MUSICAL AVALANCHE: One of St. Louis' best-kept secrets, musician/artist/underground filmmaker John Coker (drummer for the late, great rock sensation Fruitcake) is preparing to release product with a vengeance. By the end of this month, Coker will have three new CDs for hock -- two solo efforts and a collaboration with former Fruitcake bandmate Mike DeLeon (also of Drunks with Guns fame). The first disc available for consumption, an untitled 11-song limited-edition CD (50 copies), was, as the sticker on the plain brown paper wrapping reads, "written arranged recorded performed produced printed by John Coker 1999."
Truly DIY. The three opening tracks meld, creating a soundtrack to some imaginary futuristic space-pimp flick; the fourth cut accompanies a darker, slinkier scene in the same film. In a beautifully natural transition, the bass builds, then drops out, and the drums race, marking the next track, as a static-and-fuzz melody slips in. Compositions six and seven utilize the least popular keyboard settings and make them wonderful: The first is ominous, creeping and spacey, the second uglier, dancier and more imposing, in the best way possible. Throw in a scissors/toy piano/white-noise number; a Buddhist monk's meditation; a distorting superecho synth tune that sounds like a scratchy warped record; and a psycho-psychedelic Black Sabbath-style rock anthem, and you've been there and back. To inquire about this or future releases, contact John Coker by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. (RD)
DOWN WITH THE CLOWNS: One of the great rock magazines these days comes out of Detroit (of course) and has no band interviews, no record reviews, no gossip, no profiles. What it does have is some of the most biting satire around, sparing no one. The magazine's called Motorbooty, with a mere nine issues in 12 years. The newest, No. 9, is subtitled "Strength Through Satire" and is a joy and a pisser simultaneously, guaranteed to jab your heart more than once as the writers repeatedly hit close to home.
Motorbooty's published by one Mark Dancey, who used to be in a band called Big Chief (he's a great comic artist and graphic designer who also rendered all of Big Chief's album covers). The highlights are too many to mention, but one stands out, and that's the sordid tale of the Insane Clown Posse, called "Down with the Clowns." A few years ago, Dancey was commissioned to do a strip on the Posse for Spin, and he turned in a hilarious, scathing poke at the two Vanilla Ice-esque hip-hop wannabes (who will be visiting Vintage Vinyl on Tuesday, May 25, to celebrate the release of their new record), in which he compared them to, among others, Al Jolson. The Posse got so upset with the strip that they issued a fatwa on their Web site, asking their rabid fans to track down Dancey and kick his ass. The artist was harassed and threatened for weeks, and the incident ended up as a news story (which drew more attention to the strip than it otherwise would have received). The new Motorbooty reprints the comic, along with a follow-up strip, "Tears of the Clowns," detailing the story of the story.
Also included are Motorbooty's "100 Worst Albums of the Century," a list that deflates everyone; a comic retelling called "Perfect Harmony: The Tragic Story of the Louvin Brothers"; a series of artist profiles called "Bad Asses in Popular Music"; and a center spread titled "The Motorbooty Illustrated History of Pants." In all, it's a fantastic, bitter read. You can get it at finer magazine stores everywhere; you can also check out much of it online at www.motorbooty.com. (RR)
BURN, BABY, BURN: Nine or 10 years ago, local band Rugburn broke up. Next week on Saturday, May 22, they'll be playing a reunion gig at the Way Out Club, and it should be an entertainingly sleazy spectacle, if memory serves. Featuring Dave Winklemeyer on vocals, brothers Jim and Steve Saltsider on guitars, Mark Sheridan on bass and Mike Long (the only nonoriginal member) on drums, Rugburn lovingly interprets '70s pop classics ranging from Cher's "Half-Breed" and "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves" to Juice Newton's "Angel of the Morning." What distinguishes Rugburn from the multitude of despicable novelty bands that also specialize in kitschy covers of schlock-rock staples are the details. All the members are longtime veterans of the local music scene, and they know how to play their instruments. Even better, they wear the most magnificently tasteless outfits this side of Porter Wagoner. (I'm talking matching pink polyester tuxedoes! I'm talking sparkles!) Winklemeyer has a booming, lurching hulk of a voice, and his considerable charisma more than compensates for the occasional flat note. In fact, after witnessing him bellow a strangely appealing rendition of "Angel of the Morning," my mother baldly stated, "I find that man sexually attractive." Whether you'll be similarly seduced remains to be seen, but it's worth finding out. (RSS)
PSSSST: The band is called Dogstar. They're a three-piece rock band without a major-label deal; the label that issued their debut, Our Little Visionary, in 1996 has since folded. They're playing at Karma on Saturday, May 22. The band consists of singer/guitarist Bret Domrose, bassist Keanu Reeves and drummer Rob Mailhouse. (RR)
HONORING OLIVER: This weekend, Washington University offers jazz fans the opportunity to explore the legacy of a great -- but often neglected -- local jazz musician, Oliver Nelson. Saturday at 4 p.m. at Tietjens Hall, 6445 Forsyth, Gerald Early will lead a symposium focusing on Nelson's music. Joining Early at the podium will be David Baker, a former professional jazz musician who now heads the jazz department at Indiana University; famed drummer Ed Shaughnessy; and Nelson's son, Oliver Nelson Jr. At 4 p.m. Sunday at the Edison Theatre, the Jazz Edge Orchestra will perform selections of Nelson's music -- joined by Nelson Jr., on flute, and Shaughnessy.
Born in St. Louis in 1932, Nelson was playing with local groups such as the Jeter-Pillars Orchestra and George Hudson's band while still in high school and playing saxophone and writing arrangements for Louis Jordan's band at the age of 19. After a stint in the military, Nelson returned to St. Louis, where he graduated from Washington University in 1957 with a degree in music. After earning his master's degree the next year at Lincoln University, Nelson headed to New York City, where he worked with the likes of Louis Bellson, Erskine Hawkins and Duke Ellington before forming his own group in 1960. Nelson's group included great musicians like sax and flute player Eric Dolphy, bassist Paul Chambers, pianist Bill Evans, trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and drummer Roy Haynes, and produced classic recordings such as The Blues and the Abstract Truth. Nelson's versatility as a composer and arranger led him to Hollywood in 1967, where he became a premiere talent, writing scores for TV shows such as Ironside, The Six Million Dollar Man and It Takes a Thief. Unfortunately, Nelson's commercial success took him away from the realm of jazz, and the pressures and stress of scoring contributed to his early death in 1975 at age 43 of a heart attack. This weekend's symposium and concert at Washington University is a long-overdue tribute to one of St. Louis' most talented musicians. For more info, call 385-7210. (TP)
Contributors: Rachel Doughty, Terry Perkins, Rene Spencer Saller, Randall Roberts