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ESP News The Artists New Releases Discography Live Shows The Lounge

Interview with Members of Cromagnon

December 3rd, 2009 4 Comments

THE MYSTERY OF THE CONNECTICUT TRIBE

A conversation with members of Cromagnon, the Boss Blues, and friends,

December 10, 2002 on WXCI 91.7 FM (Danbury, CT USA)

Present were:
*Peter Bennett, member of Cromagnon and bassist with the Boss Blues.
*Vinnie Howley, member of Cromagnon and guitarist with the Boss Blues.
*Sal Salgado, member of Cromagnon and drummer with the Boss Blues.
*Nelle Tresselt, artist and long-time friend of all the above (honorary Tribe member?)
*Curt Wargo, host.

[NOTE: Brian Elliot, Mark Payuk and Jimmy Bennett have passed on and therefore were not present.
Austin Grasmere was also not present, as the others have lost touch with him.]

__________________________________________

Cromagnon – Cave Rock – Caledonia

CURT: I’m honored to have as my guests tonight three guys and a woman…the three guys are from Cromagnon, who you just heard two songs ago. “Caledonia” was the name of the track, and it was from the album ORGASM from 1969, which we’re going to be talking about a lot tonight. We’re also going to be talking about the Boss Blues, which, well…

VINNIE: Origins…Group Shot: Boss Blues

CURT: Yeah, [Cromagnon] kind of evolved out of the Boss Blues. So, we’ve got Sal here…

SAL: Hi.

VINNIE: Vince…

PETER: Peter… and Nelle.

CURT: Welcome.

NELLE: Glad to be here.

SAL: Thanks.

VINNIE: Thank you Curt.

CURT: It’s good to have you all here.

SAL: Yeah, we’re happy that someone still plays the LP, that we were honored to be a part of back in
1969.

VINNIE: Also, who’s unfortunately not here, was Peter’s brother Jimmy, who was also involved on the
album.

SAL: And Mark Payuk, our lead singer from The Boss Blues, who also passed on a couple of years
ago, and was very much a part of the recording of all the Boss Blues records and part of Cromagnon.
And Jimmy, I think, played the bagpipes.

PETER: Yeah, him and Brian. It was Brian that had the whole bagpipe thing and dragged him in and
stuff. So Brian really had quite a lot to do with the whole project. Because really it was his idea.

SAL: Between he and Bob [Austin] Grasmere, who did the lead guitar and was the other songwriter in
the Boss Blues, Brian Elliot came up with this concept. And he and Bob were working on it for a while,
as our contract with Buddha Records was coming to an end in 1969. And they got a deal with ESP-Disk
to make an LP. The original concept of the album was to progress from different decades of
music. Like, in ’59 Elvis was shaking his pelvis and driving people — well, women — crazy. And adults as
well, making them very upset. And then ten years later Hendrix was pouring lighter fluid on his guitar
and getting a lot of great distortion out of his Marshall amps. And the Who was breaking up equipment.
And then we were trying to carry it on to the next decade. We were going to say, maybe in 1979
there’ll be a group of people on stage that’ll be blowing through reeds of grass while someone is
reciting some poetry, and another person is squirting water at a microphone on stage with a hose…
[laughter]

NELLE: That’s where you thought it was going.

SAL: It was presented that way to ESP-Disk, you know, and they bought it. They said, “let’s do it.” So,
we went in the studio, and.. Tell them about the studio, it was an incredible place down in Manhattan.

VINNIE: The studio [A-1 Sound] was on the Upper West Side, around Riverside and 86th Street, in a
hotel, an old hotel where old people just hung around in the lobby. But the studio was pretty much
like this, a cool little studio that was not into mainstream music. They wanted to do something
progressively different. “Alternative” was not used then. They just wanted to have a different sound
back then.

PETER: Vinnie, do you remember the drum set? It was like, from the 1930s with sandbags hanging off
of it. But it sounded unbelievable!

SAL: It was covered with fish net. It had fish net with maracas hanging from it and different things in
there, so you could just grab these things and shake them.

VINNIE: Mind you, this is 1969.

PETER: But it had great sound!

SAL: The studio was actually in the dining room, and a couple of adjacent like, private rooms, that had
been previously used by the restaurant in the hotel.

VINNIE: Like banquet rooms.

SAL: Yeah. And the main banquet room was the studio, and then a couple of ante rooms… You know,
sound booths, and they had a couple of actually [laughing]…they used the bathrooms.

PETER: We recorded in the bathroom, yeah.

SAL: They used the bathrooms for like, an echo effect. Because it was all tile, you know? It was great.

VINNIE: Bathrooms have great acoustics. Saxophone? Oh, excellent!

CURT: Vocals too, yeah.

SAL: Yeah.

VINNIE: In fact, I remember we had to go down… I think it was Jimmy, myself, I think Bob, on
Thanksgiving Day.

PETER: Yes!

VINNIE: We had to record only on Thanksgiving day, it was the only opportunity… My mother was
furious.
[laughter]

VINNIE: I mean, that I had to go into the city on Thanksgiving Day back then, and leave the family? And
my Thanksgiving dinner that day was two slices of pizza and an Orange Julius.
[laughter]

PETER: Well, at least they were twenty-five cents each though, the slices. Was it Brian that had that
red convertible that we used to drive down to the city in? Remember that? Driving down the West Side
Highway?

SAL: I can’t remember the color.

PETER: Do you remember driving down?

