Yes, I’m letting the tunes “do the talking” for a little while. Those in protest, I must ask how you can possibly go wrong? Once again, prepare to be served by my impeccable ear!
(this is sincere hubris you’re reading here)
After getting into all of that Jim Shepard stuff during a bad time to so (emotionally), I need to rep the upbeat and positive! Or the downright beautiful!
Below is an amazing Vertical Slit moment from around 1980…
….and if you listen hard, it pretty much predicts the next thirty years of decent rock.
Back in the late-90’s, when I was a little shit, an all-too-brief correspondence was initiated between myself/my zine that I did with Dave Dunlap Jr, and the late Jim Shepard. Until I can dig out the letters, I want to remember them as addressed to “Cimarron Weekend Dudes” ….or something similar. I’d written a favorable review of Jim’s (as V-3) Photograph Burns, his only foray into the realm of major-labels and an album that never ceases to change my immediate emotional make-up via the respective power of tracks 1, 2, 4, 6, and 8 (all posted below). Photograph Burns is also one of the weirder records to appear on a major label, during a time when the majors were feeling pretty weird, to say the least. From the Forever Lowman site:
“Story has it that Johan Kugelberg leaves Matador to start a sub division of American Records that he calls Onion, for his first releases he chooses Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments, Strapping Fieldhands, and of course V-3. Photograph Burns is as important as a record as any in the V-3 library, it was the record that was gonna make Shep and company famous, but we’ve all heard this tale before. Record sales were poor and American stopped funding Kugelberg and that was that. I have heard speculation that the poor sales and lack of commercial success drove Shepard into a serious depression, but that is neither here nor there what is for certain is that this amazing album was available outside the bubble that is Columbus, OH and is above and beyond one V-3’s best efforts.”
The year that Photograph Burns was released was probably Jim’s 20th, or 21st, or 22nd year of recording and releasing music. In the time immediately before the last quarter of 1998, there was something horribly wrong with a divorce and money. I’m not qualified to comment exactly what it was. I was once told that on one post-Photograph evening in Columbus, Jim’s ex-wife had the cops seize all of his gear right in front of the 10 – 20 people that had shown up to see him play. All three of his letters to The Cimarron Weekend were typed in a thin margin…right down the middle of the page. Held up to a light, it was revealed that he’d taken a straight pin and poked holes in the dots above each ‘j’ and ‘i’. On October 16th 1998, at age 40, Jim Shepard commited suicide at home. I remember Dunlap calling me up at my shitty office job with one of those “are you sitting down?” tones to his voice (he actually began the conversation with that, too). It was “sitting down” news for me. As far as “moving” music goes (re: me), Jim Shepard’s will always be in the upper eschelon.
This song is Photograph Burns‘ most lyrically-beautiful moment (probably directed at the aforementioned ex):
Here are some other Jim Shepard/V-3/Vertical Slit songs that I love:
“Saturday Night Live hasn’t been good in ages…”
“I haven’t watched Saturday Night Live in years. Who’s even on it these days?”
“There’s maybe one or two good skits per show.”
“I don’t watch TV…”
“I don’t own a TV…”
“I only have cable for HBO’s Sunday Night lineups…”
WHEN YOU SPEAK, OTHERS CAN HEAR YOU! IF YOU FEEL THE URGE TO START SOME CHIT-CHAT IN A SOCIAL SITUATION, I AM NOT GAME! IN FACT, I’LL PROBABLY WALK AWAY FROM YOU, MID-SENTENCE.
Check the Husker Du/Greg Norton reference at the beginning of THIS SKIT
No, it’s not “some other ‘Norton'”…