14 Evelyn Place #4
THE MUSIC OF R.
Moore is original,
hilarious, and seri-
ous. In other words,
Moore has every-
thing going against
him. In an industry
has blinded most
standards of quality
signings are a way of
life, musicians who
and take risks must
creep through a
and gradually de-
nately, the stagna-
nation of the recording industry has not
put the stops on Moore. He has remained
excessively prolific and by forming the R.
Stevie Moore Cassette Club he gets his music
out to those in search of a vital musical
imagination. Although some records are now
available as imports on the French New Rose
label, Moore continues hooking most of his
audience through his home-grown mail order
Nearly every bit of wall in Moore's Montclair, New Jersey apartment is covered by records and books. It's what you might expect from listening to his cassettes; it's sort of mad-scientist, but down-homey, too. It is from this cluttered cloister that Moore goes through his mail orders and personally records his cassettes for devotees. Orders come in from all over the country and parts of Europe. His catalog includes well over 100 cassettes and he has just added two of his video cassettes to the list.
Moore writes pop songs that are full of surprises. This is a guy who really learned his craft from Lennon and McCartney and Brian Wilson. "Rock & roll's not a bag of tricks, it's a thing just like building ships...," he sings in "Topic Of Same." It's a craft he takes very seriously, but the whole time he lets you believe it's all very easy. And it might be very easy if this was where Moore stopped, but his pop sensibility that rests one foot in Beatles/Beach Boys, has got another foot wading in the uneasy waters of the bizarre. One might hear Zappa, the Residents, or some other unusual influences enriching what might have been just another pop song.
Born into a musical Nashville family, the young Robert Steven Moore watched his father become a successful country music session player. Bob Moore Sr. went on to play bass for Elvis Presley, and R. Stevie Moore would play some sessions with some country stars, including Earl Scruggs. "I always hated that whole country scene and the music itself. I would go home from these sessions and do some crazy, under-the-headphones, home recording." Home recording on reel-to-reel was something Moore had been doing since he was 11. "I became a hero in my own head, in my own room. And said, 'Hey, okay, I'll make a record this week. Okay, it's done, and now I'll do an album this week. I never thought of mail orders, or customers.'"
Moore sees his songwriting development as being attributable to "a gradual 70s evolution and being a typical 60s kid with the Beatles and the Beach Boys and Zappa and drugs and long hair. I was a Nashville hippie and all that." In 1978, after his uncle had a selection of songs pressed into the album, Phonography, Moore decided to move to New York City. It was about this time that the cassette club began to take off.
Moore's D.I.Y. methodology lends itself to an unequalled intimacy. Putting his music on for the first time can be like inviting a stranger into your home. The tapes will provide any listener with a well- balanced sonic diet. Moore swings from stunning instrumentals to idiosyncratic, nerve-pop, to sweet acoustic songs. "There are so many styles of music, but all of them are limited. I always try to make my tapes sound like a radio show. That's how the White Album was, or Zappa, or a lot of stuff like that."
The subjects for Moore's songs are as eclectic as the music. Often a self-deprecatory, Woody Allenism takes over. Moore can be obsessive about the absolute horror of the mundane in the songs like the cheerful "Holocaust Parade" or in "Bloody Knuckles" in which he sings, "Everything is intricate, but being is so empty." "The Meeting That Couldn't Be" is the ultimate investigation into the sheer clumsiness of life itself. In this six-minute masterpiece, Moore narrates his hilariously pathetic attempt to simply get dressed and out of his house to meet a friend. Moore's tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement of life's inevitable ridiculousness postures like a pop-Mersault laughing in the face of waiting guillotines.
Moore also writes his share of love songs. Most often they are glimpses of real life and real love-life situations. By avoiding generalities and cliches, Moore's most effective love songs offer a private authenticity that often exposes the childishness of the male ego in adult terms, or candid song-stories.
Moore has performed live several times since arriving in New York, but it's not what he wants to concentrate on. "I had a whole act where I took 'Stevie at Home' right onto the stage. I had a music stand and a book of over a hundred songs. It was very medley-like and there was lots of spontaneity." He's more concerned with keeping the cassette club going and keeping his repuation growing. "It is sort of ironic that Jon Pareles (of the Times) called me the 'generally acknowledged father of home recording.' I'm not generally acknowledged because it's not a name people recognize. Almost, but not really." Since Moore started his home recordings he has been joined by hundreds of others who are doing it themselves. "I used to champion this thing, home-made cassettes, and people who couldn't really play; now it's come so far that everyone and his brother has a four-song EP cassette."
As Moore talks about his music in relation to what's happening in the record industry, his down-home style fades and a very frustrated artist comes to surface. "I don't want to be just underground and have to have a day job in a record store. It's a struggle. I'm vaguely concerned with becoming popular and the whole stupid machine. The whole scene infuriates me. It's all competition with me and I'm being passed over for genres that get spit out and nobody has content. It's all big beat, noise thrash or Tiffany-Debbie Gibson-Madonna. Even the so-called alternative scene has been hard on me when we're talking about exposure. I haven't even approached the level of Alex Chilton, Camper Van Beethoven and college radio bands."
In 1984, New Rose released Everything, a double LP of some of Moore's music from the past 12 years. Last October, Teenage Spectacular, an album of all new material was released. And this spring, another record will be released. "Whether it works for me, or against me, I've got my own classification, and not many people know about it, but it is my own niche. Meanwhile, the struggle continues."