The Meat Puppets started as a punk rock cover band, but the Kirkwoods themselves had no real attachment to the genre. Curt and Cris were feral enough for punk, but their idea of rebellious music in those days was closer to the roster of the ECM jazz label. In contrast, I saw myself as nothing less than the Svengali of a punk rock super group. The power I heard in the band was unmistakable, even when we played Iggy Pop oldies. I knew we were on to something.
My friend Darrell was getting into pro audio around the same time. He had a high quality cassette deck, a mixing console and a couple decent mikes. One weekend when his parents were out of town, I talked him into letting us set up a makeshift home studio in his living room. While we improvised, Darrell twiddled the reverb and echo knobs. Our buddy Jeff joined me on vocals. The finished product was muddy with effects but dense with stinky psychedelic energy.
As cool as that session was, it was too experimental to be representative. I wanted a proper "demo" we could use to get gigs. We reconvened about a month later in the band's normal practice space at my parents' house. This time, we recorded the backing tracks first, then overdubbed the vocals. The playing was smoking hot and sounded great. Unfortunately, most of singing is awful. I don't remember if Cris and I liked our takes at the time or if we just never got around to re-recording them. Either way, I wish I'd saved a copy of the instrumental versions. Only Curt's vocal on "Outdoor Miner" shows any restraint.
Curt shook off a lot of that restraint once we started writing our own songs. I wrote the lyrics for most of our first handful of originals, but we persuaded Curt to sing them. He quickly developed a raw style that reminded me of a cross between a dog baying at the moon and your dad singing along to the car radio.
We continued to cut demos through the summer, usually recording live. One exception was a strange dub of "Meat Puppets." The track is full of inscrutable guitar playing and low-fi dub effects from Darrell. We liked it so much we released it the following year on the Los Angeles Free Music Society "Light Bulb" compilation. By our final session in August, we'd grown into a muscular, self-contained power trio. We dropped much of our arty pretensions in favor of a lean in-your-face live sound. Gig opportunities began to increase that fall. The super group was finally on its way.