The Spent Poets - Information, Discography, Lyrics, Links (unofficial)
If you want to chat about the band or have live or rare Spent Poets recordings (see list below) drop me an email (address at bottom of page).
I'm looking for any live records, as well as the following tracks: The Absolute Core of Happiness, Mrs. Paglia, Drink The Thermos of Blood 666, and Picture Book (Kinks cover).
Monkey Rhythm was the name of Adam's previous band and the initial name of The Spent Poets. The new name was selected during the recording of the self-titled album, with a brief interlude as The Holy Ghost People.
The second album (Steve, recorded by Gates/Greenberg/Winegar) was shelved by Geffen when the band was dropped. Matt was quoted in the April 26, 1997 issue of Billboard: "Spent Poets broke up, basically because I wanted to sing my own songs".
The legal partnership/business formed by the band during the recording of the album was named "Uncle Lou's Traveling Circus of Pain".
Track times shown in the CD art are wrong for all tracks.
12" has white labels with no writing - can only be identified by the matrix numbers.
Cover art uses a photograph of author James Joyce. The photographer and most of the details are unknown, but the photo is typically described as having been taken in France in 1919 or the early 1920s. Many versions of the photo online are cropped or colorized, etc.
John Berg - organ sampled instruments, mellotron; background vocals on "Your Existential Past"; background vocals on "Grassheads"; piano on "Special";
intro piano on "The Rocks In Virginia's Dress"; mutations on "You Don't Know Me"; acoustic tamboura on "Why Are You Sleeping With Mr. Brown?"
Adam Gates - voice; acoustic guitar on "My Useless Heart"; background vocals on "Your Existential Past"; background vocals on "Grassheads";
mutations on "Dogtown"; outro fuzz bass guitar and mutations on "The Rocks In Virginia's Dress"; mutations on "You Don't Know Me"
Derek Greenberg - bass guitar; bass guitar and skank guitar on "Mr. Einstein"; mellotron and sampled oboe on "My Useless Heart";
acoustic and electric guitars, and background vocals on "Your Existential Past"; background vocals on "Grassheads";
lead and slide guitars on "Special"; backwards guitar on "Dogtown"; mellotron on "Ali Ali Ackbar"; bass guitar on "Why Are You Sleeping With Mr. Brown?"
Michael Urbano - drums
Matthew Winegar - guitars, sampled instruments, organ, vocals, mellotron;
bass guitar, piano and mellotron on "Mr. Einstein"; acoustic and electric guitars, accordian, melodica and background vocals on "Your Existential Past";
drums and background vocals on "Grassheads"; lead and slide guitars on "Special"; lead organ on "Dogtown"; all instruments on "You Can't Kill Michael Malloy";
fretless bass on "Walt Whitman's Beard"; mellotron on "Ali Ali Ackbar"; piano solo, harmonica, and fretless bass on "The Rocks In Virginia's Dress";
outro detuned fuzz bass and mutations on "The Rocks In Virginia's Dress"; mutations, piano and electric piano on "You Don't Know Me";
fuzz bass on "Why Are You Sleeping With Mr. Brown?"; all instruments on "A Bad Case Of Melancholy"
Matt Wallace - background vocals on "Your Existential Past", unwanted scat vocal on "Why Are You Sleeping With Mr. Brown?"
Stephen "Doc" Kupka - saxophone on "Grassheads"
Steve Berlin - saxophone on "Grassheads"
Lisa Maxwell - saxophone on "Grassheads"
Lupe Refrain - aleatoric phone lunatic on "Grassheads"
Uncle Doug - Uncle Doug on "Grassheads"
Les Claypool - outro drums on "The Rocks In Virginia's Dress"
Larry LaLonde - outro feedback guitar on "The Rocks In Virginia's Dress"
"Mr. Einstein", "My Useless Heart", "Dogtown", "Walt Whitman's Beard", "He's Living With His Mother Now", "Ali Ali Ackbar", "The Rocks In Virginia's Dress", and "Why Are You Sleeping With Mr. Brown" by Adam Gates.
"You Can't Kill Michael Malloy" by Matthew Winegar.
"Grassheads", "You Don't Know Me" and "A Bad Case Of Melancholy" by Adam Gates and Matthew Winegar.
"Your Existential Past" by Adam Gates and John Berg.
"Special" by Adam Gates and Derek Greenberg.
"You Don't Know Me" is the original eight-track demo version. It was re-recorded for the album but not used. The following tracks are also the original demos: "A Bad Case of Melancholy", "He's Living With His Mother Now", and "You Can't Kill Michael Malloy".
