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They did what with my guitar?!

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Chicago’s O’Hare International airport became the launching pad for You Tube’s newest video sensation. Just posted this past Tuesday (July7, 2009) on the same day as Michael Jackson’s Los Angeles memorial, the song United Break Guitars by Canadian musician Dave Carroll has already had over 2 million views.

When Dave Carroll, a member of the folk rock group Sons of Maxwell was changing flights in Chicago to reach his destination from Halifax to Nebraska, a fellow passenger noticed that the baggage handlers were literally tossing guitars outside of the airplane. Carroll’s valuable Taylor acoustic guitar which he had recorded 8 albums with was among the casualties, and when he met up with his guitar, he thought it was completely destroyed.

So what did he do? First, in trying to get fair compensation from United Airlines for over a year, he was predictably denied and given the run around. In the midst of that frustration, Carroll spent $1,400.00 dollars to have his main axe repaired, but it still doesn’t play right.

So like any good artist, he wrote a protest song about it, and shot a video in a mere 12 hours with his friends. The result: You Tube gold. Carroll has seen an avalanche of Facebook friends requests, and even an offer for an interview from Oprah Winfrey.

So now, amidst all the fuss, United Airlines is changing their tune (obviously due to the bad publicity), and is trying to “work” with Mr. Carroll so that he is fairly compensated. As Dave himself said, “Every musician wants to get their stuff out there. I just didn’t necessarily expect it to happen in this way.”

Like Carroll, almost every musician can tell you a horror story about catastrophes that happen while travelling on the road. As I’m writing this, I can recall a few personal incidents that were quite hellish at the time: our equipment never made it from London to Ireland when touring with the Police in 1980, and the semi truck that carried the gear on that same tour overturned in France, leaving us stranded in the middle of nowhere for 12 hours.

What Dave Carroll has done is to use music and video to make a social statement, as this is something I’ve always tried to do myself as an artist. Plus, Mr. Carroll did it with humor and grace, which is quite hard to do when you’ve been as wronged as he had been. In addition, he promised United Airlines to write a trilogy of three songs about this incident, so there are two more pieces to come. Hopefully, he can turn this very unfortunate event into bringing him a larger audience for his work – even if it happened in the most unusual of ways.


Skafish now on Twitter

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I wanted to let everyone know that I just lost my virginity a few moments ago on Twitter by posting my first Tweet, and feel free to follow me there if you would like. Click on this link to sign up!

The challenge for me is going to be to try and say something worthwhile and relevant with only 140 characters per message. It’s sort of like trying to squeeze a symphony into a 3-4 minute pop song. I think I’ve already done that and bet I can again! Skafish


U2 Album Leak

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Could you imagine being arguably the biggest band in the world, and having your own record company leak your album in advance? If you’re U2, you won’t have to imagine it – it just happened. Apparently, the Australian leg of U2’s label, Universal, actually leaked the new U2 album, No Line on the Horizon, to an Australian download site, Since then, the album, in full CD quality is splashed all over the internet – even Wal-Mart briefly posted sound samples, then took them down. One report estimated that at least 200,000 copies have already been shared on sites such as Lime Wire and Bit Torrent.

Here, we see how major labels can operate in a more amateur fashion than a toddler’s lemonade stand – the same labels that could have avoided a Napster and an Itunes, if they would have been smart and forward thinking. And here, in this horrible economic climate for the music industry, they allow themselves and U2 to lose millions and millions of dollars in sales.

This wasn’t a skilled hacker who did it — it was them. You might say, “Oh it doesn’t matter. U2 will make so much money on this anyway.” First, the labels are bleeding and need all the money they can get to stay alive, but more importantly, it’s the principle. Universal has made an incalculable amount of money off of U2 and this is the way they return the favor — handling, or should I say bumbling such an important release for this year.

I remember sharing the bill with U2, The Police, and XTC in front of approximately 30,000 people at an Irish castle sight in July of 1980 when at the time, The Police were the headliners. Since then, U2 has made such an incredible journey and they deserve so much better than what their own record label has just done to them.


Newly Discovered 1977 Skafish Bootleg Tape

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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.


Finally, the video to “Disgracing The Family Name!”

