Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Doug Snyder & Bob Thompson—
Daily Dance


Released 1973 on New Frontiers
The Seth Man, June 2011ce
First issued independently in 1973, reissued in 1998, and now available as a lavish package on Cantor Records, “Daily Dance” is an instrumental and improvisational document of everything that guitarist Doug Snyder and drummer Bob Thompson held dear (sonicly speaking.) This unlikely pair of cult heroes pulled off an album of naïve yet willful primitivism that effectively kept the balance between sound and silence at unpredictable odds in a Detroit tango that alternates between the pulsating, the rhythmic and the free-form yet sustaining in its own exploratory zone that simultaneously was and wasn’t of its own time...or even that which preceded it, for that matter.

Therein lays the unique and irresistible pull of “Daily Dance.” Parts of it sound like it could’ve landed comfortably on an ESP Disk from the sixties, the 1978 “No New York” album or a late-nineties compilation on Japan’s PSF label. But these weren’t the times nor the places for this non-avant-got-a-clue, non-No New York, noh-Japanoise yelp from beyond. Nope: “Daily Dance” was recorded in drummer Thompson’s kitchen in the small, rural town in Washington Court House. In Ohio. In 1972. A prime example of yet another nascent resonance from the inland empire that embraced its own limitations as strength not weakness, it did so far from the maddening crowd and crow of overpopulated media centers in a limited, self-financed pressing of 500.

To trace its lineage, one need only wander north over the Ohio-Michigan state line to Detroit. Culturally, this particular American borderline was highly porous and susceptible to an unreasonably high rate of limitation-embracing Rock more than any other -- as the legacies of Rocket From The Tombs, The Electric Eels, Mirrors, The Styrenes, DEVO, The Cramps, Pere Ubu and Captain Foam all attest. This sonic infection of the buckeye state came in the form of a double dose of high energy Detroit Rock combined with the long-established, Medusa-headed influence of The Velvet Underground. Although this infection caught hold and spread, it was held in reserve for future release and there was no cure. The oft-restated quote of Brian Eno’s (“the first Velvet Underground album only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band”) obviously applies, although there were a few that caught the VU bug prior to the first album. And that’s where the story of “Daily Dance” begins…

Along with a small group of college friends from the University of Cincinnati, Doug Snyder would be responsible for one of the few complete sound recordings extant of a 1966 Andy Warhol/Velvet Underground & Nico/Exploding Plastic Inevitable performance. The location was the Valleydale Ballroom in Columbus, Ohio on November 4, 1966 when Snyder plus pals met The Velvets’ equipment manager, Dave Faison, who provided them with permission to record and an extension cord for their mono recorder. (Decades later, the result would see release as the legendary “Move Back!” CD.) The opening and closing songs of the evening, “Melody Laughter” and “The Nothing Song” were lengthy, improvisational tracks that would become touchstones for Snyder’s musical direction. So much so that when “The Velvet Underground & Nico” album saw release five months later, Snyder loved it all -- except for the disappointing absence of anything approaching those two exhaustively repetitive extemporizations. But its spirit never left Snyder and as it entwined with the inspiration of Ron Asheton’s volume, power and lacerating wah-wah attack it became the prime guitar vocabulary that would hover low and dark throughout “Daily Dance.” (Not only that, but Snyder’s strumming storms of autodidactic distortion also predate and bring to mind the work of B.C. Gilbert on Wire’s 1977’s “Pink Flag” as much as Lou Reed’s 1967 “European Son.” Really)

