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Lo-Fi Hi Fives: Los Angeles Free Music Society–Blorp Esette

Welcome to the fifth installment of Lo-Fi Hi-Fives; I’m trying something experimental this week, so things might be a tad verbose and not make a lot of sense. I’ll need this outlook to cover Blorp Esette, an impentrable collection of homemade noise from the Los Angeles Free Music Society.

In January of 1976 the non-musician comedy team of Ace & Duce officialy joined ranks wirth the newly formed Los Angeles Free Music Society with avant garde stalwarts Le Forte Four and the Doo-Dooettes for a show at Spaghetti Works in Pasadena. The loose collective had begun their foray into “free music,” which mostly valued the enthusiasm of the recording process over listenability. The like-minded union were lone venturers without peers.

Response for L.A.F.M.S. slowly grew to the point where it seemed seemed necessary to produce a various artists complation showcasing the stand-outs of this extremely niche community. Creating the record was fun and also a nightmare, with boxes upon boxes of cassettes, all of varying to no quality, many with little to no information as to what exactly was on them.

The output was titled Blorp Esette, a combination of the words “blooper” (a short, weakly hit baseball that carries just beyond the infield) and “asset” (a useful or valuable quantity or thing). The album artwork was provided by Don Van Vilet, better known as Captain Beefheart, which was quite a coup for the times. The albums were basically never available to anyone outside of the L.A. Underground at the time of release. In 2011, a remastered version came out with over three hours of additional footage.

Information on the Los Angeles Free Music Society is extremely hard to come by, as it was virtually unknown in the pre-internet age and only talked about in long-gone fanzines. The only oral history I could find was written by Francesca Lothario for Opprobrium #5 in 1998. I’m copy/pasting it below in it’s entirety because it’s a very well-written account of being a music lover (note: Francesca is not speaking of Blorp Esette at the end but rather The Lowest Form of Music, LAFMS’s 10 disc (!) boxset):

“As a girl coming of age in a suburb of Cincinnati in the late 70’s. I had two things going against me: (1) I was a girl & (2) I lived in a very nowhere part of the country. Disco and bad rock ruled the airwaves. In 1977 my brothers had a shitty (also known as “New Wave” band–The Brides of Bullwinkle–that would play around the University of Cincy and I’d always tag along, if for no other reason than to shop at the one, good used record store in the area, Mole’s. I couldn’t stand the dreck those two imbeciles & their idiotic pals spewed out & I knew there must be something else to music besides bad rock & it’s various “lesions.” I began to impulsively buy records from the 50 cent bin, anything that looked remotely weird and wasn’t concerned with having a big cock. Silver Apples, Xenakis, End of Ear, & other like-minded, left-field heaviness became staples for me, almost literally glued to the hand-me-down record player in my room. I was in heaven, I’d found music that was seemingly made just for me, was cheaper than dirt, went well w/ weed didn’t smell like rotted crotch. Then one day while I was checking out a copy of “No Pussyfooting” on the store’s turntable, this guy Brad started talking to me. One thing led to another & next thing you know, we’re dating. Brad was also into non-Rock & bought records in the mail from this organization known as the Los Angeles Free Music Society. Remember Richard Dreyfuss towards the end of Close Encounters? That’s what I felt like when he showed me those records for the 1st time. I was ready to climb aboard! This stuff was fantastic! Sheer contra-rock, absurdo experimentale, art brut concrete, tinkles, blips, whoosh, blaps, radically dilapidated and wonderfully so. I was a moth to light whenever these records & cassettes were playing & I began to write away for them myself. I can honestly say I was never disappointed by any of it & was turned into a whole ‘nother world of weirdness that was in it’s embryonic heyday, most notably The Residents and Half Japanese, who were already “established.” L.A, or at least L.A’s fringe, was starting to look like the place to be. But by ’82 or so, the LAFMS was starting to close up shop. I wrote them a few more times but nary a return. I was beginning to concentrate more on painting, then video arts, much of it inspired by those musicians, pranksters & freaks & I wanted to thank them for having such a profound influence on my life. Also, sex was best when any of those records were playing, despite whinings to the contrary from the dorks that I bonked back in those days (I’m a lesbian now & happier for it).

Then in 1985, a fire swept through my home while I was in Europe & I lost everything. And while there were many things gone that were irreplacable, the thing I pined away most for was my LAFMS. It had always been something of a secret society, the ‘membership” was few & the records & legacy now extinct & obscure. It was a hopeless task trying to track down any of it, no one knew what I was talking about when I mentioned it, so I just shut up. ‘Maybe it never really existed’ I told myself. It’s funny what you’re willing to believe in the name of solace.

