Carleton Gholz: Welcome to the Detroit Sound Conservancy #RecordDET Night, #RecordDET night at Urban Bean coffee house. Tonight is November 24th, 2014 we’re at the corner of Grand River and Griswold in downtown Detroit, just off Capitol Park. And it’s a crazy evening down here. Monday Night Football is just down the street and there’s been construction all fall long. So it’s a happening town, big holiday season coming up here in Detroit. We have with us tonight Bart Bealmear. I am pronouncing that correct.
Bart Bealmear: That’s good enough.
Gholz: It’s good enough. I like it. Getting it right so far. Maybe you
Gholz: Lord have mercy Bart Bealmer and Bart’s been a friend of, an acquaintance, the Conservancy’s here for awhile. So we’re going to ask him some questions and, and then after we’re done play some music here. So, Bart, briefly describe who you are and what is your relationship to Detroit music?
Bealmear: Well, I’ve lived in the Detroit area most of my life. I guess the thing that I did the most, that would, I don’t know, be of worth is I had a radio show for 14 years on CJAM, which is in Windsor, but probably over half their listeners are in Detroit. And of course I tried to play as much Detroit music as I possibly could. But I’ve also worked as a local concert promoter in the late 90s and booked some local bands. I had a magazine that wasn’t focused on Detroit per se, but we found ways to work in Detroit. And as you know, Carleton, I interviewed Bootsey X aka Robert Mulrooney for a feature we had called “Lost Scenes” in that publication. And, you know, I’ve been in bands and stuff, like everybody else,
I’ll have my first record pretty soon
Gholz: Which bands and stuff, Bart?
Bealmear: Well I just had a solo thing in the mid 90s where I just played by myself and I played Zoots a couple of times and some other coffee shops, like this place here. And was in a band where I played drums that didn’t do anything really except play maybe Paychecks a couple times, you know, open mic and that kind of stuff. So yeah, that’s the extent of that. Oh, and I have a current thing now that, a record coming out. So at the age of 44, I’ll have my first record pretty soon.
Bealmear: And I just got a bunch of local Detroit people to play on it. So, yeah,
Gholz: 45, an LP.
Gholz: Nice. There’s lots to talk about, but we’ll just, we’ll keep this script here. What was the first Detroit record you remember hearing? What was it? How’d you hear it and what did you think?
Bealmear: Well, the first record I can remember hearing was in a house I lived in, Wixom in the mid 70s. I can remember hearing, it was either the Supremes you know, “I Hear A Symphony” or a Smokey Robinson, “More Love”, something like that. I can’t remember the exact song, but I can remember hearing it and hearing it in in our kitchen. And, I don’t remember what I thought, I was probably like four or five, but it stuck with me. So it must have meant something.
Gholz: So the next question sort of connects to, well, there’s a question that comes up right after that, Motown is known the world over. Describe one aspect of Detroit music history that you wish got more attention.
Bealmear: Well, there’s one scene that I think deserves more attention, which is, the scene that Bob, Bootsey X was a part of, which is, roughly ‘76 to ‘81. There was a lot of Detroit bands and there’s a lot of things happening. And the Ramrods that Bob played the drums for where the first, post-Stooges band in Detroit to be obviously influenced by that band. And so this is like 1976. So they were really one of the first bands along with Death really to be obviously influenced by the Stooges. And there’s a whole bunch of other bands at that time that were good to great and doesn’t get a lot of attention. The person I think deserves the most attention is not a part of that scene, but that’s Troy Gregory. Do you know Troy?
Gholz: Of course, yeah.
Bealmear: He fronts The Witches and he’s just an incredible talent and I think he deserves a lot more attention. And unfortunately it wasn’t, he didn’t get the attention when Detroit got all the notice with the White Stripes. He just didn’t get lumped in with that for whatever reason. But I guess in part because he’s not really garage rock? So he’s more of a Beatles meets Velvet Underground, you know, kind of guy. So little more spacey I guess. Did that answer it?
Gholz: Yeah, no, absolutely. I think that’s perfect. I mean, we can talk a little bit more about Bootsey X here too. Maybe just take a moment and just say for anybody who, again, many different types of people hopefully listen to this. You know, so who is Bootsey X?
Bealmear: Well, Bootsey X was Robert Mulrooney and he was a Detroiter and he was in, again, the Ramrods, which is kind of the first Detroit punk band, you know, after the Stooges. So again, this is roughly 1976 and he played drums in a number of bands and he was really known as a drummer at first. And then he developed this persona that was sort of like a James Brown meets Iggy Pop character called Bootsey X. And that was around ‘81 that he started doing that. So then he sort of had a dual sort of career, I guess you could say, in Detroit where he played drums just as Bob Mulrooney, but then he also would step up to the mic and do this Bootsey X character. And, unfortunately Bob died about a year ago now.
