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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

THE HUMAN SWITCHBOARD ( I GOTTA KNOW)

All of the Human Switchboard records are great. Some time in the future maybe I'll post their album . The single after this one is essential too . They had a great quirky garage sound to them . but they could still kick your ass with intensity . I really like the B side of this record . The Human Switchboard formed in 1977 when Bob Pfeifer met Myrna Marcarian at Syracuse University. They spent that summer back in Cleveland, where Pfeifer grew up. They, along with drummer Ron Metz, recorded an EP of four songs, enlisting David Thomas of Pere Ubu to mix the tapes. The EP was self released during that fall.
The band next recorded their 'I Gotta Know / NO' single for Akron's Clone Records during a spring break in 1978. By this time, Pfeifer and Metz had moved to Columbus to Attend Ohio State University. Marcarian soon followed after her year at Syracuse and the band had formed as a three piece. After the school year ended, the band started playing shows, with its first in the basement of local Columbus High Street record store, Magnolia Thunderpussy.
Soon after the summer of 1978, the band moved back to Cleveland briefly and then opened a used record store in Kent, Ohio. This store was to provided support for the band, which it did for the following three years.
In the next few months, the band started playing shows in the area and gained followings in the Kent, Akron, Dayton, Columbus, Detroit and Pittsburgh regions. In 1979, the band recorded its next single at one of the better Cleveland studios named SUMA. With the help of Kent's famed The Numbers Band (15-60-75), they recorded their next single 'Prime of My Life / In My Room', later to be released on the band's own Square label.
After the release of the single, the band met bass player Dave Schramm who helped round out the sound. Shortly thereafter, they were invited to play at Hurrah, the premier new wave night club in New York City. The club was impressed enough with the sound to invite them back to play regularly. At the same time, the band also started playing other legendary clubs such as Maxwell's in Hoboken, NJ, The Rat in Boston and the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC. They continued playing more dates in New York with a new bass player George Scott III, formerly of the Eight Eyed Spy, James White and the Blacks and The Raybeats. The East Coast was becoming very friendly to them, but they still lacked a major record release.
At this time, a fan recorded and released a 'bootleg' with the band's blessing and help. The rough cassette recordings captured a couple of their exciting live shows in the Akron and Kent area. The 1,000 copies pressed sold quickly and their following was certainly established.
In 1980, Rough Trade record company out of the UK took notice of the band and commissioned them to record a three track 12 inch single. The band went back to SUMA, this time with bass player Doug Morgan, and recorded two songs 'Who's Landing in My Hanger?' and 'I Can Walk Alone'. These two songs would then be backed with a re-release of 'In My Room' from the year before. The songs were recorded, but the label inexplicably re-canted their offer at the last minute.
Later that year, an IRS label subsidiary name Faulty Products signed the Human Switchboard to what was to become their only studio LP. It was aptly named 'Who's Landing in My Hanger'. The two tracks recorded for Rough Trade were included along with eight newer tunes. The bass playing chores on the new songs was shared among two players, Paul Hamann the studio engineer and the newest band member, Steve Calabria.
The band toured briefly around the mid-west and east coast opening for Toots and the Maytals. It was an unusual mix of sounds, but the crowds appreciated the diverse styles of the tour and paid attention to the opening band. The Human Switchboard also became a resident fixture at New York's Danceteria night club where they would remain a feature act for the next couple of years.
After the tour, the band settled into a routine of shows in friendly environments. They decided to close the store and move from Kent back to Cleveland, where they obtained an apartment in Coventry (an area made famous by Harvey Pekar). Musically, they began to experiment with more contemporary music structures. They sought out and enlisted Jared Michael Nickerson from Dayton, Ohio to play bass and offer inspiration towards the new sound they were after. Nickerson would become the band's final and longest tenured bass player.
The beat straightened out. The bass lines became funkier and once again, the band tried to gain interest from the record companies. This is when they met John Stains from Polydor Records. Polydor was on a roll at that time with hits from bands like The Waitresses and was looking to expand upon the 'new wave' sound. John financed demos that the band recorded over a two week stretch in December of 1983. The Switchboard would setup up on the stage of CBGBs during the afternoons and tare down each evening before the nightly show.
The recordings were fleshing out nicely when suddenly, the rug was pulled out from them as John was let go from the record company. Those were the last studio recordings the band ever made. One track from these recordings 'When Your Train Starts Slowing Down' was completed and released on a 1988 compilation named 'It's Hard to be Cool in an UnCool World' (I Wanna Records).
During the remaining year and a half, the band played regular shows at the Peppermint Lounge and CBGBs in New York, Maxwells in Hoboken and Gilleys in Dayton, OH. The Human Switchboard finally broke up in the spring of 1985.
Bob Pfeifer went on to record a solo record for Passport Records in 1987 named 'After Words'. Jared Michael Nickerson, Ron Metz and Dave Schramm were the basis of the backing band on these recordings.
Myrna Marcarian recorded solo EP for Okra Records 1989 named 'Human Touch'. Nickerson, Metz and guitarist Jack Johnson also played on the record. Myrna later formed a band named Ruby on the Vine and released a full length CD named 'The World of Days' in 2004.
Ron Metz joined up with Dave Schramm and helped form The Schramms in 1985. He still plays with them today.
Jared Michael Nickerson has been a prominent member of Burnt Sugar, the Arkestra Chamber since it's inception in 1999.
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1. I GOTTA KNOW
2. NO !
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CLONE RECORDS 1978
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9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks, I've been after this "for some time" (!). IBx

