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Posts tagged ‘Jeff Calder’

Swimming Pool Q’s

It was back in 1978 and a new punk-looking British band, The Police, was making their first US tour. I was there on the front row at the Great Southern Music Hall in Orlando, waiting for Sting, Andy, and Stewart to take the stage, but first, we had to listen to this “other” band, the Swimming Pool Q’s, play a set. The Pool Q’s perfectly fit the new wave mold at the time; lots of short, fast songs (“Rat Bait” … “The A-Bomb Woke Me Up” … “Big Fat Tractor”) and an energetic performance that ranged from weird to exhilarating. They made a good first impression.


The Swimming Pool Q’s may have started their life as a quirky new wave act, but in the decade to follow they morphed into a polished and multi-faceted recording act, one of the better, yet woefully unsung, bands in the US during the 1980s. But, unlike some bands that disbanded after stardom didn’t come knocking, the Pool Q’s kept on a-chooglin’ and are still playing shows to this day.


The Pool Q’s have recorded many excellent songs over the years, but they particularly shined on stage, dazzling audiences with their well-crafted songs and front man Jeff Calder’s flair for the theatrical. I always loved the band’s sound; a rousing pop-rock cocktail that combined Anne Richmond Boston’s comfortably warm vocals and Jeff Calder’s crafty lyrics (which could range from witty and whacky to poetic and profound) with Bob Elsey’s blistering guitar licks, and a rock-solid rhythm section. Other critics seemed to agree. “Visionary pop eccentrics from Atlanta,” noted Melody Maker. “Some of the most compelling rock sounds in all of America … lofty architectural style distinguished by the elegant and muscular guitar duets between Jeff Calder and Bob Elsey and [Anne] Boston’s rhapsodic alto phrasings,” said The Village Voice. In Rolling Stone, Kurt Loder wrote, “Overlaid with Calder’s unusually literate songwriting sensibility, this musical mélange is one of the freshest sounds coming out of the South.”


The band released a “comeback” studio album, Royal Academy of Reality, in 2003, a collection of songs that many reviewers hailed as their best yet. All Music Guide said, “The striking scale and superb craft of this album are impressive by any standard.” David Fricke in Rolling Stone likened the album to “Abbey Road wrapped in kudzu.” Ed Ward in Wire U.K described it as “flat-out astonishing” and “overflowing with musical and intellectual ideas.” Yes folks, it really was that good. But despite the rave reviews and a devoted cult of fans, as far as most of the world is concerned, the Swimming Pool Q’s remain a “quirky band” — if they are known at all.


Over the years, I’ve seen the Pool Q’s in concert dozens of times; in and around their home base of Atlanta, and in my hometown of Orlando. In fact, I booked a few of their shows myself and became good friends with the band members. I recently got e-mails from both Anne Richmond Boston and Jeff Calder, telling me about a new project — a “Kickstarter Campaign” — that aims to fund the re-release of two of their best albums, The Swimming Pool Q’s (1984) and Blue Tomorrow (1986), as deluxe CD editions. I didn’t have a clue as to what a “Kickstarter Campaign” entails, so I’ll let the band tell you all about it:


This project realizes years of dedication—remastering, research, flights to nowhere—so we’ve taken great care assembling a variety of additional rewards, many available exclusively to Kickstarter backers:

