Why would anyone wanna listen to an L.P. of a thirty year-old demo tape from a band who never exactly changed the world?
The band in question is Cerritos, California’s Channel 3, (Mike Magrann vocals/guitar, Kimm Gardner guitar/vocals, Larry Kelly bass, Mike Burton Drums) and the record is To Whom It May Concern. Channel 3 played hardcore, which in the eighties meant only two things, either explicit pornography or the American brand of faster, louder, angrier punk rock.
In films about artists, whether it’s Jackson Pollock or Johnny Cash, there’s always that squirm-inducing scene where the exact artistic transgression that will change culture forever is explained to the audience in a massive infodump. So in their hypothetical bio-pic, let’s call it Fear of Life: The Ch. 3 Story, the expository scene, starring Kevin Spacey as David Geffen and Ryan Reynolds as Mike Magrann (damn front man always hogs the screen time) might play out like this:
David Geffen: (leans back on leather chair) You can’t play that fast, kid, someone’s gonna get hurt.So this unearthed demo provides the rush of discovery of without all that painful exposition and bad casting. Now you can hear for yourself the songs, ragers like “Manzanar” and poppier ones like “Life Goes On”, that floored producer Robbie Fields, the (non-murderous) Phil Spector of hardcore. You’ll hear Magrann and Gardner ‘s clearly articulated guitar fury and their vocal interplay powering songs which never lack for riffs, hooks or dynamics but which instead manage to do all of that in under 120 seconds.
Mike Magann: (slouches against a wall lined with gold and platinum records) That’s the point, man.
David Geffen: (Leans forward, his finger pressed together) And these lyrics, they’re too socially conscious, you’re tackling taboos about American prison camps and changing sexual mores – that’s not going to sell to middle America.
Mike Magann: (Flips the bird) Screw you, David Geffen. And middle America! We’re gonna join an independent label and make raw, wild records, reminiscent of the untrammelled musical freedom of the earliest days of rock n’ roll. We’re gonna strip the music down to it’s most basic components and then play it so fast that people’ll have to read the lyric sheet just to figure what hit ‘em! (Exits, slams door to the opening riff of “You Lie”.)
In Nick Hornsby’s novel, Juliet, Naked, a couple break up due to their opposite reaction to a collection of demos the fictional singer-song-writer Tucker Crowe made for a famously tortured album. Since Channel 3 never traded in the kind of self-dramatizing narcissism common to musical legends from Dylan to Rollins to Morrissey, this collection isn’t likely to destroy any relationships. Instead, as the movie they DID make about the band, the documentary titled One More For All My True Friends, points out Channel 3 were more like a Band of Brothers (Magrann and Gardner having been friends since the second grade) who remain as they began, “Normal guys who got lucky and got to say what a lot of people had on their minds”.
Channel Three didn’t change the world but that might be the world’s loss.
**** out *****
Album available through:Interpunk
Channel 3 downloads on MRML
Channel 3's web-site
Channel 3's MySpace
Mike Magrann's blog