Tag Archives: REM

Riff: VW Beetle / busted up, 1986 (+ pizza beast, Earthship, REM and a sketchy boss)

Battered VW Beetle with broken spindle in American Fork, UT, ca 1986

Just before I turned 16 while living in Orem Utah, I purchased an (soon to be infamous) 1974 VW “turtle top” bus ($1475) and, that winter – after failing my driving test driving the bus and driving away from the licensing bureau but passing in the next time (that big bus wasn’t easy to parallel park until you got the hang of it) – drove up to Vancouver in the middle of the winter which included the snowy regions of the Cascades…  On the way back, with no money for a motel and 2 brothers on board, the van caught fire (engine compartment) in snowy Prosser, Washington at 2AM (had extinguisher, slept cold, finally found a mechanic who didn’t do anything and limped home about 700 miles on 2 cylinders, 35Mph… #anotherstory #focus).

Anyhow, this is all to tell you that this led to taking a job with a sketchy man who lived in our townhouse complex who had opened up pizza restaurants, Roberto Prieto (or so he said). He was a dodgy fellow with an underage wife, quickly burnt out his business partner at  “pizza heaven(?)” and bailed and opened a rival “pizza beast” in Provo. So i went to work for him cleaning out this former Chinese restaurant and turning it into an assembly line of high-volume pizza for BYU students,  in exchange for him paying me ($3.35/hr) but also helping rebuild my Volkswagen bus as he was allegedly a great VW mechanic and had an awesome set of tools (somehow all brand-new) in his garage.

He did basically nothing for my van except a lot of talk and no action and assigning me hours in a solvent tank washing parts, and some months later (after the accusations about s3xy times and dodgy substances picked up momentum plus he had purchased fancy Camaros for he and his wife which he couldn’t pay for it seems) he bailed in the middle of the night with all sorts of wreckage left behind.

Bob and I went to his house, hopping into the backyard to see if there was any remnants of the van parts as the engine was “gone”. Nothing useful, however there was an hungry/angry mother dog and her starving pups in the backyard who came running after us requiring a mighty leap to clear the fence.

{Anyway, somewhere there is possibly still bad man and all the stories about young girls in coca!ne who has long forgotten about me and the pizza beast I suspect but if I come across an artefact from that time, I’ll hook you up – must be a snapshot somewhere.}

In the *interim* of not fixing my bus,  he lent me this battered Volkswagen bug which was exceptionally dangerous as there was no seatbelts, no passenger seat, and in the backseat where the battery was housed, sitting down caused the battery to short so only could have one person sitting behind the driver which made the vehicle very unbalanced.

I would drive this home, with dodgy headlights etc. after working at the pizza restaurant in Provo to American Fork (a vaguely neighbouring town), and two times had near death experiences, no exaggeration.

One time, I drove over a dip under a railway bridge which, turns out, was pure ice – the bald tires spun immediately completely out of control…, I remember seeing the light of oncoming traffic honking as the car spun aimlessly and aggressively in a narrow space wedged in between concrete poles and various stanchions for railroad crossing gates… but *fortunately* landed in a snowbank . Was stuck there, trying to push my way out, no one stopped to help, just honk, but finally I got it going and drove on bewildered (no way to call for help as no phone around), but couldn’t get all the way home as our current home (a story in itself) was top of the steep hill. After a few false starts with ridiculous backwards slides, finally gave up, left the bug, trudged through the snow to the house.

The next time, while driving along the same road, the lil car gave a mighty thud then a hard scrapping squeal and lunged to the right. Felt like much more than a flat tire and turned out the wheel, tire and all had completely come off the spindle, and yes the wheel spindle itself, a thick solid post of steel, had somehow completely, not snapped, but somehow worn right through and come off with wheel tire etc with it.

I fought for control and somehow crash landed on the side of the road… Likely hitchhiked home or walked or something, but this is where that bug lay. Never drove it again. I can take a hint universe.

While I’m riffing, later an eccentric man in Pleasant Grove called Martin took on the task of repairing the mighty Earthship bus, which at this point has been sort of out of commission for a while and was really cramping my style, but let me a 1976 fuel injected VW Bus, not a camper, but it was a runner… I maybe took advantage of his kindness a little bit by driving it to Moab several times and then on a road trip to Omaha, Nebraska to see our REM with a few pals. I did my best to take care of it and wow, it was a nice ride – not all the accessories but just went and didn’t leak oil (shocker).

