* * *
My comments and questions appear thus.
And Skip's replies appear like so...
They were friends of Ted's and they were hangers-on in the Razz camp. Two guys, basically, and they produced the record themselves. I had nothing to do with it.
It wasn't really a Limp release, I just let Ted use the name. I never saw any copies of the record other than carrying a few that he brought into the store. I didn't press it up or put it out, and again that one has acquired, like the Shirkers, a kind of unbelievable market—
Not quite like the Shirkers.
Well, I'm not saying that it's a record like the Shirkers. My recollection of Buzz'n the Town is that it sucked. I haven't heard it in twenty years or whatever, so... (shrugs)
The cover was goofy looking too—(laughs) well, a lot of the other covers we put out were as goofy looking. The Reind Dears comes to mind.
That's one of my greatest achievements and greatest disappointments.
The greatest achievement part because I think it's one of the finest things I was ever involved with in terms of realization from start to finish of how it should sound on a record and how it ended up sounding on a record.
It's one of the greatest disappointments because of Ted Niceley, who was my best friend at one point in time—he was the best man at my wedding.
I had taken him to the studio that day—he had never done any production work before, other than working with the Razz—and I took him to the studio for the Slickee Boys session. Later on I came back and remixed the tapes, I did all that by myself. I did that entire recording, and he helped with some suggestions. As a courtesy I gave him co-production credit on it.
Years later in an interview in the Maryland Music Monthly he said that was the first record he ever produced and the one he was proudest of. I called him up that day and laid into him and I've only talked to him one time, briefly, since then. I won't stand for that, that's total bullshit.
Who was Joe Sasfy, the guy who wrote the liner notes?
Joe Sasfy was the milder side of Richard Harrington. Joe Sasfy was a long time Washington music critic who was friends with a lot of the early DC new wave bands but he was more of an elderly, older father figure type thing. He now runs Time-Life's music division, and he vets all their projects in terms of deciding what goes on CD and licensing things, that sort of thing.
He and Steve Lorber were good friends as well, and again that's part of the interconnection with the thing and Steve Lorber to Joe Sasfy to Kim Kane to me. It's one big circle there.
A circle of jerks (laughs).
The label was getting a lot of attention and as you can see from the cover, a lot of things I put on the front were reviews of records or reviews of the bands that we put out.
I just wanted to remind people that there was this label there, because a lot of people bought 45s, but some people only bought LPs. I wanted to give an overview, again, of things that were still happening with the scene and things that we couldn't put out before. There were several bands that said they wanted to put things out on :30 Over DC, but they couldn't, either because of label reasons, or they were too stupid at the time. Best of Limp gave a couple of those people a chance to take care of that, like the Razz.
The Bad Brains just did the one song on the Best of Limp. Did you have any plans to do more stuff with them?
No, I actually don't have any rights to do stuff with them. I mean, shortly after they did the session for Limp, they did the local session they did for...hmm...at Omega Studios. I don't know if that was for anybody in particular, I don't know who financed it, but I think it was one of the local managers who had hooked up with them between when I did negotiations with them for the cut that I used and when they moved up to New York.
They moved to New York and cut the "Pay to Cum" 45, which became legendary in punk circles and is one of the most prized punk artifacts. It's almost up there with the A&M God Save the Queen in terms of collectible things, if you have an original first pressing. We had fifty or sixty of those when they first came out, but there were also days when the guys from the Misfits would pull up in their van with all the colored vinyl versions of the Misfits 45s and we'd buy five of each for the store.
The Bad Brains first studio session was arranged by you. Where did you run into them?
They were big customers of the store and they were from Forestville, the area where I used to live, around Suitland. They were pretty much a go-go band. One day—and again, I still have this somewhere in my basement—they gave me like a sixty minute long basement demo tape of stuff that they had done. I could see that they had some kind of talent or affinity, but it was a little too clean.
A lot of people don't know this, but the Bad Brains were a total mock thing. These guys were not punks at all, they just decided that was the scene they were going to suck into, and bite into, and they did. They were...if you ever hear this original tape, the guitar playing on there, the drums, it's professional.
No, they weren't punks.
Were you aware of that from the get go?
