There are memorable album covers, and then there are memorable album covers. If you've ever seen the cover of Hot Poop's one and only release Does Their Own Stuff!, I doubt you've erased it from your frontal lobe. Discovering it was released in 1971 makes it twice as not-forgettable (click image above for larger view). In a grainy black & white photograph (which has all the composition and exposure of a police murder scene crime photo) a man takes a dump onto a plate while another hands more plates to a group of hippies passed out on a pile of old junk. They appear to be using syringes to inject the man's shit into their veins (one is passed out, or dead). This is all happening in some abandoned-looking barn-type space (Spahn Ranch?) On the back cover, the top half features the same five people standing in a field with some donkeys. The lower half shows them opening their coats to reveal their nude bodies, with the male and female genitals switched on each person (this is pre-Photoshop era, but post-Christine Jorgensen). In both scenarios, there are proud smiles all around.
Lots of mystery surrounds the band Hot Poop, and this LP (which is a sought after collector's item in some circles—only 500 were made). Hot Poop were indeed a real band from Isla Vista, California, formed in the early 70's, with five real people, real instruments, real songs, real songwriting and little tours and everything. It seems that might need clarification because, well... look at that cover! Hot Poop were, in ways that are obvious now, just slightly ahead of their time.
What you're wondering: the music on Does Their Own Stuff! is similar to many of the crazier, avant-leaning rock acts popular at the time, but Hot Poop sound more lo-fi, scrappier and much sillier (at least on this LP). There's also an odd, 1950's-style rock n' roll vibe running through these songs, which have titles like "My Baby's Dead," "Wing Wang" and "Dance To The War."
Founding Hot Poop members Larry Praissman (that's him on the front cover, relieving himself) and Tom Burke agreed to answer a few questions for me via email, and clarify much of the myths surrounding the band (and that LP cover). Larry Praissman played lead guitar and rhythm guitar, and backing vocals in the group, as well as co-wrote all of their songs along with the group's lead vocalist and guitarist Tom Burke—the man who also conceptualized that album cover. Read on to hear Larry and Tom tell you anything you could possibly want to know about Hot Poop. Needless to say, the band's story is a bit of a bumpy one...
This was 1971. What kind of "scene" did Hot Poop come out of?
Larry Praissman: We all went to UCSB, the scene was hippy-trippy with some violent war protest rioting. The protesters burned down the Bank of America and bombed the faculty club. The cops shot and killed one dude and busted a lot of heads, one being my cohort, Tom Burke. All the psychedelic rock was popular and we saw some great concerts: Hendrix, Cream, Electric Flag, Big Brother & the Holding Co., The Yardbirds, Quicksilver, The Who etc. By the time we cut the album the light pop of Crosby Stills and Nash and light country rock seemed to have taken over. We thought that was crap and it was killing what was left of rock and roll. We admired bands like Velvet Underground and Mothers of Invention along with the old rock and rollers like Eddie Cochran, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry. The local music scene was dominated by cover bands, there wasn't much venue for original stuff especially as bizarre as ours was. We doubled as the rhythm section of a white rock and soul revue called Dick Boner and the Bonerheads (picture below) that featured a horn section and chorus line dancers. The few gigs we did with them were well received but Dick Boner proved to be a bit unstable (who'd a thunk that) and we disbanded.
Tom Burke: To set the scene: Isla Vista is a typical college town and most of the bands playing when we did were bar bands who did covers of whatever was popular. The two notable exceptions were Alexander's Timeless Bloozband, a very good blues band and The Travel Agency who were sort of a psychedelic band who did originals with a love peace theme. Both of these bands made albums, Alexander's on Uni, a major label and The Travel Agency on an established minor label.
Hot Poop started out before I joined the group. It was basically the joint effort of Larry and this real geeky guy who had been a roommate of mine. So there was Larry, Jim (the geeky guy), Jim the bass player and a guy named Tom Barbour who was Hot Poop's original drummer. But they had no singer so they just did instrumental versions of the songs, which were all covers. Then they had me join as the singer. I had no experience as a singer and in fact had been told by several people, including my mother, that I could not sing. Didn't stop me. But the band had no real PA system and they played so loud that I could quite literally never hear what I was singing. So I just memorized the lyrics and screamed at the top my lungs hoping to be heard a little.
