#19 Tusk- Camper Van Beethoven PT 2: Fleetwood Mac’s flameout as a proxy for Camper Van Beethoven’s dissolution.

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When Camper Van Beethoven released their version of Tusk, it prompted several journalists to compare the dissolution of  Fleetwood Mac and Camper Van Beethoven.  One writer said something to the effect:

‘Fleetwood Mac exploded spectacuarly while Camper Van Beethoven dissolved like a urinal cake’

I’m not making that up. The writer used the actual words “urinal cake”. I think this was the NY Press.

What is interesting to me is that for once the writer got it about right.  The spectacular explosion of camper van beethoven never happened. It almost did  when we ungraciously relieved Jonathan Segel of his duties in 1988. It could have gone that way.  That was when  most of the public acrimony occurred.  By the time Camper Van Beethoven dissolved in  April of 1990 (Sundsvaal Sweden) it was like an old couple that was too tired to fight.  The band already had several distinct chunks.  Jonathan Segel had a couple of prominent solo albums,  Victor, Greg, Chrispy,  David Immergluck  had The Monks of Dooms side project. Some of the Camper Van Beethovens were running around with Eugene Chadbourne as Camper Van Chadbourne.  Finally with Key Lime Pie, Camper Van Beethoven was 2 weeks of tracking as a band and then  Dennis Herring, Greg Lisher,  and myself holed up in Dennis’s basement for 6 months tweezing the arrangement and tone of the album*

So by 1990 it was like the band was a bunch of separate chunks held together buy some stinky blue plastic.

Ew. Sorry that doesn’t really work but you get the idea.

Despite this the myth of a Camper Van Beethoven flameout took root. And it began to center around a Cracker / CVB rivalry.

It didn’t help that Cracker was intentionally different than CVB.  With Cracker the first Cracker album we purposely took a s step away from CVB.  We specifically thought it would be stupid and cheesy if Cracker was CVB II. Johnny and I were surprised that we were often criticized for not being CVB  II. We thought we should have been praised for not treading on the legacy of CVB. Oh well so much for good intentions.

It was very easy (and wrong) for journalists to say Cracker was a straight ahead rock band compared to CVB. And I suppose if you only listened to the handful of Cracker songs that made it on the radio you could accurately make that conclusion.  But this false narrative began to take hold and a significant minority of CVB fans seemed to enjoy actively hating Cracker.  I have many stories of hostile CVB diehards after the first Cracker album handing me notes on stage, or following me to the after party to get in my face and scream “you sold out”.

Which Beatle was I?

On our first tour as Cracker we went to visit the UC berkeley college radio station KALX.  They had been a huge Camper Van Beethoven supporter and by the time we went there we were prepared for some hostility. Somehow in the back of my mind i knew not only that the DJ was gonna try to ambush us (we were on MTV like ever 1/2 hour at that point)  and i also had a strange premonition for how he was gonna do it.  Sure enough a few minutes into the interview the question came at me like a big slow motion softball. “If CVB were the Beatles who were you?  John or Paul?” In music journalist speak Paul is code word for “sell-out”.  (This has lately been revised.) My prepared response:  ”Camper Van Beethoven wasn’t the Beatles it was Spinal Tap.  I was Nigel Tufnel and i didn’t want to play Jazz Odyssey”.  Johnny nearly fell in the floor laughing.

This whole CVB vs Cracker tempest caused me a lot of internal turmoil. For a time i started to hate half of my musical “self”. Look at old reviews or comments on the old Camper Van Beethoven Listserve.  It was really quite relentless the first couple of years.

But by 2000 most of this had died down and it didn’t occur to me that this would flare up again as Cracker prepared to do an “apothecary”** tour with members of Camper Van Beethoven as guests.  It was a shock to me and other members of Cracker when we played in San Francisco with members of CVB and we were heckled by CVB hardcore fans when we played Cracker songs.  (Just to show that Canada is a culturally two decades behind the US a Canadian CVB fan re-enacted this scene at the CVB/Cracker show  Lee’s Palace Toronto January 2010).

I suppose i should have been thicker skinned about all of this but it’s a little hard when it feels like half of your identity is attacking the other half of your identity. It was very hard to process.

One of the better ways that i processed all of this was to anonymously write and distribute the following fake Onion article. Some of you may have seen it.  I’ve had people argue with me that it was a real story from The Onion.