"A hearty "whatever" to Steven Rosen, Jack Joseph Puig, Matt Wallace, Mio Vukovic, Rusty Reniers, William Ireland Coleman, Peeetar, Mell, Jeffrey Taylor Light, our pals at Peer Music and Geffen, Mark at Paradigm, and those ugly bastards Primus"
Produced by Matt Wallace
Co-produced by The Spent Poets
Recorded and mixed by Jack Joseph Puig
"A Bad Case of Melancholy", "He's Living With His Mother Now", and "You Can't Kill Michael Malloy" produced by The Spent Poets
Recorded at Track Record
Mixed-up at Studio 55
Additional tracking at Coast Studios and The Jesus Room
Assistant Engineers: Pete Magdaleno at Track Record; Eddie Sexton and Jamie Seyberth at Studio 55
Mastered by Doug Sax at The Mastering Lab
The Japanese CD includes a Japanese-language brief bio of the band in the booklet, the colors on the picture disc are much lighter.
Some promotional copies are identical except for the word promotional added to the disc artwork (pictured).
Geffen has re-issued the album in a mid-price version (look for the Geffen Goldline logo in the lower left corner of the back cover). The Goldline disc is not a picture disc. There are unconfirmed reports of differing sound quality.
Derek said in a YouTube comment: "I haven't heard this in AGES. I agree that Steve, the unreleased album, is far superior to this album, in terms of overall sound, musical performances and song-writing. I cringe when listening to most of these tracks. However, I do enjoy the following tracks: 'Mr. Einstein' - simply because to this day I think the lyrics are hilarious and clever - 'He's Living With His Mother Now' - because the Spent Poets recorded this as a demo on my old Tascam 38 1/2" 8-track recorder in our rehearsal studio - and because the lyrics (all about the mental breakdown of Syd Barrett) are well written, and 'Ali Ackbar' - simply because it's a catchy tune with wickedly clever lyrics. And I have happy memories of recording "You Don't Know Me" on the Tascam 38, where the demented middle section was created courtesy of Matt Winegar's deft manual control of the Tascam 38's primitive analog controls to create the results. I watched him create that entire middle section - where the tiniest mistake would result in erasure of precious pre-recorded material - and was amazed. Finally, I like the Mr. Brown track because the lyrics are clever and subversive, and some good decisions were made when editing the final track into one piece. Notice Matt Winegar's brilliant guitar playing throughout, most of which was edited out, but you get to enjoy moments of his brilliance."
Matt commented on Tape Op about the recording diary: "i think i'm referred to as "winegar" in the diary. what a lot of pain and misery to make a crappy record no one bought. the diary's really good though. i love the moving of kicks and snare's by 5ms what a waste of time."
The back cover photo is of The Jesus Room, which was Matt Winegar's home studio. John Kalodner's face has been inserted over John Lennon's due to copyright issues.
The last 1:23 of "Grassheads" is taken from an unreleased song named "Sleepwalker".
The last 15 seconds of "Special" is taken from Beanpole's "Raccoon Boy".
Artist: The Spent Poets
Title: [No title, it is effectively "Selections from Steve"]
Catalog Number: None given
Release Date: ??
Format: one-sided promotional cassette
The Black Pope
Reasons To Drink (Single Version) (3:40)
Labeled "Promotional Copy. Not for Sale."
The "Single Version" of "Reasons To Drink" which runs 3:40 compared to the 2:33 album version. The differences are a 1) a repeat of the second chorus, 2) a repeat of the instrumental section without the guitar solo, and 3) a slightly longer fade out.
This one of the few (only?) officially manufactured Steve items that have surfaced.
See the entry for Steve for more recording details.
Artist: Monkey Rhythm
Title: [No Title, a collection of demos]
Release Date: [probably assembled in 1990-1991]
Mr. Einstein (3:40)
Work Of The Devil (3:20)
Art of Forgetting (3:23)
Virginia's Dress (4:54) [The Rocks In Virginia's Dress]
What Makes You So Special? (4:29) [Special]
Mind Over Matter (3:06)
I Hate Love Songs (4:08)
Are You Sleeping With Mr. Brown? (3:51) [Why Are You Sleeping With Mr. Brown?]
Adam wrote: "The album was made at Coast Recorders (when Dan Alexander owned the joint) and was engineered/produced by David Bianco. A few of the tracks were also recorded in Matt Winegar's bedroom (Matt did all the recording and played many of the instruments on all of the poets stuff) on a charmed Tascam 388. For this album the band consisted of myself, Matt and Derek Greenberg. We had fun making this music."
