By chance I was introduced to R. Stevie Moore by Irwin Chusid in the summer of 1997. A quick scan of my record (and cassette) collection revealed that I had been listening to Moore's music for years (though I was largely unaware of that fact at the time). Throughout the early 90s Moore had retained a relatively low musical profile, concentrating on the art of music video. Now seems a great time to check in with R. Stevie Moore since many of his LPs are about to be converted to the CD format by Flamingo Records of Albuquerque, New Mexico. These long-gone, impossible-to-locate classics deserve a spot on your shelf.
Moore himself is admittedly somewhat of a split personality; occasionally in the interview it seems his ego runs rampant, then suddenly he's the humble, aw-shucks guy that he is in person. This split personality also holds for his music—piano improvisation rubs elbows with classic AM pop, spoken word goop, heavy metal, rural picking, and Beach Boys-inspired elegance. One thing is for sure—R. Stevie Moore isn't boring.
This interview is far from comprehensive but I hope it'll pique or possibly revitalize your interest in R. Stevie Moore. For Dennis Diken's comprehensive and defining interview of Steve check the liner notes to the brand new edition of Phonography, or for you geeks, try http://www.rsteviemoore.com
R. Stevie Moore the recording artist
PW: How many LPs have you released?
RSM: Nearly a dozen vine-oo LPs and half a dozen singles/EPs.
PW: And how many cassettes have you released?
RSM: Approximately 240, as of this writing.
PW: Any idea how many total songs you've recorded?
RSM: Omigosh, thousands, but who's really counting…hopefully ASCAP will soon!
PW: Have you really written over 500 songs?
RSM: Numbers! Numbers! Aargh! The music just oozes from the floorboards of me mind. Did Mozart keep a running count of his tunes?
PW: Why do you rerecord your songs?
RSM: Can you guess? No answer would be false.
PW: Do all the songs you record make it to a release?
RSM: Not really. If a song gets put down on tape there's no guarantee that it will make a compilation/collection. Not because of a judgment call but distractions abound. Most do appear on cassette releases, though.
PW: Has there ever been a song so bad you threw it away/taped over it?
RSM: Only one.
PW: Are all your records compilations?
RSM: Everything most certainly was, as well as most of the others, but Teenage Spectacular and Glad Music were specifically made for LP release. Warning was basically outtakes from Teenage Spectacular.
PW: Who/what was HP Music?
RSM: HP stands for dear old Uncle Harry Palmer, mom's brother, who's been in the record biz for decades. First, as part of 60s rock group Ford Theater and later as a record exec. His encouragement and support helped jettison RSM into home-recording history. He was responsible for the release of Phonography and Delicate Tension. Most importantly, HP encouraged the Great Migration to the North. He helped finance and coproduce other projects as well.
PW: How did you come in contact with Cuneiform and Recommended?
RSM: Mere word-of-mouth.
PW: My favorite works of yours are the French records on New Rose. They are pop records, yet maintain an abstraction that is unique to your work. Tell me about your tenure at New Rose. Why did you stop working for them?
RSM: New Rose honcho Patrick Mathe's support was very important on an international scale. He favored pop melodies too. Sadly, New Rose went down the financial tubes. Shockingly, Patrick was in the audience at an NYC gig in December of '97 and it was joyous.
PW: You have always embraced the cassette as your medium of choice— when did you realize the potential of the cassette?
RSM: The 70s were the genesis of cassette portability and recording ease.
PW: Tell me about your recording studio experiences. What and how long did you record at CLACK! studios in NYC?
RSM: Session work goes back to Nashville and being recommended for gigs when Dad couldn't make it. And as for my music done in studios, I've dabbled off and on since 1972. CLACK was a great experience, 8-track in midtown Manhattan right after I moved up here…15 or so tracks, scattered over albums but collected on the cassette "CLACK!"
PW: Your song and album titles frequently allude to a seamier point of view. Is this just good imagery or are you a naughty boy?
RSM: When I'm good I'm very good. When I'm bad, I'm even better.
PW: Name a positive drug experience; a negative drug experience; or skip this question.
RSM: Had many of both since the 60s. Not too much anymore. I'm a boozer.
PW: You have an album called 1952–19??. Still think you won't make it to the new millennium?
RSM: Hey! I'm Y2K compatible now thanks to tofu and kitty love.
R. Stevie Moore the musician
PW: What instrument did you learn first? How old were you?
RSM: Piano. 6 or 7.
PW: Your house was a musical house when you grew up. Give me a little background?