SAL: When we started doing the album, I think it was in the late summer, early fall. Because we were
driving down there, the top was down. And it was very, very impromptu. I mean, with an engineer like
Onno Scholtze…

VINNIE: It was spontaneous.

SAL: I mean…he just said to us sometimes, [imitating Onno's accent] “Go out and bring someone off
the street!”
[laughter]

PETER: Which we did.

SAL: We did that. We brought people in off the street. And I remember one time there was a fellow, it
was like the end of August, early September. And he had a long…like a winter jacket on. And he was
standing there with a vacuum cleaner. He was holding a vacuum cleaner in his arms.

PETER: Joseph. Yes! [laughs]

SAL: Joseph, that’s right. And we just said to him, “Are you busy?”

PETER: [laughing] It’s all coming back!
[laughter]

SAL: And he said, “I’m going to New Jersey.” And we said, “Well, we’ll buy you some wine, or pizza or
whatever you want, if you want to come in the studio with us.” And he looked at us pretty peculiar.

CURT: So you were bartering for his services, his musical services.

SAL: Yes, exactly, right. And we said, “Bring that vacuum with you.” So…

PETER: We thought we might be able to use him on a cut.

VINNIE: And it really sucked.
[laughter]

NELLE: Did he play it?

PETER: No, he started stealing ashtrays. I remember we had to throw him out.Peter Bennet Vin Howley 1969

NELLE: I thought he played the vacuum cleaner. No?

CURT: So the vacuum cleaner’s not on the record?

SAL: No, the vacuum cleaner isn’t, but…

PETER: Everything else is.

SAL: Yeah, everything else is.

VINNIE: Given what the studio was, and the ambiance there, it was anybody that walked in. It could’ve
been an eccentric, or whatever you needed. It was really some time down there.

SAL: Yeah. We were using tracking then, it was only…we were using four tracks, right? Or eight tracks
at the most?

PETER: Eight tracks.

SAL: Yeah, and so sometimes we would just grab some people in the hallway and say “Come on
in…here’s a broomstick handle, pound it on this piece of plywood.” And they would just look at us,
you know. We’d say, “Go ahead, just do it.”

CURT: Yeah, “trust me.”

SAL: We’d have five or six people doing this and they’re like, all out of time.

PETER: We’d say, “That’s okay, man.”

SAL: In fact, on one track ["Organic Sundown"], we had been doing that, and at the end of the track,
you hear us count, “1-2-3-4!” And someone in the building had been pounding on the wall
somewhere or beating on a pipe [laughter], and it just played right through to the next track.


Cromagnon – Cave Rock – Organic Sundown

CURT: Wow.

SAL: We just used it as it was, you know? It was so spontaneous.

CURT: Yeah, definitely.

SAL: Because we all stopped, but the beat was still going. Somewhere in the building, someone was
pounding on a pipe with a hammer or something.

CURT: It just carried through.

SAL: Because we’d been doing the track for like five…

VINNIE: Or it could have been an old trick that the neighbors used to do. Bang on the pipes to [say]
“shut up!”
[laughter]

SAL: Right, “Stop! Stop! Stop!”

PETER: That was probably it.

SAL: “You’re driving us nuts!”

CURT: It could have been a ghost.

SAL: And we went right into that harmony… [laughing] That’s right, it could have been a ghost.

PETER: Going “BAH-BAH-BAH-bah-bah-BAH…” [harmony from beginning of "Fantasy"]

SAL: Yeah, right into that harmony track. We just spliced it right in.

VINNIE: Like you said, because it was four-track, they had to dub over the drums. So Bob and Elliot
would actually sit at both drums and play that thing out simultaneously, like in “Caledonia.” Because
they wanted to hit you with this tremendous threshold of sound. Like the commercial on TV where the
guy’s sitting in that little chair, clicks on his sound, and then he’s just blown away by a fan. That’s how
they wanted to impress you with the sound on it.

NELLE: That wall of sound.

PETER: Yeah, that 12-string guitar and the drums double-tracked and double-tracked over and over
and over again with the bagpipes…

VINNIE: With the syncopation of the… [makes rhythmic noises]

SAL: Yeah, as Nelle said, Brian was a real…

VINNIE: An innovator.

SAL: A real fan of Phil Spector, who was the innovator of the wall of sound.

CURT: We’re actually going to play something right now that Nelle handed to me just a couple of
minutes ago and… [to Nelle] I have to say that I’m eternally grateful to you for… Well, you’re the reason
why we’re all here tonight. I mean, you heard me play Cromagnon [on the radio].

NELLE: It’s so wonderful!

CURT: And you called up, and that was about a year ago. And I just wanted to thank you for that.

NELLE: You’re very welcome.

CURT: And we’re going to hear a Phil Spector production of the Crystals right now. This is, “Then He
Kissed Me.” I wasn’t sure if it was that or “Da Doo Ron Ron.”

NELLE: Play them both.

CURT: Yeah, I’ll play them one after another.

SAL: Yeah, because this is the kind of stuff that Brian just…

NELLE: He just immersed himself in this, for years.

SAL: Yeah, he was very, very in ecstasy when he heard Phil Spector. And that’s the type of thing that
he was trying to do with the Cromagnon album. He wanted to just put so much sound coming out of
the speakers, that you could really get lost in it.

NELLE: So if you’re listening at home, crank it up when you hear this. Turn it up.

