make another Manhattan, record another song. It felt good to be young and great to be making records again and, to this day, ‘All Clues Lead To Meagan’s Bed,’ is still probably the most popular of all Pajamas albums.I’ve included these three early mixes because I can still hear the joy and spontaneity of that creative process. It was fun to hear them again (I had forgotten Joe and I took out the “Samantha” vox at the end of ‘Secret’ for the final mix) and, though it’s a tad bit indulgent, I left them unedited and let them run until the end, I guess just because it sounds like I was having so much fun!‘The Perfect Chill’ is a real oddball. I was trying to write a sort of tongue in cheek tribute to the Hammer Horror films I was watching a lot at the time. Anyway, it’s interesting as one of Laura’s first visits to my basement studio.‘Missing Miss MacColl’ was and is my humble and sincere tribute to the singer, Kirsty MacColl, who had recently died in an accident. I was a fan of hers since I first picked up her, ‘They Don’t Know,’ single on Stiff at Tower Records back in the 70’s. I remember I had a cold when I recorded it so I kept my voice low in the mix for the version that came out on CD. I came across this first mix, which I now prefer because it’s easier to hear the lyric. Susanne and I were lucky to see her at a show before that tragedy occurred and she really did sign a picture for me…I had forgotten I had a disc of rough mixes from the ‘Ten White Stones’ sessions and it was a lot of fun hearing this stuff. By this point, the live band had evolved into something quite different than the days of Joe, Karl and Jeff. Eric and Laura had been playing live with us for years, and by now, Laura’s husband, Scott had replaced Karl on drums. Erik 4A gave us the rare opportunity to go into his Vagrant Recording Studio and capture our current live sound with the luxury of actually being able to hear everything we were doing for a change via headphones, as opposed to the, often patchy, stage sound. A good time was had all around. So here are takes 1 of, ‘Bewitching Me’ and ‘Mrs. Caffery.’ I also had to include this rough mix of ‘Gazelle’ as I found it sounded superior to the one on the album. I’m so glad we got this few minutes on tape, thank you Erik! Between Joe’s bass and Scott’s drums and me channeling somebody’s spirit out of the ether on that guitar solo, it feels like, some kind of liquid electricity to me.‘Hidden Minutes 1’ has just always been a favorite of mine and I like this different mix. I always loved the sound of the instruments on this track, especially the electric guitar which reminds me of ‘Revolver.’By the time I was doing this mix of ‘Who’s That Calling’ my digital tape recorder was dying. But I wanted to get this alternate sax solo by Craig Flory so I would remember it. I met him when I was playing guitar in Joe’s bar band, The Birdwatchers. There is some beautiful playing on his part here, really haunting. I think this was the last song I mixed on that deck and it was a struggle. Now days I would have edited Craig’s different takes into one but for whatever reason, I didn’t or couldn’t do that at the time I was making ‘Poison In The Russian Room.’ Despite this being a rough mix and some unfixed sharp notes on my vocal, it’s fun to hear this again and some of that gorgeous, eerie shit Craig laid down.The ‘Ring Around The Sun’ medley is restored here to the unedited original version meant for the ‘Death By Misadventure’ album. This whole piece was based on melodies and lyric ideas I wrote when I was very young.‘William’ or, ‘The Men In The Black Car,’ is another one I wrote many years ago. Re-recorded it for fun and I considered it for inclusion on ‘Sunlight Might Weigh Even More’ but it didn’t sit well with the rest of the songs.‘Copper Eyed Girl’ was hastily mixed for a Sugarbush LP compilation but sounded pretty bad. Both Scott and Laura contribute some great stuff here and I thought it was worth fixing up and remixing.It’s funny, just when I think I know Joe Ross, he surprises me. Every fucking time. I had trimmed ‘Just To This’ way down, cutting out the cello bits and thinking, Joe would hate that ‘Dead Can Dance’ stuff in the middle of this. When the final version came out on CD, Joe said, “What happened to that whole part with the cool cellos??” Turns out his son really liked that version so I told him I would include it on the next compilation…I felt like recording something but didn’t have anything new. It was October and I had always liked, ‘Blue Halloween Moon,’ so I made another version, just for fun.The last track here, ‘La Folia,’ is the only one out of chronological order but I thought it would sound good at the end. At the time I did this, I remember liking the harpsichord sound on this keyboard Karl had let me borrow. This ancient tune has always been one of my favorites and I used to practice it a lot when we had our piano, based on an arrangement by Gregorio Paniagua and his Atrium Musicae de Madrid. This is an excerpt of a recording I made around the time I did the song, ‘Mina,’ on ‘The Night Races Into Anna.’ I believe it was meant for ‘In A Glass Darkly.’Largely thanks to the imaginative, Tony Dale, and his Camera Obscura label in Australia and the support of Phil McMullen and his magical magazine, The Ptolemaic Terrascope, in England, The Green Pajamas had a kind of rebirth in 1997. From that point on, when I wasn’t working at the hospital or spending a couple of hours in the park with my family, I was in my basement studio, day and night. Songs like, ‘Shock Of Blonde,’ ‘The Secret Of Her Smile’ and Eric’s ‘Happy Again,’ were knocked off fierce and quick, no looking back, on my 8-track cassette deck. I had a tiny Marshall amp and one cheap mic that I’d put into things like a little glass lamp shade to try to make
Another little joy I found while digging through the years of cassettes, DATs and CDRs for this project, was finding a few of these live gems. They’re not exactly polished gems, any of them, but gems nonetheless. I love hearing Scott going a bit mad, doing his Scott thing on ‘Ten Million Light Years Away,’ Laura’s high and mighty harmonies on ‘Wild Pony,’ Eric’s percussion/drum duet with Karl on ‘I Wish That It Was Christmas’ and Steven’s crazy lead guitar on ‘Dancing In The Jailhouse,’ where he, at least for that few moments, was happily showing off his rockabilly roots.. I also had no recollection of the same line-up performing, ‘With A Flower In Her Hair,’ at the Crocodile Cafe in 1994! I do remember the gig itself, but mostly just that I had a conversation with Sky Saxon (of who’s band we were opening for), at one of the tables in the Crocodile’s front room. Sky wanted to talk about wolves. So we did…We’re very much subjected to the sound mix here, I didn’t have a lot to work with in mastering this stuff: notice how Bruce is mostly missing in action on the 4-track recording of ‘Peppermint Stick’ or how the radio mix of ‘Murder Of Crows’ is mostly bass and vocals. So what I chose to share with this compilation was based on the performances themselves, over the fidelity or mix. With that performance of ‘Murder Of Crows,’ despite the inferior sound, one can still hear our enthusiasm burning through that performance.In our last performance to date, in 2018, we were plagued with multiple problems, not least of which was poor on-stage sound. Still, we plowed on and things got going pretty good by the end and everyone ended up drunk and happy. I’m pleased, for the first time, to share 3 of the songs from our set that night here, including our reuniting with Karl Wilhelm, blowing shit up on ‘I Wish That It Was Christmas’ and Bruce Haedt, beating the tambourine and shouting out, ‘Higher Than I’ve Been,’ just like it was 1987 again! Joe sums it up at the end of his, ‘Graduation Day’: “That was fun!”Once again, it’s fun to hear the ones where I’m on bass and Steven is on guitar but imagine my surprise coming across the rarity, ‘End of Love,’ which finds Steve, Joe, Karl and me, making such an ungodly noise over at the Mural Amphitheater back in 1990! I hadn’t remembered ever even playing that song except in Tom’s studio