RSM: Dad obviously brought his musical tastes home, but surprisingly jazz was king. In a nutshell, he was one of the premier session bass players in Nashville, gigging for everyone from Elvis to Orbison to a multitude of others.
PW: Is there a different kind of freedom being a session musician? In many ways there's much less demand than carrying the weight as the "name" musician.
RSM: It's like being the wooden bird in a cuckoo clock. The door opens and the mechanical spring shoves you out. Do it! No question, creative freedom is better.
PW: What is your impression of being on that Tiny Tim record?
RSM: It was like rubbing virtual elbows with fame.
PW: Do you still have a copy of that Perry Como record you played on?
RSM: Yup. Played bass on a '73 single "Love Don't Care." Producer Chet Atkins was impressed.
PW: How did your work with Fred Frith come about?
RSM: Frith did a sporadic guest spot on WFMU in the 80s and there was that Recommended Records connection. We played two guitar duels on the radio.
PW: You played Paris in 1984? Have you played other places in Europe?
RSM: Invited as a guest of New Rose to promote the double album Everything and a single pulled from it, my "Clack" version of "Chantilly Lace." Did a television spot and radio interviews. Got lots of press there. They all thought I was Scotty Moore's son! Obviously, I vaguely milked it! Never been to Europe since. I fantasize about the U.K.
PW: You pioneered prank phone call experimentation as cassette releases in the early 70s. Still proud of that work?
RSM: I'm proud of all my work/play. That era was a peephole into my life. Friends and I would gather together for many obsessively creative endeavors. The Phoney Tapes are jawdropping. Cassette club customers who've ordered them are extremely pleased.
PW: Can you name some musicians that you currently work with?
RSM: In the past few years, musical friendships have been struck up with Dennis Diken (Smithereens), Chris Butler (Tin Huey and Waitresses), Yukio Yung (Chrysanthemums–U.K.) …been jamming with close pal Chris Bolger for almost 20 years!
PW: Which is preferable to you, playing by yourself or playing with other people?
RSM: Only I can play at my own pace. Working with others can be frustrating at times, but moments of synchronicity do occur. We all experience that feeling. It goes back to kindergarten and learning how to "play well with classmates."
R. Stevie Moore discography
TITLE LP/CD FORMAT LABEL CATALOG # YEAR
Phonography (ltd. ed.) LP Vital Records (U.S.) VS-0001 1976
Delicate Tension LP HP Music (U.S.) HPS 30735 1978
Phonography (reissue) LP HP Music (U.S.) HPS 30734 1978
What's The Point?!! LP Cuneiform (U.S.) Rune 1 1984
Everything You Always Wanted dbl. LP New Rose (France) Rose 3 1984
Verve LP Hamster (U.K.) Ham 15 1985
Glad Music LP New Rose (France) Rose 83 1986
R. Stevie Moore (1952–19??) LP Cordelia (U.K.) Ericat 021 1987
Teenage Spectacular LP New Rose (France) Rose 132 1987
Warning LP New Rose (France) Rose 157 1988
Has-Beens And Never-Weres LP Heliotrope (U.K.) HLT2 1990
Greatesttits CD New Rose Fan Club (France) FC 070 1990
Contact Risk CD Fruit of the Tune (U.S.) 888 1993
Revolve 10" EP Pink Lemon (Germany) JAR 004 1995
Objectivity 3" CD Jar Music (Germany) JAR 014 1997
Phonography (reissue w/extra tracks) CD Flamingo (U.S.) 1998
The Future Is Worse Than the Past CD Pink Lemon (Germany) 1998
7"/12" SINGLE, EP LABEL CATALOG # YEAR
Roger Ferguson & Ethos 7" EP Basic Sounds BSL 1956 1973
4 From Phonography 7" EP HP Music (U.S.) 30732 1977
Stance 12" EP HP Music (U.S.) HPS 30733 1978
"Goodbye Piano" b/w "I Wish I Could Sing" 7" Flamingo (France) 49-452 1978
"New Wave" b/w "Same" 7" ClassAss Music CMI1005 1979
Recommended Records Sampler – "What Are You Lookin' At?"/"Flowers Sleep Into the Night" 7" EP Recommended (U.K.) 8.9 1982
"Chantilly Lace/Teen Routines/Bloody Knuckles" 7" EP New Rose (France) New 35 1984
"I Hate People"/"Everyone, But Everyone" 7" Singles Only Label SOL 225 1992
R. Stevie Moore tape index
HOME and STUDIO RECORDINGS
1968 NT01 On Graycroft NT02 Grease
1972 NT03 R. Stevie's Homers NT04 All Twenty Minutes
1973 NT05 Mere Static/Planet 81 NT06 Invites Comparison NT07 N U N 2 (Innuendos) NT08 Monotheism NT09 Iconoclasm
1974 NT10 Next NT11 Often
1975 NT12 Moore Or Less NT13 Stevie Moore Nth NT14 Apologies to Mr. Gottlieb/Stevie Does the Beatles
1976 NT15 Returns NT17 Play NT18 Instrumentality NT19 The Voice/Lake Inferior NT20 Piano Lessons
1977 NT21 Swing and a Miss NT22 Sheetrock
1978 NJ23 The North NJ24 Pow Wow NJ25 Delicate Tension NJ26 Games and Groceries NJ28 Sample for Approval NJ29CS Cannot Keep My Fingers Out of My Mouth/ Groceries (cassingle)
