The Rubinoos • The CBS Tapes [CD, LP]

Every once in awhile a release comes along that makes me yearn for the “carefree” days of my youth… When Mike C. and I decided to start our own band, aged 14, hardly knowing how to play our instruments – let alone knowing, for instance, that you needed a separate amplifier for the microphones. You know, just because bass player Jerry P.’s old Ampeg bass amp had 4 inputs on it didn’t mean that you could plug his bass, my guitar, and two high impedance mics (thank you, Radio Shack) into it and get anything decent-sounding. Before the internet – youngsters, listen up! – you either had to have older brothers who could show you the ropes, or you had to hope to catch enough of your favorite band’s one song on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert to see what their set-up looked like. And that didn’t mean you were gonna understand just what was going on up there onstage. There were no websites where you could find the information, let alone any old fashioned books that had it. You just had to figure it out yourself.

THE RUBINOOS’ The CBS Tapes is a 1976 warts ’n’ all set that the very young band ran through one afternoon while getting ready to record their debut, eponymous album (released in ’77 on Beserkely). It wasn’t exactly their first band (for most of ’em) but they were very young, and the enthusiasm – as well as their advanced chops – really shows. Clearly not expecting that this recording was ever going to be anything except “hey boys, why don’t you run through a bunch of songs and get a feel for playing together in the studio,” the Rubinoos are hamming it up, playing goofy covers, some of their own tunes, and generally just having a great time, making goofy announcements “to the crowd” between songs and just making each other laugh. Just like band practice used to be before we decided we ought to try and get a bit serious.

Recorded at CBS Studios in San Francisco by producer/engineer Glen Kolotkin, it was basically a “let the tape roll” affair, with no overdubs, second takes or anything like that. Like the way we’d stuff a blank cassette into the Realistic tape recorder (thanks again, Radio Shack!) and just run through everything we thought we could get all the way through. Here, The Rubinoos – later to be exalted as princes of power pop – open with their own “All Excited” and then plow straight on into The Archies’ “Sugar Sugar,” a definite guilty pleasure for many of us and an obvious but great choice in ironic covers. But don’t think that’s it, ’cause later in the set we get treated to a real sarcastic but sincere version of The DeFranco Family’s big one, “Heartbeat – It’s a Love Beat.” Yes, and I will admit to having bought this 7″ as an eleven year old. This version certainly rocks WAY harder than that, as do their two Beatles covers, “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Despite the guys’ lighthearted jokes and youthful cursing, the band really do like the “corny” covers they’re doing. You can tell because they deliver the same exuberance when doing their own songs, like the punky “I Want Her So Bad” and the unclear-what-its-title-means “Nooshna Kavolta.” Before the tape ends you get treated to King Curtis, The Ventures, The Meters and Jonathan Richman (“Government Center”). None of the songs are played perfect. But all of them are delivered so well and with so much glee that you just wish you’d been there sitting on the studio’s overstuffed, over-used sofa sucking on a Pepsi and just diggin’ what The Rubinoos were puttin’ down.

And to think this is the first record by them I’ve ever owned! Man, I gotta get to work on building up my Rubinoos collection. – Marsh Gooch

5/5 (YepRoc YEP-2788, 2021)

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