Foam Tide - The Electric Squirrel Sessions

After finishing Bovine Madness in September 1988, Foam Tide embarked on a very ambitious recording - The Electric Squirrel, which was to be a deep and conceptual recording - maybe even with vocals? Petersen and Smith wrote at least 16 songs - and finished eight of them, before pulling the plug on the project. The Electric Squirrel was originally slated to be finished by December 1989, but the painfully slow recording process pushed that back to 1990 and then 1991. In December 1990, to let their small group of loyal fans know that they were hard at work at something big, Foam Tide released the EP tape committment to annoying behavior, which included three songs, as well as silly mock interviews with Smith and Petersen, from the still work-in-progress The Electric Squirrel.

In July 1991, Smith, sensing that the recording sessions were coming to an end, mixed down four of the remaining five finished songs (Mixdown Cassette - read below). The rest of the songs remain in different stages of completeness on the master tapes. Basically, The Electric Squirrel was to Foam Tide what Smile was to The Beach Boys and Brian Wilson - one of the most infamous concept albums never to be finished or released to the public. One can only imagine the impact The Electric Squirrel, which was to be the pinnacle of Foam Tide's brief career, would have had on the music world.

In late 2006, Smith acquired a 1989 Fostex 280 4-track and began to go through the seven original TDK master cassettes in an attempt to discern what was there and if anything was salvageable. The output of this effort in April 2007 was The Electric Squirrel Sessions CD, which contains everything on those tapes - every note and every noise, no matter the quality or stage of completeness. Ten of the 18 tracks on the CD are completed songs, although it is unknown if the short intro for 'Feu d'artifice' - included on the The Electric Squirrel Sessions CD - was intended for inclusion on The Electric Squirrel (see NOTE 2 below). Also included are four tracks featuring five song ideas that were never completed.

NOTE 1: Two incomplete song ideas - 'Destruct-O-Ball' and 'Digress' - were combined as one track for this CD.
The remaining four tracks on the CD consist of two outtakes ('la chitarra' and 'Callate La Boca') and incomplete alternate versions of songs taken from the surviving 4-track cassettes ('Porcelain Bus' and 'Mai Tide'). Thought was given to the final song order to preserve the original intention, although much has been lost to memory.

The final songs/ideas heard on the CD were remixed and remastered into digital format from the surviving 4-track tapes in Smith's possession. Volume and equalization levels were adjusted for each of the four tracks to provide ultimate sound quality for these old tapes. The signal source was then run through a Fostex DMT-8vL digital recorder with reverb, compression, and enhanced stereo imaging effects added for depth and clarity. A new two-track master was then created (stereo - left and right) on a Sony MiniDisc machine. All CDs were then "burned" from this MiniDisc digital master, meaning each CD is a digital clone of the master MiniDisc. This results in a much cleaner version with better a signal-to-noise ratio than the original method Foam Tide used to release its music - 3rd generation cassette copying.

The quality of this remxing and remastering process produces a superior product in comparison to the remastering process used for the Bovine Madness Remastered CD the Del Lowell & the SMITHTONES' BULLSHAT! (disc 2) compilations. For the Foam Tide remastered songs on those CDs, only the original mixdown cassette was used - not the 4-track cassettes, meaning only the effects (reverb, compression, and stereo imaging) could be added to the 3rd generation "master" tape from the 1988-91 era. The bottom line is that the remixed and remastered version of '4th Down Friday' on The Electric Squirrel Sessions CD has a much cleaner sound than the remastered-only version from the Bovine Madness Remastered CD and the BULLSHAT! release.

There was a temptation to add to the tracks in an attempt to "finish" the songs, but this was avoided to allow the Foam Tide faithful to have a clear and accurate picture of what The Electric Squirrel sessions were all about.

CD Liner Notes A       CD Liner Notes B       CD Back

Before the release of The Electric Squirrel Sessions CD in 2007, listeners were given a taste of The Electric Squirrel on three separate albums. In addition to the three-song committment to annoying behavior EP tape from 1990, two CD releases have included seven of the eight completed songs that were to be part of The Electric Squirrel - Del Lowell & the SMITHTONES' BULLSHAT! and Foam Tide's Bovine Madness Remastered.

