The Jupiter Affect ..”Instructions For the Two Ways of Becoming Alice”

 

Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#779 in the Series) is The Jupiter Affect, Instructions For the Two Ways of Becoming Alice

Ask a handful of music lovers of a certain age about their favorite Michael Quercio moment, and you’ll be hard-pressed to come up with a consensus. Some will vote for “Jet Fighter,” the appropriately soaring opening track off Sixteen Tambourines, The Three O’ Clock’s 1983 debut album, Others prefer the punk-psych swirl of “She Turns To Flowers” by Quercio’s earlier trio The Salvation Army, the D.Boon-approved combo that played a major role in kick-starting LA’s “Paisley Underground” movement. Still others will tell you that he did his best work in the early 90s with Permanent Green Light. But for me, my favorite Michael Quercio moment was the lunch in 1999 where he talked me into to participating in the recording sessions for what would become The Jupiter Affect’s Instructions for the Two Ways of Becoming Alice.

Let me back up a few years… In the spring of 1997, a colleague of mine who was managing Permanent Green Light mentioned that Michael might be looking for a new guitarist. I went to see them perform at the Troubadour in West Hollywood, and two things were immediately apparent to me: Michael was writing the best songs of his life — which mixed the frilly melodies of 60s British psych with a 70s rock crunch — and he (and those songs) really needed a kindred spirit who could sing high harmonies and bang out Pete Townshend-style power chords. I immediately volunteered my services.

As it transpired, Michael was actually looking to start a new band. While he kept drummer Chris Bruckner from PGL, he replaced PGL guitarist Bernard Yin with Jason Shapiro (formerly of LA glitter conceptualists Celebrity Skin) and myself, and dubbed us The Jupiter Affect. We all realized pretty quickly that this band was a special one. Michael was a melodic (but never showy) bassist, while Chris had a style that could be best described as “groove-oriented Keith Moon,” and the two of them locked in beautifully. Jason was, quite simply, the best lead guitarist I’ve ever played with — he burned up the fretboard like Brian May with a wild streak — but he was also incredibly patient about showing me how to partner with him for harmony guitar leads, something I’d never really explored in previous bands. Michael, Jason and I naturally fell into a solid three-part vocal harmony blend, and all four of us shared a similarly absurd sense of humor about rock n’ roll and everything else. People would come to our shows expecting to hear Three O’Clock-style light and breezy tunefulness; we would flounce onstage in frilly shirts and eyeliner, and then proceed to gleefully wallop them like Led Zeppelin I meets Live At Leeds. The Jupiter Affect were part of a big “power pop” scene that was happening in LA, but we took great pride in being one of the few bands that were actually bringing the power as well as the pop.

Not that anyone really cared, of course. The Jupiter Affect developed a small following in LA, got some good reviews for a self-titled five-song EP that we released in 1998, and played both the NXNW and SXSW festivals, but we were too old/weird/60s-infuenced (take your pick) to appeal to the major labels, and we lacked the promotional savvy (or proper management) to make things happen the DIY way. By the spring of 1999, when our friend Greg Dwinnell offered us enough money to make a full-length album for his small label Eggbert Records, I’d pretty much had it with playing the same LA clubs over and over again, and I was feeling increasingly stressed out by work and other obligations. I invited Michael to lunch, where I planned to regretfully offer my resignation.

Well, in addition to being a brilliant songwriter, Michael Quercio is an incredibly charming and persuasive individual. He understood and empathized with my situation, but convinced me that I should stick around at least long enough to see the record through. Michael told me that we would be recording with Earle Mankey, the brilliant producer who had helmed Sixteen Tambourines. And, he reminded me, we’d assembled an impressive collection of songs together, a couple of which I had even co-written. Didn’t I want to see that they were properly recorded?

And so it was that I spent several profoundly pleasurable weeks that summer at Earle Mankey’s home studio in Thousand Oaks, immersed in what was unquestionably the most rewarding recording experience of my life. We laid the basic rhythm tracks for Alice in a couple of days, and then it was truly “play time” from there on out, as we layered and seasoned the songs with all manner of vocal and instrumental embellishments. Earle — an affable and unflappable gent who would pad into the studio every afternoon in bare feet, holding a bowl full of salad — was up for trying anything, and it was a real treat to just kick back and watch him and Michael riff ideas off of each other. He also had an impressive array of vintage microphones and amps at his disposal, such as the 1960s Vox AC-30 that I cranked my Rickenbacker through for the raucous “Loved Ones Lies”.

Of the album’s thirteen songs, ten were part of our regular set list, and “Together,” “Good Time,” “Bring Back the Wonderful Girl,” “We Don’t Believe You This Time” and “Druscilla I Dig Your Scene” — aside from being filled with countless sparkling Quercio bon mots — all nicely replicated the ruffled-shirted biff-bang-pow of our live performances, while Earle’s studio expertise helped us flesh out “Goodbye Arthur (Le Morte D’Arthur),” “I See the Sun” and “The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosencreutz” in ways that we never could onstage. Morley Bartnoff (aka Cosmo Topper) and Lisa Jenio respectively added keyboards and flutes for our Oktoberfest jazz odyssey “Inside (Isis Rising),” while Ed Keller added brass to “White Knuckle Sound” and “Michael and Mary”. The latter song was one of three Michael brought in to the sessions; it’s one of the saddest songs in his catalog, but the memory of him recording the vocal while accompanying himself on a gut-string acoustic always makes me smile.

“Loved Ones Lies” and “Ice Cream Lolly” were the two other last-minute additions. The latter was a song I’d co-written with Michael during one of our many songwriting and harmony singing sessions at my apartment, and we gave it some extra TLC in the studio, including a raga-rock guitar solo wherein I tried to channel the spirit (if not the chops) of the Byrds’ late, great Clarence White on a Telecaster that had all the strings (except one) tuned to D…

Making Alice felt like a dream to me. There were no arguments, no headaches, no tension, just the pure glorious joy of making music. “I am truly proud of that record,” Michael told me recently. “We just did what was best for the songs, there was no ego involved. I always had to deal with egos [in other bands] and it hurt the music… we just had fun!”

We did, indeed. Along with Michael’s timeless songs and Earle’s full-color production, I really think that sense of fun is why Instructions for the Two Ways of Becoming Alice holds up so well today, 12 years after its initial release. The Jupiter Affect broke up years ago, and Greg Dwinnell sadly passed away in 2003, but the record still stands as testament to the talents (and excellent taste) of everyone involved. I hope you dig it as much as I still do. Michael, thanks again for convincing me to stick around…

Dan Epstein

 

Track Listing

  1. White Knuckle Sound 3:09
  2. Loved One’s Lies 3:00
  3. Goodbye Arthur (Le Morta D’ Arthur)  3:40
  4. Inside (Isis Rising) 4:38
  5. I See The Sun 5:38
  6. Michael And Mary 2:28
  7. Druscilla I Dig Your Scene 2:51
  8. The Chemical Wedding Of Christian Rosencruetz  5:22
  9. Together 3:20
  10. Bring Back the Wonderful Girl 4:19
  11. Good Time 4:11
  12. Ice Cream Lolly 3:20
  13. We Don’t Believe You 3:25

Personnel

The Jupiter Affect

  • Michael Quercio — Bass, Lead Vocals
  • Jason Shapiro — Lead Guitar, Vocals
  • Dan Epstein — Rhythm Guitar, Vocals
  • Christopher Charles Von Bruckner — Drums
Listen to the album in it’s entirety below

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Posted by Larry Carta


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