"It wasn't advertised at all. We only e-mailed a few friends about 48 hours ahead," says Tell-Tale Hearts bassist Mike Stax of the group's surprise reunion performance, their first in over ten years. About 30 people saw the 1980s garage band play a set at the Ken Club on November 11. "We didn't even rehearse beforehand; it was all thrown together in less than a week."
The gig came about from an offhand suggestion by Nick Phillips, head of Australia's Corduroy Records (owner of the only vinyl-pressing factory on that continent) and singer for the band Shutdown 66, who was coming to San Diego as part of a tour. "They used to come see us play in '84 and '85 and cite us as one of their inspirations. Nick's record company released some Tell-Tale live stuff."
The reunion included four of five original members: singer Ray Brandes, guitarist Eric Bacher, drummer Dave Klowden, and Stax. "[Organ player] Bill Calhoun lives in Carson City, Nevada, now. He has kids, and I just couldn't talk him into it.... Nick called him from Australia and was even going to fly him out just to do a few songs, but he just couldn't be talked into it."
The band agreed on playing three songs: "Hey Tiger," "At the River's Edge," and "That's Your Problem." As audience requests were shouted out, they ended up playing others, including "Bye Bye Baby" and "Cry."
"We could barely remember chords, and it slowly got worse as we went on. I gave up halfway through 'Our World Is Upside Down.' I just couldn't remember it."
Asked if the Tell-Tale Hearts have any plans to record together again, Stax laughs. "Definitely not.... I still think there's nothing sadder than a bunch of guys in their 40s trying to relive their glory days and make money."