'It's gone!' sighed the Rat, sinking back in his seat again. 'So beautiful and strange and new! Since it was to end so soon, I almost wish I had never heard it. For it has aroused a longing in me that is pain, and nothing seems worth while but just to hear that sound once more and go on listening to it for ever. No! There it is again!' he cried, alert once more. Entranced, he was silent for a long space, spellbound.
'Now it passes on and I begin to lose it,' he said presently. 'O, Mole! The beauty of it! The merry bubble and joy, the thin, clear, happy call of the distant piping! Such music I never dreamed of, and the call in it is stronger even than the music is sweet! Row on, Mole, row! For the music and the call must be for us.'
---Kenneth Grahame / The Wind in the Willows
The origins are mysterious, even to one who was in the band 25 years ago, but it is generally known that Big City Orch., or BCO for convenience, began in southern California in 1979 and moved north with some of its members and noise-music philosophy to its present operational base in the Bay Area. From then to now, a fair number of cassettes, films, records, videos and cds have consistently poured forth from this flexible aggregation of artists. Many musicians and non-musicians answered the call, and today let's dip into a baker's dozen of rare older documents from their long history.
Lining them up alphabetically, first off we have Buster Brown, which is an unreleased 'extra' song produced for the CONSUMER cd (1994) of all-commercial jingles. There were many more pieces made for the project than were ever actually released, in order to have a large selection to melt down the final group of tracks. It features Jon Arnold of Chotchke on guitar and vocals.
Next is an unreleased fragment from one of BCO's many custom-made radio programs, sent out as one-off releases to lucky radio stations around the world. This one skewers a common non-commercial radio station feature: the Community Calendar.
Dinner With Mom rehearsal 1980 is just what it says: an unreleased in-house bit of rehearsal tape, showing a very different version of the song from the one most commonly heard by the band. There are extra lyrics in this long workout that were probably never heard before except perhaps in live gigs with this piece back in the day.
Next we have a BCO sub-group rarity, performed by Rob and Robo, which probably went out on a BCO cassette release in the mid-nineties and then lay forgotten since. The lyrics are by Brian Eno. Fly in the Ointment.
Home Delivery is another Consumer CD outtake.
Instant Chili and Pancakes is an 'ad' made for one of the custom radio programs. Based on a real dish.
(Illustration of tape cover- from an in-house cassette of sessions, circa 1980. This shows the large membership and instrumentation at that time.)
Here we have an early nineteen-nineties cover of the Legendary Pink Dots song Kitto, which went out on some cassette release, or perhaps in a Tryst Magazine tape.
Next comes an aircheck from someone's radio show (it wasn't Robo's---I think they were actually guesting on some other DJ's show- bless 'em) of some conglomerate of BCO playing the hits on the air. Live on KZSC May 1983.
Another fake-o radio ad : Mr. Baggs Ad.
Their love of Star Trek ephemera (and cats) surfaces in this infamous old cassette-only cut featuring the voice of Brent Spiner: Ode to Spot
A bogus radio PSA: PWBD PSA
A fun ad for an edition of their complex series of mixed-media TRYST magazines: Tryst 6 Ad
And, finally, a latter-day and unreleased remix of a song from the Consumer CD: You've Come a Long Way Baby
A long live gig in San Francisco will be celebrating Big City's Thirtieth Birthday, hope to see you there, if not- enjoy the audio gems and remember: