#18 Tusk-Camper Van Beethoven. Part1: When Jackalopes Attack.

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In 2000 Camper Van Beethoven began the process of reforming the band after disbanding in 1990.  Camper Van Beethoven is a intellectual and unmanageable bunch and there were a lot of ways we began to over think the re-union.  However this “overthink” is a fundamental part of the band’s essence.  You can not fight it.  You must go with it.

in 2000 Camper Van Beethoven released a collection of oddities titled Camper Van Beethoven is Dead Long Live Camper Van Beethoven. While some of these songs were unreleased oddities, many of the tracks were new or new tracks made out of snippets of ideas that we had never finished in our first incarnation. We didn’t tell anyone there were new songs on this. We didn’t tell anyone that the band had reformed. We enjoyed the subversiveness of this.  We released it as old material. But in reality we were getting our sea legs as a band again.  We were trying to figure out if we could record music together again.  If we could record and write music that was interesting to us and relavent to the current scene.  We left a really big clue that this album was a fake oddities collection.  The album starts with Morse Code.  If you decode it,  among other things it does mention the date that the album was recorded. If you are interested in finding out what is being said you can find many computer sound card morse code decoders here.

Broadcasting Live from the MCI-Worldcom-AT&T-Diamler-Chrysler-Mitsubishi-Phillips-BASF-LG-Phillip-Morris-BP-Texaco-Pfizer-AOL-Time-Warner-Beoing-Microsoft-Aeroflot-United-Yoyodyne-Coliseum, Strom Thurmond City, Mars

It was the same with Camper Van Beethoven’s cover of the entire Fleetwood Mac album Tusk.  Except this time the deception was even greater. Since we had got away with our first deception and there wasn’t any reason to dispense with the illusion of a disbanded Camper Van Beethoven, we concocted a fantastic story of Camper Van Beethoven recording a note for note, song by song version of the Fleetwood Mac album Tusk in 1987. Here is our story:

In March 1987 shortly before we signed with Virgin records Camper Van Beethoven took a break from touring to write some songs.  A friend of ours had a house in Mammoth,  the ski resort in the Sierra Nevadas of California.  The first day at Mammoth there was a large snowstorm. The first consequence was we were snowed in. The second consequence was we got drunk and built a makeshift toboggan run down the hill behind the house.  Since we didn’t have a toboggan we used a large rubbermaid trashcan.  This worked quite well for the first couple of trips down the hill.  But when the abnormally athletic Chris Pedersen (by CVB standards),  took his turn on the run, the little bit of english he applied on the first curve sent him flying over the second curve into the woods.  He broke his arm on impact.

After fashioning him a litter and dragging him down to the medical clinic in the little town and then back up the hill we were pretty burned out.  The enthusiasm we once had for writing a new batch of songs for our next record had waned.  Instead we watched the snowstorm, drank and smoked weed.  The family that owned the vacation home had an old console stereo, and a small collection of albums.

One album was the extravagant and wonderfully weird Tusk by Fleetwood Mac. We didn’t have much to do so we started listening to this album.  We had all of our instruments there so at some point we started playing along with the album.  It wasn’t long before we had the 4 tack and mics set up. Chris obviously couldn’t play drums so we started programming simple beats to the songs.  Over the course of the next 4 days we re-recorded the entire album.  By the end the pot and alcohol had worn us down,  some of the tracks that we weren’t that interested in we created rather cursory versions, mere fragments of the song.  When the snow cleared and we went back to Santa Cruz the tapes were put in storage, and aside from Jonathan no one listened to them again.

In 2002 Greg Lisher discovered the 4 track tapes of this album and the 4 track recorder in the basement of his parents store.  Jonathan was excited. He had been saying for many years that our version of Tusk was really good.  Sometimes we question Jonathans taste.  So we had sort of ignored him.  However we began to listen to the album we all agreed  that this wasn’t bad. In fact it was strangely and accidentally ahead of it’s time.  It sounded like something that would have been recorded in 2002.

