Records that Shaped Albuquerque Music
By Charles Westmark
It's kind of strange to think that I have been going to shows for eighteen years. As an Albuquerque native, I have seen the music scene broaden its scope. When I first started going to shows, right before high school, and got encapsulated by punk, I used newly formed social media sites to learn everything I could about every local band that interested me. Not only were the bands important, but so were the previous bands that members played in.
Hand-drawn show flyers would say the former bands their members were in, in parenthesis. When The Metal Shakespeare Company played at The Stove—a now defunct ABQ venue—the flyer said that the Portland-based band had former members of Albuquerque punk band Question the Answers. When The Blue Hornets played their first Launchpad show, the website read, “(Members of Giant Steps and Danny Winn and The Earthlings)”.
Growing up, Charley’s Records had a large selection of local bands on CD and cassette, and Natural Sound—a record store that closed its doors in 2012—sold tickets to local shows. At 14 years old, it was a revelation for me that local bands could be just as good as signed acts; so, over the last eighteen years, I dug deeper.
Here are a few things about New Mexican music that I've found.
1. Clyde Hankins - Swing Fever (1956)
A swing album—likely influenced by jazz innovator Charlie Christian—recorded in Clovis, NM at Norman Petty Studios. Norman Petty Studios is also where Buddy Holly recorded his records. In fact, Clyde Hankins was Buddy Holly’s guitar teacher and played on the first Fender Stratocaster guitar that Buddy would have ever seen—thus, changing the history of rock and roll forever.
Clyde also played on a 1963 album called Not Just Jazz (that, in fact, is just jazz) with Arlen Asher as the bandleader. It was the first recording by John Wagner, a local sound engineer who is legendary for recording Joe Maphis, Merle Travis, Al Hurricane, and many more.
Wagner recorded Not Just Jazz in the hallway of his brother’s dentist office on Wyoming Blvd., just off Central Ave. in Albuquerque. This explains the unique but beautiful sound of this recording.
I was fortunate enough to find copies of both LPs at Longhair Records, where another customer told me all about Clyde and how he moved to Albuquerque shortly after teaching Buddy Holly.
Clicking "Watch on YouTube" will take you to the video "Clyde Hankins - Nice Work, if You Can Get It"
2. The Philisteens - Self Titled (1982)
I found this record on a random YouTube binge. Let me walk you through the serendipity.
Three months before his death in 1970, Jimi Hendrix played the Albuquerque Civic Auditorium for two sets—likely because his sister lived in Corrales. Recently, the sound engineer for that show, John C. Cline, posted a couple of photos online of Jimi playing, only two days after I went to the Guild Cinema and watched a documentary of Hendrix’s Hawaii performance.
I took a quick look at John Cline’s website and YouTube channel and found a few things: the second-earliest concert recording of Stevie Ray Vaughn ever taken, and a performance of a local band at the University of New Mexico from 1982. The band, Beverly’s Boyfriends, features Mikey Wright on guitar, who went on to become the head of research and development with Charvel/Jackson guitars, designed the Jackson Warrior, then worked on NBC’s The Voice for 14 seasons.
And then this video came up of a local band called The Philisteens playing at the UNM SUB-Ballroom; the crowd energy and quality of the band is really something special. While their only album was their self-titled in 1982, I can say, from this performance, I did not hesitate to order it forty years later.
3. Jerry’s Kidz - Well Fed Society (1984)
This is probably the best punk 7” I’ve heard in my life. Jerry’s Kidz was fast, sloppy, tight when they needed to be, energetic, and the recording is of exceptional quality. It is one of the greatest tragedies of eighties punk that there are only five of their songs recorded. This band would have been the talk of CBGB’s or the skate punk scene of southern California, though I can't find record if they made it there or not. The only copy of their record I could find online was in Belgium for one hundred dollars.
When I mentioned to my dad that I was looking for this record, he mentioned that he remembered them and thought they opened for Dead Kennedys. On the subject of punk things my dad says, he told me about the time Black Flag played in an abandoned church in the South Valley—a show where Rollins got his ass kicked, or so I've heard.
4. Logical Nonsense - Expand the Hive (1997)
Logical Nonsense, from Santa Fe, started in 1989 and by the time of their final release were signed to Alternative Tentacles (a San Francisco-based label owned by Jello Biafra of The Dead Kennedys) and toured numerous times. Playing the Albuquerque and Santa Fe areas with bands like Grimple, they rightfully became popular, as their sound is highly appealing to fans of punk and metal alike. Art from their albums is referenced in merch from other bands such as Old Man Gloom.
5. A Hawk and A Hacksaw - The Way the Wind Blows (2004)
The story behind this album is so fucking insane that I’m just going to copy and paste the press release. Are you ready for this shit?
“The Way The Wind Blows…was partly recorded in a remote Romanian village with members of the justly admired Balkan folk group, Fanfare Ciocarlia. Songwriter Jeremy Barnes (drums, accordion, vocals) and Heather Trost (violin) joyously and romantically romp through traditional sounds, interspersing passionate musical duets with exuberant brass band stomp. At eighteen Barnes departed his hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico, in hot pursuit of music and adventure. He travelled the U.S. and Europe, playing with cult faves Neutral Milk Hotel, Bablicon and Broadcast before releasing AHAAH's self-titled debut in 2002…Barnes returned to New Mexico and met violinist Heather Trost who quickly became the second member of the group. In April 2006 Barnes embarked on a wild goose chase, flying to Bucharest with only a phone number for renowned gypsy brass band Fanfare Ciocarlia. The day after they met, Barnes was setting up a makeshift studio in the front room of a local's house in the tiny Moldovan village of Zece Prajini, Romania. The Way The Wind Blows was written in a place without pavement and plumbing, and horse-drawn carts are more common than cars. But the town is suffused with a forgotten music, a joyous mixture of Jewish and gypsy tradition. Barnes and Trost completed the album at home in Albuquerque with the help of a nineteen-year-old local named Zach Condon, better known these days as Beirut.”
Just to unpack that - Jeremy Barnes met Neutral Milk Hotel at a Launchpad show and became their drummer. For a teenager who became obsessed with In an Aeroplane Over The Sea, to learn that he was from here and now had a band here was mind-blowing. To then learn that the accordion was the coolest damn instrument I’d ever heard and get a crash course in Balkan music was absurd, and to hear this album that was recorded with Fanfare Ciocarlia—who played the most off the wall concert I’ve ever seen in my life—was surreal. And to learn that the trumpet player was Zach Condon was a UNM dropout kind of meant something to me in a weird way.
Seeing A Hawk and A Hacksaw play shows, do live film orchestrations at the Guild, and start their own record label, L.M. Duplication, has been a wild ride and an incredible resource for discovering and learning about new music. I have gone to school for violin making yet would probably never know what a stroh violin was if not for this band.
While these records are all examples of albums I found well after their release, my favorite local album still remains Made In Bangladesh - Earth Is An Airline (2009), and seeing current bands like The Hi-Watts is super fun. It is also amazing to see what Burqueños have done outside of our state, like John Maestas starting Bubble Bath Records in New Orleans. But most importantly, my past and present looks at Albuquerque music have reminded me of one thing—to never limit myself to a single genre.