Finally, the mighty Earthship was up and running and ended up on so many adventures back-and-forth across USA, many Grateful Dead tours, the hostage incident in Taos,  up and back to BC and down Mexico several times, living in it while working at a bike shop in Burnaby, BC and going to university of Utah in SLC, and now lives as a sauna in big Cottonwood Canyon (more to this story on the docket to share).

There were several other significant car incidents besides the bus catching on fire, and the bug causing a few near misses including the terrible Blazer crash on Christmas Eve in Jerome, Idaho but I don’t speak of that terrible incident any further. Pictures exist (and a newspaper article) and they make me shake and nightmare. 

So yeah the photo at the top is the bug with broken spindle. Somewhere there’s a guy named Roberto who owes me and a guy named Martin who i am grateful for and a stretch of highway between Utah and BC laden with calamity for me. All in the past. 

Artifacts: Rock shirts, vol. 1 (1980s Bowie, Clash, REM)

While sorting through archive in the kura/barn studio, came across a mighty bin of t-shirts from bands/tours, mtn bike races, trips, handmade goodness, or just quirky/weird. Of course many/most didn’t make it to this point but several did

Not surprisingly, rather delicate and need a freshening up. Considering some sort of craft project for these (a quilt? stretched over wooden frame? leave as is?) but in the meantime, a couple quick snaps of a few treasures which create a chronology from the early 1980s. 

Call this: Front/back quick snaps, part 1 (without annotations):

  • David Bowie 83
  • The Clash 84
  • REM 85 & 86 (iirc as i saw many times and all a bit hazy)

 

 

 

REM on David Letterman 1983 Radio Free Europe/ South Central Rain/I’m Sorry

REM on Letterman, 1983

REM on David Letterman 1983 Radio Free Europe/ South Central Rain/I’m Sorry

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SxSW Snow Day Limocast – Raincity Radio, 2008

Dave O at Raincity HQ at SXSW 2008
Dave O at Raincity HQ at SXSW 2008 – photo by Kris Krug via Flickr

After a canceled flight to Dallas, DaveO and KK (then of Vancouver’s Raincity Studios) roll back to Gastown (in a limo) to regroup before heading to Austin for SxSW Interactive and Music fests. Along the way, they discuss panels, marketing tactics, band photography, questions for REM, and networking strategies.

Shut the door for: SxSW Snow Day Limocast (10:48, 15MB, 192k mp3) Originally released by Dave O for Raincity Studios, March 8, 2008.

REM recording in Vancouver

REM Begins Recording in Vancouver

from R.E.M.hq via Heading to Vancouver

I have many things to mention about this …:

1) Story about meeting REM (fairgrounds SLC, UT circa 1985/6, Guadacanal Diary opening) – Buck and Mills were real friendly to a young sprout like me

2) Story about meeting EKap and explaining about REM’s album Fables of the Reconstruction before i realized he was tight with the band

3) Story about telling EKap i saw REM 6 times before Green tour (in 4 time zones to boot) most of which before he was out of elementary school (grizzled am i)

4) Discourse on the transitions of Vancouver as a recording hotspot for various genres (cheesepop, punk, metal, and most recently REM and Police)

5) Commentary about REM’s role in music these days (no Bill Berry, why do they still work so hard?, what is their legacy? (and i don’t mean all the hall of fame sh!t) are they really more important that U2? as i always argued with Corey Demille about in 10th grade)

6) Ponder what happened to my sweet 4-colour-bleed tour book about pondering perpetual motion from (which?) tour (no doubt lost with so much other misc rcok stuff)

7) Reminise about first buying “Murmur” at a record store in Bellingham and rewinding Radio Free Europe a dozen times before moving on to the next tracks (on cassette)

8) Happy memories on “Perfect Circle” as a stealth song for smoothing the ladies (before released much later and some lame band hi-jacked the name making things confusing)

9) Stories of Peter Buck’s other bands and projects i caught or listened to + his wife’s ownership of the Croc Cafe in Seattle (scene of much fun)

10) Recalling buying Dead Letter Office (along with Stewart Copeland’s Rumblefish Soundtrack) on vinyl in Toronto and flying them home with some damage to SLC (Still my fave REM album though Reckoning and Fables are perenial faves too)

11) Rambling about the disconnect i felt with the band when they chezed out with the Shiny Happy Radio Song pablum (but i’m mostly over it now) – shoot not even sure what happened on their last few albums … anyone wanna lend me a copy?

But since i am toiling away, i will just say the REM are recording somewhere in Vancouver – nothing more. 

(photo above uncredited – assumed to be Kaplan’s like this one)

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