Saturday 29 January 2011

Hugo Largo: Unreleased third album, KCRW and more

My unrequited, unhealthy and colossal ultranerd fanboy obsession with REM in the latter half of the 1980s has been documented elsewhere on the blog....and will be referred back to with nauseating regularity I'm sure. It did lead me to some interesting and inspiring music including Big Star, Game Theory, Let's Active...and Hugo Largo. You can only imagine the joy I felt when I heard that Stipe had produced an album for an NY band. The ArtSchool poseur in me wept with delight that the band consisted of two Bassists, an Electric Violinist, a Vocalist and NO Drummer and the album was called 'Drum'. How postmodern. I ordered it all the way from America, not knowing what to expect. Suffice to say, that album is one of my favourite albums of all time

I began to obsess about the band. In those pre-internet days, I had to trawl through fanzines and lord knows what else to get any kind of info about them -the occasional comment in the UK music press, a review in 'Flipside'...and that was it. The album got a British release (with extra tracks, no less!) and I scooped that up. And then finally, they came to the UK for a gig. Oh my days. They played at the Cambridge Theatre, London on July 9th 1988 and were first on the bill supporting The Durutti Column and David Byrne. ...quite a concert, let me tell you. They played for about 30 minutes and my twentysomething mind turned to jelly. Intense is not the word. I dragged my girlfriend of the time back to London to see them headline at The ICA later that year...she hated every minute but I was in raptures, but that's the effect they had on people.

(Hugo Largo 'Fancy' from 'Intruders at the Palace' 1988)

(Hugo Largo 'Eureka' from 'Intruders at the Palace' 1988)

Inevitably, they signed to Brian Eno's Land record label for a not-quite-so-transcendant second album ('Mettle') and toured the UK, supporting That Petrol Emotion...a pairing that I couldn't quite understand. And then...nothing. Violinist Hahn Rowe has gone onto sessions and production, Bassist Tim Sommer  was a top-dollar record company executive and is involved in a number of projects including ambient soundscapers Hi Fi Sky. The other Bassist, Adam Peacock...has dissapeared. Vocalist Mimi Goese has done the solo thing as well as collabrating with Dance Music Polymath, Moby.

These recordings came as a trade about 20 years ago from an American fan, whose name I have sadly lost...if you're reading this, please accept my apologies and a million thank-yous. The first part is their Tim Sommer-less third album, which is sadly unreleased and (IMHO) is better than 'Mettle' but not quite as good as 'Drum'. The rest collects an amazing KCRW session (hosted by the fabulous  Deirdre O'Donoghue ) along with demos and three songs from a live gig from an unknown venue.

There is every chance you have never heard of this band, but my advice is this: If you have an interest in music that ain't just 'moon-june-spoon', enjoy bands like the Cocteau Twins and The Blue Nile, appreciate the use of mood and atmosphere, you dig creative bassplaying and are generally a supercool hep-cat who members of the opposite sex find powerfully exciting, then you MUST download this. Do you want small children to point at you in street and smirk? You don't do you?

This just might be the best music you have never heard.

Hugo Largo: Third/KCRW/Etc

Part One
Reasons for the beach
Patient goodbye
Dead centre
It's unclear
Violets Violins violence
Deal away
Heads or tails (instr)
Heads or tails

Bali Hai
Tell the truth

Violets violins violence
It's unclear
Hot day

Part Two
KCRW (July 30, 1987)
Blue blanket
Turtle Song
In my own
Tall girl (Scream tall)
Arms akimbo
Hot day
Shaking your head
Grow wild
Dazed and confused (Led Zep)
Jungle Jim
Fancy (Kinks)
Dead or alive (Bon Jovi)


  1. TPE were big fans and offered them the slot - simple as that

  2. Oh, hello. Tim Sommer here. Thank you for the enormously kind words -- these things still mean a great deal to me, even after all these years. I only wish I could download these files -- my first efforts were unsuccessful -- but perhaps I'll figure it out soon.

