Last week, as I wrote about my understanding of and relationship to the career and music of Dale Lawrence, I was careful to note that inaccuracies might well be embedded in the accounts. I had constructed the narrative and creative histories largely on my own, from community knowledge and personal close observation. Part of my goal in recording the information based on only my personal understanding of the information was important to me, in order to clarify what parts I had invented for myself from the creative material presented (and determinedly scavenged).

Dale was kind enough to write back with a few thoughts and clarifications that he’s permitted me to share here. Additionally, Brian Sobolak (who apparently had some Boatmen hoodo fall upon him at the Schuba’s show) and Anne Zender spun off the material I was covering last week as well into a discussion on music and memory, and have asked me to blog on that topic here this week. Starting tomorrow, I shall. It is the precise subtext to the stuff I was posting last week.

Before we begin with his annotations, he also wrote, “We’ll have copies of the CD at shows in the coming weeks, but the official street date is August 12. We’re told there’s a very nice review of it in the new Blender, but haven’t been able to score a copy yet.”

So if anyone out there has a copy of that ish of Blender, share away! Dale also noted he wasn’t going to correct my by ear on-the-fly lyrical transcriptions.

Dale, take it away. Now I can say I’ve opened for you!

Part one

Nothing to add.

Part two

The first Dale Lawrence/Robert Ray “collaborations” occurred around 1983 and were simply Robert taking four Gizmos songs that he especially liked and reworking them slightly (or, in the case of “Tilt-a-Whirl'” more than slightly. The other three were “Cry Real Tears'” “Heartbeat'” and “Stop Alternating.”) These songs then entered the repetoire of the band Robert had joined the previous year, the Vulgar Boatmen. We started actually exchanging tapes and working on new songs in (I think) 1984, though a lot of the Satellites material was just me.

The Satellites stuff you have was recorded not by Paul, but by Dave Langfitt, the group‚s guitarist at the time. He ran a small studio out of his garage (Hit City, still in business today, though Dave’s no longer involved). As such, it was the first time I got to really play around/call the shots in any kind of studio situation, which was fun and an education. Dave (who plays on two tracks from You and Your Sister) was also an accomplished harmony singer — the first time I got to use that element in a band as well. Dave is a great guy and was an important connection at the time. (If any of your tapes include “Sea of Heartbreak'” that’s Dave singing lead.)

The Baade/Speake/Myers lineup of the band did not emerge until 1988. The Satellites broke up sometime in 1985. About a year later I started playing out as Right to Left, whose first lineup was me, Erik Baade (who stayed onboard for eight years), Tony Philputt (replaced almost immediately by Shadow), and Langfitt (soon replaced by Mannon Kersey, then Matt).

[ed. interjection – This explains a peculiarity in my recollections from the series last week, in which my recollections of immediate post-high-school time – 1985 – blended seamlessly into my recollections of seeing shows at bars after I’d turned 21 in 1987.]

Shadow never lived in Austin. He was slightly older than the rest of the Gizmos, married, and had no interest in relocating to New York. Hence, the change of drummers.

You write more than once of my consciously wanting to pursue a different direction (from the Gizmos) after I moved back to Indiana. This is correct but overstated I think. I was interested in pursuing a looser beat than punk — but I was heading there already in the New York demos. In fact, basically when I started playing out again in Indiana, I remember wanting to forge a whole repetoire that would take off from “See About You'” “Biscuits and Gravy” — the stuff I’d written out east, but still the Gizmos. The single biggest conscious change I wanted to make was to employ a cleaner guitar tone. I was bored by distorted guitar — to a large extent still am — and it was eye-opening to see how many people equated “distorted guitar tone” with “rocking out.” Your article made me think about this again, how that is still largely the case. It‚s something I really don’t understand. To me, “rocking” CAN involve timbre, but ALWAYS involves rhythm, how you manipulate that beat.

A fuzzy guitar tone can be (and often is) used (like speed) to mask inferior rhythm playing. And even as a device, it’s so overused as to be ineffectual anymore. I much prefer “overdriven” (like the Sex Pistols) to “distorted” (like Jesus and Mary Chain). What the Boatmen often end up using in its place (in the studio) is compression, which is weirder and harder to read (and responsible for those overtones you’re hearing on “Anna”) than simple distortion. So I think THAT was my single biggest departure from the Gizmos aesthetic, back in the eighties.

Part three

Most of my Gizmos songs (including “Bible Belt Baby”) were written without collaborators; I seldom actually wrote with Billy. The handful that were co-written, though, are definitely among the more well-remembered: “Tilt-a-Whirl” (w/Ted Neimeic), “The Midwest Can Be Allright” (Liz Main), “Melinda is a Lesbian” (Doug Holland), and “Reggae Song” (Billy). (There was also “Tin Foil Chew” — Holland — but no one remembers that one.)

Part four

“Drive Somewhere” and the live “Cry Real Tears” are both sung by Carey Crane, a founding (pre-Dale/Robert) member of the band. As someone from the list noted, I sing “Allison.”

I’d never before noticed that “Street Where You Live” quotes the riff from “Sweet Jane” but you’re right. (Except for that move, this would be the elusive two-chord song.)

Your point about us having our own private pool of floating couplets is very cool (and funny).

The one lyric correction I’ll indulge is “In a Station” — since apparently neither you or anyone on the list who chimed in hear the word “the” in the line “I’m on THE line.”

One thought on “Dale Lawrence weighs in

  1. Since I have nothing better to do, I have typed out the Blender review. Here you go, and I also have put it on the Yahoo group (

    Vulgar Boatmen
    Wide Awake ****
    No Nostalgia

    Earnest, charming rock band fronted by a Florida English professor.

    This wonderful cult band made three sweet, quietly rocking albums in the early ’90’s, gathered accolades and went on hiatus.

    As a testament, this well-selected compilation showcases singers Robert Ray (an English prof) and Dale Lawrence, who crafted

    the eager, yearning “Drive Somewhere” and “You Don’t Love Me Yet” and the tight rockers “Mary Jane” and “Calling Upstairs”.

    Though their approach was as straightforward and Spartan as the best hardcore music, the pair also showed enough warmth and

    smarts to evoke fond memories of the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Creedence, Velvet Underground and the British Invasion.

    Great rock isn’t always about slobbering energy, and the legacy of this lost band is proof of that.
    -Jason Gross

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