Wednesday, June 18, 2008

THE UMBILICAL CHORDS MOVIE

So I finally went out and got one of those VHS-to-DVD converter things a few weeks ago. It’s a cord that allows me to feed my old videotapes directly into my computer, and then roast them up onto DVDs. In the meantime, I also figured out how to take the captured file and make it into an “.flv” file and upload it onto YouTube. The first self-referential fruits of my labor are posted below, which you’re totally free to ignore. In 1987 my college friends Mitch (Rubin Fiberglass) Fogelman, Grady Runyan & Beth Allen asked me to join their new band as the singer. Though I’d never sung a lick of music outside of my car and had a monotone voice, I think it was because I was angling to be the town drunk and had a decent record collection. Beth and I were 20 years old; Grady & Mitch were 19, and drummer Mickey (Miki) Vuckovich was around that age as well, if not younger. In other words, a first-time, learning-to-play, not-entirely-serious college party band. The band had already been named: THE UMBILICAL CHORDS. The sound had already been set: raw, unsophisticated, “KBD”-style punk with elements of Red Cross, Ramones and one of our favorite bands of the time, The Lazy Cowgirls. Grady & Mitch pretty much wrote the songs and called the shots – all lyrics & music were theirs (though everyone had say in the end result), and I simply “sang” them in my completely undistinct monotone. We performed covers of The Electric Eels (“Agitated”), Red Cross (“Every Day There’s Someone New”), The Ramones (“Loudmouth”), Radio Birdman (“New Race”) and a great Misfits/Flipper medley (“Where Eagles Dare/Ha Ha Ha”). It was, as drunken college things often are, a total blast.






Grady was majoring in film studies at UC-Santa Barbara, and he, Mitch & our friend Chris put together a short, 12-minute Super 8 document of the band, filmed in early 1988. This was the UMBILICAL CHORDS MOVIE, which I’ve had to break into two parts because You Tube only takes videos up to 10 minutes. I think they did a fantastic job. Of course I’ve watched it a bunch in the nineteen years since it was made, but not at all in the last 8 or so. It has the power to make me both cringe AND want to stand up & be counted. There are things on it that are only funny when you’re young, like the master plan we had to provide the audience with cabbage to throw at us during every show. Radio Birdman, whose “New Race” we cover in Part 2 of the video, is a band I haven’t listened to in ages, as they sound totally ridiculous to me now. If you lived in a college town like Isla Vista, California, you may have had a gaggle of local bands like ours that you saw at parties & bars. You probably took them about as seriously as they took themselves, which is to say not very.

What happened to the ‘Chords? Well, though accounts vary, I think the band broke up because Rubin Fiberglass and Grady Runyan were doing more musical “growing up” than Beth, Mickey & I were, and wanted to play more fuzzed-out, slowed-down rock music, and formed MONOSHOCK during late 1988. Beth and I, at least, were still stuck in louder/faster/shorter. Monoshock were fantastic, and the “real band” that we never were. They moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in the early 90s, released several 45s and an LP, and are now considered to be a very influential band on bigger fish like Comets On Fire. Grady also plays in LIQUOR BALL and the outstanding BAD TRIPS. Mitch plays in the mighty ABOMINOG, sometimes with Grady. Beth went on to play in COCKPIT, THE LOUDMOUTHS and an all-female Mentors tribute band called THE WOMENTORS. I talked to her at a wedding a few weeks ago, got her OK to post this video, and learned she’s in a new band whose name escapes me. I do know it’s punk, that’s for damn sure. Mickey Vuckovich, where are you? Phone home!

Songs (note that the audio is not synched with the video, and are from different recordings):

1. “Coitus” (an instrumental that the band started every show with)
2. “Filth” (recorded at our first 5-person practice, the first time I ever sang in front of another human being. The results are telling)
3. “A Few Of My Favorite Things” (vocals by Rubin Fiberglass)
4. “New Race”
5. “Coitus (Reprise)”

6 comments:

amylumiere said...

there's a good san diego blog going round w.our ownscence memoires.
http://cheunderground.com/blog/
I liked your ucsb tell-all bandmates & semi famous friends blog!
I had to get a female voice on there so my friend karen and I chimed in at one point.

words and chords mean nothing to me said...

Nice back-handed throwing style, Jay!

life is so good in america said...

THE CHORDS BLAST!!!!!

jove moix said...

really inspiring and great!

Matthew D said...

Fantastic! I really enjoyed the cover of New Race. It's fun little documents, slices of lost time, like this movie, that really float my boat. Kudos!

Dave said...

good times! thanks for sharing!