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"The caves are really great," Parker chips in. "Dugout Dick uses old car windows and mud for doors--and you can even cook in them. Joe and I spent last Christmas up there."
"When I talked to Joe, though, he'd just left Idaho and moved to New Orleans," Bartenhagen continues. "And I told him, `Hey, we need a manager. Why don't you come up here?' And he said okay."
With Lusi effectively recruited, Bartenhagen and his fellows recorded a demo tape and shipped it to every record company they could find. The response they received from most of them ranged between indifference and discomfort--about what you'd expect from people much more familiar with commercial product than art. The exception was Shimmy Disc's Kramer, who sent back a letter overflowing with compliments. "He said he couldn't sign anybody right then," Farina reports, "but he offered to help us in any way he could."
He proved to be as good as his word. After receiving the expected number of rejections, the Lumps called Kramer and asked for advice about putting out a disc on their own. He countered by offering to produce it himself at his studio in New Jersey; furthermore, he invited them to stay at his home during the recording process. The players purchased a 1976 Ford Chateau van for the grand total of $100 and hit the highway. Remarkably, they made it to Kramer's place alive.
"As soon as we got there, he sat us down and gave us a little talk about the music business," Farina says. "He has a subversive way of looking at things. He told us, `Do what you've got to do to get in the door, and then start doing weird things.'"
Five days of intense recording later, the entirety of Clean Hits was down on tape--and Tom Peppard and Martin Wachter of Sh-Mow Records promptly agreed to release it. The platter, complete with an enthusiastically bizarre art design, reached the marketplace in early September, and since that time it's garnered a variety of reviews. Parker recounts, "One was great, one was okay, and the other one was like, `What the hell is this?'"
Reactions from audiences outside Fort Collins have been just as diverse. For every positive experience, there's been its polar opposite--for instance, a date in Laramie, Wyoming, that went bad as soon as Farina attempted to spice up "Paranoid" by inviting those gathered to sing along. "But even with all that, we met some good people there," he volunteers.
"Yeah," Mather adds, "but we had to get them stoned first to find out how good they were."
Worse was an appearance in Gunnison that was attended by all of two people, both of whom left before the group had finished. "We were still playing when the bartenders stuck their head into the room and said, `Could you quit playing? Since there's nobody here, we'd like to close and go home.'"
"After we packed up, we found out that everybody else in town was at this karaoke bar," Farina goes on. "So we went down there, and Stephen got to sing `Surrender.' That way it wasn't a total loss."
Things are bound to get better. Won Lump Some may never appeal to everyone, but its compositions resound with the sorts of quirks from which cult followings are built. And for the adventurous music lover, the band is extremely appealing live. All of the Lumps are multi-instrumentalists who delight in trading axes such as Parker's demented Casiotone and a bizarre, semi-zither called a perepelochka that Mather got his hands on after "my girlfriend stole it from her job at Children's World." The group is looking for another contraption--an ancient keyboard setup--to supplement this array of gear, in part, according to Parker, "because we need to give Gordy something to do."
It's probably just as well that Gordy wasn't on stage at Herman's; the crowd there had more than enough to digest as it was. Afterward, though, the attendees thanked Won Lump Some with a relatively warm round of applause--and later, several people came up to the musicians to express just how much they'd enjoyed the show. Bartenhagen is relieved. "Thank goodness," he says, "that there are some open-minded people in the world.
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