Calling this material "bootleg" is far too generous, since I know of no format in which these recordings truly exist, outside of a tape that the CHEATER SLICKS’ label head was kind enough to make for me 15 years ago. Forgive me if I may be so bold, but I will go on record as stating that not only are the demos for the 1994 “Don’t Like You” LP the finest set of recordings ever produced by the Cheater Slicks (by a mile – and this is one of the five great rock bands of the 1990s), but it’s potentially the hottest set of uncirculated rock music recordings I’ve ever heard. At least until the “Don’t Like You” double-LP reissue comes out next year – yes, you read that correctly – with the entire set of demo recordings on one disc. I’ve been given express permission to post a couple of teaser tracks here today.
Let me provide a bit of background, at least as I understand it. In 1994, In The Red received these from the band and were targeting a release of them as the follow-up to the previous year’s destroying “Whiskey” LP. At this point the band were bar-none the most raging and hard of the class of early 90s garage punk acts – and they were light years ahead of the pack, incorporating controlled feedback, feral drum bashing, a double-play of raw, throaty, vocalists, and a demented 60s psych approach that has started to creep in and lord over the sound like an unseen, angry hand. When I heard the demos for what would (sort of) later become the “Don’t Like You” album, I was floored, and couldn’t believe they’d topped “Whiskey”, which was a near-masterpiece. This was the track listing for said tape:
1. Feel Free
2. Trouble Man
3. When She Comes
4. Wedding Song
5. Spanish Rose
6. Lost Inside
7. Sadie Mae
8. Walk Up The Street
9. Hook or Crook
10. You Ain't Good
11. Mystery Ship
I played the magnetic backing off the thing, and was ready for the band’s dominance at the top of the rabid punk/psych/puke food chain, where they belonged. Unfortunately, and I could be telling this wrong so let me know, but the band got it in their head that their best set of songs ever could be improved by bringing non-producer – and then indie rock star – JON SPENCER into the studio to re-work and “produce” the album. The thinking was with the Spencer “brand” on the band, the better the chance to shift a few units and unearth a few new fans. I can’t argue with the logic, but I’ve been arguing with the results for years.
Sure, what eventually emerged as “Don’t Like You” was a great record, but I was so let down by how much they’d jettisoned – and how songs that had soared were now mucked up with tons of aural garbage & atonally weird bits that added zilch to the sound – that I refrained from playing it all that much after the first spin the month it came out. I was seriously bummed, as we say in California. I hated the one with Jon Spencer intoning in that dumb Elvis voice of his about the band over a moronic slow riff – a complete waste of LP space that would have been far better served by including the ear-destroying original version of “Sadie Mae”, for instance.
2 tracks from the sessions that produced the tapes did come out, eventually, as the – the “Walk Up The Street / Wedding Song” single on In The Red. If you’re a Cheater Slicks fan, and I know you are, then you’ll probably agree that this is one of the finest singles in their outstanding discography. I will also say that I saw the band live on this tour twice, and they were nothing short of incredible, but I have long pined for this tape to come out and bring an entire generation to its knees, 15 long years after it should have. Of all of the 20th Century's many crimes (the gulag, the Great Leap Forward, Rwanda and all that), this is the one that personally hurt me the most, and it’s a great credit to the 21st Century that In The Red are going to be rectifying the suffering next year.
Play The Cheater Slicks, “Feel Free” (demo)
Download CHEATER SLICKS – “Feel Free” (1994 demo)
Download CHEATER SLICKS – “Sadie Mae” (1994 demo)
Download CHEATER SLICKS – “Spanish Rose” (1994 demo)