Anonymous said...

Yeah all you forgot in your update was the important stuff how the lead singer went to prison cried in federal trial in recent months, hired prostitutes (excuse me "dancers") admitted to doing blow, wiretapping his girlfriend (who he said was a prostitute) it's all on their website

http://HumanSwitchboard.com with links to news articles.. So interesting wikipedia doesn't have the REAL story. the woman he tapped he meant because she coincidentally met him being a fan of the band.. crazy story. what happened to Bob Pfeifer? From musician to prison boy.. so sad.

Baker said...

Thanks for this. Regardless of Mr. Pfeifer's legal troubles, Human Switchboard were an excellent band.

Great blog!

FRANK MILLER said...

FIRST I WOULD LIKE TO THANK EVERYONE FOR ALL THE GREAT COMMENTS LATELY. AND SECOND I WOULD LIKE TO SAY THAT I TRY TO RESEARCH INFO ON BANDS NOT INDIVIDUALS, AND IF I POSTED RECORDS BASED ON THE CHARACTER OF INDIVIDUALS, I PROBABLY WOULD'T POST MUCH OF ANYTHING. ITS PUNK ROCK !! LIGHTEN UP.

Anonymous said...

I agree the women he stalked and was arrested for beating and putting in the hospital probably deserved it! Very Punk rock indeed!

Eliza said...

Apparently the folks at the Village Voice (you know, only the most famous musician rag ever) seem to differ with your thoughts on journalism. They did a whole extremely popular piece on the human switchboard and the connection with the founder wiretapping a switchboard ;) Get it?

http://HumanSwitchboard.com - it's even the front of the band website.

And to the "anon" above who said it's punk rock to beat women and stalk them like the human switchboard guy did. that is messed up if you are serious.

FRANK MILLER said...

Listen my sarcastically anonymous reader . I never condoned beating women . You twisted my words . I dont have to explain anything to you . You should go start a blog of your own where you can bash mr. Pfeifer all day if you want to. I just posted a punk rock record ,this site is to promote music. not to bash individuals.

Eliza said...

Frank

I was not addressing you when I wrote about the hitting women - if you re read my post more carefully you'll see I was speaking to the person who did condone it... "Anon" You aren't him/her. No you certainly didn't condone it and no I wasn't being sarcastic.

Eliza

FRANK MILLER said...

Hi Eliza,
My comment's were not directed at you . They were directed at Anonymous .