Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Thee Katatonix - Thee Basement Tapes (1979)

Practice makes imperfect: Kats demo tape from 1979 unearthed!

Foraging through my basement, I recently discovered and digitized a Katatonix audiocassette practice tape from 1979 that represents one of only two known recordings I have of what thee original Kats - Adolf Kowalski, Katie Katatonic and me, Tommy Gunn - sounded like back then, as well as demonstrating what our setlist was at that time. The only other recording I have is a live tape of an October 1979 show (only our third-ever gig) at Oddfellows Hall in Towson with our pal Archie Android (Tom Lehr) splitting bass duties with Katie Katatonic. These recordings stand as the Rosetta Stone of our early retarded musicality. It's probably for the best that Mankind's ears have been spared more than two tape recordings of these sonic affronts to sense and sensibility.


10 We Dared: A Thee Katatonix Practice Tape from 1979

01 Mono (2:17) Kowalksi-Gunn
02 My Son the Gynecologist (2:21) Kowalksi
03 (I Didn't Get Laid On) Valentine's Day (3:09) Kowalski
04 My Baby Is a Basket Case (2:57) Kowalski
05 (I Sure Do Miss My) Foreskin (3:01) Kowalksi-Gunn
06 Highlandtown (2:54) Kowalski
07 (You Grow On Me Like a) Fungus (5:32) Kowalski-Gunn
08 Stretch Marx (3:18) Kowalski-Gunn
09 I Don't Wanna Marry a Dyke (4:29)
10 I Hate DC (3:09) Kowalski-Gunn

Adolf Kowalski: Guitar & Vocals
Katie Katatonic: Bass
Tommy Gunn: Drums

Recorded in Adolf's basement, Dundalk, 1979


Still, listening back to these songs makes me laugh (at our barely-more-proficient than The Kids of Widney High musical "prowess") and wish - with the exception of my horrendous lyrics to such throwaways as "(I'm In Love With the Only Boy in the Neighborhood Without) Mono" (which was based on Katie Katatonic's real-life romantic dilemma, but was thankfully shortened on our setlists to just plain old "Mono") and "Stretch Marx" (my attempt to write a pro-abortion/anti-breeding dance hit that never caught on with the Planned Parenthood Set) - that we had professionally recorded some of these ditties, especially the topical-at-the-time "Highlandtown" (about the real-life phenomenon of adolescent East Baltimore boys balling-for-dollars with pederasts), "My Son the Gynecologist" ("My daughter is a thief: she spends her days snatching watches/My son's profession nearly matches: he spends his day watching snatches"), and "I Don't Wanna Marry a Dyke" (I always loved Adolf's line about how some militant disciples of Sapphos were conspiring to "Cut my balls off and hang 'em from their rear-view window"!).

Only three of these songs would survive to be recorded by later editions of the Kats: "Valentines Day" and "Basket Case" appeared on 1983's three-song Katatonix Valentine's Day EP (along with the new Adolf ballad "Joie de Vivre") which featured the new trio of Adolf, bassist Mr. Urbanity, and drummer Big Andy Small...

"Valentine's Day" EP (UK Spud, 1983)

...while "Fungus" resurfaced on the 1984 Divine Mission LP that featured Adolf and Mr. Urbanity on guitars and vocals, Rockin' St. Anthony on bass, and Big Andy Small once again on drums.

"Divine Mission" LP (UK Spud, 1984)

Someday I will upload these early primitive soundblasts upon an unsuspecting world. Who knows, maybe these Kowalski-Gunn compositions will someday be resurrected to play on Broadway as a Producers-style musical fiasco!

Thee Katatonix Songbook: Selected Bits

"Basket Case" was my fave early Kats song and possibly Adolf's best-ever effort as a songwriter (vying with his later "Maison de Rock" from Divine Mission) and it was also the highlight of our early setlist before "My Genitalia" became the setpiece-de-resistance. But there were other faves, as well. Following are some lyrical highlights from the Katatonix Songbook.


My little baby can't walk and she hardly ever talks
But when it comes to fuckin', she never ever balks
She got a pretty little figure, but a real ugly face
My baby baby baby is a basket case

My baby is a basket case
She ain't got arms or legs but that's no disgrace
She does exotic bird calls and she's gonna go far
I take her out strapped to the roof of my car

I met her at a freakshow, she played piano with her nose
I went up to her later and said "Your music really blows!"
She got a sparkle in her eye and her mouth began to foam
I stuffed her in my knapsack, and I ran all the way home


My parents don't approve - 'cuz my girlfriend's not a Jew
Well what do they expect, from a dame who's mostly neck?
My little brother plays Little League, uses my babe for second base
But I don't really care - cuz it sure can't hurt her face!

