Well Dear Reader, it is still summer and still time for fun!
Last month we ran The Heats, whose Steve Pearson is currently playing with Jim Basnight in The Northwest Rivals. We figured time to present the other half, so this month we will feature the Jim’s 1979 debut The Moberlys. I’m gonna do something a little different this month. Jim was interviewed in 2008 for the defunct Seattle Power Pop blog (Andy!) which I discovered while researching this. I was gonna excerpt it, but it was so informative I decided to run the whole thing (below) after I make my usual pithy remarks.
First off, I think Jim is the hardest working old-school Seattle rock dude going. I get his mailing list and he is playing all the time – 15-20 times a month. Admirable! I will probably drag my lazy rear out and see him one of these days – you should too. You can find out all about it at www.jimbasnight.com.
Now for the wayback machine. As usual I owned this record when it came out. Had Jim’s single, too. I thought The Moberlys record was pretty damn great at the time. Still do. I decided I needed to track it down a couple years ago and bought the Sexteen CD from Jim, which forms the basis of this month’s AotM.
Rather than present the entire twenty-five tracks from Sexteen, I decided to do the pristine thing and present the original LP in its original order with a few bonus tracks. Jim was kind enough to let me include Show Who You Are, which was on the LP but not on Sexteen, so enjoy, pilgrim (if you want to know why it got left out you’ll have to ask Jim). I also included 5 bonus track from Sexteen including We’ll Always Be In Love which originally appeared on the Seattle Syndrome 1 LP and She Got F***D which was the b-side of Jim’s first single Live in the Sun.
Enjoy the AotM – stream away! Go buy Jim’s CDs – he’s got plenty – you can pretty much get ‘em on Amazon. Go see him play – I’m sure he’s doing that soon!
New Green Pajamas CD heading your way next month.
From seattle-powerpop.blogspot.com – 2008
Jim Basnight’s got quite a rock & roll resume – his band Meyce played one of the first punk shows in Seattle in 1976 and in 1977 they opened for The Ramones. His next band The Moberlys recorded a great self-titled album that made Trouser Press’s “Underground Top 10” list in 1980. Basnight has been making consistently great music ever since, both as a solo artist and with Jim Basnight and The Moberlys, The Pins, The Rockinghams, The Jim Basnight Thing and currently with The Jim Basnight Band. His records have been sited in various Best of Powerpop lists over the years including John Borack’s “The 200 Greatest Power Pop Albums”.
Seattle Powerpop Blog: Are you having a good summer so far? Over the years you’ve written some great songs celebrating summer like “Live in the Sun” and “Summertime Again” so I assume you enjoy it quite a bit.
Jim Basnight: I’m having a great summer so far. I’m getting ready to put out a new CD on the NYC based Disclosed label. It’s a career retrospective with two new tracks that I recorded with my current band, the Jim Basnight Band. It’s titled “We Rocked and Rolled: The First 25 Years with Jim Basnight, Moberlys and Beyond”, by Jim Basnight. It has selections from all 6 of my unique CD’s, Sexteen by the Moberlys, Seattle-NY-LA by Jim Basnight and the Moberlys, Pop Top, The Jim Basnight Thing andRecovery Room by Jim Basnight and Makin’ Bacon by the Rockinghams. The reason I call those “unique CD’s” is because tracks from them have been compiled in other releases like Sexteen a vinyl LP released in 1985 on Lolita Records in France, The Moberlys vinyl LP released in 1980 on the Seattle based Safety First Label, Jim Basnight and the Moberlys Return CD on the Japanese Wizzard-in-Vinyl label in 2006 and the Pop Pleasure LP by Jim Basnight and the Moberlys on the Italian Rave Up label.
