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Coming soon: The Residents, but for now.... Eugene Chadbourne!
August 11, 2006 12:28 AM   Subscribe

I've always lumped musician Eugene Chadbourne in with the likes of Wesley Willis and Daniel Johnston, but I may have been mistaken. While his songs are often absurd, experimental, and silly, he's much less eccentric than I'd always thought. In addition to having an incredible output (full discography with notes here and in-depth review here), he has worked with everyone from John Zorn to Jello Biafra, even fronting the band Camper Van Beethoven as Camper Van Chadbourne. He has also been a writer for MaximumRocknRoll and AMG and is the inventor of the electric rake (a musical instrument that would certainly annoy your neighbors). YouTube has two awesome Chadbourne finds: THIS is a 19-minute documentary about him and THIS is a cable access show he appeared on called I'm Going to Make a Drug with My Mind (if you like cable access television, this is awesome, but please note that this video is 31-minutes long, including 60 seconds of color bars. Eugene comes on a little after the 17-minute mark). [WARNING: YouTube. A lot of YouTube in this post]
posted by elr (34 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wesley Willis was Schizophrenic. Daniel Johnston suffers from bipolar disorder. Chadbourne is just a good old fashioned freak, as far as I know. And no mention of GG Allin?

nice post, btw.
posted by shoepal at 1:13 AM on August 11, 2006


I'm surprised you didn't mention one of Eugene Chadbourne's most memorable musical contributions ever: The phoned in guitar intro to "Absolutely Bill's Mood" by They Might Be Giants.

I haven't watched this documentary yet, but I hope they mention his prowess at the electric plunger!
posted by melorama at 3:32 AM on August 11, 2006


Many thanks for these links, elr8212;I got into some of Chadboune8217;s stuff on the back of my Camper van Beethoven fixation, ca. 1988, although Corpses of Foreign War was my favourite album of his at that time. I got to see him play once in London in the early nineties: he put on a very entertaining show8230;
posted by misteraitch at 3:39 AM on August 11, 2006


Damn, that should’ve been Many thanks for these links, elr—I got into some of Chadboune’s stuff on the back of my Camper van Beethoven fixation, ca. 1988, although Corpses of Foreign War was my favourite album of his at that time. I got to see him play once in London in the early nineties: he put on a very entertaining show…
posted by misteraitch at 3:41 AM on August 11, 2006


That's "Doctor" Eugene Chadbourne to you. Also one of my favorite celebrity sightings in NYC: "OMG YOU'RE EUGENE CHADBOURNE!!!!!!!". And his cover of "Wonder of Wonders" off of the Knitting Factory on the Roof is so great. Thanks for the links!
posted by unknowncommand at 4:31 AM on August 11, 2006


GG Allin should never be mentioned, ever. He was a miserable piece of crap who deserved to die long before he did. He wasn't a musician, nor was he decent on any conceivable level.
posted by Dark Messiah at 4:31 AM on August 11, 2006


But Dark Messiah, what do you really think of GG Allin?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:34 AM on August 11, 2006


Hey, I toned that comment down. I had my yearly tourettes freak out yesterday!
posted by Dark Messiah at 4:58 AM on August 11, 2006


Eugene has a brilliant sense of comedic timing. I was at a solo show of his in the early 80's, at a little joint in the east village, NYC. In this place, the toilet door was really close to the stage and therefore a bit awkward for anyone who had to go while someone was playing, but, when you gotta go... As it happened, synthesizer player and improvisor Bob Ostertag was in the audience, and stepped into the toilet during Eugene's set. Chadbourne was furiously scraping and strumming some insane shovel with strings or some such, but came to a hard stop at just the right moment: everyone in the little place could, you guessed it, hear the toilet flush. And when Bob stepped out, all eyes in the place on him, Eugene said "ladies and gentlemen, Bob Ostertag!"

