When the Songs For Summer album came out in 2000, I started writing about each track on the SFS website but only ended up doing eight of them. You can read them all at archive.org but this is the first time any of them have been online proper in years. Because the Jazz Butcher was Summer’s big fave, it’s one of the better tales and since the album is out of print, I’m posting the track as well, guilt free.
Summer’s favorite singer is an English bloke by the name of Pat Fish (aka The Jazz Butcher). For years, he’s played with different musicians as the Jazz Butcher Conspiracy. Over the ages, he’s played music of all kinds; garage madness, beautiful ballads, layered electronic dance music, jazzy drinking singalongs, Spanish flavored guitar pieces and everything in between. All the while, he’s written timeless, catchy, heartbreaking and hilarious songs. When Summer first started listening to him, he’d been recording for over 10 years and was still almost totally unheard of in America. She still managed to track down tons of his import cd’s and records before the internet made it all so easy.
When Summer and I first started dating, I’d never heard the Jazz Butcher Conspiracy. I was a longtime Lloyd Cole fan who thought the JBC were just an amped up version of the Commotions. Summer thought the Commotions were a boring version of the JBC, who she’d been loving since she was 16 or so. Our friend Jason thought they both owed it all to the Monochrome Set, but I digress. Eventually, we both gave in but agreed that the Butcher was better. Sometimes it seemed like Summer”s sole purpose in life was to convert people into Jazz Butcher fans. It’s always been a pet peeve of mine when people try to sing to me or sit me down and play me bits of songs and expect me to become an instant fan. With Summer, I just sat back and smiled as she sang “Partytime” (her favorite) to an uninitiated music lover for the 8 millionth time. She convinced one friend to buy the JBC album Fishcoteque but the girl just didn’t like it. Summer discovered that the cd had accidentally been pressed with weird Abba-esque German pop music. Of course she HAD to have the cd and so occasionally I’d come home with a brilliant German version of “Xanadu” leaking through the door. It sounded a little like….wait THAT’S IT! One “German Xanadu” search clears up years of mystery. Oh, internet….
Luckily, she did get to see Mr. Fish in person. He played at the sadly defunct Discafe in La Jolla, California on August 29, 1993. It was one of the best nights of her life. He played a solo acoustic set and she even grabbed the setlist (where he’d drawn a dinosaur and the Camper van Beethoven lyric “Baby don’t you go to La Jolla”). Unfortunately, he didn’t play “Partytime”. As they passed a jar around for “donations” afterwards (they didn’t have money to pay him and it wouldn’t have been legal anyways since he wasn’t supposed to be working), Summer said she’d give him eight dollars if he’d play “Partytime”. He strapped his guitar back on and played it just for her.
Summer wasn’t a very big Love & Rockets or Bauhaus fan, even though she liked a lot of swooshy sad music. She always liked to say that she was a wannabe goth in high school for a little bit, which meant that she wore magenta a lot. She’s just too happy. Because David J played bass with the Jazz Butcher in the 80’s, I bought her one of his solo albums and she loved it. We saw he was coming to town for a solo acoustic show just after she was first diagnosed and admitted to the hospital. I quickly realized that having her favorite musicians coming through town only made her sadder than she already was. I promised myself that none of her favorite singers were allowed to come to town without at least calling her.
On the day of the show, I decided to try to get him to wish her well. I left the hospital to “do some work” and went to the club and waited for over an hour for him to show up. He was very sensitive about Summer and wanted to do something. He wouldn’t have time to run to the hospital but promised to call her after soundcheck. His manager took out a cell phone backstage and I asked David if he could play a Jazz Butcher song. but he was thinking he would play Spice Girls’ “Wannabe”. I called her hospital bed, told her there was someone who wanted to play a song for her and asked him to state his name. “David J Haskins,” he said and played the zigazig-ah. She had 10 people visiting her in the hospital room at the time and was in total shock, at first thinking I was playing her a tape. He talked to her quickly and was very sweet. I got a big kiss when I returned to the hospital.
After Summer passed away, I asked our friend Chris to come by and take her JBC stuff since he’d introduced the band to her. When I showed him her vinyl collection, his jaw dropped. I asked them if he already had any of them.. “NO ONE has these!” he replied. She always checked for JBC stuff in any record store we went to and I even surprised her a few times by finding her rare twelve inch singles. Keep in mind that this is a girl who wanted to randomly send Pat a helmet with big horns attached to it. She loved that man.
I never did get to finish my ditty entitled “I Wanna Be Your Butcher Baby” but in the one song I did write for her, I included these lines….(keep in mind that my father, David Gimbel, wanted to name me Max)
“You might not get David J.
How `bout the son of David G?
You might not get Max Eider.
Could you settle for a Max like me?”
