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