Thursday, May 10, 2018

Bring Yourself to a Job

Text © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2018
Images from the Internet

For most people, employment is a job: something to do to get money to pay for the things one likes to do in the personal sphere; unlike the “Seinfeld” episode, world do not collide. This, of course, can be a mistake in the larger picture.

The more of yourself one bring to a job, not only the more experience be more enjoyable, but the more enthusiasm and positivity the employers will see in you. Here are some examples from my own life.

In just about every job I’ve had, I have managed to bring along my photography with me, though it’s never been part of my job description. Company functions such as big and small events and parties, be it for the whole organization or just for the Department, are the perfect places to take some pictures of your co-workers having fun. The trick is to share it with the group on the company’s intranet. This is especially easy now with digital pictures.

Have them posted on a bulletin board somewhere, put them into a collage or PowerPoint slide show, or merely put the photos in a folder to which everyone has access, and you’ll find yourself possibly invited to events outside your own group. Everyone in the company knows who I am, and sees me in a positive light, especially the management.  I started doing this as a tool to help me remember everybody, but it has definitely blossomed. Again, it’s never been part of my position’s job description, but it certainly gets mentioned as a plus on nearly every performance evaluation.

Another example is my experience in PowerPoint. I worked for a major corporation for many years designing slideshows for presentations. When I started working at another position, I noticed that the new company’s informational program slides were inconsistent or not appealing to the eye (too much text, not big enough, inconsistences in style). I pointed this out to my supervisor a few times in a very gentle way, and over time, more slideshows started pass through my hands before reaching the public. Again, these program slides are not in my job purview, but they are in my knowledge wheelhouse, as it were. Now I have made myself more valuable to the company. Yes, it’s a bit more work that I have made for myself, but the outcome is extremely positive to the job, and my evaluations.

When I was hired for a particular position, I volunteered to supply a blog once a month to the local corporate website that relies more on what the company does as a whole, rather than just what my job entails. Most blogs, especially ones for a major company, tend not to be more than 100 words, which is just a few paragraphs. About three times a year, I wrote four at a time, and then posted them on the company blogsite with a time setting. Again, this is not something that is on my job description, and it also makes a bit more work for me, but I truly enjoy it and I’m getting paid to do research on the Internet about topics that I find interesting.

Even my love of obscure music has made its presence felt in a positive light. For example, at one place I worked they had an annual Christmas party, and somewhere during the event there was a contest: people were broken into groups and then a supervisor in another department would play a Christmas song, and whichever group knew who had performed it, they won points. I helped the person in charge organize his song list by providing some material he was unfamiliar with, such as the Ramones’ “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” and Jona Lewie’s “Stop the Cavalry.” This made my co-worker’s life easier, and he spoke positively about me to my own supervisor. Also, it was fun for me, and again, raised my value in the corporate management side of the company beyond my own section.
The point is, I have taken steps to make myself more valuable to a company by expanding my role beyond what is expected of me, which fits into the “Going Beyond” section of yearly evaluations, but I’m also doing something that I find fun, which does nothing but add value. By doing this extra work beyond my scope, it also keeps the job from becoming stale and feeling like I’m in a rut.  It’s a definite win-win situation for all involved.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

The Heaven That Was ’67: Garage Punk [1985]

By Nancy Foster / FFanzeen, 1985
* = Additions by Robert Barry Francos, 1985
Introduction and live photos © Robert Barry Francos, 2018
Flyers from the personal collection of Robert Barry Francos
Videos from the Internet

This article was originally printed in FFanzeen, issue #5, dated 1985, by the irrepressible Nancy Foster, aka Nancy Neon.

While I enjoyed the hardcore sounds of the 1980s, I was drawn more to the new garage style, often going to see the bands that often played places like the Dive and Irving Plaza. Some of them were quite aggressive, like the Chesterfield Kings, and some were more pop, like the Cheepskates. I remember hanging out with the ‘Skates at the main floor bar while they played pool during one Super Bowl Sunday before a performance in the 1980s. Don’t get me wrong, when I say pop I certainly don’t mean sedate; just listen to the drumming on “Run Better Run,” because it is fierce, but you felt safer with them onstage. For example in the other direction, at one show at Maxwells, Kings’ singer Greg Prevost was jumping from the stage and swinging on the huge amps attached to the ceiling by chains. I moved to the back of the venue, just in case.

