Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Making Of TeenBeat Mayhem! (Part One)

Hmm.... so, where do I start?
The book provides some background on the rock & roll road I traversed, from discovering and collecting the hits and non hit 45s released during the 1960s as a 13 year old teenager in 1976, all the way to finally completing TeenBeat Mayhem! and getting into the eager hands of fellow fanatics worldwide.  I won't rehash the story here, however, I will go into some detail as to how the book evolved from an idea to a 400 page, hardcover reference behemoth over the course of 20 years....

By 1981, I was already die-hard into the sounds of '60s garage.  I bought every compilation I could get my hands on, and a few years later, I slowly started buying the cheaper priced original label 45s ($30 and under) from other collectors and specialist record dealers, like Texans Doug Hanners and David Shutt.  I also met my pal Seve DiCo who also had lots of 60s garage tunes - he didn't spend time and money buying original 45s; most of his '60s garage song collection were on LP comps and on cassettes.  He had been buying dubs of cassette tapes via mail order from a guy who in turn bought the tapes originally created by legendary collector Hans Kesteloo, called "The Never Ending Trip".  I think there were at least 40 volumes produced.  Hans started making these tapes of 45s from his collection around 1978; even Greg Shaw took some songs off of Hans' tape series to use in the Pebbles series.  Here is a track listing from one of the volumes - most of these songs had not appeared on a garage comp yet (early '80s):

In the spring of 1991, my health was giving me fits...different ailments, all unrelated, as my (then) physician would lecture to me.  "You're too young to have all of these aches and pains in your joints. Stop burning a candle at both ends.." blah blah blah.  Well, besides being an idiot, said young doctor was right - I was working two jobs, plus playing guitar in a rock & roll group.  Maybe I was wearing myself out.  The next several months found more profound aches and pains, to the point of practically becoming immobile by early September.  I finally got the correct diagnosis news from the 6th doctor I saw, and part of my recovery to regain mobility required lotsa downtime. No work, no band, nothing. Rest, lying flat out in a prone position.

I thought: "What the heck am I gonna do for three weeks?  Why, spin my 45s!" I decided right then that since I'd be confined to home quarters for at least three weeks, I should start logging the details of my 45rpm 60s collection on 3 by 5 (inch) index cards for inventory and data purposes - all of those obscure, 1960s teenage member rock & roll combo 45s that everyone tags as garage 45s via today's vernacular.  It took around two months of daily scribing to get the cards annotated. I still have the couple thousand cards, stored in a huge cardboard box on a shelf in the closet.

I had also been conversing with fellow '60s garage 45 collector compadres who were just as fanatical about the music as I, and one of my pals, an erudite young fella from Texas known as Don Julio Blanco tossed up an idea that I should get crackin' and author a reliable reference guide for the music we loved. I distinctly recall his comment: "Mike, YOU are the only guy insane enough to even consider tackling such a project."  DJB also cajoled me into a wager, challenging that I would not complete this as-yet untitled book anytime prior to reaching the year 2000.  I have since forgotten what the stakes were, since I lost...

Two things were absolutes, meaning that I would keep steadfast to my methodology: I had to travel to visit other collectors, and paw thru their 45s, in order to document 45s that I did not have myself, or had not documented elsewhere and 2 - I would transcribe all of the details directly off of the 45rpm record labels into notebooks.  This ensured everything would be transcribed exactly as it was listed on the label, barring a mental goof on my part.  For part 1 -
Every collector I was pals with readily agreed to grant permission for a visit and collection trawl.  Lots of memorable road trips on vacation time with my garage fanatic pal Steve DiCo, as we traveled by car cross country, other than one time flying in and out of Las Vegas for a trip up to California to visit longtime collector friend Barry Wickham.  That visit alone required two full 8 hour days to log details from his collection.

By the fall of 1995, I had accumulated enough verified and reliable information to finally start assembling a rough outline for the book. (I'll discuss my trips researching song copyrights in a future blog update). The book was initially intended to be a discography rounding up all known USA issued '60s era 45s with that garage" sound.  I envisioned an accurate reference work; nothing like those Midwest Publications abominations that had been cranked out on the
cheap xerox machine, reliability of their content of less impact than healthy nutrients from fast food burgers. I also was not going to keep pumping out newer edition "updates" while expecting corrections from others to create updated information for another publication.  Nope. I was going to get everything all in order before going to press.  Here is an early draft sample of a discography page, created on an old IBM computer!