My consistent love for summer songs and sunny days is based on my inherent spirit and optimism and hope and belief in the goodness of life and people. I’ve been disappointed along the way, but my relentless optimism has kept me upright. I basically was blessed with parents that showed me a lot of love and shared so much with me to thank for that. I love summer songs as well, as they often bring out some of the more positive and happy moments in pop music. That’s not to say that I only love that kind of music. I guess I may be identified by some for that style, because some of my best work has been when I was singing about those kinds of experiences. I feel that there are many other top notch songs of mine and those that I co-wrote that are not in that vein and I guess only time will tell as to whether others look back at this body of work and feel the same.
SPB: I checked your concert calendar and it looks like you’re playing 4 to 5 shows a week for the next couple of months.
JB: I’ve been performing between 175 and 225 shows a year with the Jim Basnight Band or myself solo or in duo line-ups for about 10 years now. Mostly in the NW (WA, OR, ID, MT and some parts of UT, WY and CA), we’ve carved out a niche by playing literally everywhere and every type of gig, from coffee houses, concerts and colleges to casinos, clubs, fairs, festivals and private parties. We’ve developed a very good show, if I do say so myself, that pulls from all kinds of influences. I feel that we can play the power-pop, glam, punk, garage, new wave and roots rock that I’m known for very well, plus we have successfully brought in influences like soul, funk, old country, blues, jazzy-pop and classic rock. Our show right now is playing a lot on Washington’s San Juan Island, but after summer we will be doing more traveling around the NW and probably back to NYC around the release of the CD, as well as to parts on the SW. I’d love to take this band overseas, as I feel strongly that our show would be very well received in Europe and Japan.
SPB: Who’s in The Jim Basnight Band and what’s your set-list like?
JB: The band consists of Mikel Rollins on bass, guitar, flute, Sax and vocals. Mikel and I have been playing since the beginning of this band in 1996, right as the Rockinghams were coming to a close. He is a really strong musician who has had a ton of jazz training and experience as a pro player. He also has a quick sense of humor on stage and a keen sense of style. He says that I have been his teacher over the years as a guitarist and front man and I’ve picked up a lot from him as well. The drummer is Brad “Mr. D” Dolsen. I met him on San Juan Island. He’s an accomplished drummer and a really high energy showman. He does a lot of things image wise that make it easier for me to do crazy things and not stand out or appear random and out on a limb. He and Mikel both do that. Brad went down to LA for a while to work as a session guy and also worked in the fashion and art gallery world. He moved back to Seattle to do the band and so he could play drums full time. The 4th member is Mike Rain, who plays bass and guitar. He is an outstanding harmony vocalist and has done very well with creating his own vocal arrangements on my tunes. Mike has a good voice and plays a very nice complimentary guitar style to mine and to Mikel’s bass playing. He also plays good solid bass, which allows Mikel to play sax and flute as well as guitar. We do songs from all 6 of the CD’s as well as some new songs. We also do a number of our own versions of other people’s numbers. Some of the better tunes that we do regularly are Telegram Sam, Ballrooms of Mars and The Slider (T-Rex), The Passenger (Iggy), Too Much Junkie Business (The Heartbreakers), What You See is What You Get (The Dramatics), Lovely Day (Bill Withers), All The Young Dudes (Mott the Hoople) and Just to Satisfy You (Waylon Jennings). I also play a number of songs in my solo acoustic show like “Tonight” by the Raspberries, “1-2-3” by Len Barry, Hank Williams “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” in the Al Green mode and “Venus De Milo” by Television.
SPB: When did you first fall in love with music? What were some of your favorite records when you were growing up?