(Chorus repeat)


Sonny Boy says "Once more into the void!"

My daughter is a thief
She spends her day snatching watches
My son's profession nearly matches
He spends his day watching snatches

My son the gynecologist
Pokes and probes around the clock
My son the gynecologist
Never takes time to yank his cock

He brings home his dirty rubber gloves
I lick them clean and pat them dry
I'm so very proud of my son
He never has stains around his eyes


Put your feet into the stirrups
And let my son do his stuff
His sister taught him everything he knows
About diving right into the muff - oh!


Watch Katatonix 2.0 play "Gynecologist" live at Marble Bar (early '80s)


Call him "Hans Brinker": Adolf sang of plugging dykes

There's a militant mother coming round after me
She's waiting for me in the men's lavatory
She's hunting me down, just cuz I knocked her up
But I'll never marry her - cuz she acts like a man

I don't wanna marry a dyke
(Ask me why) It's something I don't think I'd like
I don't wanna marry a dyke
I don't wanna marry a dyke
I don't wanna marry a....

All day long she sits around with her lesbian friends
They're plotting against me , it never ends
They wanna cut my balls off and hang 'em from their rear-view mirror
But I won't let that happen, not yet anyway


FUNGUS (Kowalski-Gunn)

The hair-razing "Fungus" grew on Adolf, who later recorded it as a twin-guitar workout with Mr. Urbanity on "Divine Mission"

At the start of the semester
You said our love would grown and blossom
But like an open wound it festered
By midterms we was just playin' possum

Cuz you grow on me like a fungus
You grow on me like a fungus
And you like grow on me like a tumor - that turned malignant
You put me in a bad humor, and ruined my pigment
Now I'm indignant!


Guess our biorhythms didn't match
But ain't it always just that way?
You're like an egg, just don't hatch
You wanna fertilize but you won't get laid


You became a bacterial infection
You always wanted one more shot
But I can't take another injection
Get outta my system or my blood will clot


It's over now there ain't no doubt
You gimme gangrene and you gimme gout
Our tiny rosebud never bloomed
It didn't even hardly sprout


This one's for the kids!

Well I'm from Dundalk and you can't tell me nothin'
Cuz I've seen and done more things than I'd admit I'd ever do
And on the one side we got Essex and I love that place so dearly
That if you don't like it, then you're just a cunt

And on the other side of Dundalk is a part of town
Where little kids will beat you with a chain if you are old
But if you're weird and you can whip out $20 dollars
The little kids will love you
Excuse me, it's other way around - in Highlandtown

Highlandtown is my kinda town
Where everyone pulls their pants down
To make some bread, you use your head
Oh everyone loves Highlandtown

Little kids are on the street
And people think they look so sweet
But they just wanna rent their meat
To anything that's on two feet

I call that a fucked-up scheme
Those kids aren't old enough to breed
If you go for them, then you're a dick
Cause if you're gonna get down to it
It's no good 'less you can screw it

And why spend your hard-earned money
When you can have my dick for free?
If you wanna have some fun
Buy yourself a great big gun
Go and find those kids and mow 'em down - in Highlandtown

Highlandtown, my kinda town
Where everyone pulls their pants down
You eat my head or wind up dead
Oh everyone loves Highlandtown!


Foreskin, like hindsight, is golden

I had no chance when I was born
They grabbed my Tweetus and I was shorn
Sterilized tweezers held my dick
The doctor smiled and went snippity-snip

And I sure do miss my foreskin
I-I-I lost it when I was just a kid
Yes I sure do miss my foreskin
But they said that it was not for Yids

Mom and Dad are Orthodox Jews
They said foreskin means smegma, that means goo
Now all the other guys can make their heads disappear
But mine ain't going nowhere, cuz it's been sheared


Met a little lady, we jumped into bed
A little while later asked her for some head
When I whipped it out, she went into shock
She said, "Huh, you ain't got no flap on your cock!"


Older now and I can lament
The loss of my foreskin and what it meant
My sex life would be a lot more kinky
If I was hung like an elastic slinky

I don't wanna hear none of that hygiene crap
I would've taken good care of my flap
Even little turtles need a place to hide their head
But my snakeskin's already been shed


I HATE DC (Kowalski-Gunn)

"I Hate DC": Can you feel the love?

Though we liked a number of DC retro-pop and garage bands (Razz, Slickee Boys, Original Fetish, Kill the Messenger), we hated the DC Punk Scene - except for Black Market Baby. (Why their Straight Edge Scene was so popular is a mystery that continues to puzzle me.) I think this song adequately expresses our heart-felt sentiments, while also reflecting the subtlety for which we were renown.