Derek said in a YouTube comment: "I met with Adam a few days ago and told him that I had just listened to the Steve album on YouTube recently and was pleasantly surprised by the experience. He was quick to point out its shortcomings, which are plentiful, but when I reminded him of nice moments such as the final chorus of 'Sleep', with that glorious slapback echo on his voice, he admitted that it was a good moment. I have a million complaints about the unreleased Steve album, but I also admit that there are some nice bits of music in there. For what it's worth, this is the only Spent Poets album that showcases Matt Winegar's incredible guitar playing - something that to this day I consider to be mind-blowing in its artistry and skill."
Matt on Tape Op: "We were dropped soon after Mio Vukivich (same A&R guy who dropped Wilco from Warners) told us to stop making "Circus music"."
Back cover text: "The exotic sounds of THE SPENT POETS Beautiful music evokes sentimental memories, and The Spent Poets have chosen the warmest ballads for their new album "Steve" - nostalgic songs that recapture tender moments of deep romance. As they have demonstrated time and time again,
The Poets have an infallible touch - a deft, sure feeling for mood and melody that has made distinctive a shelf of wonderful albums for the Geffen label. In "Steve", they create another alluring setting for romantic reveries.
The Poets have proven that there is nothing so through and absorbing as evocative music. With a particularly vivid poignancy, a familiar melody can call to mind a certaain girl, a certain tender emotion,
a certain stain. David Bianco conducts the orchestra, conjuring a special kind of mood and an irresistible blend of enchantment in these twelve romantic standards.
The selections in this album are especially beautiful examples of The Spent Poets mastery over a provocative romantic style, tender arrangements of romantic songs that have not only soared
to success, but have remained top ranking favorites among music fans everywhere. So listen to Steve - and remember."
How to hear it
Matt previously shared a WAV file of "Jack Is The Beast" in the Tape Op forums http://home.comcast.net/%7Evelvetsound/JACKISTHEBEAST2.wav
Adam posted the full set of "Steve" mp3s to the now dead MBO tumblr http://mboverdrive.tumblr.com/post/87322122666/i-was-once-in-a-band-called-the-spent-poets-we#disqus_thread, the zip file shared by Adam
Liner notes include the following biography: "On their self-titled debut, San Francisco's Spent Poets shower the listener with highly decorative orchestration, lavish melodies and a penchant for Beatlesque sounds -- they even sample Beatles' producer George Martin. One of the CD's prettiest songs, 'My Useless Heart' is a demonstration of their superb songwriting skills and is a harbinger of great things to come from this band."
Title: CD Compilation #8
Label: MCA Records Canada
Catalog Number: MCAD-9224
Release Date: May 1992
Format: promotional CD
Dogtown (Edit) (4:00)
This is possibly the same item as "DGC Comp. #8" that has shown up in some lists over the years.
CD is one continuous track made to sound like a radio broadcast including: DJ chatter, songs, bumpers, caller requests and advertisements.
DJ chatter after the song: "You've been listening to The Spent Poets, with 'Dogtown' from their self-titled debut album on Geffen. This band emerging out of San Francisco is comprised of John Berg, Adam Gates, Derek Greenberg, Michael Urbano and Michael [sic] Winegar. Quite a unique sound. You'll be hearing a lot more about these guys in the future, I'm sure."
"From San Francisco to England and back to the US, The Spent Poets' soulful vocals and gentle melodies have traveled more in the last year than most new bands. Originally from Northern California, then subsequently signed to England's One Little Indian label, the band quickly found major label distribution and promotional salvation in the form of Geffen Records. 'Dogtown', the first single from the forthcoming CD, builds from a slow, soulful slink into a organ-backed, guitar grind that's suitable for framing."
Cassettes created in conjunction with New Route Magazine.
Liner notes written by Marlene Goldman: "Strange and obtuse stories surround California's The Spent Poets. Reportedly, the quintet recorded parts of this debut LP in a living room, between segments of "The People's Court". And they claim to have taken a post-recording, one-year sabbatical to Morocco (which ended early). Whatever the story, these Poets combine XTC/Beatlesque pop, U2-like vocals, literary references and snippes of bizarre instrumental tinklings for an eclectic brew. "Dogtown" is but one side of their prism."
This track is a non-album bonus song released on Jackson's website (http://www.jacksonbjackson.com/, http://jacksonjackson.homestead.com/index.html)
Worth noting is the lyrical change he makes - the original line is "And as she brings her hands to pray, She gave her life away, Nothing ever changes", but Jackson sings "And as she brings her hand to pray, She gave her life away, Something in her changes"
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