Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Song of the Day: 'Life Is Busy' by Tone Set

Along with the aforementioned Killer Pussy, Tone Set (Galen Herod and Greg Horn) was the Phoenix area's other exciting new wave offering. If Killer Pussy was the Valley of the Sun's B-52s, Tone Set was our answer to Laurie Anderson, with minimalist instrumentals spliced together with film and television dialogue. Although they were based in Tempe, home of Arizona State, my cool older brother discovered them while attending the University of Arizona down in Tucson. "Life Is Busy" was one of the duo's more straightforward songs, more in the vein of Devo or other new wave groups of the era. EarLabs remembers that a video was produced using found footage, just like the vocals of most of their other songs. It aired on MTV’s “Basement Tapes,” where, despite the presence of Mark Mothersbaugh (Devo) as one of the judges, it didn’t get enough votes for rotation. (People are dumb.) However, Cinemax licensed it for in-between movie entertainment. 

In addition to bringing home the duo's '82 album, "Cal's Ranch," and '83 extended play, "Calibrate," Bill did a remix of the latter's most memorable track -- "Out! Out!," which featured Sergeant Carter famously screaming at the titular character of "Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.," my brother's favorite show as a boy. But instead of actor Frank Sutton yelling at Jim Nabors, Bill mixed in a recording of our stepfather, Gary, who Bill inadvertently caught on tape screaming about our great aunt during a Midwestern snow storm she was navigating while trying to visit us in Phoenix: "If Betty doesn't get out of Omaha, she's a [sic] ass." This inexplicable line -- how did an elderly woman have any control over flights? -- repeated over and over to great comic effect. The remix was as seamless as it was hilarious and became a family classic that is talked about till this day! (P.S. In 2016, a "box set" of Tone Set's work called "Such Heavy Conviction: Recordings 1981-1983" was released by Vinyl On Demand. P.P.S. Greg Horn had previously been in a band called Dow Jones and the Industrials!) 

Sadly, I don't have Bill's remix of "Out! Out!" But it might be time to contact his widow. Something tells me he had it stashed away somewhere, along with his Hemingway-esque ode to tennis, "The Lob Also Rises," his Peter Bodo profile "The Backboard With Glasses," and his ode to propaganda, "The Leningrad Socialist"! 

1 comment:

Dave in Texas said...

Funny- ‘the photo for ‘Cal’s Ranch’ is of Cal Farley who started Boy’s Ranch right here in my hometown. Anytime me or my brother acted up, my Mom would say “ I’m going to send you to Boy’s Ranch!”. It worked, I definitely didn’t want to go there, but they have turned many kids lives around for better. There are some bad stories though. That photo was on the cover of Cal’s story called “A Shirttail To Hang On To”.