Friday, October 19, 2012
Going Over The Cutting Edge (1986)
Over Mardi Gras weekend of 1986, MTV's "The Cutting Edge" came to New Orleans to videotape various musical acts for their Mardi Gras special which aired March 30th. Producers from IRS Records called college radio station WTUL to find someone who would work for free on the production crew. Since I was writing a fanzine ( The Now Zounds) to promote my band's tune "Jefferson Avenue", I agreed to help out. And that's how I wound up buddy-buddying with the modern hipsters of the musical world.
We videotaped Alex Chilton playing his acoustic guitar in a cemetery. After performing "Lost My Job" twice, a Bach piece and two Box Tops tunes including the 1967 smash "The Letter" and "Neon Rainbow", Chilton obliged The Cutting Edge with a rare interview. After a health food lunch consisting of vegeburgers, I chatted with Alex over a glass of carrot juice.
ME: Have you heard any cover versions of your songs that you've liked?
ALEX: No, to tell the truth I haven't. But I haven't heard the Bangles song yet ("September Gurls")
ME: What new bands and new records do you like?
ALEX: I don't know. When I want to hear some music I play my guitar. I did some stuff with the Replacements.
ME: Were you surprised when "The Letter" became a hit?
ALEX: No. I think everyone thinks their song's gonna be a big hit.
ME: Yeah, I think "Jefferson Avenue" will be a smash hit, don't you?
ALEX: This carrot juice sucks.
It had been a long time since Mitch and I had gotten together and Let's Active had a completely new line-up. "I choose the members of my band by making sure they're all shorter than I am " joked the four and a half tall producer/performer. I told Mitch that while Cypress was the most overproduced band without Todd Rundgren's name on it, I enjoyed the live show and their cover of the MC5's "Shakin Street". Easter gave me his card which I tore up immediately.
I was getting sauced with dB's guitarist and vocalist Peter Holsapple:
ME: The dB's: one of the three hardest working bands in America.
PETER: We're definitely the hardest working band without a label. I was thinking we should end our shows with our roadies coming out and packing us up in crates.
ME: Any labels looking at you? IRS for instance?
PETER: Yeah but the whole band has to agree with the label choice. I'd like to sign with IRS.
ME: Did you ever read Spy In The House of Love by Anais Nin?
PETER: No but I meant to. I had it rolled up in my back pocket for a while but I never got to it. We had a dance for the song ( "Spy In The House of Love") but Ready For The World stole it.
I reintroduced myself to Fleshtone/ Cutting Edge host Peter Zaremba and we recalled our on-the- air argument two years ago. Although no fists were thrown, I could never convince Peter that the vocalist gave a shout out to The Osmonds in the Fleshtones classic "American Beat '84".
At Jim Russell's Records, I recommended Dyke and the Blazers "We Got More Soul" to an apparently unfamiliar Zaremba. Then I bough Cornelius Bros and Sister Rose's "Treat Her Like A Lady". Z was psyched. "We do a mean version of that song," he said. "We're definitely gonna do that song Sunday night man".
And they did.
"The Cutting Edge" had a major impact on a lot of musical tastes by introducing all kinds of artists to audiences who otherwise would have only heard what was playing on the radio. Sadly, at the time, none of these artist were getting radio play outside college stations like the mighty 'TUL