Monday, February 7, 2011

The Band That Would Be Sojac..... and Instant Replays

Notary Sojac.  Never heard of them?  Get in line.  I could throw another few hundred band names and few would stick on most people's walls, but none were more obscure to the world nor as adventurous nor better than Notary Sojac.  They were a landmark band, one which defined an era for myself and a handful of others--- others lucky enough to live in the Pacific Northwest in the late sixties and early seventies and lucky enough to have crossed paths with them.  They were something else.  They were special.

They became Sojac, the name used by everyone who knew them and their music, and please don't confuse it with the later version of the band actually named Sojac.  You saw them once, you called them Notary Sojac.  Twice, Notary Sojac.  By the third time, they became Sojac out of necessity or maybe laziness because after the second time, they became an automatic topic of conversation.  It was a show of respect, I guess.  It was a rite of passage.  The Rolling Stones became The StonesLed Zeppelin became ZeppelinNotary Sojac became Sojac.  Simple as that. 

Why do I bring them up now?  Well, lately I have been doing a lot of thinking about the importance of indie music--- real indie music and not that called indie by the monied structure of the music business.  I well remember the days when if you wanted to record and press an album, you overpaid (no quantity discounts for the little guy) and consigned (no distribution and few record stores would pay up front for a local or regional act which might not sell at all).  The few bands going that far ended up selling more off the stage at gigs than in any store anyway, if they sold to anyone at all beyond family and friends.  Bands were hogtied, and the few which weren't ended up calling in favors they could never repay.  Just ask the members of Portland's Sand, who after a long ride down a bumpy road with Andy Williams' Barnaby label pressed their second by themselves (Head In the Sand, Ostrich 0001, 1976) and ended up making their way around stacks of boxes for the next few months to years until Jack Meussdorffer decided he'd had enough and just trashed them.  Lack of sales had nothing to do with the quality of the record (I personally loved it) but the problem of how to sell it.

Well, even real fans of Notary Sojac might be surprised to hear that they had also recorded an album.  Toward the end of their existence as that band and just before a few of the members moved on to a more jazzy and arty lineup they labeled Sojac, they headed down to Tioga Studios (outside of Coos Bay somewhere on the Oregon Coast) and laid down a number of tracks.  The classics.  Feel It (In Your Heart) and Willy Nilly and Bumpy Road  and maybe even their signature tune, Carolina.  They put ads of sorts in their little newsletter (Point of View), an early version of having your fans pay your way through the process, and I bought more than a handful hoping for the best.  Of course, it didn't happen.  Or should I say it hasn't happened yet.

Amazingly enough, the members of NS reconnected a handful of years ago and  sonofagun if they didn't piece together an album of live tracks culled from raw recordings they had made in the clubs in the early seventies.  It is raw, yes (many of the recordings were from nothing but a basic tape deck and two mics hung from the ceiling of The Roman Forum, their old tavern haunt), and the quality is relatively poor (they did a great job of cleaning the tapes up for this release, though), but it is Notary Sojac in the buff and man, oh man, is it worth it for the fan!  Titled Live 1972-1973, it captures not only the loose structure of the band on the whole (they had the looseness of the Dead) but the moments when it all came together--- the Maxell Man moments when the band was all on the same page, in unison, and the audience hair was blowing. 

Ah, but my point.  Steve Koski and cohorts have decided that if the double live CD sells well enough, they will work on releasing the Tioga tracks--- the only real in-studio tracks ever recorded by the band.  Am I pumped?  Better believe it.

So why call this The Band That Would Be Sojac, you ask?  In my quest for the story that is the band's, I have run across a gold mine of information about the guys, their friends and followers and families and their journey toward Sojacdom.  I have been handed information I did not know existed and sometime soon want to share it.  If you want to know about Notary Sojac, you also have to know about The Wild Wild Weeds who morphed into The Weeds and then Weeden.  You have to know about The Quirks and Faith and a whole list of people and bands whose paths led to Portland and the forming of one of the best bands I've ever heard, live.  

So help me out here.  I have a lot of info about the band and about the times, but I need more.  There are holes to be filled--- from fans and friends and hopefully even extended family members.  Email me if you have a story, no matter how trivial you might think it.  My email address is and I guarantee I will read and maybe even use your memories to tell the story of this almost forgotten and just short of legendary band.  And by the way, if you are at all interested in bits and pieces of this story, I posted a number of pages a few years ago which should pique your interest.  Click here.

Instant Replay.....

Did I mention that I was listening a lot to Elephantom lately?  This East Coast conglomeration crept into my tomb through some unusual quirk of fate and got under my skin.  What do they play?  I'm not really sure.  Rock Opera?  Art Rock?  Prog Rock?  Jazz?  Classical?  Pick any two or three minute (or ten or twenty second) movement and you might be able to lock them down for that short period, but they'll leave you in the dust on the next.  Adventurous?  Absolutely.  Maybe that's why I like them so much.  They recently  released an album titled Swim Toward the Sun and are over halfway done with their next and, man, this is what I live for.  Swim is all over the place and yet musically cohesive.  Hard to explain.  If you want to take a listen, they are streaming their album here.  But let me toss in a live performance for the open-minded, whom I do not have to forewarn about video and audio quality.  They'll hear it and they won't care.  For those who want professional quality, there are plenty of Taylor Swift and Katie Perry videos out there for you to watch.

Steve Young..... 

Still Lonesome Orn'ry & Mean.  I've been working on my version of the Steve Young story (with help from Steve himself) for a few years now and am amazed at my procrastination toward completion.   His life mirrors a lot of the frustration and anger which I have held toward the music industry for decades.  The man should have been a star.  I mean a star.  It pains me to see lesser talents reap the benefits while Young labors in obscurity.  Consider this a video promise to complete the story and get it posted for all to read.  In the meantime, sit back and enjoy.  Posted by Carolina Girl on Youtube.  Thanks, Carolina.  You captured what music festivals are all about.

Psych Lives!!!!!

I've been dragged back into the world of psych once again, courtesy of  The Grip Weeds and Neil DelParto of Planting Seeds Records.  Last year saw three substantial releases (The Grip Weeds' Strange Change Machine, The Young Sinclairs' We Spoke Our Minds and The Lovetones' Lost, though I'm not sure that Lost has made it to the States).

Damn!  Life is good!


  1. can i assume you have all the Notary Sojac recordings. .the jams? Steve sent me copies of everything the band ever did along with some of his solo projects about ten years ago. My memory is starting to slip a bit but I may have contacted you before regards the band. I was a friend of most of the Warlocks from whom Notary Sojac was formed. We would play gigs at the Crystal Ballroom back in '67. If we've had this conversation before, just ignore it. LOL

    1. I think we did have somewhat of a conversation but damned if my brain cells didn't take it with them to the grave. As for the Crystal Ballroom, I was not lucky enough to have passed through the portals I can only imagine what transpired there. What band were you with?