What was it like working with them?
Well, I never worked with them because they scared the hell out of me. The week that we were supposed to do the session, it was going to be a Saturday over at Don Zientara's studio, and I think the day before, HR, who had a habit of coming into the store and just hanging around staring, he came into the store and just sat there for three or four hours straight and stared at me. I'm sitting at the counter ringing people up and there were these cold, steely eyes, not saying anything, just staring, trying to freak me out. And he did. So I called up Kim Kane from the Slickee Boys and said, "I don't want to do this session! I've already booked the time, I've already paid for it, please go over there and record it." (laughs)
So he went over there. His recollection was that they had like three hours and everything they recorded, which was like five or six songs, they did in thirty-five minutes, one straight run-through, because it took them that long to get there and get their equipment set up. They were really late in arriving and the whole thing was a mess, but one thing that came out of it which I thought was a really, really tribal, guttural, and really punk, was the song "Don't Bother Me".
I don't know why they didn't really come back to that until much, much later on. Many years later they ended up putting that cut on a charity album. He had me send it up to them to remix and they did the horrible remix on it, almost made it into a disco cut. Phased guitars and stuff like that, it has a weird...
I did the reissue as a favor to Kim Kane. I think it's an interesting LP, but it's not something that I would have done. I mean, if you listen to the Line album by the Slickee Boys, Here to Stay, it's much more cohesive, powerful, well-recorded stuff, only one of which I think I was involved with the production of, but everything else is very consistent and powerful. Separated Vegetables is all over the place.
It's very much of a period piece, but it was something that was meant to be enjoyed by a few and cherished by the ones that didn't have it. I can only assume that's why we pressed such small numbers, and I have to believe that's because it was part of the deal with Kim Kane, that we could only make up a limited number in case he wanted to do it again himself at some point.
Mike Colburn had been an early member of the Razz—he wasn't involved with them by the time I saw them—and when it came time for him to do something with the band he had put together, he came to me.
I thought the songs were really good examples of power pop, and he was an exceptional writer. I think Ted also produced the EP, which is another reason why we'd put it out on Limp. I'm pretty sure he produced it.
The Dark were one of my favorite bands that I worked with. The Dark EP was like the Nightman EP—in a very short period of time the situation changed with them.
I originally got involved with the Dark because Thomas—no, I'm getting ahead of myself here. I think they opened up for the Slickee Boys. When I recorded the EP with them the bass player and the drummer were not the same two that ended up playing on the two album cuts I did with them, "Late Show" and "Breakdown", that were on Connected.
Meredith Reynolds is, in my opinion, without exception, the finest female songwriter ever to come out of DC. I mean, she could kick Tori Amos' butt any day of the week. I have dozens and dozens of demos by her that I begged her to release, but she would never let me do it. These were home demos that she did.
She was just an incredible songwriter. Sarah was a good songwriter, but she wasn't like Meredith. Meredith was one of a kind.
She ended up marrying Mike Colburn and they got divorced later on, but they did a cut or two together.
I produced both the EP—could have done a better job on it—and the album cuts. I think we did a better job on getting down the way the band sounded at the time on Connected. They were trying to get new wave Heart, at that point in time and the two cuts on album convey that more than the EP. The EP comes off as more of a home-spun, home studio type recording, but a little too overambitious in the guitars and drum playing area.
"Tina's Smile", I didn't ever like the song, but I thought we did a pretty good job getting it down, but Howard tended to be overly dramatic at that period in time, and that song's one of his excesses.
"Running Around" is kind of a dippy song, but that's what he wanted to do, that's what he wanted to be, and that's what I tried to convey. It's almost like a bubblegum record.
I think it's a great record myself.
Well, he wanted it to be like a 1910 Fruitgum Company record, Ohio Express record, but with a new wave context. That's the kind of sound we tried to get on there. The guitars are not too forceful on there, the drumming's in line with that. I'd double tracked him on some of the vocals and did a little reverb thing to give him a more powerful vocal presence because he was not the most powerful singer.
It was done—both Howard and I were both big fans of Phil Spector—I'm not saying it was anything like a Phil Spector production, but it was done with those kind of parameters.