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Bay Area CVB Fans Issue Fatwa Against Cracker.

A radical underground group of Camper Van Beethoven militants has issued a fatwa or religious edict against the members of Cracker and former Camper Van Beethoven bassist Victor Krummenacher. In a statement posted to several CVB and Star Trek newsgroups,the group known as O.R.C.A called for a jihad or holy war “against the members ofcracker for blaspheming the Five Holy Albums and for repeatedly invoking the satanic heresies of key lime pie and cracker.” the spokesperson, identified only as CinQ, also singled out Victor Krummenacher for “collaboration with the heretics” and directed the faithful to “hang a dead waterfowl from his neck and shun him until such a time as the flesh of the waterfowl has rotted and fallen away, and the putrid stench has cleared.”

Religious scholars had expected some sort of statement from ORCA after the announcement of the unprecedented Cracker/ Victor Krummenacher/Jonathan Segel/GregLisher live collaborations Feb 3-feb 12. What was unexpected was the extent to which the ex-Campers participated in the Cracker songs, and that Cracker participated in the CVB songs. Krummenacher, Funaro and Lowery played the entire set, Segel played on numerous cracker songs, Hickman, Margolis on many CVB songs. “This was a direct challenge to the religious conservatives” noted Stanford professor Joel Stauffer. “The fact that they performed this show twice in San Francisco is very significant”. Indeed jailed ORCA member Jill Kline predicted that ORCA will upgrade the Fatwa to “double secret jihad for committing such an abomination in the Holy City”.

San Francisco City officials and local Internet business leaders had tried to stop the show on the grounds that the show could inflame tensions in the city and distract them from spending their shareholders money on lavish parties and south-of-market lofts. “I mean we in San Francisco have always tolerated different lifestyles and supported artistic expression …and then you have these sell-out cracker guys coming in and playing their rock music alongside the Holy Camper Van Beethoven works. It makes me sick. we should lock them up in re-education camps and burn their records” stated Chris Whitebred CEO of InternetBubble.com. “At the very least” added San Francisco City Councilmember Nancy Barbaria before pausing to snort pure Bolivian cocaine off the naked backof one of Mr. Whitebred’s teenage Salvadoran sex slaves, “we should outfit them with electronic collars so we can shock them if they play any un-approved songs.”

Not all San Franciscans were outraged by the shows, in fact Iman Alex Havarty of the Liberal-Reformed Church Of Camper Van Beethoven called the concerts ” a revelation” and Rev. Paul Justice of the Church Of Latter Day Camper Van Beethoven Offshoots reported ” a good time”. No more detailed comment was available from either clergymen as they have been in hiding since 1996 when ORCA issued a Fatwa against both men forsuggesting that the Cracker album “The Golden Age” was very much like a Camper Van Beethoven album and that in fact the earth is round and rotates about the sun.

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Please note I called the internet bubble before it burst. So did about a million other people.  The Nasdaq peaked on March 10th 2000.  These shows were in february of 2010. I only bring this up because i enjoy reading about markets and economics. There has been a debate for a long time whether you can actually predict or identify an asset bubble when it is occurring.  Apparently you can.  But economists have lately been going crazy arguing this.  Partly because some are trying to shed some blame (Greenspan) .  But there is a real honest debate out there.  As a mathematician i would like to point out something.  Just because there is no way of logically proving something is a bubble doesn’t mean it isn’t a bubble, or that we can’t intuitively identify it as a bubble. They are not logically equivalent. Economists should be forced to study Gödel’s Incompleteness theorem. It’s not directly related,  but it says something similar.  Also I’m told that Minsky made a pretty good argument that you can predict and identify bubbles. But man do i digress.  In fact that was the mother of all digressions.

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Peter Green before he went all Wackadoodle and shit.

Ex post facto Fleetwood Mac / Tusk became a proxy for Camper Van Beethoven’s break up.  In my mind. And in my mind only.  I will be the first to admit that my relationship to that album is completely twisted and dysfunctional. And i need help.

The other fellows in Camper Van Beethoven had a much more straightforward relationship with Fleetwood Mac.   Victor,  Jonathan and David Immergluck (who by 1989 was playing in both Monks of Doom and Camper Van Beethoven) adored the Blues Rock/ Peter Green period of Fleetwood Mac.  Here is a version of Camper Van Beethoven performing Oh Well in 1990 in Holland.

