Crashing Through!

International Pop Underground -

Crashing Through!

Above: Beat Happening, Crashing Through 1988 12" EP reissued as a gatefold double 7"

The guitar scream drum pound of Beat Happening, howling through the rural Northwest, was apparently just the thing to compliment a corduroy enshrouded freak scene going down concurrently in Scotland during the late '80s. Enough so that the second Beat Happening album, Jamboree, released in the United States by Rough Trade Records, was in Europe added to the growing crashpop catalogue of Scotland's 53rd & 3rd label.

By the time Jamboree made it's appearance in 1988, 53rd & 3rd, founded by Stephen Pastel (of The Pastels!) and David Keegan (Shop Assistants), had already released 12" EPs by pop combos Groovy Little Numbers, The Vaselines, Shop Assistants, BMX Bandits, The Boy Hairdressers, The Beat Poets, Talulah Gosh, Househunters and Chin-Chin. An impressive arsenal.

This all came about because a young fellow in Glasgow, Scotland, Norman Blake, heard the debut Beat Happening album (released in Great Britain by Rough Trade in 1986). Norman was playing electric bass guitar in The Pastels and had started a group with like-minded pals, The Boy Hairdressers. Norman wrote a very nice letter to K in late 1986 explaining about the Scotland scene, mentioning his enthusiasm for the Beat Happening approach to rock'n'roll.

The sound of young Scotland: Frances McKee, Sean Dickson, Duglas Stewart, Norman Blake (later of combos The Vaselines, Soup Dragons, BMX BanditsThe Boy Hairdressers, respectively; at the time they comprised The Pretty Flowers), Bellshill, Scotland, 1983, photog by Kim McLachlan.

Not one to keep a good thing to himself, Norman said, "check this shit out" to all and sundry. Some did. Stephen Pastel wrote K inquiring about new recordings by Beat Happening and if there was a chance their being made available via the new 53rd & 3rd venture. Totally. Count us in.

Beat Happening had just recorded Jamboree (in Ellensburg, WA) and it seemed like this could all come together nicely. Stephen Pastel was interested in the album, but didn't want to wait to get Beat Happening in front of the people. His idea was to release a single of one song on the album, "Crashing Through", as a 12" EP along with additional recordings not included on Jamboree.

Beat Happening, "Look Around" / "That Girl" [IPU001] 45rpm, maiden volume of the International Pop Underground series

The most recent Beat Happening single, "Look Around" and "That Girl" was a natural addition to the proceedings. One more song was required to complete the EP. While putting together the Jamboree album there were two diff recordings of "The This Many Boyfriends Club". One was recorded live at a show in Ellensburg, WA; the other had been captured by Rich Jensen in Corvallis, Oregon. Both equally vital, they each elevated the song to different planes. In the end Ellensburg was included on Jamboree, leaving the Corvallis recording for the Crashing Through EP on 53rd & 3rd. Heather Lewis drew a lovely bull for the front cover; Bret Lunsford provided a photog from the Jamboree sessions in Ellensburg for the back. Voila.

53rd & 3rd helped coordinate an European tour for Beat Happening with the German Pastell Organization to coincide with the spring, 1988 release of Jamboree. As it happened, due to production delays, only the Crashing through EP was available in Europe until the tour's last two dates, in Edinburgh and Glasgow, which were the only two that mattered (some say).

Sadly, The Boy Hairdressers did not play this 1988 London show (but were in attendance).

The UK leg of the tour was set to feature Beat Happening, The Vaselines and The Boy Hairdressers, but the week prior to our arrival The Boy Hairdressers split up. As they were at the time the most well known of the three combos, several of the venues cancelled the shows. So bogus. The few shows in England that were not cancelled provided ample time with the Scots, both band members plus road crew of Stevie and Neil, which was needed as their Glasgow accents were so thick it took some time to get acclimated.

The upshot of the cancellations was the entire entourage headed to Scotland a week early to make the scene. The first night Norman Blake hosted us at his grandparents' house in Bellshill for dinner. Fine Scottish hospitality. Stephen Patel organized an outing to Loch Lomond for picnic, swimming and assorted games. One of the finest tour diversions ever.

As there were a few days off Calvin headed to the offices of Fast Forward in Edinburgh, the distributors of 53rd & 3rd, to help with the promotion of Jamboree. Everyone at Fast Forward were so generous with their time and resources, providing a desk and telephone and making suggestions of who what where to contact and connect in the swirling whirlwind of independent music around the United Kingdom. While in town David Keegan put him up at his groovy apartment and let him peruse his impressive collection of bootleg Ramones cassette tapes.

back in Glasgow with time to hang with The Vaselines, a four-piece at that point (drummer Charles, intense accent!), whom had played the few shows in England. Frances even allowed Calvin to ride Rory (her bicycle) around the neighborhood. Bret and Heather, having stayed in Glasgow had a chance to meet with other Glasgow types and wandered the streets. They also hand-painted a stack of Beat Happening shirts to sell at the last two shows in Scotland.

a fierce Scot "Red Rover" team on the shore of Loch Lomond: Stephen, Eugene, Davey, Aggi, Frances; photog by Bret Lunsford

Edinburgh and Glasgow were the final shows of the tour, explosive. Then it was back to Olympia. However, the story does not end there. The folks at Optic Nerve recordings have reissued the Beat Happening Crashing Through EP released on 53rd & 3rd as a 12" EP as a double 7" 45rpm set packaged in a gatefold sleeve, part of their series of '80s underground 12" EPs released as DBL 7". It's available now from The K Mail Order Dept. Far out.

Beat Happening never made it back to Scotland. 53rd & 3rd Records did release another 12" EP of the Beat Happening/Screaming Trees material, and lots of other essential pop punk distortions. The Glasgow accents have faded with time, or we've just gotten acclimated. Preferably the latter.

Beat Happening, in coordinated outfits.