    A few thoughts: As for the '85 Demo...hmmm, this is mislabeled. These are three songs from two different sessions. Bali Hai and Tell The Truth are from the earliest real session we ever did– March ’85, maybe? Wharton Tiers was the producer. Tell the Truth is one of our earliest songs, from the Greg Letson period (the original Hugo Largo was Me, Mimi, and Greg Letson – Greg left in January ’85 right before a show supporting Billy Bragg, and Mimi’s boyfriend, Adam, joined at very short notice). Second Skin is also a Letson-era song, and the only song we performed at our first gig (April ’84) that ended up making it to vinyl. Oh, and it may interest you to know that Hahn wasn't officially in the band or on stage with us until mid 1986. From fairly early days, he was our soundman, occasionally playing violin from the soundboard. He joined officially – and got on stage – in mid 1986. Harpers was from much later sessions for the first album. Incidentally, Harpers wasn’t always an instrumental, but when we recorded it, it just sounded so good that way.
    I wish we could find the TRUE first demo – this has a few more Letson-era songs on it, and are an interesting document of what the violin-less band sounded like during the first year of its existence.

    The KCRW session was a LOT of fun, and Blue Blanket is one of my favorite ‘lost’ Hugo Largo songs. Someone should cover it. The KCRW session is a pretty exact rendering of our live set circa summer ’87, when we toured America with the Feelies.

    I honestly don’t recall why we didn’t record Blue Blanket. As for other ‘lost’ Largo songs…there were two that were recorded for the Mettle album, and omitted from the final running order specifically at the direction of Brian Eno. One of these was ARMS AKIMBO, which was released on the (very poorly mastered) re-release of Mettle; the other was a cover of an extraordinary Japanese song, and was the only thing we ever recorded with drums. Brian thought that both of these didn’t belong on Mettle. The Japanese song must exist somewhere.

    The REAL Largo completist might try to find MOTHER SKY, which is a live recording of the Can song featuring That Petrol Emotion plus me, Hahn, and Adam. It came out as the b-side of something in 1989…

    I can’t entirely remember how the TPE tour came about, but it worked better than it should have. On any given night, a certain percentage of the audience absolutely was entranced with Largo, so generally, this worked, though I am sure another pairing could have worked better. The Petrols were falling apart at the time and so were we, so it was a difficult tour in many ways. But I remember the shows fondly.

    It should come as no surprise that I am not particularly fond of the unreleased third album; it sounds a little diffuse to me, the songs seem to lack a certain structure and push that my sensibility probably brought to the band. Also, since I founded and cast the band (and I can discuss my use of the word cast on a different occasion, if you want!), it was very difficult for me to consider the post-Tim band a legitimate Hugo Largo, but that’s probably understandable childishness possessiveness. I was so proud of Hugo Largo and that sound…

    I wrote something a while ago for a Facebook page about the formation of the band – I would be happy to send it to you!

    Thanks again so much for your interest after all these years, and I hope to hear the music soon…Tim

  3. Hi Tim. I don't quite know what to say...Thank you for being so gracious - if I knew a member of the band was going to read the post, I'd have written it better! I'm sorry that you can't download the files – I’ve just tested it and it seems to be working, so I’ll write some instructions at the bottom of this comment.

    The tapes came from a really interesting guy in the states (I think he was a computer artist back in the days when not everybody was) and he sent me that in exchange for a VCR copy of 'Intruders...' I hope he reads this and your comment.

    I saw the band quite a few times in the UK – two or three times on the TPE tour and you’re right about the crowd response. In my home town of Birmingham, some meathead threw an empty plastic beerglass at Mimi and you and Adam immediately formed a protective wedge around her, with your best don’t-mess-with-me faces on. I thought that was great – and it worked!

    That CAN cover sounds fascinating – I thought the only non-album track to sneak out was ‘Gloria’ (from the UK 12” of ‘Turtle Song’ and elsewhere). Let’s see if Mr Google can help…

    I’d love to read your piece on the early years of the band and reproduce it here with your permission. Any information is like gold-dust – websites pop up now and again with tantalising promises of HL content, but then fade away. As much as I enjoy the concept of the transience and impermanence of Art, I wanna know stuff!

    I did meet you briefly in Birmingham UK – it was at the TPE gig and I tried to engage you in conversation just as Steve Mack was berating the handful of idiots who gave you a hard time. My timing has always been off…

    If you need to get in touch, feel free to use the blog or you can leave contact details in a comment, publish it and then instantly delete it – that way I’ll get it (as all comments get forwarded to my personal email) but it wont remain.

