In the fall of 1981, Bill answered a "Bass Player Wanted" ad placed in The University Journal at UVA by guitar player Gary Hawthorne. Together, they started a band called The Tease. For the most part it was a cover band, playing everything from the Go-Go's to Devo, Billy Idol to The Clash and Benatar and Bowie and Blue Oyster Cult - nothing was safe. The two of them also composed several original songs including the subject of our disertation. Bill wrote the lyrics and together they wrote the music. Click on a date to hear a version.
This was recorded in the fall of 1982, probably at a club called Trax in Charlottesville, Va. The singer is a woman named Sue who styled herself Bitsy. Gary is playing guitar and Bill is on bass (that's Gary introducing the song and Bill in the background). The drummer is Mike Johnson. The Tease went through 5 female singers before they decided to forgo that idea and make do with just guys.
So they became KGB Secret (there already was a band in Richmond called KGB, hence the "Secret"). This version is from the KGB Secret demo, recorded summer of 1984. For some reason (perhaps the acoustics), they decided to record in a field behind somebody's house outside Charlottesville. They set up the whole PA and recorded about twenty songs on a gray, misty day through two mics hooked up to a cassette deck. Gary is singing lead, with Bill on bass doing back-ups and a guy named Bob Coster on guitar and Mike on drums. Note the lyric change in the chorus (thank God). KGB Secret lasted for a while, playing with mixed success in central Virginia.
When it dissolved in the summer of 1984, Bill and Mike formed The Plaid Rabbits with a guy named Chris Gillette on guitar. It was all originals written mostly by Bill. But the band didn't last too long. Bill and Mike recorded several songs in the spring of 1985 with another guitarist, Rob Walker, a talented heavy metal player. This version is from those sessions, recorded at an 8-track studio in Lexington, VA, owned and operated by a brilliant engineer named Robbie Cribbs. The quality of this recording is amazing considering the only overdubs are the vocals (Bill harmonizing with himself) and the guitar lead, all mastered onto cassette.
Bill quit playing for several years, moved to Florida, then to New York. In 1992, he found a singer named Lynn through an ad in the Village Voice and they recorded a demo at a studio in Manhattan called Desta, big time 2" 24 track. The drums and bass are synthesized (Alesis D4 and EMU Proteus 1), programmed by Bill on Voyetra Sequencer Plus Gold (in DOS). By this time, the song is so slow and sad it's almost a ballad, and it's definitely in the wrong key for Lynn. Bill used the tape to interest other musicians in the songs and put together the first incarnation of Modesty Blaze with himself on guitar and Lynn singing. Unfortunately, Lynn's job became more and more demanding and eventually prohibited her from participating. Auditions ensued. From these came Li. They started working toward playing out.
And then the bass player and drummer left. Bill and Li went into the studio anyway. Bill's friend Mary Ann's boyfriend Lex played drums. In the spring of 1995, they recorded at a studio in Queens owned and operated by the legendary Rich Gaglia. Bill's playing bass and guitar, Li's doing most of the singing. Using this tape, they found three drummers, a guitar player and a keyboard player, and, eventually, Jimmy Farrell.
Musicians came and went. And, after a while, Li went too. Lynn rejoined the band. In the fall of 1997, they went into Manhattan Beach studio, in midtown Manhattan, Danny Lawrence is the engineer, Jimmy's playing drums, Stu Roseman's playing bass, Bill's on guitar and Lynn's singing. And then Lynn's job became more and more demanding again and she had to leave again.
Enter Carole, responding to yet another ad in the Village Voice. This recording is from their acoustic set January 29th, 2000 at the Baggot Inn. Bill is playing a classical electric (the nylon strings give it that sort of mandolin sound).
This is from the album "What I Am Is Not", recorded at Manhattan Beach. Carole is singing, Jimmy is playing drums, Bill is playing rhythm guitar and singing some of the back up vocals, Bill and Ashby Stokes (Bill's guitar teacher, now playing with The Swinging Medallions) are playing acoustic guitars, Ashby plays the lead and Alec Cumming is on bass.
And this is the last time Carole and Bill played together as Modesty Blaze, at the Baggot Inn, April 14th, 2001.
The inimitable Ralph Pitre asked Bill for permission to use the song in his movie and Bill said sure but decided he would re-record the song even more mellow. He co-opted Roger Miller (no, not that Roger Miller), bass player extraordinaire, and Tom Sheperd for some lovely brush work on the drums. And here it is. But it turns out there's another couple of songs recorded at the same time out at Station Sound Studios in lovely Douglaston, Queens. Check out This Room and the new versions of Fat and Rain.

the tease
modesty blaze

double clutch
smack & katy
nikki and the tatooed love boys
carole leigh


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