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It's been going on a long time:

Primitive Moose

Primitive Moose

As I've mentioned elsewhere, in the mid-late 1980's, I was pretty much out of playing in bands, but I still had the recording bug. My roommate had this urge as well, which I accommodated through Mike and the Moosecanics, mostly because he would buy musical equipment I couldn't afford and be cool about things like me being late on the rent on occasion.

With two cassette decks, a microphone, a tiny mixer and reverb from Radio Shack, a couple of guitars, my beloved Fender P-Bass, and some Casio keyboards, I managed to put together some pretty interesting stuff on my own.

Quality was not job #1

What can I say, folks? It wasn't the most conducive of formats, but I made it work. A recording would work like this:
  1. Record a base track of drums, maybe drums and bass if I didn't have to do much button-pushing with the drums.
  2. Take that cassette and place it in the other deck.
  3. On a different cassette, record your previous track (Left and Right channels) on the Left channel, and on the Right channel, record your next track.
  4. Take that cassette out, place it in the other deck.
  5. Repeat until you get all tracks down.
  6. Mix the final track down into mono so it doesn't sound weirder than it already is.

Obviously, there are plenty of trade-offs working in this format. You have to get your track down right in one take. If you flub, you gotta back up and start it all over, no patch-ins. Tape to tape degrades after so many generations. I could do maybe 5-6 levels and then it'd start to get un-listenable. Mono is so retro, but even in 1986 it was really old school.

As I like to call it, it was glorious "No-Fi" recording.

It's all over the board

There are a lot of different styles here, but there is one constant theme: chicks! I would get interested in a girl and write a song about her for her. You'd be surprised how often it didn't work. Mostly because I'd write them, but they'd never hear them. But when they did? Oh, well, then you can be sure it worked....occasionally. Usually. Not bad...

As was my wont at the time, I mostly recorded from the premise "that's a great song title, I'll write a song called that. Now....what does a song called that sound like?"

Well, here are the highlights:

Tire Iron Love

The best thing (IMHO) that came out of this era, it took a year to realize. I'd come up with the title and it just wasn't coming to me. Then, one day, Mike comes in after arguing with his girlfriend yelling "Women just don't understand, man. They just don't understand!" The proverbial light bulb appeared above my head.

I was inspired for the intro as well. Scrounging around for cassettes to use, I found one on which I'd recorded the episode of Pee-Wee's Playhouse titled "Monster in the Playhouse". Yeah, I did that kind of thing back then. Anyway, great episode, scored by Danny Elfman, I picked the sound bite, included a door slam and "b*tch, where's my dinner?" over it. In my mind's eye, the family is watching Pee-Wee when he comes in, the dialog from the tv reflecting their looks at each other as mom gets up to make him his dinner.

Tire Iron Love <--Click here to listen

A Small Sample (Xmas '87)

In 1987, I was a grunt in an office job. I worked in cooperative advertising, which worked on the following premise. Companies would pay their retailers to advertise their products, as long as it followed their guidelines. Advertising Checking Bureau would take the submissions from the retailers, check the ads (usually print), verify the program guidelines had been met, and then issue a check or credit memo on behalf of the manufacturer.

We had a Christmas party coming up, I had a sampling keyboard and a plan. I had the top three managers record their voices for me. I sampled them, wrote a "rap" song around it, put it all down and debuted it at the party. It was very satisfying to see people dancing to my music. This one has some production value, as I talked duckmauler to come visit with his 4-track so it's better than "no-fi". He also contributed vocals on the choruses and the all-important "thunk" at the end of the song.

A Small Sample <--Click here to listen

She's Dangerous

A prime example of the "write songs for chicks" genre, this one never got heard by the subject. She worked in my office at ACB, we went out drinking and talked on the phone, the story in the song is true, but sadly it never went beyond that. Drums for this one provided by this crappy little Yamaha beat box my brother gave me.

She's Dangerous <--Click here to listen

Tackash (NSFW)

Before I worked with ACB, I worked at a different Publix than the one I worked with the guys from The Bingers. Saturday mornings, I'd go in a 4am along with the full-time stock guys. I'd unload grocery and meat trucks, strip and wax the bathrooms (Publix believes in cleanliness, trust me), a little bagging and I'm outta there by 11am and ready to begin a weekend.

Well, there was this guy worked there, Mark, who ass. Always trying to flex on the part-timers. The only redneck hillbilly in the place who'd hoot and yell when the store manager came in at 7am and switch the radio playing over the store P.A. to Country.

I'd had enough, so one day I recorded this. It's a live take, just me, a beat box, my bass, and a bass Rockman. Since he loved country so much, I decided to make a "heavy metal rap" song. I waited one Saturday morning for a song to fade out on the radio, quickly substituted my cassette player, and let it go.

Of course, the rest of the store had already heard the song before this, so they all knew what it was. I heard from someone later Mark said "I was just working on my aisle, when all of a sudden this song came on, and it was about me." Of course he tried to flex afterwards, but I'd taken care of that as well. Some very strong, also full-time guys were standing right next to me telling him "let it go". Which he did. He had no choice...

Tackash <--Click here to listen

Kerried Away

Playing with The Bingers, I met this girl named Kerry. Her sister was dating my lead guitarist. We got drunk one night, ended up together for the night, but I was a perfect gentleman. Don't look so surprized. Afterward, I wanted to see if we could go from there. I borrowed my brother's 4-track and drum machine and recorded the following. The only fully-programmed drum part I ever wrote. Not a terrible song, kinda Michael Franks, harmonies remind me of Squeeze. She never heard it, believe she got back together with the boyfriend who had eyes like mine.

Kerried Away <--Click here to listen

Sexual Misconduct (God is Involved)

I had ambition. Little talent, less equipment, but ambition. This was my lame attempt at trying to mimic Don Letts from B.A.D. and David Bryne and Brian Eno from My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. I'd taken to recording religious broadcasts off the radio, looking for inspiration. I'd found one, but the Casio SK-1's 1.8 second memory really limited what I could use. So I faked it. It was an attempt at being relevant by being topical about news of the day (Jim Bakker, Gary Hart, a news story about Soviet spies getting in the White House by seducing Marines guarding it) and premising that God made these scandals to work his will, but not entirely successful.

Sexual Misconduct <--Click here to listen

You've Got It All Backwards

One visit to my brother's for a Duck Mangler and the Radioactive Nuns recording session (Spunk My J*sm, if memory serves), I got up the next morning to an empty home. Went into the studio and piddled. Picked out a sketch of a tune. It was nothing special. Then I flipped the cassette over the 4-track, reversing it. It was a Hendrix moment. It suddenly (to me) became listenable. You decide...

You've Got It All Backwards <--Click here to listen