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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Surprising Sports Stars – Guided by Voices’ Robert Pollard

Perhaps Now the Phil Regan.

Another claim to fame for Guided by Voices is that Pollard is sometimes mentioned as the most prolific songwriter of his generation. In fact, he’s joked that he could write five songs while on the toilet, and three of them would be good. As of the writing of this article, he has 1669 songs registered with BMI, and more than 80 albums released.

But what makes Pollard’s story even more unbelievable comes down to his less heralded athletic past. It may not be such a surprise to think of Pollard as a ‘jock,’ given his propensity for high kicks and microphone twirls while performing in concert. As a high school athlete in a sports obsessed Dayton, Robert Pollard was a football quarterback who could throw for an amazing 70 yards, and a basketball point guard who averaged 20 points a game.

But it was in baseball where he was especially notable. He was a star pitcher with a 95 miles an hour fastball, and who in 1978 threw a no-hitter for Wright State University. Pollard’s father, believing his son to be a gifted athlete, rubbed down his arm each night, referring to the appendage as his ‘golden arm.’ Sadly, the ‘golden arm’ eventually failed him after popping a tendon in his elbow, and his throwing speed fell to around 85-88 mph. His baseball career was essentially over after an unsuccessful tryout camp with the Cincinnati Reds.

Later, while on the 1994 Lollapalooza tour with Guided by Voices, his sporting past most famously reemerged during a basketball game where his band played against a combined force of The Smashing Pumpkins and The Beastie Boys. Though the latter two bands were huge basketball fans, they had no idea who they were up against, and by all accounts it wasn’t much of a contest.

Repoz Posted: July 24, 2014 at 05:52 PM | 34 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, music

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. charityslave is thinking about baseball Posted: July 24, 2014 at 08:01 PM (#4757241)
Saw GBV in New Orleans in about 2000. Great show.
   2. valuearbitrageur Posted: July 25, 2014 at 02:22 AM (#4757386)
Man when I hear a GBV song, I will think, finally, the first time I've ever heard a GBV song. The only reason I know they exist is because of BBTF.
   3. Alex meets the threshold for granular review Posted: July 25, 2014 at 04:44 AM (#4757404)
   4. Long Time Listener, First Time Caller Posted: July 25, 2014 at 07:35 AM (#4757420)
Bee Thousand is what it sounds like when you hold your tongue and say Pete Townshend
   5. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: July 25, 2014 at 08:01 AM (#4757422)
Saw GBV in New Orleans in about 2000. Great show.


Probably a night or two after or before I saw them in Memphis, because 2000 sounds about right.
   6. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: July 25, 2014 at 08:03 AM (#4757423)
Man when I hear a GBV song, I will think, finally, the first time I've ever heard a GBV song. The only reason I know they exist is because of BBTF.


Man cannot live by classic rock along. Well, should not, anyway.
   7. Swoboda is freedom Posted: July 25, 2014 at 08:04 AM (#4757424)
I threw a no hitter in high school a couple of times. Until the 2nd inning or so.
   8. The kids disappeared, now Der-K has too much candy Posted: July 25, 2014 at 09:15 AM (#4757449)
2 - Erratic, but pretty great.
   9. eddieot Posted: July 25, 2014 at 09:38 AM (#4757456)
I saw them at Maxwell's in March of '95. The 'classic' lineup with Tobin Sprout and Mitch Mitchell. I had a cassette recording of the show for years and was recently hunting around for a digital copy on the Interwebs. I failed to find a working link but I ran across the set list. 45 songs... just ridiculous. It was a Thursday night and many had to work early the next day but I don't think a single person left early. I've seen hundreds of band/artist performances and that night is a top 3 for me.

Setlist: Don’t Stop Now>King and Caroline>Motor Away>Gold Star For Robot Boy>Hot Freaks>Why Did You Land>Postal Blowfish> My Son Cool>Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory>Shocker In Gloomtown>My Valuable Hunting Knife> Tractor Rape Chain>Jar of Cardinals> Closer You Are> I Am A Scientist>Game of Pricks> Echoes Myron> Red Men And Their Wives>Exit Flagger>Pimple Zoo>Smothered In Hugs>Johnny Appleseed>My Impression Now>Weed King>Salty Salute>Matter Eater Lad>Sheep Kickers>Some Drilling Implied>Unleashed! Large Hearted Boy>Break Even > Big Boring Wedding>Buzzards and Dreadful Crows>Blimps Go 90>Watch Me Jumpstart>Lethargy>14 Cheerleader Coldfront>Non Absorbing>Striped White Jets>Quality of Armor>Deathtrot and Warlock Riding a Rooster>Marchers in Orange>Did I See That>Trap Soul Door >King and Caroline>Motor Away