Gholz: Yeah, yeah.
Bealmear: He was sick for a while with cancer. So unfortunately he’s no longer with us, but yeah, somebody who deserves more attention and, you know, didn’t really get in his lifetime, unfortunately. But you know, he’s loved by a lot of people.
Gholz: And maybe we’ll talk about in a minute, we’ll talk a little bit more about the process of the oral history in a minute. But let’s stick more to the script here. What was the first or best, and I have in parentheses here, Detroit, it wouldn’t have to be a Detroit artist, but a show in Detroit. But what is the best live music performance you remember hearing here in the city?
Bealmear: Probably my favorite was,The Replacements at St Andrew’s, which is too far from here. I was lucky enough to see them a couple of times on the Pleased to Meet Me tour, had to get a fake ID and everything for that. So that’s probably wrapped up in my memory of it is just getting into a show I wasn’t supposed to be getting into. So that’s probably my greatest memory. I mean,
Seeing The Stooges in Ann Arbor, when they did the Ron Asheton benefit sticks out in my mind, you know, seeing the Raw Power era lineup was a pretty great show.
Bealmear: So yeah, that there’s a couple, Ooh,
Gholz: The Mats. I’m such a Replacements fan.
Bealmear: I didn’t know that.
Gholz: Yeah. Pleased to Meet Me. So not the last tour.
Gholz: So earlier on. And what was your sense of, I mean my sense is that show would’ve been packed.
Gholz: That would have been a good show in Detroit. What do you think Detroiters liked about The Replacements? Or what did you like about The Replacements? That sound, cause they’re again, Midwestern band out of Minneapolis, who, you know, were never sort of fully accepted in any of the little pigeonholes they were in, so, yeah.
Bealmear: Right. I think it’s the passion really that Detroiters probably were attracted to and the just a, they were both no nonsense and full of nonsense. You know, they were just like a rock and roll band and they had fun doing it and they were passionate about it. And that’s some of the things that drew me to it. I’m sure drew Detroiters to it as well is that, just that, you know, energetic, rock and roll, you know, that people seem to like here, you know, the people put all their heart into.
I moved here as a kid and didn’t have any friends and it was tough to make friends, you know, the typical sorta sob story of a kid moving to a new area. And I think I just completely immersed myself in music and I started listening to the radio and I would have my little cassette recorder and put it up next to the speaker and tape songs off the radio and then make little mix tapes that I’d play on the bus.
Gholz: Do you remember them being played on DET or where were they, where they been played on local radio, cause I don’t remember them.
Bealmear: Yeah, yeah. Oddly I heard them on a, what would have been a DTX at the time, 99.5 I heard “Kiss Me on the Bus” and honestly I thought it was The Residents the first a hundred times or so. I listened to it on a cassette I made and then I heard Replacements like, Oh, so then I bought Tim and then, yeah, it just became a really big fan. But yeah, DTX was the first time I heard The Replacements.
Gholz: Yeah. That’s great. So we’ve been talking back and forth for a little while about a couple of projects. So one is these Tax Scam Records and which may or may not say, you know, we’re even thinking about making a blog post on our blog, but maybe you could tell us a little bit about, your interest as a writer about music, so you’re a fan, you’re also an artist, but talk a little bit about your writerly persona and the kinds of things you’re interested in writing about. You can talk about it or not or whatever you want to do.
Bealmear: Sure. Yeah. I mean, for the Tax Scam Records thing was the kind of the whole mystery of it wrapped in the music angle of it and obscure music. And, you know, there’s also the angle of these artists being ripped off that didn’t even know about these records existing sometimes til I let some, some guy know that it had been 37 years since the album came out and he had no idea. So there’s sort of that angle for it. I guess I’m sort of like, it’s there’s this interesting sort of reporter/detective sort of angle to where you’re trying to dig up as much as you can about it. And so that drew it to me too because there’s not a lot of mysteries left in the world it seems like. So with the Tax Scam Records just a quick overview of that.
Bealmear: In the mid-70s some people came up with the idea, mostly experts in tax law, that you could write off records as, a failed investment without really even doing any promoting of the records themselves. So it was a tax shelter and it was kind of a scam. And basically, so these tax experts created these situations where they sold master recordings to investors and then they also got people to distribute the records. And so a bunch of people got paid in the process, but not usually, the artists didn’t get usually get paid. Sometimes they did, sometimes they were in on it. But I brought some Rockets records to tonight. This were different. The Rockets were from Detroit. And a pretty well known they, this album on Guinness Records. And they didn’t know about it until a couple of years after it came out, but they never could get any information about the label or anything. And you know, they were kind of upset but kind of flattered by it at the same time that this label wanted to release the record. But, they also didn’t really know the nature of the label until I interviewed the drummer about it and they’re former manager and they, so they’ve been pretty much clueless all this time about what the label actually was for. And a lot of it’s just been rumors over the years. But I was able to find out this label actually was a tax shelter label.
