Confessions of a Power Pop Legend
Interview by Robert Pally
Jim Basnight is a true veteran of the Seattle music scene. Since the mid-1970's, he has released albums with bands like The Meyce, The Moberlys, The Jim Basnight Thing, The Rockinghams and fine solo albums of power pop, punk, rock, folk, country, rock And roll and proto grunge. In this interview, he speaks about his different bands, opening for The Ramones, his favorite cover songs, provocative lyrics, his rock musical Little Rock, his Sonny Boy Williamson book, highpoints in his musical career, a missed Kurt Cobain connection and his latest solo album Not Changing.
PSF: Was music important in your family?
JB: It was, though neither of my parents were career musicians. My grandfather was in classical music, leading the University of Hawaii marching band and working in the Seattle Symphony and all of the local union gigs. That was all in the 1920's. When the depression hit, he was forced to go back to flour milling, which he had done for a living, when he and his brother left home in rural Virginia before WWI, at the ages of 12 and 14.
They settled in Montana and he worked in a flour mill by day and got his high school diploma by night, until WWI, when he joined the US Army. That led him to Seattle to serve at Fort Casey protecting the Puget Sound. After the war, he went to college in Hawaii and pursued music. He was always very condescending about rock and roll. My late dad was a fan of jazz, which grandpa also hated. My grandfather was a very cool guy, but he really tried to minimize the value of rock and roll.
I finally got him to admit the Beatles were good, around 1969, but that was as far as he went in life. He was very proud of me though I think and after he and my grandma passed on in 1986, I found a nice file of newspaper clippings from the local papers he kept, from my early days of local fame in Seattle in the late '70's and early '80's. My mom (still alive at 88) was a singer in her later years and performed in choirs and vocal ensembles, mostly after retirement.
My dad was not a musician, but he was very creative. We had a piano. He had a guitar, which I basically took complete control over by the age of seven. My sister was in a Seattle punk act as a lead vocalist with a band called Rally Go in the early '80's. They appeared on the Seattle Syndrome Two album with the band Rally Go in 1983, but she wasn't in the band by then.
PSF: Do you remember the first LP or single you bought?
JB: I do. The first LP I bought was Surrealistic Pillow by Jefferson Airplane. It wasn't the first rock album I got my hands on though. My dad bought me Revolver by the Beatles, Absolutely Free by the Mothers and The Fugs (on ESP). Then I talked my mom into buying Rubber Soul, Yesterday and Today and the Help soundtrack. My dad also took me to see Help, prior to getting me those first three albums.
I also got my parents to buy, for presents or for doing chores, Kinks Greatest Hits, High Tides and Green Grass, Got Live If You Want It (both by the Rolling Stones), Animal Tracks (by the Animals), Paul Revere and the Raiders Greatest Hits and Yardbirds Greatest Hits among others. I also traded stuff with neighbor kids for albums they had, so I'm not sure about the source of all of those. I ended up with a large collection of albums by 1973. I collected a lot of '60's rock, glam rock and soul.
I specifically like Curtis Mayfield, Al Green, Smokey Robinson, Sly Stone and Otis Redding, as far as soul singer/writers. I was never much into heavy metal, so I guess I skipped Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Grand Funk, though I appreciate those a lot more now. I did like Free, but I was hugely interested in Jimi Hendrix. After the Beatles, Hendrix became my favorite artist. I also like CCR, who I was lucky to see live in 1969 with a friend whose dad worked for the Seattle venue they played in.
T-Rex was the band though who tied together my love for '60's mostly British and American garage and pop rock and soul, with the early '70's glam. Once I became a fan of theirs, I discovered Bowie, Lou Reed, Slade, New York Dolls, Iggy and the Stooges, the Velvet Underground, the MC5, Suzi Quatro, Mott the Hoople and Alice Cooper. I had heard the Velvets in 1967, at a family friend's house and had read about them, but I wasn't that into it until the early '70's.
By 1975, Lou was probably my biggest influence and that was when I started writing songs. As far as singles, before I bought one, I had a number of them, which my parents bought or I ended up with somehow around the neighborhood. The first one I bought with my own money was "Things I Should Have Said" by the Grassroots.
