GOLDEN PALOMINOS  “Omaha” b/w “I.D. (Like A Version)” (Celluloid Records SCEL 56, 1985)

It’s a long-and-winding story with lots of stopgaps, but I’ll try to keep it short.  Winter, 1981.  Found an album called Memory Serves by a group named Material in the jazz department of my local record shop.  Bought it on-sight, simply because I noticed that Brian Eno played gong (or something) on one track.  Dumb reason to buy an album, right?  Well, just know that at that moment I was searching for something more, whatever that may have been.  Anyway, upon hearing the album, I was floored by the rich, heavy, dub-influenced basslines emanating from the fingers of one (check the record sleeve)…Bill Laswell.  OK, well suffice to say that over the next few years I spent much hard-earned money on anything with his name on it.  That list grew & grew, but one of the finer things I discovered was, in early 1985, this thrilling little single by Golden Palominos.

The Palominos were, for all intents and purposes, a constantly rotating lazy-susan of musicians revolving around former Feelies/Pere Ubu/Lounge Lizards drummer Anton Fier.  The particular incarnation on side A of this platter combines Fier and Laswell with SF skronk-meister Henry Kaiser and ex-dB Chris Stamey on guitars and R.E.M.’s (then-underexposed) Michael Stipe on vocals.  With Fier providing gated snare aplenty, the result is a big, booming, power-fucking-house take on the Moby Grape classic, “Omaha.”

Listen to GOLDEN PALOMINOS “Omaha” on Last.FM

(Note well that, at this point in time, the available R.E.M. catalog only went up to Reckoning. The eerie and ominous Fables Of The Reconstruction had yet to hit stores, and their bigger, more stadium-ready major-label excursions were years away, both in actuality as well as in fans’ consciousness.  So this 45, along with “Boy (Go)” and “Clustering Train” from the GP’s then-forthcoming Visions Of Excess LP, was essentially our first glimpse of what Michael Stipe was capable of in front of a REALLY BIG-SOUNDING BAND, like a crystal ball viewing into the future.  And not just the future of R.E.M., but of rock and pop overall.)


Now allow me to diverge for a moment and talk about the source material.  Not a “supergroup” like the Palominos, but a super group nonetheless, Moby Grape were one of the best rock bands to emerge from the Frisco Bay area in the ’60’s.  They never seem to get canonized alongside The Airplane, The Dead or Sly Stone, which is unfortunate, but time has shown that the music of Skip Spence & Co. (like that of The Velvet Underground, Syd Barrett, or Big Star) possesses the immortality of influence.  And ain’t that “fuck you” album cover the greatest?  Check out the Grape’s 1967 original rendition of “Omaha”, replete with glorious pop harmonies and slapshot drumming, racing by at 100 MPH, like The Beatles on speed.  Oh, wait…The Beatles were on speed.  Nevermind.

Returning to the 45 at hand, side B finds Fier & Laswell with Fred Frith, Arto Lindsay & John Zorn (on game calls, mind you) out-avanting the avantest of the avant garde in a remake of the GP’s own ’83 downtown No-Wave agit-funk workout, “I.D.” (subtitled “Like A Version,” after a then-hit by a chick singer whose name escapes me).  I’ll let you search for that one on your own.  If you’re still reading.  BLACK NAPKINS!!  Got Zappa fans’ attention…

Anton Fier (with and without Bill Laswell, who went on to become a producer-extraordinaire of the ’80’s & ’90’s) continued to guide Golden Palominos through many incarnations (recruiting talents as diverse as John Lydon and Bootsy Collins) and many lovely albums, culminating in 1996’s breathtaking Dead Inside.

NEXT WEEK: Hey, hey, where you goin’ with that Birmingham Dubmobile in your hand?