   10. Dock Ellis on Acid Posted: July 25, 2014 at 09:47 AM (#4757461)
I've lost count how many times I've seen them. Over a dozen, easily. The last time was earlier this year at the Bowery in NYC. Great venue for that band, but it was actually the least fun of their shows I've been to...only because they've been so prolific the last couple years that I can't keep up anymore and I wasn't singing along to as many songs. It wasn't a greatest-hits set.
   11. Dock Ellis on Acid Posted: July 25, 2014 at 09:48 AM (#4757462)
double post
   12. Batman Posted: July 25, 2014 at 10:53 AM (#4757506)
I threw a no hitter in high school a couple of times. Until the 2nd inning or so.
I took a perfect game into the third once. Then the #8 hitter bunted for a hit. It's too bad I didn't know about the unwritten rules or else I would have hit the #9 guy.
   13. valuearbitrageur Posted: July 25, 2014 at 11:06 AM (#4757523)

Man cannot live by classic rock along. Well, should not, anyway.


Is grunge considered classic rock now, cause I have a bit of that.

Of course I've lived in Arizona for 10 years and just discovered the Gin Blossoms a month ago, so odds are my musical range is far too narrow.
   14. Tom Nawrocki Posted: July 25, 2014 at 02:13 PM (#4757661)
45 songs... just ridiculous.


So that's what, about an hour and ten minutes?
   15. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: July 25, 2014 at 02:35 PM (#4757683)
Of course I've lived in Arizona for 10 years and just discovered the Gin Blossoms a month ago, so odds are my musical range is far too narrow.


I went to grad school at ASU from '81-'84; the guy who later became the Gin Blossoms' main songwriter (booted, I guess for substance abuse problems), Doug Hopkins, sang lead & played guitar (or maybe bass) for a group called the Psalms, whom I saw at least once opening for a good friend's band. I bought their 7" back then, but if you ever come across their 4-song cassette, Some Great Cathedral, grab it & send it to me immediately.

That was a good period for music in the Valley. The Meat Puppets & to a lesser extent JFA,the Feederz & Killer *ussy eventually gained national profiles, but the best bands were -- as is pretty much always the case -- completely off the radar ... the Nervous, International Language, the Out Crowd, etc. etc. etc.
   16. eddieot Posted: July 25, 2014 at 09:52 PM (#4757903)
So that's what, about an hour and ten minutes?


I LOL'ed. Well played.
   17. Non-Youkilidian Geometry Posted: July 26, 2014 at 08:32 AM (#4757968)
KT in 2012:

GBV is my all time favorite band ... to poop on.

it takes a tremendous songwriter to keep recycling the same tired riffs, most of which were stolen from other, better bands.


KT in 2014:

Man when I hear a GBV song, I will think, finally, the first time I've ever heard a GBV song. The only reason I know they exist is because of BBTF.


How can you hate a band whose music you've never actually heard?

Seriously, if you've never actually heard a GBV song, go get yourself the "best of" collection, Human Amusements at Hourly Rates, and give it a listen. You might be surprised.
   18. PreservedFish Posted: July 26, 2014 at 10:02 AM (#4757977)
but the best bands were -- as is pretty much always the case -- completely off the radar ... the Nervous, International Language, the Out Crowd, etc. etc. etc.


These bands are so obscure that they defy Google. I am betting that there are zero people on this site that can name any other bands that your "etc. etc. etc." would cover. Except maybe Repoz.
   19. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: July 26, 2014 at 10:13 AM (#4757979)
Yeah, not surprising. IL had only a couple of compilation appearances, & the Nervous had one comp appearance & 2 songs on a spilt 7"; that's it. The Out Crowd never released anything, AFAIK. That second wave of Phoenix punk (the first wave produced the likes of Don Bolles, later drummer of the Germs, & Dinah Cancer of 45 Grave, among others, including the Consumers' David Wiley, who wind up as vocalist for Human Hands & also had a short stint playing keyboards for IL) is woefully under-documented.

Which is a shame. The Nervous were sort of a harder-edged X (same vocal male-&-female vocal dynamic, even), IL somewhat evoked Pere Ubu & the Birthday Party & Cabaret Voltaire all at the same time, & the Out Crowd were pretty much what the Style Council would've sounded like if the Style Council had been worth listening to.

I'm biased, of course -- a friend of mine was the guitarist in all 3 bands, & another friend (RIP) was lead vocalist for IL. Though both bands were over & done with, alas, before I ever got to know those guys.

Hmmmm ... come to think of it, the guitarist friend supposedly wound up out there to begin with on a baseball scholarship from ASU. We're friends on Facebook (in fact, I've sent him all my old IL & Nervous tapes for digital preservaton & promulgation, though I think only an IL gig opening for Wall of Voodoo at the Whiskey in LA has been posted); I should ask him about that.