Gholz: Where did you get these skills? Bart Bealmer. You also worked at the Henry Ford, you’ve worked at the Reuther or you still do work at the Reuther or you just tell us how you got to, you have a library science degree?
Bealmear: I do.
Gholz: You do have a library science degree.
Gholz: So maybe you could talk about the library science, because you can be a library scientist and not interested in music at all. So how does the love for the music and the library science, where do those things meet for you?
When I started the magazine that I did called Rebel Route in the late, mid to late 90s, that’s when I really started writing
Bealmear: I guess it meets in the sort of research angle of it. I’ve always enjoyed research and actually a friend of mine suggested a few years ago that I looked into library science, and so I did and I decided I liked the program and I also have an archival administration certificate, which is a sort of an add-on to the degree. So, just sort of like digging for information. When I started the magazine that I did called Rebel Route and the late, mid to late 90s, that’s when I really started writing. So I started writing sort of a little bit of an older age, but I sort of got the hang of it by our second issue, I think. And I’ve sort of enjoyed doing it ever since. The, you know, writing about music that, and that sort of relates to my radio show. Which was I’d like to expose people to music they didn’t necessarily know about. And so writing, I sort of like to do that too, you know, tell stories of bands that maybe you haven’t heard of before or didn’t know a lot about.
Gholz: What was the name of the radio show?
Bealmear: It was called Circa, it was on a like ‘98 to 2012 I did it. Yeah.
Gholz: And now it’s a Tumblr.
Bealmear: Right? Yeah. I just sort of turned my Tumblr from the radio show into a, you know, writing blog where I write for that, you know, put some stuff on there. Occasionally, some Tax Scam Records now.
Gholz: And this work for the Dangerous Minds too.
Bealmear: Yeah. I wrote for Dangerous Minds now as well. Yeah. That’s sort of like a pop archeology gig that I enjoy doing, you know? So, yeah, it’s fun.
Gholz: What do we think, what do you think we lose if we lose, if we don’t do not preserve Detroit music history? We talked about this before with in terms of the Bootsey X interview and why you did that and, what did we do if we don’t preserve, music history, what happens?
We lose literally history itself if we don’t preserve it and the worst case scenarios, sometimes we lose the actual music itself.
Bealmear: I think a good example is the issue of the band Death and the Hackney brothers and you know, David Hackney, the guitarist, you know, before he passed away, he encouraged his brothers to preserve this music and they couldn’t really figure out why. Like anyone would care about this stuff, you know, they were way over it. And, David Hackney was like, no, you have to preserve this music. So without him, maybe those tapes wouldn’t even exist anymore. That I know that we shutter to think, what if there was no music of by Death that we’d be able to hear, you know, cause that the record was so incredible that came out a couple of years ago, of the full length of, you know, with all the unreleased stuff on it. So yeah, the worst case scenario we lose, we actually lose the music. And that’s irreplaceable.
Gholz: Yeah. We’ve been talking for over a year maybe almost a year and a half, two, somewhere in there, we’ve been talking. What advice do you have for us as we into 2015 and 2016 now that we’re, we know we’ve done the Kickstarter, we’ve made our digital presence sort of known. What kinds of things would you, encourage us to focus on in the coming years?
Bealmear: Well, I really like the path that we’re going on. I liked the oral histories I think are important. We were sort of talking earlier off mic about getting, making sure that materials are actually archived and saved and that of course that’s very important. And I’d love to see us do things, you know, some high profile events where we have benefits and things like that. I think that would be a good idea for us where we could raise some money and raise our profile, but at the same time.
Gholz: And you speak so quickly. And so I’m going to push you more
Bealmear: It’s the soda, I’m all sugared up.
Gholz: You’re all sugared up. Say just a little bit more about the moment you grew up. So my sense is you’re a hair older than I am. I have a sense, especially if you could go see that Pleased to Meet Me tour, I don’t think I could have done that. So, and you couldn’t do it either, cause you had to get a fake ID.
Bealmear: No, yeah, yeah.
Gholz: So maybe you could just talk a little bit about the recent past, you know, what was it about the kind of,what kinds of things, you know, did you have cassette players, you know, a little media archeology with you, you know, did you have a turntable as a kid? Did you, where did you purchase your records? Were they, you know, were you given records? Just a little bit about your sort of, cause I know you under, know that stuff from an archeological, and research angle. So.
