Lorenzo W. Milam wrote the liner notes for the record album 'The Girl
in the Chair' by the Roots of Madness. Here they are, verbatim:
It must have been sometime in 1970. Or maybe '71. To the best of their
recollection, that's when THE ROOTS OF MADNESS came together. In the suburban
living room of a Del E. Webb stucco home, in San Jose, California, U.S.A.
"We thought we could sound better than anyone on radio" is the humble statement
of one of the members telling why this magic group came together.
Paradoxically, and practically, THE ROOTS OF MADNESS came together in Mrs.
Maddox's 12th grade Journalism Class at Leigh High School. "God, it was dingy!"
is the fond memory
of the group of those halcyon days at Leigh. "We couldn't handle assignments for
teen-age fashion shows, so we all flunked." Thus, THE ROOTS OF MADNESS.
The group likes to think of itself as "Downtown." And when they say "Downtown"
they mean the "Bascom Avenue" San Jose as opposed to the "First Street" San
Jose. They like to recall the many other musicians that have grown up in, and
forgotten, San Jose.
"Santana started off here, and when they got successful," says Geoff, "they
started calling themselves a Bay Area Group. We, on the other hand, wouldn't be
caught dead denying our heritage as part of the 'Little Los Angeles' of Northern
California." Several critics have come to point out that THE ROOTS OF MADNESS is
probably part of the South Bay Delta Blues Confluence, rather than the Ben
Lomond Blues School as represented by Blind Joe McBlind.
August, 1970. That was the year of The Big Shock. There was a power shortage.
And that was when "We found Jim Kulczynski could play nothing but the blues."
Little Jim: no bigger than the palm of your hand standing a proud four foot
eleven. Graduate of Leigh, proud alumnus of
The Leigh Lepers (an avant-garde group of young misfits who found themselves in
music and, some say, were the direct precursors of THE ROOTS OF MADNESS.)
"In our own way," Jim likes to remember: "We were Leigh's finest." There was Jay
Horney Henry, and Rhino Boy, and The Girl In The Chair. "We were the hairyest of
Leigh's intellectual maelstrom. We were the first of the North Santa Clara
Musique-concrete set." It was through their passion for the use of klaxons in
3/4 time that caused them to stumble across (and partially deafen) Geoff
Alexander known as "The Gumball Greek" after his patent family heritage and
Geoff --- on his own --- had just begun to experiment with “The Sunnyvale Sound”
as it was later to be called. It consisted of Electric Trumpet, Short-wave Radio
(tuned to WWV - Denver),
and Proctological Tubing. The melody base was an obvious borrowing from the
blues-guitar style of the late P.P. McFeelie. In fact, the entire ROOTS OF
MADNESS proudly claims brotherhood with this obscure Ebo City musician who died
tragically of Phlebitis shortly after
recording YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE (included here for comparison).
It was perfectly natural, given the ethos of that fateful journalism class at
Leigh, that Geoff should run into Joe Morrow. '' Big-Little' Joe, standing
(then, as now) an even 6' 8" in his
stocking, and weighing in at an even 374 pounds. Joe, with his unabashed
affection for two-inch 'sweet potatoes' --- bringing with him the brilliant Don
"It was Donald who was our great inspiration," says Joe through his speaking
tube. (An early, and unfortunate bout with Kyphosis, makes it impossible for Joe
to use his larynx. Doctors have fashioned an experimental plastic reed which is
inserted directly into his duodenum. Thus the piercing sound in some of the
compositions as Joe 'plays' with his voice as if it were a flute). "Don was an
inspiration because of his willingness to play piano with only one arm."
Here Joe is referring to Donald's tragic experience at age 5 when he lost one
arm in a player piano ratchet. And yet, ironically, it is the player piano that
Don favors the most --- hitting it (pounding it, really) with his one remaining
arm. "It may be twisted and horney --- but
man! Can Don do the old 88s!" says Joe with obvious approbation through his
clear plastic flue. Joe likes to think of himself as "An Attentive Ear" as Don
races up and down the vary instrument that tried to "eat" him.
It would be Impossible for me, in this short time, to give you the intimate
feeling of inspiration,
musicianship, guts and sheer sweat that sets THE ROOTS OF MADNESS apart from
other folk, blues, rock, and modern musicians. I first heard them on Country
KTAO --- a Santa Clara County radio station which calls itself "a peep-hole
into the very nuts of life.”
Twice a week, Geoff would wheel himself into the studios of KTAO, put his hook
into the trumpet, adjust his Speculum Bag —- and blow his heart out.