Posted by Skafish on

My mother never wanted me to be an insane over the top rock ‘n’ roller.  Of course not.  What mother would?  Instead, she wanted me to be a non-threatening classical virtuoso musician, with a few show tunes thrown in for good measure.  This I could do in my sleep.  However, performing other people’s music, whether by Bach, or Rogers and Hammerstein, wasn’t ever going to be enough for me.  I had a lot to say, and was thoroughly obsessed (at the exclusion of all else) with saying it.  Mom hoped for the best, but any of her attempts of suppression only helped facilitate the very thing she dreaded most: her son becoming an international disgrace to the family name.

In 1977, it was her very words that lead to the actual and literal writing of the song “Disgracing The Family Name” when she barged into my room and proclaimed. “All you ever do is disgrace the family name!”  Right then and there, I felt the anger swell up inside of me…I defiantly thought to myself that she just gave me the title and inspiration for my new song.  That song, written with enough rage to kill anyone and a single guitar was “Disgracing.”

The journey of the song and now, its first music video is a story in and of itself.  In July 1978, my band and I were packed like sardines into my sweltering basement — the same basement we rehearsed in 7 days a week.  There were no days off, no salary, no sick days, and no paid vacation for the band; just hard work with brutal discipline.  I would punish them whenever they made mistakes.  What do you expect?  I was raised in Catholic punishment hell, lol.

That “brutal discipline” was put to the test when we recorded the music live on a 4 track recorder to “Disgracing,” along with “Work Song,” and “There’s A World.”  It was around 90 degrees that day in the ghetto of East Chicago, Indiana, and the band ripped into the tracks, giving a flawless high energy performance, and afterwards, we added vocals (plus a few musical odds and ends) in a proper studio that August.

In early 1979, music industry legend Miles Copeland stepped over drug addicts and prostitutes to see Skafish rehearse at Loncar’s Bar on 92nd street in South Chicago.  He decided to release “Disgracing” on an unsuspecting UK and European public that November.  Family values have never been same since, lol.

Almost thirty years later on April 1, 2008, the recording became available again on the international Skafish release: “What’s This? 1976-1979.”  However, this time it was on my label, 829 Records, and on my terms.

Regarding the video, is has its own story as well.  The clip features footage from multiple performances of archival, rare and never before seen Skafish performances covering almost 30 years.  It starts on February 4, 1977 when my band and I opened for Sha Na Na at the Arie Crown Theater in Chicago, and the police halted the show, (as an audience member was pointing a gun straight at me).  It ends on November 25, 2006 in Chicago, where I was invited to perform on the television dance show Chic-A-Go-Go (where I was passing on my disgraceful message to a whole new generation of unsuspecting toddlers).  The clip, which lasts 5:05, has full credits of everyone who participated in this shameful act of defiance at the end of the performance, lol!

The video is Directed by Chicago director, editor, and filmmaker John Anderson, who witnessed Skafish performances as early as the mid 1970’s.  Anderson’s credits include being a 2005 Grammy Award nominee as the director and editor for the legendary “Brian Wilson presents: SMiLE” DVD.  Anderson has also worked with such artists as: Kayne West, Pete Townshend, Elvis Costello, Paul McCartney, Patti Smith, Eric Clapton, and The Residents, to name a few.

Currently the clip is also available on You Tube, here on, and in addition, the video will be posted on, my My Space page, on and on over the next week or two.  In fact, we hope to let it soar through all of cyberspace and any space for that matter.  For those of you who would like to post the song, absolutely feel free to embed it on your web page or blog!

Let it rock – let it rip – Skafish

©Copyright 2008 Skafish


No April Fools Joke Here!

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What’s This CD coverThe new SKAFISH CD, What’s This? 1976-1979 is officially released today, April 1, 2008. I remember when someone emailed me weeks ago on My Space and asked me if this new release just might be my little diabolical April Fool’s Joke! I sent back a strong no, no, no — of course not! I wouldn’t play with anyone that way!

Today, this very day of April 1, 2008, over thirty-two years after I first made my Chicago debut, this brand new CD, What’s This? 1976-1979 is finally released to all of you. Imagine how it might feel to be like a mommy in some sort of convoluted alien baby labor for over thirty-two years – that’s how I’ve felt: “The baby is going to come – it’s stuck – it hurts – it’s missing – there is NO baby — I’m gonna die…

Then, oh My God, my little extra terrestrial CD baby is being born! Look, the finished product is so very transcendent of the limitations of time and space and the physical plane and so, so beautiful — YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!” And no post partum depression!

First, a huge thanks and gift of gratitude to all of you out there who have pre ordered the CD – It is great to know that beings are out there who are tuned into this frequency and listening.

