Where Were You?
Hen's Teeth and other lost fragments of unpopular culture Vol. 2
The Mekons

See Pt. 1, Review


Dick's van 1
Dick's van 2
Brixton/Leeds phone tune
Dick's van 3
Crap crap woof talk
Dick's van 4
Dick's van END


Compiled and restored by Mekons, spring 1999
Mastered by Mike Hagler at Kingsize B April 1999
All songs published by LOW NOISE MUSIC
except FANCY (R. Davies) Davray/Carlin Music Corp., FOLSOM PRISON BLUES (J. Cash) Carlin Music Corp. & CRAP RAP (The Ex) Ex Music.
Knee-deep in muddy water panning for gold: Ed & Rick at Touch & Go, Belinda & Hova at WFMU, Mitch, Eric at WNUR, Doug Milbern & Michael "Mekon Radio" Riley (Punk warriors from Cincinati, Ohio), Terry Nelson & Nobby.
Dick's van driven by Dick Taylor - West End to Brixton, October 1st 1983.
Mekon News - www.mekons.com
Talk at/with/about Mekons via - http://www.ellipsis.com/mekons/bullshit/index.cgi
Hen's Teeth Volume 3 is straining on its leash like a pack of young hunting dogs
Booking: Billions Corporation of Chicago (312) 997 9999
Front Cover photo at Lounge Ax, August 1996 by Frank Swider

the CD is interspesed with recordings of a journey in Dick Taylor's van very late one night coming back from a gig + a phone message from the evil one

Unless otherwise stated the Mekons are
Susie Honeyman: fiddle
Tom Greenhalgh: guitar, piano, synths & vocals
Sarah Corina: bass & vocals
Jon Langford: guitar, machines & vocals
Sally Timms: vocals
Rico Bell: accordion & vocals
Steve Goulding: drums
Ken Lite: knots & lubrication


Recorded in London and Chicago during the spring of 1999 with Monti on drums. The Mekons covered this Ray Davies song on their 1993 European tour. >


Recorded for the European release of FUN 90 at Grannie's, Fulham and mixed at the Stoneroom, London with Ian Caple early 1990. Lester bangs sings and plays one-string guitar via cassette (NYC January 1981), Lu plays bass and Dubmaster Jonny Gill finds the trouser button.


Recorded at Cold Storage in Brixton early 1989 by Ian Caple. A different version of this song appeared as Memphis Egypt on The Mekons Rock'N'Roll. Lu plays bass, Tom plays harp, drumming by Rosebud.


This Demo was recorded on Harehills Avenue, Leeds during the summer 1990 while the Mekons were preparing material for The Curse Of The Mekons.


Lyrics by Robert Joyce (See Roger Troutman on Hen's Teeth Volume 1) - artist, writer, film maker, leading light of the performance art scene centered around the Breadline Gallery, Rodley, West Yorkshire in the late '70s - legendary Leeds figure - his mother claimed she could tell which street in Huddersfield someone came from by their accent. Self published many remarkable works including 'Fish Sunk Pinning', 'Wallsend Snooker', 'Pentel Theory' & 'Tom's Secret'. Was a big artistic and personal influence on the young Mekons... along with his friend and colleague Andrew Sharpe, lead singer Leeds psychedelic punk band '100 Flowers Bloom' (with Tomekon) and briefly member of the Mekons, famed for his literal take on Jonathan Richman's 'Road Runner'. Recorded in November 1981 with Mark Wilson and Pete Barker of the Pink Peg Slax singing and playing guitar. Drumming by Jonboy, bass by Ken. Previously un-released in any form.


Recorded by Brian C. Pugsley at Berry Street, London November 1987 for the So Good It Hurts album. Remixed by Tom & Ken Lite with Richard Preston as the b-side to Ghosts Of American Astronauts, a Cooking Vinyl 12 inch single released in the summer of 1988. Jon Gill plays melodeon.


Recorded on 8-track at Nickelodeon Studios, Amsterdam (sometime during the Mekons' 1994 Dutch tour) by Corne Bos & Erwin Blom of Eton Crop for their Well Up & Bubble LP on Bigger Bank Balance Records (a European release which also featured The Nightingales, The Three Johns, Blue Murder, Eton Crop and Claw Boys Claw.) Another version of this song appears on The Mekons' Fear & Whiskey as Darkness & Doubt.


Recorded for the European release of FUN 90 at the Stoneroom, London with Ian Caple early 1990. Tony Byker reads from Walter Benjamin.


