“Propeller” was the 4th Guided By Voices cd I had bought.
It was between the release of “Alien Lanes” and
“Under the Bushes Under the Stars”.
As I said in my review of “Alien Lanes”,
It was the first GBV cd I bought, but I didn’t get
into it right away.
But when I did, I bought anything with the name
Guided By Voices on it.
Next was “Box” and then “The Grand Hour” ep,
being that was all my local J&R Music World In Kailua-Kona Hawaii had,
I thought I had everything by the band.
Keep in mind this was before I went on the web,
so I had never seen the discography at that point.
Suddenly a brand new Borders Books comes to town,
I looked in the cd section under Guided By Voices
and surprised to see that there were even more GBV CDs.
So I bought “Propeller” and “Vampire On Titus”,
they had the individual CDs and a CD with both
I bought the individual CDs.
First thing I do is, grab an old 90 minute cassette,
put tape over the holes and record each album to a side,
so I can listen to it in my truck, which had a tape deck.
I listen to both CDs and like “Alien Lanes”,
I didn’t get into it right away.
So I returned them to Borders.
Which is weird because I doubt I needed the money that bad.
A week or so later I decide to listen to the cassette in my work truck.
If you remember,
I recorded the CDs onto a used cassette, before I returned them.
Well the tape got stuck in my tape deck,
because of the scotch tape I used the cover the record tab holes.
After a couple days of listening to “Propeller” and
“Vampire On Titus” over and over again,
I really got to know and love the albums.
So I rushed back to Borders and bought both CDs again,
they re-shrink wrapped them.
I could tell they were the same CDs I returned.
I also bought the “I Am A Scientist” CD ep at the same time.
I learned a valuable lesson when it comes to GBV,
Even if I don’t like something of theirs at first,
Give it a chance, because I’ll end up loving it.
I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to say that
“Propeller” is Guided By Voice’s Most Important album
of their career, for many reasons.
This album, their fifth, was intended to be the last album.
During the recording Bob told the band,
“This is my last album and I’m done”.
After years of self-financing the first ep and the first four
albums and recording sessions,
plus the debt pressing the vinyl records,
perhaps it was time to end the dream.
So being this was to be the bands “Swan Song”
the plan was to make an album of the bands best
The recording process was different from past albums;
combining studio, 4-track, boombox recordings and snippets
The studio recordings were “Lovingly Fucked With” and
Mixed to 4-track.
I have heard some of the original studio tracks before being
mixed down to 4-track and the songs have better fidelity,
but Bob was going for a sound.
It doesn’t take long to realize something big is happening here.
The GBV chant that opens the album could fool anyone
into thinking, “Wow this band must be very popular to
have fans chanting their name”.
But in reality the band played very few shows, if any.
The chant was created in the studio with the band.
Little did they know, this was just the beginning
and feverish fans across the country would re-create
the chant at their shows.
So many great songs that remain classics to this day,
such as “Over the Neptune/Mesh Gear Fox”, “Weed King”,
“Lethargy”, “On the Tundra”, “14 Cheerleader Coldfront”,
“Exit Flagger” and the list goes on.
But there is one song that was a very Genius move for Bob
to include, “Back to Saturn X Radio Report”.
By the time I first hear “Propeller”,
I was a big fan of “Alien Lanes” and “King Shit and the Golden Boys”,
from the box set, “Box”.
After listening to “Back to Saturn X Radio Report”
which contains snippets of songs from those aforementioned albums,
it sent me on a Quest to find the rest of the original tracks.
And for a fan like me, it was perfect.
Another important thing about this album is,
it’s the first to include Tobin Sprout.
Originally, five hundred copies of the album were pressed,
each one with a different cover, designed by Bob, the band
and close friends.
Those albums are now highly sought after and can
sell for a couple thousand dollars each.
After the album was finished the band broke up.
Then it was decided to send out the albums,
including the previous albums, to record stores,
reviewers and anyone who would listen.
Which resulted in a recording contract with Scat Records,
live shows and Cult Stardom.
Great album and a Great place to discover a Great band,
with an amazing future that nobody including Bob expected.
A few side notes:
The album was released on cd a few years later,
as a “twofer” with first album with Scat, “Vampire On Titus”,
shortly after, both were released on separate compact discs.
2005 saw the released of the remastered “Propeller”
on vinyl and compact disc, with much improved sound.
One of the covers used on the CD remaster, was taken from one of the
many original “Propellers” owned by our own Breck aka “King Shit”.
At the second “This Ain’t No Picnic” that GBV played at,
King Shit and I were talking to Bob.
King Shit was telling Bob about his “Propeller” collection.
At that time I was going by the handle “Weed King”,
I told Bob that I didn’t have an original “Propeller”.
Bob said, till he sends me one,
my name is now “Propellerless”.
So now I’m torn, I’d like a copy,
but not everyone is lucky enough to have Bob give them a name,
either way, it’s pretty cool