[Part two of the New Music from the Past 30 Years series]
In 1985, I was introduced to the Jazz Butcher Conspiracy. I was 15, in high school, and already making near weekly trips to downtown Milwaukee to Ludwig von Ear (before they became Atomic Records) to search through the import records to find the new and latest thing.
The Jazz Butcher, fronted by Pat Fish and accompanied by guitar legend (if there was any justice) Maximillian T. Eider, was one of the original alternative guitar pop bands. What set them apart was Fish’s whimsical and entertaining lyrics, combined with Eiders jazz solos and penchant for writing songs about drinking (some of the best drinking songs around).
Aside from an entire catalog of music that I think is just fantastic, that Jazz Butcher also motivated me to my first bar.
On Saturday, August 4, 1986, we learned the Jazz Butcher was going to play at the Underground in Milwaukee. Confronted with the disbelief that we wouldn’t be able to go, me and a few friends decided that we had to do something. So we got in the car and drove down to Chicago to get fake IDs.
Not sure why we knew where to go in Chicago, but we walked into this pawnshop-type place and lined up to get our pictures taken for the IDs. 30 minutes later, and we were now 21-year-old Indiana residents.
So, we drove back up to Milwaukee and went downtown to see the show. Nerves didn’t really kick in until we stood outside, looking at the front door of the bar. Would this really work?
Like most fake ID experiences, it didn’t really come down to how convincing our IDs were, or how well we carried ourselves, so much as what kind of mood the bouncers were in. Fortunately, they didn’t care, so we entered without incident.
After making it through Blowtorch, the opening band, Pat, Max and the rest of the band delivered on an excellent two hours of music. The night ended with us breaking into our friend Mike’s house (he and his family were on vacation) and staying there.
The Jazz Butcher was later partly responsible for my going to school in Coventry, England for a year. One of my main goals of going there was to find all the out-of-print Jazz Butcher CDs that I didn’t buy when they first came out (due, in large part, to my adherence to the warm sound of vinyl).
The Jazz Butcher have had a very long career and are still going at it. Check out their old catalog of songs like “The Jazz Butcher vs. The Prime Minister” or “When Eno Sings” from Illuminate, one of the more recent albums.
Finally, I leave you with their promotional video for “Girl Go” – proving that you can actually put a saxophone in a pop song and not have it sound entirely cheesy.