I started collecting singles a lot more than albums and at one point received a huge bounty from a friend who gave me a stack for some firecrackers and cherry bombs, that was in the summer of '67 when I was 10 years old. That stack included a number of great NW (Northwest) 45's from the Sonics, Wailers, etc. It also included the Who and Them.
I became a huge fan of the Who, especially after "I Can See for Miles," but it was the Them single that made the biggest impression on me, as I learned to play and sing one side of it, "Gloria" (it was backed by "Baby Please Don't Go") and performed it with my neighborhood friends at a show and tell in 5th grade (I was 10 years old) along with "Dirty Water" by the Standells, "Dandy" by the Kinks and "Wild Thing" by the Troggs.
We were the Electric Cornflakes, obviously influenced by the Garage movement. I was totally into the pop and garage rock of the day and used to go to local stores which had cut out singles bins, where I found many great songs that glanced the top-100, but didn't sell much. It was an incredible time in music and between my transistor radio, my portable record player, my acoustic six string guitar and fan magazines I had a great time.
In the band, which only lasted for a couple of show and tells and one or two birthday parties I played someone else's electric guitar. It was all fun and I never thought I'd do it for a career. In 1973, my grandfather lectured the hell out of me to get out of the music thing and get serious about getting a good job, to help pay for my college prior to my 16th birthday, when I'd be old enough to legally work.
He convinced me to sell all of my records and buy a business suit, so I could go out and get a good job, which I almost did, save for the Beatles, a couple Hendrix albums, "Tommy by the Who (because it was an opera, therefor legit in his eyes, or so I thought). I also sold all of my singles, many with picture sleeves, which at the time was incredibly stupid.
PSF: What was the first band you played in?
JB: After that, I got a job as a bag boy in a supermarket and soon realized what I had done. It wasn't long after that, I started dating a woman a lot older than I. I decided to be a lead singer in a band, with some other friends and we did a series of gigs at teen dances doing a mix of current and late 60's rock covers, including notably Badfinger tunes. Shortly after that, I got together with other friends and put together a band to do all glam rock, like Alice Cooper, Bowie, T-Rex, Iggy and the Dolls. That band was called Lovaboy, though people called us the Loverboys. We only did one live gig and that was at the talent show in my senior year of high school. It was about that time I bought my first electric guitar, a Fender Mustang, followed by the Fender Jazzmaster after the talent show gig, that I've used for the better part of the last 45 years, with only a few side trips.
PSF: What good/bad memories do you have of them?
JB: I have little else but good memories of those early bands. The confrontations with my family were the only bad memories, but I've long since forgiven them. I became a musician because I loved it so much. Their advice was wise, but that love has sustained throughout my life, long after it was easy or attention getting, just to bang out rock and roll on a guitar. I do it because it is who I am.
PSF: What made you wanna become a musician in the first place?
JB: My parents and grandparents pushed me towards being a doctor or a lawyer, but I didn't want any part of that and decided to be a musician, sometime around my 17th birthday. Nothing has changed since, other than my becoming a songwriter around the time of my 18th birthday. I've learned to love a lot of music, beyond those roots, most notably early rock and roll, blues and older country and western.
I would have to say that I made good decisions, for who I am, though I am extremely proud that my kid wants to be a lawyer and has just started college this fall. I gave her every opportunity to be a musician or an actor, but she decided she wanted to be a three sport athlete (something I always wanted to be, but was not particularly good at it). She was always a great athlete, but decided late in her high school years that she wanted to focus on school and her goal of becoming a lawyer. I couldn't be more thrilled.
PSF: With The Meyce, you opened in 1977 for The Ramones. What memories do you have about this?
JB: Yes, by late 1975, in the year after I graduated (barely, because of all of my rock and rolling) from high school, I fell in with a crowd of kids who had a little fanzine called Chatterbox (named for the New York Dolls/Johnny Thunders song). Lee Lumsden, the editor or the 'zine made me and fellow Lovaboy Paul Hood (currently of the Toiling Midgets and for the past 40 years) assistant editors, but also played drums and wrote songs with us, after I had cobbled together some early songs, as did Paul.
