What follows are the original liner notes that Bags producer/live soundman extraordinaire Carl Plaster wrote for the band’s self-titled sophomore LP, which, in case you weren’t paying attention, is now available in CD and digital formats with bonus tracks via Stanton Park, CD Baby, and iTunes. While they might be dated, I think these liner notes important, historical documentation of the making of the record and the state of The Bags at the time the record was made. It stands as a fun read; when I transcribed it recently, I included everything except for the cheeb stains on my copy’s dust jacket. Take it away, Carl…
Tim Kelly, WMBR’s Late Risers’ Club
Carl Plaster (and Lou Giordono, left) recording The Bags second album at Fort Appache, 1989
I fucked up. I should have kept my big, fat mouth shut, but I didn’t. I was talking with the guys about cover art and stuff during one of those ominous band meetings when I suggested that they ought to have some liner notes. Jon, in an act of infinite wisdom sadism, suggested that I be responsible for them. I don’t know where my mind was, no doubt thinking more about the lack of good snacks in their apartment or something, but for the life of me I can’t think of how I ever agreed to do this. In any case, I committed, so here I am, filling space while you are hopefully kicking back and enjoying this bub.
I guess you could say that these liner notes are part of what can almost be called an “Anti-CD” package. There’s no question that CD’s sound great, but don’t you think the packaging really sucks? The fact is, as far as cover art is concerned, you can have a lot more fun with a 12″ piece of cardboard than a 5″ jewel box, and with the record companies making fewer and fewer LP’s and more and more CD’s, the chance of coming across packages like Billion Dollar Babies, Quadrophenia, or even Zen Arcade seem less and less likely. With that in mind, the band wanted to make the most of the 12″ format, seeing as there’s no way of knowing how long said format will continue to exist. It’s a scary thought – a world without vinyl. So as part of this “pursuit of a package”, I’m writing this blurb for you folks. With that explained, I might as well get on to the music.
The guys didn’t want to print lyrics, but I had to make some sort of reference to the songs, so I figured a quickie running commentary might do the trick, while also giving you a little insight into the method behind the mess. So here goes…
BAGPIPE Nice “off and running…” sort of start. Simultaneously self-explanatory and nonsensical. You figure it out. I assume all the responsibility for the cannon shit at the beginning.
EVIL WaffleAss toms by Ludwig, wash cycle by Maytag. I know there’s a guitar in there somewhere, but I sure as hell can’t find it. Subsequently I remixed the song, cranked up the “Gi-tahh’s” and made the whole thing sound a lot raunchier, but the guys couldn’t get themselves to part with the stuipid-sick toms and the neat-o flange, so the original mix stands. What the hey, it’s a pop song. Line item veto courtesy of Crispin.
BEAUTY OF THE BUD Motthava’s (see end of liner notes) worst nightmare come to life. Destined to take its place amongst such classics as “Tom Dooley” and “Cum-Bay-Ya” as one of the favorite campfire songs of all time.
ATOMIC COCONUTS “Take two point fiiiiiive…” Can’t offer much of a defense for this one, it’s pretty silly, no two ways around it. Cool headphone stuff, in any case.
DROPOUT Crispin’s guitar, which has been laying low since getting the shaft on “Evil”, comes roaring out of the background and basically squashes everything in its path, meaning drums, vocals, bass, engineers’ eardrums, whatever. Eq’d and mixed for maximum pain, only a true maso can listen to this one cranked.
RIP YOU DOWN A gem of a non-sequitor, a “kinder, gentler” alternative to ending the side with “Dropout”, which would’ve been way too obvious.
DUMMY Who said Mountain didn’t influence anyone? Nice Gargle-matic vocals in part two.
THOUSAND ACRE WOODS Taken literally, you’d think it was about a plane crash, but it’s not. Besides, after Bloodrock and Lockerbie there’s no sense in trying to get any more mileage out of the “plane” angle but that’s another story. Anyway, this is about as ponderous as it gets, folks, but then again there’s Barb Jones.
SUPERPOWER A first taker, with vocals overdubbed later. Truly bizarre guitar sound, eh? Thanks to Joe Harvard for the fuzz boxes. Don’t sweat the indecipherable lyrics, they’re buried for a reason.
TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT Angst-ridden Odorono, fer sure. Seriously, though, while the other Plum studios stuff (Atomic Coconuts, Rip You Down, Thousand Acre Woods) was done in one or two takes, this one took like seven or eight. Don’t ask me why.
CLOSER THEN Power ballad, yes. Standard fare, no way. Plunkmaster bass tone thanks to a vintage Epiphone bass with old strings. On this one, Crispin is added to the long list of distinguished “Axemen” ( you’ve got to use the quotes when you use Berklee jargon) who’ve utilized the much ballyhooed Fort Apache electric sitar (it’s a Coral of course). At first, I thought the sitar was a sucky idea, but what can I say, I was wrong.
SWOG Last but definitely not least. When in doubt, pile it on and pile it on thick! With the overdub count reaching Stasiumesque proportions, Lou was definitely earning his pay on this one. Actually, it took three of us to run the mix when you get right down to it. Special guests Swamp Oaf appear courtesy of Stanton Park records. How convenient.
Well, that just about does it for the music. For those of you who bought this expecting “Rock Starve – The Sequel”, this record might be a bit of a shock, and it’s meant to be. One of our goals was to explore some new territory with the songs and the sounds, and to try to go easy on the generic AOR sonic boom. Combating potential aural monotony was easy, since the songs were pretty dissimilar to begin with, and on top of that they were recorded at three different places. With the exception of a few that shall remain nameless, the songs were each mixed in a couple of hours to keep them sounding fresh and loose.
Let’s see, what else is there… Gear! Actually, I’m not much of a fan of those celebrity equipment lists you see in the music mags, but there are some interesting events involved as well as some interesting toys, so why not?
Right before we were due to record at the Fort last June, Jim had his drums stolen out of the van, and had to scramble to buy a set of used Ludwigs to track with. A few months later, just before we went in to record at Plum, I found most of Jim’s stolen drums at an outdoor flea market out by Great Woods. As cheesy and trashed as they are, they’re still pretty great, and getting them back was a serious psychological boost. Not surprisingly, we used them for the Plum stuff.
Jon played a variety of basses, partially due to the fact that his Squier Jazz bass bought the farm during that midair collision at Citi, and also because there was a lot of fun stuff lying around the Fort, and we couldn’t just let it sit there. Just for the record, there was the Squier Jazz, a Gibson Thunderbird, a ’64 P-bass, an old Epiphone like Colin Moulding played in the “Urggh!” movie, a Guild acoustic bass, and a Guild Starfire that Drew Townson aptly named the Electric Tuba.
Crispin pretty much stuck to his guns, that being the strat thru Marshall and oddball Peavy cabinet.
The tracks were recorded at Fort Apache in Cambridge, Plum Studios in Newburyport, and Downtown Recorders in Boston. Everything except “Rip You Down” was mixed at the Fort at various times over the last few months. The Plum sessions served as a promising introduction to Neve recording (beware Barb Jones). Thanks to Richard Teigen at Plum for getting the job done fast.
Special thanks also go to Drew Townson for recording the majority of the vocals on the Plum stuff (at Downtown Recorders), as well as mixing “Rip You Down” in ultra-cool minimalist fashion. Keep your eyes open for Drew on the upcoming Foul Balls release, and also keep your eyes open for Motthava, the unsuspecting studio assistant who had a bit too much of the hi-test during one of those all-niters at Newbury, and hasn’t been seen since. “I felt torn and I felt spun…” While on the subject of Newbury, thanks for the warm hospitality Ken.
And of course, thanks to Lou for gargantuan technical and creative input on this thing (that means doing a lot of engineering, mixing, and critiquing). We would have been in big trouble if he hadn’t been in on it from the start.
Informative thanks to Emily for telling me about that movie with the guy dressed up like a box of Cream Of Wheat during the dream sequence. I haven’t found it but I’m still looking.
At the risk of making a clichéd, philosophical statement, this record is dedicated to the notion that no matter how seriously the average buff takes his music, it’s only rock music, and you can’t take it all that seriously.
For those of you who have been waiting for this slab, sorry it took so long, and for the uninitiated, welcome. But enough of the pointless rambling. I’m outta here. Oh yeah, one more thing. Do yourself a favor and don’t ask Pete Ryan about tape worm stories. You’ll wish you hadn’t.