The geeky guy knew some people and he knew a guy who was on the student concerts committee and this guy, being no doubt a future politician, figured he could find a band to manage and then arrange for that band to be hired as an opening act to some of the concerts. So it happened that this guy became our manager. He probably had never heard us and didn't care. A band is a band, right? So we got an opening spot for a free Poco concert at the university. Of course for a name band they had a very high end PA system. We opened with our version of Steve Miller's "Steppin' Stone". And I started out screaming into the mike like I always did only this time my vocals came out real loud and real clear. Apparently I wasn't really anything like on key and after the first few bars the guy at the mixing board pulled the vocals into the background. And the audience began throwing wrapped bubble gum at us. Where they came up with wrapped bubble gum is beyond me and if there was symbolism I missed it. AND halfway through our set our drummer broke his bass pedal and had to go borrow one from the Poco drummer. The drummer was generous enough to lend the pedal but didn't miss the opportunity to mock my singing and have a good laugh. After that we had no manager but we did get a passable PA. The geeky guy dropped out of the band probably when he saw where we were headed.
When Larry and I were Freshmen we'd met living in the dorm and we met three other guys who were also smoking weed and dreaming of being rock stars. So the next year we agreed to all live together off campus and start a band. Larry and I were supposed to play guitar, one of the others, keyboards, one drums and one bass. Only the keyboard player could really say he was proficient on his instrument. I knew a little guitar but had no electric but did own a bass and bass amp. The intended bass player had never played an instrument. When we reconvened in the fall the keyboard player had a nice Vox organ and amp, Larry had an electric guitar and was starting to get the hang of playing it, I think the drummer had drums, the bass player had nothing, I had the bass and amp. The keyboard player got fed up with the rest of us and never really played with us. Larry and I and Jim (who I had become friends with the year before but didn't live with us and who would became Hot Poop's bass player) would get stoned and go in and fool around on the instruments. I wrote some of my first songs there: "Book Depository Baby" a very oblique piece about the Kennedy assassination (book depository baby, you've got me in a jam, seems that one day in November, you were caught holding somebody else's hand - are there two of me) and "Grey is Grey" the title making up 90% of the lyrics.
We met the original drummer for the band the following year because he lived upstairs from Larry and I in a den of druggies and non students (one of his roommates freaked out on speed and turned on all the faucets in the apartment and succeeded in flooding our apartment and ended up in a mental hospital). He certainly had plenty of energy and could play some good drums some of the time. The only problem was that most of the time he wouldn't listen to anything we would say about the beat for a song. We could only start playing the song and hope that what he came up with would somehow work with what the rest of us were playing. When we would practice (our practices were mostly long jam sessions working over our various songs) we would be in my small bedroom with the carpeted walls and after we had been playing for a while and the drummer was playing hard and sweating up a storm he would start to stink. He had really bad body odor. Larry was always hard on the drummers and this smell was a sore point with him. We ended up moving the mikes into another room next to my bedroom so we could at least not be in the same room with the stink. That drummer, Tom, was heartbroken when we dropped him from the band. In a way he had right to be because his approach to drumming was certainly in keeping with our overall chaotic attack on rock and roll.
Bruce, the drummer who replaced Tom, was much more present on the planet Earth so we welcomed someone who actually knew about different beats and could listen to our ideas, etc and didn't stink. But Larry had problems with him too. They were always fighting about something. You have to understand that Larry was the arranger of the group. A problem I have always had is that I can hear the music perfectly in my head but can hardly ever sit down and figure it out on the guitar. So how song writing went in the band was that I would go to Larry and say "I've got a song and it goes like this..." And he would get out the guitar and figure out what it was and how to play it. To this day I probably don't know the chords to 3/4's of the songs I wrote. So Larry would take the song, tell Jim, the bass player what was going on, and when we had the keyboard player he would actually tell her every note to play for her part.
Lisa, the keyboard player, wasn't in the band all that long. She joined a little before we started preparing for the album and quit shortly after the recording. I don't think she ever really got what our sound was about. As I said, Larry told her every note to play. She came from some sort of jazz background or at least to her that was what music was about so our music was just weird to her (and everyone else, lol).
Jim, the bass player, was a great on bass. We've lost touch with him over the years but he was an integral part of our sound. His only problem was that he was extremely laid back. He would often show up to where we were supposed to play up to an hour late. And not see the problem with that.