This record didn't quite happen...
It was news to me that it didn't happen. I know that somewhere there are finished sleeves, not just the xeroxed ones, and the fact that we never finished the record was something that just escaped my memory over the years. I guess with Mark dying when he did that would have been the sensible thing to do.
Well, the Nurses had actually split up before the single.
Yeah, they'd split up, but these things happened in a very short period of time. We'd done the session, he was with the group when we did it, and remember, between the store and the things I was juggling, or attempting to juggle, sometimes it could be five, six, seven, eight months before something actually came out. So in the period of time after the test pressings were made, the group split up and he died. He died of an overdose not very long after the group split up, and I remember Howard calling me up when it happened—he was just out of his mind.
How did you first meet Howard Wuelfing and Marc Halpern?
Well, Howard was a member of the Slickee Boys when we put out Mersey, Mersey Me, and right around that period of time he started working at the store. He worked there for a couple of years.
He was very much involved with Don Zientara as well, and he lived over in Virginia so it was a little easier for him. A lot of his work was done over there and Howard was like sort of a mini-Phil Spector. He had a million things going on in his mind that he did, or wanted to do, and his problem was that he always kept falling in love with different women, wanting to work with them. After he had left the Slickee Boys he started up the Nurses right away.
Marc Halpern was an exceptional guitarist, a very dry character, very shadowy and mysterious. Never really got on well with him other than to say hello.
Harry Raab was the drummer on one of their sessions, he seemed like a pretty okay guy.
I helped finance a couple of the Nurses records that weren't on Limp. The one on Dacoit, Kim Kane says I financed that because he didn't have the money to put it out. That explains why I had so many of them.
Howard has his own promotion company up in New Jersey now.
When did you first see the Nurses live as a unit?
I would think that the Nurses probably opened up for the Slickee Boys. At that period there were so many shows in the Washington area, either local bands performing on their own or...You sent me a flyer with the Dark and the Teen Idles where the Teen Idles weren't even listed, but they played the show. There were things like that happening all the time, all over.
There was One Flight Up, just down on Wisconsin Avenue, right near the DC line, the Atlantis which was the predecessor to the 9:30 Club in the old location, 930 F Street, and you had Desperado's over in Virginia and in downtown Bethesda you had a big place, the Psychedelly, the Varsity Grill in College Park, and Razz played there all the time.
With all these groups, every week there were one or two or three shows, and I was single at that point in time and always going out to those shows.
That's how I got to work with the Razz. They started coming to the store and I was coming to their shows. They had put out their first record by themselves, and they wanted to put out a second one, then changed their mind, and then I put out two 45s by them. We were going to put out an album but then Tommy Keene left after like five songs had been recorded and nothing ever came of that.
I was not the first person to produce Black Market Baby. They did demos with Steve Carr and the famous aborted single session with Ted Niceley at Track Studios. It just was too cold and dry for them, that was my impression as to why they didn't release it. Everyone else seems to think it's fine. You've got the bootleg 45.
Well, Boyd really hates the song "Crimes of Passion".
Well...it's not structured very well, but as far as the recording goes, it's okay. When I went in with them and did the single they wanted me to basically produce them like a punk band, like I'd done with the Teen Idles and Minor Threat, and that's what I did. I took them into Don's and we recorded "Potential Suicide" and "Youth Crimes", and I think we worked on one other song that didn't get released.
Did you approach them about doing the single?
No, they approached me. I'm pretty sure they approached me. I wouldn't have...I knew Ted, he was working at the store at that time, and I wouldn't have gone onto his territory like that without them wanting me to do it.
They had been unhappy with what they'd done previously, both with Steve Carr and Ted, and they wanted to try to see if I could get them to sound like they should sound as punks. They presented the songs to me, and that's what they wanted to do.
"Potential Suicide" I probably did in a little more of a power pop medium than they wanted, but it was chosen by Rhino Records as one of the great punk records of the eighties, so it couldn't have been too bad.
"Youth Crimes", I think, is more of a punk song in keeping with what they were all about at that point in time. But there's no question that Potential Suicide's a classic record.
What did you think of the band post-Limp, '82, '83, '84 and on?