CVB live  at Club Vera Gronigen NL performs Oh Well by Fleetwood Mac 3-8-1990

Jonathan Segel was the lone member of CVB  to champion the album Tusk.  In particular he was a great defender of Lindsey Buckingham and his songs.  He felt like this album and Lindsey Buckingham were deeply misunderstood.  And he didn’t like this album in  a pseudo-ironic way like someone who follows the advancement theory of rock***. He genuinely loved this record.  It was his idea to do this as one of the secret reformation albums. In retrospect it was brilliant.

Tomorrow in part 3  i will discuss this in more detail.

*This was an unprecedented amount of time to record a record in those days I don’t mean to downplay Chris and Victors parts on this record. The basic tracks are brilliant,  it’s just getting the tone mood and the guitar/vocal/violin melody interplay became an obsession with the greg dennis and myself.  we weren’t gonna stop till it was perfect.

** This was the name given to Cracker tours that included prominent guest musicians.

*** Advancement theory is total bullshit.  Even wikipedia kept yanking articles about it as it is clearly bullshit. At least until it was written about as a controversial likely fake theory.   But like Hegel it has been embraced by stupid pseudo intellectuals and thus perpetuates itself.

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31 Responses to “#19 Tusk- Camper Van Beethoven PT 2: Fleetwood Mac’s flameout as a proxy for Camper Van Beethoven’s dissolution.”

  1. Jerry Johnson Says:

    What the hell is a urinal cake? And the thought of stinky blue plastic holding the band together is a……nutty. thanks again for making me laugh Nigel!

    • A urinal cake….stumped me for a moment too, but it is that crystalline, often circular, item placed in a urinal over or near the drain. They are often found in public bathrooms and are designed to reduce odor. It’s been my experience that they appear in only the most heinous and nasty rest rooms as a weak effort to “clean up” the space. Tossing in a urinal cake is easier than actually cleaning the bathroom regularly. It’s the premise of nearly all deodorizers, why clean anything if can merely spray, emit or otherwise convey some industrial chemicals into the air that make you think something is clean when it really isn’t. Fabreez…..
      Wow, I have issues….

      BTW – this is the best blog evah!

  2. As one with a philosophy degree, I do distrust anyone who claims Hegel has merit. I found this to be a useful analogy.

  3. Just Andrew Says:

    Google fails me, any of these close?

    Our Revolutionary Camper Activists?
    Others (that) Revile Cracker Also?
    Our Really Creative Acronym?

  4. Kirk Bryson Says:

    I must say I am glad you are doing this blog. I’ve been a long time CVB and Cracker fan (since 1980s). I like both bands and have seen you perform in both multiple times. Me also being a musician (who has had bands that were influenced by CVB and somewhat by Cracker as well) I really like hearing the stories behind these songs and albums.

  5. Dr. F. Zen Hinkopf Says:

    Urinal cake? It may smell sweet, but the more accurate term is Piss Biscuit.

  6. Michael Dill Says:

    I remember that article! I never gave a thought to its’ origins at the time. I just reposted it because I thought it was brilliant! And to find out you did it- well that is just beautiful! Hilarious.

  7. the success of KLP only goes to show how many people it takes to make a great record, and that number is three, if they are the right people. to me, it is a masterpiece. as far as the negative reactions of fans, you don’t actually think
    that the people attending these shows were skipping their mensa meeting to be there do you?

  8. Great digression. I think I remember reading that in The Onion, and feeling amazed that The Onion had gotten it right. Now we know why.

    Big Gödel fan already, but thought maybe you meant Marvin Minsky. Nope.

  9. I started listening to Camper a little late, largely thanks to a copy of TFLV I inherited from a late friend with much better musical taste than I had back then. So I didn’t hear about the dissolution until long after it happened. But I still can’t believe people–especially people cool enough to like CVB–would publicly heckle musicians for just being in a different band. I guess they must be the same people who argue endlessly over nothing on the internet these days.

    Having both bands active and playing together these days is great–more than the sum of the parts. I can’t wait for the 9/3 Virginia Beach show.

