Fans of THE...VERS know the frustration of trying to describe just what the band was like. Words fail. By looking at old pictures, you can see they were, well... "different" (ahem)... but the music is what they were all about. More specifically, LIVE music. Live, they were simply, and wonderfully, unique.
There are plenty of cassettes of their live shows in the hands of those who were close to the band, seeing as how the band recorded off their sound board nearly every night, and many fans have these recordings, but most, ravaged by time, or poor quality to begin with, are poor little sonically expended souveniers that wouldn't be worth anything except for the memories they might trigger.
In January 2003, Jon "Spy" Rabe, former lightman with the band, lost his brave but tragic battle with cancer. Jon was one of the sweetest people ever to grace the face of the Planet Earth, and possibly the greatest music fan I ever met. He had the most phenominal collection of modern-era rock music I've ever seen, and knew and loved each piece unconditionally. For some years, he had been a radio DJ at WGLX-FM in Wisconsin Rapids, where he amazed his collegues and listeners alike with the obscure and interesting on his weekly show, "Spy's Vault:"
"Are you seated in a comfortable chair? Good, let's begin!"
Spy in 1974
Spy at WGLX
In the summer of 2003, Jon's widow, "Sunnie," sold me his cherished pair of JBL Century L-100 speakers. Owning a pair of these vintage speakers had been a fantasy of mine since they were new during the mid-'70's, and Jon's were pristine, like everything he had related to music. When I went to her house to pick them up, she allowed me access to his huge music collection, and gave me five cassettes of the band that Jon had collected. Four of them were about what one would expect from cassettes that old, but one of them...
ONE of them...
One of them had sound that practically jumped out of my system, with perfectly recorded levels, wonderful quality, and a performance that literally brought tears to my eyes. It was as if the tape had been recorded the night before, and kept in a lead-lined safe deposit box for nearly 24 years, a superb time-capsule look into the spirit, humor, and energy of THE...VERS in their prime during those great times.
The tape had been recorded off the band's soundboard at a Rockford club called The Great Illinois Purchase, and from references made by Mondo on the tape, it sounded like late 1979. A look at an old calendar shows that we played there on December 28 that year, so that's my best guess as to the exact date.
The original cassette, a Maxell UDXLII, had been recorded with the drums, bass, and vocals on the left side, and the guitar, keyboard leads, and some vocal on the right. Please keep in mind that Dale, the soundman, was mixing for the mono live sound, not the stereo tape specifically, so some things, such as the kick drum and vocals, are somewhat overemphasised in places, and some things, such as the bass and keyboards, which were often loud enough live to not need reinforcement in the P.A. system, are sometimes hard to hear. Thus, my apologies to Gabe and Charlie.
But by using Pro Tools, I was able to split the channels, repan the mix, E.Q. and rebalance some elements, and add some ambience to spread the sound out very nicely. I regret that I had to chop the recording into individual cuts (2 second gaps in between), to make the final CD navigable, because there were hardly any breaks at all between songs in the original performance.
Overall, this recording is absolutely precious. It speaks for itself.
The quality is GREAT, the band positively SMOKES, and
Mondo is as much fun and as outrageous as you remember him:
"AND OF COURSE ALL THE WILD PEOPLE ARE HERE TONIGHT!"
"AND ALL THE REALLY WILD PEOPLE ARE HERE TONIGHT!"
"AND ALL THE ROWDY PEOPLE ARE HERE TONIGHT, AS WELL!"
"AND ALL THE OUT-OF-CONTROL PEOPLE ARE HERE!"
"AND ALL THE GUYS WHO LIKE BIG T*TS ARE HERE TONIGHT!"
"AND ALL THE GIRLS WHO LIKE BIG C**KS ARE HERE, TOO!"