We were joined by my girlfriend Jennie Skirvin. We were very influenced by the Velvet Underground and a rather frenetic scattered pop sensibility. That was the Meyce, fittingly. Our first gig was the TMT Show (Telepaths, Meyce, Tupperwares) on May 1st 1976 in Seattle, which predates the early DIY punk shows in London, as well as those elsewhere on the West Coast.
We were of course following the lead of NYC and were suitably influenced by anything we could find on those bands, especially the Ramones, but also others who put out indie singles or that we got cassette tape dupes of from the late Tomata Du Plenty of the Tupperwares (and also the Screamers), who was older than us and had lived in NYC and San Francisco. Tomata was in a "drag rock" act in Seattle in the early '70's called Ze Whiz Kidz, who had opened for Alice Cooper, the Dolls among other legendary Seattle galas.
Tomata knew the Ramones and was very generous to us in sharing his first hand accountings. The Meyce did a series of other self-promoted shows and a two song demo, doing all original material and moved into a house together in the fall of 1976. Jennie left the band shortly thereafter and we continued as a 3-piece, knocking out a number of other recordings and shows.
By early 1977, we added Pam Lillig on guitar, who played a Les Paul Jr. like Johnny Thunders and employed a distorted sound to contrast my cleaner Jazzmaster sound through an Acoustic 150 amp with a 4X12 cabinet and no effects, other than volume boost. Today, I use a Peavey Classic 50 amp, because it has good effects and decent reverb, and tube sound, but is very manageable and easy to maintain.
Over time, I used a few other electric guitars here and there, but mostly the Jazzmaster. I started playing acoustic solo gigs in NYC, when I moved there in 1980 and by the mid-'80's in LA, I started doing solo acoustic dates and got an Ovation, with a pick-up. By 1990, I bought an Ovation "Elite" 12-string and two others of the same make and model later. Those have been my guitars forever and I have no intention of changing that.
Back to the Meyce and Pam Lillig, we did a couple of gigs, which were well attended and documented in the local media, then were asked to open for the Ramones on March 6th, 1977. That show was co-promoted by Chatterbox, whose editor Neil Hubbard, was also one of my best friends growing up. Neil and I were friends before either of us knew Paul, Lee or anyone else in the scene and we all remain friends today.
The other promoter of the show was Robert Bennett, who I also knew growing up and was my shack manager, when I had a Seattle P-I (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) paper route in 1970. Neil and I also had Seattle Times paper routes before that time too. The Meyce had a lot of great songs and sounded great, but I saw myself moving on to NYC to make it big, so the band fell apart after the Ramones show and I started to plan my move to NY.
Needless to say, that was culture shock, when I moved there in April of 1977, after the Iggy Pop show, backed by David Bowie on keys, where Blondie opened. I also met a few of the members of Blondie at a party where Iggy performed the day before the show. When I got to NY, I got jobs working in record stores and went to dozens of great shows, many through my connections with the Ramones.
I met a number of other NYC folks and others who traveled there to engage with Max's and CBGB's from Europe and elsewhere in the US and Canada. I was unable to get a band together and couldn't balance keeping a job, a place to stay and going to rock clubs, so I returned to Seattle in the fall of 1977 on a Greyhound bus ride across the nation.
I sought to make a record, which I was able to do, with Seattle friends supporting me and recorded my first single "Live in The Sun" b/w "She Got Fucked," which I released on my own Precedent label in late 1977, though it didn't go on sale until January of 1978. My grandfather paid for my flight to NYC in April of '77 and my dad set me up with a place to stay at an old friend for a month in suburban NY, while I saved money and looked for an apartment, but I worked there for everything myself.
My grandfather made me promise that if I came back, I would give up music and go to college, which made it very hard for me to come back. I was extremely upset and anxious and one night I was near suicidal. Luckily, I saw so much great rock and roll and was inspired by so much there that I decided to come back anyway. My parents let me stay for only a few weeks, so I rented a rehearsal space in a garage and lived in it, until which time people let me stay with them.
