Instrumental rough mixes from the "Meat Puppets II" sessions

by Derrick Bostrom in

"Meat Puppets II" was completed in three separate stages. The recording was spread over two sessions at Total Access studio in Redondo Beach, California in the Spring of 1983. First, we recorded the instrumental tracks; a few weeks later we laid down the vocals. Six months after that, we finally executed the final mixes at Chaton studio in Paradise Valley, Arizona.

Recently, Jon Boshard sent me a copy of the rough mixes from that first session. I have a lot of tapes of the band from the early 80's, but somehow  this one never made it into my collection. In fact, I'd forgotten it even existed until Jon brought it to my attention. Jon probably got the tape from his business partner Joe Carducci, the man responsible for bringing us to SST Records in 1981.

The backing tracks are essentially complete, save for a few effects added during the mixing session. We were very happy with the session, which came off without a hitch --that is, until we started on the vocals. Curt's ambition had grown considerably since our previous record, but at this stage his vision still outstripped his ability. He encounted major problems controlling his voice, especially when he needed to shift back and forth between higher and lower registers. In order to cover all the notes, he was forced to develop a rudimentary if unsatifying strategy, which can be best observed on vocal for "Plateau." On that track, he starts out real low, then suddenly switches to high yelp.  (Years later, we were amused at Kurt Cobain's studious duplication of Curt's limitations on his "Unplugged" version of the song.)

Curt agonized over whether to go back into the studio and attempt to redo the vocals, leave them as they were, or just scrap the whole project. Fortunately, he got comfortable with the takes over time, and we moved on to bigger concerns (like convincing SST to let us actually finish the album). Stripped of their out-of-control vocals, the tracks themselves reveal a great deal of craft. The arrangements are detailed, the tempos are controlled and we're actually listening to each other. The highlights, for me, are "Oh Me" and "The Whistling Song." On these two cuts especially, you can hear just how hard we're trying to move in the opposite direction from our previous album. You can tell that we're really holding things down, keeping the tempo just as slow as possible before the whole song falls apart. This kind of playfullness is evident throughout the recordings.

Unfortunately, there were those who viewed our efforts as a betrayal of "the form." Coincidentally or not, "Meat Puppets II" languished unfinished for six months. SPOT became "unavailable," and no one seemed to be able to locate him or the tapes. We seethed resentment over the delays, and began to imagine conspiracies and ulterior motives at the label, especially after we discovered that Husker Du, the Minutmen and even Black Flag had "post-hardcore" albums in the works. "Meat Puppets II" wasn't released until the spring of 1984. Even after the album got a glowing four-star review in Rolling Stone magazine, our disatisfaction with SST hardened, and the relationship settled into a stifling atmosphere of mutual suspicion.

In making these important outtakes available to the public, I've decided to use file sharing services, rather than make my web host take the full brunt of the bandwidth hit. These services can be unpredictable, so I've uploaded to three different ones. Good luck, and happy listening!

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