If I didn't own the 45, or know of the 45, I wanted to have a copy on cassette for archival purposes; thankfully, garage collector pals of mine agreed to swap sessions, where we would trade songs from our collections. Jeff in Florida, George in the Pacific Northwest, Brent in Vancouver, Tom in Cleveland, Mike in Pennsylvania, Mark in Kansas City, Missouri, Ray in Pennsylvania, and Bill here in Connecticut were the first grouping of guys to join the book contribution team. All these guys had more experience collecting than I, thee young upstart at the time.  But all were eager to help me and desired the same result as I pledged to create in book form.  My pal Greg, situated up in the frozen tundra area (Duluth, Minnesota) and I had accumulated enough songs between us to eventually trade 43 90 minute cassette tapes which commenced in 1992. We called our trades: "Swap Tapes".  How original! Locations noted on the
sheets by Greg were often nothing more than guesstimations and heresay from other collectors.  That's why everyone clamored for my book!
Here are the track listings of my requests from Greg, November and December, 1992.  By October of 1994, we had already "swapped" 21 90 min cassette tapes back and forth.  Remember, this was time period long before being able to find and obtain most everything music-related "instantaneously on demand" via the Internet and various on-line resources.  The 'pre-net brigade of collectors had to work diligently to gain trust with other collectors - after all, you did not want your personally compiled set of songs absconded by someone in your network loop, then find out your song collection ended up (without being contacted, or credited) on the next volume of Highs In The Mid '60s, right, George?

By 1995, the general kidding and joking I got from everyone was along the lines of, "You'll Never Get It Done".  Someone even suggested that for the title of the book. It's insanity! Mayhem!...Bingo! The title went off, like seeing Larry the Light bulb once again, from those infamous mid '60s public service announcements which aired on TV.  Teenbeat Mayhem.  Perfect.  Teenbeat, arrived distilled from the phrase 'teenage rock & roll beat', which was the true identity of the music.  Teenagers making music for teenagers. Of course, there are exceptions to that strict notion.  I chose to avoid the term garage as a word within the main title, for that caused all sorts of headaches and strife with group member interviewees, as well as creating misinformed stereotypes from revisionists who were born of recent times (this topic is discussed in a chapter of the book).

Don Julio Blanco came to my page layout design rescue as the new millennium approached.  Having contributed swap tapes of his own over the years, while working own his excellent '60s garage oriented magazine "Brown Paper Sack", DJB offered to try his hand a professional looking typeset page.  Anything he could whip up would be an improvement over my limited ability working with word document design options.  I sent him a sample page, and in a few days, he mailed a couple of copies of a sample page.  I was psyched, as the sample typeset page looked
spiffy, with some crude black and white label scans tossed on the page.  I started to think of ways to improve upon the quickly created design idea from DJB - TeenBeat Mayhem was going to be better than I had hoped!

After getting familiar with researching song copyright registrations at the Library Of Congress in Washington DC, I created a Help Wanted flyer in 1997, explaining my mission for TeenBeat Mayhem on the front, and on the reverse, a mini questionnaire and details page.  I would mail letters to people who shared the same names of someone I was seeking to contact - someone who played in a given teenage combo.  I mailed hundreds and hundreds of letters with the questionnaire via bulk mailings.  For every 50 letters mailed, I would find the "right" person maybe half a dozen times. 

I also sought a potential publisher for my book, and the one that stood out was a company based in Ann Arbor, Michigan - Popular Culture Ink.  I spoke with the owner several times by phone; he was eager to publish a book that we knew would easily sell worldwide.  But, when would I be done? I just couldn't give a deadline, for I was still researching locations of groups at that point, and adding more and more to the discography listings every week. For the hell of it,  I threw out 1999, just to give a workable time frame.  Wouldn't you know, 1999 also found yours truly hired by Rhino Records to provide information and double-check facts during the closing stages for the Nuggets 4 CD Box set.  You can read my credit in the box set liner notes, with a mention of TeenBeat Mayhem, to be published in 1999!

Next up: The millennium comes and goes, while TeenBeat Mayhem grows by leaps and bounds....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading this and think the blog is the perfect media for these recollections, rather than take up valuable pages in TBM. Not to underestimate the magnitude of the 20yrs journey, but it seems it's rather the goal that counts for the ordinary punter rather than the rocky path to get there. That also means: keep new chapters of the "TBM in the making" story a-coming!

cheers, gregk25

The Sounds Of 1960's Teenage America, as captured within my book, TeenBeat Mayhem!

Here you'll find all the latest news and updates on the book, plus examples of how it has evolved during the course of 20 years of work! And, a cool 45 or two as well, time permitting. Stay tuned!