"Consider Treatment "    [ 03 ]   
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Mar 2016
 "Before Treatment" cover
 "Before Treatment" cassette

In the opening sequence of the rousing sci-fi/fantasy epic "Guardians of the Galaxy", Peter Quill (aka: 'Star Lord' [Chris Pratt]) dances his way through hostile alien environs unconcerned with imposing dangers. This is due to the coolio tunes he's crankin' on his beloved mix tape. His mother made it for him 26 years earlier back on earth which, so far, seems to be the best place to craft such treasures.

Creating mix-tapes has become something of a lost art these days in this there's-an-app-for-that world of cheap tech & universal access to virtually everything that has ever been produced. Carefully rounding up songs and sound clips from diverse sources into an original cohesive combination required some real ingenuity and dedication in decades past. Such practices used to be a kind of rite of passage for high school & college-aged kids back in the late 70's, 80's, and 90's. God knows I made hundreds of them myself for a wide spectrum of friends and purposes, encompassing everything from the latest hits on "American Top 40" to elaborate productions that sometimes took weeks to create, even featuring clips from movies and/or TV shows, along with all manner of original sound effects and edited/cross-over mismatched elements. To this day, a big box full of aged duplicates crowds a corner of my bedroom.

Most anyone nowadays can access their very own recording studios on iPhones or Androids. But some 30 years ago, I was limited to a dual-deck boombox with internal/external mixing capabilities and one external mic port.... in other words: a recording studio in a boombox. At least that how I employed it —

 "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts" cover

One afternoon in the summer of 1989 — just over 26 years ago now, oddly enough — while living single in the best apartment of my life (as the on-site manager for the entire apartment complex) with huge bay windows overlooking Prescott and the surrounding countryside [awesome] I found myself with a lot of creative recordings from years past, and some time to kill. So I decided to compile some of the best clips onto one master cassette and fill in the rest of the 90 minute tape with fun and weird tracks to share with a friend of mine, along with whatever I made up on-the-fly and mixed into it. I gave little thought to cover art, just snipping out bits and pieces from magazines, and called the whole thing what the cover seemed to scream: "Before Treatment". Munching on corn chips while recording new material (heard clearly in the mix), a subversive narrative theme soon took shape: this would be a Message From Beyond The Grave to be played after what would likely be my untimely demise due to some rock climbing accident or horrendous bicycle crash. (you know) So I cued up a number of songs I wanted to share, dropped in a few of my old commercials along the way, and got busy just messing around entertaining myself and, hopefully, my friend with this compilation.

Featured prominently throughout were select tracks from one of the weirdest wide release albums ever produced, a collaboration between Brian Eno and David Byrne entitled "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts". I also included some offerings from some of my bonafide heroes of the day like 'Weird Al' Yankovic, Bob & Doug MacKenzie (along with Geddy Lee . . from Rush..) and Michael W. Smith. Other musical guests were E.L.O., Tangerine Dream, Jon Anderson, Eddie Jobson, the Frantics, the Beastly Boys, Steven Wright, John Williams (and other orchestral composers), plus of course my own crazy mayhem of 'collected works' from years of backward-speaking experiments, creative skits, and faux commercials. I often recruited friends to play support roles for recording these, liberally applying the time-honored "mucawga" principle (Making Up Crap As We Go Along) in most instances. (In hindsight, I should have also worked something in around the Eno & Bryne track "Very, Very Hungry" and at least a short clip from "Come With Us" ~ oh well.. live & learn) In years to follow, I would go on to produce deeply-mixed CD's complete with professional-level artwork (front and back) and/or including fully produced liner note booklets full of artwork, lyrics, production notes, and often sporting an "Exploding Toast Productions" label. It was always so much fun to flex those creative muscles! But back to this project . . .

Bob & Doug McKenzie
 "Great White North"
corn chips
 corn chips
Michael W. Smith (in the 80's)
Michael W. Smith
'Weird Al' Yankovic
"Weird Al" Yankovic

Honestly, I just found this stock photo of 'Weird Al' posing with a bunch of oversized eyeballs ~ an odd coincidence given BEFORE TREATMENT's thematic cover. (maybe great minds think alike)  Anyway, I never gave much thought to B4T once it was finished. I made a copy for myself as a backup and handed the original to my friend, who went on to share it with our circle o' buds. "Before Treatment" was so well received, they were inspired to create sequels of their own, reflecting varying degrees of creative and production quality. The first was "After Treatment" showing a pair of Roxy Music women that, well, implied how After Treatment our subject (pictured at top) wound up looking much, much better . . . This was followed by others knocking out their versions of the B4T series, naming them things like "Instead of Treatment" or "Same Old Treatment" — I can't rightly recall as those cassettes are lost in my collection. But the original was held in a particular honor over the years, spawning inside jokes between us for decades: how "one must Be Cool at all times" // "hate the grey paggo" // and consider the long-debated observation: "that's the weirdest looking bird I ever heard" just to name a few.

