I got a surprise email in December 2008 from someone who used to come to my shows during the Chicago club days of the 1970’s. He let me know that he had this tape of Skafish from 8-29-1977, which is a live bootleg recorded from the soundboard at Ratso’s in Chicago. It was my birthday show; a return to the stage after I had injured my knee in a dancing accident that July 20th. I had a surgery to remove a bone chip, and was ready to hit the stage just 5 weeks later. In fact, I wrote two new songs while in the hospital that premiered at that show. It was also the first performance that included my newest band member Karen Winner on guitar and vocals.
This was the first time I had ever heard of this tape, as I had no idea before that it even existed. So when he sent me the tape in mid December, it was a great holiday gift and pleasant surprise! As the tape was over 31 years old, I bypassed immediately listening to it and sent it on to mastering guru Trevor Sadler. He painstakingly transferred the tape, and then sent me a CD copy. Of course, this is a soundboard bootleg recording, not a high end pristine production. I knew that going in but was still very excited to see what this tape was all about.
When I first listened to it, I could hear everything that was going on in the performance, and that was good. I don’t listen to a lot of bootlegs, but everyone who works with me says that the sound quality is comparable to the bootlegs out there being sold. But beyond that, I was elated with the musical and vocal performances. There wasn’t anything that bothered me, no missed cues, and the energy level was transcendent. Its raw aggressive edge and precision was an utter delight to someone like me who did my best to combine the most primal aspect of cathartic emotion with classical level musical precision. On top of that, the audience was very much into the show, and the delightful screaming fans were a real treat.
Initially listening to it wasn’t as much about a stroll down memory lane, but a clarification and affirmation of that time period. It’s all right here on this long forgotten tape — the way it actually was; an accurate, literal document and proof of what occurred and the reality of the Skafish journey. That time period for Skafish was what reality TV today pretends to be; a dizzying blur of the highest highs and lowest lows, with a great deal of physical danger and unpredictability thrown in.
As it was maddening living through it, I actually forgot many of the songs I wrote back then such as: I Need Something, Toilet Trained, and One Size Fits All. So far, this tape offers the only recordings of such pieces. Also, only this tape currently provides recordings of many other pieces: Sun Stroke, We’ll See A Psychiatrist 1977, Start At The Start, Let’s Play Doctor 1977, Waterhead Chant, Kissy Face, Bachelor Pad, Don’t You Know?, I Missed The Prom Last Night, We’ll See (The Chicago Cubs Baseball Game) 1977, and Home Invader 1977.
The reason I list “1977” behind some of these titles, is that the later versions of these songs evolved and were different; meaning the We’ll See A Psychiatrist on my first LP is notably different than the one on this live bootleg tape. The other tracks with “1977” at the end of the title were recorded in new versions in November 1982 for what was supposed to be my second LP for IRS Records. However, it was viciously rejected by label chief Miles Copeland and vice president Jay Boberg for being way too controversial for the marketplace.
In my commentary for my most recent release of 4-1-08: “What’s This? 1976-1979,” I indicated that I wrote about 50 pieces for Skafish between 1974 and 1979. Now, it’s clear that the number of compositions from that time period is somewhere between 75 to 100. Also, in total, I’ve written hundreds of pieces throughout my entire life. I don’t have exact numbers yet, but I would safely say I’ve already composed between 300 to 500 works. And I’m just getting started!
Some of those most interesting and innovative compositions are on this tape – exactly as they were written, with an emotional passion and intensity that I am ecstatic about. What is the future of this tape? What is supposed to be done with it now? I don’t really know at this moment. However, I am open to your suggestions. That’s why I shared this first post regarding the discovery of the tape right here, for any of you who care to read about it and offer your thoughts. So at this time, I’m trying to incorporate all valid opinions within my sphere to help me make that decision; and I will within the next 30 days or so.
Personally, I would need to feel that its release represents something unique, singular, and worth the money someone would spend on it. As a record label CEO who has also been a consumer, I am very conscience of not exploiting the fans, or ripping people off. It is important for me to make sure that each release is one of real value for whoever is interested in purchasing it.
Whatever happens in the future, it’s been more than enough for me to hear this moment and experience it for what is was – and to have so many songs now that I didn’t have documented in a recorded version prior. For me, I am thrilled to simply have the tape – there doesn’t need to be an additional payoff, yet if there is one, so be it! I am open and excited to see where the journey of this long forgotten tape may lead us. Whatever my decisions are and whatever direction it takes, I will post it here first.