It was and is a very moving experience. Even the janitor whose job it was to
clean out the bile-pipes would be moved to listen. A visitor once asked him what
he thought of Geoff and His Residue (as the group was called then) and he said
'It's a Gol-darn mess. It is.' It was said that he was frightened by 'Old Gimpy'
Dolfin who, in those days as in this, would remove and leave on the table his
stump when he was working the Short Wave Receiver.
Enough speculations. I want you to set down your dislikes and your
incomprehensions. I want you to lay aside your prejudices about San Jose and its
deformed and crippled. I want you to open up your ears to some of the
swingin'-est, smarmiest, satinist music since Holst hung up his act.
If you like Glen Yarborough, you'll delight in the tragic WE HAD A LOVE (BUT IT
DIED). Let the strains of the alto sax clarinet, and Little Upright Organ scour
through your mind, delicately 'mash' the stuff of your heart.
LISTEN! Let your ear soar Into THE OLD MAN'S ASS. Remember that this brave
group, THE ROOTS OF MADNESS, can only count five arms, seven legs, two glass
eyes, an iron lung, a half-dozen mouths, and one bladderpump among them. And yet
--- despite all odds --- they can produce such music. SUCH MUSIC! Don't be put
off by their self-mocking fantasy. You might hear the rattling of Don's Sputum
Cup on THE FLIGHT OF THE OCKA BIRD. You might not even be aware of the fact that
Geoff had a petite mal seizure during the actual recording of REALISATION II.
Forget all the rumors of incest, pederasty, masochism and onanism that their
detractors are trying to lay against THE ROOTS OF MADNESS. Even in San Jose, the
Prune Capital of The World, there are vitriolic detractors out of the very
Steven's Creek avant-garde that spawned this
Even as this precious, once-in-a-lifetime disc is going to press, Don is busy
penning an opera THESES DE FECES. Joe is forming Morrow's Big Band featuring
ESP-type jazz and poetry; Jim's Dream Band is exploring the fine points of
blues, and the Geoffrey 3 (trumpet, trombone, guitar) attempts to achieve
knowledge of the inner concept of existential non-confinement.
THE ROOTS OF MADNESS has been and will always be an original, soulful, great
'dingbat, diddle-burdled, batshit’ --- to quote from their song dedicated to
memory of the San Jose Water Works Project. THE ROOTS OF MADNESS is "Nihility in
Being" (from Lord
Chesterfield), and no miscreant essaying to bring them and their instruments
into the Reyes Point Veteran's Hospital for "observation" (as has been tried
more than once) is going to threaten the
depth of feeling and obvious originality of this "genteel, gibbous, genial,
ganglia in genitalia..."
UP YOUR ROOTS OF MADNESSI
--- L. Milan
1. "Realisation II" (Campau-Alexander-Morrow) (11:35)
Don: shortwave variations, vocal
Geoff: shortwave, walkie-talkie, trumpet, percussion, vocal
Joe: shortwave, recorder, trombone, percussion, clarinet, vocal
2. "Nihility In Being" (Morrow) (1:07)
Gare: beat drumming
3. "Mass At Time Of Circumcision Of King Leopold XVII Of Belgium For Massed
Bull-horns, Glass Harmonica. Tympani, and Fret-work Drums" (G. Beaumont) (1:72)
4. "Cat's Tail" (Campau) (1:35)
Don: acoustic slide guitar
5. "We Had A Love (But It Died)" (Kulczynski) (5:08)
Jim (Blind Burrell): gultar&vocal
1. "The Yell" (Dolfin) (1:47)
Dave Dolfin: mouth harp, yell
2. "The Big House" (Alexander) (6:50)
3. "The Old Man's Ass" (found in Old St.Paul"s Church, translated by G.
Geoff: recitation, percussion
4. "Flight Of The Ocka Bird" (Campau) (5:21)
Don: electric slide guitar
Jim; rhythm guitar
Geoff: trumpet, hummato
5. "You Are My Sunsh1ne"(Trad.) recorded live June 21, 1940; originally released
on the Spherophone label, 35423-2 (1:30)
P.P. McFeelie; guitar, vocal
Material contained herein is protected by The Geneva Convention of 1947. It is
suitable for reproduction through bladder-operated stereopilcon equipment. It
was mastered on a Teriyaki Model if 44 lathe-driven Recorder, using Wollensak
B-19 microphones. The mastering tape
was Dak 120 Econo-line, and the whole was produced in Studio A of Radio Station
#5 University Avenue, Los Gatos, California 95030.
"At The Sign Of The Retching Dogmouth."
THE GIRL IN THE CHAIR
BALH - 1760