Saturday, February 04, 2012

Interrobang - "Sex Obsession" 12"

"Who's selling all their Mark Harp records???"

!?/Interrobang 12"
Sex Obsession/We Have the House Surrounded (Harp-DeJong)
(Big Man Music, 1989)

"Best Local Single" - City Paper, 1989

On Saturday, Amy Linthicum once again scored another vinyl record by her ex-husband, the sorely missed guitar legend and all-around musical genius Mark "Harpo" Harp (born Mark Linthicum, 1957-2004), when she found this mint condition, sealed 12-inch single in the local music bin of Normal's Books & Music in Waverly. "Who's selling all their Mark Harp stuff?," Amy wondered out loud.

She well remembered this record, dating from Harp's Interrobang days in the late '80s when, like many others in that synth-friendly era, he put down his guitar and started playing with various electronic toys and gizmos. 12-inch extended play Electro Pop dance records were the lingua franca of the decade, and Harp was an early fan and subsequent master of the medium, which emphasized big beats and repetition of simple lyrics, often mixed with sampled soundbites; in many ways they were the precursor to today's even more extended and sophisticated digital mash-ups.

"Interrobang" (a punctuation convention that combines the ! and ? marks to express simultaneous wonder and curiosity) was the moniker Harp gave his collaborations with Mike DeJong when the two were messing around in his living room learning about sampling and beatboxes. Released as a (size matters!) 12" in 1989 on the (size matters!) Big Man label, the A-side "Sex Obsession" was named "Best Local Single" by the Baltimore City Paper "and got some airplay somewhere."

Sex Obsessed: "Peyton Place"

Not only size but length matters on the 12" A-side, which goes on for 8 plus minutes as the boys sample heavy from what Amy recalls was the 1960s TV series Peyton Place (the classic ABC melodrama that, inspired by the Brit soap Coronation Street, ran from 1964-1969 and launched the careers of Ryan O'Neal and Mia Farrow, among others). That would explain the references to "Mike" (Dr. Michael Rossi, played by Ed Nelson) - "Is that you Mike?" "Oh, it's you Mike!" - and the obsession with, well, sex. Like the 1956 book and 1957 film of Peyton Place, the television series was considered sex-obsessed for its times, though the more controversial issues in the novel, such as incest, gave way to less scandalous plots like, oh, teen pregnancy.

"Sex? Yes! Mike? No!...Sex? No Mike - it's impossible!" - I'm sure Harp enjoyed this little injoke with Mike DeJong, who when not sampling sounds played keyboards and sax in too many Harp bands to remember. The song ends with the musicians' laughter drowning out the PP samples "Do you love me? That's impossible!" and "Sex? That's ridiculous!"

On the web site 24 Hours w/Mark Harp, Harp himself described the B-side "We Have the House Surrounded" as "Me and Mike DeJong in the living room learning about samplers and stuff." It starts off with a voice announcing "This is high fidelity," a sample taken off one of the many stereo demonstration records he collected. It then starts sounding like a bass-heavy Art of Noise big beat percussion workout, with Harp intoning "We have the house surrounded/Come out with your hands up" in what Amy characterizes as his charmingly thick "Bawlmer accent." Thematically, "We Have the House Surrounded" seems of a piece with another Harp law enforcement song, 1991's rap-parody "Cop Killer" - the latter one of the rare ditties featuring his then-wife Amy on sampled vocals (she alternates between letting loose blood-curdling screams and querying "Really?").

(Note: Baltimore's !? Interrobang should not be confused with the similarly named Boston, Chicago or San Diego bands or Interobang?! Magazine.)

Related Links:
Normal's Books & Records
24 Hours w/Mark Harp
"Sex Obsession" mp3
"We Have the House Surrounded" mp3

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