1979 NJ30 R
1979–1980 NY31 Clack
1979 NJ32 Quits
1980 NJ33 Drumdrops NJ34 Urgent/XVII NJ35 (1952–19??)
1981 NJ36 Criterions/Eek! a Mouse NJ37 Dumb Philosophy NJ38 Basic NJ39 Pop Pain NJ40 Column 88 NJ41 F N I NJ42 Logarithms
1982 NJ43 Pioneer Paramus NJ44 Pathos NJ45 Themes NJ46 We Love You Boxheads NJ47 Privacy NJ48 When NJ49 You and Your Employees NJ50 Toxic Shock Syndrome NJ51 Pleasant Tents NJ52 Boxheads 2 (deleted; incl. with NJ46)NJ53 No Reason NJ54 Trial & Error NJ56 How Can You Resist R. Stevie Moore? NJ57 Subject to Change
1983 NJ59 W.O.M.A.N. NJ61 Boxhead Gothics 3 NJ62 Repertoire NJ64 Under The Covers (comp of RSM covering other songwriters) NJ65 The Church Session NJ66 Ass-ault (Dollar tape) (30-minute comp of 75 song excerpts) NJ67 It's What's Happening Baby NT68 Ob Newschk (1973 Nashville tape recatalogued) NJ69 Serving Suggestion NJ70 Stevedore NJ71 F M F M NJ73 Curiously Enough NJ74 Hostile Territory NJ76 Rarities (comp) NJ79 Crises NJ84 (recatalogued as NJ233) NJ85 Musts NJ86 Country Disguises (comp of RSM C&W originals and covers) NT88 Reprism (1974 archival tape of RSM piano improv) NJ90 On Standby NJ92 Mr. Urban Contemporary (does not exist – collected RSM disco/dance works) NT94 The Sound of Fugto 1968 archival recording NJ95 Moore Versions 1983 comp of Clack outtakes NJ99 As if Vinyl Didn't Exist NJ100 Amateur Hour NJ101 Solid State NJ102 Boxheads 4: Broadcast
1984 NJ105 R. Stevie Moore Gets Off NJ106 Closer Than Never NT107 Unleashed Ignorance in B-Flat Minor Augmented (1968 archival tape) NJ110 1984U. NJ111 Lost and Found (comp of rarities from '83– '84) NJ114 Embarrass Paris NT115 Herald; Goods (1972 archival tape) NJ116 State of Affairs NRPF118/119 Messy Merci Me (Paris diary tapes) NJ121 K-7 NJ125 Kaffeeklaatsch NJ126 Organ Donor NJ129 Jabberwocky
1985NJ137 Skeletons (instrumental) NJ138 R. Stevie Moore… Barely NJ140 R. Stevie Moore's Three Blazers NJ145 Umpteenth NJ146 R. Stevie Moore Is Worth It NJ147 Three Blazers Vol. 2 (may not exist) NJ151 The Sanctuary Sessions NJ158 R. Stevie Moore: Man of the Year (rsm solo)
1986 NT163 Museum (1957–59, rsm's very first home tapes as kid) NJ165 Man of the Year Vol. 2 NT166 The Marlborough (Nashville recordings, cover versions) NJ167 Purpose NJ168 Man of the Year Vol. 3 NJ170 Belief NJ171 All Well and Good NJ173 Dubs One/Say Man NJ174 Dubs Two NJ175 Pandemonium
1987 NJ178 Googleplex (instrumentals) NJ180 Clips NJ183 Middle-Age Vernacular (outtakes from Teenage Spectacular)
1987–1991 The Video Years RSM concentrates on creating home videos [see separate catalog]
1991 NJ189 Persevere
1992 NJ191 Recital
1993 NJ193 Songlets (C-13) NJ195 Sequestered NJ197 Autographed Blank Tape (D-60; limited edition!; just what it says) NJ198 Dysfunctional Six (live performances, like Boxheads but not as good) NJ199 Inset (C-18, n/a)
