Tuesday, July 22, 2008

BLACK MAGIC - "Burdens of Sanity" 1990?

Way back in 1992, Mike and I recorded a tape as BILL BASSETT BAND, an improv folk duet recorded in one long sleep deprived night. We decided to make tapes of this session and give them to people we knew. We were sure that BBB was the first “band” to dub and spread copies of their tapes in Ottumwa. I gave one of my copies to Steve Peterson, a quiet, but friendly guy I had a class with. After accepting my tape, he asked me if I had ever heard of BLACK MAGIC. He went on to tell me how great they were, and then a couple days later brought me a tape to borrow. I knew after listening to it that he didn’t really think they were a great band, and after some prodding he told me it was a band he and his cousin did a couple years earlier.

I never knew when these tapes were recorded exactly, but they must at least be as early as 1990. BLACK MAGIC recorded 3 tapes, “F.F.A.”, “Skulls” and “Paranoid: Leader of a Nation”, cover art existed for all three, but I’m not sure if copies were ever made of them or if it was ever distributed. Steve brought the covers to school for me to see, but wouldn’t let me borrow them to make copies of them. It wasn’t until a couple years later in 1993 or 1994 when Steve compiled all three tapes and released them as “Burdens of Sanity” that I got a copy of these songs for myself.

BLACK MAGIC formed out of resentment and boredom. Steve’s cousin, A.J. Orlando, was labeled a “problem child” by his family and was sent to Iowa to live with Steve’s family in an attempt to straighten him out. I can’t remember where he was sent from, but I want to say CA. Bored and angry, A.J. enlisted his cousin Steve to be in his band, playing on a Muppet Show drum set accompanying A.J.’s bass and vocals.

All of the BLACK MAGIC songs were recorded on a dual cassette boombox, the earliest songs without overdubs. Somehow they discovered the boombox had a defect and they could do overdubs by playing one recorded tape in the first cassette deck while recording onto the second deck at the same time. The second deck would record “open air” and pick up what the first deck was playing, along with whatever else was going on in the room at the time. Subsequent songs may have had more instrumentation, but the sound really just got worse with each overdub. I had the pleasure of recording on this same boombox with Steve in 1994 when we collaborated on a History project together and did a music interpretation of the Revolutionary War.

These BLACK MAGIC recordings are the earliest known recordings to have been made in Ottumwa by an original band doing D.I.Y. recordings. The whole collection of songs has an overall claustrophobic feeling to them. You can almost place yourself in the room with A.J. and Steve during the recording while listening to them, experiencing their boredom and frustration. Listening to them now, it’s probably one of those “you had to be there to realize it’s importance” things, but this stuff brings up all sorts of memories, good and bad, while listening to it - something good music should do, even it’s played on a Muppet Show drum set.


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