It has been a highly emotional experience for me, from the first recording session of August 1976, to finding the last master tape in October 2006, to finally seeing it dropped from the divine heavens to the world today! The strangest things spontaneously cause me to react; veering from elation to tears in seconds – especially hearing the track No Liberation Here, the end section of Work Song where the fantastic guitar playing of Larry Mazalan and Karen Winner explodes into high gear – the final vocal section of Tattle Tale and the entire track of There’s A World, to name a few.

Since it is my money and my record company, I was going to do it right: a 36 page booklet, 6 panel digi pack, 16 photos, most of which have never been seen, a great drawing of me behind the CD tray, the delightful Skafish baby as the record company logo and my spoken commentaries to set the record straight.

A huge surprise for me was when rock legends Cheap Trick (who really WERE there from my first shows), agreed to write the liner notes! Their manager told me that in the 9 years he has managed them, they never agreed to do anything like that before! Keep in mind, Cheap Trick, who are way more famous than I am, have absolutely nothing to gain by writing these liner notes, which they were not paid for – except to tell the truth as it really was, which is something that has been sorely missing in the current climate of Chicago’s revisionist history.

Since my band had not heard these recordings for such a long time, their reactions were also highly emotional – from tears to elation to great pride that we did it our way – in the midst of physical attacks, rejection, being mocked, criticized and made fun of, we stuck to out guns, even when a gun was being pointed at us, LOL!

I’m on really good terms with everyone who performed on this record, and I originally promised them that I would represent what we did in an unvarnished, unaltered and of course, uncensored way! (No clean versions here!) All of the band has been quite pleased with the results and final packaging, which means a great deal to me. Besides them, I wanted to make sure that Cheap Trick and their manager Dave Frey were OK with the way I put the project together and featured their liner notes – and they were also elated. Also, it was important to me what Glinda Harrison, my former manager Scott Cameron and Miles Copeland thought. When I sent an advance copy of the CD earlier this year to Miles Copeland and called him, he told me, “You’re one of the few geniuses I have ever met.” These are the only people whose opinions really matter to me as they were and are still like family to me. I am so glad the project didn’t disappoint any of them.

Whatever happens from here and whatever anyone thinks or says about it all is quite fine by me. This has been a very difficult journey for all involved in the SKAFISH project – the poverty, violent reactions, dreams that never came true back in the day and the sense that these recordings would never be found and ever see the light of day (as they were all lost before).

From a spiritual perspective, things have a way of working themselves out in exactly the way they are supposed to and I am just overjoyed that this project is finally born – today! We may have never got what we wanted back then, but instead, received what we needed — the learning experience with all it taught us in a tremendously deep, profound, and life altering way – both artistically and as people. When most kids were getting drunk and high, dating and discovering sex, my band and I were rehearsing constantly and brutally, and trying to travel throughout the United States, and conquer the world through our shocking new musical and live performance aesthetic, LOL. For the experience, insight, depth and camaraderie that was shared and all we went through — both good and bad, I am deeply moved, appreciative and eternally thankful.


New Skafish CD “Whats This? 1976-1979”

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A big wonderful divine hello to all of you punk and punkettes in cyberspace, your own space, here in Skafish Blog space and any space for that matter!

I wanted to let you know about my new CD What’s This? 1976-1979.  What a labor of loving childbirth it has been!  11 original studio recordings, 9 of which are previously unreleased dating back to August 1976, which are the first Chicago punk, new wave, alternative and indie recordings ever, a 6 panel digi pack with a 36 page booklet, complete lyrics, rare and previously unseen photos, plus liner notes by rock legends Cheap Trick.  Why Cheap Trick you might quizzically question?  Because they WERE there, at my very first Chicago shows, which date back to February 1976 and attended many of my shows throughout the 1970’s.  They saw it all and they tell it all – like it really was – and really is!

Also, I recorded 5 new commentary tracks myself in November 2006 to set the record straight and also, tell it like it really was – and really is.  You might like to hear the true story of Sid Vicious’ last public event, which happened at a performance of mine in New York, 12-78.  He came to see us play with a mutual female friend – which lead to a brawl.  As usual, it’s been inaccurately reported throughout the years and for the first time, you can hear about it exactly as it really happened.  Since I didn’t get drunk or high back in the day and it all took place a few feet away from me, I do remember, LOL!

Check out the new website just for this CD where you can pre-order it now.  The official release date is April 1, 2008, but it’s no April Fools joke.

I hope all is well for you in your space,

Jim Skafish


© 2008 Skafish

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