VINNIE: There’s a difference between a mainstream song, I would say, and a movie soundtrack…that
just hits you more. Emphasis on the movie soundtrack. Because it’s leading you more emotionally
through a phase. Whereas a three- or four-minute song is just talking about beginning to end. So we
can thank Nelle for this, and we’ll buy her a couple of slices and an Orange Julius.
[laughter]

CURT: So here’s the Crystals with “Then He Kissed Me,” on WXCI-Danbury. We’ll be back with
Cromagnon.

SONGS: The Crystals, “Then He Kissed Me”; The Crystals, “Da Doo Ron Ron”; Cromagnon,
“Fantasy”


Cromagnon – Cave Rock – Fantasy

CURT: Alright, that was another track from Cromagnon, from their album ORGASM from 1969 on ESPDisk.

And that track was called “Fantasy.” As you guys were saying, that features a tape of the Boss
Blues playing at the Elks Club right on Main Street in Danbury.

SAL: That’s right, yeah.

CURT: I just walked past the Elk’s Club today. I’ll always think of that now when I walk past there.

PETER: Yeah, that little guitar part that you’re hearing there with that real echo and reverb cave sound,
that was us at the Elks Hall. Brian and/or Austin fit it into that particular piece of music, which was cool.
Because Brian was always coming up with these tapes of things, that he actually had done at Sal’s
house and other places and brought down to the studio. It was like a collage of sound that he would
use.

VINNIE: And the other thing they forgot is, he lived on popcorn.

PETER: Yeah, he didn’t eat normal food at all.

VINNIE: He didn’t eat normal food, he ate popcorn. Big bags of popcorn.
[laughter]

SAL: That’s true, that’s true! His body had a lot of air in it. He needed more oxygen, I guess. He was
quite a character.

VINNIE: That’s how they got the kernel, eh?

SAL: We should mention that Gary Leslie…

PETER: From Ridgefield…

SAL: From Ridgefield, who was part of a pretty important group in Danbury called Mother Earth, a very
good band that was around in the ’60s too…

PETER: Hey Sal, who was the… There was a guy who came out of The Ravens that played guitar with
that too. Bruce Bogey was in that, with Gary, who was from Ridgefield.

SAL: Gary was the lead singer, and he did several tracks. What’s one of the tracks that he did? I think he did “First World of Bronze.” Didn’t he do that one?

VINNIE: What was the other band that Bruce Bogey was in?

PETER: I don’t remember the titles anymore.

SAL: I can’t remember the actual titles but he did, you know, he had the very operatic voice.

CURT: Oh yeah, “First World of Bronze,” that’s the last track on the album?

PETER: Yeah.

SAL: Yes, and he… [singing beginning of song] “Program space and sea vibrations…” Yeah, that was
Gary.

PETER: Right! Yeah, that’s Gary.

SAL: Gary, if you’re out there listening. we want to give you your just desserts here. Because you
were with us through this entire recording process, and we’re going to get you a tape somehow. We’ll
send it out to you somehow, wherever you’re at.

PETER: Where is he, Vermont or New Hampshire?

SAL: No, he’s over in Rhode Island I believe.

PETER: In Rhode Island?

SAL: Yeah, he’s in Rhode Island. And the funny thing is, in mentioning the Elks Hall, that recently…
It’s now seven years ago almost, 1993 or 1995 was it?

VINNIE: ’93 or 94.

SAL: We did a reunion [as the Boss Blues], anyway, at the Elks Hall, and there were a lot of musicians
from different bands that came.

VINNIE: It was in a couple of magazines, NEW ENGLAND or whatever. [The article appeared in NEW
ENGLAND PERFORMER, December 1993.]

SAL: Yeah, a couple of different musical magazines mentioned it.
VINNIE: They had a big write-up in the paper…

SAL: A photographer came down, and Gary showed up. It was really interesting. He showed up and
he did a great version of Dave Mason’s “Feelin’ Alright.”

VINNIE: He came from Rhode Island.

SAL: Yeah, he did. He came down from Rhode Island.

VINNIE: So that’s where he is.

SAL: And Louie Mazza came down and helped us [on the Cromagnon album]. There was one track
that we played, Peter was mentioning it. We came into the studio and there was just a pile of pots and
pans, and we just started beating on them.

PETER: [laughing] Sticks and spoons…

SAL: With sticks and spoons, and different things.

VINNIE: No pasta, no nothing, just…

SAL: No, we weren’t cooking anything.

CURT: Empty pots and pans?

VINNIE: Empty pots and pans.

SAL: Just cooking the beat.

PETER: Louie was from The Blue Beats and Number One and…

VINNIE: They [the Blue Beats] were actually one of the first bands in this area that did four-part
harmonies and played guitars, ahead of most of the people. They started out very early. ’60, ’61…

PETER: Signed to Columbia.

CURT: Were they instrumental? Oh, vocals, that’s right.

VINNIE: They were into the Village Fugs and things like that.

CURT: Oh yeah! I have some of their [the Fugs'] records and CDs, we can play them tonight.

VINNIE: I mean, they did some standard Chicago blues and everything, but they were into different
stuff. Jack Lee was a brilliant country lead guitarist.

SAL: They did a lot of different styles of music.

VINNIE: [opening a bag] Nelle, what is that? That is The Blue Beats’ first record.

PETER: You’re kidding!

VINNIE: Their very first, locally pressed.

SAL: “Superman.”

CURT: I’m glad that you guys brought in all of this stuff. It’s amazing. I’m like, overwhelmed. Pleasantly
overwhelmed.