But by God it had existed & while I was in NYC to curate a retrospective of my work this year I saw this cardboard box in the window of a record store in the Lower East Side w/ the letters LAFMS emblazoned in gold across the front. ‘Jesus,’ I said to myself, ‘it can’t be.’ But there it was, an entire box set, 10 CD’s worth of the finest music to ever exist on any planet in this godforsaken universe. It was all there, all of it, every wonderful second, & for a measly $100 it was mine & everything was right in the world. Again.

My uncle has a saying he’s fond of. ‘The 70’s wasn’t all about ass,” he says, “sometimes it was about face too.’ And to an extent, I agree with him. Listening to this music again–some 20 years since I first heard it–I realize how timeless it is. And immediate. And most importantly, original. It was music by & for (primarily) non-musicians & while that sentiment is alive in today’s underground, it’s just not as pure. The LAMFS was a beautiful face full of teeth in 70’s, pearly whites sparkling widely & parading high above the boring chaos in a world of shit-encrusted assholes. And I was there. You better believe it sister.”

I mainly included Ms. Lothario’s beautiful testimonal mainly because I do not share her opinions on this music and wanted some positivity to counteract the ensuing negativity, and to prove while L.A.F.M.S. absolutely isn’t for everyone, it still exists in the heart of at least one person. This anarchic DIY deserves credit for being unrepeatable and for being magical in some aspects (black magic is still magic, afterall). And it’s completely insane this stuff was recorded in the mid-70’s.

Musically…what can I say? Some tracks are music in amoeba form, “free” to the fortieth power. Gratuitous, demented, flirting with total idiocy, knuckle-headed strumming,improvisational freakouts, and mumbled audio recordings with no music at all. Still, many of the actual, structured songs, are pretty good and might be worth a listen–but there’s a lot of sludge to sift through first. Blorp Esette isn’t on Youtube or Spotify but it’s sitting next to me right now, my library system carries it and yours might too.

I’m only going to talk about the songs that stand out in either good or bad ways, but am including the full tracklist because some of these band names and song titles are interesting. Titles marked by three asterisks (***) are what I consider to be good songs.

Disc 1
1. intro: One of Blorp Esette’s little features were occasional intros and outros. They meant absolutely nothing other than to bid you welcome into this quirky world. The intro heard here is of an airplane taking off.
2. Dr. Odd / Neil Schneck: Dr. Odd was a co-conspirator (along with Dr. Id) of public access shows Terminal Time Warp Hour and later Brain Follies. He can be heard here narrating into his kitchen sink.
3. Electric Willy / Her Father’s Love ***: Electric Willy was born William Clay Robinson in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1954 in a Baptist Hospital (not a church as he claims in the bio for his LP debut “Music from Earth”). Bill says: “I have always had a tune in my head, even it is only a commercial jingle. Otherwise it gets boring in there. His trio produces haunting bluegrass and provides some of Blorp Essete’s rare moments of actual music.
4. Daniel Stewart / Somebody Pooped in Their Pants: Daniel Stewart is the brother to Ju Suk Reet Meate of Smegma. Relation to the band Smegma is really what holds a lot of artists on this copilation together (ewww).
5. Cheezit Ritz / The Lubicated Braggart’s Countdown: Ritz was a founding member of Smegma and contributed to the production of “Brain Follies”
6. Reet, Craig / (LA(WEBSTER7)0): Recorded at Craig’s parents house 12/71
7. Smegma / excerpt from I Smell Smoke (second to last part)
8. Mr. Foon / Oktaaves
9. The Patients / Half Magic
10. Wolf Loop outro: Blorp Essette’s volume 1’s runoff groove. A charming feature that you just can’t seem to get with a CD.
11. The Professor / Two or Three…: A nice little harmonica can’t save the awful title of this song, shortened here for decency purposes.
12. DK, Reet Meet / Still Life
13. Le Forte Four / Japanese Super Heroes *** Probably my favorite song out of all four discs; some parts reming me of some other Japanese Super Heroes I’ve listened to: the band Boredoms. A monotone yet catchy chant is interupted by some “commercial” breaks. Here’s the long version.