  • A CD of demos, outtakes, alternate versions and remixes from the period, including a country version of “The Bells Ring”.
  • “Fire Makes Us Diamonds”, Jeff Calder’s historical notes examining The Swimming Pool Q’s in the years 1983–1987; accompanying the text will be many never-before-seen photos from The Q’s archive and Anne Richmond Boston’s personal collection.
  • A DVD, created by our drummer Bill Burton, which captures us in a variety of compromising situations: The 930 Club in Washington DC in early 1985; various teenbeat cable television shows; a stirring clip of The Q’s psych-folk interpretation of “Little Drummer Boy”; a promotional video created for A&M Records’ 1984 annual meeting, plus a visit by the band to the record company’s legendary Hollywood lot; and more.
  • Signed photographs from sessions surrounding both albums, plus reproductions of the luxurious 24” x 36” posters that accompanied the reissue of The Deep End (1981/2001) and the release of Royal Academy of Reality (2003).
  • A disc of new material including tracks like “System of Love” and “Science Moon”.
  • Two CDs from The Swimming Pool Q’s catalog, The Deep End and Royal Academy of Reality, along with our debut 7” single from 1979 “Rat Bait” b/w “The A-Woke Woke Me Up” on Chlorinated Records.
  • Archival flyers from many Swimming Pool Q’s performances, reproduced on original Xerox machines, when possible.
  • A full-course dinner at your nearest Olive Garden, hosted by the group.
  • A private live show at which we’ll play selections from The Swimming Pool Q’s and Blue Tomorrow plus bonus tracks

A couple of folks have asked for some more detail on what the fundraising is going toward. This is it in a nutshell: mastering, manufacturing, designing, printing, and assembling as many of the reissue packages as we can afford to make, plus the extra CD and DVD. Producing each of these elements is painstaking and costly, and we’ve invested much time and money already to make this project a reality – and to do it at the highest possible level of quality and creativity. It’s been nearly 30 years in the making – so we want to do it right! As we move along, we will share the details of the process with you to keep you in the loop, since you now have a vested interest.


Glenn Phillips: Guitar Wizard

The best guitarist you never heard? I’d like to nominate Atlanta’s Glenn Phillips. For the better part of four decades, Phillips and his flying fingers have been making incredible music that most people on the planet don’t know about. Glenn Phillips has a fluid, expressive guitar style, possessing the technical chops that appeal to hard rock guitar aficionados and a graceful melodic touch that endears him to fans of other musical genres. His songs are almost entirely instrumental, but they are composed with such skill that his guitar virtuosity is often overshadowed by the melodic emotional power of the piece. Whether the song is a slow, pretty tune, or a frenzied workout with somersault solos, the dexterity of Phillips’ guitar playing is breathtaking.


If you are new to this guy’s music, a fine place to start would be the two-CD Echoes, a compilation of music that he recorded from 1975-1985. Other fine albums include Elevator, originally released by SST in 1987, and Angel Sparks, released in 2003. Also in 2003 he recorded Guitar Party with Henry Kaiser, an instrumental album that contained covers of Jimi Hendrix’s “If 6 was 9”, Neil Young’s “Cortez the Killer” and Bob Dylan’s “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues.”


Glenn Phillips continues to play shows, mostly near his home in the Atlanta area. He recently made a new album, Sun Hex, as the Supreme Court, a side project he does with Jeff Calder of the Swimming Pool Qs. This was their second full album together. Their first album, The Supreme Court Goes Electric, was released way back in 1993 and received glowing reviews in Rolling Stone and other publications. I haven’t heard the new album yet, but you can guarantee that I’ll add it to my next online order.


Phillips was also a founding member of the Hampton Grease Band, whose only album Music to Eat was released in 1971 (and reissued a few years ago on CD) by Columbia Records. With little marketing support from the label or airplay from radio, Music to Eat gained the distinction of being the second worst selling album in the history of Columbia Records (beat out only by a yoga instruction record!). Glenn Phillips later left the band and in 1975 recorded his first solo album, Lost at Sea. That received wide acclaim, including raves from John Peel, the legendary BBC D.J. After Peel’s airplay help and a positive review in Melody Maker, Phillips received a phone call from none other than Richard Branson, who promptly signed the guitarist to his fledging Virgin Records label. That led to a productive period in which Phillips recorded several outstanding albums; Swim in the Wind, Dark Lights, Razor Pocket, St. Valentine’s Day, Elevator, and Scratched by the Rabbit.

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