Wrote this for the 1999 release of the 11345 Records compilation, Horseshoes & BBQ’s.
The 11345 story started in late 1993, when three young men looked northward to the Bay Area. They wondered aloud if life could be sweeter there than it was down in the sunny region of San Diego, where they were currently residing. What motivates such a 500 mile relocation? Women, of course. Patrick Secor was chasing a young, black clad “goth” woman, Sam O’Daniel was chasing his lovely fiancee, and Adam Gimbel was chasing two young ladies handling the fanclubs for musical acts Jellyfish and Redd Kross. The three were associated by coincidence, happenstance and friendship. Gimbel had done collegiate level radio with O’Daniel and worked at a major music retail establishment with Secor. They unified to make the exodus as a trio. O’Daniel and Gimbel pulled into town in January of 1994 and after an exhausting one week search for a suitable place to take up residence, called a number inquiring about a three bedroom flat in El Cerrito (just north of Berkeley) for just $800. The call was answered by a tropical fish store employee. They knew they’d found their home.
Looming large above several businesses (a nail care boutique and a facial care establishment in addition to the fishstore), El Cerrito Manor is located at 11345 San Pablo Ave, just across from Atlas Liquors, spitting distance from Target and just a stone’s throw from the El Cerrito Del Norte BART stop. Nestled on the border of rich, rolling suburban hills and one of the most dangerous “hoods” in America, as the city of Richmond was labeled in Rolling Stone shortly after the trio’s move-in), it simultaneously gave the appearance of extremely posh digs AND street credibility thanks to an overgrown backyard, treacherous back staircase and breathtaking view of the five star Travelodge hotel . Although there are neighbors located on either side of the building, one is more or less free to make as much noise as is desired and that is exactly what happened there.
Shortly after arriving, O’Daniel, himself a gifted guitarist and part-time vocalist, answered an advertisement in a local publication and found himself in the company of one Geoff Bock, local resident and singer/songwriter extraordinaire. The two formed the band Tucker and, with Steve St. Cin and Jim Summers as the rhythm section, rehearsals commenced at 11345. The bedrooms were so big that an entire four piece rock unit (drums included) could fit comfortably inside. Before the band played a single gig, they placed in the top 25 spots of a Conan O’Brien national band search with a one shot video done in the corner of O’Daniel’s bedroom. The quality of the band’s material was such that the submitted song was soon out of the set!
For its debut gig, the band played a set at the first ever gathering of local talent at the flat in August of 1994. Dubbed Sanpablopalooza, the event was a monumental undertaking and sister event to the “other” major alternative festival then touring America. The show was opened by the three guitar, no bass, rock force known as Cover Me Badd, consisting of the three roommates (Gimbel, Secor, O’Daniel) plus visiting friend and future 11345 resident, Mike Flinn. The band dared to play songs by The Brady Bunch and Camper Van Beethoven in the same set, even going so far as to play tunes by Smashing Pumpkins, the Temptations and Neil Diamond in the space of one medley. Tucker’s set went down like a firestorm, leaving many disbelieving the fact that it could actually be the band’s first performance.
The group started to play outside of the cozy comfines of the chateau 11345, performing memorable concerts on both sides of the Bay, including a memorable night where they reportedly “stole the show” from a laughable, yet up-and-coming band called Third Eye Blind (at least that’s what the 20 people who stuck around said and one of them was a young Bill Graham Presents employee that wanted to manage them based on that one performance). The band played out regularly and their circle of musician friends started to expand. The core group of friends rarely performed together outside of the regular celebrations at 11345. It was only at these gatherings that you could see such influencial local acts as Tucker, The Moore Brothers, Nova Come Home, Street Vendors (now called rar.), and Adam Gimbel, right alongside regional artists like Mike Flinn, Dan Buczaczer, Ripley Caine, and many others, all on one free bill.
In direct competition to alternative rock stations’ annual Christmas shows, the Acoustic Chanukah show was staged in December of 1994 with members of the inner circle of the 11345 scene all playing acoustically, including Tucker. The event marked the debut of the second scene supergroup: Beatnik Bitch. The acoustic trio (Secor on bongos, Flinn on sax and Gimbel on acoustic guitar) dressed all in black and sported sunglasses for the indoor nighttime set. Gimbel mainly used the act as a platform to spout “tongue-in-cheek” poetry (though rumors circulated that he took himself quite seriously) and perform an occasional “song”, like the cult hit “Killing Mr. Furley”, an ode to America’s favorite landlord’s suppression of Jack Tripper’s heterosexuality.
Once enough time had elapsed, the organizers looked for an excuse to stage another event and, finding that their desired excuse didn’t fall on a Saturday, invented Seis De Mayo. Despite the early blasphemous accusations in the Hispanic press, the event was a huge success. The usual talent was assembled for the show with an in-between act soundtrack that included everything from “Born In East LA” and “La Isla Bonita” to bits of how-to speak Spanish tapes. The spirit was jovial (as most events with piñatas are) despite huge changes in some of the central acts of the scene.