I hate Washington, DC
This just ain't no place for me
Never thought we'd sink so low
Playing in this bungalow

I hate DC, I hate DC
Too many assholes in DC
I hate DC, I hate DC

I don't wanna be an Idle Teen
I don't want my Brain to go Bad
In the nation's capital
People don't have class at all
Everyone's a stuck-up little twit
And you're a dick

I hate DC, I hate DC
I hate DC, I hate DC

Don't be fooled by propoganda from the White House lawn
Everyone will be much better off when DC's gone
Georgetown's full of fuckheads, everyone's a square
DC's full of assholes, I don't care if you live there, cuz

I hate DC, I hate DC
Too many assholes in DC
I hate DC, I hate DC
Etc., etc.


Got Lame If You Want It!: Thee Kats Live '79

"Third time's the charm!" Adolf reminds the faithful at our 3rd-ever gig

The other "basement tape" I discovered (literally unearthed in my basement), of our third-ever show at Oddfellows Hall, made me realize I had forgotten about two more cover songs we did (for a listing of still more Kats covers, see "Cover Your Ears") - the Surfaris' "Wipe-Out" and our Towson State pal Dr. Waste's "I Wanna Die On a DC-10" (Doc Waste performed it with us onstage that night) - as well as two more originals Adolf and I apparently penned but which I have no recollection of: "Alpha Trance" and "Nocturnal Emission." (I'm sure both of these were based on real-life incidents we experienced - especially the latter!) Unfortunately, this tape's a mess, requiring a salvage job only slightly less complicated than efforts to recover the remains of the R.M.S. Titanic; I've only been able to listen to a few songs as a result.

Our lead guitarist at this gig was Al "Son of Charlie" Manson (our ace Charles Manson-lookalike guitarist for a gig or two), who was a "real" guitarist we met at Towson State who could actually play scales and technical stuff but who mainly just liked to jam. I think we used the doodly jam "Alpha Trance," on which Katie sang the title over and over, as a transitional song to let Archie Android tune up after taking over relief bass duties. Whenever Archie Android played bass, Katie either sang or banged a tambourine like Betty in the Archies.

Katie Katatonic works the mic while in an "Alpha Trance"

Come to think of it, "Alpha Trance" might have been one of Al Manson's guitar jam-outs that we just stamped a title on - I recall he liked to practice his guitar exercises whenever we played, going off on divergent leads while everybody else played something completely different (i.e., simplistic and non-complex), resulting in a sort of hybrid Punk-Grateful Dead sonic experience. I forget Al's real last name, but I remember he was the only guy I knew whose favorite band was The Incredible String Band - the UK folkie legends who explored as polar-opposite a musical direction from us as one could get! - but who couldn't find anybody with similar tastes to play with, so he fell in briefly with us for something to do. Boredom, badum-badum!

Erstwhile Kat Al "Son of Charlie" Manson: Killer riffs!

"Alpha Trance" may have been the song we played while projecting a pornographic film behind the band at this show. On the tape, right after "Fungus" in our set, you can hear Adolf announce to the crowd, "Marty's gonna show a movie now."

Marty Benson screens a dirty Western

That would be our No. 1 fan, Marty Benson, who came to all our shows. I remember we had planned to screen one of those old 8mm stag film loops on my projector (these were the days before video and VCRs, kids!) of two girls dressed as squaws playing Cowboys & Indians with some lucky cowpoke with a big "six-shooter." Somehow Marty put the film on backwards, so it turned into this anti-climatic experimental art film - the "Wild Wild West" action started with everybody naked and the "moneyshot" shooting back into the cowpoke's six-gun, the squaws un-smoking the "peace pipe," and ended with everybody getting dressed and walking backwards out of a seedy motel room. I lost the beat (so to speak) as I kept craning my neck to leer back at the screen behind me; Katie, of course, was a good Catholic girl and refused to look, but she was the only person in Oddfellows Hall that night not watching the "Ride 'Em Cowboy" peep show. Never again would the Kats so keenly hold an audience's attention! For a fleeting moment, it seemed like people actually liked us - until the film unspooled and reality once again reared its ugly head.

