OK OK OK –
It is June and time for the Album of the Month. Drum roll — It’s Henry Boy! Now I’m gonna let Mr. Jenkins fill you in on the whole HBJ deal, but for me it is fairly simple. Almost knew HB from way back when, he was one of those guys who knew other people I knew and we were probably in the same room at some time or the other, but I don’t know that we ever exchanged more than a polite hello. Fast forward to last Xmas (or a while before) Howie sez to Henry Boy why don’t you make us an Xmas tune for the annual Xmas thing, which he did and a mighty fine tune it was. It had a line in it about “frothing the ‘nog” that I was so amused by that I made it the album title. Jolly! So now it’s June and Henry Boy is AotM. Thanks for pulling this together Howie! And thanks HB!
You can still stream or buy CDs and downloads at HBJ’s Bandcamp site.
The album opens with an a capella loop of the chorus from the title track, sung by me and Eric, a hint of whatʼs to come [lifted from the unreleased Play Hear project].
1. Just One Kiss – All the best fairytales have one; in true powerpop fashion, I flipped the
gender viewpoint. Mike and I would readily admit to “variations on a theme by The Neon Philharmonic” – specifically ʻMorning Girlʻ – when we co-wrote the bassline. The ham-fisted piano is me.
2. My Big Hello – I grew up listening to Howlinʼ Wolf, Willie Mae Thornton, and Muddy Waters. Throw that in a blender with a double major in the Fine Arts and Literature, shake it up with guest slide guitarist Brent Pennington and a case of Makerʼs Mark, and, well – I used to date a stripper, but she never let me into the shows. Featuring pianist Marina Snyder on Motown barrelhouse.
3. Summertown – Mike (featured here on ukelele) told me a story about falling asleep in his soup when he was a teen in London town; I was infatuated with Beatle photographer Astrid Kirchherr and gymnast twin girls I knew in the circus. I sang the trumpet part to Mike over the phone, he transcribed it for jazzer Greg Luke (former Deems Tsutakawa sideman). Marina tickled the ivories, Jay played a coffee can. Those are real crickets I trained to chirp in ⅔/4 time.
4. Every Single Time – allmusic.com had this to say: “The killer track is easily ʻEvery Single Timeʼ, as lovely a statement on how love can make one happy, confused, tongue-tied and more, with a great chorus and that rarest of things these days: a guitar solo that’s actually good and serves the song.” Thanks, guys! With subtle synth support work from Marina.
5. Kaleidoscope – This song was a labor of love, literally. Originally a Baroque/Bossa ballad written around the bassline and a melody from one of my ex-wifeʼs antique music boxes, I struggled with this one for almost four years before I had Jay come back in and play an all-new drum track over his previous one (harder than Martian Algebra, folks – trust me!), reworked ALL my guitar parts, added counterpoint solo lines, a backwards guitar solo, and rewrote (and rerecorded) the entire bridge INTO the existing track … on the fly! I cut the lead vocal in one take, based on its live performance mutation. Perfectionist, much? *sigh*
6. Buddha Home – My ex was gone for a week and left me at home with a case of Coppola Wineryʼs Director’s Cut Cabernet Sauvignon and a fresh box of tape. I finished the song – and the wine – over the weekend. Lord. We had a chalk board in the hallway where I wrote the first line. After that? Well, she came home to me in my Harry Nilsson bathrobe and the remainder of the lyrics written in purple chalk on the white walls of our home. To this day, Mike and Jay claim itʼs nigh impossible to decipher musically, so they make me play it solo. To punish me, Iʼm pretty sure. Or because the lyrics keep them in stitches. Your pick. Salute!
7. Last Man On The Moon – Powerpop Jazz from the darker side of my heart. I wanted saxophone on this tune, and Jay said he had a friend he could call. I was up late watching Letterman one night and caught Living Daylights performing a tune from their 2000 album, Electric Rosary. At our session the next morning Jayʼs pal showed up at Egg, sax in hand. I was totally blown away – it was Jessica Lurie! Iʼd just seen her on the tube, and here she was jamming on my obtuse little number. I was honored to have her, and it was a moment Iʼll never forget. Lovely person, astonishing musician.
8. Babylon – Angry. Young. Man. Opening with the cassette demo of my original chorus (“Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil babble”), this thing chews its way to the middle eight with the hammer all the way down. Jay is unbelievable on this track. Turn it up. No, ALL the way up. Now try your best not to play air drums. Dare ya.
9. Aeroplanes – My initial inspiration came on Friday, September 14, 2001. Three days before, families, a nation, and the world looked to the skies – once the domain of angels, clouds, and rainbows – with an unanswerable question. I stood in a crowd of thousands in downtown Seattle and realized that our simple belief in mankind had been shaken to its foundation. The collage at the end is a passage from my 1989 electronic chamber score The Boy Who Could Fly. Over time this songʼs meaning has become clearer to me on a more personal level, as it speaks directly to my battles with mental illness. And it is still true: love IS all you need. Practice peace. Breathe. More will always be revealed.
10. The Big Parade – The bedrock of this tour de force began life as a Play Hear “love-in extravaganza”, recorded between 1990 and 1994, and was completed with Jay overdubbing drums in 2003. Dogfight guitars, electric zither, harmonica, flute, toy percussion, jumprope rhymes – a veritable musical mystery tour in celebration of Universal Truth … and the Horizontal Tango. A choir of fourteen singers multitracked
eight times (yep – individual 112 voices) carry us home, swept up in The Big Parade. Play Hear. See you next Thursday! This is one of these.