When I started to put the album together, I knew I absolutely HAD to have a song from the Jazz Butcher. A few weeks after I’d put out a few e-mail feelers on how to get in contact with him. I got a short e-mail from Pat himself, saying he’d be happy to talk to me about it. It was strange and amazing to be exchanging letters with Summer’s main man. He was funny, understanding, genuine, intelligent, and just plain nice. He didn’t have ANY obligation to talk to me just because Summer loved his music but he was genuinely touched by her story and her fandom and wanted to be a part of the album.
He was VERY giving when it came to being a part of the record. His track is the only one that was recorded just for the album. For awhile, he even considered recording the song I’d written for Summer with a middle 8 that was one big Jazz Butcher inside joke. Instead, he chose to record a song I’d heard about several times but I’d never heard: “Indian Summer” by Beat Happening. We’d talked about the band Luna once and I knew that they’d also recorded the song. I worried that he might change his mind knowing someone else had already covered the song but it turned out that it was Luna’s version that sold him on the song.
In typical form, Pat took the time and care to write a little something about how and why he chose to give us this particular song….
I can’t recall ever hearing the original version of this tune. The first version I heard was by Dean Wareham, the Luna guy. Sonic Boom brought it over one afternoon. It was spare and it was elegant and it seemed to have something very regretful about it. I found it all oddly affecting and had him play it a couple more times.
Only a few days after the session David J. forced me to go and see the reformed Velvet Underground at Wembley (video link to entire VU set). It was for my own good. He’s a doctor, you know. As we entered the arena the support band were playing their closing number. The band was Luna and the tune was Indian Summer. A song tends to stick with you after those kinds of experiences.
Enough with the name dropping. When I was searching for something to contribute to Adam’s record he helpfully sent me a list of about 6,000 songs which involved the word Summer in the title. Many of them I had never heard. Thinking about it a while later, I realised that Indian Summer had not been on the list.
When I first heard the tune I had entertained wistful, self-indulgent ideas of playing it some time. It sounded like it would be good value to play, give the singer and the band a lot of room to uh express themselves fully and at length. Bless.
It wasn’t long after I’d settled down to making some rhythm tracks that the first of the Bad Thoughts came. See, we have this Mikey Dread record at our house. No, forget it, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you. People never do. Their eyes kinda glaze over and they wander off to ask if you’re always like that.
Summer, if I have it at all right, would probably have been in that small, demographically inscrutable minority who watch them go with a quiet grin and think “Mira. El Carnicero.” Bless ‘em, these knowing dissidents have been my bread and butter for some time, and Summer was no exception, handing over good American Dollar in exchange for black economy crooning. In a car park.
I’m happy to be contributing to this record in Summer’s memory, and I’m happy to be contributing to this record to help kids later on. Channel your creativity, boys ‘n girls, or you could end up like me.
Pat Fish: Summer 1999
Whenever anyone was giving us a cover tune, I had to track down who wrote it, tell them about the album and ask that we could have the publishing royalties donated to charity. Since songwriters make a lot of their money from these royalties, the people who control the publishing can be very protective of their songs. In this case, it meant contacting a genuine indie-rock hero, Beat Happening’s Calvin Johnson. When I called K Records in Olympia, Washington, I was prepared for the usual weeks of phone tag and leaving messages but I was talking to Calvin within a few seconds. He was very nice and seemed willing to let us use the song just on his ok over the phone.
I couldn’t wait to hear Pat’s version of the tune. I finally received the cd from England and I instantly loved it. His musical styles have changed a lot over the years and the diversity of his songs have always kept things very interesting. This recording is much more like his newer material with Sumosonic (who did one brilliant album you’ll be lucky to find). As much as I love the tune, Pat Fish is a brilliant songwriter himself. Maybe one of the best ever. Do yourself a favor and go listen to some of his work. Part of the joy of putting out an album of Summer’s favorites is hearing people enjoying the songs and checking out albums by the bands on it. She would be so happy to know that people are checking out the Jazz Butcher because of her influence.
After Summer left, I was determined to make a trip to the UK, which the two of us had always talked of doing. Pat said I HAD to let him know when I was coming. As luck would have it, he was playing a small club when I was in London this past summer. It was a totally unreal experience seeing him in that part of the world and, obviously, something was missing. He and his friends played great and even did “Partytime”. Near the end, I yelled out of the darkness for “Indian Summer” and he said, “That must be Adam Gimbel!” (faint) We all talked for ages afterwards and the whole band was all too wonderful.
They are still kicking after all of these years. A new live album shows that they’ve still got it. All the old tunes sound as fresh as ever and the new stuff is genius as always. They’re even doing the first NEW Jazz Butcher album in ages and running around America, Japan and other scattered points around the globe. Do yourself a favor. Go make yourself a fan. You can thank her later.
Songs For Summer is long out of print but there are always cheap used copies to be found. Do yourself a favor….. (Amazon link)
Also, twelve years later and the Jazz Butcher has a new album out. I’m off to pay full pop for my chance to hear it…