My style of lead guitar playing was to just jump into the song wherever or whenever I felt the need. No concern about the beginning of a measure or anything structural like that.
Our influences were the originators of rock and roll, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly etc and at the other end of the spectrum, The Velvet Underground, with the satiric flavors of Zappa and the Mothers thrown in. So basically there was no point of reference for people to relate to us. We played a party once that went on for two nights and the first night people pretty much just stood and stared like we were from Mars but by the second night they started to get it and began dancing. At first we did all our own material. Later, after the album and the fame that didn't come our way, we resorted to doing covers to try and snag some paying gigs.
Would you consider yourselves hippies? Anti-hippies?
Larry Praissman: Well, we were definitely anti the flower
power kind of hippie but also anti-establishment and anti-war in a non
serious way. We wanted to play rude rock and roll and get money and
adulation for it or at least I did anyway and the rest of the world
could take care of itself. We wouldn't have been caught dead riding on
the Marrakesh Express.
Tom Burke: We were never hippies. We were much too cynical. We could see where it was all headed. People don't change and you can only run around waving flowers for so long. In retrospect I really wish that whole movement had figured out a way to get some real power and had changed society. There's too much war, too much violence, too much fear. Whatever happened to make love not war? Included is a photo of me with my head bloodied (right). That happened when I was learning about the deep corruption in law enforcement and government up close and personal. I was cooking a baked potato and was dragged from my house and beaten by riot police and then charged with felony attack on a police officer performing his line of duty. A campus newspaper photographer got the picture. I appear so much the martyr in this shot that it appeared in many books, etc., about the Isla Vista riots. Did I mention that this all had to do with a bunch of boneheads burning down the Bank of America?
What lead to the ideas behind the album cover? Describe the photo shoot.
Larry Praissman: The album cover was all Tom Burke. He broke
ground as an artist. He did two "Action Sculpture" shows back then way
before anyone thought of "Performance Art" and they were priceless. He
designed the font on the front cover to mimic Ripley's Believe It or
Not. He has a natural eye for the bizarre. I don't remember much about
the shoots but I have always wondered about the donkeys and how their
lives turned out.
On the front cover I was pooping, Jim the bass player was delivering the poop to Tom and Lisa who were fixing and and Bruce was passed out after his fix, hence: Hot Poop Does Their Own Stuff. On the back cover the donkeys seem unimpressed as we expose our dirty little secrets.
Tom Burke: The album cover was my concept. I'm surprised that more people don't get the front cover. It seems rather simple. Hot poop, poop also meaning crap. So Larry's taking a crap, it's being carried over to the others by Jim, Lisa is heating it up (cooking it) in a spoon, I'm shooting it up (doing it) and Bruce is passed out. Hot Poop, doing their own stuff (shit). The photograph was taken in an empty building in Isla Vista. The building actually had no front on it but the photographer drew in the front window shadow to give the allusion that it was a complete building with four sides. The back cover concept I came up with in it's entirety. I wanted us standing in a field of donkeys (I get donkeys and mules mixed up. I said a field of donkeys but I meant a field of mules) with two pictures, one clothed and the other with switched genitalia. In one more amazing Hot Poop moment I stumbled on a field of donkeys/mules almost the second I came up with the idea. We got the photographer and drove out there. The mules were nice enough to crowd around us for the pictures. As we were wrapping it up a helicopter started flying over as I think the land belonged to Union Oil.
After we recorded the album. We had the master tapes and we needed to find a way to get it onto vinyl. Bruce knew a guy who managed one of the record stores in town and this guy's brother owned a custom pressing plant in Los Angeles. He worked out a deal for us that if we shopped around LA and went from a pressing plant to a label printer to a cover printer to a shrink place, etc., and got quotes from all of them he would do everything for us for whatever the total was for all of them. It turned out to be 500 dollars for 500 records. So we needed 500 dollars to get the record shrink wrapped in our hands. Larry put in a hundred, I put in a hundred, we did some fiddle selling some piece of junk to somebody and got another hundred. Then we gave my mom a tape of the album to listen to (we took out Hard Rock/ Cock). She said it wasn't going to sell but she'd support us by putting in a hundred. I'm not sure where the other hundred came from. Possibly Bruce came up with it but I don't recall either Bruce or Jim making a contribution. The custom pressing plant did almost exclusively records for church choirs and various glee clubs. That sort of thing. Again, at that time there simply was no underground record industry that did independent producing such as ours. Anyway we got them all the material. We had chosen one of their beautiful multicolored labels that had their name, Custom Fidelity at the top. When they saw the cover photos for the album that label went away and was replaced by the plain white one. When the guy in the printing department saw the cover photos he refused to print them because he was sure he would get arrested for pornography (a side note to this is that I have heard that an early, non major label Gary Puckett album had a photo very similar to our back cover). The head of the company had to assure this man that they would take total responsibility for it and that if anything happened he would not be arrested. So we got our 500 copies.
