Mr T Experience discuss 15 songs they wanted to cover in the ’90s, reissuing classic EP
Berkeley punk vets The Mr. T Experience are reissuing their classic 1994 EP ...And the Women Who Love Them on August 14 via Sounds Radical (pre-order). It's coming out on 12" vinyl and CD, and it's been fully remastered.
"It's a miracle that this master survived," frontman Dr. Frank tells us. "When I first started gathering and inventorying what was left of the old tapes, it was was nowhere to be found and I gave it up for lost. Eventually, while looking for something else, I found a safety copy on DAT amid a jumble of press and promo materials in an old bag of stuff. I guess it had fallen in there at some point from somewhere else. (Like the master for my solo album, which turned out to have been inadvertently stored for many years in an old boot.) The next question was, would it play and could the 'information' be extracted from it? The answer was yes, obviously, but it was mostly just luck."
We also asked Dr. Frank about the music that influenced the writing of this classic EP, and he made us a list of 15 songs that MTX had considered covering at the time, with commentary on each one. He explains:
The assignment: create a playlist of stuff you were listening to while writing/recording the album.
Well, I mean, that was twenty-five years ago, so who knows? On the other hand, my awareness of and engagement with pop music in anything like a comprehensive way has never extended much past ca. 1980: I've always found it more interesting to find new things by excavating and pawing through the past rather than hoping to get lucky on the "cutting edge." Plus, in 1993-94 my musical awareness was effectively limited to the vinyl records that could be crammed against the wall of my living room, and I still live in that same little apartment. Point being, it was probably all the same stuff I listen to now. Mostly.
However, I did recently find in one of my old notebooks a running list, roughly contemporary with the scribbled out lyrics to these songs, headed: SONGS TO COVER??? And that's not a bad proxy, because it's stuff I certainly was listening to at that time, for better or worse. I doubt the band would have been equal to doing most of these songs justice, but in the event it was all we could do just to manage bare bones recordings of my own songs on our shoestring budget and hope for the best and we didn't have time for any fancy, gratuitous covers. Some of them, though, would have been pretty good maybe.
So here's a selection.
1. (Jumpin') Gene Simmons - "Drinkin' Wine"
No song captured my mood at the time in question more faithfully than this wild tale of drunken romance gone wrong, from Sun Records' unsung hero Jumpin' Gene Simmons (whose name, incidentally, the much more famous Chaim Witz reportedly appropriated as his own stage name with his rock combo called KISS -- worlds colliding there.)
2. Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band - "Dropout Boogie"
If Safe As Milk was Beefheart's most "normal" sounding album, his normal was still pretty darn weird. And I've never met a better "don't know what to do with my life" anthem than this Kinks-through-a-meat-grinder bit of inspired sludge. (We did try to mimic that spectacularly sickly fuzz guitar tone on "Tapin' Up My Heart" and came sort of close.)
3. Bohanna - "Jamaica"
Aone-off single released in 1969 outside of the Kasenetz-Katz imperium, this is Joey Levine in purest, most magical form and it would have made a great MTX song had we ever made space for it. (The flipside, "Night Time Lady," about -- I think -- hiring a hooker in order to dress up in her clothes has its oddball virtues as well, but "Jamaica" has a mermaid, and "Captain High.")
4. The Fun & Games - "The Grooviest Girl in the World"
Sticking with the Bubblegum, as one must, this is one of those records that really did literally change my life and I don't know what my world would have turned into had I not stumbled on it as a kid. It was already an obscure relic by that time, but even then I could tell that 1968 had more to offer me than whatever it was the kids were supposedly digging at the time. Accordingly, I've wanted to cover it through each iteration of the band, but never ended up making it happen for whatever reason. I do do it solo sometimes, however, and even released a live version on Sounds Radical not long ago.