A further parallel development can be drawn between Doug Snyder’s musical odyssey from budding Ohioan musician/full-on music fan to full-on musician with those two other champions of Vee-You who played it like they taped it: future Mirrors front man Jamie Klimek and future Voidoids guitarist, Robert Quine. Klimek would amass a precious archive of taped Velvets gigs at La Cave (and anywhere else they played in Cleveland from 1967 onwards) while Quine (a native of Akron, Ohio) recorded The Velvets so often in the late sixties that when the cream of it was released in 2001, it filled a 3 CD box set. They taped, they listened, and then formed bands based as much on Lou Reed’s live solos and all of his various consistencies of rhythmic chipping and gnawing away at the surrounding, angry silence as any legit VU release. Of course, the many unreleased songs and extended improvisations on these and other taped recordings that informed these dissonant pioneers went unheard by most until 1974 when Mercury Records’ double live “1969” and the “Evil Mothers” bootleg surfaced. Both documents proved that there was much, much more to The VU than their studio LPs, but it wouldn’t be until the early eighties when unauthorised pressings of many other tapes became widespread. But back in 1972, Doug Snyder had already completely absorbed that live 1966 VU/EPI performance, as well as the ever-stoked and burning memory of nothing less than a grail-like concert (and life) experience one night in October, 1968 at the Grande Ballroom when he received a one-two, K.O. punch of life: The MC5 recording their “Kick Out The Jams” for Elektra -- followed by an unforgettable performance from opening act, The Psychedelic Stooges. Whoa!

Truly, when the future came a-knockin’, Snyder ushered it through a wide open while his musical partner, Bob Thompson, maintained a freewheelin’ yet tightwheelin’ drumming that was solidly entrenched in the free jazz expressways of John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders. But what emerged from the pair on “Daily Dance” wasn’t remotely like The Velvets, Stooges, ‘Trane, The Pharoah or anybody else’s schizzniz. Nope: ain’t no sheets of sounds here -- more like mattresses of sound in an unmade bed with heroes of the underground hogging the sheets, setting fire to the pillows and drooling on the duvet in a feverish white light day dream only they and those with stereo pre-frontal lobes could understand, let alone love.

More than half of “Daily Dance” consists of extended and brutal improvisations recorded and played at high volume. But the democratic programming of alternating short tracks inbetween nearly causes rave-up interruptus by detracting from the headlong dive and fury of the longer tracks. But seeing as the whole shebang is equally cast into the realm of DIY experimentalism, this multifaceted quality only shores up the album even further as a free and full-on chance taker with the unknown. From the initial ten and a half minute title track, “Daily Dance” all the way to “Teenage Emergency,” the 8½ minute apocalypse of a finale, they working their thing from the inside and keep it there. Set to permanent anti-static, squealing feedback pierces through Thompson’s Elvin Jones-like cannonading snare bulwark as all violent shadows constantly hover around Snyder’s Vox Royal Guardsman amplifier via fuzz-wah pedal via his secondhand Rickenbacker guitar via a burning intensity. In great song titles like “Hit And Run,” “Soul And Universe,” “Time Overlaps Itself,” and “Truth Is A Pathless Land” there are drum rolls from the very bones of Elvin Jones; abrupt eruptions into Reed-ian “European Son” buildings of strum und klang; coagulated pits of distorted guitar runs with effective and sparse wah-wah disturbances and guitar volume control manipulations too abstract, too many and just too detailed to describe. So just PLAY THIS RECORD LOUD AS HELL!

Although gathering several favourable notices when “Daily Dance” was released in 1973, only a small quantity of the initial 500 copies sold. This hardly deterred the duo, who persisted and have remained musically active ever since. Snyder moved to New York City where he eventually joined the experimental post-punk band Sick Dick & The Volkswagens on bass until their demise in 1983. Meanwhile, Thompson remained in Ohio and divided his time between designing and building his passive-solar Human Effigy House, farming and live performances with Pharoah Sanders and Chicago-based blues musician, Snapper Mitchum. In 1987, Snyder released his solo album “The Conversation” with help from former Sick Dick members and Thompson joining in on one track. This was followed by a sequence of Snyder & Thompson releases, with 1999’s excellent “Rules of Play” containing a lengthy live improvisation and two studio tracks that show the duo with newer equipment but the same improvisational spirit that first ignited their daily dance. Luckily, it’s one that continues to the present day.

- Special thanks to Doug Snyder for his time, assistance and invaluable recollections.