Title: Rehearsal Tapes and Alt-Takes NYC 1976-1978
Format: Triple Cass Box
"Our first project in a series of archival releases. Over two hours of unreleased recordings by the band Mars (NYC 1977) recovered from the original cassette source. These recordings are of special value because they capture sounds from pre-Mars (when they were called China) sessions up to right before they broke up. Here their sound runs the gamut from piano jams to pummeling and dissonant guitar assaults, the latter of which was certainly ahead of its time and has since functioned as a point of reference for later generations. A selected compilation carefully extracted from hours of tape and studio recordings that have been mastered to suit the cassette tape format in which they were originally recorded." - Anomia. Last copies, these with red covers.
"Connie Burg and I met Sumner Crane and Nancy Arlen in late 1975 and quickly decided to start a band. Sumner had been playing piano since he was a kid and I trumpet, guitar and more recently bass, but we were for the most part self taught. Connie decided to pick up a guitar and we started jamming in Nancys loft on Broadway and Duane St. where Sumner lived downstairs.
For the first few months it was just piano, bass and acoustic guitar, with some paper bag percussion from Nancy. Our biggest rock influence at the time was Velvet Underground so we started jamming on some of their songs till we found our own. Tape one begins with Sumner alone playing over a Sweet Jane riff with his own blues styled fills, then goes onto Pale Blue Eyes, the first song Connie would sing. Our first original song with Sumners lyrics was Cry, also the only song to make the transition from our acoustic to electric line up. The set ends with a blues jam with Sumner improvising a story about a leather jacket. Here were joined by Jody Harris on guitar, who had been playing with us in the loft for a couple months until Sumner, for practical reasons- given that no clubs had pianos – decided to switch to guitar, at which time Jody gracefully bowed out. Jody: “Yeah, dim memory, being in Sumners loft for the first time – maybe hadnt met him yet. It would have been with Nancy. He was in a back room, hunched over the piano like a spider, playing great rolling two-handed blues and muttering away in the most sinister voice I ever heard. It was like something creeping up on you. So I thought, ok, Toto, this is the real thing.”
So we went electric, and Nancy bought a drum set, after we made a ridiculous attempt to find a drummer via a classified ad in the Village Voice. This must have been around September 76, and we practiced a few more months building a set before asking for a Monday audition slot at CBGBs in January 77. For this we needed a name so we started off calling ourselves China, for reasons nobody seems to remember. Hilly Krystal seemed to appreciate our quirky approach and put us on monthly rotation, which we pretty much stayed on till August 78. However, as wed cranked up the rehearsal volume considerably, Nancys neighbors forced us to find another space. We moved to Donny Christensens place on Warren Street, just a few blocks away, where the Cramps and others were already installed.
There we met Lydia Lunch and James Chance, who were squatting next door, and soon started playing together there as well, in Teenage Jesus. This period is well represented by a complete rehearsal set on Tape 1 Side B, although the tape was marked Mars, so it must have been just after we changed our name. Summer 77 was another turning point, as our sound matured we started to experiment more with song forms, dissonance and disassociation, the first example probably being 11000 Volts, several versions of which are on Tape 2, Side A, from towards the end of that year. We were still playing some of our earlier songs in mutated versions, but moving further and further away from our leftfield homespun NY “pop” to some darker unexplored place, guided as always by Sumner.
The next side is taken from a cassette I carried away from the recording session for No New York, with alternate takes and rough Eno mixes of the same four songs on the album. Dont remember much of this session but it does away with the notion that we were a one take recording band, though all takes were recorded live with no overdubs. Sometime in Spring 78 we moved again, to a duplex on Delancey Street where Lydia was living and rehearsing, and our sound continued to evolve, or devolve, with detuned guitars and bass, warped rhythms and more of Sumners unique words and madness.Tape 3 begins with the period right after No New York, with some of the same songs, and others, like Cairo, which were never recorded in studio. Around this time we played at Irving Plaza, in August 78, taped by Eno and released recently on LP, but in rehearsals we were looser, more internalized and often drew the songs out longer.
The first side unfortunately is cut off in the middle of a song that I have no recollection of. Side B is from our last month or so of existence, probably just before we played our last gig at Maxs Kansas City in December, as well as our last recording session forthe Mars EP, soon after. By then wed made our final migration, to an office in the American Thread Building, back in Tribeca again still some time before gentrification. The building was empty at night and inhabited by ghosts of dead garment workers that we channeled in our final electric gasps.
Please excuse all abrupt endings, lo-fi sound and dropouts, its what was left on the tapes once I dug them out of various boxes after years of hibernation. Keep in mind almost all were recorded on pre walkman desktop mono cassette recorders, which nevertheless had a warm condensed sound, faithfully transmitting the atmosphere of those turbulent long gone but thankfully not forgotten times in late 70s Manhattan."- Mark Cunningham, Barcelona 2012. Very highly recommended!