Reissues track rekindled interest in vintage Milwaukee rock records
What comes around goes around. And nothing proves that more than the recent attention to classic Milwaukee-made rock and roll vinyl.
For April's Record Store Day, Beer City Records reissued Die Kreuzen's landmark "Cows and Beer" as a limited edition 12" and also on 7" that had the local scene buzzing about the discs, available primarily through Bay View's RushMor Records.
At roughly the same time, Austin, Texas-based Cheap Rewards Records issued a vinyl LP compilation of Badger State power pop songs and St. Louis-based Rerun Records issued CDs by Ama-Dots and The Ones and vinyl 45 reissues of singles by Lubricants and The Ones.
Also in April, Britain's Cherry Red label reissued Plasticland's 1984 debut. More reissues are planned.
"Reissues of this sort of stuff are coming out all the time from many, many regions, Milwaukee ones are just a small part," says Ken Chrisien, who owns Bay View's Acme Records and Music Emporium. "It's about time, this stuff has been too hard to find for years & needs to be heard by more people.
Soon, New York's Sing Sing Records will release an LP, recorded in 1980, by the long-defunct Milwaukee quintet The Shivvers.
"I don't think we expected the level of excitement from all quarters," says Keith Brammer, who played bass for Die Kreuzen, Milwaukee's most respected and famous punk exports.
"We had figured the punk and hardcore enthusiasts would be into it, but it seemed to be much more widespread than that. This material has been pretty readily available over the years, but I think the remastering and general care we took with the presentation had a lot to do with it."
So, why the resurgence in demand right now? Partially, it's the boom in interest in vinyl, but some of the reissues are on CD.
"From what I can see there's a whole new generation of listeners out there, in addition to the people who've been with us for years," says Brammer, "and I think that perhaps this new generation are just as sick of the overproduced schlock that passes for popular music now as we were with the stuff in the late '70s/early '80s.
"I certainly don't think either we or any of our contemporaries from the early hardcore/punk scene could have foreseen just how much longevity what we did 30-some years ago would have. It was definitely a pleasant surprise to see it happen, though."
Some of the activity is born of the passion of collectors and scenesters. Jason Ross, who owns Rerun Records, is a Wisconsin native and he's worked with veteran Milwaukee musician Clancy Carroll on his label's projects.
"I was born/raised around the Fox Valley/Appleton area," says Ross, "and that's where I have my interest in Wisconsin music. I mean, regardless of geographical location, I love the bands ... but I wanted to do some reissues from my home state."
Rerun has made its name reissuing records by St. Louis bands and groups from other cities. Ross hooked up with Carroll around the time of the Lest We Forget concert featuring veteran bands reunited at Turner Hall in 2012.
"(Ross) was up here to see the show and hang out with Wisconsin friends. We met because he had an interest in possibly reissuing the Ones 45," recalls Carroll, who was a member of The Ones in the 1970s and early '80s.
"As we discussed things, it turned out that he was already working on the Ama-Dots LP and then the Lubricants 45 reissue entered into the fray."
Carroll -- who produced a comprehensive two-CD reissue of Milwaukee music called "History in Three Chords" in 2001 -- also worked with Mike Hooker, who put together "Cheap Rewards Presents Radio Ready Wisconsin: Lost Power Pop Hits: 1979-1982," which collects 14 songs from bands like Shivvers, RPM's, Haskels, Spooner and Carroll's band Dominoes.
"I met him a few years ago when he was in Milwaukee on a record hunting trip; he contacted me, also interested in the Ones 45 as he wanted to buy one for his collection," Carroll says, noting that Hooker focuses on bands from Texas and Florida.
"The LP is something he worked on for quite some time. I helped him with contacts for some people to give their blessing or to locate good source materials."
In his press release for "Radio Ready," Hooker writes, "Thirty years on, the music bolsters a youthful energy, an undying spirit and a plentiful supply of catchy hooks that should have earned (the groups) all national attention."
Almost all the reissues are selling steadily at Acme, Chrisien says.
So, will the music keep coming?
Brammer says don't expect much from Die Kreuzen.
"There's really not that much, if anything, left to reissue," he says. "Touch and Go have kept all of the LPs in print, bless their souls, and there are plenty of the other singles that we released still floating around. We've talked about possibly doing something with some of the live material we have, but nothing's really been decided."
And while Ross is weighing some ideas, and Carroll says Rerun has its eyes on one Milwaukee project in particular, neither is willing to say much more right now.
"There's nothing else concrete from Wisconsin bands at the moment," says Ross, "though I'm hoping to work on a project with another Milwaukee band soon. (It's) too early (and) hush hush to mention at this point. There's tons of great music from Wisconsin, so you you never know what will happen in the future. The response to these releases has been great so far, so I may have to dig a bit deeper to work with other Wisconsin bands."
Carroll, however, seems certain there's more to come.
"I am not out lobbying or working this stuff, but am certainly available when people track me down," says Carroll, who also points to Finnish fanzine Ripple Rock, which has featured Milwaukee punk bands and The Shivvers' Jill Kossoris in a recent issue.
" I think it's just time for people to figure this whole thing out and there is some market out there among underground/lost cool music fans."
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