Jimi Hendrix was a ham? Well, okay, there’s an opener for my first piece here.
When CREEM excavated me to come up with something for this first issue, all I could really think of was the concept of iconic figures who inhabited the world of rock journals past; what’s been said, what’s been oversaid (even here), what’s mutated out of the cesspool of a genre that still enables Clapton to slither the earth. Truth is, a lot, actually. Whether “guitar rock” means anything to you or you prefer to put on VR goggles and experience a pink immersion in the sights and sounds of some formless deconstructed electronic ooze, the fact remains that the old blues-based 4/4 has been nursed into many innovative forms, in particular with a dose of the old lysergic. Tony McPhee, Wayne Rogers, Helios Creed—all clobber me still every time I play ’em, and if anyone deserves a museum for guitar lifespan extension it’s Bill Orcutt. I do like Hendrix, in his raw state most: Woodstock’s searing a.m. cosmos rattle, well-documented on YouTube; the destroying “Machine Gun” from 1970’s Isle of Wight Festival. But the studio shaping on record never did much for me, nor did his reclaiming Dylan, Beatles, “God Save the Queen,” or “The Star-Spangled Banner” flashed up live. I get it, but I’m more drawn to the free-form freak-outs and wanna hear the real whacked shit and recording-level mismanagement minus jewelry rattle and the overtly commercial deification that followed me in giant murals every time I walked up the Haight in my year living in S.F. I know, I know, separate the music from the myth...but I like a good myth, too.
What a great slab of loner skull-boring greatness
Enter Lyle “Vulcan” Steece, jarred awake by the news of Hendrix's demise on his Arkansas radio in 1970, so freaked he begged Jimi’s spirit to pass the scepter to him, despite no knowledge of guitar. He set out, purely self-schooled, over the next 10 years to hone a craft and eventually issued stupefying recordings best summed up as the work of a total savant immersed in the spirit of something regardless of nailing "the good take.” He eventually became “The Count,” fronting the R.I.P. Band in 1978—and by fronting 1 mean he popped up out of a coffin in a cape and started shredding. Later on, he rechristened himself “Vulcan” after some astronomers proclaimed that a rare planet alignment would reveal a new body monikered such. Didn’t happen so he took the name, and spent the next two years unfurling his cosmic self with a 45—“Say Girl” b/w “Drugs Can Kill”—and wowing bikers with fuzzified three-hour guitar exorcisms live. His true evolutionary aha moment happened in ’80, hanging with his girlfriend in a basement listening to Monterey Pop, when Hendrix’s ghost sashayed into the room and put on a wailing four-song set, an event predicted by a fortune-teller a year earlier. The girlfriend fled the relationship the next day, but Steece went into deep-ass orbit with whatever “studio” means befitted him.
The ensuing 1981 Lyle “Vulcan” Steece—Hard as Rock (Vol. 1) and the few minuscule re-presses that dribbled out found him surrounded by four or five backup musicians in what sounds like a claustrophobic-yet-heavensbound sun-stare of epic proportions. Reverb-free guitar stutters of “Prelude” open the soup can to a barrage of varied-level echoplex invocations to summon the ghost before slamming into the crude-yet-monsterific riff explosion of “High C” (complete with the refrain sounding like “HASS-ey”), cloaked with a gauzy fuzz so thick it cakes the smoke-battered basement walls. It stumbles and shakes, its crud threatening to overwhelm the vocals and band itself. “Noname” surges with a badass swagger that almost avoids the rhythm itself, aching to break into solo pyrotechnics, and it stretches out from there. The slo-mo “Untitled Instrumental” burns with unfiltered intensity, reverb pedal finally coming alive to lift you up after the album’s previous bludgeoning of your head.
Eventually issued as Meet Your Ghost, complete with black-and-white cover shot of a woman embracing a ghost on the couch, a proper release came a few years ago via Lysergic Sound Distribution, this time with an extra LP of unreleased material. The label’s Steve Purdy had a good chat with Vulcan in 2010, revealing among other facts that he had befriended Pete Best. What a great slab of loner skull-boring greatness. If Hendrix did appear, it was to get a piece of the action.