There was a period of time where, you know, I put out the "Drunk and Disorderly" single that Ian had done with them. And I think I told you that even as recently as 2002 Boyd and I were talking about putting out a couple of 45s of later material that they'd done. But I never had the money to do it.
Did you keep track of any of the post-BMB bands like Shatterbox, the Vile Geezers, or Jakkpot?
Boyd gave me a Vile Geezers CD. I didn't particularly like it. I don't know the other ones that you're talking about.
How much were you really involved with this record?
Just money. That's why it's a split Limp release. That record marked the defining moment for me when I knew that none of these people needed me any more in terms of producing in the studio because they did that themselves.
I think that "In My Eyes" is probably one of the greatest punk records of all time, from start to finish. The changes in that...there's just no way that you could envision that these guys would go from the Teen Idles to a thing like that in a two year period. It just blew me away the first time I heard that song. I said, none of these people need me any more, they've got it all together.
Howie from the Music Machine and I went over to England buying records in the late seventies we hooked up really quickly with Nigel Dick, who was the press officer at Stiff Records, and his second in command there was Andy Murray, whose brother was Neil Murray from Whitesnake. Well the two of them became good friends with us quick and fast, and they'd give us promos.
We were big fans of the Stiff label and they had a band that had put out a record on Stiff under a different name. Then they had the Stiff All Stars record out on Chiswick, and they wanted to get some kind of presence established in America. They figured that, well, Limp was like the American Stiff in their mind—I don't think we ever achieved that status, certainly sales didn't reflect it. I made up a release and I think we pressed up 500 copies of that and put it out on Limp International. That's the only release on the Limp International label.
I just returned the master tapes to them a couple weeks ago. I found them when I was going through the warehouse. Nigel's a famous video producer out in LA now, he does a lot of Britney Spears videos and Hoobastank and things like that. He's one of the most famous video producers there is. Andy's still over in England working for record companies, so I called him up and said, "Do you want this?" and he said to ship it out, so I shipped out.
The Connected LP was my attempt to—back in the sixties there were various times where there'd be albums where there'd be...uh, there's one album in particular that I had in mind when I did Connected, it was on MGM and they had two songs each by like six British beat bands that they were trying to break at that period in time, and the Animals were one of them. They highlighted them because they were already big with House of the Rising Sun. The other bands were the Moquettes, the Cherokees, and some other bands. It was called Mickie Most Presents British Go Go, and it always just impressed me, so I wanted to take two tracks each by a diverse assortment of groups that I was working with and put them out. Instead of just relegating them to 45 and having them tie up space and money and not do anything, I felt that an album would be a little longer lasting.
The Velvet Monkeys: Don Fleming has gone on to great fame and produced a lot of people, including Pete Yorn and things like that.
Tommy Keene's on there. Those cuts have never appeared anywhere else, although one of them is in a different version on one of his albums.
The Dark, as I mentioned before, those two cuts are a better representation of what they were about than the ones on the EP—although the EP has, lately, been finding great favor with European girl group collectors who like things like the M&Ms, the Go Gos, the Bangles, that sort of thing.
Who am I leaving out...Black Market Baby, obviously, the Slickee Boys, and the Nurses. The Slickee Boys, if I remember correctly, it's a remixed version of "Gotta Tell Me Why" that I did.
That one was on the Best of Limp.
What the hell is on there by the Slickee Boys, then?
Two tracks recorded at the Here to Stay session. "Disconnected" and...the other one I can't remember.
Okay, so the two tracks there I didn't have anything to do with.
The Nurses were the two sides of the single that hadn't been released, which explains why I put it on an album. I always wondered about that. I said, "Why'd I put those two on the album if I'd already put them on a single?" but now I know, because the single was never released.
When it came time to record the album the Razz had broken up, so Mike basically got rid of everyone else who was in the band and took all the guys from Razz and he became the frontman.
Nightman did that album for us and then Tommy Keene took them as his band, including Mike Colburn, to record the Strange Alliance album, which was supposed to be a Limp release. That came right around the same time as the Teen Idles record, and I had stopped putting out records. I encouraged Tommy to start his own label and he made Avenue Records and put it out himself. If you look at the etching it's got a Limp number there, like 1008 or 1010 or something.