This post brought to you courtesy of Phoenix Punk Think Factory.
   20. PreservedFish Posted: July 26, 2014 at 10:26 AM (#4757984)
I'm biased, of course -- a friend of mine was the guitarist in all 3 bands, & another friend (RIP) was lead vocalist for IL. Though both bands were over & done with, alas, before I ever got to know those guys.

Yeah, so I'm gonna go ahead and call BS on your comment then. Three bands, that you were friends with, that combined to release about five songs total ... these were probably not the best bands of that time and place. And the "etc. etc. etc." was very annoying bluster.

But you know, I had never heard "Teenage Enema Nurses in Bondage" before, so, otherwise you may carry on.
   21. vivaelpujols Posted: July 26, 2014 at 10:36 AM (#4757989)
Never listened to this band before. Listened to two songs on youtube. The scientist song I guess is their most popular but it was pretty bad IMO. I did really like "Bulldog Skin" though.

They sound kind of pavementy to me, but the songwriting is way more generic. /starts 500 post thread
   22. vivaelpujols Posted: July 26, 2014 at 10:53 AM (#4757995)
but the best bands were -- as is pretty much always the case -- completely off the radar ... the Nervous, International Language, the Out Crowd, etc. etc. etc.


There's no way this is a true. The best bands generally rise to the top. Now a lot of other well produced crap also rises to the top. Now a lot of bands are really good live and are very original but don't have good singers which is why they dwell in obscurity.
   23. GregD Posted: July 26, 2014 at 11:13 AM (#4758002)
I don't have any trouble believing the best song was by some band that never white out it together. Or the best live band. But the best band has to have some longevity for me--a couple of albums. In Philly as Dr Dog was making its move another local band they played with called The Teeth were probably more fun to see and had a couple of really good songs maybe in a Ted Leo style. But their recordings sounded lousy and as far as I know they faded away though I could be wrong. I would personally never say they were a better band than Dr Dog since part of being a band is figuring out how to keep making music after the first flash of inspiration is gone and how to make songs that don't repeat what came before but still show some kind of developing vision. And on those fronts Dr Dog is a really fine band even if they still strike me as a little boring live.
   24. Lassus Posted: July 26, 2014 at 11:29 AM (#4758005)
A better argument for "best bands never make it to the top" are ones like my own top of the pyramid, Redd Kross. Lauded by many many many more popular bands as a better band than they are, Los Angeles legends in the scene, long career; but when put out there as best band of an era they would get endless blank stares. Plenty of other similar best bands are out there similar, far better than the popular ones, but also not exactly beyond Google.

I think gef's argument is almost 100% accurate, but he didn't pick the right bands to make the argument.
   25. vivaelpujols Posted: July 26, 2014 at 11:34 AM (#4758009)
There are a couple relatively unknown bands that I really like. Especially live and in the house party scene (I really like the way house party shows sound for some reason - I kind of hate shows at venues when everything's miked to #### and all you can hear is the bass drum). But I wouldn't even say those bands make songs anywhere near the elite level (say MGMT, Ty Segall, Tame Impala). I suppose it's possible for a band to have a great songwriter but a terrible drummer or something (like Smashing Pumpkins before they got Chamberlain), but I would think those guys almost aways get heard by some people. To put it more succinctly I've never heard a song that absolutely blew me away live that wasn't by an already famous band.
   26. PreservedFish Posted: July 26, 2014 at 12:16 PM (#4758030)
I think gef's argument is almost 100% accurate, but he didn't pick the right bands to make the argument.


Oh, but Redd Kross is probably impossibly mainstream for gef. I don't know if you guys are on the same wavelength.
   27. The District Attorney Posted: July 26, 2014 at 12:38 PM (#4758037)
How can you hate a band whose music you've never actually heard?
Threads like this are a good enough reason.
   28. vortex of dissipation Posted: July 26, 2014 at 01:01 PM (#4758050)
GBV is a band that I've never really understood. I got Human Amusements at Hourly Rates from the library, and listened to it several times, but the only song I really liked was "Chasing Heather Crazy". Admittedly, I like that song a lot, but the others just didn't leave much of an impression, either musically or lyrically. It wasn't awful, it just wasn't very memorable.
   29. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: July 26, 2014 at 03:12 PM (#4758118)
Oh, but Redd Kross is probably impossibly mainstream for gef. I don't know if you guys are on the same wavelength.


Hardly "impossibly mainstream," but they've just never done much for me.
   30. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: July 26, 2014 at 03:14 PM (#4758119)
Three bands, that you were friends with, that combined to release about five songs total ... these were probably not the best bands of that time and place.


Though of course, as I implied, I became friends with those guys because I loved their bands, not vice versa. Would never have met either of them if I hadn't been trying to dig up tapes.