Did you ever dream of seeing the album cover displayed in a "normal" record store?
Larry Praissman: With dreams begin responsibility. Actually
our drummer worked in a record store so our album made it to the bins
with a little sticker over the penis. Not displayed in the window, of
course, but definitely in the store. We put some albums in a record
store in Amsterdam and they sold a few.
Tom Burke: We tried to get it into the local record stores and did get in into the one where Bruce worked but the other bigger stores wouldn't handle it even with stickers over the offending parts. So we tried to sell them in person to anyone who would buy one. This was a time when the Chicago four disc set had come out and was quite popular so you can see we didn't really fit in. A common response from our friends, when we tried to sell them a copy for $2.50, was that they didn't have any money right then. I guess I have the last laugh on them now however as the album rarely sells for under a hundred dollars.
Why the name Hot Poop?
Larry Praissman: The name came from a short track of gibberish on a Mothers of Invention album. I think it was actually chosen by an ex-member of our group and his motivation escapes me.
Tom Burke: The real geeky guy, Jim, who had been a roommate of mine. He's the one who named the band. The name comes from a very short track on the Mother's album We're Only In It For the Money. It is so short it's not listed on the cover but only on the record label. If you google Hot Poop the first thing that comes up is the explanation of this cut in Wikipedia.
What were your live gigs like?
Larry Praissman: Our live gigs varied from the worst of times to the best of times. One our earliest gigs was opening for Poco at UCSB. We didn't have much of a repertoire at that point, our drummer broke his bass pedal and had to borrow one from Poco's drummer, I was fond of rubbing an electric drill on the strings of my guitar, someone had passed out cubes of double bubble gum to the crowd and they pelted us with them and we were booed pretty much off the stage. Later one of the members of Poco dissed us in the Random Quotes section of Rolling Stone as "the worst band ever."
Our best gig was Senior Prom 1971 at a Goleta high school. The band that was booked to play that gig pulled out at the last minute and we were the only band that was available that night (we were available most nights). The powers that be at the school must have heard our album cause they made us promise to clean up our lyrics. We changed a few words, played flawlessly and the kids loved us. Tom had built a guitar crane which was a loop of steel that his guitar hung from to free him up to roam the stage when singing. He also hung upside down from it occasionally when he played lead. At that point in our performance it reminded me of a fifties rock and roll movie as first one kid noticed Tom hanging, nudged a friend and one by one the couples stopped dancing to point, watch and applaud.
The only repeat gig in my memory was at a funky beer bar called The Roadhouse, we played Wednesdays and Thursdays for a few weeks. There was a dwarf that showed up on those nights who bought our album and had us autograph it. We later saw her at the Goleta swap meet selling the album, her asking price was 25 cents.
Two of our chronic performance problems were tuning up (this was before electronic tuners) and getting the drummer's medication right. Performing straight he was stiff, after two or three beers he loosened up and sounded good, then after four or five beers he turned into Keith Moon on crack. He frequently erred on the too many beers side but I don't blame him; a Hot Poop gig could drive you to drink. These days I prefer a drum machine; it never loses a beat, it doesn't need booze or drugs to play well and it won't hit on your girlfriend.
We had a song that didn't make the album called "You're Mother is a Fucking Piece of Shit" that was a real crowd pleaser. We tried to make sure the crowd had nothing to throw before we let that one loose. I wrote a song in 9/8 meter, "At the Coliseum in Nothing But a Pair of Jockey Shorts" that was sure to confuse the audience.
Tom Burke: One of my majors in college was sculpture and I came up with the idea of doing an "action" sculpture show. This was really a variety show done Dada-esque. Mainly I called it action sculpture so I could get class credit for it. Years later this sort of thing would have been performance art but alas I was once again ahead of my time. We came up with the various "pieces" to do in the show. I hired a hall (the pristine music hall on campus with perfect acoustics and intended for the very creme de la creme of classical music artists).