JB: I first fell in love with music when I got a transistor radio in about 1966. My first records were what we had around the house, which was mostly Jazz and adult pop of the day, but my folks got a few 45’s that we had around like “Bobbie’s Girl” by Marcie Blaine, “The Watusi” by the Orlons and “See You in September” by the Happenings. My dad finally broke down and bought me Revolver by the Beatles when it came out. He also felt compelled to broaden my horizons a bit in the pop music genre by giving me the Mothers Absolutely Free and the Fugs on ESP. He also played a lot Lenny Bruce around the house. I really liked the music on the radio, but it wasn’t until I started going to the store and buying my own records that I found the stuff that really expanded my appreciation and realization that this was what I wanted to do with my life. My first records like that were the Kinks Greatest Hits, Kinkdom, the Stones High Tides and Green Grass, Flowers, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix Are You Experienced, Jefferson Airplane Surrealistic Pillow, The Who Sell Out and all of the American radio pop of the day like The Buckinghams, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, The Grassroots, The Raiders, The Rascals, The Beach Boys and a ton more. From there I got into the glam movement of the early 70’s. I wasn’t much of a fan of the Woodstock scene and the early arena rock, but when Bowie, T-Rex, Alice Cooper, Lou Reed, NY Dolls, MC5, Roxy Music, Slade, Mott, Flamin’ Groovies and Iggy Pop came out in my early high school years I was hooked. I also always loved the early power-pop, specifically Badfinger and the Raspberries, as well as all of the bands around in the 70’s that were influenced by that style. Soul music always appealed to me as well and I was hooked on albums like Superfly by Curtis Mayfield, the Al Green and Isaac Hayes stuff, The Temptations, Sly Stone, The Ohio Players and Marvin Gaye. I wasn’t a huge fan of the big top arena rock acts of the day, but now I appreciate a lot of the big names of the 70’s more than I did back then. It was not a huge jump to spin right into the punk thing, as it started to appear in the mid-70’s.
SPB: What impact did punk have on you? I think I hear the influence of Richard Hell and the Voidoids, The Heartbreakers and The Modern Lovers in your early stuff along with The Raspberries and maybe The Rubinoos?
JB: I feel that I was influenced very much by both punk and power-pop. Both styles have irrepressible energy, melody and so many fantastic artists and songs. I’m really drawn to good songs. When I went to NYC in the spring of 1977, it was a life changing experience. I would also mention bands like The DMZ, Wayne County, The Tuff Darts, The Dead Boys, Suicide, Alex Chilton, The Fleshtones, The Nerves, Patti Smith, Blondie, The Real Kids, Generation X, Tom Petty, The Heats, The Cowboys and Vancouver B.C.’s Modernettes as big influences from that era. I was writing songs well before I heard most of these bands, but they all shaped my musical development as a songwriter. There’s also no way to discount the value The Ramones to my upbringing.
SPB: Your band Meyce opened for The Ramones here in Seattle in 1977 when you were what, nineteen? How did you land that gig and what was it like?
JB: The show was promoted by a friend of mine from high school, Robert Bennett, under the banner of a local rock fanzine that the drummer in the Meyce published and that I contributed to, Chatterbox (named for the Dolls tune). It was at the Olympic Hotel, which was in the same building that is now the Four Seasons Hotel in Seattle. It was a classy room for Seattle at that time and a good place to kick off the punk movement in town in style. The Meyce did a very good show in my opinion and the Ramones band and crew said some very encouraging things to us. The Ramones were just incredible. They did most of the tunes from their first two albums. They stayed in touch with all of my crew in Seattle over the next few years and Johnny and Dee Dee wore Chatterbox T-Shirts all over the place. Johnny wore it in the movie Rock and Roll High School. I have some 8MM film footage of part of the Meyce (pronounced Mice) performance that night that I will be including in a DVD that I’m compiling right now.
SPB: I love The Moberlys’ album Sexteen. I think everyone who loves punk or power pop should own a copy. Tell me about that CD. Is it the whole first Moberlys album plus some singles and some live tracks? What do you remember about making that album?