He pressed up a limited edition 45 to include with the first pressing of the thing, the "Back to Zero" / "Mr. Roland" 45.
That's just something I financed.
Never heard of that. I'll have to ask Marty about that, Kim Kane. I don't know about that.
What about stuff that never happened, like the Nerds' LP? Is there anything that didn't happen, that should have happened, that would have been great?
Well, the Nerds LP was my envisioning of a solo project, me doing garage songs. When it first started it was me being backed by people from the Razz and Slickee Boys, and later on it was me being backed by people from Minor Threat and SOA and Youth Brigade, but it never got beyond a track listing and possible people.
There was another Limp release (of sorts), that I had forgotten all about. The Pagans, on Drome, put out a great 45 with "What's This Shit Called Love"? I loved the record, and one day while ordering some stuff for the store through them, the owner mentioned he had 100 original 45s left, but no more picture sleeves. I bought all 100 and he sent me the artwork, which I printed up as a limited edition numbered of 100, different color picture sleeve... It was a Limp release, though it says it nowhere on the sleeve, and obviously not the record either.
Oh man, the Pagans were a great band, definitely on par with the best groups coming out of DC. Was the new sleeve thing in mid to late eighties? Terminal Records did the same thing in 1987. The old sleeve was pink with dark blue ink, what color was your reprint?
Bright red printing on yellow paper. They did the same thing I did when they dug up some more records. I just did it for the one 45 because I loved that song. It was going to be on the Nerds' Night On The Town LP.
Were you involved, as a musician, in any projects or bands that did get off the ground?
A few that are under the ground. At one time I had as many as six guitars, but couldn't play a lick. I've written hundreds of songs, just to abuse, er, amuse myself.
What was your favorite Limp record?
That we released or that I was involved with?
I'd have to say Gotta Tell Me Why, I think. That thing is just so powerful, it just knocks me over. It's a great song, a great performance, and we put it together very well.
And what's your least favorite?
I'd have to say the Killer Bees.
Did Limp get much attention outside of the DC Metro area?
Yeah, we had a fair number of write-ups in papers from coast to coast, the local City Paper-type things as well as the music press. The Trouser Press, if you ever see a copy of the Trouser Press Encyclopedia of the New Wave, we have several write-ups in there. Trouser Press, I don't know if they're still functioning.
They're not a magazine anymore, but they're online.
I have this big thick volume that came out in probably '83, '84, that we're in and we've got three or four records listed in there... :30 Over DC and a couple of others.
Why did Limp go under in the end?
It didn't go under, it just, it got to the point where in the early eighties the store was doing so well, and it was the place to go in the Washington area. I had, at one time, a full-time staff of five people working there. It just was not possible to keep putting the records out and pay attention to the store as well. Later in the eighties, when business started slowing down and we started doing mail order and Goldmine ads, there still wasn't any time.
It wasn't until 1990 that I did the YAT label for half a year and put out five or six releases. Tommy Carr ruined all that when he demanded royalties for the Black Market Baby singles, instead of half of the 45s, which was the deal I had made with the group. That caused YAT to go under. That was just me being pissed off at him. I just said screw it, it's not worth it.
I was trying to do these things to get recognition and create some kind of lasting sense of history for these guys, and all he's thinking about is a quick dollar. Stop drinking and get a job and go out and earn some money.
I never took any money or got paid for any of the recording sessions that I produced. Never. Not even back to the early stuff and all the money I made was on whatever records I sold. I paid all the pressing costs and I never charged the bands for any of that.
That's why the Black Market Baby thing...when I put out those three 45s, the "Potential Suicide" reissue, "Drunk and Disorderly", and then the split 45 with the Bad Brains and Tommy Carr wanted $300 for each of those things, and there were four things, because he counted the clear vinyl jukebox edition of Bad Brains thing, and so I had to give him like $1200 cash out of my pocket, right then and there. I was not supposed to be giving any money out—I had spent all my money because those colored vinyl pressings cost more than the black vinyl and I wanted them limited, so we only did a thousand of each. Obviously the more you do, the more the unit price goes down. It gave me a bad taste in my mouth for doing any more records and I just stopped.
