Christmas 1989

December 22, 1989
Christmas 1989
various artists cassette
[SDK-2589] color copied stickers on soft shell cases, photocopied inserts, dot matrix labels

The 1989 SLAMDEK/Scramdown Christmas tape begins with those little tones, stolen right off any Capitol/EMI Records cassette. Released just three days before Christmas, it sold a total of 92 copies at $2.98 each. Forty of those at ear X-tacy (next to Great Escape) on the first day, and the other 52 spread out between Ken’s Records, Shred Threads, and Sundancer over the next year until it fizzled out of print.

The tape was compiled by Joey Mudd and I, with a contribution by Lee Fetzer. With thirteen songs at the price of a cassette single, by ten local bands, it had a variety of different styles and recording qualities. It introduced five new artists making their recording debuts, while the other five offered songs unavailable elsewhere. The tape was split into two sides, the Easy Listening Side, and the Difficult Listening Side. Starting the tradition of Slamdek Christmas tapes, this release also began the tradition of lengthy
liner notes with plenty to read.

“The 1989 SLAMDEK/Scramdown Christmas Record consists of many things that may be of interest to followers of these bands, but few things that are suitable for a high price. So as a gift, they have been assembled for your
inexpensive consumption. Not necessarily because these ten bands go well together, or because they have holiday themes, but because if you like one song out of the thirteen, or are turned on to something you’ve never heard before, we’ll consider it a successful sale. Depending on your taste, you may enjoy them all. We hope so.

“One thing this 1989 Christmas Record will not lack is an abundance of liner notes. Don’t it just put a coal in your stockin’ when you buy a tape and there’s nothing to read? Might as well have bought a bundle of switches. To better inform yourself about what you’re listening to (so you can converse knowledgeably with your friends) it would be in your best interest to continue reading.

“We will, no doubt, probably receive at least one response that this so-called Christmas ‘Record’ is a tape and should be called a Christmas tape instead. The 1987 compilation was also a tape and was called a Christmas ‘Album.’ The word ‘record’ is short for ‘recording’ and an ‘album’ is a collection of individual pieces of art; neither term necessarily implies a flat, round, vinyl object. Both can be in the form of a cassette. OK? Now that we’ve defined our terms. We should also let you know that ‘D.A.T.’ is not a word and should be pronounced ‘dee ay tee.’ If you, at any point in your life, have said ‘dat’ and expected it to mean ‘Digital Audio Tape,’ we feel that you are sorely mistaken. Merry Christmas anyway.”

The first song is Hopscotch Army’s “Anesthesia,” recorded live to DAT on Halloween night 1989 at Tewligans. A studio version of this song was recorded for their Belief album in 1991. “Fasten me in the pillow seat, bouncing off the cruelty, cushioned from a society that hates itself sincerely. Breaking down on broken knees, much to fat to beg or plead, until it eats itself in greed. Take me away. Anesthesia. We’re drenched in shame, we’re all to blame for hurting ourselves and hurting each other.”

Sister Shannon, 1989: Robin Wallace and Greta Ritcher, wearing a Slambang Vanilla shirt.

Spot is next with their acoustic version of “Skate For Fun,” recorded on Derby Day 1989 to commemorate the one year anniversary of the band’s breakup. This was then also featured as one of four bonus cuts on their Proud release. Credited in the liner notes for playing on this song were, “Breck Pipes on guitar, Joey Mudd singing with Wiffie and Hobie from Your Face, and Mark Denny and K Scott from McBand.” “Get up, get dressed, grab my board, eat my toast, goin’ out to have some fun. Skating for fun, not sitting around being a fucking bum, baby.”

Slambang Vanilla follows with two tracks. The first is a Christmas song recorded in December of 1989 called “Under Your Tree (Stuff My Stockin).” The second song is from the Memphis Sessions and a Smokin’ Word LP and is called “Have a Slice of My Sugarloaf (Lump).” Playing guitar and singing is Col. Vanilla “Truckstop” McEnos [me], doing backups, the wahwah, and a handful of sixty cents (two quarters and a dime) is Jesus Rosebud [Joey]. There’s also a track of sleigh bells played by Tishy Quesenberry of Your Face. “Under you tree I’m waiting to be ripped open, bows on my head, I’m the biggest gift under your freshly cut evergreen child. Check it mamma, I’m invisible tape, open me gently not to rip my skin. I’m at the top of your tree shining’ down on your fat cousin.”

Sister Shannon is the fourth band. This is Robin Wallace singing and Greta Ritcher on guitar. Both were at this time is Litterbug Dixiecup a short-lived band that never played out, which Robin and Greta formed after Your Face but before Sister Shannon became a four piece. It was originally called Litterbug Dicksucker, to which there is a song dedication on the Crawdad cassette. This song is called “Romp” and is a digital recording made in December 1989 at the Ritchers’ house for the Christmas tape. “Kiss the sky, the horizon bleeds and sucks its thumb. Is this the taste of blood? Perhaps it is the taste of love, they say love leaves a bitter taste. We do, we do, we do this thing. We take it in and get nothing. Bite the ground, the dirt is wet and turns to mud. It fills my mouth like food. A mouth full of mud is better than nothing to eat at all, but I am hungry for something more.”