Del Lowell & the SMITHTONES included four never-before-released tracks, recorded between 1988-91, on their 2005 two-CD release, BULLSHAT! (disc 2) - 'Lyrl', 'Maalox Me!', 'la chitarra', and 'Feu d'artifice' - which were each penned by Smith. Also on BULLSHAT! were remastered versions of Smith's '4th Down Friday' and 'Mai Tide', which were originally on committment to annoying behavior. Also, new songs featured on BULLSHAT! (disc 1) - 'Nothingness' and 'Wreckabilly' - are based on incomplete Squirrel songs - 'Porcelain Bus' and 'Destruct-O-Ball', respectively. The song 'Foam Tide', originally recorded by the Smithtones for their 1998 man makes plans and God laughs CD and re-recorded for BULLSHAT! (disc 1), features sections intended for Squirrel tune 'I Want To Be Part Of The Food Chain', which are mixed with the Foam Tide original from Bovine Madness, 'Veni, Vidi, Veni'. Also, two versions of 'la chitarra' are included on BULLSHAT! - the original 1991 version (disc 2) and a new version recorded in 2004 (disc 1). The guitar instrumental 'la chitarra' was originally titled '5911' in 1991, but Smith used that title - with music from a section of 'Feu d'artifice' - on Del Lowell & the SMITHTONES' 1998 CD, man makes plans and God laughs.

Remastered versions of '4th Down Friday', 'White Trash Barrio', and 'Mai Tide' were included on the 2003 Bovine Madness Remastered CD as bonus tracks, along with 'Still Unnamed' from Foam Tide's 1986 debut, Change Your Name.

There are eight TDK SA-X cassette tapes in existence, which hold the eight completed songs for The Electric Squirrel and the four other songs that were began, but never completed. Also included on these tapes are two alternate versions ('Mai Tide' and 'Porcelain Bus'), two outtakes ('la chitarra' and 'Callate La Boca'), and a short intro for 'Feu d'artifice'. Seven of the eight tapes are the original 4-track tapes with the individual tracks recorded on the Fostex 260 4-track recorder. The eighth cassette is a mixdown tape of the four completed songs eventually released as part of the Del Lowell & the SMITHTONES' 2005 BULLSHAT! (disc 2). The following is a breakdown of the eight cassettes and the music and information found on these archives.
1~Porcelain Bus* (Smith/Petersen) October 1988
Porcelain Bus (alternate version) (Smith/Petersen) 1989?
2~Mai Tide (Smith/Petersen) November 1988
Mai Tide (alternate version)* (Smith/Petersen) 1989?
* not complete

Feu d'artifice intro (Smith) March 1989
3~Feu d'artifice (Smith) March 1989
Callate La Boca (Smith) January 1991
Callate La Boca outtake (Smith) January 1991

4~4th Down Friday (Smith) July 1989

6~Destruct-O-Ball/Digress* (Smith/Petersen) July 1989
7~Maalox Me! (Smith) April 1990
I Want To Be Part Of The Food Chain* (Smith/Petersen) Spring 1990?
Lyrl song 8 (Smith) June 1991
* not complete

9~Mr. Salty* (Smith) April 1990
* not complete

4-TRACK CASSETTE #6? (not numbered)
White Trash Barrio (Petersen) November 1989

4-TRACK CASSETTE #7? (not numbered)
5911 (later titled 'la chitarra') (Smith) January 1991
la chitarra (5911) outake (Smith) January 1991

Lyrl (see CASSETTE #4)
Maalox Me! (see CASSETTE #4)
5911 (later titled 'la chitarra') (see CASSETTE # 7)
Feu d'artifice (see CASSETTE #2)
Although some of the songs listed above on tapes 1-7 have numbers (1-4, 6-7, 9) there is no known song order for what would have been on a completed The Electric Squirrel album. Any documented order of these songs only refers to the sequence of their tracking dates. There may have been more cassettes used by Foam Tide during their The Electric Squirrel recording sessions, but only these eight tapes have survived. It should be noted that this collection of master cassettes and the one mixdown tape exist in Smith's collection, although Cassette #6 ('White Trash Barrio') was an exclusive Petersen work. It is hardly a secret that The Electric Squirrel, as with Bovine Madness, was basically to be a work of two solo artists - Smith and Petersen - and that these two only intended to collaborate on six or seven songs for inclusion on the album. It is extremely likely that Petersen had other master cassettes of his work in his possession that Smith never would have seen - or heard - that were intended for The Electric Squirrel, but have now been lost through the years.

There are 17 known song titles that were considered by Smith and Petersen for The Electric Squirrel, but there is some debate as to whether the finished The Electric Squirrel was to have been comprised of 16 or 17 songs. Eight songs intended for The Electric Squirrel were completed, with five other song ideas left unfinished at different stages of completeness.

NOTE 2: Eight songs were completed, but a short intro for 'Feu d'artifice' was also finished, although it is unclear if it was intended to make the final The Electric Squirrel recording or if it was to be combined with the main body of 'Feu d'artifice'. Either way, this intro was included on the 2007 The Electric Squirrel Sessions CD as a separate track. Also, 'I Want To Be Part Of The Food Chain' was originally to be a two-part suite. The first part was completed, but the second part was never finished. It is broken up into two parts (I & II) on the The Electric Squirrel Sessions CD, but the original intention was for it to be one complete song, so it is listed as incomplete in this essay.
Recording on the remaining four titles was most likely never started. Of the five songs began but left unfinished, three are very close to completion ('Porcelain Bus' - missing Petersen's lead guitar and 'Destruct-O-Ball'/'Digress' - missing Petersen's lead guitar/keys), while 'Mr. Salty' (only drums and guitar) and 'I Want To Be Part Of The Food Chain' (the long intro is complete, but the body of the song only ends after one bar) are painfully in need of more tracks to fill them out.

