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| THE BROWN ALBUM |
NOTE: TWO VERSIONS OF THE BROWN ALBUM WERE RELEASED, THE FAMILY-FRIENDLY "LIGHT BROWN ALBUM" AND THE UNCENSORED "DARK BROWN ALBUM." "TEACHER HIT ME WITH A RULER" WAS INCLUDED ON THE "DARK BROWN ALBUM" ONLY. UNFORTUNATELY, THE "DARK BROWN ALBUM" IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT. THE "LIGHT BROWN ALBUM" IS STILL AVAILABLE.
What we got here are the liner notes for Washboard Jungle's second CD, The Brown Album, so named because Henry assembled the prototype in 1997 when he was a grad student in ethnomusicology at Brown University. You'll find herein a mixed bag of live recordings, radio performances, and home-studio tapes. Tracks 5, 8, 10, 13, 14, and 16 were recorded on Bob's 4-track at the Brooklyn Academy of Noise in 1989 and 1990. These sessions produced an LP-length cassette that we sold at gigs for several years; the tracks are being released here on CD for the first time.
1. MY OLD MAN We stole this song and rewrote the verses.
McPaul learned it as a kid, off the Smothers Brothers album Think Ethnic. This version
is from a kids' radio show called Knock on Wood on WAMC-FM Albany. The show is/was produced by
Steve Charney at his home near Saugerties, N.Y.
2. I'M MY OWN GRANDPAW Recorded at our last gig, at the
New England Vaudeville Festival in Gardiner, Maine. This may have been the last song we added
to our repertoire before we split. It was originally recorded by Homer and Jethro. We found out
later that it was also sung by New Jersey cult TV figure Uncle Floyd. Henry's father used to sing
it a long time ago, except that he could never remember any of the very complex lyrics. Kudos to
Henry and Stu for doing so.
3. OLD BUTTERMILK SKY Great old Hoagy Carmichael tune. We
recently learned that it was the number one song of 1946. We played it as the first dance at
Stuart and Lisa's wedding (Stu danced). This wasn't recorded until 1997 (three years after we
split), at Eric Feinstein and Loretta Roome's home studio on 3rd Street in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
The recording was commissioned by Nathaniel Lee for a piece by his company, Bobo Dance Theater.
Stu couldn't make the session, so McPaul did all the vocals plus bass and guitar. Henry did the
lovely double-tracked mandolin lead. Stu did the mixdown a few months later.
4. BOUTROS BOUTROS-GHALI Another cut from Gardiner, Maine.
The main body of this song about the former U.N. secretary-general was Henry's music (somewhat
borrowed from the traditional "I Know You Rider"), with lyrics by all of us. Bob composed the
pseudo-ethnic bridge, which once had lyrics about Boutros-Ghali riding on a trolley and going
to Bali, Mali, and Raleigh, but they were scrapped in favor of the mantra-ish inversions of
BBG's name. Henry plays guitar and mandolin, Bob plays Japan banjo, McPaul plays bongos, and
Stuart switches between bass guitar and jingle-bell dancing.
5. RAG MOP Originally recorded in the 1940s by the Ames
Brothers, this song was often heard on the great, hallucinogenic early-'60s cartoon The Beanie
and Cecil Show by Bob Clampett. This was a rare case of Stuart playing the banjo.
6. UKULELE DAILY/CANTICLE Henry wrote the words and music
for this, except for the canticle-type backing vocals written by the group. This recording comes
from the same radio session as "My Old Man," above. Onstage, this had elaborate choreography with
plastic devil pitchforks, co-choreographed with the Late Bloomers (a performance-art duo who later
became two-thirds of the band White Knuckle Sandwich). We first played it at one of the several
Bloomers shows we costarred in.
7. THE OLD COW DIED A very, very old traditional folk song.
Therefore, Henry must have learned it at his hippy-dippy summer camp. Perhaps the only song we
ever did completely a cappella. We spent weeks working on the moves for this. Originally we
carried Stu around like a corpse while he sang the lead parts. Along the way it somehow evolved
into a druidical patty-cake circle ritual. This was recorded during our Best of All Washable Worlds
show at Downtown Art Co. in 1992. We tried to record a version of this for our CD The Wash Cycle,
but never managed a usable take.
