Saturday, April 21, 2018

Chris Stamey Musician A Spy in the House of Loud on Tosh Talks

First of all, Chris Stamey, the songwriter, and performer is an essential listening experience. I first heard Chris Stamey when he had his band The Sneakers. I bought the 7" EP at Bomp Records in the San Fernando Valley sometime in 1977. I bought it because the song titles got my attention, for example, "Love's Like a Cuban Crisis" and "Non Sequitur." At the very least this band was literate and witty. Once at home, I became a life-long fan of The Sneakers. The next time, I was reading The New York Rocker, and I recognized the name, Chris Stamey when he started to work with Alex Chilton on his recordings during the post-punk years in New York City. Then like dominos falling, a series of independent records came out with Stamey's participation and solo singles and so forth.

For the majority of the readers here you may have heard his band The dB's, which for many were the ultimate in the power pop era of the very early 1980s. The thing with Stamey is one should never pigeon-hole him in one type of music social or aesthetic group. Besides his genius songwriting abilities, he also had ties in the experimental music world and had (or still has) a deep interest in Minimalist music, which comes through his own 'pop' material time-to-time. Stamey also served as a guest musician for numerous bands, as well as working as a record producer/arranger for others - still, when you associate with Stamey, you are on the side of his brilliance. "A Spy in the House of Loud: New York Songs and Stories" is a remarkable memoir focusing on his life in Manhattan and other parts of the New York state. Him being an observer as well as a participant in the CBGB's punk rock world, as well as the fascinating social world that was happening at that time.

There are plenty of reasons for reading "A Spy in the House of Loud," for example, it's another good personal account of life being a working or struggling musician in New York, as well as a practical how-to-do in that profession. Stamey puts great focus on what it's like working with brilliant musicians like Alex Chilton, Ray Davies (The Kinks), Big Star's Jody Stephens, Rayan Adams, Yo La Tengo, Richard Lloyd (Television, and another musician who wrote a fantastic memoir covering the same era and place), and R.E.M., among others. Although Stamey's work as an artist/songwriter is very melodic, he also has a sincere appreciation for the loud, the wild, and experimental - for instance, groups like the No-Wave band DNA. Stamey creative world is a broad landscape, and his memoir exposes the tensions between the music and the practical everyday existence of getting the dough together for making a record and touring life.

Stamey comes off in his book as a terrific guy, who cares about the music community and has a broadly educated response to music listening and music making. That said, I think Stamey's records and music is an essential listening experience. In other words, Stamey is the real deal. I'm a fan of his music. As well as this half-memoir and half-instructional book. - Tosh Berman, Tosh Talks

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