11345 and Tucker founder Sam O’Daniel had left the band and had also left 11345 to pursue marriage. He was replaced on guitar by Carvel Bass and the already amazing band took a turn toward a more midwestern/country sound that cemented their place in rock history, despite the lack of a record deal, national following or full length album. Even more surprising, Secor was kicked out of Beatnik Bitch (now called Beat n X) midshow during their now-infamous “Drunk Bongo Player” number. The slack was taken up by the addition of San Diego costume assistant Summer Brannin and the dual acoustic guitar attack of the Street Vendors. Still, the performance was to be the band’s last as Gimbel was also soon to leave 11345.
In the ensuing years, there were many inhabitants and bands that filtered in and out of the 11345 scene. The founding members have all followed separate paths:
- A few short years after applying his bachelor degree to being a short order cook at a golf course, O’Daniel found himself working as a high powered computer industry bigwig, owning a home in Concord and playing father to two lovely children (one can only presume that his second child, still in utero as of this writing, will be equally as lovely as his first). His current studio project, The Foster Brothers, practices and records several times a year.
- Gimbel had narrowly escaped the devastating earthquake that flattened his alma matter (California State University at Northridge) just days after his arrival in the Bay Area and took it as a sign to not pursue his audio production degree. The fanclub connections he had relocated north to pursue fizzled away by the time he arrived there. After stints as a rubber stamp technician in Berkeley and music management front office assistant in West Hollywood, he has settled into the position of being the CEO of the foremost antique automobile part locating guide publisher in the country. After stints in side projects like the Atlas Lickers and Suzanne & The Summerz, he has begun to perform acoustic solo shows under the pseudonym Adam The Gimbel.
- Secor first moved to the Bay Area after raising necessary capital to release the first full-length release for multi-platinum hardcore punk rock outfit Blink 182 through his now-defunct label, Filter Records. After several critically acclaimed releases through Filter, Secor proved himself to be a true chameleon of rock, reinventing himself, once again, under the banner of 11345 Records, an obvious nod to the apartment that has helped shape an entire generation of music lovers. He has recently done session work, drumming with several local acts and has set up a worldwide online distribution center for his record label at 11345.com.
11345 is still the hub of a thriving scene as creative artists continue to pass the aparment down to worthy inhabitants. The northwest suite has now been inhabited by Gimbel, Bock, and Flinn, considered by some to be the holy trinity of American songwriting. Secor has even moved back into the apartment’s familiar walls after a self-imposed exile (though tabloids report that he is planning to move out again). Rock historian Katie Skibinski recently created the 11345 website to document the scene’s history for generations to come.
All-star extravaganzas were staged to celebrate the release of the 1999 compilation Horseshoes & BBQ’s, 11345 Records’ debut release. It is the first audio commemoration of the legendary circle of talented friends. Gimbel penned the still-unreleased title track for the album’s San Francisco record release party (later recorded by his band Rookie Card, see link below). Even strangers to the story of 11345 have instantly been intoxicated by its imagery of the early years of the scene that the song depicts. Close your eyes and imagine a living room packed with a group of people all committed to making and appreciating great musical art. In each corner of the room, compass points remind you of the global nature of life and each point (N, S, E & W) is surrounded with appropriate icons associated with each letter. Neil Diamond stares from the North, the Sesame Street gang supports the South, Elvis Presley guards the East wall and Wham carelessly whispers to you from the West corner.
Close your eyes and remember. Here’s hoping we never forget.
“Horseshoes & BBQ’s” (Gimbel)
Star Search Factor Songs 1999
Boxcar Willie tumbled off the tracks
near the end of the Richmond line.
He said “Now, move over shorty.
El Cerrito Del Norte looks like it would suit me fine.
Well, I’ve been saving up some wishes
for a store that sells some fishes
down San Pablo way.”
So he aimed his boots across the parking lot
and went heading for Target (pronounced in French)
“Throw your horseshoes and barbeques in the air
and throw a Travelodge backyard party
like you just don’t care.”
All the shit kickers
come to Altas Liquors.
But, they don’t even compare
to the folks across the street and up the stairs.
They said “Well, you can stay with us
if you sing us a song.”
And he swore they wuzza heaven sent.
They said “We’ve got some extra room
down in the Twilight Zone
and we already pay cheap rent.”
Well, he faced the east corner of the living room
and he waved towards on Ohio.
He said “I’ll rock every compass point
that’s left on the walls
on the evening of Seis De Mayo.”
Beatniks and Vendors, Sandycoates and Tuckers
all can have a place to roam
and we’ll even leave a light on
just in case Nova comes home.
Well, your red and black kitchen
is lookin’ mighty bitchin’.
And how about those hardwood floors?
If you need a posh flat to stay tonight
just dial 2-1-5-6-2-2-4!
Also read “The least embarrassing first song ever written”, the tale of Gimbel’s song for the Horseshoes compilation, “Miss Right Now”.