Dunno how old you are, but 30 or so years ago it wasn't at all unusual for great bands to never release a damned thing except the occasional track on a local comp; the economic, technological, etc. structure just didn't seem to be in place.

I was never any sort of musician (I've never played anything but the stereo), so I can't tell you why that was. It was especially notable in off-the-beaten-path scenes like Phoenix. And part of it, I'm sure, was lack of ambition, for whatever reasons; that's probably as good an explanation as any for why, for instance, Killer P*ssy, the Meat Puppets & the Feederz released 7"s but the Nervous, IL & others didn't. (Though it's hard to think of hardcore stoners like the MPs being ambitious; maybe the fact that they struck up friendships with the guys in Monitor & the SST folks stood them in good stead.)

Regardless, it's really cool that you're an expert in the early '80s Phoenix scene. I look forward to your further forthcoming relvelations about which bands were great & which band weren't.

What did you think about Tone Set? What about that time they performed with Yugoslavian accents as "Life is Busy"? That was a riot, wasn't it? Good times! Have you still got your Maybe Mental & Inc. & Victory Acres tapes?
   31. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: July 26, 2014 at 03:31 PM (#4758128)
There's no way this is a true. The best bands generally rise to the top.


And I should stress, just in case it wasn't clear (as may well have been the case), that I was talking about bands in local scenes, especially local scenes that aren't major markets (NYC, LA, SF, I guess Chicago) or non-major markets that become capital-T trendy (Athens, Minneapolis, Seattle), & especially in pre-internet '80s & '90s.

Best band in Little Rock in the early '90s, for my money (because of course this is all as subjective as it can be), was Jesus Loves Jill. Nobody who didn't see them live has ever heard of them, I'm sure, because AFAIK they never released a damned thing. That's unfortunate, & it makes my evaluation of their talent unverifiable, but there it is. At that time in that scene, the only local bands releasing anything tended to be hardcore punk, & that band didn't fit that mold at all.

With any luck, though, PreservedFish will come along & tell me how wrong I am & let me know who, in his considered judgment, was the best local acts in Little Rock 20-odd years ago, because I'm sure he knows, just as he does about the best local acts in Phoenix 30 years ago. Such omniscience is overwhelming.
   32. simon bedford Posted: July 26, 2014 at 04:26 PM (#4758154)
Pollard always wanted to be Lennon and was pissed that he was often compared more to McCartney, the reason why is clear, he provides it himself here "go to the bathroom and write 5 songs"..always the problem with GBV they songs were tossed off, sounded tossed off and when the band played them that way it could be great ( bee thousand and all that) but the more competent the band the worse it could sound ( mah earwig and all that) which is part of why the classic lineup was so great...live they could be a joke and a bore, pollard had no sense of what people actually loved about GBV and the rest were too drunk to care. its an interesting case of what would have happened if pollard took his time ...stlll love some of the results "redman and their wives" is one of about 30 great songs i love by these guys
   33. PreservedFish Posted: July 26, 2014 at 04:52 PM (#4758160)
Of course I don't know #### about about any of those bands or scenes, Gef, nor did I claim to, but I don't feel wrong for calling you out on your elitism and the epic humblebrag of "etc etc etc" appended to a trio of bands that you knew nobody on this site had ever heard of.

just in case it wasn't clear (as may well have been the case), that I was talking about bands in local scenes


No, it wasn't clear. Seems like something of a tautology - oh, when I said that obscure bands were always the best, I only meant obscure bands when considered inside obscure contexts.
   34. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: July 27, 2014 at 07:48 AM (#4758319)
When I wrote

That was a good period for music in the Valley


it was pretty obvious to me that I was talking about the Phoenix scene. To you & others, perhaps, "the Valley" means ... what? ... the USA? The world?

Granted, though, "the Valley (of the Sun)" probably isn't obviously a reference to "the Phoenix area" to anyone not familiar with the locality. I doubt it meant anything to me before I moved there.

In any event, yes, I was talking about a local scene. And I'll stand by my assertion that all too often, in local scenes, at least before the rise of the internet & the accompanying democratizaton (for lack of a better noun occuring to me at the moment) of the means of distribution, more often as not the most promising acts in a given scene probably weren't known outside local circles.

How in the hell that constitutes "elitism" on my (or anyone else's) part, I have no idea. The only reason I mentioned any of the above is because KT mentioned the Gin Blossoms. I happened to like Doug Hopkins' pre-Gin Blossoms band, the Psalms, who I happened to see play with a friend's band in Phoenix ... which led me to a bit of a ramble down memory lane. First time that's ever happened here, I know.

Oh, teh elitism.

Oh, yeah: Mr. Mister started out as a local Phoenix band during that era, too. Now you can be happy, I guess.

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