PETER: Now, the other thing… We wanted to kind of get to the spot where how everything came from
the Boss Blues. Because Brian was our producer, and Austin was our lead guitarist in the Boss Blues.
And that was at the end of ’69, and we were kind of moving on with the Boss Blues. And when
they…through Brian’s vision had this connection, going down into the city to meet with the people of
ESP Records to get that thing going there. So that’s really the connection we have with the
Cromagnon project. There were other people that were a part of it, but it kind of grew out of the Boss
Blues, because we were all together since ’64 or ’63.

SAL: Right, because originally Brian recorded us in his living room in Ridgefield as the Boss Blues.
And then that tape was sold, actually it got into the hands of a fellow in Wallingford at Syncron Sound.
The owner was Doc Cavalier, a retired dentist who built a recording studio. Pretty interesting. Anyway,
he shopped the tape for us, down in the city and got a deal with Kama Sutra/Buddha Records.

NELLE: They were going to be like Tommy James and the Shondells. That’s where they thought they
were gonna be going. To some place like that.

SAL: Hopefully.

PETER: Going up.Sal Salgado Boss Blues

SAL: Yes, going up.
[laughter]

VINNIE: A similar sound, actually, to the Turtles if you noticed.

NELLE: Yeah, kind of a cross between those two.

SAL: And the thing was… It was the record company and their A&R people that eventually molded us
that way. But as this acetate you’ll play here in a minute is proof of, we were definitely more of a rock ‘n’
roll…or even a little more rhythm and blues band originally, the Boss Blues were.

VINNIE: We were a rhythm and blues band.

SAL: And as we got into the record industry, record company, you know, the whole game… We were
kind of like, twisted into more of a Tommy James and the Shondells…

VINNIE: Coerced.

NELLE: Coerced, yeah.

SAL: Into a bubblegum…almost a bubblegum band. Which eventually was what they wanted us to be
because they wanted to sell records.

PETER: That’s what was selling, so they wanted to…

SAL: And if we could’ve had an independent label back then, we would’ve probably gone in a whole
different direction.

VINNIE: Which would be the equivalent today of a free agent.

SAL: But, as it was, we were really lucky because we had people like Brian Elliot and Doc Cavalier in
our corner, you know? Because they really wanted to try to keep us as much of the band we were in
’64 and ’65 when we first started out as the King B’s and then the Boss Blues, and had quite a
following. As Vinnie was saying earlier, on a given Friday night or Saturday night, if we played at the
Elks Hall we’d have 700 or 800 kids in there.

VINNIE: Easy. Easy. We were kids.

SAL: And it would just… It would be sold out.

VINNIE: It was packed.

SAL: And we would do that for three, four years in a row. Sometimes we’d go as far away as… We’d go
out to Simsbury or Manchester, Connecticut and even down into Manhattan. We played at Columbia
University for frat parties, and…

NELLE: The Oakdale [in Wallingford, Connecticut].

SAL: We did the Oakdale. We did other venues all over.

VINNIE: Yorktown Heights [in New York State]…

PETER: We hired Neil Diamond to come.

VINNIE: We brought Neil Diamond into the Elks Hall.

SAL: Right, we did some shows in Danbury with Neil Diamond, and the Beau Brummels.

VINNIE: The Hullaballoos…

CURT: Oh yeah, the Beau Brummels. Maybe we should play some of this stuff later on. Like, I’ll play a
Beau Brummels song…

VINNIE: A couple of their songs were very cool.

CURT: “Laugh, Laugh.”

VINNIE: Yeah.
SAL: So what we were trying to do was get a niche together, and eventually that’s what happened.
The records that Brian produced for us were eventually put on a label in New York City, through Doc
Cavalier’s guidance. There’s a particular record we’ll play later on ["Could It Be True"] that has one of
those old car horns on it…”Ooga! Ooga!”
PETER: Brian’s car.
SAL: And it’s Brian’s car. It was a little, I don’t know, Karmann Ghia or MG Midget.

PETER: MG Midget or something…

SAL: We drove it into the studio.

CURT: [laughing] Wow!

VINNIE: Right into the studio.

SAL: And he, you know, just blew the horn in that part of the record.

VINNIE: It just barely made those doors.

SAL: So just little idiosyncrasies like this… We said “let’s do this!” And those things carried on in the
years to come, and that’s when he said, “Hey, we’re gonna do this thing where we’re gonna have an
illegal concert, and Cromagnon’s going to be the band that’s going to perform there.” And I said, what
do you mean? And he’s talking about, “We’re gonna do this on a barge, like three miles out,” you
know?

CURT: This is Brian?

SAL: Yeah, Brian was talking about this. I mean, his ideas were like, insane, but at the same time they
were so futuristic. He wanted to have the stage have a humongous embryo — I mean, womb — in it.
Because that was the whole idea of the beginning of “Caledonia.” He wanted everyone to go on this
womb trip again. Because we’d all been on it before. And then come out of that into this like, sound
painting. You know, an incredible sound collage that would just psychedelicize everyone.
[laughter]

SAL: No really, he was gonna do that. He was going to have a large womb pulsating on stage with
lights in it and whatever. Made out of canvas, painted with veins and whatever, and just have it
pulsating. And they were going to pump white noise through the speakers for like, the first half hour.
His idea was that any federal or narcotics agent that was in the audience would be blown away, and
he’d have to leave the area. So, just insane, you know?

CURT: Yeah!

VINNIE: Imagine the concept in ’69.