All songs written by Henry Boy Jenkins
© 2004 Hankʼs House of Donuts (BMI)
Henry Boy Jenkins: Vocals, Guitars, Keys, Percussion, Bass
Mike Bristow: Bass, Ukelele
Jay Weaver: Drums, Percussion
with special guests:
Eric Erickson (track 10): Harmony Vocals, Keys, Bass, Guitar
Greg Luke (track 3): Trumpet
Jessica Lurie (track 7): Sax
Carl Miller (track 10): Harmonica
Brent Pennington (track 2): Slide Guitar
Conrad Uno: Occasional Bass and Percussion
The Sofa King Rock ʻnʼ Roll Choir (track 10): Erik Brauch; Jane Thornton; Eric, Mela,
and Megan Erickson; Connie and Jennifer Going; Henry Boy Jenkins; Carl Miller; Brian
and Miki Nelson; Marina Snyder; Conrad Uno; Jay Weaver
Produced by Henry Boy Jenkins and Conrad Uno
Engineered and Mixed by Uno and HBJ at Egg Studios
Mastered by Mark Guenther at Seattle Disc Mastering
Additional recording by HBJ at Toy Town Studios (tracks 9 and 10);
Eric Erickson and HBJ at The Batcave and Play Hear Studios (track 10)
Cover photography: Shirley DeMuth
Play Hear Videography: HBJ
Toy Wrangler: Hilarie Furnier
Package Design: Alisha Baker
Cover Concept and Artwork: HBJ
Published by Prehistoric Sounds 2004.
In memory of Eric Erickson: an extraordinary musician and my best friend.
To Be Played At Maximum Volume.
Henry Boy Jenkins history:
In February 1982 I met Eric Erickson, a fellow powerpop enthusiast, guitarist, and studio gear-head. We had both had our fill of the “music business”, he from the perspective of failed DIY attempts in California, me as the product of a 5-year run in the major label grind (to the tune of a then quarter-million dollar recording/touring agreement turned sour). Weʼd also found ourselves recently “left at the altar” – quite literally – by our then paramours. What better to do than begin recording music together? Within minutes we turned on a tape machine and never stopped until Ericʼs untimely passing at the age of 36. Our project – and band name – was Play Hear. We submitted our demo (and a video of the Hank TeeVee presentation of our Beatles parody “Magical Mystery Thing”) to Apple, who took two years to politely acknowledge that, had they not been forced to downsize their roster of new acquisitions, would have taken us in a heartbeat. So between Ericʼs death and the commercial success of Grunge over Powerpop, the tracks were left finished but unreleased. I was heartbroken for not only the loss of my music partner and best friend, but for the music weʼd made but left in the vault. I retired from playing and recording after nearly 20 years in the Seattle underground scene, working with Mark and David Guenther in the glam band Oh! Henry, the nascent industrial duetSub-Zero with Roland Barker, the aforementioned proto-New Wave rock group The Henry Boy Band, and guest stints with comedy-rockers The Squirrels. I popping out occasionally to write commercial jingles and theater bits for the One Reel Vaudeville Show.
I was brought back into the land of the living by fellow One Reeler bassist Mike Bristow (Weather Theater), and drummer Jay Weaver (Teatro Zinzani), both of whom worked as a rhythm section together in the renowned cajun band Howʼs Bayou? Theyʼd been approached by Irregular Records to contribute to their 1998 compilation “Americana: A Tribute to Johnny Cash”, and asked if Iʼd like to do something poppy. We cut my arrangement of ʻRing Of Fireʻ in the studio used by Kill Switch…Klick which rebooted my interest in recording pop again. We started learning the Play Hear songs, but Mike and Jay really pushed me to write new material, and to rediscover songwriting and recording, letting my heart heal through the work.
Eric and I had been fairly fast friends with the Young Fresh Fellows, Fastbacks, and many of the artists working with the indie house PopLlama Recording engineer/producer Conrad Uno and I rekindled our friendship and set about recording The Big Parade. I was teamed-up with Mark Guenther again, now in the capacity of mastering engineer rather than “kid brother/glam drummer”. After four years of writing, woodshedding, recording, and performing (plus a handsome financial windfall), The Big Parade went to print in 2004. I kept my given first name, but have since added my family name out of respect for my father after his unexpected passing in 2009.
Principal recording for a follow-up album was begun in 2005 with Mike and Jay, and guitarists Brent Pennington and Rob Wecker, but was left “in the can” due to my struggles with mental illness and the daily challenges faced therein. My hope is to initiate a Kickstarter campaign to get that album (which Uno calls “the Henry Boy Opus”) mixed, mastered, and released by this time next year. Four of the fifteen songs are “release ready”; costumer Aine Branch and photographer The Venomous Swan are tapped for the graphics, and Iʼll be doing the design and layout for packaging, as I did for Parade.
Iʼve begun performing publicly again after a 3-year hiatus, and Iʼm looking forward to making more passionate pop and progressive rock in the coming year. Based on the positive results from my Christmas tune ʻKiss Me Under the Mistletoeʼ on last yearʼs Green Monkey holiday compilation Frothing The Nog, it looks like the right time to share some jangle-poppinʼ goodness with like-minded individuals.
Thanks for letting me tell you about myself, my muzzos, and The Big Parade. I hope you enjoy it! Look for me on Bandcamp,Youtube, and Facebook. As Miss Penny Lane would exuberantly declare: “Itʼs all happening!”
Peace & Love