Borracho y Loco
In 1986, The RHYTH-O-MATICS were booked to play shows
at The Belly Up Tavern, a bar in Del Mar, California that hosted name acts like Los Lobos, The Paladins, and Bonnie Raitt. We were the headliners for these gigs, and our opening band was a 10 piece Soca band from Del Mar and dubbed the "Best Band in San Diego" by the city's big newspaper, Borracho Y Loco. Literally translated; Drunk and Crazy. In addition to accolades by the newspaper, they were picketed by MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving). MADD saying that their name promoted drunkenness.
BYL had a huge following for a local band anywhere. They were 10 guys; many very good looking, and no one bad looking. They played a mix of upbeat Surf infused Soca and Latin, high-energy music. They organized "Bus Rides To Hell", bringing a bus load of fans to gigs out of town. They brought a lot of people with them to our gig.
They were nice enough to provide space for us to crash, and we discovered another secret to their success.
As BYL, 10 guys and a few helpers, would load into The Belly Up, the back door that leads to the stage passes the storage room. As they would load in their equipment, they would smuggle out beer in kegs and bottles back into their
van. They put the word out through their friends that there would be a beach party after the gig, and you'd have to find out where at the gig.
While the Rhyth-O-Matics were loading in, the owner, Mac, was telling me "Jimmy, you wouldn't believe how much beer we sell when these guys play here!" Mac and his partner Kevin were very successful, and I don't think they ever noticed the big dent in their beer supply didn't jibe with the receipts!
While we were hanging out at the BYL beach house, I talked with the band about producing an album for them. A short time later, they called and told me that they had a budget. Normally, with the amount of money they had, I would have suggested we record about 3 songs, which is what they were figuring. They had about 20 songs in all, and I asked for all tapes that they had, studio and live. I interviewed each of the 10 members, asked them what they thought was their weakest link. They all pointed to one guy.
I spoke to him, and told him he was one of the strongest players and that I counted on him to keep the others in line.
We found Fanfare Studios, and owner Ron Compton and Susie and I flew to San Diego to record BYL. After reviewing all of the tapes, I discovered that Jake, the lead singer, singing live with the band, was essential. All of their previous recordings were flat energy-wise, and Jake, who always sounded confident live, sounded nervous. I decided we would run a marathon session and record 10 songs, mostly live; everyone but the horn section that would overdub and solo sections for guitar. For continuity, and so the horn players didn't burn out, we would record a song with the rest of the band, then bring in the waiting and rehearsing horn section to overdub their parts on that song, and move on. After we got takes for all the songs, we tracked the guitar solos (BYL guitarist Bron with my guitar rig), then put down some background vocals on a few songs. Susie then mixed the album with Ron assisting, and we had it in the can.
The band thought that Jake, after having had some singing lessons since the session, could do better on a few songs. They came up to San Francisco, and we went in to Alpha & Omega studios, re-did the vocals and re-mixed a couple of songs. A few months later, we recorded the theme for ESPN's Surfer Magazine.
The band didn't get a distribution contract. Susie and I offered a deal that would start with 1,000 copies, and the band turned us down, saying they wanted a deal for "at least 10,000 copies". Well, that was loco, and their album was never released. The main songwriter, Chris Goldsmith, went on to be a Grammy-winning producer for the Blind Boys of Alabama. I thought they should re-name themselves "The Soca Surfers", as Mexican truck drivers would show up at their gigs expecting Tex-Mex and were confused. Here is the album we recorded.