Chapter Ten

“ROPING WILD BEARS”

ROPING WILD BEARS (1981), the Raybeats' vinyl debut, was recorded in Austin, Texas, in December 1980

While playing at Club Foot in Austin, Texas, Don Christensen ran into Dan Dryden, a childhood friend he had attended grade school with in Nebraska. They hadn’t laid eyes on each other in years. Christensen was now a professional musician and Dryden was a recording engineer. Dryden asked them if they’d like to make a record in his little studio.

“So, we went back to Austin around Christmas of 1980,” Christensen said. “We did pretty much what we wanted to do. As far as Raybeats’ recording experiences went, it was one of the better ones.”

Despite Christensen’s fond recollection of the experience, Amis recalled “that the studio . . . was located next to the airport. That meant we could only record at night when there was no air traffic. We were pretty tired during those sessions, and I think that slowed down the tempo a bit.”

The EP, titled Roping Wild Bears, consisted of four songs — three originals (”Searching,” “Tone Zone” and “Tight Turn”) composed by the original foursome and a cover of the Shadows’ classic “The Rise and Fall of Flingel Bunt.” Unable to secure a deal in the U. S., the record, dedicated to George Scott’s memory, was issued on the British label Don’t Fall Off the Mountain (a subsidiary of Beggar’s Banquet) in early 1981.

 “We were featured on the cover of NME [New Musical Express],” Christensen said, “but we couldn’t get a deal with a major label.”

“It wasn’t easy finding anybody to put out that music,” Irwin said. “No singer? No focal point? We were so far off of what was being played at the time it wasn’t even funny.”

A few years before the Raybeats came on the scene, the Edgar Winter Group had a big hit with “Frankenstein” (in 1973), and shortly after they came on the scene, Herbie Hancock scored with “Rocket” (in 1982). So, the possibility for instrumental music being popular again was there, but no label with clout was jumping on the bandwagon.

ROPING WILD BEARS (back cover) was a four-song EP dedicated to the memory of original bassist George Scott

“There was a time [in the early 1960s] when instrumental music was really popular,” Christensen added. “The first music I ever played was surf music, and I think there’s still a lot of potential for that kind of music, but that [the early 1980s] was an odd time in the record industry.”

And what about that nifty EP title?

“I think the title was Jody’s idea,” Irwin stated. “It’s a favorite of mine.”

Harris, a movie buff, copped the title from a 1934 documentary directed by W. Earle Frank. The film (about ten minutes in length) was about bears bothering livestock in the Tonto Basin of Arizona; they were roped and shipped off to local zoos.

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