Thursday, January 19, 2006

On any weekend 20 years ago

Wherein I pretend I am back in Minneapolis

In the 1980s, the Wallets were the best band in the Twin Cities. Better than The Replacements, Husker Du, The Time, and maybe Prince. This band should have been huge, but just never got the big break they needed. Part of the problem is their recordings never captured the infectious groovitude of the live shows.

When I first caught them around 1983, they were like some funky avant garde jazz combo. Jim Clifford smacked the hell of the bass, Erik Anderson was the meanest looking drummer I've ever seen - I think he hit the drums because he didn't like them, Max Ray was the cool saxophonist, and Rod Gordon and Steve Kramer played dueling keyboards. And when they were really rocking, Steve would pull out the accordian. In these early days, many of the songs were like out of control stock car races, each musician flying as fast as he could, slamming up against the wall, but never quite losing control; then they'd all come together in a glorious controlled dance.

They became a bit more new wave in the later years, and at times a bit poetic, but always unique. I think it would be fair to say I saw the Wallets at least 50 times before they finally broke up.

Here's a CD, 17 Songs, that combines their first two albums. They're short samples, so listen to them all. Can't say I have a favorite as they all bring back good memories. Gonzoi Polka and There was an Old Lady are good examples of why I hurried to Duffy's (26th and 26th) on a Friday - that and the 2 for 1 beers until 10pm; also the Wallets would often share the bill with the Urban Guerillas.

Totally Nude got a couple plays on MTV and in the credits for the Talking Heads Naked there's a thanks to the Wallets because the Heads had a song by the same title. How To Keep Time To Music was the flip side of Totally Nude and I thought a superior song.

There's also a video for Body Talk. Not representative of a true concert, but it's a damn good song.

Where are the Wallets now?

Steve Kramer, (vocals, keyboard, accordian):
Partner, Composer, Hest & Kramer (advertising). Fast Channel article

Jim Clifford, (bass):
According to this Mail list from 1999, he's an elementary school teacher.

Max Ray, (Saxophone):
And the same source for Jim Clifford says that " addition to playing in his own band with his wife, Rochelle, (and when he isn't fishing,) is also the handyman for my duplex in Minneapolis."

New: the X-boys

Is this Max's and Rochelle's band, Gondwana? yes. I will most likely buy this.

Erik Anderson, Drums:
No news. Though if you wish to hide in plain site, having the name "Erik Anderson" and living in Minnesota is a good start.

Rod Gordon, Keyboards:


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know this is an old post of yours, but I have to say that the Wallets were my absolute favorite local band back in the day. Live, they were as you described: sort of like punk meets funk meets jazz meets polka meets performance art, and all on speed! I saw them about 4 or 5 times, I think. I was in high school when I first heard them and so had to wait for all-ages shows for the most part, but I remember seeing them at the University of Minnesota and (oddly enough) at a car show in Prior Lake. Who knows why they were at that car show, but I was hugely grateful because among all the people, only a handful were paying any attention to them at all--it was like my own personal concert.

I'm glad Steve Kramer has found success in advertising, though I admit to wishing he'd pull out that accordian and gig around town once in a while.

10/11/2007 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger bill said...

Thanks for stopping by. I'm digitizing a bunch of old vinyl and plan to post a lot of the more obscure stuff. The Wallets will definately be one of the first bands I do.

Until then, here's a teaser: How to Keep Time To Music.

10/11/2007 12:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rod Gordon is my math teacher

4/06/2016 05:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rod Gordon is my math teacher

4/06/2016 05:49:00 PM  
Blogger Astonished Cook said...

Jim Cliffwood i's a professional photographer in the Twin Cities.

6/17/2017 06:25:00 PM  

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