****************************************

That’s because it was recorded in 2002.  Maybe even 2001.  I can’t quite remember.  But we repeated this story in interview after interview until it just spread on it’s own.  This was despite the fact, we left many sonic clues that the album wasn’t that old.  Cell phones ringing.  A snippet of Cracker’s Guarded by Monkeys. And of course the Apple Computer’s Text-to Speech. We of course used the “Victoria” voice.

We explained away a couple of these things.  For instance we said that all that was left of the song Sisters was the intro.  So we looped that and then used our ibooks to “sing” the lyrics to the song.  The middle section to tusk was “never finished” so Jonathan finished it “in the same spirit” as he would have that snowy spring day in 1987. If we’d had cell phones in 1987 they would have been on the recording.  etc etc.

tusk-camper van beethoven

We were surprised how well this worked.  It was one thing to slip 6 or 7 new songs onto the oddities album Camper Van Beethoven is Dead… It was quite another to see this fake story getting spread through the media.

Something else i should point out.  Victor Krummenacher’s fun parody of the original Fleetwood Mac Album Cover.  Note victor has replaced the dog with a Jackalope.  And the tennis show is a Birkenstock.   Though the Birkenstock company is based in Vettelschoß  Germany, we have always used it as a totem of the CVB Santa Cruz years.  I believe that is Victors foot shod in the Birkenstock.

There is quite a lot to the story behind this album.  I’m gonna have to do this in two parts.  Tomorrow i’ll go into detail why exactly we were obsessed with Fleetwood Mac and details about the recording of this album.

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24 Responses to “#18 Tusk-Camper Van Beethoven. Part1: When Jackalopes Attack.”

  1. Hey, good job on changing the “WordPress” title line! That is much better.

  2. Michael Dill Says:

    Absolute awesomeness! Leave it to CVB to do this- no one else seems quite as subversive and willing to play with the public’s perception. And I bought the whole story about Tusk. Gotta love you.

  3. Wow, you guys really are a bunch of assholes. Great story!

  4. Kim Medina Says:

    This story reminds me of The Day The Earth Stood Still.

  5. Ethical Paul Says:

    This is one of my favorites. I was already a huge CVB and FM fan when this appeared. I couldn’t believe it. I had listened to the Tusk album obsessively since the day my mom bought it for her bitchin’ 70s stereo.

    Honey Hi, probably my least favorite track from the original, is my favorite from this version. And it made me like the FM version a lot better too.

    I thanked you at Campout #1 for releasing this CD minutes after Victor and Jonathan had let me in on the “secret” that the origin story was a hoax. You grumbled something crankily at me and scribbled your signature on the CD jacket for me with a burnt out sharpie. Good times! :)

  6. zendixie Says:

    i haven’t met many people that enjoy telling a lie as much as you, david.
    when you consider that i was a pawn broker for many years, that really means something. you’re up there with the best, a master of prevarication.

  7. VelvetElvis Says:

    I love this story. I’ll have to pick up a copy of the album some day.

    What was the deal where you tried to pass some part of it off as involving some member of The Strokes or something like that? I remember reading that in an interview somewhere.

    • VelvetElvis Says:

      nevermind, missed the bit about more coming tomorrow.

    • yes. we did also tell people, that we “leaked it to journalists” as a side project of strokes drummer fab moretti. just cause of his name. we didn’t really tell journalists this. we just told them we told other journalists this. do you get the distinction? this was on begrudging advice of counsel. pretty forked tongue if you asked me. i really need to include this in the main body.

  8. zendixie Says:

    from a review on amazon.com, “it is amazing that they were able to make this stuff sound like a new album.”

  9. Doug E Rotten Says:

    I was too young for Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk but just dorky enough to buy CVB’s off the Pitch-A-Tent website along with Cigarettes & Carrot Juice and a T shirt.
    Then I bought the extended version CD from Fleetwood Mac…now I’m a Tusk fan…like CVB and Cracker weren’t enough, it just keeps getting better hanging out with you guys (virtually hangin’ that is).
    The blog is A. Maze. Ing!