14. Gods of the Pits / The Return of the Pyramidal Oinksnovs
15. Smega / You Gotta Geek the Geeker
16. ACE=1 / HEA/AOS
17. Reet Meet / Real Bass
18. Mr. Foon’s Bandaloon / Microphobia: Mr. Foon’s debut, “Godzilla’s Mystery Abortion” was the second cassette release for L.A.F.M.S.
19. Frank Bedal / Just Don’t Forget, Frank is the Boss: Ace Farren Ford edited this four-minute track down from three and a half hours of factory sounds recorded by Frank. Probably the most interesting of the “spoken word” pieces.
20. Gage Kenady / When My Husband Sees Me Naked: Many tracks were sent anonymously or under psydueonyms, so oftentimes the original artist can never be found. The only thing known about Kenady is he has something on Disc 2 under the name Bix Flent.
21. Ace Farren Ford / Barnyard Ben ***: A toy drum was used on this Beefheartiancountry heavy on the bass. In a collection of out-there experimental mashings it is the more down-to-earth stuff that stands out.
22. Ed Barger / E. Coli
23. Smegma / Whatever
24. The Reverend Toad-Eater / Yosemite Follies
25. Electric Willy / Oh Why ***: Reminds me of a super grim Carolina Chocolate Drops. Bill says: “In 1972 I started writing some god-awful love-sick poetry. As time went on, I became a legend in my own mind. However, when I met Ace my senior year of high school, life as I knew it had changed. Ace had told me there was no such thing as a “gift of music”, but rather that music iself was a gift…anyone could do it. I realized that when I heard a Joseph Jarman album once.”
26. The Di-De-Dos / The Seine: Found recording of two giggling girls who spontaneously break into song. Kind of a perfect closer as it captures the spirit of the album while also ending on an upbeat note. But there’s so much more to go…

Disc 2

1. intro
2. Bix Flent / Stoning Dead Dolphins (Happy Birthday Behavior): rubbed balloons meant to resemble dying dolphins; unpleasant. Maybe it’s a good thing Flent-Kenady was never identified.
3. Ace & Duce / Mr. Poo-Bah’s Pinball Machine: A piano battles a Pinball Machine. Interesting as a study between controlable and uncontrolable noise that quickly overstays it’s welcome.
4. Amy DeWolfe / Frogsies and Fisheggs Zuking Mushroom Headtops in the Swamp. The Mushroom Headtops Walk Into the Unknown. The End (Beware of the Zookes): Unfortunately, the sound of plates breaking can’t live up to that amazing title.
5. Rick Potts / Don’t Think
6. Doo-Dooettes / From the Desk of… The Doo-Dooettes ***: Formerly titled “Symptoms of Retention;” has a sweet, looping coronet.
7. Smegma / Introduction
8. Patrick Dutchboy Lubotany / delaydelsuions 1-5
9. Henry Kaiser / Mal Que Arroz *** No funny buisness, just some intriuging guitar squall, I’ll take it!
10. Reet, Craig / ACNoDE Ape
11. Mr. Foon / Non-Trendy Guitar Piece stops and starts
12. Electric Willy / Truck Driving Song: At 38 seconds, perhaps the world’s most concise truck driving song.
13. outro
14. intro
15. Dennis Duck / Evolution Song ***: Sort of like “The Periodic Table” or the Animaniac’s educational songs.
16. Joe Potts / Heartphase Hotel ***: A heavily distorted “Heartbreak Hotel.” Mash-up culture somewhat ignores the classics, so it is still somewhat shocking to hear such an ingrained song misshapen this way. The line that gets repeated for effect is, of course, “I’m so lonely I could die.”
17. Smegma / bubs enter a cold, hard world
18. Electric Willy / Cow Town Blues ***: Written while driving through Odessa, Texas. Bill says: “From ’73 to ’77, I’d write songs on napkins at coffee house, Norm’s restaurant on Valley Blvd. mostly. Having fun and not thinking too much about it.”
19. The Reverend Toad-Eater / West Side Alden Street Story: Features RTE rehearsing for his recording of “Alden Street” on one channel and a fragment of his high school production of “West Side Story” where RTE played the role of “Action.” I love instances in pop culture where you see a rehersal that sets up a perfomance later (ex: the string band in Waking Life). That leads to…
20. The Reverend Toad-Eater / Alden Street ***: A finished version of the song we heard RTE stumble through minutes earlier. I can’t remember encountering anything similar before, where a demo precedes the finished version. An ambulance siren halts the performance in the middle.
21. The New Los Grifos / Joe Hall’s Dead
22. Patients / Rodan
23. Chip Chapman / Red Light, Auto Flight
24. Sucmeof the Spud / Betty Moons It: Annoying looping of a television snippet. “Look Daddy, there’s the moooon ahead!”
25. Ace & Duck / Yoyler Dan’s Uh Stop Sign
26. The Child Molesters / Muscle Beach Party ***: I’d hate to give credit to worst band name I’ve ever heard but this live performance gives off an exuberance that has been absent up to this point.
27. Charles Wasserburg / My Skateboard High: Disgusting monologue that is the polar opposite of “The Seine.”