    Now, about those files…they’re Winzip files, so once you’ve saved them to your PC, you’ll need to open them with an unzipping-type program. Winzip and 7-Zip are fine. Once you’ve installed either of those programs, right click on the file and you’ll see the program names – scroll up to whichever you have installed - in the menu that appears scroll over to the option ‘Extract here’ or ‘Extract to here’ – click on that and it should automatically make a folder which then gets filled with Your Back Pages. I hope that helps.

    It goes without saying that if you want the post withdrawn it will happen instantly.

    Once again, thank you so much for getting in touch…it was both thrilling and slightly embarrassing at the same time. I wish you success with all your current and future projects.

    Love, light and peace,


  4. Tim, Steve Mack would prob have the version of Mother Sky - otherwise Damian may have it. I can ask him next week (if I remember!)

  5. Cheers Houseman. (Should that be Mr Houseman? Mrs Houseman? Herr Houseman? Goddamn these impeccable manners...)This may be old news to you, but if you want to hear Mr Mack doing a very creditable Johnny Rotten, check out the Long Ryders 'Metallic BO' download that PowerPop Criminals have posted at the moment - the link is on the right of the page.

  6. Tim Sommer Wrote: I remember the pint glass incident! I think we had literally hit the first note of the first song -- probably Scream Tall? -- and this pint glass comes sailing out of this little group of leathers in the front and hits Mimi SQUARE in the face. And she didn't miss a beat, not a single beat. She acted as if nothing happened, which was brilliant. I distinctly remember stepping to the front (I was on Mimi's right side) and getting as close to her as possible. Oddly, this is the ONLY time I remember anything like that happening in ALL of the gigs we played. Thanks for mentioning GLORIA. This is the very last thing the Sommer/Goese/Rowe/Peacock line-up ever cut, and I am very, very fond of it. More under the video and via email -- Tim

  7. awesome...thank you. i'm a big fan from '87.

  8. Very glad to come across this. I loved both Mettle and Drum and I've bought them twice each -- one on vinyl and CD, the other on vinyl and download.

    There was a website circa 1999 that had some rare HL stuff, but it was in the form of wav files, and very small ones at that. A full song in a half meg wav is not going to sound very impressive. So this is a very nice surprise.

  9. Hi - this is Hahn Rowe. My sister just sent me a link to this blog post.

    I would like to point out that there is NO unreleased 3rd album.

    This is most likely (link is down) a live performance board tape from one of the last Hugo Largo shows at the original Knitting Factory in NYC. How did you get this? I don't even have a copy ;)

    There were some nice tunes and a couple of clunkers as I recall (it was never intended to be for public consumption). In any case, I hope you enjoy listening to it!

  10. Hello,

    please, can you post this ones again?

  11. Big thanks for the links. Always happy to hear more Hugo LArgo. At the risk of making the completist's life even more difficult, I remember reading in some reviews of their last shows about a song called "So Serene". Does anyone know what happened to it?

  12. Very sad to not have known about this before the Mediafire links went down -- please let me know if it becomes available again. Have you heard the recent Mimi Goese/Ben Neill album, "Songs for Persephone"? It's terrific.

  13. Excellent page! Do you have the B Sides to the Turtle Song single?

  14. HOW ON EARTH DID THIS POST ESCAPE ME I LOOK THEM UP AT LEAST ONCE A YEAR! Guess the links are gone by now :( well at least someone has their missing 3rd album!

  15. Hey, thank you! the links are working! A friend from athens gave me a tape of drum in 1990, a friend of the rem boys. i have searched since the tape died. This will do! I did just find brian eno talking and playing mettle. i will find them one day!

  16. Any possible way ANYONE comes in contact with the 1985 demo cassette (Waking/Fancy/Lie and Forget/Gropius/Simon Says) - I absolutely implore you to put it up on youtube or I will carry this want to my grave.

  17. Finally got around to the download...THANK YOU SO VERY VERY MUCH. I love this band so much they are very dear to me - a comfort of sorts. and I have never heard most of this. Thrilled