The Making of Summer of Lust by Joe Ross
In the spring of 1984, Jeff Kelly and I had our jam room set up in the finished attic of my parent’s house in West Seattle. Jeff’s girlfriend had just left him and he was convinced he had just lost the one-true-love of his life. We jammed a lot that spring, and making music seemed to take Jeff’s mind off his misery. The two of us would usually alternate playing drums and guitar, or when we had a drummer on hand, Jeff and I would play guitar and bass respectively. One evening (April 12 to be exact) our friend Karl Wilhelm was playing drums with us when we chanced to record the session on a big silver boom box. The next day when I played the tape I was knocked out by how cool it sounded. Listening to the raga-esque guitar solos and Jeff’s simple, yet emotional, ad lib lyrics of the nascent With A Flower In Her Hair I knew something had to be done with this creativity pouring from his heartache. A serious band would do him good and put this burst of inspiration to good use. I played the tape for Jeff and had no trouble convincing him that we should start a recording project to put out a cassette – a legitimate release in the do-it-yourself cassette scene that was thriving in 1984.
It was a warm spring that year. We had lots of backyard barbecues and played a lot of music; acoustic guitars in the yard and jamming in the jam room. Jeff and I found ourselves at the center of a small clique of girls who partook in our musical happenings. As we were both scheming after a date-book full of girls, I christened the cassette project “Summer Of Lust.” The name of the band continued to be debated. We had been playing a few gigs as Felix The Cat Explodes but this new recording project needed a new name. The Flying Nun (Jeff’s pick) and The Pigeon-toed Orange Peel (my pick) finally gave way to The Green Pajamas (thank goodness) taken from a song of Jeff’s we were considering recording for the album. This optimistic little anthem seemed a fitting name for the band and it gave us a theme song.
We began recording on June 2nd using Jeff’s TEAC 4-track reel-to-reel deck. The basic tracks were recorded in the upstairs of my parents’ house using only one microphone placed in the center of the room facing towards the amps and away from the drum set. Although it was Karl who had played drums the night of the original jam session, he wasn’t available very often so Jeff played drums when we recorded I Feel That Way All The Time, Mike Brown and The Way I Feel About You. Our friend Joe Bauer, who had played with us in Felix The Cat Explodes, came over for one short afternoon session to play drums on the basics for Katie Lied, In This Castle and Another One Of Those Nights. We had done a prior recording of Another One Of Those Nights with me on acoustic guitar and Jeff on banjo but we came up with a rock arrangement when we decided to record it for the album. Overdubs were done in Jeff’s bedroom at his parents’ house where he had been writing, recording and mixing songs for years. My Mad Kitty and Dance With The Angels were recorded at Jeff’s house using Mattel Synsonic drums and a 12-string acoustic guitar.
With A Flower In Her Hair was the song on the jam session tape that inspired the whole project. To record it for the album we took care to replicate the structure of the original: the main guitar riff; the fast section; the slow section; and the main riff again to close. Karl’s drumming was essential so we made sure he would be available to record. Jeff had replaced his strings that day and used a heavier gauge set of strings than he was used to and it stiffened his playing a bit. I remember at the time we felt that the take wasn’t quite up to its potential but we were moving fast and it never was attempted again. Though it’s not much of a song (more of a riff really) I still remember the feeling I used to get when we would play ‘Flower’. It was so loud and liberating and magical – and so unlike the punk and new wave of the day. It was the driving force and the original inspiration of the band. And how proud I was, knowing that the flowery strains of this song were blaring from my parents’ house as we jammed in the attic; wafting across the neighborhood on the summer air.
Although it was clearly autobiographical, Jeff originally wrote I Feel Like A Murder for me to sing. Before I had time to learn it we decided one warm evening to pile in Jeff’s car and go record it in a field on an undeveloped hillside in south Seattle that we had been talking about exploring. We brought the
silver boom box, a snare drum, Jeff’s 12-string acoustic (the only acoustic guitar he owned in those days) and four girls for support: Colleen, Melody, Julie and Nancy who can be heard taking our picture a split second before we start playing. This recording was merely done for an evening’s fun with no intentions of
releasing it but as we assembled the Summer Of Lust master in its final sequence it fit nicely at the end of side-one of the tape and its fate was sealed, we never recorded a refined arrangement. It was left off the Ubik LP in 1989 due to time restrictions of the vinyl format.