JB: It was done in a few different sessions. First there was the single that I released in January 1978, “Live In the Sun” backed with “She Got Fucked”, which made the album. That was prior to the formation of the Moberlys. The second session was at a “demo” studio owned by Seattle guitarist Mick Flynn. That line-up which included Jeff Cerar (who later helped form the Cowboys) recorded 5 songs and “Leave the Past Behind”, “I Trust You” and “When the Night Comes” are on “Sexteen”. The third session was backed by Brian Fox and self produced by the Moberlys and engineer Dave Perry. From that four song session “Don’t Fall into Darkness”, “Blow Your Life Away” and “I Want You” are included. We then went into Triangle Studios in Seattle and did a live broadcast for local commercial FM KZOK. From that “Country Fair”, “Papa Loves Mama”, “Love/Hate”, “You Don’t Give Me Love”, “I’m In Fire” and “Come and Gone” are included. After that Ned Neltner, who led a very successful local club band in the NW, Junior Cadillac (which also included original Wailer Buck Ormsby) took us into Paul Revere and Neil Rush’s (Marilee’s husband) studio. From that session came “Sexteen”, “Live In the Sun”, “Last Night”, “Lonesome Crying Sigh”, “Give Me Peace” and “You Know I Know”. Steve Grindle on bass and Bill Walters on drums were there from the beginning of the band. Jeff was replaced by Steve Pearson, who played one gig with us. Don Short, Pearson’s band mate in The Heats was in the band for a few rehearsals, as was Ben Fisher, who later co-wrote “Summertime Again”, “Hello Mary Jane” and “Middle of the Night”. Ben passed from cancer a few years ago and was one of my best friends. He and I wrote a number of other songs and had real chemistry together. Finally we hired Ernie Sapiro, who later replaced Jeff in The Cowboys. Ernie played on all of previously mentioned sessions besides the single and the Mick Flynn tapes. After the session with Neltner, due to a few rejection notices from major labels, Bill Walters left the band, soon to be followed by Ernie. Steve and I tried to keep going, but were unsuccessful in finding the right replacements. Bill Rieflin from The Blackouts and now REM helped us record a couple of tracks. Those were “We’ll Always Be in Love” and “Love is Beautiful”, which are both on “Sexteen”. After that session Steve joined a Rockabilly band and I joined a club band that was playing a lot of the same clubs as The Heats and The Cowboys called The Pins. After working with them for about 6 months I decided to move to NYC. Pearson later joined them after The Heats broke up and they changed their name to The Rangehoods. In NYC I put together a band and called it The Moberlys, to follow up on the LP and it’s underground success and we recorded a number of tracks some of which that were later included on the “Seattle-NY-LA” CD, but one of them, “I Return” was a standard of the first band, so I included it there.
SPB: Steve Pearson (The Heats) and Jeff Cerar (The Cowboys) were both early members of The Moberlys, did either of them play on any of the recordings? Do you still keep in touch with those guys? I saw that you participated in the Ian Fisher Tribute Concert at the Tractor a while back.
JB: Steve never did, but Jeff played on that Mick Flynn session. I keep in touch with most of those guys and was really happy to be able to contribute to the Ian Fisher Tribute at the Tractor. Ian and I lived together a couple of times during the beginnings of The Moberlys and The Cowboys and have always had fun together singing songs. Steve and I have played a lot of gigs together. He’s always appeared on my gigs and I used to always get up with his bands. We recently played a number of acoustic duo gigs together. I’ve often thought that a spectacular show would be Steve and me on guitar and Jack Hanan from The Cowboys and The Rockinghams on bass doing songs from The Moberlys, The Heats, The Cowboys, The Rangehoods, The Rockinghams and other songs of ours.
SPB: I think you eventually had three different versions of The Moberlys, the first here in Seattle, the second in New York and then a third in L.A., hence the album Seattle–New York–Los Angeles which made writer John M. Borack’s list of “The 200 Greatest Power Pop Albums.”