  10. Dr. F. Zen Hinkopf Says:

    I too have for the hoax befallen. Too busy ingesting psychopharmaceuticals und on the melodies grooving to give the clues proper notice. [Note to self,this phenomenon bears further investigation, to wit, what percentage of the CVB audience fails to grasp the full message, and what are the implications of this failure toward intra-class distinctions?]

    Upon her arrival at the onset of the fall semester, I will have my minion begin expurging copes of my monograph “Tisk Tusk, or Why CVB Jumped the Gun and the Shark in covering Fleetwood Mac’s Debacle.” Also, I must have her teach e how to use this “Paypal.”

  11. Well, I fell for it. I believed it was from the 80s, and figured the litter story was a joke, and the Mac voice etc was just Jonathan being unable to resist fiddling around with the rough recordings before they were released.

    BTW–thanks for including “Closing Theme” on CVB Is Dead. It’s a great tune, and it was nice to finally hear it. Of course, now I wonder if the note on Key Lime Pie about it being cut from the album was complete BS. :-)

  12. VelvetElvis Says:

    I just downloaded a copy of CVB is Dead, Long Live CVB via bittorrent because I’d never heard it. I’d have downloaded it via legal means if there was a linux compatible legal means that didn’t suck. Amazon or someone needs to offer lossless or at least high bitrate DRM free files.

    Right now my best option is to download FLACs off bittorrent and toss $10 into the songwriter’s paypal account, which I’ll be doing in the next few days, once I have some money in my paypal account. Buy Johnathan a beer or something to keep it spread around.

    I’ll

  13. Here is an update:
    This month I have purchased three FSK albums and a CD of Texan Bohemia, also I unearthed 3 FSK and 2 Cracker albums from their pile (I will be sorting the record collection in a few weeks and will see if the CVB/Cracker diaspora is taller than me).

    Today I shall be enjoying the many deaths of Camper Van Beethoven.

    Thanks again for inspiring in me these false recovered memories.

    Here is a true one.
    After the CVB Revival gig in Manchester, you’d mentioned that Jonathan needed an acoustic guitar for a session on 6music (or was it GLR?).
    I managed to borrow one off my friend Craig who was in a band (he stilll is but now they are a fusion of Adam Ant and Africana).

    When I delivered the guitar to you in the BBC Foyer, you looked it over then handed it to Jonathan saying “Oh, it’s a Fleetwood Mac”.
    This has remained a mystery to me.
    :-)

  14. Best publicity ever for an album. I have a copy of it and prefer it to the Fleetwood Mac version (sorry FM’s version is too syrupy for me).
    Plenty of good reading here especially the anecdote from Ade.

  15. I remember reading that story. I could tell there were things on that album that were more recent than 1987, but I just figured it was mixed later, or filled in due to the possibility of some of the songs being incomplete due to the drinking and pot smoking in Mammoth in the story.

    A one armed drummer just like Def Leppard :) hahah.

  16. My poor three-year-old son has been forced (by me) to listen to CVB’s Tusk about 150-200 times now. We (I?) like that album so much we make youtube videos about my son with some of the songs. A certain percentage of the reason I am in marriage counseling right now may be attributed to the fact that my son once said to my wife, “Don’t say that you love me, just tell me that you want me.” (quizzical look from his mama) “TUSK!”

  17. I hope to hear some more details on the CVB is Dead recordings down the line… I always have thought of that as pretty much a new album, and I think the mix of old and new worked really well on it.
    As for Tusk, I found the tale to be just believable enough (for someone like myself who was already pretty used to CVB mythologies) to be a question. It certainly seemed possible… to an extent.
    I could buy that the new computer sounds would have been added in 2002, but what was more of a tip-off was that all of the vocals were definitely not 1987 sounding… I think the difference between vocal delivery for David, Jonathan and Victor over that time is what most did the story in for me.

  18. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Rena, Sound of Music. Sound of Music said: Read all about The Camper Van Beethoven remake of Fleetwood Mac's Tusk. Recorded at Sound of Music Studios. http://fb.me/AuhcRpEe [...]

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