Disc Three

1. Frank Rietta Jr. with Jimmy Belton / Margie *** Recorded February 6, 1948 by Frank Sr. with vocals by Frank Jr. (age 11 1/2) and vocals by Jimmy Belton (age 9 1/2). This early example of outsider music actually recieved airplay in 1973 on the Dr. Demento Show, a distinction not many of these tracks can share.
2. Ace=1, AOS c/s / Examining Upstart Art
3. Jerry Bishop / A Hot Time in the City
4. Smegma / portions of “Son of Geek”
5. Ark Welding / Duet; Saturday, 1-17-81: Recorded at the L.A.F.M.S headquarters.
6. Mr. Foon / Brother From Another World
7. Hurtin’ Bros / Wino Park: Very few recordings of this short-lived ensemble exist, which some might argue is a good thing.
8. Dr. ID / NOW kronjoes
9. Lance Growler Richard Synder / Your Fish is Demand
10. Smegma / Ballad of a Dwarf
11. Ace Farren Ford / No Gestalt Diet Plan
12. Alcool Mike Russell / Overby (has green legs) *** Eccentric tribute to the Graffiti Gods of Highland
13. Electric Willy / Broken Rage: *** Bill says “I have no regrets on what I’ve written then, nor what will be written. I’m still having fun trying to explore all of the avenues, reardless of how crappy I may sound to the more serious common sewer” (conosuier?)
14. Nopar King / Knock Wood
15. Smegma / 76 Port
16. Hurt’n Broz / Hard to the Core: Lyrics for this were born by simply reading magazine titles off the tracks.
17. Christian Death / Art
18-20. The South Pasedena Free Music Ensemble / SPFME Live at Garfield Park 1977 parts 1, 2, & 3: The first live performance, in the rain. No one heard it. Some variation of SPFME have performed in that unsuspecting public park every Christmas since.
21. Lance Growler Richard Snyder / Jane Caldwell Picnic Twitch
22. Gage Kenady / Happy Hour TV Daydream
23. Frank Jr. & Phil Rietta / Near You

Disc Four

1. Doo-Dooettes / I Just Fell… 20 minute montage composed enitirely of homemade instruments.
2-9. The Los Angeles Free Music Society Marching Band / Live at the first Doo-Dah Parade, Pasadena 1978. *** These eight tracks were recorded by three L.A.F.M.S “interns” using three separate cassette recorders strapped to themselves during a parade and later synced up together. The results are dizzying and schizophrenic but it is honestly a pretty creative idea.
10. Ju Suk Reet Meate / Now You Know
11. Electric Willy / Medley: How It Sounds; Stoned on the Last Bus to Compton; Theme from an Electric Head: Bill says “I learned to express myself in 1973. For a brief period, all I wanted to be was a C&W version of Zappa. It was when I was exposed to an actual cynthia-sizeher (synthesizer?) that my interest in creative junk like that became tarnished.”
12. Ace=1, AOS c/s / Post-Teenage Fertility Rites: Divided into four sections: satisfaction, memory recall, biology rush, wonderwall.
13. Reverend Marty Nation / Message
14. Quaternium 15 / Ruk, Connie & Hans
15. Anne Harney / Rad Dream: One of the few feamle voices on the album recalls a dream involving an alien abduction.
16. Untitled: The collection ends with eight minutes of uninterrupted snoring.

Final Judgement, on the order of zero to five fingers (with a hi five being a perfect score): One finger, but that finger is a Thumb’s Up (I just realized a high score from Roger Ebert is a very low score from me (and yes, a thumb is a finger, I’ve died on bigger hills than this one)). Music doesn’t get much more unorthodox than this and while it is not my cup of tea or even a liquid I consider drinkable, I appreciate the creativity and sense of community that this project inspired.

In lieu of the superfluous ranking of all 91 songs I definitely had planned, I’m going to borrow an old AV Club feature and construct an hour-long mixtape of listenable material from this four-hour set.

1. Intro (0:27) D1
2. Margie (2:26) D3
3. Her Father’s Love (1:27) D1
4. From the Desk of… The Doo-Dooettes (3:51) D2
5. Broken Rage (3:02) D3
6. Muscle Beach Party (2:29) D2
7. Mal Que Arroz (3:59) D2
8. Japanese Super Heroes (4:00) D1
9. Cow Town Blues (2:29) D2
10. Alden Street (5:46) D2
11. Heartphase Hotel (2:38) D2
12. Evolution Song (4:32) D2
13. Barnyard Ben (3:17) D1
14. Overby (Has Green Legs) (3:41) D3
15. Oh Why (5:19) D1
16. Live at the First Doo-Dah Parade (7:01) D4
16. The Seine (1:16) D1

Total Time: 56 minutes and 40 seconds

Next Time: The holiday season is over, but it’s still a good time to have dinner with [your] family.