Of course, there were other bands that didn’t get mentioned because, well, there were so many of them, such as the Cynics (Pittsburgh) and to some level, even the Cramps.

The bands were exciting, the fashions were cool, the haircuts were wild, and the sounds were driving beats usually backed by an electric organ. Often I’d go with Nancy, or others, to these shows and just let go of all my worries.

Click on the name of the band below to see a sample their work. – Robert Barry Francos, 2018.

Call it garage grunge. Call it neo-psychedelia or punk/psych. There’s a real ‘60s revival going on in NYC, Rochester, Boston, and LA. When one mentions the ‘60s, Joe Q. Public thinks of throngs of naked hippies, Woodstock, and the Grateful Dead. But I’m not talking about love-ins, Haight-Ashbury (hashbury!), or nude herds of mush(room) minds, I’m talking about The Heaven that was ’67: chicks in minis, Yardley cosmetics, Cleopatra eyeliner, fishnets, etc.; guys with pudding basin haircuts in Prince Valiant style, Wayfarer shades, paisleys, and black leather. I’m talking about Vox and Rickenbacker guitars, Vox organs, and bringing sex and danger to rock’n’roll. I mean intense, not mellow. I’m talking about the coolest era in the wild, wild world.

The grooviest groups in NYC are the Vipers, the Fuzztones, Mad Violets, Outta Place, Cheepskates, and the Tryfles. Boston has the Lyres (my fave raves) and the Prime Movers. Rochester has the Chesterfield Kings, and LA has Rain Parade, Long Ryders, 3 O’clock and the Unclaimed.

Whereas the East Coast combos of cool are more influenced by the ominous, sinister sounds of the Sonics, the Standells and the Chocolate Watchband, the LA groups are mostly influenced by the more mystical, melodic, introspective sounds, such as made famous by folk rock sensations, the Byrds (except the Unclaimed, who are pure primitive punk!

The Vipers
THE VIPERS recently got signed by Passport Records, who are releasing their long-awaited LP, Outta the Nest. Previous to this, they were turning NYC on to their fab sounds at the Dive’s Thursday night Cavestomps. The line-up is Jon Weiss (vocals, sax, harmonica), Paul Martin (lead guitar), Pat Brown (drums), Graham May (bass), and Dave Mann (keys, harmonica, guitar). 

The Fuzztones
THE FUZZTONES have risen like a phoenix from the ashes of Tina Peel,  a warped ‘70s Archies. The Fuzztones pledge their allegiance to the punk/psych sounds of the ‘60s. The original members are Rudi Protrudi (lead vocals, guitar) and Deb O’Nair (keys and backup vocals). Their set includes hot covers of “Shapes of Things to Come” and “Riot on Sunset Strip,” complete with flashing lights and sirens. 

MAD VIOLETS stars Wendy Wild [d. 1996 – RBF, 2018], ex- of Pullsallama.  She’s the wildest dancer and a fab dresser, when she makes the ‘60s scene mushroom queen. One night she pulled a Goldie Hawn a la “Laugh In,” wearing a bikini top, miniskirt, and body paint. Their version of the 13th Floor Elevators’ “You’re Gonna Miss Me” is positively warped! 

THE CHEEPSKATES are one of the top dance bands. Their version of “Little Latin Lupe,” the Kinks’ “I Need You,” and the Yardbirds’ “Over Under Sideways Down” has the kids dancing in the aisles. Their “Run Better Run” single, on Midnight Records, is perfectly primitive.  

The Tryfles
TRYFLES are a great live band that has loads of originals, as well as intense covers like “The World’s Not Round, It’s Square” and “Way to Die.” One of the more visible bands on the circuit today. * 

OUTTAPLACE stars Chandler (lead vocals), Shari (nubile Morticia on keys), Orin (bass), Jordan (guitar), and Andrea (drums). They have a wild, wild record out on Midnight. You’ll seldom see so many groovy looking people in one place. [Late news: Outta Place no longer exist as a band, but their record on Midnight is worth checking out – NF, 1985.] 