Here's a list of Yesterday and Today releases. I think we've covered the Black Market Baby stuff pretty well, so...
Manifesto was a band that was composed of Bert, who had been in Youth Brigade (not when I produced them), they had a bass player named Greg Anderson then. Bert ended up working at the store later on. Mike Hampton was the guitarist for SOA, and Ivor Hansen had been in SOA at some point as well.
Burn was something that Ted produced for them, and I just thought it was really an incredible record. They ended up releasing that and two other singles in England and having Atlantic sign them and doing a whole album which I still think is an incredible record. I think they did that with John Rivers, who'd done a lot of work with a lot of independent type bands.
Burn, I still have like two hundred, three hundred copies of that which never sold. I've got it in my dollar box at conventions now, just trying to get rid of them.
Mike Hampton is an incredible songwriter and singer. What he does now is music for shows on the Discovery Channel. Makes a lot of money doing it too.
Strange Boutique is another example of me putting out a record because somebody worked at the store. Danny Ingram, who was in Youth Brigade when I worked with them, he was their drummer. He later ended up working at the store and he was living with Monica Richards, who was the lead singer in the band. They were originally known as Madhouse and had put a record out under that name.
Strange Boutique was just an opportunity to put something out under their new name. We did the "Song From Under the Floorboards", a Magazine song. They produced the whole thing. One of the people in the band had his own record label, and he put out some subsequent releases by them.
I thought it was a fine record, but again, this was right around the period of time where the whole thing fell apart with Tommy Carr so I never really did much with...my whole enthusiasm for putting out records vanished.
I put a lot of effort into those. I went with Rainbo Pressing in Santa Monica, doing the colored vinyl, professional sleeves printed up and everything. I spent maybe $8,000 or $10,000 on those 45s out of my pocket and just had it all spat back in my face.
What was some of the stuff that was planned for Yesterday and Today but never happened, if you remember?
Certainly. There were a couple more Black Market Baby 45s that were mooted at various points.
We were going to do a reissue of the Shirkers 45. I have it on a CD, I went over to Don Zientara's and mastered it and put the tapes onto a CD, so I have the CD somewhere to do it, if I do decide to do it. That same CD has the Black Market Baby things that Boyd had given me, because he was thinking about doing 45s with them, some of which he hates now.
I definitely wanted to do more stuff with the Dark.
Yeah, that would have been great.
Razz had canceled a 45 that they were going to put out, which was with Abaad but had two B sides with Tommy Keene, "Move It" and "Do Wha Diddy", which we ended up putting on the Best of Limp. The A side was a studio version "Cherry Vanilla", and for whatever reason when they decided they weren't going to put their money into it, they came to me, then decided they wanted to do something different and that's when we put the Airtime thing together.
I wanted to revisit that stuff because Abaad had another really good song called "Bad Intentions", and there's a studio version from that period that I wanted to do something with. That was one of the tracks that was going to be on the Best of Limp Volume 2, but I'd really have to sit down with my notes and stuff to figure it out.
Is there anything I should have asked you, but didn't? Anything you want to say now, while the tape's still rolling?
I almost feel like I'm doing this under oath. (laughs)
Even though you asked me about which record on Limp I liked the best, the big question you didn't ask me was, what record that I've been involved with do I like the best, and I'd have to say the three Dischord releases, the 45s I helped put out.
Working with those kids and seeing what they could accomplish, seeing what kind of unified projects we could put together, and having them, out of their own initiative, start their own label and put those things together, and develop what they managed to do over twenty years, and knowing that I helped start that by getting the ball rolling with them. I still listen to those records and I still think that they sound great today.
I have an Amazon affiliate account and I do put Amazon affiliate links in my posts when appropriate. If you buy something through one of those links (not necessarily the linked product), I get a small commission at no cost to yourself. I disclose my affiliate status on every page with affiliate links and virtually every other page as well. Disclosure matters.
I do not have affiliate accounts with any other businesses.
Sometimes I recommend products. I do so because I bought them and found them useful (or because I've rented them or borrowed them from a library), not because I got a freebie from the company or a PR firm hired me to shill for them.