Best tunes of 1993: #25 Primus “My name is mud”

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In Oshawa, Ontario, Canada*, there used to be an infamous record shop called Star Records. It was started by Mike Shulga, the child of Ukrainian immigrants, who rebranded himself as Mike Star and became a big player in punk and underground music. His record store sprouted a record label (the first home of The Forgotten Rebels) and a renowned music venue, but it was the shop that would see the longevity. It opened its doors in 1974 and didn’t close until the year after its founder’s untimely death in 2015. It was temporarily replaced by a Kops Records chain location but I don’t know what’s there now.

I mention Star Records today as a nod because it will forever be connected with today’s song of focus, given that the one time I ever purposely went to the store was in the summer of 1993 and it was that very day that I first heard “My name is mud”.

I didn’t actually collect a lot vinyl when I was younger. I had a bunch of Disneyland 45s, as well as the “Pete’s Dragon soundtrack” and “Mickey Mouse Disco” LPs. On the cooler side of things, I had an early 7″ of Human League’s “Don’t you want me”. I also had a copy Bangles’ “Different light” that I won in a contest and a really warped copy of The Cure’s “Mixed up” that I bought because I couldn’t find it on CD. But that was it. In 1993, I was moving from cassette tapes into compact discs and vinyl for me was already in the past. So I didn’t find much cause to wander into the famous shop that often drew members of The Ramones whenever they passed through the ’shwa, especially given that I lived in a town 15km away and didn’t often have access to my own wheels.

But on that day, I jumped on the GO bus into Oshawa on the hunt for a specific CD that I couldn’t find anywhere, a CD which I will not name today because one of its songs will surely appear a little later in this list. Of course, I found what I was looking for immediately, picked it up, and then, went back to the A section and perused the rest of the store’s compact disc wares. I found plenty else that I wanted to buy in the hour and a half that I tarried but the other CD I left the store with was Primus’s “Pork soda”.

It was a purchase that I made without having heard any of the songs from it beforehand. I had fallen hard for “Jerry was a race car driver” and “Tommy the cat” off their previous album, “Sailing the seas of cheese”** and I loved the claymation pig head on the album’s cover***. I actually chose to slip this CD into my discman rather than my other purchase for the GO bus ride home later that afternoon and after a brief ditty of an introduction, was met soundly by “My name is mud.”

“My name is Mud
Not to be confused with Bill or Jack or Pete or Dennis
My name is Mud and it’s always been”

A loud twang on a bass string serves as the wake up call. This is Les Claypool’s show after all. Then, he jumps right in with a punishing bass line that’ll have you jumping up and banging your head right along, no matter how much hair you have on your head. The first couple of riffs almost feel like a drum beat themselves but then, Herb Alexander jumps in to destroy his kit with a rhythm that merely shadows Claypool’s bass. Finally, Ler Lalonde adds some dirty guitar flourishes that augment the noise and serves as a dichotomy to claustrophobic white space. Dark and light, noisy and quiet, sharp and soft, it’s all waves, hypnotic and nauseating, a sea of flying bodies – hands, arms, heads, legs – all a sweaty mass of moshing.

I don’t know if Mike Shulga ever heard of Les Claypool and his band, but I can’t help but think he would’ve approved of their originality.

*Oshawa is the city where I was born and grew up for the first ten years of my life.

**I’ve already told the story on these pages about how I purchased a copy of “Sailing the seas of cheese” used in a store in Toronto before going to see New Model Army at Lee’s Palace and then, promptly misplacing the album, along with Buffalo Tom’s “Let me come over”, at Bathurst subway station after the show.

***Who else remembers the days of buying albums based the awesomeness of the album covers?

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1993 list, click here.


Best tunes of 1991: #18 Primus “Tommy the cat”

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How many of you folks use Winamp? I ask this because I know you’re all still out there.

For those that don’t know what I’m talking about, Winamp was/is a media player that predated iTunes by a good four years. It was widely used in the advent of MP3s and during the rise of Napster because it was free and easy to use. It has its diehards that just refused to switch over and were quite vocal about it when the flashier competitors appeared. I had thought it had been decommissioned but it appears it may still be in existence. I’m sure the diehards can confirm or deny either way.

I mention Winamp here because even back when I still used the program, I was very serious about properly tagging the metadata for my music and I always found it funny that there was a genre tag called “Primus”. That right there goes a long way to show how unique Primus is, the band and their sound. Indeed, Primus is blend of metal and prog and the weirdness of Zappa, and yet none of these at the same time, their sound really typified by the spotlight on Claypool’s crazy slap bass, and his oddball vocals and lyrics.

Bassist/vocalist Les Claypool formed the band back in 1984 but the classic lineup didn’t solidify until 1988 when guitarist Larry “Ler” Lalonde and drummer Tim “Herb” Alexander joined in the fun. I’m not sure how they managed it but they got a deal with a major label and on it, released their second album, “Sailing the seas of cheese”.

“Tommy the cat” was the second single off this album and my introduction to the band. It features another unique artist in the imitable Tom Waits, who gives voice to the character of the song’s title. But before we get there, the song’s drum marching band intro gets our attention and leads us right into the aforementioned bass forward sound that is only accentuated by screaming guitars. I particularly remember one afternoon spent working on a theatre set and, when the teaching supervisor was out of the room, us slipping this song on to the tape player. And a bass playing friend of mine got right into that bass solo. You know the one I’m talking about it. You love it.

…But before you get to checking it out below. Props must go out to Aaron over at Keepsmealive, who mailed me a copy of “Animals should not try to act like people” a few months ago. It just showed up in the mail after we had a discussion about it on his blog and I actually hadn’t gotten around to watching the DVD of Primus’s videos until sitting down to write this post. But I slipped it on last night and watching all of these brought back a ton of memories. I actually got to see a few I hadn’t seen before, like the one for “My name is mud”. So cheers dude and to the rest of you, enjoy the video and the tune.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1991 list, click here.