Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Slamina Blanc

Today's topic is inner groove cryptology with the White Animals. The White Animals were one of the biggest bands in Nashville until they called it quits in 1987. Along with Jason And The Scorchers they landed music videos on MTV and for awhile it looked as if the White Animals might land a major label record deal. They toured the college rock circuit and their mixture of Sixties flavored rock, Seventies punk, and splashes of dub reggae won praise from coast to coast. They were faintly damned for being a frat band, but it was just sour grapes on the Nashville Art Posse's part. The White Animals would play frat parties and they could play whole sets of cover songs if they wanted, but it was never their focus. It ended up creating a rock and roll multi-subcultural fan base. Frat boy accountants to be would stand shoulder to shoulder with future alternative rockers while punk rockers slamdanced in the background. Through it all the White Animals exhibited a casual cool coupled to a total love for playing music. A White Animals show was always an event and after the song "Ecstasy" dropped their shows became patchouli soaked events because of the line, "that patchouli that you wear."

Their original material was as good if not better than the cover material they did. Kevin Gray and Steve Boyd were Nashville's version of Lennon and McCartney, each with a different style that complemented the other. Gray's songs tended to rock more while Boyd tended to play the injured romantic crafting darker more complex material. They were rock and roll classicists doing their own Chubby Checker twist on things creating one of the most original sounds of the Eighties. They evolved over the course of an EP and several LP's released on their own Dreadbeat imprint which saw frequent spins on my record player. While listening to the tunes I would look at the cover art and read the liner notes.

I noticed that their song publishing was controlled by Slamina Blanc. That's funny. It's animal spelled backwards followed by blanc which means white. It was while figuring out which side of Nashville Babylon was the first side that I discovered that the White Animals liked to leave cryptic messages in the inner grooves of their records along with the side numbering that is usually present. I went through all of their thirty three and a third releases and found statements on most. Since the group, who reformed in 1999 to play periodic shows, will be performing at 12th and Porter on October 14th I thought I'd share these messages - the written equivalent to a hidden track on a compact disc.

The EP Nashville Babylon's messages are:
that side "vulgar, animalistic, nigra, rock & roll, bop..."
this side "I can still use my snout!"

The this side message is a reference to the Zap Comix character "Wonder Wart Hog" who overcame his impotence by using his snout. The message on side one, that side, is just a description about what lay in the grooves using the standard putdown response of the rock and roll haters back in the Fifties.

Lost Weekend with the great "I Must Have Been Hypnotized" cover:
side one "What am I...an onion?!?"
side two "Mimi's favorite band"

I never knew Mimi, but she had good taste. I don't know what the onion bit is about. Maybe it was an inside joke, or perhaps some pop culture reference that's too obscure for me.

A one-sided 12 inch single was released of the dub version of "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'" titled "These Boots Are Made For Dubbin'" and it's message was a homage to a Stanley Kramer film. "It's a dread, dread, dread, dread world!"

Ecstasy was the biggest release by the White Animals. It sold so well it went into a second pressing. They lost the photos that were used on the back cover and in the liner notes so the second pressing had a new back cover and insert. The messages on the inner grooves were kept the same.
side one "Virginia is for lovers" plus there was a drawing of a heart
side two "pocket full 'o hope in the ninth"

I assume the reference to Virginia was because of the many shows the White Animals performed in that great state. I'm a baseball fan so I really liked the message on side two.

A 12 inch single of "Help Yourself" and "She's So Different" came out, but there were no secret messages. It was just the names of the songs inscribed in the inner grooves.

Their next full length album was supposed to be the one to launch them to stardom. They called in Busta Jones to produce the album and recorded it in Memphis. It was simply titled White Animals, but it is often called The Purple Album or Drums In Church because of the purple painting on the cover. It was a good record and the inner grooves reference directly to the album.
Side one "Hossman you're the greatest"
Side two "Bustamup"

Hossman was a reference to Hoss Allen, the legendary WLAC deejay who helped spread R&B and black gospel throughout the eastern US. He's heard at the first of the song "Caught Up In The Dread" saying "so sit back and let the spirit commence."
The second side inner groove is obviously a reference to the producer Busta Jones.

A live album was released soon after this one and it was simply titled Live. It was a rather spartan affair and while the performance was hot it was obviously just released to hold the fans until the next studio album. There were no inscriptions in the inner grooves.

The next inscriptions would be on the album In The Last Days.
The A side "The old order changes..."
The B side "...yielding place to new"

In The Last Days was the band's last album, until they released a CD of new material recently, and the messages were all about the end of the band. Kevin Gray gave a lengthy interview in the Nashville music paper of the time, The Metro, about rock and roll being for the young and that it was time for him to step aside and go back to medical school. Which is just what he did. He now practices medicine in Texas. But luckily for us White Animals fans, the lure of playing rock and roll was too much for him and he got back together with his bandmates in 1999 for an incendiary pair of shows at the Exit/In. They've played a handful of shows every year since proving that you don't have to be young to rock. If The Rolling Stones can still do it, the White Animals should be able to also. So go out and see them next week at 12th and Porter. Nothing will be hidden in the inner grooves there.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am still waiting for the review of the greatest Nashville band of all time. BIG DUMMY!