Band: Chuck Prophet
Album: The Land That Time Forgot
Label/Vertrieb: Yep Roc / Bertus Musikvertrieb GmbH
Since his neo-psychedelic Green On Red days, Chuck Prophet has been turning out country, folk, blues, and Brill Building classicism. THE LAND THAT TIME FORGET is something different, a weather vane picking up signals from outer space – or maybe it’s the Heartland.
Priced out of his beloved hometown, San Francisco, Prophet found himself re-energized in Upstate NY just a few miles from the Vermont border – and made a record that is much a 21st century exorcism as it is Americana.
The songs inhabit a world where a Fast Kid might be on the run from the truant officer or a handsy boss…or the Immigration Service. These are love songs that turn political on a dime (Love Doesn’t Come from the Barrel of a Gun), and melodic hallucinations about kicking back in the Oval Office after hours “talking to my baby, saying baby, let’s not fight.”
Where else besides a Chuck Prophet LP are songs going to come at you from both the Tenderloin and an English roundabout, with stopovers in Nixonland and a love-struck mirror on a Saturday night while a workingman tries his Best Shirt On? With special appearances by the ghost of Johnny Thunders and Willie Wonka and John the Baptist and the train that brought Abraham Lincoln home one last time.
In Waving Goodbye, a young girl leaves small town attitudes behind to conquer the world one gig at a time. Then there’s a dance Marathon, lost in time and reborn as a reality show. According to Womankind, men had their run, but it’s over. (The good news is he can still try to sing his way into her heart.)
And it all leads up to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue where a singer has his say, in two and a half loping verses and a middle eight.
“Have any of you been to a 24-hour Walmart on the outskirts of Pittsburgh after midnight lately? It was just me and a couple tweakers roaming the auto parts aisles. We got along just fine. Long story short, I fixed that guitar by my lonesome and am playing it right now. I’m kind of proud of that.
“I will say this, though, about Ohio. Some of my truest hard earned fans are in Ohio. Go on and call it a fly-over-state, but not while Chrissie Hynde is in earshot, unless you want a vegan boot up your ass. All I’m saying is that a state is a lot more than which candidate won by how many votes. I mean you gotta feel sorry for the conservatives. The only songs they can play at their rallies without getting hit with a cease and desist orders are by Ted Nugent and Charlie Daniels. And those two sure aren’t shy about expressing their opinions.”
THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT got off the ground in the Money Belt, only to find its legs in the Borscht Belt. Musically it has deep roots, from the Southern Delta to the discos of Munich. There’s a kind of folkish inevitability to it, lots of acoustic instruments, on top of the each other and side by side. But as much as folk music is the soil all music grows from, it never hurts to have a boiler room. So, there’s always a rhythm section shuffling under your feet here.
Written mostly with longtime co-conspirator klipschutz, this LP steps out of Chuck Prophet’s comfort zone (“two guitars, bass, and drums”). After nailing three tracks in S.F. with Grammy-winning alchemist Matt Winegar, Prophet confesses, “We hit a wall. Schedules. Money. Towed vehicles: a thousand large to get one van out of lockup.”
So he went out on tour, a solo tour. Driving through the Catskills he dropped into Kenny Siegal’s Old Soul Studios, in a “5-bedroom Greek Revival listed on the National Registry,” Chuck and Kenny immediately began to argue. Over anything. Whether it was too hot or too cold. (According to WHOM?) “At the end of the day – “a very long day, three weeks of them – let’s just say Kenny’s the man. At Old Soul, musicians drop in, sometimes complete blind dates. We did everything live. The drummer gigs with Kevin Morby. The bass player, out of some jazz scene. Piano player, an honorary Bad Seed. A mish mash of personalities and styles. Turns out you can make a lot of noise with acoustic instruments, if there are enough of them.”
Where asked about his life, Prophet is candid and evasive all at once: “What do you want to know. Death, health issues, financial hijinks, I’ve had them all the past few years. We lost my dad and we lost Stephie’s dad too. The basement flooded. My shoulder went out. I got hives over 80% of my body; was quarantined. The only break I caught was when the ear, eye, nose, and throat doctors were all in the same building. Oh, and I almost got killed about seven times in rented cars in snowstorms, lost on the way to gigs. Hey, maybe we should talk about songs instead.”