During this time, the Moberlys came together, with bassist Steve Grindle, who I met around the time of the Ramones show and drummer Bill Walters, a friend of Steve's. We went through a few guitar players, including Steve Pearson (who we did one gig with, in 1978) and Don Short who went on to form the Heats and Jeff Cerar, who went on to be the original guitarist in the Cowboys (and played on our first demos, some of which ended up on the 1996 ATM/Bear Family CD album Sexteen), two of the top NW bands in the early '80's club scene.
The Cowboys also included future Rockingham and current Moberly Jack Hanan. We also played with my friend, former Tupperware guitarist and Chatterbox contributor Ben Rabinowitz (a.k.a. Ben Fisher, his mom's name was Fisher and his dad was Rabinowitz and he used both off and on), but his young age (I think he was 17) and lack of a car became an issue. Coincidentally, the flourmill my grandfather worked at in Seattle for decades and retired as plant manager was Fisher Flour Mills and co-owned by Ben's grandfather.
We finally landed on Ernie Sapiro, a high school mate of mine who had been in a band that the Meyce had played shows with and who also released an early "Punk" single in '78 called Uncle Cookie. Ernie was a great fit and we started rehearsing, leading up to a show opening for Greg Kihn at Seattle's Paramount Theater in December 1978 and a club gig or two. In 1979, 40 years ago, we blazed a lot of new ground in the Seattle area.
We recorded a number of demos and opened for a number of national touring acts, as well as other notable gigs. We had some help from regional "bizzers," who tried to help us get signed and did a great demo with Ned Neltner producing. But after we were passed on by a number of major labels, Walters left, mostly because he couldn't afford it. We were playing great shows, but making no money and he had to get a job.
The same was more or less true for Ernie, who was working at a restaurant and decided not to continue with Steve and I as we auditioned drummers. Though Steve and I put together a band to do club gigs and did a couple of them, he was drawn to rockabilly and left to join a rockabilly band. Brian Fox, who had financed one of our recordings, paid to release an album and I mastered it. We sent it off to press in late 1979 and released it, with Steve, Bill, Ernie and my photos on the cover.
We got them back from the pressing plant in California in January 1980 and got the guys together for a record release party, but that was it for that version of the Moberlys, as everyone was on to other things. I joined a local club band and saved money, playing covers, songs from the Moberlys album (which was gaining a lot of momentum quietly in stores and from the media in NYC, LA and elsewhere that I sent out to) and the other guys' original material. By the fall of 1980, I decided to go back to NYC and give that another try, which I did in October of 1980.
PSF: Early songs like "She Got Fucked," "Sexteen" or "Love / Hate" had provocative lyrics. Was this the punk in you?
JB: Like I mentioned, I was very influenced by acts like Iggy Pop. I also loved Wayne County, who I had followed in magazines like Rock Scene and Hit Parader in the early 80's, when he was involved with Mainman, David Bowie and subsequently Iggy's management company. When I was a small boy, my dad bought me the Fugs and the Mothers albums, as I mentioned. If that seems strange, it really wasn't for my dad. He was a huge Lenny Bruce fan and I remember Bruce's albums going back to my first recollections of records, back at the time when my mom used to listen to singles like "Bobby's Girl" and "The Watusi" in the early '60's. It was no major stretch from Lenny to the Fugs to Wayne County really, in fact Wayne (now Jayne) made an album for the ESP label in the early '70's which was never released.
I was always inspired by great songwriters on the edge of societal norms, be they more mainstream, like the Beatles, the Raiders or even the Carpenters, or the complete "other side" as Jim Morrison sang on his first single "Break On Through." I was incredibly moved by the band Suicide, when I saw them in NYC in 1977 and became friends with Alan Vega and their manager and label guy Marty Thau. Those associations sustained until I moved back to NYC in 1980, when I became much closer friends with them.
