Northwest Underground rock 1980 'til the End of Time


Sept. 2020: Jon Strongbow – Alien City

Good September to you –

Jon Strongbow magic handsI write this on the 13th. In Olympia the skies are gray with smoke from western forest fires, one result of climate change. Masked in public, we stay inside and hide from the virus. We are less than two months from the election that I hope will end the reign of America’s worst president. The Black Lives Matter movement does not seem to be fading away and that gives me hope for real change. These are interesting times at minimum.

“Toujours gai! Toujours gai!” says Mehitbel!

So what is the haps this month? Strongbow. Jon. Alien City.

Jon Strongbow is a nearly-hidden Pacific Northwest wonder, with six albums of his songs and another six albums of his instrumental music, most with his band Mystery School. He is an author and a graphic artist with multiple books and art prints which he sells at the Pike Place Market, where he is a community fixture.

Jon Strongbow ALIEN CITYAlien City was originally released in 1979, a brilliant gem, long lost in the rubbish heap of time. There was no Jon Strongbow in those days, just a fellow named Tornbow, a member of a band named Rough Draft, who wrote all the material and had the grand plan.  I’d been in A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Jon (he played Puck of course) back in our Olympia high school days, but did not know him well.

In 1979 I was working at a Seattle record store with our pal Howie in the punk rock days when his LP came in. I’ve owned it ever since. (In ‘89 I recorded an LP with Jon, Something Different, which we will reissue soon, along with a lot more of his catalog.) Jon put a lot of music on this LP and as a result, the fidelity was not great.

Escape from The Alien CityFast forward to 2014, mastering engineer Steve Turnidge gets his hands on the tracks and reveals the true gem. It is a wandering pop/rock masterpiece. Ray Davies meets Bowie in a sprawling non-linear western space time adventure.

From the original cover notesALIEN CITY was composed over a period of five years. It is a song cycle of epic proportions centered around the Incarnation of Celestial Visitors to this planet. They take youthful bodies with the soul mission of increasing the intelligence of the human race. Alas, in their compassionate endeavors they become trapped in the pernicious web of the world and their aim becomes warped and sarcastic. In taking mortal bodies they lose their reference point, their center of gravity, and they eventually become depraved and stupid as the people they initially intended to illuminate. There is no story line; no characters are formally introduced. The work is arranged in four movements:

I.                 When Everything Is Too Fast Too SoonALIEN CITY 2

II.                When Everything Is All Wrong

III.              When Everything Is Alright

IV.              When Everything Is Nothing

(the LP contained only the first two movements)

How was this jewel found? When Steve Turnidge had it land in his lap, it was basically as a favor for a friend. Steve was enraptured and became the album’s champion. You can read an insightful interview with Jon and Steve by our friend the late, great Frank Gutch Jr. here:

Steve eventually sent a copy of the remaster to Green Monkey. The loop was closed and the dye was cast. This new beautifully remastered edition contains 5 previously unreleased bonus tracks from the Third and Fourth movements, as well as a slightly reduced, slightly edited version of the original LP insert.

So good.

There is a 12 page history of the project written by Jon on his GMR Artist page that you will definitely want to check out.

Other things are progressing.

I sent out the benefit Christmas album notice last week. It could be you! Record your Xmas masterpiece and send it out way my November 1 and you might be in!

I am 99% done with remastering Beautimus and other sounds of the Ninties and quite likely to release it next month. Beware!

The Peter Barnes – I Helped album is chugging along.

I have digitized Richard Peterson’s first single and first two albums, and will be releasing them soon as well. This will make his full catalog available to the entire world. Pretty great!

That’s all, folks.

td September 2020

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