The show started out with me eating my steak dinner in front of the audience. I had a microphone so I could comment during the meal. Someone yelled from the audience "I didn't pay two dollars to watch you eat your dinner!" And I replied "Yes, you did". Apparently the audience was quite stoned and several members tried climbing the walls of the building which were made of staggered bricks. I had a part where I had a mike on stage and had the audience file up one side of the stage, say anything they wanted to into the mike and then go down the other side. There was a part where I played a grand piano with Jim next to me playing bass (completely improvised at that moment). I had people planted in the audience who stood up and read speeches I had written for them while this was going on. The piano playing was supposed to sound crazy and bad but somehow it sounded really good instead. But I got the intended effect anyway. A couple of people from the audience came up in the middle of the playing and pushed the piano across the stage so I could no longer play it. There was a part where on part of the stage I think someone was painting something and someone else was throwing rocks against metal signs hanging over a big tub of water so the rocks banged on the signs and then fell in the water. Also on stage at the same time were a couple sitting on a couch making out while someone else recited the rosary. Hot Poop as such didn't play but we had another incarnation of the band we called Space Pajamas which was a little group made up of the same members as Hot Poop. But in Space Pajamas we played white noise. I played piano but otherwise things were the same. Feedback guitar was a major sound in the group as well as the electric bass played with and electric razor (the pickups on the guitar pick up the sound of the motor in the razor). During this part of the show I had talked a group of cheerleaders from a local high school to come and do their thing with flaming batons. It was great. I also talked the local street corner evangelist to come and do his thing. That was also too too great. The audience of stoners and weirdos gave him nothing but shit. Yelling at him and making fun while he rose to the occasion with all the fire and brimstone he could muster up. It was exactly the reaction I was looking for but after he finished I went up to him and played it straight and said "I'm sorry I had no idea that was going to occur". He just got sort of glassy eyed and said "Don't worry it's God's work that I'm doing". Or words to that effect. The show was quite a success so of course we had to do another one only bigger and better. It should be noted that we did not do one second of rehearsal for the show which involved a sizeable number of people and lots of props and other stuff. The fact that we pulled it off at all was a miracle. But of course being stoners we really didn't stop to think about that.
So the second show was much more ambitious and of course we had zero rehearsal time for it too. This time along with all the crazy shit I had not only Hot Poop playing but also Dick Boner and the Bonerheads a pseudo James Brown soul review. This band had Hot Poop as the core plus a horn section and female dancers. And this time the no rehearsal part bit us in the butt big time. By intermission the show was already longer than the time I had hired the hall for (not that there was anyone around holding a stop watch but the nice girl hired by the facility did make me aware of this). It seemed like a zillion people kept coming up to me with questions or nagging of some kind. I was going nuts. We eventually cut two parts of the show and went straight to the Dick Boner finale. Which included Dick (real last name Miller) riding onto the stage (remember pristine classical music hall) on a motorcycle and doing doughnuts around a couple of times before dismounting and starting singing. When it was all over the facility people and the college went apeshit. What the hell had gone on here!! Tires tracks on the stage?? Needless to say we did not turn a profit on that show, all money going towards putting the hall back together. We had set up a fiddle to make money anyway. You had to be a nonprofit student organization in order to rent the hall in the first place and we had registered some bogus name and then brought in receipts from the first show so that we were able to get all the ticket money back through expenses. Which I'm sure went to buying more dope.
After a while we added the guitar crane to our live show. Always ones to spare any expense I found a horseshoe shaped piece of 3/4 inch pipe somewhere, drilled a couple of holes in some 6 x6 inch lumber and stood the thing up. I drilled holes at the top of the curve and put in eye bolts and hung chains down to which I could attach my guitar. Then while playing I could swing up, hang by my knees and play the guitar upside down. What showmanship!
We somehow managed to wrangle a real paying gig at a dance at a local high school when the scheduled band couldn't make it. Kids actually danced and for that I give them great credit. We had the album for sale (well stickered up on the back). One of our more raucous numbers was "Your Mother Is a Fucking Piece Of Shit" but for that gig we changed it to "Your Mother Is A Rotten Piece of Fish". Not that anyone could figure out what I was singing anyway. Other memorable gigs were the one at a home for people with MS and the one at a place for hyperactive kids (we're talking VERY hyperactive kids). That one was pretty successful because we were nothing if not hyperactive. At a dance at the YMCA some guy flashed a young girl out front. We always wondered if our music had anything to do with it.