I think Eugene should be named a Living Cultural Treasure.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:59 AM on August 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


Dr. Chad is a living legend. Sadly, his unbelievable guitar virtuosity is often overlooked as people rush to identify him as a freak or outsider or weirdo. A genuine inspiration with a truly perverse aesthetic sensibility.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:12 AM on August 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


I saw Dr. Eugene at a small club in Lafayette, LA about 1989. At one point he was singing a tune about a racist, from the point of view of the protagonist. Not many people were paying attention (not many people were in the room, for that matter), but at one point, a black guy who was playing pool caught a few of the lyrics and perked up. He calmly walked from the pool table to directly in front of the stage, smacking the pool cue into his hand and stared Chadbourne down as he finished the song. 2 patrons and the club owner had to take him aside and gently explain the intentions of the song to him. Later he proceeded to virtually empty out the club with a 20 minute electric rake performance. Even the bartenders were hanging out outside.

Also, I seem to remember a recipe published in Spin for "Enchiladas to make racists shit" that included a tomatillo salsa that fermented for about a week in warm sunlight.
posted by shecky57 at 5:14 AM on August 11, 2006


Great post. Now I'm looking forward to your promised post on the Residents.
posted by mkhall at 5:34 AM on August 11, 2006


My band Torey Anos opened up for him at the Cow Haus about six years ago. We were way more irritating than any so called "electric rake". Also, he really seemed to dislike us.
posted by Cookiebastard at 6:24 AM on August 11, 2006


Talk about timing. I recently bought some CDs from Verge Records (they were having a sale, and I got some amazing Hat stuff for about $7 each), and just yesterday I was listening to The Secret Museum (Ellery Eskelin, tenor sax; Andrea Parkins, accordion and sampler; Jim Black, drums and percussion) and noticing that two of the tracks were by Eugene Chadbourne. "That name rings a bell," thought I, but was too lazy to look him up at the time. Now I know.

And while looking up links for this comment, I ran across a video of the group playing the two tunes ("Paris Swallowtail" and "Nymphaliadae," from Chadbourne's "Butterfly Suite") in Barcelona on a tour supporting the record! Warning: eight minutes of avant-garde jazz, but they get into a nice groove in the latter part, and Eskelin provides a spoken introduction.

Great post!
posted by languagehat at 6:35 AM on August 11, 2006


Although he's from Boulder (I think) he's lived for many years here in my hometown of Greensboro, NC. I really think the mayor and the governor should make him a state treasure or give him the keys to the city. A couple of years ago at a Fred Red Crow Westerman show, he told me he liked my Abominable Dr. Phibes t-shirt, one of the highlights of my life. Great post, thank you. (His AMG entries are awesome as hell -- I pore over their record guides just to read his.)
posted by frances1972 at 6:41 AM on August 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


Aside from the fact that both have/had (different) mental disorders, how do you (musically) lump Daniel Johnston and Wesley Willis together?

I guess I'll have to listen to this Eugene guy to find out. And I have to tell you: I'm excited!
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 7:01 AM on August 11, 2006


For some reason, when I first heard Doctor Chadbourne, for some reason I thought he was another musician with a mental disorder. I don't know why, exactly. Daniel Johnston and Wesley Willis write very odd, and often-oddly sweet songs, and sometimes even oddly-sweet songs full of hate, sex, and invective.

I got this impression when I first heard Eugene, or maybe saw his picture on a disk jacket, but apparently I was off my nut.
posted by elr at 8:26 AM on August 11, 2006


Great post.

I love(d) Camper Van Beethoven, and think they were one of the few lone high points of pop music at a low point in music -- scruffy and indie, lyrical and subversive, in an age of fuckin' stupid shit like Men Without Hats.

So you can imagine my delight when I turned around in the Wired office last week and was introduced to one of our new designers, CVB bass monster Victor Krummenacher.
posted by digaman at 9:29 AM on August 11, 2006


Why is GG Allin such a polarizing figure? People seem to either love him or hate him.
posted by Flashman at 9:58 AM on August 11, 2006


Didn't he, like, eat shit onstage and beg people to kill him? You gotta expect some blowback.
posted by digaman at 10:38 AM on August 11, 2006


Why is GG Allin such a polarizing figure? People seem to either love him or hate him.