Bealmear: Yeah. Well, I mean, I got into music actually when I moved to Detroit, when I was about 8. And I was actually thinking about this earlier, so it’s funny you mentioned it, not today, but earlier in the week or whatever. That I feel like music saved me in a lot of ways. I know it’s sort of a cliche thing to say, but, you know, I moved here as a kid and didn’t have any friends and it was tough to make friends, you know, the typical sorta sob story of a kid moving to a new area. And I think I just completely immersed myself in music and I started listening to the radio and I would have my little cassette recorder and put it up next to the speaker and tape songs off the radio and then make little mix tapes that I’d play on the bus.
So I’d be like the DJ on the bus and play tapes of Devo and Pat Benatar and stuff like that. And then, yeah, I started buying records.
Bealmear: I, you know, maybe “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2” or “Love Stinks” by J. Geils was one of the first records I bought. And then, you know, KISS records, you know, got way, way into that. And I’m trying to think of the first Detroit band. I really, I think I really got into just the whole idea of Detroit being a thing because there was “Detroit Rock City” by KISS and there was “Detroit Breakdown” by the J. Geils Band. Neither of those bands were from Detroit, but they were singing about Detroit. And I think I probably honed in on that too, you know, the whole pride of Detroit sort of thing and that it actually, you know, meant something to people that weren’t even from here. I don’t know, does that sort of answer your questions about the beginnings, listening to music.
Gholz: Yeah. And where did you come from? What . . .
Bealmear: New Jersey.
Gholz: Where in Jersey?
Bealmear: Berkeley Heights, it’s about 45 minutes from New York City. So I often think of what my life would been like if I would’ve actually stayed in New Jersey would have been a lot different.
Gholz: We’re happy to have you here, Bart.
Gholz: One last one, one last question in terms of how you listen to music now, how do you listen to music now? Like how would you describe your sort of, you know, you’re writing your Dangerous Minds, you’re doing some research, you’re maybe listening to things at work. Like how do you consume music now? How is it part of your life now?
Bealmear: I do what a lot of people do. I listen to, you know, on MP3 and then if I’m at home, I listened to records cause that’s really the ideal way to listen to music. But I still do a fair share of, you know, finding stuff on YouTube that you can’t find any other way or, you know, downloading an album that’s long out of print, you know, that kind of stuff. So really any way I can, but yeah, a lot of, I’ll admit it, a lot of MP3 just because it’s convenient, you know, I have an iPod and so, yeah, that’s kind of what I’ve been doing the last couple of years and I did a lot of that too with my radio show because I had always had, needed me to music I wanted to go through and the last six years or so I did it from home. So it was all MP3 anyway, so I sort of got into the habit of listening to music that way. So . . .
Gholz: Aha, so you, made the shows here and they were broadcast in Windsor.
Bealmear: Yes, sure. And then through the magic of uploading through the internet, you’re able to download it and play it. So I didn’t even go into Windsor since like 2006 or so, just as the border became such a hassle.
Gholz: Give a pitch for CJAM, for listening to CJAM. CJAM, I’m still able to be listened to, give a pitch.
Bealmear: Yes. CJAM is 99.1 on your FM dial. You can listen on CJAM dot VSCJAM.CA and one of the nice things they have too is they have an archive of the past 30 days worth of shows, which you can’t really do in the States without spending a lot of money. But Windsor Canada has different laws as far as that goes. So they’re able to stream live and share you can download the past months worth of shows of whatever program you like or whatever. And pretty much commercial free, if you had a freeform show like me, you could play whatever you want. So most of you know, that doesn’t, I don’t know if people really realize that commercial radio DJs are not selecting what they’re playing.
Bealmear: They’re given a list of songs and they have to stick by that. And they’re pretty much just on like, you know, I don’t know what they do now. Probably still like, just like carts, basically. You know what carts are?
Gholz: Yeah, 8-Tracks.
Bealmear: 8-Tracks. But for digital age. So it’s just like, you know, they just throw a CD based then a player and that’s it. They don’t do any, they don’t have to think about anything that they’re not supposed to think. So that’s one of the great things about college radio, commercial radio, or not commercial radio, community radio, which is basically what CJAM was, they’re at a university. But it’s, you know, community radio. That’s how I got involved because I wasn’t from, I’m not from Canada, so.
Gholz: Right, right, right. Bart Bealmear thank you so much.
Bealmear: Oh yeah.
Gholz: Really appreciate it.
Bealmear: Thanks, Carleton.
Gholz: This is the Detroit Sound Conservancy.