The last song we recorded was our namesake. Jeff had written Green Pajamas a year or so before and had made a solo recording of it. We both liked its ‘Baby You’re A Rich Man’ feel and decided to re-record it for the album once the name of the band was settled. We wanted the song to feature a big ending like ‘All You Need Is Love’ or ‘Hey Jude’, so we invited the gang of girls over to clap their hands and sing along on the choruses. This party/recording session took place in the jam room on the evening of July 8, 1984 – recorded live except for the electric guitar solo which Jeff overdubbed the next afternoon. (Note: the tape dropout that occurs in the 2nd verse has always been present on the master tape, right from the very first playback.)
We did the final mix of each song to a “master cassette” in the proper sequence. We included Anna Maria and Lost In A World, two songs that we had recorded at Jeff’s during the past winter. At the last minute Jeff got cold feet and decided not to include Mike Brown because Mike was a real guy who was dating his ex – the girl he was still trying to win back – so the song was prudently left off. It was reinstated on the Green Monkey cassette release in 1985 and the Ubik LP.
For the cover, the fastest way we could think of to get photos of us was to go out to the coin-operated photo booth at Fred Meyer’s Department store. Wearing our Byrdsian gear, sheepishly, we each took a turn sitting in the booth and left the store with two strips of four black and white mug shots. Then while Jeff went on a date that afternoon, I laid out the cover. By the time he returned later that day, the cover was done. We found a tape duplicating service in the Yellow Pages andSummer Of Lust was officially released on July 14, 1984, with a first run of 25 cassettes. By that evening they were available (alas, consigned) at Cellophane Square, in the University district, our favorite record store. We sold them to our friends and I even remember hawking them on a street corner on University Avenue.
The cover photo that appears on this CD came later. The graffiti mysteriously appeared on the gymnasium wall at West Seattle High School sometime that summer. The actual photo was taken a year later in the spring of 1985 by Kari Dunn, a Mercer Island High School student who was interviewing us for her school paper. That’s Steve Lawrence, who didn’t join the band until November 1984, Jeff and me in the photo. She didn’t use the shot for the article and it wasn’t until the LP release on Ubik Records in 1989 that it was used for the cover of Summer Of Lust. Likewise, the “Rubber Soul” inspired back cover was created for the Ubik LP.
And that, dear reader, is my story of the making of Summer Of Lust and the conception of The Green Pajamas. About four months later I got a phone call from a man named Tom Dyer. He had bought a copy of our tape and was writing a review of it for Option magazine. He also mentioned that he ran Green Monkey Records and had an 8-track studio in his basement. We went to visit Tom with our new song Kim The Waitress in early 1985 and the rest is recorded history. Colonel Tom managed the band for the next 10 years and produced all of our recordings during the same period.
The CD release of Summer Of Lust is from the original master cassette tape. Aside from a modest tape-hiss reduction, nothing has been cleaned up or added to the master except the bonus tracks, which are also original recordings from that spring of 1984. The parody of a radio spot, Summer Of Lust Commercial, was made just for the fun of it. I came over with the script, showed it to Jeff, and we immediately recorded it, never planning to use it for anything. Our friend Nancy played the hysterical fan, and we recruited Jeff’s dad to play the part of the “old-folk everywhere” who ad-libbed, “I just turn my hearing aid down when that jazz comes on!” We both loved The Dreams Inside A Butterfly’s Mind and had considered putting it on the album. Recorded on Feb 14, 1984, it was ultimately left off merely because Jeff had recorded it by himself rather than a joint effort. At the end of the CD is a soft Baroque-sounding melody played on a clavichord (a very quiet portable keyboard that was used by composers during the Baroque age) which was originally included, unaccredited, at the end of side-one of the Summer Of Lust cassette. The melody is a song of Jeff’s called Foolish Love recorded several years before with vocals and piano both drenched in echo. This soft clavichord version was used to fill the blank tape and only Jeff’s ex, his muse, would recognize the significance of this unlisted song when she heard it.
This album still sounds best when played loud on a warm summer afternoon, the way it wasin those golden days of 1984.