Recorded by Tony Bonner at Offbeat Studios, Kirkstall, Leeds and mixed by Ian Caple at Berry Street London. Produced by Langy & Lardy for the 1987 'Til Things Are Brighter tribute to Johnny Cash benefitting the Terence Higgins Trust Aids Foundation.
Tim Taylor of the Pink Peg Slax plays standup bass and Brendan Croker plays lead guitar.


I had a dream, I had a dream
The children on earth began to sing
All their moms and dads went to bed
When they woke up they were dead
The reign of terror shall be no more
The reign of the rich against the poor
Instead all the animals shall rise
There shall be blue in this earth's skies
I am so tired now I'm going to bed
I had a dream...

Originally written for the Mekons / Kathy Acker CD, LP and lewd panto production Pussy King Of The Pirates (Quarterstick 1996), this version was recorded live at WNUR in Evanston, August 1997.


Recorded by Jon Gill and Bill Leader at Leadersound, Halifax, February 1981 for CNT Productions with Mark Wilson and Chalkie White on vocals, Pete Barker playing guitar and Jonny on drums. Previously un-released in any form.


Originally recorded for a Fast Product 7 inch single in November 1978 this version features Mitch on lead vocals (see cover photo on Hen's Teeth Volume 1). Drumming by Slum Langford.


"...I'm afraid I'll go out like a light, just like I I came on. Know what I mean honey?"
Elvis Presley interviewed by Bea Ramirez for the Waco News-Tribune, April 1956 as quoted by Peter Guralnick in Last Train To Memphis, Little, Brown 1994.

Recorded at Kingsize Sound Laboratories, Chicago during the Mekons 1994 summer tour. Originally released as a 7" single on Quarterstick in 1995. Barry B. the man from Atlantis is clapping and screaming.


Recorded on Harehills Avenue, Leeds late 1989. Previously un-released in any form.


Written by the Ex / played by the Mekons for a 1990 split 7 inch single on Clawfist Records. The Ex did Keep On Hoppin'.


This demo was recorded at Stinkpole, Chicago in the summer of 1995 as a starting point for further collaboration between Kathy Acker and the Mekons. Kathy sings. Previously un-released in any form


(see Untitled 1)


Village Voice, September 8 - 14, 1999 by luc sante
Leeds Icons Sell Out Garden; Get Out of This World Alive
The Headline Above Is a Lie

The Mekons
Hen's Teeth and Other Lost Fragments of Unpopular Culture,
Vol. 1: I Have Been to Heaven and Back;
Vol. 2: Where Were You?

Twenty years or so ago everybody I knew was in a band, everybody ineligible for Social Security who lived in my neighborhood (and corresponding neighborhoods around the world) was in a band, and even yours truly, with all the talent of a fencepost, was fleetingly in a band of three. But then talent is a social construct, isn't it, and it's a fact that people who couldn't have played "Chopsticks" on a bet did sometimes manage to contrive remarkable things, little epiphanies or pure will or nerve or soul or fucked-upness. Eventually, though, the dogs barked, the caravan passed, and almost everyone gave up. The Mekons never gave up. They first drew collective breath in 1977, in Leeds. You can see the poster for their initial single in the booklet included with the second of their two new Hen's Teeth CDs, and it's the whole period contained in a teaspoon (skanky photocopy, lettering incised by somebody's fist, glum group portrait like a mutual blame session at the squat). When I first heard of the Mekons they were a byword, even at the time, for kitchen-sink, can't-play-their-instruments punk Zhdanovism. For a while they were primarily noted for the brilliance of the cover concept of their first album (a chimpanzee at a typewriter: The Quality of Mercy Is Not Strnen).

Then, in 1985, Fear and Whiskey came out and caught everyone off guard. The Mekons had remade themselves, thoroughly. The music was country, or actually a sort of cargo-cult exquisite-corpse reinvention of country. Some of the musicians were still feeling their way around, while others (such as occasional member Dick Taylor, an early Rolling Stone and once and future Pretty Thing) were quite adept, and the mix of elements had a loose-limbed exuberance that sounded at once rent-party and avant-garde. Susie Honeyman's fiddle, in particular, was true and rough and poignant and somehow ancient. The lyrics were jagged, mostly unrhymed-prosy and allusive bits of autobiography (in part a naive assumption, as it turns out, since "Flitcraft" is lifted from Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon and "Country" from Michael Herr's Dispatches; the Mekons are deft literary magpies who leave no footprints). They covered Hank Williams in a way that made him sound alive and living in Sheffield-no, actually, they built an imaginary America out of pocket lint, the way Bertolt Brecht or Sergio Leone did. Jon Langford's and Tom Greenhalgh's voices alternated like the night out and the morning after.

