Sunday, 18 September 2011

A Love Letter to Scott Miller

Scott Miller is one of the finest writers of Popular Music the USA has ever produced. That should be beyond question. In a body of work which stretches back to 1981 he has consistently produced music of outstanding quality and invention. It’s a body of work to rival any major artist. Sadly, the vast majority of it has gone unsung with a huge part of it currently being unavailable. Sad, sad, sad.

He wrote to me once. Really. I sent an email to the ‘Ask Scott’ section of the Loud Family website – for the uninitiated, the concept was simple – you ask SM a question and you got an answer, which could be more than you bargained for. Often, straightforward questions about lyrics were answered by lengthy and learned treatises on Joyce and Pynchon. It was all essential stuff. My question was banal by comparison…as I was off to California with my new wife on our honeymoon, I just wanted to know if he knew any cool places to go and see, being a West Coast native.  I received no reply at first, which I shrugged off; after all, if someone asks you a question about some of the greatest authors of the twentieth century and at the same time, someone asks you where to go for decent indie CDs, which one are you going to answer first? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Well, after a few months, some unsolicited mail popped into my inbox from the Great Man himself, apologising for the lateness of the reply, saying that my initial post had slipped down a crack in his ISP. He wished me well, said hi to my wife and also broke the news to me that Will Glenn of the Rain Parade had passed away. I replied, thanked him profusely, congratulated him on a great album (Attractive Nuisance) and promptly deleted his previous email and erased his address. Why? The thought of having a hotline to his personal PC was too much to bear – the temptation to fire off some unsolicited fawning would have been too great. Trust me, its better this way.

Mitch Easter once said that all Scott Millers tunes have ‘overtures’, and I can see what he means. From the lovely arpeggiated ripple that opens ‘24’ to the cut ‘n’ paste samplefest that makes up the intro to ‘He do the police in different voices’, you can never tell what the rest of the song is going to be like after listening to the first 8 or 16 bars. Chord progressions twist and turn and fold back on themselves while the lyrics are both fascinating and unfathomable simultaneously. The scope is always cinematic, belying the fact that the records were often made with little or no budget. The attention to detail is incredible. It’s as if Brian Wilson had turned his attention from The Beach Boys and started working with Utopia.

Aimee Mann is a huge fan. Quite right too.

He made the College Rock ‘White Album’ with the majestic, sprawling ‘Lolita Nation’. He then followed it up with the Alt Rock 'Abbey Rd' in ‘Two Steps From The Middle Ages’. And at the peak of his game, he walked away and started again with a new band, which turned out to be even better than the one before. Seriously, what is not to love about that? Oh yeah, he also managed to make a live album which wasn’t just some contract filling, holding pattern, easy money, no brainer,  “What shall we do while the Guitarist is in rehab?”, waste of Polyvinyl Chloride that most of the genre are. ‘From Ritual To Romance’ works as a great intro to The Loud Family, a tip of the hat to some cool influences and a great ensemble performance. If there was any justice, it would have sold more copies than ‘Frampton Comes Alive’.

Scott’s last release was five years ago. It was great. Sadly, the lure of the day job has meant he’s turned away from Music and now supports his family doing something really clever with computers (I think…) And being a family man with a (less than stellar) musical past behind him, I can empathise and applaud the accuracy of his priorities. The selfish part of me still wishes he’d grab that Telecaster, fire up that solid state amp and bang out an albums worth of little symphonies for the kids.

Jeez, don’t I drone on? Here’s the point of all this scree…some Game Theory live recordings. My plan is to upload these over a month or two, in the same way as I did the Rain Parade/Be Bop Deluxe stuff. My thanks, as ever, go to the original uploaders of all this stuff and I hope I’m not treading on anyone’s toes by posting it here. This one is the earliest recording I have – October 1984 – and is from the delightfully named Fat Fonzies in Sacramento. It’s a decent audience recording…and check out the track listing – rarities abound.

Seriously, does this guy have to die to achieve the recognition he deserves?

...and if anyone has the mythical 'Lolita Nation' demos, can they pleasepleaseplease point them at me...a sizeable donation to the charity of your choice awaits...

(I’m indebted to the lovely Oxy for jogging my memory about a promise I made months ago to post some more Scott Miller stuff. )

Game Theory: Fat Fonzies 5 Oct 84

01 Penny things wont
02 Real nighttime
03 Curse of the frontierland
04 Waltz the halls away
05 24
06 Friend of the family
07 Nine lives to Rigel 5
08 Aliens of our midst
09 I wanna get hit by a car
10 Shark pretty
11 Rayon drive
12 I wanna hold your hand


  1. Let it be known that this post was much appreciated.

  2. Thanks Ric...more rare GT to come.

  3. And a very nice love letter it is! The first time I heard Scott Miller and Game Theory, I knew I was hearing something very, very special. I kept buying everything they (and Loud Family) released and not once, was I let down. From the very start up to the last of Scott's foray into music with Anton Barbeau in the excellent, "What If it Works? CD, it was pure quality. (The DVD is also surprising quite good!)

    Unfortunately, this is one of the concerts I do have, but on the other hand, I never knew where it was recorded! I have Atalanta and Baltimore in 84, too, if you're interested in those sometime down the line, but not much after that except for what you and Angelo have posted. I look forward to seeing a concert I've never heard before and I know there's a ton out there. Oh, one more thing. I have the ALRN 7" if your interested.

    I'll keep checking back for more live SM over the coming weeks. The man, without a doubt, is the most intelligent man ever to pick up a guitar and compose. Someone once said smart music for smart people and I totally agree.

    Yes, I can ramble, too. I'll wrap this up by thanking you for writing such a glowing tribute to the man. He's been offered and turned down straight cash for another CD, but you do have to admire a man who puts his family first. Thanks, Rushbo! I may have this music, but you were well worth the read. Oh, I'll also add heavily into the kitty for an up of the "Lolita Nation" mythical demos! Not even a second thought about it.

  4. I think Oxy may have found what y'all are looking for. :D

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  6. Just as a nod I'd keep an eye on a friend of both Rushbo and mine who has been working on a big piece on Let's Active as part of an exhaustive Mitch Easter interview.

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  8. The synapses just don't fire like they used to. Can't seem to connect the dots as fast as I once did. I think I need to shout out a belated thanks to TQ, who commented above. Rushbo, myself and future folk are soon to be forever in your debt. Thanks again!!!:D