SAL: But he said after like thirty minutes, people watching this thing pulsating up there… We would
come from the corners of the stage with flame throwers, and just explode the womb. And that’s the
baby coming out into the world. And we would have like, banks of tone generators back there, and
different tape recorders, and we would just go into the Cromagnon album.

CURT: That’s the newborn child that is in the lyrics to “Caledonia.”

SAL: Yeah. Exactly.

PETER: Now, speaking of womb, the “Ritual Feast of the Libido”…

NELLE: That’s Sal’s song.

PETER: At Sal’s house we took these Rizzo microphones that are really expensive now, they’re ribbon mics. Wrapped it all up in plastic so it was waterproof, in Sal’s backyard…

SAL: In Stony Hill [in Bethel, Connecticut].

PETER: And hooked it up to Brian’s Ampex tape recorder. And got a garden hose, and put it on the heaviest pressure, from thirty feet away and recorded it slowly moving up and up and up, until it was right on top of the microphone like this.

SAL: And I started out with the [screaming] “Aaahh…”

PETER: And Sal screams over that for the whole thing! That’s the “Ritual Feast of the Libido.”

VINNIE: Yeah, he gave birth.
[laughter]

SAL: And at the very end, you can hear that water just going, “Whooossshhh!” [imitating sound of water hitting microphone]

PETER: Until it climaxes at the end.

SAL: That was like a jet engine or something! But it was actually a garden hose out in the backyard up in Stony Hill. We were just pushing it into this microphone that was wrapped up with plastic.

PETER: At your house.

SAL: And we had a two-track Ampex there.

PETER: Right, which Brian always had with him, and all these tapes and things. He’d show up with a
bagpipe one day.

SAL: But he was that kind of guy. He’d bring an Ampex tape recorder and microphones, and he would
just start taping it. Any place, any time.

CURT: Yeah, he found sound wherever…

PETER: Sound collages.

SAL: Exactly.

PETER: The radio station thing, and…

VINNIE: An always “up” person. Always up, optimistic. He’d say, “Well, let’s see this. Let’s try this,
hey,” you know? And he’d literally spring on his feet. And he’d start bouncing because he was like,
electrically charged.

SAL: Inspired, yeah.

VINNIE: Inspired. He’d say, “I know, let’s try this!” And you’d listen to it, and it wasn’t as farfetched…
you’d say, “It’s possible. This makes sense.” Way ahead of his time in thinking. And he
would not let too many things upset him. I rarely saw him mad…maybe one time upset. Maybe over the
car or something. Other than that, always optimistically upbeat.

PETER: Hey Sal, was it you that first tried singing “Caledonia?” Because Brian sings on the final track, I
remember that. He finally said, “I’m gonna go in there and sing it!”

SAL: Yeah.

PETER: And he was like, spitting up blood because he just screamed his brains out.

SAL: Yeah, because he wanted a certain like, really raunchy vocal out of there.

CURT: On the track…

SAL: “Caledonia,” yeah, the opening track. Brian actually sings it. A couple of us tried it, and we
couldn’t get what he wanted. And so he did it himself.

CURT: And it just wore out his throat?

PETER: Ripped his throat right apart.

SAL: Oh yeah, totally.

VINNIE: I don’t think he talked that whole couple of days.

PETER: Because he did a couple of takes, trying to get the thing right. And he was just ripping his
throat apart.

VINNIE: But he really didn’t sing from the diaphragm. He sang from his throat. And he like, ripped his
throat out singing. It was something.

SAL: He definitely gave everything he had for that track [laughs].

VINNIE: Well, not being a trained singer, he did it the only way he knew how. And it was incredible, he
was raw after that. He couldn’t talk and everything…

SAL: But like, when he first heard the Boss Blues… He heard us some place in Ridgefield playing or
something. He came right up and just said, “I’d like to tape you guys.”

NELLE: He was from Ridgefield.

VINNIE: He came from Ridgefield.

NELLE: That’s where he grew up. Or that’s where he lived.

SAL: Anyway, if we’ve got time we can play that…

PETER: That song you were talking about before.

SAL: “Who’s Kiddin’ Who?”

PETER: Yeah! Can you do that for us?

CURT: Let’s do it, yeah. We’re gonna hear the Boss Blues right now. This is “Who’s Kiddin’ Who.”

SAL: Nineteen-sixty…

PETER: What is it, sixty…

SAL: Five, I think.

PETER: ’64, sixty…

VINNIE: No, a little after.

PETER: ’66?

VINNIE: ’66. It’d have to be about ’66.

CURT: It’s an acetate pressing, right? This is the original track before they kind of over…

VINNIE: Released it.

PETER: What they used to do instead of… You get a demo tape now, you get a CD burned, before it
used to be cassettes. They had acetate, blank ones. They would cut a record right there of a demo for
you, and give it to you to take home.

SAL: From the master tape.

VINNIE: It had a hole on the side of it so it was key-locked, so it wouldn’t spin out of whack.

PETER: They would cut a demo for you, right there.

CURT: And this is a different mix of the song? You said before…

SAL: Actually, this is the original way it was meant to be.

CURT: Okay.

SAL: And afterward it changed. It was adulterated, you know, like some of the other tunes.

VINNIE: Politics in the shop.

SAL: Eventually what happened was — it kind of ripped the soul of the band out — was that Buddha
Records / Kama Sutra fired Brian.

PETER: Right.

SAL: They fired him as our producer, and they brought in a staff producer and an A&R guy. And they
just completely…

VINNIE: Turned it into bubblegum.

