Human Sexual Response

Okay, I can’t wait for you to send me your digital copies of the Human Sexual Response albums for Christmas. I’m using my handy-dandy tape-to-digital converter to convert my old cassette copy of their records into CD format so I can listen to it in my car. These are now second generation copies from the original vinyl, but man oh man do they still sound good to me . . . no amount of tape hiss and vinyl popping can make these songs sounds bad. I’m listening to “Pound” from In A Roman Mood as I type. It was the lead single/EP from that album (although “Land of the Glass Pinecones” was the song radio picked up instead), and it’s a pummeling little rock song with great bass and drum work, tribalesque style. It leads into the verbose and magnificent and borderline scary “Public Alley 909,” and then to other things. Man, I love(d) this band. I can’t believe that there’s not a market for their stuff on CD.

Women of Spam (Slight Reprise): Tanitha Rushing

“I’d love to meet you,”
writes Tanitha Rushing,
sending me snaps of
herself in the buff,
doing things I can’t
imagine would feel good;
I don’t reply because
I’ve seen enough.

The Back Story: I couldn’t resist when I saw that name and the subject line in my bulk mail folder this morning.

On the Stereo

One of my alltime favorite bands was Human Sexual Response, an early ’80s Boston-bred seven piece with four vocalists singing in front of a tight and creative three-piece instrumental base. If they’re remembered these days, it’s usually for the somewhat atypical single “Jackie Onassis” (as in “I wanna be Jackie Onassis, I wanna wear a pair of dark sunglasses” fame). Living in nearby Rhode Island at the time of their creative peak, I used to hear that song along with “Land of the Glass Pinecones” and “What Does Sex Mean to Me?” regularly on the radio, and I saw the band live at Harpo’s in Newport sometime in spring of 1981. I was actually amazed to find a very good live clip of the band online recently, performing one of their best songs, “Andy Fell,” here, if you want an idea of what they were all about. (I really like the words to “Andy Fell,” I should note . . . a really poignant, powerful and literate take about how a student’s death impacts a campus community, even though no one paid attention to the student until he died).

HSR issued two albums, Fig. 14 and In A Roman Mood. The first was re-issued on CD, only once to the best of my knowlege, but is exceedingly hard to find (and expensive when you do). The second has never seen a CD release as far as I know. I have In A Roman Mood on vinyl, and both records on cassette . . . but would love a digital recording of either/both of them (so if you have one, please let me know!) While critics generally seemed to love the group’s debut, Roman Mood for some reason put them (and the fans) off, and the group splintered fairly soon thereafter. (Personally, I actually like the second record better than the first).

When HSR split, singer Larry Bangor and the instrumental trio continued working together under a changing series of names, finally (after getting a new bassists) settling on The Zulus, who issued one album in 1988, the Bob Mould (of Husker Du) produced Down on the Floor. After that, drummer Malcolm Travis went on to play in Sugar with Mould, while guitarist Rich Gilbert became something of a Boston scene/studio legend, later founding Concussion Ensemble with Zulus bassist Rich Cortese. Two of HSR’s other original singers (Dini Lamot and Windle Davis) live in and are active in the arts community in nearby (to me) Hudson, New York. I’ve read that the fourth HSR singer, Casey Cameron (who sang lead on “Jackie Onassis”) works in the tech/computer industry these days, although I can’t confirm that authoritatively. Of Larry Bangor, I can find no trace, post-Zulus.

Why am I writing about this now? Well, first because I’m always on the hunt for a cheap digital copy of HSR’s music . . . but also because I actually just got the Zulus CD this week, and am loving it. I don’t really know why I hadn’t gotten it before. Probably worried about it not living up to my standards/expectations based on the original HSR albums. But it’s different enough to not merit direct comparison, while there are certainly HSR similarities enough to make me nod and smile in appreciation. I really like Larry Bangor’s voice, although I know that’s not a universally held opinion. But it’s my opinion, so there. And Rich Gilbert is a fantastic guitarist, and the Zulus rhythm section is (or was) crunchy and punchy. A good listen over all, with some strong, catchy songs . . . although it’s now making me want clean copies of the HSR records even more than usual.

So help a brother out. Send me those CDs for Christmas. Please.

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