Two New Collections Unearth Arizona's Rock and Roll Past
Think back on a gig you saw six or seven years ago, and about how much the landscape in our fair city has physically changed since. Now try imagining a gig from 46 or 47 years ago, and how much history has been paved over--then you'll get some idea of the amount of digging Arizona music historian John P. Dixon has had to do to unearth the nuggets of Phoenix pop music that fill two brand-new CD releases he's just compiled.
Fans of Mike Condello's work on the Wallace and Ladmo show will be pleased to hear this unreleased 1968 Condello and Company comedy album, which also collects over a dozen rare singles and outtakes he recorded between 1962 and 1980. And The Mascot Records-Jack Curtis Story contains nearly every 45 the local music impresario released during the '60s, from the embryonic Alice Cooper band The Spiders to soul singer Roosevelt Nettles to the pop sheen of P-Nut Butter, the teen idolatry of Frank Farfara, and the heavy rock of George Washington Bridge.
We talked to Dixon about both of these releases, which will be marked by a CD Release/Listening Party at Zia Records Saturday afternoon. On hand will be Dixon, Jack Curtis, Mike Condello Jr., Dwayne Witten (Mascot owner, member of George Washington Bridge), Floyd Westfall (Floyd & Jerry) and producer Tony Bacak, and more special guests to be announced, to sign and discuss the releases. A limited edition psychedelic Condello lithograph will be available exclusively at this event with the purchase of both discs. The event is free to the public and will run from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
It's especially fun listening if you're a pop history buff. The Mike Condello record is packed with references that fall inside a distinct 1965 to 1968 period. Like on "Soggy Cereal," where he quotes a line from The Animals' "San Francisco Nights" and then lampoons Trini Lopez and Johnny Rivers and their fake live Whisky-A-Go-Go albums.
There was so much going on there with Mike; besides the downright parodies, like "Ladmo in the Sky with Almonds," he was doing for the Wallace and Ladmo show, he was recording all this other music. It was amazingly creative time for him.
Up on the Sun: That earlier Wallace and Ladmo compilation that came out on Epiphany contained a lot of parodies where Condello borrowed whole songs and melodies from The Beatles and The Bee Gees. Were there any latter-day licensing problems, what with the Beatles' and Apple being as litigious as they are?
In those days I don't think it was even a consideration. What (Zia and Epiphany Records founder) Brad Singer initially did was he paid for the song, because technically one would have to ask permission to change lyrics and all that, but since it was already out, he paid for the song as if it were the actual song, not a parody. Mike's band Hub Capp and the Wheels were Capitol artists, so I don't know if that had anything to do with not getting sued by the Beatles. Over the years, if someone wanted to raise a stink, I'm sure they would've. That first album sold about 6,000 units; there are plenty of them out there. In all the paperwork I've got, I've never seen anything from the publishing companies. I don't think you could get away with it today. That's the beauty of the '60s.
In the liner notes, you say this comedy album was recorded at the same time of the Condello Phase 1 album that came out in 1968. How close was the comedy album to ever coming out?
I don't know if these were ever pitched. Charlie Green and Brian Stone, who managed the Buffalo Springfield and Sonny and Cher, they had York-Pala Productions. They were pursuing Mike Condello at the same time they were managing the Buffalo Springfield. They were hustling deals.
They had a group called The Cake doing a lot of stuff; they were quite the movers and shakers in Hollywood, high-profile kind of guys. They hired Condello as an A&R guy for about a year. Green and Stone came out and just gobbled up everything Condello was doing at the time, close to thirty songs.
The more psychedelic pop stuff by Condello came out on the Phase 1 album and they have all this stuff just kind of sitting there. It's amazing that they would grab all of this stuff. As a sideline, Bill Spooner's album was also part of that deal. They purchased those masters and Condello wound up overdubbing the horns and stuff on the West Coast. That came out.
Was any of the comedy album ever used or intended for the Wallace and Ladmo show?
I thought Wallace and Pat McMahon had something to do with it, too, and they said no, it was all basically Condello's ideas. I don't know if those songs were ever performed on the show; Mike's son might know. I assume they were, because a lot of people were familiar with "Public School Lunch." They're aware of it.
The fact that it was never actually pressed or released makes me think they didn't, but it makes me think they could've performed them once or twice as a musical segment on Wallace and Ladmo. I'd heard these titles before, but [not] until I saw an actual acetate with all the songs lined up in order did I realize there was a reason behind them, that it wasn't just a bunch of one-off funny kind of songs.