Did your live shows/album ever get reviewed? Did you ever send the album to any publications?
Larry Praissman: There was that drubbing in Random Quotes but I don't remember any other reviews of our live shows. Lenny Kaye who went on to be Patti Smith's guitarist gave the album a thumbs up but that review was actually in a Porn mag. A music critic back then named Greg Shaw didn't hate us. We were mentioned in passing in a British mag that was trashing Black Oak Arkansas, saying they were "...about as useless as other crappy American bands like Sam the Sham and the Pharohs, and Hot Poop." We were thrilled to be mentioned along with Sam the Sham, he had a hit for chrissakes. There may have been some other sympathetic reviews, I tend to remember the scorchers. Tom has a letter from someone in Sonic Youth who bought and loves the album.
Tom Burke: The Hot Poop album got a full review in Cavalier magazine written by Lenny Kaye who later became Patti Smith's guitarist and who produced the Nuggets compilation of strange 60's music. We also got a nice review in Greg Shaw's underground magazine Who Put The Bomp. We also got brief mention in Creem, Fusion, and The New Musical Express in London.
The one nice thing about those times was that you could still send music to the record companies with no agent or inside man. Whether they actually listened to it or not you could never tell but someone would write you back about it. I have a nice collection of rejection letters from most of the major labels. However when we hand delivered the album to Bizarre Records the woman at the desk looked it over and said "THIS is Bizarre material". We actually heard from an A&R man there and they kept the record for a while and when we called he would say they were still considering it. But in the end they too rejected it.
Over the years we've gotten comments that are all over the spectrum. Lisa took the demo tape into a stereo store to have someone make a copy for her. His reaction upon hearing the album was to say "It's the new music!!" That was in 1971. I owned a record store from 1973 until 1982 and after that I sold collectible records through the mail (long before ebay). I sold some of the many copies of Hot Poop I still had. One fellow in Austria bought one copy and then wrote back for a couple of more because his friends wanted copies. He even wanted to buy any other tapes I had of the band and said in particular he "wanted anything with the girl singing". Of course the "girl" he's referring to is me on Baby's Dead, lol. I sold a copy to Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth who opened his letter to me with "Hot Poop rules!" He had a friend who had a copy and he wanted his own. A guy in Ohio originally bought one copy from me and then wrote back for a couple of more. Since then he has bought many copies with my price going up and up. He's a collector and he takes Hot Poop to record shows and trades them for stuff he wants. He has said that many of the people who bought the album probably from a pure collectible standpoint come back and tell him "Hey, that's a good album". Over the years when I come in contact with younger people who seem to have adventurous musical tastes I turn them onto the album. It almost always gets an enthusiastic response. We were years ahead of our time. Once when I was working in a theater I gave a tape to a guy and later he reported back that he let a friend of his make a copy and that the friend was so excited about it that he went around writing graffiti in phone booths that said "Hot Poop Lives!"
I understand you had a few career moves involving Andy Warhol and Frank Zappa. How did that go?
Larry Praissman: I don't know if career moves is an apt title but, we did send a demo tape and then our album to Zappa's people. At one point they responded that they were looking for commercial acts to finance their own insanity not more insanity. Made sense. While in New York, we left some albums at Warhol's studio. I remember them being interested in the cover but when we came back the next day we found them in a trashcan in Union square. We had left Santa Barbara to see if we could get something going in New York or Europe. The Warhol experience was a bad omen for that endeavor but I had fun in Europe. Join Hot Poop and see the world.
What was it like on the road for Hot Poop?