SAL: Yeah, they screwed up our sound and made it sound like the Turtles. I mean, they wanted us to
be saleable.

VINNIE: Yeah, be like the Turtles. And it sounded like a commercial.

SAL: And they didn’t think that we could do it on our own. But I think that this particular acetate here
shows that we were definitely already going in one direction. And when we got signed to a major label,
what they did was they just transformed us into…

VINNIE: We would sleep on the sofa out by the soda machine, and stay over there and work on some
piano tracks. Little guitar licks that we wanted to flavor. Well, they were all scrapped — ugh! — and
buried in the background, unless you’ve got real fine EQ.

SAL: They’d bring some guy in and he’d play like, a harpsichord track on it or something, and just…

CURT: Well, let’s hear what it originally sounded like. This is the Boss Blues, here on WXCI-Danbury.
“Who’s Kiddin’ Who?”

SONGS: The Boss Blues, “Who’s Kiddin’ Who?” [original acetate version]; Randy & the Rest, “The
Vacuum” [featuring a vacuum cleaner solo]; Ike & Tina Turner, “River Deep, Mountain High”;
Cromagnon, “First World of Bronze”; The Fugs, “Group Grope”; Pearls Before Swine, “Another
Time”; The Crystals, “He’s Sure the Boy I Love”; William the Wild One, “I’m a King”


Cromagnon – Cave Rock – First World of Bronze

CURT: That was William the Wild One. And that was from a 45.

VINNIE: From the studio.

SAL: A-1 Sound.

CURT: Given to you by…

VINNIE: Onno himself.

CURT: Onno Scholtze, the engineer on the Cromagnon album.

VINNIE: [imitating Onno's voice] “Here Vince, this is one of my friends. Danke.”

SAL: Yeah, Onno. He was like, spirited out of Holland because of his revolutionary radio tactics
[laughs].

PETER: What was that?

VINNIE: Which means radical thought.

SAL: I think he would pile like twelve Crown amplifiers on top of each other [laughter], and then just
blast sound in the studio to the point of toppling over the tower [laughs].

PETER: He was quite a character. He’s in the song you had played earlier ["Fantasy"] where he’s
laughing through the whole thing. That’s the engineer that’s laughing through the whole part. Then…
Sal, remember they were going to send us to Holland?

SAL: Yeah.

PETER: We were supposed to go to Holland with the Cromagnon, and we’re in the studio basically
overdubbing the “Caledonia” song.

SAL: Bagpipes and vocals.

PETER: Bagpipes and vocals and everything else like that.

SAL: And a news camera crew came in from Europe, that was in New York. And they filmed us
recording that, with the intention that we were coming to Amsterdam to begin the tour, the
Scandinavian tour. And we were going to open up at a place called the Star Club, which is an old
Gothic church in Amsterdam that has like a flea market actually. It’s like an open bazaar going on there,
and I heard that it was pretty wide open. They were selling everything and anything there, from…

VINNIE: That is Amsterdam.

SAL: Drugs, paraphernalia and other things like that. And they’d have live music there. I think Frank
Zappa, Deep Purple… All different bands that toured would go to the Star Club in Amsterdam.

PETER: And Pearls Before Swine came into the studio while we were doing that. And [the camera
crew] said, “Sorry, but you don’t have the studio time anymore, because we’re doing this thing with
Cromagnon.”

SAL: Right, because we had to finish up the tracks, and they were taping that European news
program. So we did have some clout at that time. It was pretty interesting that they gave us so much
room in the studio.

PETER: Yeah, for guys that were banging on pots and pans, and screaming and…

SAL: I mean, Pearls Before Swine, they were a wonderful band.

VINNIE: Drive all the way down there, work on all that and then drive all the way back home at night,
and you’re exhausted. You don’t want to really do anything. The drive down is nothing, you get
involved, you’re charged up playing and doing stuff and all the work. Then the drive home kind of
winds you down… Everybody says, “Good night. Goodbye.”

CURT: Yeah. So you were actually going to go on tour as Cromagnon?

SAL: Right. We were going to take the people that had put the album together, and actually
performed on it, and probably…

VINNIE: Those key figures.

SAL: A cast of many [laughs]. Many strange characters like the people we brought in off the street.
And just go to different cities around Scandinavia and Europe, and do the show. As I was saying
earlier…different theatrical components were pretty mind-boggling. To think that we would actually
come out on stage with flame throwers and then have something explode. God knows what was
gonna come out of that, and then all of a sudden go into “Caledonia,” you know? Behind that huge
womb that would be incinerated by the flame throwers… To have this musical production come out
from behind there was really…

CURT: Rivaling Alice Cooper and his theatrics.

SAL: Yeah, at that time there wasn’t too much. I think there was a band in England at that time that was
really popular because they used to do different things like that. They would have like, a car onstage,
and they would dismantle it or smash it…the Move. They were called the Move.

CURT: Ah yeah, the Move.

SAL: And they were known for putting on a lot of different skits on stage, and then accompanying it
with music. And the whole idea with Cromagnon was that we were going to create a mental and visual
illusion on stage. So that people would be left at the end wondering, “What did we just see and hear?”
You know?

VINNIE: Like a spectacular.

NELLE: It was really a “happening,” back in those times. I just thought of that. There used to be like,
happenings. And I never really understood exactly what a happening was. But it was something like
that where you weren’t sure what you just saw, what it meant, if it was real. You know, a black light and
somebody pouring detergent out of a box into a pile on the floor, and you’d just watch that. A
happening.