Suicide was a major influence on the song "Sexteen," as was the Johnny Thunders song "Pirate Love." "She Got Fucked" was not influenced by Wayne who had a "Punk" hit with "Fuck Off" or Iggy, who used the f-word liberally in the 1976 live Stooges release Metallic KO (I wrote the song in 1976, influenced more by the Ramones and my own demented mind), but to say that those releases didn't encourage me to include it is disingenuous.
It was also no small thing that I saw the Heartbreakers in NYC in 1977, which may have been the best show I saw there of many. They were not exactly demonstrating good behavior on the microphone in between tunes, while focusing on topics like "Chinese Rocks," making gestures and verbal references regarding narcotic injections (straight up Lenny) and tossing in four letter words into live renditions of their musical numbers.
As far as "Love/Hate," that was a song I wrote with a kid I met in NYC, the late Neal Berman, who came out to Seattle and lived on the streets in 1977, after I returned. He and I wrote "I Return" also, which made it onto the Sexteen CD album, after a later version of the Moberlys recorded it in NYC in 1982. Neal was a bright boy and talented, who passed away in recent years, after a long bout with varying mental health issues. I would characterize his style as somewhere between Richard Hell, Jonathan Richman, Patti Smith and Lou Reed, with a fair amount of Buddy Holly. I never thought of either of those tunes I wrote with Neal as "Punk," more new wave pop, but I get where you would get that inference.
Another song which I trace more cleanly to "Punk Rock" roots was "Last Night." It was written one morning after returning to my cheap Manhattan Hotel room after a Richard Hell show at CBGB's, to find that my room had been broken into and all my money had been stolen. It was a release of all of my angst and shame. I probably got enough gigs from that tune, to make up for the few hundred in cash that some scumbag turned my room upside down to find. It was probably the biker who I shared a bathroom with in that dump. It was also heavily influenced by the Sonics, who I discovered a number of hip kids were aware of in NYC at that time, including Stiv Bators, Mono Man (Jeff Connolly of Boston's DMZ and the Lyres), the late French singer Lizzie Mercier Descloux (with whom I stayed with for a month or so there) and the Cramps deified. I had already been well aware of the Sonics long before any of them, mostly because of where I grew up and the stations I could get on my transistor radio.
I found it interesting that very few of these very hip kids I met in NYC knew about Heart, but all of them knew about the Sonics and the Wailers.
PSF: I read somewhere that The Moberlys had an unpredictable live show. Can you tell me more about it?
JB: I'm not sure what that means, but it was a band that constantly kicked out new material, from the beginning to the end in 1989. That was also enhanced by Seattle and later LA drummer Dave Drewry, who also brought in a steady stream of unusual cover selections when he joined the band in NYC in 1981, where I'd put together a band with Jeremy Bar-Illan on guitar and a few other players. Shortly after that, bassist Al Bloch came out from Seattle too in 1982.
Though I stayed on and those two didn't last in the Big Apple, I came back to Seattle off and on over the course of 1983 and put together bands with Dave, which we called Jim Basnight and the Moberlys. Rabinowitz was in the band for a while in that time frame, but we settled on the lineup with Toby Keil on bass (both played on recordings in Vancouver BC, which became a late '83 45 RPM single and a 4-song 12" 45 EP in '84). One of the songs was "Cinderella" by the Sonics.
We performed a number of covers in '83 by the Sonics and other NW 60's dance circuit rockers like the Raiders, the Dynamics, and the Wailers. We also covered a handful of '60's California garage and psychedelic pop acts like Electric Prunes, Flamin' Groovies, Syndicate of Sound and Grassroots. We also covered a few Kinks tunes, an obscure Stones song or two (including "So Much in Love," a 60's Jagger/Richard composition that they never recorded) and the Troggs "With a Girl Like You."
We did a few British punk era covers by Eddie and the Hot Rods and the Lurkers and touched on some cool NW new wave acts of that time like the Heats and Vancouver BC's Modernettes. Finally, we tackled a large dose of late 70's NY rock, notably Jayne County's "Down at Max's" and a number of Heartbreakers tunes. We even did a medley of early NYC rap tunes that I picked up while I was there.