Joe Ross March 2012
How did I meet Summer of Lust? – the story goes like this. It was 1984 or there about. I had a dinky record label, Green Monkey Records, which had put out a sum total of five cassette-only releases, the best of which had sold a couple hundred copies. In 1983-84, the idea of putting out a cassette only release was très-undergound. Sub Pop was a somewhat sporadic fanzine that alternated between a paper issue and a cassette issue. K Records was pretty much a cassette-only label down in Olympia, WA, putting out comps like Let’s Sea and stuff like John Foster, and the Supreme Cool Beings. I traded cassettes with people in places like Youngstown, Ohio and other place around the country. We would send songs to occasional local tape shows with guys like Steve Rabow at KZAM, all for your 2-3 minutes of glory. I even got to host a local tape special with soon-to-be Sub Pop mogul Jonathon Poneman on KCMU, which would become current alterna-king KEXP. The music all sounded very cheap, very not-major-label which was good - majors were then considered the source of all known evil in the universe (okay, we had a pretty small universe). Nonetheless, it seemed a pretty glorious time.
It was in this setting that I walked into Cellophane Square, a mostly used record store in the U District of Seattle. I had up to that point bought most every record that had come out in Seattle since the punk rock line-in-the-sand of 1977. There were so few you could buy them all without much of an investment.
Besides used stuff, Cellophane was cool because they sold local stuff. Hip folk worked there, like Scott from the Young Fresh Fellows. So I walk in on a Saturday and spying through the cassette counter, I see this Summer of Lust tape. It couldn’t have been there for more than a week or two, cuz I was pretty much a regular. It looked pretty cool, with two guys, one smoking, on its green cover. So I forked over $3.99 and
took it home. Didn’t have a cassette in the car.
When I got it home and fired it up, it was love at first listen. Certainly it was recorded in the kind of 4-track glory that was chic in my world at the time, but it was all about the songs, the cool guitar playing and weird extra stuff. It was clearly a psychedelic kinda thing, but it didn’t seem strictly derivative to me – it seemed fresh and exciting. My Mad Kitty and I Feel That Way All the Time and Dance with the Angels were just so damn cool. Not to mention I Feel like a Murder recorded in a field with Julie on waste paper basket. I wrote a short review for Op or Option or one of those magazines giving it the thumbs up. I had just upgraded my little basement studio from 4-track to 8-track and decided I would contact the band in case they wanted to record some more in the future. They didn’t have any contact info on the tape, but the actual cassette had a phone number for the guy that did the duplication. I called him up, got Joe’s number and managed to get in touch. We hooked up, signed to my record label and made a record called Kim the Waitress and as well as many other
fine songs, but that is a story for a different day.
I re-released Summer of Lust on Green Monkey, along with another cassette of Jeff’s home recordings called Baroquen Hearts, shortly before Kim. We added a couple tunes, the wistful Stephanie Barber, culled from the barely released Happy Halloween cassette and the fabulous Mike Brown. A few years later I licensed it to Greg Shaw’s Bomp/Ubik Records and it came out on vinyl for the first time, less Stephanie Barber, I Feel Like a Murder and the unlisted Foolish Love track that ended the original Side 1.
So now you have it on CD for the first time, with its original beauty and a couple bonus tracks. I’ve been listening to it this evening as I’ve written these words. It still has a beauty and charm; it is Jeff and Joe when they were simply young guys making the best and coolest music they could make. If you are a current PJ’s fan, this will be a revelation to you. If you’re one of the few that experienced Summer of Lust in one of its earlier iterations, you will welcome an old friend. If this is the first time you heard the Green Pajamas, well, just enjoy!
Tom Dyer April 2012
PS. If you wanna know where Stephanie Barber went, you’ll just have to ask Joe.
Mastering Notes. The original tracks for this were recorded on 4-track reel to reel and mixed to cassette without noise reduction (we all hated Dolby). Some of the songs on the master cassettes were mixed to a different cassette and then copied to the master, doubling the amount of tape hiss. There was a variety of other miscellaneous crap noise. My goal with this project was to clean it up as much as I could without losing its original character. I took some songs from the original master, and several songs/song parts from other tapes in Jeff’s “pile of cassettes” drawer. Basically we dredged up the best copy available and tidied it up a bit, but not too much: the 60Hz hum that runs through My Mad Kitty is still there for you. On a couple songs – Mike Brown, Green Pajamas you’ll hear some little glitches. It is not your CD player. That is the way the original cassette sounds, so enjoy it.
Heart-felt thanks to Howie Wahlen, James Johnson, Jeff Zunker, Linda Daily, Sara Kinney, Julie Lawrence, Steve Lawrence, Susanne Kelly, Laura Ross.