Saturday, January 13, 2024

121 - The Pigeon In The Fountain Bed

 If you had told me, back in the day, when I was a teenager, that decades later we would be talking about The Pigeon In The Fountainbed, not only would I have told you you were crazy, I might have even been a little bit horrified.

There are few different ways I could tell this story. Let's start sometime in mid 2022, when I listened to my old friend Mark Arm on Marc Maron's WTF podcast. He spent an hour answering questions about the history of 'Grunge' music. He talked about his memories of Kurt Cobain and some of the shows he and the band Mudhoney spent on the road with Nirvana. He talked about his good friends in Pearl Jam and how they navigated the craziness of sudden fame so much better than Nirvana did (there are several videos on youtube if you want to see Mark performing as a guest with Pearl Jam - they're fun to watch!). Then, toward the end of the podcast, they went back to the beginning. Mark began talking about the teenage years, a decade before the Grunge explosion. They talked about Mark's first band, Mr. Epp and The Calculations (named for a high school math teacher). This is when Mark talked briefly about...well...about me.

"Peter," he said, "quit the band to be a writer."

He has mentioned this a few other times in interviews, and I always respond with a mix of pride, laughter, and yes, a tiny bit of embarrassment.

I've actually talked to Mark about this a little bit, and all these years later, he still thinks it was a strange moment; a rag tag band, who could barely even play instruments at the time, losing a member because I thought they would become famous, and this wasn't the kind of fame I wanted.

It might seem strange, but a decade later, when Seattle and Grunge were suddenly rewriting the history of music, I felt a little bit vindicated.

I grew up in a very musical household. My dad - who had once been a jazz saxophone guy before he ever met my mom (something he almost refused to talk about when we were growing up) taught saxophone and clarinet to high school band students. My mom taught piano lessons. I got a few occasional piano lessons from her, but never on a consistent enough basis (I was never a paying student, and often dropped down the list of her teaching priorities) to ever become any good.

But as a creative teenager who was drawn to writers, comedians and filmmakers, as well as ground-breaking musicians, it was a natural for me to fall in with this wild group of creative teenagers who, among other creative projects, wanted to buy cheap instruments and try playing punk rock.

There was a 'real' drummer in the group, and it was the real drummer's bedroom that became our practice space. The 'real' drummer, though, didn't want to be in the band at first, basically because he was really good, and the rest of us, well, weren't. So for a while I was the drummer, but not for the first thing we actually recorded. The first thing we actually recorded was a noisy, experimental improvised jam session, with me on vocals reading a short story I had written. This was The Pigeon in the Fountainbed.

We did it because a local radio station promised to play something from every tape submitted by a local band.

So we sent Pigeon to the radio station, where the DJ introduced the song by calling us, "The worst band in the world" (you can also read this little bit of history on Mark Arm's Wikipedia page).

After Pigeon had it's moment, everyone sort of moved on. The band got more focused on being a punk band. I played drums until I quit 'to be a writer.' The 'real' drummer eventually joined. Bands split up and formed new bands. Mark and Steve Turner (who was in Epp for its final year in 1984) formed Green River, which (this is way over-simplifying) eventually split up into the two bands, Mudhoney and Pearl Jam.

I never heard The Pigeon in the Fountainbed again for decades. I actually thought it had been lost. I didn't even have any record of the written short story (which I thought was ok, since it was pretentious and over-written, in that way teenagers are prone to over-do things).

Then it turns out, this past year, Smitty (original Epp co-founder) was collaborating with a production company working on a Grunge documentary for Showtime (this documentary is currently on hold due to Hollywood company mergers). Smitty had sent them the original Pigeon cassette tape, which apparently was still listenable, and they transferred it to a digital version. I was also in touch with someone involved in this documentary, and through this connection, we have been able to listen to The Pigeon in the Fountainbed for the first time in decades.

It seems strange to say it, but I kind of like it.

Maybe I'm a little bit biased. It's not really punk. It's more like a weird experimental alternative kind of thing.

So...SOMEDAY....someday, we will release this old thing out to the world.

Someday...stay tuned.

Peter Wick

January 13, 2024