Infos zum vorherigen Album:
Band: Chuck Prophet
Album: Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins
Label: Yep Roc / Bertus Musikvertrieb GmbH
Chuck Prophet describes his new disc BOBBY FULLER DIED FOR YOUR SINS as “California Noir.” He says, “the state has always represented the Golden Dream, and it’s the tension between romance and reality that lurks underneath the surface in all noir films and paperbacks, and that connects these songs. Doomed love, inconsolable loneliness, rags to riches to rags again, and fast-paced violence are always on the menu on the Left Coast.”
Who is Bobby Fuller? He’s the star of the ultimate Rock and Roll Babylon feel-bad story.
The title track came out of an obsession Prophet shares with co-conspirator klipschutz. Prophet explains, “One day we were sitting in my so-called office South of Market listening to LPs, when out of frustration –I picked up a guitar and shouted, ‘I hear that record crackle, the needle skips and jumps!’ and klipschutz shot back, ‘“Bobby Fuller died for your sins!’”
One thing led to another, and ten months later he found himself at the legendary Hyde St. Studios in the heart of the Tenderloin “slaving over a hot two-inch tape machine, cutting tracks with Brad Jones, Paul Q. Kolderie, and Matt Winegar riding herd.” And pumping it all into the echo chamber. No computer in sight and two-inch tape boxes stacked up to the ceiling.
Prophet realizes that the title track makes a heavy claim, and laughs at the suggestion it might shine new light on the mystery long surrounding Bobby Fuller’s early demise. Fuller, who migrated from El Paso to L.A. in the early 1960s, has been described as “a greaser in a world of Beach Boy bangs and Beatle boots, hopelessly out of step with the times.” Found dead in his car at the age of 23, to a devoted coterie of fans, old and new, he’ll always remain the skinny guy singing “I Fought the Law,” on countless teen dance TV shows, and radio playlists. Ruled a suicide, his death has haunted investigators (and biographers Miriam Linna and Randall Fuller) since 1966. “Some resolution would be nice,” Prophet says, “but I run a band, not a Cold Case squad.”
The Mission Express, Prophet’s band, which includes his wife Stephanie Finch, provided the backing. “Talented, difficult people who all played their hearts out. You can hear it,” he says. And recording at Hyde Street – walking distance from his apartment – was a homecoming of sorts. “I did my first session there, in high school no less,” says Prophet. He even dragged out his ’64 Stratocaster, a guitar that Jonathan Richman said sounds, “like gasoline in the sand, like a motorcycle at a hot dog stand.”
Prophet says, “there’s a serious Link Wray jones that you might not hear in here too. But it’s there. Guitars and drums. Rock and roll. I just haven’t found anything that hits me the same way. That two guitar, bass and drums feeling.”
With titles such as “Bad Year for Rock and Roll,” “Post-War Cinematic Dead Man Blues,” “We Got Up and Played, and, “If I Was Connie Britton,” Prophet allows that, “there just might be some songs on this one. John Murry, who is never at a loss for words, says the goal is to make a record you can be proud and unsure of at the same time. Naked and belligerent, but sweetly so… I can’t improve on that.”
“Bad Year for Rock and Roll” is a timely homage to rock greats lost this year, Prophet name-checking David Bowie in the opening lines: “The Thin White Duke took a final bow / there’s one more star in the heavens now…I’m all dressed up in a mohair suit / watching Peter Sellers thinking of you.”
The album closes with the blistering “Alex Nieto,” which Prophet calls “my first protest song. I know you’ve listened to me rant about Twitter and how I believe San Francisco is under siege by techie man-children and billionaires.” But still, he never dreamed he’d be in the middle of a culture war with real bodies. Born and raised in the City, Alex Nieto was on his way to work as a security guard when he ended up with 59 bullets in and around him, all fired by the police. There’s a lot more to the story, and the details are available to anyone who wants to know. The song is a two-chord homage to a good man who should still be alive.
Just one more sign of the apocalypse.