Original soft shell version of the Christmas 1989 cassette cover. The first fifty were made in this style, and the second fifty were in normal Norelco® cassette cases.

“Close Enough To See” by Danny Flanigan of Hopscotch Army is the sixth song. This was recorded in November 1989 at DSL [which was actually still Juniper Hill by another name]. Danny was beginning to play solo acoustic performances while still in Hopscotch Army and did more of the same after leaving the group, before forming the Rain Chorus. He also self released two solo cassettes during this span. “Looking starward, outer space. Mars may as well be Africa. In our hometown daily lives most of us live well enough not to worry. And we close our eyes, look the other way, when we see grocery cart people trying to survive. Hunger isn’t far away, it’s close enough to see. Not so far away, it’s close enough to see, and we’re close enough to feed. What a job, keeping warm by keeping busy. And the meals don’t come so steady, it all depends on what you find that someone might buy. One man’s junk and aluminum cans.”

Not Just Another Dog closes side ones with “Theo.” This is a 4-track recording made in May 1989. The involved were Lee T. Fetzer of Endpoint, Jocko C.M. Penn, and Brad B. Buchanan. This song was provided at the last minute as yet another gift to those interested. “The other day just seems so far away from now, can’t even comprehend the prize of fate.”

The second side, the Difficult Listening Side, opens with Endpoint doing two songs live. The first one was a new one called “Model.” The second was “Face” and can be found in its original form on If The Spirits Are Willing. Both songs were later recorded for their In A Time Of Hate album on Conversion. This was recorded in December 1989 at St. Francis High School. At this time Endpoint was Rob Pennington singing, Jason Graff on bass, drummer Lee Fetzer, and Duncan Barlow and Chad Castetter (spelled wrong in the liner notes as “Castenater”) on guitars. “You talk a lot of shit, your life is such a lie, garbage pours from your lips, why do you even try. Try to be yourself.”

“Climb To Power” from X Able To Act X [uh, pronounced as Able To Act] is tenth. It was recorded at practice in April 1988. Spot vocalist Joey Mudd on bass, Todd Lambert on the vocal chords, Chad Talbott playing drums, and Robin Pudding [Tim Furnish] on guitar. The band never put out any records or played a show.

“Guard” and “Hurt,” are live Cerebellum songs from Karen Sheets’ basement show in March 17, 1989. They were recorded on a jam box by Karen. “You’re not impressing anyone, so put that image on the shelf. Why don’t you put your guard down? Guard!”

December 7, 1989: Slambang Vanilla’s rejection letter from Atlantic

The thirteenth and final song is “Worship” from Crawdad. This is a digitally recorded practice tape from November 1989. The liner notes plugged, “their live cassette and home video will probably be out soon, both at ridiculously low prices to encourage massive cash register turnouts.” The cassette was shyly released in May 1990, and the home video was shot but never edited nor released. “You’re on your knees, looking at the sky, watching the motions, I’m wondering why. I’ll put you out, out in the rain. I’ll give you shelter from this pain. You’re on your knees, it’s looking you in the eye. Tell me what you see, do you see a thing?”

The bottom of the back cover of the cassette read, “This cassette should cost you no more than $2.98 plus tax. If it does, please call 1-800-729-6616. All material (except *) previously unreleased. Home taping is theft. If you like these bands, please don’t steal their music. … Special thanks to Karen Sheets. Good luck Breck. Merry Christmas to all.”

The message to Breck Pipes was on the occasion of his family’s move to Jacksonville, Florida. This spelled demise for Crawdad, who had only been together seven months. At his new home, he opened a skateboard shop, Deep End, named after an earlier venture he and Joey had taken into hand screening and selling Spot shirts. A year later Breck drove to Louisville for a Crawdad reunion show at the Zodiac Club, December 3, 1990. By then, Sister Shannon, who opened the show, had become a full fledged band, as had Sunspring, who barely filled the rest of the bill by making a short, shaky debut. In February 1991, Breck closed the doors on his shop and moved back to Louisville, sharing half of my one bedroom efficiency apartment on Everett Avenue. Soon after his return to Louisville, he joined Sister Shannon as a second guitarist. This made Sister Shannon even more so into a hybrid of Your Face (Greta Ritcher and Robin Wallace) and Crawdad (David Ernst, Kevin Coultas, and Breck).

The insert to Christmas 1989 also included a reproduction of the rejection letter Slambang Vanilla received from Atlantic Records. Joey and I had typed up a phony press release about the “hot new act from Nitro, West Virginia” and sent it to several publications as a joke. CMJ actually ran a small blurb about The Smokin’ Word LP in an early December 1989 issue, thinking the band had several records out, and better yet, was a real band. Within a few days, an Atlantic A&R rep left a message on my answering machine requesting a copy of the Slambang Vanilla cassette. This took the two of us pranksters totally by surprise as we had no idea the piece was actually printed in CMJ. Hopscotch Army manager Gary Deusner recognized the prank as Slamdek handiwork while flipping through his copy of CMJ, and called the Slamdek 1-800 number to make sure we knew it was in there. This success only fueled the Slambang Vanilla joke-turned-obsession engine, and made the stupid cause all the more unstoppable. We celebrated with a trip to Pizza King (“the proof is in the taste!”) across the river in New Albany, Indiana.