Most of the tunes sound as if they were recorded on a cassette deck using a tape Oblivian found in a dusty corner, taping over the little square holes so he could reuse it. And that fits the production style and musical approach of these songs perfectly.
Heathens – “Steady Girl”
The people involved in bringing this archival gem to light are calling it “the first garage rock record ever made.” Cut in 1956 at Sun Studio, this tune was written and recorded by five Memphis teenagers. Unusual for its time, the band included a girl, Kaye Garren, who co-wrote the song and penned the modern-day essay that accompanies the single. The recording is quite professional sounding (fidelity wise, and though the essays explains that the performance was deemed “too raw” for release, to current-day ears it sounds much like the modern primitive style of groups like The Cramps and Tav Falco. The group is pretty loose, yes, but as is so often the case whenever one is speaking of “garage” music, the enthusiasm, verve and spirit more than make up for any technical shortcomings. The song itself is pretty good for a bunch of teens, especially when one considers they didn’t have the whole of rock history to draw upon for their ideas. The sixties’ garage mine has pretty well been stripped (or so we think), but the existence of this tape – two not-terribly-different-from-one-another runthroughs – leads one to wonder what other unheard, raw and primitive gems are out there.
In our recent tribute to Memphis songwriters, Greg Cartwright singled out one local bard who single-handedly inspired him to a higher level of songwriting: Jack Oblivian. And that nod to his writing is borne out not only by his contributions to the Compulsive Gamblers and the Oblivians, but in his solo work. His streak of great songs continues unabated with this year's spring release, Lost Weekend (Black & Wyatt), credited to Jack Oblivian & the Dream Killers.
Opossums' self-titled debut is being released by Black and Wyatt Records on glorious vinyl (and digital streaming and download), with a release show at B-Side on Friday, July 26th. Dennis Black and Robert Wyatt, pediatricians who met at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital and bonded over a mutual love of music, head the label, which specializes in plumbing the depths of the Memphis underground scene.
With foreigners and asylum-seekers now becoming the objects of some folks' daily two-minute hate, it's worth noting the value of immigrants in the Memphis music scene. Guitarist Mario Monterosso has been in Memphis more than two years, but he's not the first Italian to seek a fortune in the Bluff City.
Jack Oblivian has a new record out called “Lost Weekend”. Everyone’s been pretty excited about the Oblivians playing out lately, and this album just adds to the excitement. As far back as 2009/10, he had been thinking about taking all these home recordings he had been doing and putting together a cassette-only “mixtape” sort of thing.