A lot of these were recorded and well at that, as Dave always insisted on recording a cover, when we did studio sessions. Dave was one of a kind, in that he pushed his songs in the band like a skilled politician, but they weren't his compositions- they were great songs that were his idea to cover and few if anyone else in the world had covered them.
PSF: You are working on a covers album. Can you tell me more about it?
JB: A large number of these recordings I mentioned will be included, as well as other cover songs I've done over time, for tribute albums and other projects. Between always playing lots of new original material and a wide range of covers, very rarely the same set twice in a row, that could be why we got a reputation of being unpredictable.
Here is the listing of tracks, though the order is to be determined and subject to change:
"This is Where I Belong" (The Kinks) "Rock and Roll Cowboy" (Cowboys) "You Showed Me" (Turtles/Byrds) "Rebel Kind" (Modernettes) "Red Light Moon" (Mike Czekaj) "I Can See for Miles" (The Who) "Laser Love" (T-Rex) "Happiness is a Warm Gun" (Beatles) "Cinderella" (Sonics) "Prince Jones Davis Suite" (Medley of "April Snow" by Prince, "Win" by Bowie and "World Keeps Going Around" by the Kinks) "Brother Louie" (Stories) "Lonely Planet Boy" (New York Dolls) "Midnight Mission Hit Parade" (Czekaj) "Shot Down" (Sonics) "She Gives Me Everything I Want" (Hollies) "So Much in Love" (Jagger/Richard) "Just Like Darts" (Real Kids) "New Guitar in Town" (Lurkers/Boys) "It's You Alone" (Wailers) "Do Anything You Want to Do" (Eddie and the Hot Rods) "Princess in Rags" (Czekaj) 12 of the 23 songs have never been released and of the 11 that have, four have never been on any of my other CD albums, just tribute albums. All are being remastered.
PSF: Name your 5 favorite cover songs.
JB: I know around 1,000 songs that I can play probably. I have a unique gift to remember lyrics and melodies. I fall short in a lot of musical skill categories, but those are my strong suits. I wouldn't know where to start, to answer that question. This week, it would probably be a Beatles, a T-Rex, a Kinks, a "Sonny Boy" and a Hendrix song. I just noticed that 3/5ths of those acts were on Reprise Records, part owned by Frank Sinatra.
I could do "Strangers in the Night." I could easily just do five Beatles songs, five Stones songs or five Bowie songs, for that matter. There are so many I love. Songs are my life. Hank Williams, Smokey Robinson, Eric Carmen, Johnny Thunders, Merle Haggard, Al Green, Oasis, Carole King, Pete Townsend, Lou Reed, Van Morrison, Johnny Cash. There's just too many to name.
How about these:
PSF: In 1984 you released Sexteen the second LP by The Moberlys in France. Confusingly, in 1995, a CD (on ATM Records) was released with the same name but some other songs and some missing. What led to that?
JB: I'm not sure why that was, probably because there had been an album titled Sexteen which sold pretty well in the mid-'80's and the thought was by the label was that people would buy it for that reason. This was kind of the tail end of the era, when everything was coming out on CD which had been released on vinyl for the first time, people would buy stuff on CD that they knew about from vinyl. I think that was the reason, for name recognition, but I'm not sure.
It was the label's idea. It was my idea to release that one, more or less chronicling the first band, with Steve Grindle, Ernie Sapiro and Bill Walters and with a few others, though there were a few other notable folks who contributed. Those players included Cerar, Ataa Adjiri (who is one of my best friends still), Drake Eubank (who played drums on the first single in '77), Sheldon Gomberg (currently a very cool LA based producer-engineer), Bill Rieflin (who went on to R.E.M. and Ministry), Rabinowitz, Bar-Illan, Bloch and Drewry.
The reason the latter three were involved was because we recorded "I Return," a song by Berman and I, which I associated with the early band. My thought was to follow it up with a retrospect from the version of the band anchored by Drewry, Keil and Oyabe. That came to fruition by way of a French label a few years later, Pop The Balloon, as the Seattle-New York-Los Angeles album by Jim Basnight and the Moberlys.
