No, I didn’t actually know THE JAZZ BUTCHER – neither the man nor the band that shared his nom de rock – but I kinda felt like I did. There’s definitely an empty spot in my music-lovin’ soul now that he is gone. Dr Cholmondley Repents, a hefty box set compilation of his band’s singles and rarities, was just about to be released when Fish passed away in early October. It is the third in a series of tasty 4-disc compilations (the other two comprising four albums each of his Glass Records and Creation Records releases), and now that “Butchy” has left our midst, takes on a much larger responsibility than it was originally charged with. In many ways Dr Cholmondley does a better job of summing up what The Jazz Butcher was about than any single album or other box set could.
Much has been written – at least by me – on The Jazz Butcher (see my various posts here) and its/his humor and cleverness, let alone the sheer variety of styles the band/man took on in their/his day. And nowhere is that more in evidence than on this multi-disc set. Subtitled
“A-Sides, B-Sides and Seasides,” Dr Cholmondley neatly covers everything (but the original albums) that made The Jazz Butcher so important to those who appreciated the breadth of their work. Disc A, the A-sides, is just that: A collection of singles, many of which did not originally appear on non-compilation albums. (As the group’s output has been compiled many times in the last near 40 years, much of what is here has appeared on CD before now.) You’ve got the cutesy, silly early things like “Marnie (Miaow Mix),” “Southern Mark Smith” (the original, faster version), and their rollicking cover of The Modern Lovers’ “Roadrunner,” as well as the later, more mature sides like “Angels” and “Girl Go.” Funny, sad, poignant – no angle is left uncovered. Move on to Disc B, the B-sides, and you’ll discover much of what first caught my ear. By way of a 1986 North American and Australian compilation called Bloody Nonsense, songs like “Death Dentist,” “The Devil Is My Friend,” “Grooving in the Bus Lane” and the liquid doubleheader “D.R.I.N.K.” and “Rain” became earworms in Jazz Butcher fans’ collective ears some time ago, but since that particular comp never made it to CD, their appearance here is much appreciated.Disc C – what you could call “C-Sides” (actually a second disc of B-Sides) – continues down my own memory lane but also takes in many even more obscure tracks only found on various artists compilations or European 12″ singles that rarely made it across the water back then. “Lost in France,” “The Hairbrush and the Tank” and the homage to “Peter Lorre” are here, though the super-duper-difficult-to-find “Christmas With the Pygmies” is unaccounted for.* And yet, the covers “May I?” (Kevin Ayers), “Speedy Gonzalez” (from the American cartoon), and “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” are – thankfully! Move along to the fourth disc (“Seasides”) and you get a super cool live concert (though recorded in the studio) broadcast over KCRW radio in Santa Monica, California (which is, ahem, seaside). The dozen songs here were recorded there in 1989 and sound like they were dubbed from a cassette of the presentation. It’s not the greatest sounding concert, but it IS a dynamite collection of the wide variety of styles The Jazz Butcher nimbly made their own. Despite its sound quality, this disc may be the one that you end up playing the most.
Very rarely in the world of rock ’n’ roll does someone come along with such a unique, three dimensional way of putting his songs – his vision – across. It’s no wonder that Patrick Huntrods (aka Pat Fish aka The Jazz Butcher) remained relatively unknown his entire life; not many music fans want their “pop star” so un-pigeonhole-able. For those of us who do – like me, maybe like you – The Jazz Butcher was at the center of a conspiracy designed so we could keep one fantastic little treasure to ourselves. Now that he’s gone, I think we can let others in on the secret. – Marshall Gooch
* In a Facebook post a few months ago I asked Pat if that song would be on the upcoming box set, and he informed me – and whoever else read the post – that that mega rare 7″ was meant to be a special something for the earliest Jazz Butcher fans and was, therefore, not being included here. I was bummed. Luckily, another of Pat’s social media friends provided me with an MP3 of “Christmas With the Pygmies” so I could, at least, hear it. Thanks, Kevin C.!
5/5 (Fire Records FIRECD565, 2021)
Below is the very latest thing The Jazz Butcher released, within a few days of Pat’s death, and so far only on the internet. Let’s hope a final album (or at least a 12″) is forthcoming.