November 17, 1989
The Memphis Sessions & A Smokin’ Word LP cassette
[HAHX-1799] color copied inserts, dot matrix labels
This could be a perfect example of the humorous side of Slamdek, but is more likely an inaugural entry for the “joke-turned-obsession” department. Slambang Vanilla’s debut cassette was merely Step One in a really bad joke. A joke that proved, time and time again, to be perceived by many and understood by few. From the very beginning, Slambang Vanilla went way too far.
It began in September 1989, when I was home recording Cold Mourning songs on an Akai Betamax ten track machine I borrowed from Todd Johnson. An old friend of my brother, Todd was then playing guitar in Domani, an easy going, classy Louisville pop band signed to MCA. Late one night Joey Mudd and I, who were virtually inseparable, began goofing off. After recording “Ground,” a serious song Joey had been working on for guitar, we began recording stupid music that couldn’t belong to a genre if it wanted to. The next couple weeks passed quickly as we worked diligently together, and occasionally with Breck Pipes, multitracking a vast collection of inane nonsense. Some songs were carefully planned with an Emulator drum machine, sequenced bass lines, samples, and layered instrumentation. Others were sporadic using cardboard boxes, pocket change, and desks as percussion, overlaid with the sixties sounds of a massive PolyMoog synthesizer. Most of the songs were about a minute and a half in length. Nearly all of them featured the Jesus Rosebud Axe. This cheap acoustic guitar with cheesy nylon strings had been rescued from a dumpster and repaired by my resourceful grandfather, Truman Cecil, years earlier.
With an in house DAT machine, mixing was a breeze. The eight songs that comprise side one were finished, were hilarious, and were a secret. Joey and I took a weekend trip to Nashville, and to visit friends Kelly Kemper and Marcy Berns in Bowling Green, Kentucky. I had met Kelly and Marcy through Ben Godbey, my neighbor, when he went away to school at Western Kentucky University. The two girls had taken an interest in Slamdek, and did their best to spread the word about it among their friends. Even after Ben left WKU and moved to Maryland, weekend excursions (“spy missions”) to Bowling Green were still frequent. Over the course of this particular trip, Joey and I were discussing what to do with the “songs” we had recorded. On the way home from Nashville, we decided that when we arrived home we would tell everyone we had been to Memphis. Furthermore, that we had visited historic Sun Studios on Union Avenue, and recorded some songs. I had some pictures of the studio from a recent vacation. With the story, the trip, the photos, and the songs, we had the making of a serious joke. All we needed was something to call it. The graphically suggestive name of an innocent flavor of Batman & Robin ice cream, “Slam! Bang! Vanilla,” filled that bill. Over four years later, friends as close as Tim Furnish and Duncan Barlow both threw fits when they found out Slambang Vanilla didn’t actually record at Sun Studios.
The eight songs on side one cover the huge, full spectrum of stupidity. The first track, “Vanilla Anthem,” is so subtly played that its sparseness and fragility provide the kind of ticklish laugh you’d get if a miniature animal walked in the palm of your hand. The vocals were telephoned in from the other end of the house and recorded from a speaker phone. The second song, “Ground,” is a serious, touching acoustic guitar song, and has no business being included on this cassette. Perhaps it thickens the joke by planting the suggestion that this tape isn’t a joke at all. Maybe the thought grows that it’s not talented people being stupid on purpose; it’s genuinely bad music with this one song being an exception. The remainder of the songs, with memorable moments such as:
“Well there’s a baby, looks like a girl, runnin’ down the street, runnin’ in the rain. Look like heaven, honeychild, sing it one more time.” [from “Pixagogo Baby”].
“Honeychild, you know what you wear, white galoshes running in the rain, baby.” [from “Have a Slice of My Sugarloaf”].
“I’m thirsty, lookin’ for somethin’ to drink… I found somethin’ called an Orange Cow, a’mooo, Orange Cow, a’moooo.” [from “Milk Me (whydon’tcha)”].
And who could forget the touching, “Slap my bottom mama, I’m a real bad boy. Microwave muffin, I’m a helltrain rollin’, yeah. Frozen lips speakin’, present the gargoyle token, honeychild. Honeychild. Honeychild. Honeychild. Present the gargoyle token.” [from “Rock n’Roll Metal Epilogue”].
Or the beautiful, “I’ve got a lot of lovin’ to do, I’m a lonesome cowboy lookin’ at you. Treat me nice, cream my ice, baby pluck my buck.” [from “Baby Pluck My Buck”].
All are instant “classics.”
The Slambang Vanilla (SBV) mystique is enhanced by the fact that the musicians listed are Slambang Rosebud (aka Joey) and Colonel Vanilla “Truckstop” McEnos (aka your “author”). The thank you list includes at least two hundred entries, dozens of which are jokes as well (Hugh Flungpoo, Phil McKrevis, Mona Lott, Rusty Bedsprings, etc.). And along with the lyrics, a complete song-by-song detailing of every piece of equipment used in the recording process is listed. The equipment liner notes are exact all the way down to the name brand and model number of the microphones, effects pedals, guitar picks (including color and thickness), specific instruments (“National Audio Company cardboard box”), and the amount of pocket change used as percussion (“sixty cents: two quarters and a dime”).