Tom Burke: In 1972 we decided that Europe would be more receptive to Hot Poop than the U.S. was. But in true Hot Poop fashion Larry and Bruce and I made the trip, Larry and I took our guitars but no amps, and Bruce brought no drums. And Jim stayed home. We drove across the U.S., Spent a couple of days in New York with my Aunt and Uncle and then flew to Amsterdam. While in New York we stopped by Andy Warhol's Factory and ended up leaving the box of Lps we had brought with us there for people to take. Later in the day we met up with Lenny Kaye who was a big rock critic at the time and to whom we had sent a copy of the album. It turned out he had just finished writing a review of the album for Cavalier magazine. After talking with him we got all jazzed again and decided to go back to the Factory and pick up whatever lps were left and take them with us to Europe. As we approached the Factory, walking through the park, we came upon a bum bent over a trash can. He was rifling through it and he appeared to have something like a record in his hand. When we reached him we saw that our entire box of lps had been unceremoniously dumped into the trash. We gave the bum a copy and we left with the rest. When we got to Europe we didn't play. Larry traveled all the way down to Morocco, Bruce stayed exactly one week, spent all his money and went home and I stayed in Amsterdam for five months. We did get some albums put in a record store on consignment and when we went back later they had all sold. While in Amsterdam I stayed at a student hotel with a bar underneath it. I gave a copy of the album to the bartender and he played side one at least once a day. I asked him why he never played side two and he said he did that with a lot of albums and it was true. One of the high points in my career was seeing a stoned Dutch guy playing air guitar to my guitar playing.
How do you feel about the music that ended up on the album?
Larry Praissman: I have always regretted the sound quality on that album. We recorded it in a studio designed for classical music and our engineer talked us into plugging straight into the board which created a clean but too sanitary sound. Then we lost some volume and presence in the pressing but I guess that is to be expected when you produce, record and press 500 albums for a total of $500 including cover art. Live, at our best gigs, we were raunchy and kicked ass, but none of could really sing very well. We should have made the album from tapes of our live shows but we had put so much effort into the studio sessions that we never considered the live tapes.
The songs were basic structurally so if I had it to do over I would probably try for a little more melody and maybe a hook or two but then it might have been less poopy. Tom wrote almost all the lyrics and I don't think he would have taken too kindly to someone messing with them. I didn't have any melodic or hook ideas back then anyway so it is a moot point. One interesting note: due to the quirkiness of the song writing, "Let Me Loose" is probably the only rock song built on an 8 bar blues pattern.
As I remember we had a total of about 30 songs. Tom says our long awaited 2nd album would be a CD titled Hot Poop: Burning Themselves a New One! and I would like to name the corresponding tour, "Hot Poop: The Shit Hits the Fans". The merchandising tie-ins would be mind-numbingly bizarre.
Tom Burke: My Frosh camp roommate ended up being the engineer in the music department's recording studio and he let us record the album there after hours. We had rehearsed the songs for the album for a good length of time before going into the studio. The studio was a room maybe 15 feet by 20 feet with a control room at one end. It was designed to record string quartets and the like. Hot Poop's sound was all about distortion, vibrating speakers and fuzz tone . But Art, the engineer, convinced us that if we played through our speakers in this little room there would be no separation and he would have little control over the mix. In hindsight we should have tried it anyway. But we went with his advice and plugged all the instruments straight into the board. The result being the weird teenybopper on acid sound that's on the album.
I believe Larry was playing a Fender Stratocaster with a Telecaster neck. I was playing a 63 Srat (which I still have and have been informed that it is now worth over 10 grand. Paid 150.00) most of the time but I also played a Supro Duotone some of the time. Jim, the bass player played a Fender. I'm not sure what Bruce the drummer was playing. We had two fuzz tones, an Aribiter Fuzz Face and a little Gibson Maestro that was designed to hold two double A batteries and into which we installed a 9 volt which gave it extra distortion. I was thinking about that Maestro recently and figured we probably paid 10 or 20 dollars for it back then so with today's technology eclipsing it I should be able to pick one up on ebay for pennys. Wrong. The one I saw was going for 200 something dollars.