SAL: Yeah, and a few like, scantily clad people run across the stage under a strobe light or something.

CURT: Total experimentation, yeah.

SAL: Yeah, it was very much going to be experimentation…

NELLE: It was like a skit. It was all that stuff.

VINNIE: A number of things like that. Spontaneity.

SAL: And it really came out of the mind of Brian Elliot and Bob Grasmere. And it was fueled by the likes
of us. We were coming from a place where we had actually used the circle of fifths and other legitimate
forms of musical education to make a record, a song, that was original. This [Cromagnon] was totally
against all those ideas that we had before. And we’d gone from the Boss Blues to this really kind of
like, futuristic…

VINNIE: It sort of took on a life of its own in a lot of ways.

PETER: Tribal…

SAL: Yeah, tribal. It was weird. It was something out of the past. The very, very distant past, to the…

CURT: Like, Celtic…

SAL: Yes, to the future. I mean, it was almost like seeing cave dwelling pictures. On the original album
there’s a picture of two skeleton creatures.. They both have plugs, like electrical sockets, on their
heads. And one’s pulling the plug out, and that particular lead goes out into the universe. And the
other thing is really connected to the earth.2001 Cover Color

PETER: I’m wondering if anybody can remember who drew that original one, and then it became color,
because [originally] it was all black and white. [To Sal] And I don’t think anyone ever saw the picture of
you, Brian and Austin on the original album cover.

SAL: Right, yeah.

PETER: Where did you guys take that shot? Who did the picture?

NELLE: Who did the artwork?

SAL: We’re not sure. It was somebody from ESP-Disk, in their art department, that did it.

VINNIE: It could have been a staffer.

CURT: I have his name somewhere.Three Staten Island Ferry

SAL: I guess they talked to Brian and Bob. But this picture on the back of the actual LP was taken on
the Staten Island Ferry…

PETER: How’d you guys get there? Did you go from the studio or something?

SAL: On an October day, yeah. I mean, we took a photographer from ESP-Disk.

VINNIE: You just went downtown, right?

SAL: And we went downtown and got on the ferry. It was like an October day, it was pretty windy and
overcast.

PETER: Nobody’s ever seen that shot.

VINNIE: From the studio at 86th Street to Battery Park down there, that’s quite a little haul.

SAL: Yeah…the thing was, I think Brian was talking to the art department for a while. So that’s how they
got that incredible…

CURT: It says “Howard Bernstein” here. He’s the guy who did the cover illustration, and I think he did
some illustrations for…

SAL: Pearls Before Swine too?

CURT: I think so. And [for] Albert Ayler, I think.

VINNIE: Kind of like David Anstey. I think he did Savoy Brown’s covers, and all those. Very surrealistic
photos. Nice.

PETER: The other thing –the last time I spoke with Austin about Cromagnon– is that supposedly the
original tapes from the studio got destroyed, misplaced, nobody could find them. And somehow,
through the digital domain, they were able to get a really good copy of the LP. And that’s how it came
into being on a CD. I can’t verify if that’s really totally true or not, but the tapes are missing. The
originals, the masters.

CURT: Well, I do know that the first CD reissue [on the German label ZYX]… The second half of it was
mastered at the wrong speed. So maybe that had something to do with it.Austin Grasmere

PETER: [reading the booklet to the ZYX reissue, looking at the photo of the man with cape and guitar]
That’s the shot, I’m telling you.

VINNIE: That’s the shot.

PETER: That’s Austin.

VINNIE: And unfortunately we can’t show this over the air.

CURT: No.

PETER: He eliminated everybody else, except for himself, on there.

VINNIE: That is Austin Robert Grasmere.

SAL: Well, let’s do “The Cromagnon TV Show.” And then we can show them this.
[laughter]

VINNIE: With no commercials.

PETER: “Next week…”

SAL: Next week…

CURT: And people can come in off the street.

SAL: Right, yeah!

PETER: [looking at the CAVE ROCK CD booklet] See, that’s him over there. I mean, the listeners
can’t see it.

VINNIE: “Brought to you by Powdered Toast Man.”
[laughter]

PETER: Yeah, Toast Man, definitely.

SAL: This is really good because I haven’t seen this CD of this particular record that we were part of a
long time ago. And so this opens up a new dynamic to hear it on CD.

CURT: Should we play another track from the album? The Cromagnon album?

PETER: Yeah.

VINNIE: Sure.

CURT: Which one should we play? Maybe we should play…

SAL:: “Toth”? Did you play “Toth, Scribe 1″?

CURT: Not yet, no.
[laughter]

PETER: “No mon, not yet, no.”

VINNIE: He’s just waiting.

SAL: Okay, I won’t ask for…

CURT: No, I can play that one. But I was thinking maybe “Ritual Feast of the Libido.”
[laughter]

PETER: Yes! Most definitely!

NELLE: That’s Sal! He’s right here.

PETER: [laughing] That’s it!

CURT: Since we talked about it earlier…

PETER: Now we know how [the track was made]. Garden hose, to the microphone, and Sal.

VINNIE: Like, they used to beat rugs on the clothesline? Well, that’s what they did.
[laughter]

PETER: I can remember being in the studio with Onno while you were out there. We’re in there
[laughs] listening to you go “Waaaahhh!!! Aaaahhhhh!!!” [laughter] You were really into it, Sal.