5. UFO - "Only You Can Rock Me"
We could never quite make this one work for us because of the wide melody range - whatever key we tried it in there were parts that were too low to be heard over the racket through the sub-standard PAs we always used (a common problem.) Eventually, we just gave up, another common problem.
6. Judas Priest - "Livin' After Midnight"
Not necessarily my favorite Judas Priest tune, but the one I figured we had the best chance of pulling off. It would have been funny at least, and could have been actually good, you never know. I still haven't given up on this idea.
7. Larry Williams and Johnny Guitar Watson - "Too Late"
Outlandish as the whole idea seems, I was told by the guy who sold me my white Les Paul Jr. that its previous owner had been Johnny Guitar Watson and I toyed with the fanciful idea of letting it play some of its old, familiar tunes. I've always loved those Williams - Watson duets, and this song particularly spoke to me. I'd have done it straight, not as a duet, and it does work that way, sort of. Probably best for everyone concerned that it didn't happen but what the hell, it's still a great song.
8. The New Lost City Ramblers - "On Some Foggy Mountain Top"
This is one we actually did wind up doing a few years later (on the Revenge Is Sweet and So Are You album.) There are many versions of tune but this (largely derived from the Monroe Brothers’ version I believe) was my favorite of those I knew and it still is. Not sure the MTX rendition was the greatest use of one minute and fifty-five of our limited seconds but I'm still glad it happened.
9. Tom T. Hall - "Faster Horses"
I love the recording but this song works just as well or better stripped down and basic, as straightforward rock and roll or as a strummed folk tune which is how I do it sometimes solo.
10. George Jones - "The King Is Gone (So Are You)"
This song was written by Roger D. Ferris for George Jones, whose rather cursory rendition of it was a late-period hit. The conceit (a lovelorn drunk having a heart-to-heart talk with an Elvis whisky bottle and a Fred Flintsone jelly jar) is boldly absurd and strangely moving, even when a bit garbled as it is here. Waylon Jennings reportedly said it was the greatest country and western song ever written and I know what he meant. I do it solo live, with slightly tweaked lyrics, from time to time. I could never interest any band in trying to play it, which is probably all to the good.
11. Flying Burrito Brothers - "Older Guys"
The world was able to survive just fine without a punk rock version of this great tune sung by me, as it turns out. Still, that would have been nice.
12. ABBA - "Does Your Mother Know?"
One of the greatest pop tunes ever conceived and written, the Ohio Express hit that never was, and the time seemed ripe for ruining it in that special way we had of ruining things, but that band Ash beat us to it - glad someone took it on, it’s a monster.
13. Teenage Filmstars - "I Helped Patrick McGoohan Escape"
Most of these tunes are, in my mind, the greatest songs ever to materialize in pop form, but this one really may be literally the greatest of them all. I doubt an MTX version would have been welcome or at all necessary but we'd certainly have had a great time playing it, as I do when I do it solo from time to time. It's still on the agenda, as well, unless a better band does it first.
14. Bert - "I Want to Hold Your Ear"
We'd already released one Sesame Street cover ("Up and Down") but this one, by the same writer Jeffrey A. Moss, a genius, is a miracle of tight composition and solid focus and has always really spoken to me. Recording a second Sesame Street song was never a high priority and it never happened, but I did recently put up a solo acoustic version on YouTube: just imagine it with some sloppy drums and a guitar that drowns out the vocals and you've got the basic idea.
15. Rip-offs - "She Said Yeah"
I always loved this song by former bandmate Jon Von and his post-MTX outfit and we used to cover it live on occasion in the '94 - '98 era. It was preliminarily on the agenda for a couple of recording projects but we were always running out of time and it never wound up getting done. Not sure it needed to be done by us, but it would have been a good time I bet.
"There’s more, but fifteen is enough for this, I reckon," Frank adds.
Tapin' Up My Heart
My Stupid Life
I Believe In You
How'd the Date End?
All of My Promises
We Hate All of the Same Things
Now That You Are Gone