Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung
Always had a thing for the prog as a bong-cradling sprout in the San Joaquin. Y’know, there’s always been a pronounced Teutonic undercurrent in the upper 209 among guitar-noodling whiteboys, which you can really hear all shot throughout Pavement’s oeuvre. Elsewhere around town, it was grotty funk of the seeds’n’stems hornband variety, a la Brass Construction, Con Funk Shun, Tower of Power, Bar Kays, Cold Blood, and especially War and Earth, Wind & Fire. Stocktone was ethnically diverse, which meant that the prevailing entertainment options were funky. No complaints there; I’m glad I heard all that, especially Parliafunkadelicment and some of the other really unhinged brothas in space shit.
But for those of us who roasted and riffed, the import section was where it was at. Grobschnitt, Jane, all that Brain Records stuff like SFF and Novalis, plus Amon Duul II, Can, Gong, Soft Machine, Nektar, Neu, Kayak, even jam bands like the great Man from Wales, plus a bunch of other stuff I can’t remember right now like Hatfield & the North. Oh, and Kluster, plus Brian Eno and, later, Einstürzende Neubauten. And then there was all the mainstream stuff like Genesis, Roxy Music (my particular fave), Tull and loads of other bands. Too bad I no longer have my onetime totemic import collection (alas, it burned up in a fire, and what didn’t burn up got sold behind my back to a certain janky Midtown record store by a certain janky ex-wife).
Anyway, we used to dream of being in weird Euro jam bands before punk rock wiped all that stuff off the map, getting all comic-book character on mushrooms and unleashing three-day guitar solos on the thirsty hordes. Which, now, seems quaint. I mean, plenty of dorky or non-BMOC guys pick up guitars to level the Darwinian playing field with the jocks, so as to better compete with them for fayre mayden loyns, thus ensuring an artsier and non-hammerhead future for at least part of the progeny. The punch line is, have you ever been to a prog show? It’s a total sausagefest, because all the chicks either opt for discos or less-challenging time signatures and more straightforward lyric content.
My big dream, of course, was to put together a band using some umlaut-heavy but total nonsense German alibi, either call the band Jawohl! or maybe Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung. The latter would be really mind-roastingly, chin-scratchingly groovy, because you could put that mouthful on posters and album covers and stuff, and people would be going, what the ngognog ngogn? And then when the inevitable Bauhaus trimdown or streamlining came along, you could reconfigure everything in a huge Helvetica font and shorten the band name to GmbH, which sounds kinda corporate, since it is like German and stuff for “limited liability company” and all.
Too bad I never got round to that one, so tonight here I sit, alone, typing this. —Jackson Griffith