Some 25 years after its creation, said friend requested that I press alla this into compact disc format. So I hired another buddy (with a real recording studio) to professionally record it all, and started scanning that stunning original artwork for adaptation into CD booklet format. But I found it challenging to figure out how to crunch-knuckle 90 minutes of audio entertainment into the limits of an 80-minute CD, as a good portion of the songs featured the 'magic' of my commentary throughout. To Stâve's lament, as I post this entry, this conversion project still remains unfinished. So I post these details not so much as a vanity entry, but because B4T turned out to become one of the best time capsules of my life, capturing some the bestest & funnest creative moments from days long-gone when plugging a microphone into a phaser could generate untold hours of hilarity, when the real value of helium balloons could be leveraged into a timeless encounter with William A. Cat, and things were just fun and funny for their own merit. Someday I may get around to CD-ifying "Before Treatment" but in the meantime this meta-data snapshot will have to do. I have provided my friend with the master recordings and scanned imagery so he has the same materials now. It's just a matter of who gets around to CD-ifying it first to see this thing done.  :-)

Taken from the new master recordings, here are all the tracks (listed below) so whenever one of us gets back to this project, proper reference cues stand at the ready for considering just how/where to edit out 10 minutes worth of material without compromising the soul of the project. Depending on how you count `em, there are 16 full songs and 9 'commercials' from earlier recordings —[ 10 if you count "The 459th Champagne Carnival and Exhibition, with Pierre Jones (honoring the Beloved Wilbur Weintaester)" ]— followed by a four-commercial sampler (two of which feature me before my voice changed, c.1980-1981):

 "Before Treatment" tracklist

"Dry-Quik": Background sound effects & music, along with pretty awful on-the-fly victim/announcer voice changes 
"Tony's Pizza": Back before my voice had changed (early 1981?) ~ Victor (half Russian, half Mexican) wanted to try an Italian accent 
 "Higgly's Dehydrated Peanut Butter": Another 'classic' from that session (pretty 'zippety-zap') ~ you can hear the crackling of the records on these two
"Laura Smudders Frozen Fishheads": Backing music from the "Heavy Metal" soundtrack; pointing on-the-fly at my best 'fiend' for his scripted cues

This post is really not intended for some wide readership — unless you just really are that bored to read through alla this — but more revealing for my own children, perhaps, who are ever-so-curious about my creative past for some reason (and delighted to hear their father at middle-school age). There are naturally some cringe-worthy moments in the B4T recordings; however, most of them hold up pretty well even now.  :-]  Though I admit it is bittersweet for me to listen through some of this stuff now, considering the life stories of some of my friends who assisted along the way. For instance, within a year of recording most of our material together, one friend would be dead. Another later grew up to get married and father a son, only to then seek self-mutilation into a rickety facsimile of his vision of a woman (a la Bruce Jenner), divorce his wife, and live a life of perpetual adolescence. Another became generally infamous for having an affair with a good man's wife, destroying his own family, and ruining another in the process. These, I would hope, are more of a commentary on the temptations and evils of this life rather than a reflection of our shared studio time..! Strange to hear their voices and remember our kinship back then, knowing what became of them in the ensuing years . . . At least my target buddy, the recipient of this project, continues to thrive as a professional jazz trumpet musician and teacher, the patriarch one of the finest families I've ever been blessed to know in my life!  Go Stâve (& crüe)!

If you remember the 80's and would rather recall what else was going down in the music scene near the end of that fantastic era, I will provide a small tableau of something more reasonable to investigate rather than all my B4T noise... Listed in order of release from January to the end of summer 1989:

 "A Show of Hands" (Rush)
"A Show of Hands"
 "The Raw & the Cooked" (Fine Young Cannibals)
"The Raw & the Cooked"
 "Full Moon Fever" (Tom Petty)
"Full Moon Fever"
 "Disintegration" (the Cure)
 "Flowers in the Dirt" (Paul McCartney)
"Flowers in the Dirt"
 "In Step" (Stevie Ray Vaughan)
"In Step"
 "Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe"
 "The End of the Innocence" (Don Henley)
"The End of the Innocence"
 "Can't Look Away" (Trevor Rabin)
"Can't Look Away"
 "The Seeds of Love" (Tears for Fears)
"The Seeds of Love"

I'm not the only one into revisiting past audio glories these days, a decade and a half into Our Gallant Future (>2000). Have you noticed how vinyl albums are currently being (re)released as wonderful new products in Barnes & Nobles and all over the place? Priced at a daunting $20-$40 each, it would seem that a draw to such past ways is a booming and lucrative market! Even my sister has lately promoted listening to whole albums from her youth anew, side-for-side, rather than cherry-picking favorites online as everyone does anymore. For her, hearing her favorite artists performing their original songs in the original track-order through entire albums brings back sweet long-forgotten feelings and memories. For others, such goldmines may found in resurrecting fun old creative projects ..like this one for me. The whole world may be charging boldly into The Future, but that does not mean we cannot take along a few great mix tapes to help us find our way . . .

stripes    "Guardians of the Galaxy"   stripes
(2016)  04