Time passed. They became ever more at ease on their various axes (without, however, coming to sound "professional"). They added Sally Timms, who constructed a fierce and endearing hard-boiled chanteuse persona. They played around with diverse genres and forms. They were furiously prolific, putting out albums annually (Honky Tonkin' is still unfolding after 12 years; So Good It Hurts contains two or three of their best songs). They toured with a lineup that expanded and contracted like the bellows of Rico Bell's (occasional) accordion, and they toured relentlessly, like Nazareth or something. There seemed no stopping them. In 1989 they finally signed with a major label and released their arena-filling juggernaut, The Mekons Rock 'n' Roll. Soon teenage headbangers everywhere, gleefully ignoring the song's impeccably dialectical meta-critique, were body-slamming to "Memphis, Egypt": "Destroy your safe and happy lives, before it is too late....Up in the rafters a rope is dangling, spots before the eyes of rock 'n' roll...." It entered heavy rotation on all broadcast media. The band got rich and fat and loathsome. It was hard to remember them as young rebel poets from Leeds in view of the gaseous V.I.P.-lounge hair balls they had become.

Well, no, actually. Rock 'n' Roll was cast adrift, rudderless and unpromoted, by its major label. It never entered the purview of teenage headbangers anywhere. By that time the band had a back catalogue as rich, profound, and various as that of any outfit twice their age, but to little profit. They proceeded as they always had, by cargo van and word of mouth. The closest they ever came to an arena was an exhilarating show in Central Park that seems like yesterday but my calendar tells me occurred in 1991. They did have a strong following among critics, although rock critics, as cautious as politicians, are terrified of backing the wrong horse; being labeled a critical favorite is only tenable for about a year, after which it becomes the ticket to oblivion. Incredibly, the Mekons persisted, despite partially migrating to Chicago, pursuing other projects, coming together at intervals, releasing records almost in secret. Some grand things have ensued-the album Curse of the Mekons, the single "Millionaire," chunks of Pussy, King of the Pirates (their collaboration with the lamented Kathy Acker), and the odd song here and there-but overall the decade has not been kind to the Mekons. Parcels of oomph and conviction have been mislaid in dressing rooms and gas stations. They might have hit bottom with last year's borderline-unlistenable Me, on which they appeared to be toying with some kind of techno-ambient sterility that suited them like socks on a rooster.

Hen's Teeth-two collections of outtakes, alternates, and B-sides-appear as a mixed signal. Such things get issued either when a band is stuck and wants to squeeze some dollars from the troops to tide it over, or by way of a last wave from the ocean surface before it clambers down to Davy Jones's locker. The cover photos, though, show lively Mekons cavorting merrily onstage within the last year or so, and at least one number (a properly hypnotic cover of the Kinks' raga-drone "Fancy") is brand new. The first volume actually manages to be the best Mekons album in ages, doing justice to all facets of their complex personality. It's been in heavy rotation on my CD player for months now, although I note that the two best numbers, the propulsive "Orpheus" and the quietly devastating "Now We Have the Bomb," both derive from the 1996 CD-book package United, which I couldn't afford to buy (and which, ironically enough, I only ever saw for sale at the anarchist bookstore on Avenue B). Other first rate tracks, such as the typically rueful Greenhalgh number "Cowboy Boots" and the patented Timms faux-confession "The Ballad of Sally," seem to have simply been cast overboard in the late 1980s, when they were writing so many great songs there wasn't enough vinyl in the world to contain them.

So does Hen's Teeth represent a final garage sale of unclaimed artifacts? Is this, he gasped, the end of the Mekons? Being a fan of the Mekons has always entailed some identification with their story, which is a story of self-invention but lacks those other Horatio Algerian qualities, notably piety and material success. It does involve continually being knocked down and getting back up again (insert Chumbawamba reference here)-not exactly masochism, or at least no more than every body's workaday masochism. The Mekons have brought poetry, sexiness, and panache to the theme of getting by and making do, an adult theme if there ever was one and an appropriate development from the anti-glam our self-determination of 1977. Given that the prevailing myth these days concerns the effort less acquisition of insane wealth, with the corollary that anyone without money is dirt, those of us who are dirt and fated to remain that way can appreciate having a pop group to call our own, as a kind of home team. That said, you can't exactly blame the Mekons for wishing to win enough of a prize in the pop sweep stakes to live on and continue working. With rents being what they are, we may be witnessing the end of bohemia as we've known and loved it for 170-odd years; the Hobson's choice between day job and mass appeal will confront everyone sooner or later. But even furthest down on their luck, the Mekons have never broached self-pity. They've cursed and muttered and cracked jokes and prophesized, and done all these things rollicking and roaring. Their failure has come to look triumphant, and never more so than in the current climate of vile success.

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