Thee Katatonix @ Oddfellows Hall, Towson (October 5, 1979)

01 Punk Food Junky (Kowalski-Gunn)
02 Satellite (Sex Pistols)
03 Basket Case (Kowalski)
04 Fungus (Kowalski-Gunn)
05 Alpha Trance (Kowalski-Gunn)
06 My Genitalia (Kowalski-Townshend)
07 Nocturnal Emission (Kowalski-Gunn)
08 Wipe-Out (The Surfaris)
09 Mono (Kowalski-Gunn)
10 I Wanna Die on a DC-10 (Dr. Waste)
11 Stretch Marx (Kowalski-Gunn)

Adolf Kowalski: Guitar & Vocals
Katie Katatonic: Bass, Tambourine & Vocals
Al Manson: Lead Guitar
Archie Android: Bass & Transcendent Cool Vibes
Tommy Gunn: Drums
Dr. Waste: Vocals (?) on "DC-10"

Katie shook a tambourine whenever Archie Android filled in on bass

I like that "Punk Food Junky" opened our set at Oddfellows Hall. Like "(I'm In Love With the Only Boy In My Neighborhood Without) Mono," this was another song inspired by a real-life Katie Katatonic experience, namely her being canned from working at Towson's Health Concern (a spiritually and environmentally and yada-yada-yadally conscious hippie-yuppie New Age health food store whose original location is now a parking lot behind the Rec Room in Towson) for listening to punk rock. (Well, she also ate cows served up from across the street at the Burger King and smoked cigarettes, but that's beside the point.) Apparently, the owners told her she wasn't working out because they listened to classical music while she, as a bass player in a punk band, didn't fit in with their high ideals. They not only fired her - perthaps their best, hardest-working employee - but tried to stiff her on her final paycheck, until her attorney dad got involved and threatened to sue their vegetarian asses. The Health Concern later moved into the old Towson Public Library building on W. Susquehanna Avenue. The only drawback to the song "Punk Food Junky" was that Adolf use to load up a bag with health food - tomatoes, oranges, bananas and such - and fling some of them into the audience during this song. Most of the vegetable and fruit barrage was thrown at me, though!

PUNK FOOD JUNKY (Kowalski-Gunn)
Lettuce & tomatoes & a lotsa cheese
Follow the Organic Code and no smoking, please
Our minds are as wholesome as our food
So when we fire you, please don't think us rude

We don't like candy, chemicals or junk
We only like health food, so we don't like gunk
Our philosphy's hypocrisy, atrophy and bunk
We cater to weaklings so we don't like punk

Our version of the Sex Pistols' "Satellite" is almost unrecognizable (it would have helped if any of us besides Adolf had actually heard the song before attempting to play it!), but I do love how 'dolf changed the song's locale from London's suburbs to Towson's ("You know I don't like where you come from/It's just a satellite of Towson").

And I remember that Doc Waste's "I Wanna Die On a DC-10" had a line about how he wanted to die on a DC-10 because he was let down by Comet Kohoutek (sometimes spelled "Kahoutek") - which was initially hyped in 1973 as being potentially the "Comet of the Century" (In Celebration of the Comet: The Coming of Kohoutek was even the title of a popular and widely-circulated Pink Floyd bootleg album of the period, while Sun Ra also recorded an LP called Concert for the Comet Kohoutek, Kraftwerk's first 1973 single was called "Kohoutek-Kometenmelodie," and R.E.M.'s song "Kohoutek" used the comet as a metaphor for a failed romance on their Fables of the Reconstruction album!) - not colliding with Earth.

Because Comet Kahoutek fell far short of expectations, its name became synonymous with spectacular duds, which is why both Doc Waste and Thee Katatonix could relate to it! Like Devo, we all had to be content with nothing more than "Space Junk" falling from the skies in the '70s...oh, yeah, and those DC-10s. Doc Waste was no doubt inspired by recent events - you see, back in May 1979, an American Airlines DC-10 crashed after take-off at Chicago's O'Hare airport, killing all 271 on board and causing the FAA to ground all DC-10s due to structural problems with their pylon engines. It was a big deal at the time - we had come full-circle from Sinatra's 1950s high-fly celebration "Come Fly With Me" to nervy Come Die With Me times. Between terrorist hijackings and numerous DC-10 crashes, the '70s were far from Superfly times. I have no idea why we covered "Wipe-Out" unless it was an unconscious reference to all these air disasters.

As a drummer, Tommy Gunn was a total "Wipe-Out" live
(note Katie's mouth retainer worn around neck as jewelry)

Though listening to this tape is, um, rather challenging, I like Adolf's fuck-all attitude and repartee with the Oddfellows (and Oddfemmes) in the audience. He intros "(You Grow On Me Like a) Fungus" with the words "Here's a lovely tune that we can't play but we don't give a fuck anyway...it's called 'Fungus In Your Crotch, Asshole'!" But perhaps his most telling crack, after our "cover" of "Satellite" crashed and burned, was "See what happens when you don't practice?" Indeed.

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