The Chesterfield Kings
THE CHESTERFIELD KINGS have a 1982 album on Mirror Records that’s already a garage classic, and have just released a new single, “She Told Me Lies,” on the same label. They dress cool and take their hair style cues from Brian Jones. You might recognize lead singer Greg Prevost as writer of Future fame, and more recently Outasite! 

THE MYSTIC EYES from Buffalo features ex-the Good  leader Bernie Kugel on lead guitar and vocals, with ex-Davy & the Crockets leader Dave Meinser on backing (and occasional lead) vocals and guitar. Their music is wild, raunchy, and Bernie’s vocals are not to be believed! Their main influences are “The Honeymooners” and “Green Acres.” [Note: not to be confused with the German band with the same name – RBF, 2018] * 

THE PRIME MOVERS pump out a powerful potion of mod garage soul. Their hyped-up version of Lou Reed’s “Waiting for My Man” makes them heavy garage contenders. [Thanks to Blair Buscareno for the link - RF, 2019.] 

The Lyres
THE LYRES, who have been called by some as “white soul,” have a real gritty, garage sound. The Lyres put out great records, most recently a fantabulous album called On Fyre on Ace of Hearts Records, and put on mind-bending shows featuring intense frontman Jeff ”Monoman” Connolly. 

Salem 66
SALEM 66 are a cool Byrds-type psychedelic band from Boston, who follow in the footfalls (and far surpass) the likes of Dream Syndicate and the dull Green on Red. Formerly an all-girl trio consisting of Judy Grunwald on guitar and lead vocals, Beth Kaplan on bass, and Susan Merriam on drums, they have invited male guitarist Robert Wilson to join their fold and make the sound even fuller. This band has a rockin’ new album and single out on Homemade Records. * 

THE LONG RYDERS, on 10-5-60, are more devout to their ‘60s pilgrimage. Spectres of the Byrds weave through the melody lines and especially Sid Griffin’s (guitar/vocals) hero, the late Gram Parsons. The Country & Western twang of “You Don’t Know What’s Wrong, You Don’t Know What’s Right” comes complete with steel guitar and it is real good kicks. On the title track, the smooth folk of the Byrds combines with the spunky Rhythm & Blues of the Yardbirds for a provocative musical hybrid. 

THE RAIN PARADE’s Emergency Third Rail Power Trip is my favorite of these three LA releases. The music is more mystical, and lusher with its languorous and magical melodies. The soft, introspective tone vocally, along with the sitar, enhances the ethereal feeling that the record inspires. “I Look Around” sounds like a more cerebral Hollies. 

THE PANDORAS are an incredibly good band that could be a female flip-side of the Chocolate Watchband, giving many East Coast garagers a run for their money. Their LP, It’s About Time, on Voxx Records, has no sense of innocence blocking its way as it raunches out with Paula Pierce’s (d. 1991) scratchy and screaming vocals, along with haunting instrumentals. * 

A couple of other bands you might want to check out for a mild psychedelic sound are the Things and Eyes of Mind, both of whom have albums out on that super label, Voxx. *

If you dig the ‘60s sound ‘80s-style, but you still crave the real thang, check out a groovy French record company called Eva and their extensive listing of cool combos: “Diddy Wah Diddy” (Barry & the Remains), “Calm Before The…” (Rising Storm), etc.

Bomp!/Voxx, “Where the ‘60s never ended,” proves its slogan with great plastic platters like Acid Vision, High in the Mid-Sixties, and my persona faves, Electric Sugar Cube Flashbacks, Vols. I and II, which contain rare British punk/psych ‘60s gems and the reigning ruler of my turntable, The Tongues of Truth by the Grodes, a terrific Tucson combo who did the original version of “Let’s Talk About Girls,” which has often been considered a Chocolate Watchband original.