Honestly, I’m not even sure how to begin this post. For me, so much history stems from this little 7″ that I find it rather difficult to wrap any meaningful net around the hundreds of thoughts that stream forth from seeing it and hearing it again.
In 1990, I was a Sophomore in High School. My musical career had been shared by a small group of friends who, like myself, were delving deeper and deeper into a sub-culture. We had already decided that music was for us as a creative outlet and had ditched trendy fashions and bought guitars and amplifiers swearing that we were punks. However, we were fueled by what we saw happening in cities like Washington DC and Olympia Washington. Our punk was not smash ’em up, but change ’em up and stand on our own feet as we decided (at the very least) what we didn’t want to be.
We formed a band. Originally called The Tazmanians. We went thru changes, learned our instruments a bit more and spent hours practicing in our parents basements, garages and friends houses. We played shows in those same locations for no one other than ourselves. We were a gang.
Then we decided that we needed to put out a 7″. It’s what bands did at the time. Something that documented your music that you could send to clubs to try and get shows. Something that you might also be able to trade for financial compensation making you feel a bit more legitimate as a band, doing it yourself.
However, being 1990, producing a 7″ was a mystery. An absolute, no idea, what are we doing mystery. So, like so many kids at that time, we wrote a letter (yes, a letter!) to the women who ran Simple Machines Records.
Located in Arlington, VA, Simply Machines was a sister label to Dischord Records. They had been releasing numerous 7″ singles and had a distinct style to how they approached their business. In addition, Kristin Thompson and Jenny Toomey had taken their experience learning how to press records and compiled it into a handy insert that they would happily send to any kid who asked for the reasonable price of one postage stamp. Which, at the time, was $0.25 cents.
We devoured this handy pamphlet and before long, we were off and running. We decided splitting costs with another band would be the most logical idea. None of us had any money and this thing was gonna cost some cash. Thus, we decided to split the 7″ with another local group called The Mad Planets. Featuring our friend Haim and his buddies Max and Bunky, they were playing a mod-revivalist sound and were the most prepared to record some songs.
We spent an afternoon recording at our friend Niles Martin’s house in Wyndmoor. As mentioned before on this blog, his father had some archaic recording equipment and it was free so we went for it. Obviously, the recording is pretty much horrendous on this 7″ but at the time it was the best we could do. I think we had some fantasy of what “mastering” was and believed that maybe that’s what would make it sound better when being cut to vinyl.
When we received the test presses, that wasn’t the case.
As for the cover, Max (the drummer for The Mad Planets) was a photographer. In fact, he had taken some amazing photos of Fugazi playing the Drexel parking garage in 1990 which I wish I still had but I digress. Max had shown me this photo of a plunger. I’m not sure why, but I liked it and so I decided that it would be used on the cover of the 7″. Being the defacto organizer and leader of Elbohead, our newly invented record label, I think I felt that I could make that decision. Definitely a little presumptuous on my part that’s for sure.
The cover art was compiled in my bedroom with some sharpie markers and photocopies. Again, not remotely understanding the process of off-set printing or how to get something to look professional for printing, I fumbled ahead and worked with a printer at the top of my street. It was a small little place that stunk of ink and chemicals and looking back now, the guy probably only ever printed place mats for restaurants and business cards. I’m lucky he was even willing to work with me on such a crack pot idea.
None the less, we printed the covers, xeroxed the inserts at Springfield High Schools Library copier (for free on the sly) and printed 300 copies of this little baby.
With that, Random Children and The Mad Planets had documented themselves, Elbohead had started, and we could actually consider ourselves on the path to leaving some sort of mark.
Fail To See