1994 NJ200 Ersatz (first portastudio recordings) – 2 x 90min. NJ201 Executive Turntable NJ202 Goosebumps NJ204 Who Cares? NJ205 Absinthe (instrumentals, rsm & ko) NJ206 A New Day of Restoration NJ207 Herculean Rationale NJ208 May
1995 NJ210 Fundraiser NJ211 Chapter 11 NJ212 Boy at Work NJ213 Phlegm Soundtrack NJ214 In One Ear and Out the Other NJ215-217 An Afternoon With… (three C90s) NJ218 Dull
1996 NJ223 The Day the Earth Stood on Stilts NJ224 Vague NJ225 Really? NJ226 Comeuppance NJ227 Plight
1997 NJ230 Disturbed NJ232 Senior Superlatives NJ233 Comeback Special
LIVE PERFORMANCE TAPES
NY97 R. Stevie Moore and the Rayvens Live Vol. 1 (1983 @ Folk City) NJ98 R. Stevie Moore and the Rayvens Live Vol. 2 (1983 @ Maxwell's, Hoboken) NJ103 The Biggest Names In Show Business (live @ wfmu) NJ104 Olives And More (rsm & po live at wfmu) NJ109 The Scott and Gary Show (Manhattan cable tv perf. w/ band) NJ112 In Person (live at the Jetty, Bloomfield, NJ) NY117 Live at Folk City NRPF120 120 Nuits (live at Paris lo-fi) NY122 Live at the Bitter End NJ124 RSM and the Litterbugs (1979 archival recording of 1st WFMU perf. after 1 year up north) NM132 Live in Boston NY134 Live at the Dive NTK136 The Swings—Rockin' New Year's Eve (archival 1976–1977) NY142 Two Evenings with R. Stevie Moore in New York (live at Irving Plaza w/ band and Folk City solo) NJ144 Live at the Jetty Vol. 2 (w/ band) NTI154 The Swings Back The Coasters (cheap recording of 1977 Davenport. A gig backing "version" of legendary comic R&B act; rsm on lead guitar) NY161 R. Stevie Moore Sings at Speakeasy (live solo set at NY bistro) NJ162 Radio Performance (live solo gig at wfmu) NY164 Live at the Speakeasy Vol. 2 NY169 Last Live Show/Lone Star Cafe (all requests for tape refused) NJ181 RSM: Live on WFMU NJ194 RSM on WFMU 6/93 NJ196 Live at Maxwell's 7/93 NJ228 RSM Live '97 (Mother, Tierney's live shows) NJ229 RSM & KO Sing WFMU NY??? Live at the Baggott Inn, 12/97
NJ58 Candid Cassette NJ91 R. Stevie Moore the Disk Jockey (random WFMU free-form radio show excerpt from RSM DJ days) NJ113 Boota Theater (spoken word comp) NT123 Phoney (1973–1974 archival tape) fake phone calls NJ128 Rare Radio Interviews (non-WFMU college radio interviews) NT131 Phoney Vol. 2 NJ141 The Larry and Mookie Show (random excerpts from WFMU radio shows) NJ155 Theatre of Skips #1 (nonstop compilation of tortuous mayhem featuring numerous phonograph record skips) NT172 WXYZ-TV (1975 TV fantasy) NJ233 R. Stevie Moore Interview (project planned in 1983, continually put off; finally conducted by Dennis Diken in Aug. '97)
NJ60 The First Ten Years (comp of RS highlights) NJ130 R. Stevie Moore's Greatest Hits (comp) NJ203 Unpopular Singer, Vols. 1 & 2 NJ209 Unpopular Singer, Vol. 3 NJ220 Unpopular Singer, Vol. 4 Comp 1 (compiled by Irwin Chusid 1984) Comp 2 (compiled by Irwin Chusid 1984) Comp 3 (compiled by Irwin Chusid 1984) Comp 4 (compiled by Irwin Chusid 1984)
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R. Stevie Moore Cassette Club
14 Evelyn Place #4
Bloomfield, NJ 07003 U.S.A.