Son of Segments given new life in 90s
by Lisa Sorg
The Herald-Times March 14, 1997
I mean way back.
Like 15 years ago when Second Story was called "Upstairs Bullwinkles," when the Wild Beet was a smoky bingo hall that served flat soda and stale popcorn, when the only way to get a good radio station was to clumsily hook your receiver to cable television (if you had cable), when "making it" meant playing Louisville, KY, not signing to Mercury Records.
This was the era of "New Wave," of cassette-only releases, of Bloomington's musical toddlerhood and of Sirius Music.
Headed by Jim Manion, Kirk Ross and Rick Heinsohn, Sirius Music released two of the most important recorded archives in Bloomington music: Segments and its aptly-named devil child, Son of Segments.
Released in February of 1982, Segments, Manion explained, was "an attempt to document 1981. There was a small but active scene. We were saying Hey here's ideas from a tightly knit group."
Taking inspiration from one of Bloomington's founding labels, Bar-B-Que Records, Sirius documented the underground enclave of the Dancing Cigarettes, the Riff-o-Matics and the QAX Pistols.
"[Barb-B-Que Records'] Mark Bingham once told me," Manion said, "That once something is documented on a medium, there is a history attached to it."
Within the hour-long history lesson is jerky 80s "New Wave," art-rock, experimental tape manipulations and a couple of basic rock cuts courtesy the Shades and Employees.
Although the format now seems dated, cassettes were the wave of the future in 1981. Their flexibility and portability simplified the Sirius Music cottage industry.
"Keep in mind there were no CDs, there were only albums at the time," Manion said. "Cassette was a real alternative to pressing something because if it came down to it you could tape the dubs yourself. And with a Kinko's copy machine you could make the packaging. The do-it-yourself cassette culture was really cool at the time."
Segments' 1985 progeny, Son of Segments came in a curious package that seemed like a toy collection rather than a music release: A plastic bag, containing a miniature magnifying glass, a booklet with a weather map on the front and a black cassette.
As for the unidentified weather man and his map, Manion explained, "I sought that image out because that was the region we were trying to cover. We did get Kentucky and Evansville. We wanted to do southern Illinois but got no repsonse."
With two hours of music, Son of Segments reflects a more prolific and varied music scene.
"It was inspired by other activity around the country," Manion said, referring to the plethora of regional compilations that hit the record shelves. "We wanted to document the time, but we wanted it to be a broader range of bands."
Performance artists Paul Sturm and Angel Corpus Christi and avant-garde trumpeter David Miller plot the tape's outer orbit.
Meanwhile punk rock (finally reaching the Midwest by 1985) also is well represented with the Drooling Idiots' painfully earnest "Are You Afraid?"
And one of Manion's favorite cuts is by Paducah, KY's Lysergic Sound Daddies. "They were just a bunch of hick boys trying to be punk rock," he said.
That southern repression fermented into "Kick in the Throat," a virulent response to the Reagan presidency: "I will not die for my country, I will not die for your country" sings 21-year-old Timothy Eccs. "I will not die for a presidential whim. Don't' draft me. Your chances are slim."
Two of the standout cuts are Moto X's boy-loves-loses-girl pop classic "In the Dark" and the Special Guests' "Pretty Senorita," a surf instrumental, that if recorded today, could have been on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack.
And finally, there's Evansville's Larry Cole, who contributed "Eternity," a song that maybe the Fat Elvis would have sung in the bathtub.
Cole's letter to Manion is included in the booklet, where the singer writes, "I did my singing and entertaining in... various clubs such as the Holiday Inn, the Ramada and the Executive Inn, just to name a few."
But for all the Segments artists, from the Idiots to the Coles to the comparatively polished Riff-o-Matics, the release was one way and at the time, the only way to get their songs heard beyond the confines of basement parties and Second Story.
"That was the driving force to solidify and legitimize the music, to get reviews in little magazines, to connect with the outside world," Manion said. "We knew music in Bloomington was interesting enough people would want to hear it."
People did hear the music, enough to sell about 500 copies of Son of Segments. But Manion notes that although the Segments tapes serve as an interesting piece of musical history, no band ever got a record deal as a result of Sirius.
"Nobody made it," Manion said, laughing. "But almost everybody is still involved in music."
True, most everyone on these tapes stayed the course, many moved away to carve musical niches elsewhere, then came back to Bloomington. Some have never left.
From the Segments years, the Dancing Cigarettes' John Terrill went on to front several bands including the way-ahead-of-their-time Special Guests and Rosebloods. Terrill now drums for the Walking Ruins. Two other Cigarettes, Don Trubey and Tim Noe perform music in New York City.
Now in San Francisco, Rich Stim, known as Junior Grenadier on the tapes, plays with long-time avant-gardists MX-80 Sound, who originally signed to the Residents' label Ralph Records.
Paul Sturm is a program director for a Michigan public radio station; Chris Dickinson, guitarist for Sally's Dream is a country music critic for the Chicago Reader.
Red Square's Janas Hoyt formed the Mary Janes; Ian Brewer, who played guitar in that band, now performs with the Walking Ruins. Keyboardist Rick Wilkerson owns Missing Link Records in Indianapolis.
The Poor Girls' Ricki Lee moved from Louisville, KY to Bloomington and fronts the Hools. With Frankie Camaro, Greg Phillips and Ross Danielson in tow, Moto X spawned a whole legion of local bands, including Speed Luxury, the Trailside Killers, Dragstrip and the Truckadelics.
Drummer Rex Miller went on to play with Little Harold and the Homewreckers and the Dynamics. He lives in New Mexico where he's a greeting card sales representative. Guitarist Steve Cook, whose gorgeous surf riffs and melodic gifts have yet to be replicated, is a graphic artist.
As for the Sirius management, Manion went on to become program director at WFHB, Heinsohn works in studios in Los Angeles, and Ross heads his own label, Jesus Christ, in Chapel Hill, NC and plays in the band Lud.
Son of Segments has been reissued (with its original packaging) and is available at TD's CDs and LPs. And while you're in the store, ask Tom Donohue about his stint in the Retarded Gods, whose wounded version of "Louie, Louie" appears on Son of Segments.