Sunday, April 24, 2016


Yo La Tengo - FakeBook  (April 27, 1990)

Ira Kaplan and Glenn Morrow worked together at New York Rocker long before one started a band and the other a record label.  Yo La Tengo had already released three albums before signing to Bar/None for 1990’s groundbreaking covers project, Fakebook.  In 2016,  Yo La Tengo returned to Fakebook’s format of semi-obscure covers and reworked originals for Stuff Like That There, which reunited the trio with original guitarist Dave Schramm and producer Gene Holder (of the dB’s.) 

Ira Kaplan: It’s funny but I don’t remember how Fakebook wound up on Bar/None.  Maybe Coyote wasn't around anymore?  What I do remember about making that record is that it wasn’t much of a strategy.  At the time, we had such a revolving door with bass guitarists that would come in and out of the band, and Stephan Wichnewski had just left for the last time, so the band was down to just me and Georgia.  So we just thought about the songs that we already knew that way, as a duo. We had done lots of covers at radio stations and record stores, so we just thought to ask Dave (Schramm) and Al (Greller) to help with the sessions, and it just happened very organically: “I think it’s time for a covers record.” But at that point, everything gets fuzzy. It just seemed like a natural thing for us to wind up on Bar/None.

Al Greller, Dave Schramm, Georgia Hubley and Ira Kaplan at the Fakebook recording sessions.

Some Favorite Fakebook Tracks
"Griselda" - Originally written by Antonia of The Holy Modal Rounders, this jaunty waltz came from the seminal Seventies compilation Have Moicy!, considered by many critics to signal the birth of the Freak Folk and Anti-Folk movements.
"You Tore Me Down" - This reverby gem comes from the Flamin' Groovies' all-but-forgotten power-pop masterpiece, Shake Some Action.
"Here Comes My Baby" - One of Yo La Tengo's jauntiest pop performances, this is a Cat Stevens tune popularized by the Tremeloes in 1967,  and decades later included in the soundtrack of the film Rushmore.


Monday, April 18, 2016


Freedy Johnston, Can You Fly?  (September 21, 1992)

Can You Fly? was the third of five albums Freedy Johnston released for Bar/None, released on September 21, 1992 - a year after Nirvana turned the alternative world upside-down with NevermindRobert Christgau, in his syndicated Consumer Guide, raved, "Defying the taste for tortured chaos that the triumph of Nirvana signifies, the Kansas-born Hoboken fixture is a case study in bringing confusion under control--in loving your life as beautiful mess. Contained, mature, realistic in philosophy and aesthetic, its every song a model of open-ended lyrical detail and lithe, sly melodicism, it's a flat-out monument of singer-songwriterdom--up there with Randy Newman's 12 Songs, Joni Mitchell's For the Roses, and other such pre-punk artifacts." 

Freedy  was born in the small town of Kinsley, Kansas, famous for being the exact mid-point between the east and west coasts of the USA. He bought a mail order guitar as a teenager after hearing Elvis Costello’s My Aim Is True. Later while briefly attending college in Lawrence, Kansas, he fell in with the likes of the Embarrassment and the Mortal Micronotz. His own writing mixed literate post-punk with outlaw country and ’70s AM radio fare. His first album, The Trouble Tree on Bar/None, was titled after the nickname his Mom gave a local Kinsley watering hole.

His second album, Can You Fly, was made while living in Hoboken, New Jersey, where the music community rallied ’round the singer. At the time the local scene based around the club Maxwell’s was particularly vibrant and Can You Fly featured a number of club regulars including Kevin Salem, Dave Schramm, Graham Maby, Jared Michael Nickerson, Chris Stamey and Syd Straw. With the release of the album Freedy was touted as one of America’s finest new songwriters by Rolling Stone, Spin and many others. In the Village Voice Bob Christgau hailed it as “a perfect album.” Can You Fly was cited in the book 1,000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die by music critic Tom Moon.

Freedy's video for "The Lucky One" from Can You Fly?

Signed to Elektra in 1994, Johnston had a radio hit with ”Bad Reputation,” and the Butch Vig-produced This Perfect World expanded his fan base. He would release four albums on Elektra, including Blue Days Black Nights, produced by T Bone Burnett.  

Freedy returned to Bar/None in 2010 for Rain On The City.   

Freedy Johnston:  

Freedy Johnston, Can You Fly?:

Sunday, April 17, 2016


Jill Richmond Johnson, Publicist (1992-1997)

In 1995, Bar/None released The Devil Lied To Me, the posthumous solo album of Country Dick Montana, drummer (and flamboyant personality) of the Beat Farmers.  The Beat Farmers had been a part of the Bar/None family before Country Dick died.  I have a great memory of a Halloween night hanging out with Country Dick at the Halloween parade on 6th Avenue in the West Village.  Dick had fun for a bit, but then wanted to go out drinking. We went to Coyote Ugly in the East Village.  I left around midnight, leaving Country Dick to his throng of new lady friends.  The next day I had an interview set up with the band at High Times Magazine.  Of course it took place at 4:20 pm.  That night, the Beat Farmers had a show at Tramps. Dick fell down while singing, got up, pointed a finger at Steve Bloom, the editor of High Times, and yelled "It's your fault!"  Well,  4:20 must have lasted until 5:20!  