A portion of the Slambang Vanilla Memphis Sessions thanks list (left), and inside fold out “artwork” (right). Actual length 16 1/2 inches.
Side two, A Smokin’ Word LP, is an equally silly story all its own. This “inspired” nine minute piece of work was recorded in several hours direct to DAT very late one night when my parents were out of town. It consists of a collection of about ten selections of spoken, shouted, whispered, and otherwise delivered “poetry.”
The words of Slambang Vanilla’s Smokin’ Word LP perhaps speak best for themselves. While the brilliance of the inflection and delivery is not here, here is a transcript of a majority of this timeless work of art (rhymes with fart).
“I’m a raging flame. Extinguish my fury. Hot hydrant Sterno feast. Throw me on the
grille. Yeaaaahh! Slide your marshmallows onto my stick. Torch your skin baby, baby, baby, I’ll light your wick. Smokin’ fondue marshmallow ride. Hot sassafras tricklin’ down my thigh. Hot sassafras not a stick in the eye. Hot sassafras peeling the skin. Hot sassafras against my lily white ass.”
“Fishin’ for love baby, bite my bait. Wishin’ to catch your catfish, I’m your schooner mate. Castin’ my reel for ya, mama. Mercy, what a fine catch. Oh honey, hit the deck. I’ll hush your puppy. What the heck. Well, I’m diggin’ in your boat of crunchies, with a Dr. Nehi in my hand. If you wanna order up some shrimp, darlin’, you’ve come to the wrong man. Well, shake it up, catchin’ catfish, cashin’ in. Butter it up, I’m your tartar sauce lover. Break it up, hit the deck under my covers. Eat it up, child, from your pleasure smorgasbord. You think I’m a chicken plank, you don’t know what you’re seein’. Surprise in my private cabin, I’m the chicken of the semen… (but maybe I’m a Leo).”
“Navajo fantasy pow wow. Passion warrior, Geronimo showed me how. Mama. Sitting Bull, fixing do charge. Sending out smoke signals, my message is at large. Wigwam lover, Winnebago shock absorber. Iroquois mutton chop, Chickasaw cream crop. Wigwam lover, Winnebago shock absorber. Iroquois mutton chop! Chickasaw cream crop! Navajo fantasy pow wow! Passion warrior, Geronimo showed me how! Sitting Bull, fixing do charge! I’m sending out smoke signals! My message is at large! Winnebago! Iroquois mutton chop! Chickasaw cream crop! Iroquois mutton chop! Chickasaw cream crop! Iroquois mutton chop! Chickasaw cream crop! Iroquois mutton chop! Chickasaw cream crop! Iroquois mutton chop! Chickasaw cream crop! Sending out smoke signals, my message is at large. Yes, it’s going down. Teepee. Shoe. Leatherback. Pow. Reservation.”
“Hot dog constrictor at the Pleasure Chow Wagon. Your stomach is grumblin’, my pelvis is naggin. You’re the damsel in distress. Come and slay my pelvic dragon. Come and slay my pelvic dragon.”
“My heart’s flying like an aeroplane. My brain’s pouring like the rain. Oooh wee mama, your fancy tongue’s driving me insane. I would like to fluff your pillow, your pillow, your pillow, and hold you real tight, ’cuz I am a bright eyed bombing love Commanche who loves your sweet lips. Come on, you howlin’ banshee, shake them turbine hips. You make me shimmy to my knees, and make me whine, oooh weee, aauggh, yeah, yeah. Because you can lace me up, and double tie me, and fray me, knot me. Mother. Keeper. I’m trash.”
“There’s an itch that lurks in um, a body. Far, far away. But…”
…and that’s how it ends! The listener is left with the obvious question, “But what?”
While The Memphis Sessions & A Smokin’ Word LP cassette only sold a pathetic 34 copies, possibly twice that number were given away. Everyone who knew Joey and I during that era could not have escaped hearing it way too many times. And we made shirts, too. Had all of this time and energy been poured into our regular bands, it could’ve worked wonders. But that would’ve been too logical. Joey was singing in Crawdad, and I was playing guitar in McBand. Both Crawdad and McBand formed during the same week in June 1989. The other members of McBand were Richard Epley on drums, Chris Scott (Spot) on bass, and Mark Denny singing. McBand (also called the Mystery Creme Band) never recorded or played out, though three songs that ended up on the Sunspring $1.50 Demo were originally McBand tunes.
When Slambang Vanilla eventually began recording again, it became painfully clear that SBV may never die. At least friends could look forward to hearing different SBV material, instead of The Memphis Sessions & A Smokin’ Word LP again.
Another useful function of the SBV cassette was that it continued the growing tradition (for the fifth year) of releasing something on November 17th each year. It may not have been an earth shattering release, but it was something.
Have a Slice of My Sugarloaf
Milk Me (whydon’tcha)
Pixagogo House Remix Baby
Baby Pluck My Buck
Rock n’Roll Metal Epilogue
Smokin’ Word LP