During one of my regular thrift store hunts back in the late eighties, I found a big stack of Frank Sinatra albums, about two dozen of 'em for a quarter apiece. The Kirkwoods turned their noses up at my new find, but I made of them a prodigious study. Soon I was fully immersed in what they call "The Great American Songbook." Cris had a bunch of fake books full of standards, but he didn't know the material. Now I began to push him to learn some of them.
Cris had a small home studio set up in a corner of our rehearsal space: an eight track machine, a mixer an electronic keyboard and a couple mikes. The band got together nearly every day, and we did a lot of recording, demoing new Curt songs and doing lots noise experiments. Now Cris and I began to series of series of standards. When we ran out of stuff that we liked from the songbooks, we switched to Elvis covers.
Cris used his unfamiliarity with the material to maximum effect, giving full expression to his bemusement over the constraints of the genre. He comped along directly out of the songbooks, using my scratch vocal to keep from getting lost. We also made the best of our technical constraints. We only had two mikes for the drums, so we put one in the kick drum and one overhead, pointing across the high hat to the snare. The rest of our pre-digital home studio blemishes are on proud display: missed punches, overdriven instruments, cheesy reverb, cheesier keyboard sounds, and a disconcerting preference for speeded up vocals.
Cris and I made a good team, me with my reverence for the classics and him taking the piss. The tracks are funny, rocking, psychedelic and even romantic in spots. Kirkwood watchers will note that Curt didn't take part in these exercises -- Cris and I usually reserved them for the days Curt didn't show up for rehearsal. All the same, they make an interesting footnote in Meat Puppets history, as well as a preview of my Today's Sounds project. Only super fans and close personal friends ever heard this stuff, but it's long past time that I share them with a wider audience. I still think "Beer Barrel Polka" would make a great Meat Puppets cover.