I'm fairly indifferent.
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:53 AM on August 11, 2006


Well, I grew up in a pretty pro-GG Allin household, listening to his old records at Christmastime and such; it's just that it's always surprised me, going out into the world, how others just can't stand him.
posted by Flashman at 11:27 AM on August 11, 2006


I always liked GG Alin. I got some new insight on him from Lisa Carver's book "Drugs are Nice". Somewhat disappointing, somewhat reaffirming.

Anyways, here's an animated .gif from our own ruby.aftermath


posted by elr at 11:53 AM on August 11, 2006


One of the greatest shows I've ever seen was Chadbourne with Kansas City jazz group The Malachy Papers. They did songs by Mingus, TLC, and Merle Haggard. It was fucking amazing.
posted by sleepy pete at 12:52 PM on August 11, 2006


His Shockabilly stuff with Kramer is fantastic.

I too look forward to a Residents post.
posted by skarmj at 12:59 PM on August 11, 2006


Aside from the fact that both have/had (different) mental disorders, how do you (musically) lump Daniel Johnston and Wesley Willis together?

It's the "outsider music" tag, I guess. I mean, you'll most likely never hear either one on KIIS FM or Jack or Mix One Oh Whatever...

Great post tho. I was just talking about Chadbourne with someone the other day. Interesting links.
posted by First Post at 1:45 PM on August 11, 2006


Yay, I get to be cool. I saw Chadbourne in Santa Cruz around a zillion years ago. I had no idea who he was, some friends dragged me, but I at least had the good sense to follow. He was playing something on the rake for about 10 minutes before I realized it was "Purple Haze".
posted by jlub at 1:49 PM on August 11, 2006


Glittery, animated gifs are only for myspace. We don't need to bring down mefi like that. Let's stick to chicken fucking pics, please.
posted by ruby.aftermath at 4:14 PM on August 11, 2006


Only if they're glitterfucking.
posted by elr at 4:28 PM on August 11, 2006


Great post. I've seen Eugene about 40 times over the years and always leave with a smile on my face. And he's a really nice guy as well. I can't wait for him to play NYC again, as he's promised me he'll play my favorite song of his: "Bo Diddley Is a Communist."

As for GG, I've said it elsewhere on MeFi, but I was at his last show and I feared for my life more than I did being across the street from the Twin Towers on 9/11 when the planes hit. Best $7 I've ever spent on a show. That said, I can't argue with any of you who vilify him.
posted by AJaffe at 8:02 PM on August 11, 2006


I saw Camper Van Beethoven many years ago at the Palms Public Playhouse in Davis, CA the town where Jonathan Segal was from. It possibly is the worst concert I've ever been to. I don't quite understand all the wonderful talk about them. The word on them at the time was their supposedly great version of "Interstellar Overdrive", it wasn't all that good. Their one hit (linked here) they didn't write. Maybe they were better with this Chadbourne character, but really they weren't a very talented band.
posted by Eekacat at 8:26 PM on August 11, 2006


Camper Van Beethoven divines water.

Camper Van Beethoven's got the Eye of Fatima on the wall of its room. Two bottles of tequila, three cats, and a broom.
posted by dontrockwobble at 5:23 AM on August 12, 2006


I thought Camper Van Beethoven's only hit song was "Take The Skinheads Bowling" which seems more like bad Dead Milkmen to me. I really love "Eye of Fatima" and a number of other songs I'm too hung over to remember. I don't know how David Lowery could mix country, power pop, and, um, alternative so well with them and so poorly with Cracker.

I saw Camper Van Beethoven reunite at the Folk & Roots Fest here in Chicago a few years ago and it was unbelievably good. They were surprisingly unquirky and sonic. I was also taken aback by all the electronics they were working with now, from synths to theremins to samplers. I figured they would just be rehashing the old stuff. Also, that band could rock a violin or balalaika solo.
posted by elr at 11:02 AM on August 12, 2006


so poorly with Cracker.

I honestly think Cracker is really underrated. It's not as self-conscious as Camper Van Beethoven, it's just good music. Nobody else seems agree, though.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:05 PM on August 12, 2006


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