JB: The first Seattle line-up I went over pretty well. The NY line-up featured a couple of guys from Seattle, Dave Drewery and Al Bloch (Fastback Kurt’s brother) and a NY guy named Jeremy Bar-Illan. Jeremy was in the band before the Seattle guys and also after both returned to the west coast. He and I have stayed good friends over the years, though I’ve lost track of most of the other guys, except bassist Greg Morongell, whose cousin Mike Morongell and I became really good friends while I was in LA. Greg also sang some back-ups on Pop Top. Jeremy and I played with a rhythm section of NY guys from a band The Locals that I met through Anne Deon. I later was married to Anne in LA for a year and a half. Anne was Alan Vega from Suicide’s girlfriend when I met her and after that David Johansen’s for a lot of the time that I was playing in her band The Cool Tigers. Through her and by bumping around NY I met a lot of musicians and played and/or jammed with a lot of folks, including Alan, Johnny Thunders, The Smithereens, The Fuzztones and many others. I remember Madonna as a girl that used to hang out at Danceteria, a club that I performed at and hung out at on a regular basis. She was in a band called Breakfast Club with the first bass player that I played with in Anne Deon‘s band. I also met Billy Idol through Anne and Vega. I worked in a few record stores in Manhattan and met a number of the early pioneers of hip hop and rap like Grandmaster Flash, Kurtis Blow and Africa Bambatta.
SPB: Recently I’ve really gotten into The Modernettes (Vancouver B.C. band, circa 1980) and The Moberlys cover my favorite Modernettes’ song “Rebel Kind” on Seattle–New York–Los Angeles. Did you ever play any shows with the Modernettes back in the day? If so just how sexy was Mary-Jo Kopechne?
JB: The Modernettes are one of my favorite NW bands ever. I really like Buck and Randy’s songs. Mary was Buck’s girlfriend at the time and I never really looked at her as a sex object, probably for that reason. She was a “hottie” though. I should have named the album Vancouver-NY-LA, because almost all of the songs we recorded in the NW were up there. That band, with Dave Drewery, Toby Kiel and Glenn Oyabe used to play a lot in Vancouver. We were kind of outsiders in Seattle after I moved back there from NYC. We sort of carved out our own niche at the Central Tavern in Pioneer Square in Seattle because none of the main clubs that most of the bigger Seattle bands in the mid-80’s played at would let us work there. We really got the Central going in a direction that later spawned the grunge movement to flourish there in it’s infancy in the later 80’s. We moved to LA and were very prolific there, but never really got a push from the industry, other than recording a few songs with Peter Buck from REM producing for the EMI label. All 8 of the songs that he worked on with us were either released on Pop Top or Seattle-NY-LA. The band became again disappointed by the major labels reaction to our work and started splintering after we fired Drewery and replaced him with Fuzztones drummer Mike Czekaj. Mike and I were prolific writing partners in LA and knew each other in NYC, where I turned him on to The Sonics. He said that it was because of his performing “The Witch” with his band that he met the Fuzztones leader Rudi Protrudi. Mike and I wrote a number of songs that have become staples of my show over the years like “My Vision of You”, “What I Wouldn’t Do”, “Guilty”, “Red Light Moon”, “Love and Hate” “Don’t Wait Up For Me” and “Princess in Rags”.
SPB: After The Moberlys split-up you formed The Rockinghams, which like The Moberlys played a cool blend of punk and power pop but with a lot more distortion. Was that in reaction to the grunge sound that was prevalent in Seattle at the time?
JB: I don’t really believe that to be true. I started playing a Marshall because I finally got my hands on a good one. I did that more to emulate Johnny Thunders and all of the British punk guitarists like Steve Jones, Mick Jones, Captain Sensible and Tony James than any grunge artists. Thunders used to play the Marshall with the Fender Twin and that was what I did a lot of the time in the ‘Hams.
SPB: For the last ten years or so, with The Jim Basnight Thing and now The Jim Basnight Band, you’ve been playing a more sophisticated, more adult oriented style of pop music although it also has a certain childlike element to it. It’s a very idiosyncratic sound but I think I hear bits of The Rolling Stones, Van Morrison and Jonathan Richman. What led you in that direction?
