Enter the Optigan
"The Optigan was a kind of home organ made by the Optigan Corporation, a subsidiary of Mattel, in the early '70s," says Pea Hicks of the obscure instrument around which his band Optiganally Yours revolves. "It was set up like most home organs of the period, [with] a small keyboard with buttons on the left for various chords, accompaniments, and rhythms. At the time, all organs produced their sounds electrically or electronically with tubes or transistors. The Optigan was different in that its sounds were read off of LP-sized celluloid discs, which contained the graphic waveforms of real instruments...similar to the soundtrack on a film reel.
"Playing back recorded instruments was a pretty unique concept for the early '70s," says Hicks. "Technically speaking, the Optigan was a primitive sampler. Sort of. I tend to think of it more like a poor man's Mellotron.... They sold mostly through stores like Sears and JCPenny and were relatively inexpensive, about $200 to $400." Working models now sell for $2000 and up. Several unreleased Optiganally Yours songs are playable at mp3it.com.
At this writing, mVideo has concert videos posted featuring 127 local bands, including many no longer active, such as GoGoGo Airheart and Lucy's Fur Coat. Clips viewable with RealPlayer 10 include Butch Wax Duo defying the fire marshal with live flames onstage at the Casbah (9-1-06), New York Station's androgynous Lou Reed tribute at the Ken Club (4-14-07), and Assault Shaker performing "Down Like Danzig" (7-28-04), their ode to the still-popular Internet video showing diminutive rocker Glenn Danzig getting his ass kicked backstage ("Standing tough and tall, at five foot three, that's a long way to fall").
Performances can be downloaded to computer or iPod, including clips of national acts playing around town such as the White Stripes at the Casbah (12-9-00, 56 minutes), UK Subs at Dream Street (9-25-02, 49 minutes), and Fear at Brick by Brick (3-23-01, 50 minutes).
Local blogger Rosey Bystrak posts video at sddialedin.com from an unannounced KPRI private listener concert held in early May on a Hornblower cruise, featuring Tim Finn (Split Enz, Crowded House). "I got a text from my friend," she blogs, "telling me that he heard that Neil Finn and Eddie Vedder might be joining Tim. How could I skip that, even if there was less than a 1% chance that it was true?" Though Vedder and the other brother Finn were no-shows, she says the private show was still "beyond worthwhile."
Her posted video shows Finn performing Split Enz's "I Got You." There's also a photo of his actual setlist, autographed and with duct tape along the top and bottom. "That setlist is not completely accurate," says Bystrak, "because Tim threw in a couple requests, including 'Six Months in a Leaky Boat,' to stay with a nautical theme."
Black Market Magazine
In the mid-'80s, Black Market Productions sponsored punk shows around town, before spinning off into a printed magazine and now Web version. The site is highlighted by a collection of local event flyers spanning 1979 through 1987. "Like most people from the early Punk scene," says site operator Carl Schneider, "saving flyers from all the shows you went to and wallpapering your room with them was just instinctual. It was something to be proud of and showed your dedication to the scene. Looking back, I don't think there was a more prouder moment than the nights I'd come home all fucked up after a show and add another flyer to the wall."
A large photo archive includes shots of the Damned in 1982 at Godzilla's, the Misfits at the Lions Club in 1983, D.O.A. from a 1987 Palisade Gardens show, and pictures from dozens of other area concerts. Interviews pulled from the 13 published newsstand issues include chats with presidential mock-assassin Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine founder Forrest J. Ackerman, and rocker Marilyn Manson, who told the interviewer, "I believe there's too many fuck'n people in the world and if you kill yourself then fine, that just makes more room for me."
"I had to dress up as a homeless person," blogs Lost Disciples fan Laura, a personal fitness instructor who appears in the band's new "Take It Back" video. "My clothes had to get ripped up and my hair was teased like no tomorrow.... I first had put ketchup and mustard all over me that was just so ravenous that I made a mess on myself. Besides the makeup, I had ashes smeared all over my skin and potting soil rubbed into my clothes and skin. This part, I wasn't too thrilled about, but here is the best part. I had to roll on the ground, crawl forward and backward on the cement, and then more potting soil was thrown on the ground to roll in, to get the finished product...all of this was done on a little street off of Hollywood Boulevard, where everybody could see it happening."
"Yeah, she really worked it for her close-up," singer Jason Baltzley e-mails. "She really let us nasty her up...she's a pretty girl, [but] you wouldn't recognize her." Behind-the-scenes footage from the "Take It Back" shoot is posted on the band's MySpace page.
"I was 14 when I first stepped into Straita Head Sound," blogs Michael Reed of the long-gone '80s club commemorated on his San Diego Rocks webpage. "This club was unique in that it had obtained its liquor license as a dinner theater and, therefore, was able to serve alcohol to the 21 and up crowd yet still allow those under 18 to get in. All they had to do was serve food to meet the legal requirements of dinner theater. This loophole in the law kept the club profitable and allowed many of my age to see their first live rock show.... Mickey Rat played there often before moving to Los Angeles and becoming Ratt." Reed -- a former Rocky Horror Picture Show cast member at the Ken Cinema -- also heads the record label Deep Shag, which has released a compilation featuring local metallers Stress. Extant only from 1983 to 1987, the band (at times) featured onetime Aerosmith temp Jimmy Crespo.