VINNIE: He was giving birth [laughs].

PETER: He was like, yeah, birthing.

NELLE: He can still sound like that sometimes.

SAL: There was a very large woman who was sitting on me. That’s why I was screaming.

PETER: You were birthing or something, Sal. I don’t know. We were back there going, “Wow!”

VINNIE: Like the one in “Ren and Stimpy?”
[laughter]

PETER: Onno at the controls.

CURT: And this was recorded at the house in Stony Hill?

PETER: Sal’s house.

SAL: Some of the background sound effects were where we actually used the garden hose on the microphone. And that’s pretty predominant through it because we started out like thirty feet away from it. And slowly, every minute, we’d take a step.

VINNIE: Slowly returned.

PETER: What was this take, five-eighths? A five-eighths hose, or was it a half-inch maybe?
[laughter]

SAL: I think it was a Craftsman Gardenmaster.

PETER: Thirty-two pounds per square-inch, I think.
[laughter]

SAL: Yeah, that’s right…

VINNIE: This is pre-Home Depot.
[laughter]

CURT: So here’s Cromagnon, “Ritual Feast of the Libido,” on WXCI-Danbury.

SONGS: Cromagnon, “Ritual Feast of the Libido”; Einsturzende Neubauten, “Schmerzen Moren”;
Einsturzende Neubauten, “Yu-Gung (Futter Mein Ego)”


Cromagnon – Cave Rock – Ritual Feast of the Libido

CURT: The clanging metal percussion, right there, of Einsturzende Neubauten…a German band.
From their album HALBER MENSCH, “Yu-Gung” was the name of the track. And before that we heard
another track from Neubauten, it was called, “Schmerzen Moren.” And that was from their compilation
STRATEGIES AGAINST ARCHITECTURE. Before that was Cromagnon, another track from the album
ORGASM. And it was “Ritual Feast of the Libido.” Sort of similar to the industrial bands like
Einsturzende Neubauten, and also Test Department who, I was just saying [off-mic], supposedly did a
cover of [Cromagnon's] “Caledonia.” But I’m still on the hunt for that, so I’ll let you guys know if I find it.

SAL: Yeah, great. That’d be nice to hear that.

VINNIE: Give me a spare piece of paper. I want to write that down, “Test Department.”

CURT: In case you just tuned in, I’m talking with three of the guys from Cromagnon. And we also have
a guest, Nelle, who introduced me to the guys. And we’re discussing a lot of history. I’m having fun. I’m
having a blast.

SAL: How we came here tonight was really because Nelle had been listening to your radio program
when she was working up at New Milford Hospital. And she really enjoyed your interests, different
people that you played. And when she heard a Cromagnon song, she called you and just mentioned
to you that…

NELLE: “By the way, I live with one of them!”
[laughter]

VINNIE: “By the way!” Only she won’t say which!

SAL: But then I got to talk to you on the phone. I was very pleased to hear that somebody was actually
playing the LP. Or playing the CD, now that that’s out. You know, we really have to mention… Talking
about Brian Elliot, who unfortunately is no longer with us… He certainly touched our lives in a really
special way, all of us, Nelle included. Because of his great love for people like Phil Spector and
recording, it’s just a special talent that he had. And we were really fortunate to have him come into our
lives, and be the producer of the Boss Blues originally. And to go on to this other project
[Cromagnon], which was I think wholly and solely his creation. I think that Austin, or Bob, Grasmere was
very much a part of it as well. We miss Brian. And also Jimmy Bennett, who was part of this and is no
longer with us. And Mark Payuk, the lead singer of the Boss Blues. They’ve all gone on now, and
hopefully we can continue to do things musically in our own right, with different inspirations from them.
NELLE: Were you ever aware of other plans that Brian or Austin had beyond Cromagnon? I mean, was
that as far as it got? Or was there…

PETER: It was all-consuming. Yeah.

VINNIE: It was a continuum.

NELLE: It was just a continuum, okay.

PETER: Right.

NELLE: It just would go on and evolve into the next thing, but there wasn’t a specific other project?

PETER: No.

SAL: No, they really wanted to take this thing, like I said before, to a “happening” live production that
would constantly be changing. It would be evolving as the show progressed. And eventually what
they wanted to do was to make it illegal. To make the show be outlawed. So that it would have to be
done on a desert island somewhere. Or on a…

NELLE: A barge.

SAL: Off on a barge, outside the three-mile limit.

VINNIE: Sounds like the Flying Dutchman.

TO BE CONTINUED…[podcast]http://www.espdisk.com/official/caverock/01.mp3[/podcast]

 

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 David Cotner // Apr 27, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    SSN database shows that Austin C. Grasmere was born March 19, 1949 and died July 24, 2008.

  • 2 Cromagnon « The Weirdest Band in the World // Apr 28, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    [...] on a hippie commune, but mainly in a makeshift studio in New York City). In 2009, some kind soul transcribed it for the ESP-Disk website, so the band’s history is now laid out for all to see. (Sorry, everyone who was really, [...]

  • 3 Cruyff // Jul 10, 2010 at 4:16 am

    Wow! great interview! The world need more bands like Cromagnon!

  • 4 Review: Cromagnon: Cave Rock (1969) | OUTSIDE THE AGGREGATOR // Jan 13, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    [...] that this was released in 1969 makes this album sound otherworldly. If you didn’t know the back story, Cave Rock is like an out-of-place artifact or a lost 8mm film. Cave Rock is too indulgent to be [...]

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