Mark Robinson (Unrest/Teen-Beat) tells us about what’s he’s been listening to during lockdown
We've been asking musicians what they've been listening to during lockdown, and this playlist is from Mark Robinson, founder of seminal DC-area indie label Teen-Beat Records and bands Unrest, Air Miami and Cotton Candy. His playlist includes songs from his DC punk past (like Iron Cross), onetime Teen-Beat band Versus, plus Psychic TV, Slade, OMD, Shellac, Pauline Oliveros, and more. You can listen to his playlist, and read his very entertaining commentary from each group, below.
In addition to making music, Mark is a graphic designer and he's also made a film, Amateur on Plastic, which is a documentary about DC-area outsider artist and musician Butch Willis who released records on Teen-Beat:
Butch Willis is a Washington, D.C. rock legend. Born and raised in 1960s suburban Maryland, Byron Henry "Butch" Willis came of age in the late '70s post-hippie subculture. After sharing an apartment with infamous local music icon Root Boy Slim, Butch was inspired to become a rock'n'roll star himself.
The unique and unusual brand of "outsider music" that Butch Willis & The Rocks created captivated the local music scene beginning with their appearance at the seminal Primitive Night in 1984. AMATEUR ON PLASTIC chronicles Butch's life and career from the beginning all the way through to present day. It features a host of Butch-appointed band managers Joe Lee (Joe’s Record Paradise), Jeff Mentges (No Trend), Jeff Krulik (Heavy Metal Parking Lot), and director Mark Robinson (Unrest/Teen-Beat). Also co-starring is Al Breon, the Rocks' innovative "throat guitarist." The film combines archival footage, interviews with Butch, and performances of his hit songs "Drugs," “The Garden’s Outside,” "TV's From Outer Space," and “The Girl's on My Mind."
Amateur on Plastic also parallels the 1990’s era of seminal indie record label Teen-Beat. Behind-the-scenes glimpses of the label’s concerts and private parties provide much of the background and feature members of the bands Unrest, Versus, Tuscadero and more.
Amateur of Plastic was being shown at select screenings before the pandemic hit and while it's not available to stream you can buy it on VHS.. You can watch the trailer below.
For more Unrest, you can watch them play Philly in 1992.
MARK ROBINSON (UNREST / TEEN-BEAT) - WHAT I'VE BEEN LISTENING TO DURING COVID-19 LOCKDOWN
1) THE BONZO DOG DOO-DAH BAND “The Intro and The Outro”
Welcome. A perfect way to begin this playlist.
2 THE SYLVERS “High School Dance”
A recently re-discovered gem. One of the first songs I remember hearing during my youthful Top-40 radio days. From the people who brought you “Boogie Fever” and Forest Sylver’s “Misdemeanor.” Has the same musical feel of mid-‘70s Kiss.
3 HOWARD COSELL “Overture” (from Frank Sinatra’s Main Event album)
As heard on the incredible Don Giovanni Show on WINR in Binghamton, NY. Don does a weekly Sunday morning show on which he plays almost exclusively Frank Sinatra songs and does impeccable live local commercials for his sponsors. Recommended. This is Howard Cosell’s amazing intro for Frank’s big Main Event show in the boxing ring at Madison Square Garden in 1974.
4 IRON CROSS “War Games” (from the Flex Your Head compilation album)
By far the best compilation album ever made, Flex Your Head on Dischord Records. Every song is so good, but this one never fails.
5 PSYCHIC TV “The Orchids”
I never really knew too much about Throbbing Gristle, or knew of them and was fascinated by album cover and title of their “20 Jazz Funk Greats.”
When Psychic TV’s Force the Hand of Chance album came out I was fascinated once again, but this time bought the (double) album. I could relate to the more “pop” experimentation as well as the second album of improvised instrumentals that sounded a lot like what we would do fooling around in my high school band Unrest on the weekends in our parents’ basements. The “Message From The Temple” sounds like one of those great soliloquies from The Moody Blues.
But my true fascination was with Genesis P. Orridge’s teeth. I assume that his stainless steel teeth are in all the dental school textbooks at this point. Still trying to find a dentist who will fit me for a set.
6 VELVET MONKEYS “Drive-In”
When I found out that there was cool music being made not just in hockey arenas by bands like Kiss and Queen, but by regular people like me in my very own city, I started going to shows every chance I could. All of the sudden I had a whole new slew of favorite bands; Minor Threat, Government Issue, No Trend, and always the Velvet Monkeys.
7) ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK “Distance Fades Between Us”
I saw OMD in high school at a club called the Wax Museum in Southwest Washington, D.C. I must have first heard them on our local “alternative” station, WHFS. I’m not sure the band was fully prepared for the reception they’d get. The place was packed and the crowd demanded multiple encores. They had to explain that they only had 10 songs programmed onto the floppy disks on their computer, so for the encores, they just played two of the same songs again, to great enthusiasm.
8) SHELLAC “The End of Radio”
Like this one, a lot of these songs I first heard on WMBR-FM — the student and community run station at MIT (the Massachusetts Institute of Technology). I’m a life-long radio fanatic. Catch Shellac singer Steve Albini do his best Casey Kasem / Dr. Johnny Fever impersonation and bring back warm and fuzzy AM radio memories.
9) PAULINE OLIVEROS “Beautiful Soop”
I first discovered the magic of Pauline Oliveros when I became a DJ at WMUC at the University of Maryland and then just recently discovered this masterpiece.
10) VERSUS “Re-Animator” (from the album Ex-Voto)
My favorite song from the best album of 2019, Ex Voto. The last full year of the “old normal.” There’s a Linn Drum in the first half and then we get some Ed Baluyut in the second half and shit gets crazy amazing. It’s an epic song that is almost like those progressive rock songs of the early seventies where you’re really getting five or six songs for the price of one.
11) SLADE “Everyday”
Every day of quarantine is pretty similar, but somehow Slade always makes it better. From their top-quality New Old Borrowed Blue album. It took me a while to choose from this one, but this is a perfect closer.