8. THE FROGGY WENT A-COURTIN' Another of Henry's contributions.
An old folk song of which there are many, many versions floating around. There's an episode of the
cartoon Tom & Jerry in which the mouse's visiting uncle, a grizzled old cowpoke type, repeatedly
sings this song, accompanying himself on guitar. Whenever his guitar string breaks, he plucks out
one of the cat's whiskers to replace it. Stu plays killer two-handed heavy-metal washboard on this
9. DANCING DAYS We first played this at the Knitting Factory in
1992 for a Led Zeppelin tribute show organized by the band Drink Me. It stayed in our repertoire and
became part of the Bad Clean Fun show at HERE Arts Center. This version was recorded live in Arlington,
Va. at our fourth annual Lubber Run Amphitheatre gig in the summer of '94. Great lap steel guitar from
Stu. The song sometimes included a solo in which McPaul played the washboard with a violin bow, in
imitation of Jimmy Page.
10. HUNTING TIGERS OUT IN "INDIAH" Originally recorded by the Bonzo
Dog Band; Stuart brought it in early on and it became a long-running standard of our live shows. He
originally learned it at Unitarian summer camp in the early '70s. The dialogue during the bridge evolved
and changed somewhat over the years. This was mixed down by Bob and Stuart on the night the Gulf War started.
On that same day McPaul had crashed his '62 Ford Falcon into a tree on the Long Island Expressway, which is
probably why he wasn't at the mixdown.
11. ON ILKLEY MOOR BAHT 'AT Yet another olde Englishe folk song Henry
learned at camp. This performance is from the same Lubber Run gig as "Dancing Days." The late Dan Ratner,
our road manager/secret agent, took the spotlight during this number, holding up a series of big cartoon
flash cards drawn by Stu, illustrating the deathly odyssey of the song's protagonist.
12. BEER BOTTLE COLLECTION Words and music by Stuart (not based on
personal experience). There is, however, a liquor store at 12th and Second in the East Village, near
where Stu was living at the time. Yet another Lubber Run recording. Stu danced with Heather, our biggest
fan, who came to five out of six shows on that tour.
13. EDDIE D. BROWN Henry brought this in. He learned it from his sister,
Mooey, who learned it at summer camp. We did many merry tunes about death, and this was a prime example.
It became the basis of our uncompleted Wash Opera, "The Well." The live arrangement was Stuart on wooden
cups, Henry on uke, McPaul on bass, and Bob on the Yamaha DX7 with a xylophone-ish voice. Bob says that
for some reason Henry played the cups in the studio. After this recording was made, Bob started quoting
from the Itchy and Scratchy theme in his solo.
14. CHIEN-CHIEN (DOGGY, DOGGY) Bogus Cajun French version of the song
"Doggy, Doggy" by J.P. Shipherd. J.P. was a member of Washboard Jungle for our first three gigs, when we
were a quintet. The English version was in the repertoire of Kryptic Doggerel, Henry and J.P.'s previous
band. Plot synopsis, in case you don't speak French: Guy buys a dog, names it Pierre (a loose translation
of "Ralph"). He brings it home and assures it that they will have lots of fun together, but before that
can happen the dog must get treated for worms.
15. TIRED EYES Whenever we covered a contemporary song, we tried to
transform it in some way. This Neil Young tune from Tonight's the Night is the exception. The original
is so over-the-top that we pretty much tried to re-create it note for note. More than once we were asked,
"Which one of you wrote that great Neil Young parody?" Another recording from The Best of All Washable
Worlds, 1992. It was sung, disturbingly enough, as a lullaby to our son, Washboard Jr., played by Philip
Suraci. Don't ask.
16. THROW AWAY YOUR TOOTHPASTE Our "Revolution 9." We improvised each
track separately, putting vocals and instruments down four different times. The last track we recorded at
double speed. This was around the time that Judas Priest was getting sued for allegedly putting secret,
suggestive messages into their records, so we thought we'd do the same. Listen to this and see if you find
yourself irrationally throwing away your toothpaste, putting the cat in the hamper, tying your shoes
together, or banging on the Frigidaire.
17. TEACHER HIT ME WITH A RULER
Aw jeez, a grade-school anthem. It was McPaul's idea when he first joined the band to
do "Glory." The four or us reconstructed the lyrics from our memory of
different versions in rehearsal. We even came up with one new verse, which
was met with shocked gasps at Dixon Place, and subsequently dropped. The
arrangement reveals our indebtedness to Emerson, Lake and Palmer, which few
jug bands would ever admit. The recording (arguably the best thing ever
recorded at Joralemon Street) was inspired by an interview with Led
Zeppelin, which we heard in the car returning from one of our first road
gigs, in which Jimmy Page described in detail recording the drums in the
stairwell of a Welsh castle, miked from above ("When the Levee Breaks"). We
proceeded to record the drums (Henry) in the stairwell of the old Academy,
miked from above, for a great natural reverb. The explosions (in the last
chorus) were made by sampling firecrackers (also in the stairwell), and
slowing them down a lot.