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