STORY OF CARGOE Beautiful
Sounds and Memphis Blues
CHAPTER SIX: Such Is the Power of Music.....
all due respect -- Jim and Rob were learning the ropes of a true
recording studio -- mike technique, sound modification, mixing --
where Terry was a seasoned professional. There were some
definite moments and fun and excitement and spark that were in the
Beautiful recordings -- in the mix and the sound, if I remember,
that you just can't beat. But there was a whole different
level that Terry brought to the whole thing." --
MAX WISLEY, bass, Cargoe
And truth be told, that level was not fully realized until
Japan's JVC decided to include Cargoe among all of the other
Ardent product in their 2003 "Roots of Power Pop"
series. For the first time since the album was laid to rest in
1973, the tapes were uncovered and, almost as important,
remastered. Packaged in compact disc-sized cardboard jackets,
they were marketed as mini-LPs and they were exactly that,
utilizing original artwork and the same materials, copied
even to the point of not listing the added track, Tokyo Love
(originally, the B-side of Feel Alright and released on the
CD as a bonus track). Not surprisingly, the music-hungry
Japanese took to it as did a small segment of Cargoe fans
world-wide, in spite of its high import price.
not a financial success, Terry Manning has always used it as a
yardstick for quality work. He is quick to place Cargoe
alongside Led Zeppelin, Z.Z. Top, George Thorogood and the
Destroyers and others as prime examples of who he is as a
producer and engineer.
It was not
surprising that when he discovered the WMC-FM tapes along with
those by Rock City that his first thoughts were to release them.
"I asked the
question on the liner notes for the Live album,"
he told Pseu Braun, "was the music good enough to have made
it if it had been on a major label? I surmise, probably so,
with the proper resources behind it. I can't really say, for
sure. Everyone would have to decide that now, but the music
has not gone away. Here we are, thirty years later, talking
about it, playing it for a potential audience of millions of
people, so there was something to it that we just weren't able to
pull off at the time. It took history and a lot of years and
the help of Big Star being so popular to help the other Ardent
groups toward their oncoming popularity today. It took all of
those years for people to say, wow, that is pretty good."
live recording was done at one of the very earliest FM
stereocasts," Wisley said. "FM was still in its
infancy then and, again, we were so fortunate to have Terry and
Ardent with us to be able to think forward on this thing and put
something together. Terry captured the mix, too. Because
we were a great live band. I think that this is one of the
only, if not the only live recordings that we did."
everyone's knowledge, that is true. Recorded shortly after
the studio album's release in early 1972, the tapes show a more
alive and powerful side of the band.
"There is a
major difference between the live CD and the studio album. The
live recording is the Zappa, James Brown, jamming kind of band,
which is what we really were. The studio album is the band
which sat in and did the coke bottle stuff and really worked on
the harmonies until they were perfected."
live act was as good if not better than the album," Benton
wrote. And, he might have added, more fun.
were in the large studio at Ardent," Phillips
remembered. "Terry was mixing and we all had headphones
on, so it wasn't exactly like being on stage. But it was the
whole studio thing. We basically ran through the set, which
was the album, in the order we thought it ought to go."
were so tight," Wisley said. "I listen to some of
that and it sounds like we're off, but we're so on. Tommy. My
God. There's no doubt that he was the most awesome rock and
roll guitar player."
really cool that I got to do the call letters of the radio
station," laughed Phillips. "I did it on the half hour
because it was FCC law or something.
"We got to
hear a recording of it and a lot of it was, to us at the time,
more than a great night. It was an amazing night. I
remember Tokyo Love,
the last song, coming off better that I ever imagined it could. I
was extremely happy with the way it came off."
in all," Wisley said, "I remember that we were all
ecstatic. It was one of the first times it was done, a stereo
broadcast on a stereo FM station. It is quite a
The memory was there but, quite
honestly, the reviews aren't. Since the release of the CD, on
critics have been lukewarm, at best. Few have been written
which did not compare Cargoe with Big Star, which frustrates both
Wisley and Phillips.
"It's all the same stuff,"
said Wisley, somewhat dejected. "They have one CD to
review and they compare us to Big Star and that whole thing. We
weren't Big Star. We were our own thing."
biggest problem, though, is getting people to listen at all. Most
of those interested, when they don't hear September
similar, are quick to toss it aside. It summarizes Cargoe's
musical existence since they left Tulsa for Memphis. Like
Rodney Dangerfield, they have gotten no respect.
of those involved with the band have watched the release of the
two CDs with intense interest. Whereas the Japanese CD has
sold well, it has mostly been to a foreign audience eager to hear
either Cargoe itself or anything and everything attached
to the Memphis power pop mystique. Judging by the numbers, it
is doubtful that many even know of the existence of the live CD,
titled simply Live In Memphis.
Numbers mean little to Bill Phillips these days,
anyway. He's seen the dark side often enough to know that
having a CD on the market at all is a positive thing. And
he's stopped worrying about the music. He and Wisley know
that it speaks for itself, that it's what's in the grooves that
Phillips summarized Cargoe's long ride
beautifully when he threw out the statement that said it all:
"There were a lot of almosts. Almost did this, almost
did that." Upon hearing it, I thought it a perfect
epitaph. But you know what? While hearing the story
unfold, I couldn't help but think that maybe, just maybe, a
miracle would occur and they would get that fair listen they
deserved over thirty years ago, that people would break through
and buy the CDs because they were good, because they are. In
fact, they are more than good. Way more.
As for Jim Peters and
everyone attached to the band, it was bigger than life. "Working
with Cargoe," he said, "was a life-changing
experience. It was huge!" It changed his life. It
changed mine as well, and all I did was listen to them. Such
is the power of music. In our worlds, at least.
Since this article
was written, the players and their extended entourage have
experienced a revitalization of sorts. Max Wisley, Bill Phillips
and Tim Benton have reformed Cargoe,
with newcomer Steve Thornbrugh taking over guitar chores. They are
at present recording and have future plans for the band and its
music, which hopefully will include an album in the near future.
W. Walker and Jim Peters, those crazed radio personalities, have
also put together a band, Spirit
recruiting Jim's son Ben and drummer Tim Koch and, yes, even
Cargoe's bass player Max Wisley. One album, Gambetto,
has been released and they are working on a new album, tentatively
titled Weeds of Magic.
Steeped in the harder side of rock and psych, they are stretching
new genres as I type.
this is not an end or a beginning, but a continuation. Such are
the seeds of Tulsa being sowed...