"Let Me Loose" is the money song. It is the one people remember. "Cruisin Ford" another classic about sex on the highway. The next song, listed as "Hard Rock" is actually "Hard Cock". Of all the stuff that's been written about the album over the years everyone has stayed away from that track. I don't know if they didn't listen close enough to understand what I'm saying or if the graphic sexual content is just not something you want to talk about in the press. In "Wing Wang" we all got to take solos, well except me. The guitar solo is Larry but when the guitars switch back and forth one is me and one is Larry. "Fast cars and Chicks," again living a charmed life, we decided we needed a clarinet on this cut and magically a clarinet player willing to do it appeared. In fact on the list of players, the clarinet player, JA Hurley, is the only one who listed his real name. Larry is Larry Honyock, I'm Johnny Rockaway, Jim is Gabor Kovats, Bruce is Flash Hammer and Lisa is Gwendolyn Glopenstein. Lisa later complained that she didn't know we were serious about listing fake names and wanted her real name listed. Too late. Side two starts with "Dance To The War". The tune for this was lifted from the old Contours hit "Do You Love Me" and we pay tribute to that by going into it at the end of the song. But actually I think we mixed "Do You Love Me" with the Contours other hit so I'm not sure it qualifies for plagiarism. I think this is the only cut where we went back and tried to dub in another track. It didn't work very well. Part of it is too faint and the punch isn't really there. Funny it's decades later and there's still a war to dance to and another president pushing us into it. Some things are timeless. "Get It In," I wrote an awful lot of songs about the sex act. Maybe because I wasn't getting my share, lol. "I Always Play With My Food, " always a fun song. "Screamin'," I wrote this one entirely when I was in jail for a couple of days. Didn't have anything to write with so I just kept going over it and over it until I could write it down. It's one of my favorites. I like that kind of backwards sounding guitar riff. "My Baby's Dead," it wasn't until recently that it occurred to me that this could be taken to be about dead babies (which given our context wouldn't be unexpected). Actually it's a girl (actually me) singing about her boyfriend who has been killed by domestic police fire. This comes out of the Kent State kind of stuff. Even in Isla Vista the cops shot and killed a guy who was definitely not doing anything hostile and wrote it off as kind of a mistake. But of course as usual I was being tongue in cheek. There's a hidden message about Charles Manson at the end of "My Baby's Dead" that I can hear clear as day but even after being told it's there most people still don't hear it.
For a long time the only source of the album was vinyl that came either directly from me or from someone I sold copies to or from the few people who actually acquired a copy back in the 70's. But a few years ago the scumbag in England who owned Radioactive Records began pirating CDs of any American band he thought was small enough and long gone enough to have no leverage to stop him. Those pirated CDs are still being sold on ebay and elsewhere (I was surprised to find our album listed on both Tower Records website and Circuit City's website) but Radioactive has finally gone out of business so perhaps their CD copies of our album will also become collector's items.
Soon to be released by Hot Poop Records (me) will be an official CD by Hot Poop, the official copyright owners, featuring the album plus at least four bonus tracks that are not on the vinyl record. If this album doesn't get you energized nothing will!! If you are interested in owning this CD (and not the pirated version by the scumbag from Radioactive) you may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. But contact me first to make sure I have the CDs in my possession. The price is $12.95.
Looking back on Hot Poop, thoughts?
Larry Praissman: Hey, you said there would be only 5 or 6 questions. Oh well, inquiring minds and all that, our public really needs to know. Back then all the rejection was hard to take, I really had my heart set on a life of easy money and lots of casual sex (ah, to be young and full of hubris). But my life turned out great and anyhow I probably would be dead by now if Hot Poop would have made it. It tickles me that there is more buzz about us now, 37 years later, than there was back then even with us doing every thing we could think of to get attention. Our songs played on WFMU is icing on the cake. In spirit we were like the punk rockers that were popular 5 or 6 years after us but being ahead of your time doesn't help your career any more than being out dated.
Tom Burke: I think what we did with Hot Poop is nothing short of extraordinary. We're talking about a band from Isla Vista (the student community next to the University of California at Santa Barbara) who spent the vast majority of their playing time in a crowded bedroom with carpet on the walls. A band who, I would say with no exaggeration, had fewer than 10 paying gigs. We had almost no local following. If we had been asked by a record company about our local following we could have said, "Wait a minute, I think he's right outside". And that would have been Slick, a homeless guy who had joined the hippie movement and left his home in Florida and hitched to California. One very cool guy, he would help us load equipment, critique our performances and get high with us. His mother would send him new shirts that he wouldn't be caught dead in and he'd give them to me, lol. We did have one woman who would show up at most of our gigs. We had no manager, no agent, no single releases, no radio airplay and pretty much no nothing. This was before the personal computer, before the internet, and before CDs. In 1971 bands just didn't make their own album. There was no YouTube, no easy burning of CDs to distribute yourself. And yet now, 37 years after making the album we are known worldwide and the album has sold on ebay for as much as $189.
Hot Poop inquiries? Larry Praissman can be reached at (email@example.com) and Tom Burke can be reached at (firstname.lastname@example.org).