The Sexteen LP on Lolita (which is dated 1984, but actually came out in early 1985), was the first release in Europe and the thinking was that it should have the best material at the time. The tracks were picked by a combination of Randall Wixen (who has gone on to the top of the music publishing world in LA, primarily with rock acts) and the label and we were fine with the choices.
It had a couple of new tunes from our 2nd set of recordings in Vancouver in 1984, with Glenn Oyabe on guitar, all four of the tracks we released on the 1984 EP, We'll Always Be in Love from the Seattle Syndrome compilation album in 1981, and a number of tracks from the 1979 Moberlys LP and "She Got Fucked" from the 1977 single.
All of the songs from the Lolita LP ended up on CD on either the Sexteen CD or Seattle-New York-Los Angeles, except the two cover tunes- "Cinderella" by the Sonics and "Alone with Her" by the Wailers, other than "Rebel Kind" a Modernettes cover, which was on Seattle-New York-Los Angeles. All three tracks, you'll notice are included in the all covers CD I'm planning for 2020.
As long as I'm explaining about the covers CD album, which I've yet to master and come up with a final title, there are three songs by Mike Czekaj. Mike and I go back to NYC in the early '80's. His band, the Stratford Survivors, backed me up when I moved to Bridgeport CT in late 1982. We did a few gigs in Connecticut and I brought them to Manhattan to record with me, when Genya Ravan produced a couple of tracks with me in early '83.
Those tracks have never been released, but one was a version of "I Want to Be Yours," which was redone later that year in Vancouver with Drewry, Keil and Rabinowitz. The other was a version of "Treat Her Right," a standard at NY Moberlys shows in the early '80's, which Johnny Thunders recorded on his covers album Copy Cats in 1988. Johnny told me after seeing the Moberlys do it at his 30th birthday party gig that he dug it. No idea if it influenced him doing that tune, but if us doing it gave him any ideas or reminded him of it, that would make me very proud. The version we did with Genya used an electric violin player, sounding like a lead guitar player. I decided not to include it on the covers album, as there are other tracks I like better, but the concept was one I used quite a bit later on with Seattle violin players Geoffrey Castle and Clayton Park on The Jim Basnight Thing (1997) and Recovery Room (2004) albums.
But Czekaj and I stayed in touch and when he moved to LA with the Fuzztones in 1986. We started a songwriting partnership. It yielded a lot of great tunes which have surfaced or been revamped throughout my recording career: "My Vision of You," "Price of Our Insanity" (with Joey Alkes, who co-wrote "Million Miles Away" with Peter Case), "Still a Part of Me," "Talk Is Cheap" (with Alkes) and "Jasmine Perfume" (with Alkes) from the Pop Top album (1993). There was also:
"Baby Jane" (with Kelly Wheeler, who appeared in a post Moberlys band with Czekaj, Bloch and myself) from the Rockinghams Makin' Bacon album (1999). "Don't Wait Up" (with Alkes and Barry Gruber, who I re-wrote the song with in 1996) from the Jim Basnight Thing album (1997). "What I Wouldn't Do," "Genius of Love" (with Alkes) and "She Don't Rock" from the Seattle-New York-Los Angeles album (2001). "Open Letter" from the Introducing Jim Basnight album (2012). "Code to Live By" from the Not Changing album (2019).
There are three songs on my albums which were Mike's tunes and though I added touches to my versions of them- they were finished tunes when he shared them with me. Those are credited 100% to Czekaj and include the following:
"Red Light Moon" from the Jim Basnight Thing album (1997). "Princess" from the Recovery Room album (2004). "Midnight Mission Hit Parade" from the Introducing Jim Basnight album (2012).
I also decided to include them on the cover songs album I'm planning as he is also an artist in his own right, with a great rock and roll band on the East coast, out of Brooklyn NY now called the Live Ones (a lyric in "Red Light Moon" incidentally) and deserves to be recognized as such.
See Part II of our Jim Basnight interview
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