JB: I don’t know why I do the music I do. I really love all of those artists that you compared it to. That is very flattering to be compared with such important artists. I’ve been listening to those artists for a long time. I played “Gloria” at my very first gig. My favorite Jonathan Richman song is “I’m Straight”. The “Johnny Hippie” that he refers to there reminds me of Johnny Thunders. Anything to do with the Beatles or the Stones is both unique and spotless. We were talking on the way to a gig the other day how either of those bands could play any note and it would sound right, especially notes that everyone tells you are wrong.
SPB: You played briefly in Johnny Thunders’ band. I assume he was sort of a hero of yours. What was that experience like?
JB: I played with Johnny in the summer of 1982 in NYC. The band consisted of Walter Lure, Billy Rogers, Johnny and I played bass. I guess his bass player was mad about something and I just filled in for a while. It was a meaningful experience to me. We played all of his tunes like “I Love You”, “Chinese Rocks”, “MIA” and “In Cold Blood” and covers like “Seven Day Weekend”, “These Boots” and “Ramblin’ Rose”. It was a blast. I didn’t make any money, but I had an amazing time. I saw Walter Lure when I was back in NYC playing solo a while back and it was really nice to see him still carrying on the torch of that incredible and unstoppable rock and roll band.
SPB: Tell me about Precedent Records. Is all of your music available now on CD?
JB: As a matter of fact we have all 6 of the CD’s available which include over 100 songs. There are also a number of songs that have been recorded but not released. I would say that there is a really fine album that would stand the test of time there amongst those 100 or so tracks. I’ve written about 500 songs and there are also a number of worthy songs that I only have cassette demos of that really have lasting appeal as well. I also have a number of films, videos and DVD’s that I’m in the process of compiling for use in a DVD. I’d like to release the DVD and the best of unreleased stuff as a two CD set.
SPB: Have you always made a living as a musician? Ever worked any day jobs?
JB: I’ve worked a few jobs in LA and NY in the 80’s, the last one in 1986. Since then I have only worked as my own boss. I was an investment broker in the late 80’s and early 90’s in LA. The next job I had other than playing gigs and selling my recordings was co-composing the musical comedy Little Rock. My next departure was booking and concert production in the late 90’s through about 2003. That was only so I could book my band as a side benefit and learn how to produce my own shows better. In mid-2005 I started running a sports site for Yahoo on the internet, which allowed me to travel. I published it and had a staff of writers. I owned the business, or franchise you might say. I just vacated that spot for someone else to run as of August 1st 2008. Having that extra income has allowed me to build up for my future and give me security, but now I feel that I can use the time better to promote my music full time again. It was also a good chance to learn a lot about the internet and web sites, while making money.
SPB: What are you working on now? Writing? Recording?
JB: I’m not writing much other than some songs with the other guys in the band right now. As I’ve mentioned I’ve got a lot of tunes and have written for all of my life. I’ve actually taken a break since I finished Recovery Room, but now that I’ve accomplished some important goals financially, I intend to start work on a whole new direction of writing as well as compile the two Disc set.
SPB: How about playing a show in Seattle? Anything scheduled?
JB: Right now we play once a month in Seattle, though we play about 15 dates or so a month in total. Right now those Seattle area dates are at the Twisted Cork in Bellevue, which is on the main floor of the Hyatt Hotel building. We will be playing much more in the greater Seattle area in the future.
The basic line up:
Jim Basnight – Guitar, Lead Vocals
Ernie Sapiro – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Steve Grindle – Bass, Backing Vocals
Bill Walters – Drums, Backing Vocals
1. Blow Your Life Away
2. Last Night
3. Give Me Peace
5. Live In The Sun
6. Leave The Past Behind
7. You Know I Know
8. Show Who You Are
9. Papa Loves Mama
10. Country Fair
11. I Want You
12. Don’t Fall Into Darkness
13. Love Is Beautiful
14. Lonesome, Crying Sigh
15. We’ll Always Be In Love
16. She Got F****D
All songs by Jim Basnight
This stuff is © Precident Records