The record pictured above is probably one of the most important records (to me) that I will ever put on this blog. This record is responsible for vastly altering my ideas of music and changing the way I've thought about it since hearing this for the first time. It's just as important to me, musically, as THE MINUTEMEN'S "Double Nickels on the Dime", seeing the CRAMPS when I was 12, hearing the HICKEY LP for the first time, meeting my friend Harry and experiencing my first live IMPRACTICAL COCKPIT show. I came across it at Sunburst Records in Huntsville, AL when I was absentmindedly flipping through the new releases (which is weird since this thing came out in 83, but recorded in the mid-70's) one day in 1996. All of a sudden, this freak (pictured above) was staring me in the eyes and I didn't know what to think of it. I mean, how do you pass up a record with scrawled handwriting all over the cover, accompanied by THAT guy with band aids all over his face? Well, I couldn't pass it up. I bought it immediately without knowing anything about it and I remember Jay (the store owner) looking at it and saying "What the fuck is this, man?"
When I first put it on, I was a little disappointed. This was just like...lounge music or something. I had some bummed out visions of those people who buy "Exotica" records and think they're really wild. I almost picked up the needle off of the record, but then it started to get weird. It started to delve into a cacophony of horns and weirdness that was approaching free jazz and straight up noise. The arrangements would flow out into a mess that sounded unstructured, out of tune and completely out of focus...but then it would all come back together in one big swell that sometimes worked, sometimes didn't, but I fucking loved it. This record grew on me over the years and started to inform the way I approached music and helped me to gain a better understanding and appreciation of the true freaks of the music world.
But who ARE these people? That's the question that took me a few years to figure out (I didn't use the internet until 2001, plus no one I knew used it in the 90's anyway). It was next to impossible to find out any info about them in books or zines. The closest thing I found was a tiny blurb in the book Incredibly Strange Music but even that hardly said anything worth noting. After a while, I found out that this was from my very own home state of Alabama! The liner notes say that some of these songs were recorded in a stage production and a musical. After more digging, I found out that the group that played on this Fred Lane LP (the group consists of 21 people) had worked previously on another LP called "Raudeluna's 'Pataphysical Revue", which was recorded live at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa in 1975. It was basically a variety show that consisted of deranged swing standards, noisy improvisations, hardware store noise, a "Concerto for Active Frogs" and more.They needed an M.C. for the night, so they chose their friend Tim Reed, who renamed himself Fred Lane. The record sounds crazy, fucked up and beautiful and I love that it happened in front of a live audience at a school in Alabama. Between the noisy improv, pre-recorded applause, and door prizes (4 used tires), most of the audience walked out.
Before this even, a core group of folks from this band were hosting group paintings and jam sessions at their house where prior experience wasn't necessary. This was the beginnings of this whole scene of people and improv musicians that continues to thrive to this day. Around this time, the guitarist Davey Williams met and started a longtime collaboration with LaDonna Smith (both on this Fred Lane LP) that continues to this day (incidentally, I saw them perform a performance art piece in Montevallo, AL when I was 12 or 13 that was a pivotal moment in my life that helped me to realize that "something else" was out there beyond mainstream music, beyond suburbs and beyond what I had ever even thought about. It meant a lot to me.).
Anyway, let me get back to the point here. Apparently, this record ("From the One That Cut You") was literally inspired by a crude note scrawled on brown paper, wrapped around a bowie knife, found in a secret compartment in a 1952 Dodge panel truck when some friends (the owners) came by a house in order to repaint it, in order to elude capture by the naval police. The note, a sort of love/threat/confession inspired Tim (Fred Lane) to write the song, the stage show and create the character who performs the song...all from three sentences written by someone named Fuear. (This info comes straight from an article by Joe Tepperman) The note read " I hope the paine is gone. This is the one that cut you? P.S. Don't wear about Jimmy I will take kear of him the same way I took kear of YOU".
There was a third album called "Radio Car Jerome" that came out in 1986 and a lot of people seem to love it, but I found it to be too structured and a little hokey. It didn't have the fucked up spark of the previous LP and a lot of the improv was gone. There was also an idea for a fourth LP called "Icepick to the Moon" but it never got past the idea stage and maybe that's for the best. A guy named Skizz Cyzyk has been working on a documentary about Fred Lane for 10 fucking years now and I wish it would come out already. I wrote to him once, asking questions about it and he never wrote me back. If you want to read more stuff about Fred Lane, Say Day Bew Records or the early Alabama improv scene, be sure to click over to the Raudelunas site. Be careful though because it can lead you down a wormhole of misinformation and internet time-suck. Apparently, this crew of folks loves embellishment and Dada-ist wordplay.
Also, I could talk about this record and Alabama for another 3 pages, but I will spare you. If you want to talk more about it, get in touch and I will bore you to tears.