Peeling Apart the Bachs

One of the things that has spurred on my record collecting is the sense of wonder I get when coming across some weird record. You know, the whole “a bunch of jerks got together, and recorded these songs, and somehow that moment of time is now frozen onto wax (or CD or whatever).”

I never cease to find that amazing. By playing a recording of “96 Tears,” you, the listener, are creating this weird invocation, summoning ? and the Mysterians from out beyond the Pale. At some point, over 40 years ago, the Mysterians recorded that song, probably somewhere in Michigan—maybe they knew it was brilliant, maybe not. Anyway, it’s survived, copies of it get made, it’s played on the radio, you hear it. ?’s voice and that Vox organ riff are part of our collective unconscious, you know? It lasts forever and ever.

So even though I’m usually not too bothered about the condition of my records, and I certainly don’t go around collecting, like, limited edition UK mono mixes of my favorite albums or anything, there’s a part of me that is sort of . . . compelled to . . . I don’t know. Rare records are just sort of exciting by virtue of their very scarcity, kind of how like an endangered condor or a yeti is exciting.

This is doubly true if the band is a coulda-shoulda-woulda combo like the Bachs. When the music contained on rare vinyl is simply astounding, it’s almost like shadowy forces have conspired to keep it hidden. It’s like a secret, and only boring people aren’t totally fascinated by secrets. And the Bach’s sole album, Out of the Bachs (Ha ha ha! hooooo . . . ), is a secret of massive esoteric value, it’s like a Lost Dutchman mine rich in sugary garage finery. With an original pressing of a mere 100–150 records, this was a highly sought-after near-masterpiece, but now any asshole in the world can dowload it offa the internets. That’s what I did, at least.

Lookit this record cover! Wow! You can’t make this stuff up. This is one of the coolest record covers of the 1960s hands down. I don’t care if you don’t agree because the issue isn’t up for discussion.

Out of the Bachs comes straight out of 1968, but it sounds like it could be a couple years earlier. Songs like “Tables of Grass Fields” are more saccharine than a ship made out of lollipops manned by marshmallow peeps capsizing in an ocean of Pepsi. Wonderful tune, really, that lopes along at a blissfully relaxed pace. In fact, most of the songs on this album do. It’s not slow, but just measured and lovely, tending towards mid-tempo for the most part.

The kids making up the Bachs had only recently graduated high school, and if you dig up a picture of them, hoo-ee do they look naïve. If they got offa the bus in the big city, Ratso Rizzo would have taken them for all they’re worth. This fresh-scrubbed, bright-eyed innocence thing is essential to the Bachs sound, you understand—they’re all dreamy and stuff, not yet of this cold gray world.

It’s weird, but the Out of the Bachs LP is an LP! This band never released any singles as was the fashion of the time, and they didn’t release an album of, like, two originals and eight covers of the era’s popular rave-ups. This record was a secret little vanity pressing, a document for the sake of fun and posterity. In their little bubble, there was nothing really rubbing against them, peeling away their dippy romanticism. It’s sort of like peeling the layers of an onion—you can remove one after the other until there’s nothing left, but you never get to the middle of an onion.

The Bachs went to college, they shipped off to Vietnam, and the band disappeared. The real world just peeled them apart.

But the document left behind! Oh, the document. 12 songs, all originals, weirdly recorded. According to the Bachs themselves, the songs were done in a single take in a recording studio owned by a guy who had never really recorded a rock band before. So the sound levels are very strange, to the point even that it seems the producer might not have been sure where to place the microphones, or even which mics to use.

Reminds me a little of really early punk singles, when no one with a recording studio had figured out how to record music like that, so the recording quality is just . . . off. So the Bachs are laying down awesome tunes like “Show Me That You Want to Go Home” that sound like they’re floating in a strange, undiscovered dimension closely resembling our own. It’s impossible for us to get there ourselves, but the transmissions have made their way through space and time to reach us. They’re imperfect and awkward, rumored to be mastered 1–2% too slowly, but under this thin layer of imperfection they’re alive and well. Vital, even. And they’re ours; they’re meant for us, and Fortuna has kept them intact all these years.

This guy would approve, I'm sure.


Michael said...

Oh the faulty link! Me want to hear!

Rick said...

Hm . . . the link works fine for me. It brings you to the rapidshare site. You have to usually click "Free," wait about a minute, enter the letters and numbers, and then download.

I also just noticed that the Bachs album is zipped as an RAR, and you'll need to download the (free) program UnRARX to open it up (I got mine from versiontracker).

I know that sounds complicated, but it's SOP for out of print psych sharing blogs . . .

Michael said...

It's working now. It was going to that guy's blog before. Now I gots it.

Anonymous said...

I suppose you know the Bachs cover is a generic design used for different recordings, the band pasting a crude picture of Bach and some lettering in the blank space.
A typed song listing on the back and thats it... probably part of the charm. And yes, the music is BRILLIANT!

Anonymous said...

I know John Babicz, the drummer for the Bachs. We were stationed flying helicopters in Germany in the 80's (drank some Jim Beam on occasion). I have heard his personal copy of the LP (he treasures it above all else in this world) and he becomes almost giddy! If the band's enthusiasm was anything like John's, the it must have been a blast! Fun music. I am proud to say that I can claim someone who was almost famous as a friend.

Taber said...

My brother was the bass player for the Bachs, aka Blake Allison, but listed, ALWAYS INCORRECTLY, misspelled, Black Allsion?

Who knew that they were legendary? They reconnected some years back, and hadn't lost a step (a beat?).

I'd like to say I was their roadie, but who knew what that was? I'd just go watch them wherever I could, because they were good, and they played songs I liked.

Their get-up was black knickers, black stockings, a black frock, and a white shirt with lace collar. Awesome!

Rick said...

Hi Taber,

Thanks for checking in! And I didn't know that about the stage get-up—that's insane. Awesome indeed.

Do you know if there's any chance that we'll see another Bachs reunion? I know a lot of people would kill to see 'em again . . .


Taber said...

Hi, Rick:

Can't say. I think there all a bit non-plussed by their legendary status.