Since I took some time off to take care of some things, I am going back to Ocean County to spend some time at the Jersey Shore (and I picked a great weather week to do it, apparently).
I am hoping to get together with an old friend and music collaborator, Christian Beach, to reminisce about the old days in what may have been the most oddly constructed musical group in history (and that’s including the Polyphonic Spree)…TMC + The New Generation.
Now, TMC+TNG’s execution was pitiful, but what we were trying to do was pretty ambitious at the time, especially for two kids from New Jersey in their mid-to-late teens.
Here’s the story…Christian and I first met around the mid-80s when a one-time mutual friend named Andy Benton invited me to join them in their project, White Noise. But after Andy disappeared following the infamous “Swiss Miss” incident, Christian and I went our separate ways for awhile until I found out that somebody I worked with was in a high school class with Christian. We regained contact and tried doing some synth-based, new age stuff…as you can tell, that went nowhere. However, we soon were told about an Asbury Park-based rapper who went by the name of TMC (and whose real name we were never 100 percent sure of because we couldn’t understand him half the time) and was looking for real musicians to back him up instead of using samples and a DJ.
With a background that was mostly in jazz, new age, and progressive and alternative rock, Christian and I started working on some songs we thought could be considered rap. We did this by “borrowing” pieces of mainstream rap songs of the time, but we inevitably added some advanced layers to the rap foundations. Some of the first stuff we worked on actually sounded pretty cool, but the only time we used any of it was at an open mic night at the now-departed Green Parrot Rock Club in Neptune, NJ.
We played behind TMC that night as kind of an audition and we wound up sticking together despite the fact that the performance was one of several in a series of Spinal Tap-like disasters that would plague us during TMC+TNG’s existence. We were using the basic, 8-track sequencer in my Ensoniq ESQ-1 at the time and when I turned it on at the club, somehow every sequence except for one had been deleted. Now, this was one sequence of a song, so it was basically just a verse. Instead of playing two or three songs, we were reduced to playing over the same eight bars or so for what seemed like 10 minutes…with TMC rapping the whole time and waiting for the music to change. It was a nightmare, but it pales in comparison to things that would happen to us later.
That being said, as Christian and I discussed recently, some of the things we tried doing back then were ahead of their time. It’s just that we weren’t experienced or focused enough, perhaps, to pull it off. After a couple of years, I started doubting myself and my place in the music world and decided to leave TMC+TNG, giving Christian the rights to everything we had worked on together. I also felt like I was holding Christian back because he was the musical force behind the band with tons of talent and creativity, but I could tell it wasn’t all coming out. A couple of years later, Christian started getting airplay on WHTG 106.3 with his band, Slave of Id. I was listening to G 106.3 one day in late ’92, I believe, when they ran a promo for a benefit show in Long Branch, NJ. Instead of just saying “Slave of Id” was playing, the promo said “Christian Beach’s Slave of Id.” I always felt that was some cosmic signal to try to get back in touch with Christian, which I did by showing up at the gig.
Anyway, Slave of Id’s first single was “What Does It Mean to You?” — a song that featured a few lines of lyrics I had written during the waning days of TMC+TNG (actually, by that time, Christian and I started getting into industrial music and we changed the name of the band to Interläken Pröbe, since nearby Interlaken, NJ, had a European-looking name and I was driving a Ford Probe at the time…plus, it sounded somewhat experimental).
So, thanks to Christian and Slave of Id, I was able to hear words that I wrote on the radio, which I still find rather cool.
OK…so the purpose of this post. Well, one of the funnier moments in TMC+TNG history was a local cable TV appearance during a Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon. When I set up the gig, I thought it would be cool to get on television…boy, was I wrong! First of all, TMC had his numerous brothers and sisters dance on stage during our performances. I had told him that we were going to be in a small room and that we should probably leave the TV gig to just the three of us. He seemed to acknowledge that fact, but we get to the studio and he tells us that his brothers and sisters are on the way. Fortunately, only his brothers made it because the car the sisters were in broke down and didn’t get there until after we performed.
Anyway, here is the funny sequence of events leading up to our actual performance…the production guys in the room were under the impression that we were going on after the hosts finished up something in the lobby of the studios. I seem to recall they even started a countdown, but instead of cutting to us we heard one of the hosts on a nearby monitor say, “We have two clowns.” As the production guys tell us to relax, Christian’s dad — hiding behind a keyboard case on the floor to take care of any musical problems for us — says to me and Christian, “That must be you two!”
OK…that’s phase 1 of the sequence of events…after the clowns do their thing in the lobby, the host — a guy named Johnny Cal — comes into the room to introduce us and finally get the show on the road. Well, he left the door open a bit and when I went to hit the sequencer to start the first song, I notice out of the corner of my eye the two freakin’ clowns peeking through the crack of the door…clown hair, clown face, clown shoes and all. I almost lost it right there. The look on these clowns faces was priceless and I think they felt threatened by us, thinking we would be funnier than they were.
Well, they had every reason to fear us because we were damned funny. I took a short clip of our intro onto my .Mac site for all to enjoy. I edited the intro to give it more comedic value, but it gives you the sense of how ridiculous the whole thing was.