The song listing below was garnered from two original documents from 1990-91 (see scan links), as well as the hand-written notes from the seven original master cassette tapes. Document 1 was created by Smith in June 1991 and lists 16 song titles and the then-current stage of completion for each song. Document 2, created by Petersen, looks to be a snapshot of titles and art ideas from 1990. There seems to be discrepancies between Document 1 and the notes on the master tapes. For instance, Document 1 indicates that work on 'I Want To Be Part Of The Food Chain' was never begun, but Cassette #4 has basic tracks from Spring 1990. Were these basic tracks from 1990 going to be scrapped and new tracks eventually re-recorded?

The total number of songs for the final The Electric Squirrel album comes into question when Document 1 is matched against the master tape notes. Document 1 lists 16 song titles, but omits one known song that actually had basic tracks recorded - 'Mr. Salty' (Cassette #5, began in April 1990) - which would bring the total to 17. Maybe it was decided at some point that 'Mr. Salty' was not to be included on The Electric Squirrel?

More riddles abound when trying to put The Electric Squirrel puzzle together. For instance, two of the songs intended for The Electric Squirrel have alternate versions. Incomplete second takes of both 'Porcelain Bus' and 'Mai Tide' were found on the surviving 4-track cassettes. Which versions were the ones intended for final release? Another enigma deals with the songs 'Digress' and 'Destruct-O-Ball'. 'Digress' is actually a break in the middle of the song 'Destruct-O-Ball' and it seems impossible to take 'Digress' out of that context without ruining either song, although Document 1 clearly lists 'Digress' as a separate song and the master tape notes only list work on 'Destruct-O-Ball'. Despite the notations, it seems both 'Digress' and 'Destruct-O-Ball' are forever linked and are combined as one track on the The Electric Squirrel Sessions CD.

The following is a list of the completed songs, as well as other titles - some of which were started, but never finished. Also, see lettered notes below on Del Lowell & the SMITHTONES' CDs, which include updated and borrowed song ideas from songs intended for The Electric Squirrel.
recorded between 1988 and 1991

1 - 4th Down Friday A
2 - White Trash Barrio
3 - Mai Tide B
4 - Lyrl C
5 - Maalox Me!
6 - la chitarra D
7 - Feu d'artifice E
8 - Callate La Boca
9 - Porcelain Bus# F
10/11 - Destruct-O-Ball#G/Digress#
12 - I Want To Be Part Of The Food Chain#H
13 - Mr. Salty#
14 - Tigger's Vietnam##
15 - D.O.R.##
16 - 007##
17 - The Ballad Of Kitty Hibiscus##

all songs written and recorded by Foam Tide
all instruments played by M.Petersen and D.Smith
songs 1-8 are completed
songs 1-3 released as part of the 1990 Foam Tide committment to annoying behavior tape and the 2003 Bovine Madness Remastered CD
songs 1-13 released as the 2007 The Electric Squirrel Sessions CD, along with two outtakes, two alternate versions, and I Want To Be Part Of The Food Chain split into two parts
songs 1, 3-7 released as part of the 2005 Del Lowell & the SMITHTONES BULLSHAT! CD (disc 2)
# began, but never completed
## most likely no work on this song was ever began - no archive exists of any recording
A re-recorded as Checkered as part of Del Lowell & the SMITHTONES' 2000 11 expressions of me CD
B sections re-recorded in Zhukov's March as part of Del Lowell & the SMITHTONES' 2002 bikini CD
C re-recorded as part of Del Lowell & the SMITHTONES' 1998 man makes plans and God laughs CD
D originally titled '5911'; re-recorded as part of Del Lowell & the SMITHTONES' 2005 BULLSHAT! CD
E re-recorded as Elixir and 5911 as part of Del Lowell & the SMITHTONES' 1998 man makes plans and God laughs CD
F sections re-recorded in Nothingness as part of Del Lowell & the SMITHTONES' 2005 BULLSHAT! CD and the 2006 Amor Del Mar CD;
sections re-recorded in Intoxicant Livable as part of Del Lowell & the SMITHTONES' 2006 Intoxicant Livable CD
G re-recorded as Wreckabilly as part of Del Lowell & the SMITHTONES' 2005 BULLSHAT! CD
H sections re-recorded in Foam Tide as part of Del Lowell & the SMITHTONES' 1998 man makes plans and God laughs CD and the 2005 BULLSHAT! CD

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