  10. Derek Small's Jazz Oddity!!! Says:

    Great to mention the Tap.
    That piece for the Onion is the most hilarious thing I have read today, superb.
    Believe me, people, especially fans of a band have nothing better to do than complain about their fav band ‘selling out’ because of a change of direction. So right with the advancement of rock, your Mr Segel hit it on the head. If the band stays the same al la ‘AC/DC’ wouldn’t that get a little stale after twenty years?

    Carry on with Cracker as the song goes – best band on the planet.

  11. I was born in 1979 and got into Cracker and CVB at pretty much the same time around when I was 13. I had heard Pictures of Matchstick Men on a public radio station and went looking for the band’s stuff, and figured out quickly that it was the same guy as I was hearing in the Cracker songs on MTV. I immediately loved both bands, so the animosity some fans might have had was quite lost on me… but a lot of things were lost on me, being a teenager and all.

  12. Just wanted to say thank you for the music, in all the various incarnations, and for taking the time to write about it now.

  13. I was at that show at Lee’s Palace and I missed the disgruntled heckler (you don’t mean the drunk guy who got up on stage do you?). If that was the first such episode in 2 decades, sounds to me like we are more enlightened about these things!

  14. I had no idea that there was a camper-cracker rivalry. It makes no sense to me. It does explain some things however.

    I was in high school when the first Cracker album came out, and I loaned my copy to a friend that I had introduced to Camper. A day or two later he gave Cracker back and told me that Cracker was too weird for his tastes. I still don’t understand that, but thought you might get a chuckle out of it.

  15. Hey David;
    Welcome back to Utaahhhh this weekend, man! You know you’ve got great, huge, twisted, crowds of mountain folk and their monkeys impatiently awaiting your return.
    Got a real nice remodeled mountain home in Park City (vacant currently), you guys wanna crash there after the show? No prob. Just lemme know.
    Gonzo of the Mountains.

  16. Kim Medina Says:

    The best digressing I have heard in a long time.

    I wonder if Gary Moore still owns Peter Green’s 1959 Sunburst……

  17. It did not take long for your average lad with no potential to realize this last boom and bus.T when the houses around the hood doubled or tripled in value and where selling like hot cakes I knew the end was coming soon.

  18. I am a hard core CVB/Cracker fan (well, maybe soft core – I’ve never been to The Camp Out) but does the Advancement Theory tell me anything about why I cannot bring myself to listen to CVB’s Tusk? (Nothing more than the digital equivalent of needle drops in 10 years) Or should I just get drunk, stoned and snowed in?

  19. I could NEVER understand how someone can love CVB and hate Cracker – or vice versa. I love them both. So that show at Lee’s palace in February in Toronto was for me, a dream come true. It was the first time I’d ever seen CVB, and to have them followed by Cracker, well…
    I have seen Cracker the last 6 times they have come to Toronto, and have never been disappointed. The heckler was just a pissed drunk knob. Period. I really enjoyed David’s stories that night though. David had a LOT to say between songs, and was thoroughly entertaining, enlightening and interesting.
    I have always been astounded that Cracker, in particular, is not wildly more popular and famous than they are. I always tell people that haven’t heard Cracker, that they are the best band you’ve never heard of. And then go about trying to convert them. It’s really not a hard sell.
    I just want to say thanks to David for writing the blog, and for all the years of great music. I am very much looking forward to Cracker returning again to Toronto – hopefully before too long.

  20. Oh, one more thing – the live performance of Oh Well (the Fleetwood Mac song) was excellent! Loved it!

  21. If there is a way to post images in a reply I have a pic of Dave and his CVB superfan from Lee’s Palace.

    It was quite a funny experience and hey, the guy did leave with the door prize.

  22. This is the only info I could find and it doesn’t seem like it can be done.

    http://en.forums.wordpress.com/topic/posting-an-image-in-a-reply-or-comment?replies=6

  23. I opened a photobucket account and posted some of my pics from Lee’s up there, yes, including the Camper Fan Beethoven incident.

    I wish I had a better camera and or knew how to use mine correctly because a lot of the shots are just a little out of focus. This was only the second time I shot at a concert so maybe next time I’ll get it right. I used the flash during the incident to be sure it came out. Wish I would have caught Johnny going after the guy but it all happened so fast.

    Just go to http://photobucket.com/
    Enter “clp21″ in the “Email or username” field.
    “Cracker” in the “Password” field and you should be good to go.
    23 photos in total and the option to view as a slide show.

    Anyway, enjoy.

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