Sunday, March 17, 2013

Earth Man Blues

Today, St. Patrick's Day, marks three years since Alex Chilton's unexpected death. In his memory, I'm posting a record, that until very recently I had never heard. Earth Man Blues by the somewhat mysterious John Byrd Band, was recorded at Ardent in 1976 and released the following year on the local Memphis label, Power Play. Alex is listed as a "Guest Singer" in a band that includes John Byrd, Haines Fullerton, Phil Gallina, and Rit Ritennour. The two songs are credited to John Byrd, whomever that may be. Perhaps he is an invention of Alex (?) in one of his many guises, in the year before he would release his Ork single, produce The Cramps, play with Chris Stamey and the Cossacks in New York, and eventually go on to begin recording his ramshackle masterpiece, Like Flies On Sherbet.

The A-Side, "Earth Man Blues," is sort of a white boy jazzy blues number with a harmonica that nearly ruins it. It has a throwaway feel, but is saved by Chilton's wry delivery a la Bach's Bottom where he goads the guitar player through a pedestrian solo, "Look out It's Byrd, I'm gonna have a fit!" The singer, as usual, is detached and cracking himself up, and he likes it that way.

The B-Side, "Friend At Very Good Time," is a pretty good post-Big Star folk rock ditty that plods along sweetly to an acoustic guitar, probably strummed by Chilton, with the refrain "You opened my mind to whiskey and wine, and it's right back to blowing my mind." Sweet as it may be, there's something amiss on both of these sides, which like most of Alex's mid 70s output, has a tension that threatens everything to fall apart, which is what makes them interesting and compelling.

If any of you sleuths out there know anything about this band, feel free to illuminate me with the details.


"Earth Man Blues" mp3
by the John Byrd Band, 1977.
Power Play 45
out of print

"Friend At A Very Good Time" mp3
by the John Byrd Band, 1977.
Power Play 45
out of print

top photo: by Stephanie Chernikowski


Paul Duane said...

Wow. Just wow.

Tom G. said...

Nice find. Add another one to the Chilton list! Thanks.

Will Rigby said...

Ted: I have this record but haven't heard it in years, and don't think I've seen the cover before. Thanks for posting it.

I don't know much about it but I do have a story, from that same 1978 Memphis trip. The first afternoon we got together with Alex, one of the places we went was to Tommy Hoehn's pad, where I mainly recall two things: Alex playing the LiveStiffs version of "Reconnez Cherie" by Wreckless Eric at least twice in a row, probably more, laughing but loving it; and John Byrd pestering Alex over and over again to record with him again [I didn't know of this record at that time, but it's after it was out, I think], until Alex ended it by barking something like "Quit trying to relate to me on my level!" There was an uncomfortable silence after that. I don't remember saying more than hello to Byrd.

kenny1955 said...

This makes my day. Thanks!

Unknown said...

A Memphis guy paid Alex to sing on these tracks. Alex was yelling "hit me Byrd" because Alex was screwing up the vocals on purpose. Byrd paid him in advance and he flaunted his crappy performance on Earth Man Blues in Byrd's face. Alex told me Byrd chased him out of the studio, but still used the track.