When Dick died, Bar/None threw a party to celebrate his life.  I had a budget of $100 for this party.  Impossible! Susan Darnell (the other publicist at Bar/None) and I went to a grocery store and bought beans, hamburger meat, buns, and pickles.  Then I asked a brewery in Hoboken to donate a keg of beer for the cause.  Didn't get that, but got

a discount.  I  had met a kid somewhere (at a club?)  who lived in the East Village  who agreed to let us use his backyard for a party. People came from all over the country!  Mojo Nixon played, and the other Beat Farmers came and played.  Big-shot journalists (including Geraldo Rivera) - true fans - were there too. All the musicians played and it was a beautiful tribute - and all on a hundred dollars!  I felt sort of bad for the kid who let us use his yard for the party though; we helped him clean up, but over 100 people had come and, well, it was kind of trashed.

Country Dick Montana -

Sunday, April 10, 2016


Mary Marcus:

As the first intern and employee of Bar None, here is how I got my job.  I called Glenn and said I wanted to be an intern. He asked me what that was.  I said I would work for free.  He told me to come in. this was at 611 Broadway Suite 616.

I showed up sporting an excellent fringe leather suede jacket I had procured in Texas. I told the person I came to know as Bob Lawton (who shared the office with his company, The Labor Board, along with Coyote Records (Steve Fallon) and What Goes On)  that I was there to meet Glenn.  Bob said he was out and to sit.
The phone at the desk I sat at rang. Bob told me to answer it. I did. It was for Glenn. I took a message. Glenn came in. I gave him the message.  He hired me. 

Mary went on to run the New York office of Alternative Marketing for Warner Bros.
Records. She currently lives in California and heads up fund raising efforts for the NPR affiliate KPCC.

 (click for closer view)
This Bar None accounting ledger shows the lay of the land in indie music 30 years ago. 

In the early 1980s a new group of independent distributors came into being as consumers discovered the latest releases from new wave and punk rock record labels  as well as artists on European labels. These distributors  competed nationally while often having a regional flare. Jem Records started as importers from Plainfield NJ but moved into domestic product, Dutch East India was on Long Island,NY Twin Cities in Minneapolis/St. Paul MN and Systematic on the west coast. Someone was always going out of business which made labels fearful of putting all their eggs in one basket. In the end Caroline and Important (now Sony-Red) were the last ones standing. While Bar/None no longer presses at Peter Pan we are still happily working with Ross Ellis,  30 years later for record jackets and sleeves.

Meanwhile Bar/None was dealing direct for their first release with Record Runner, Venus and Midnight in the city (hey, what about 99 Records, Rocks In Your Head and Soho Music Gallery) and of course Tom’s Hoboken store Pier Platters.  - Glenn Morrow

THE FRONT BOTTOMS - Self-Titled (September 6, 2011)
THE FRONT BOTTOMS - Talon Of The Hawk (May 21, 2013)
THE FRONT BOTTOMS - “Rose” EP(June 17, 2014)

Singer/guitarist Brian Sella and drummer Matt Uychich started playing together at high school talent shows in Bergen County, NJ, and worked their way up through the grind of basement shows and all-ages clubs before releasing their debut self-titled album on Bar/None in 2011.  The group immediately hit a chord with young and old listeners alike (including a small army of critics,) who fell in love with Sella’s confessional lyrics and Uychich’s manic punk-rock drumming.  Fans flocked to their shows  to sing along and throw down, recalling the early days of fellow Jersey-bred favorites like the Bouncing Souls and Saves The Day.  This summer,  the Front Bottoms – now a four piece – will be on tour supporting their major label debut Back On Top, including performances at Coachella and Lollapalooza.

BRIAN SELLA – When we first signed, it really felt like we were signing to a family. I remember we just wanted to sign to a label and go on tour, that was our dream. And we needed a thousand bucks to buy a van.  Glenn just showed up at the car dealership and gave us the money.  We actually… me and Matt used to live in this guy’s house in Westwood, and we actually have a video of us there at the kitchen table signing the contract.  It was exciting  for us, and it definitely felt like the next level, which is what we’re always trying to do.

"Rose" EP:

                 The Front Bottoms' "Maps" from their self-titled debut album.

The "Flashlight" video from The Front Bottoms' debut album offers a taste of the band's electric live show

"There's comfort at the bottom of a swimming pool..."