Chapter Thirteen


The group’s agent/manager at the time, Bob Singerman, was able to secure a record deal for the band with Shanachie, a label known mainly for doing folk music. The group recruited Joe Blaney, who had already made a name for himself as an engineer for the Clash, later branching into producing for the Bush Tetras, among others, to assist with the production chores. The album was recorded at Surf Sounds, a 16-track studio constructed in Christensen’s loft, during the summer of 1983.

Don Christensen, Jody Harris and Pat Irwin, 1983

“[Most of the] material on the record was totally influenced by the introduction of the drum machine,” Irwin recalled. “The drum machine was everywhere, and like most of us at that time, we kind of fell under its spell. . . . My memory of the drum machine is not a happy one. It was a sound that seemed to be everywhere and we just kind of went with it.”

One thing that all three band members enjoyed doing was recording a handful of songs live-to-two track. All the album’s cover tunes – Link Wray’s “Jack the Ripper,” Henry Mancini’s “Banzai Pipeline,” Booker T.’s “Jelly Bread,” and a medley of Jimmy Waller’s “Soul Beat” and Robert Hafner’s “Intoxica” – were culled from the live set the group was doing at the time.

“I love the live stuff,” Irwin said. “It sounds like the band.”

The Raybeats (Jody, Pat, Don) ham it up with bassist-for-hire Dave Hofstra (right)

Christensen also enjoyed the live-to-two-track tunes, claiming them to be “the best stuff on the album.”

And Jody Harris [in a 1985 interview] commented, “It might make sense to do everything that way, but it would be like admitting that we’re never going to sell records. There’s just no way [that] records like that would ever get on the radio.”

It's Only A Movie!, Shanachie Records, 1983

The record also spawned something the group had never done before – a video. It was for their cover of “Jack the Ripper.” The video was done by Margaret Crimmins and Pierce Rafferty, who did the sound and direction, respectively, for the 1982 documentary The Atomic Café. They were friends of the Raybeats from “the neighborhood” in Lower Manhattan. Constructed on a nothing budget, they put together the video using stock footage, mostly war-related propaganda films, featuring such things as horses wearing gas masks. Both Irwin and Christensen liked the surrealistic (and sardonic) atmosphere of the video, and it managed to generate enough of a buzz to garner national airplay, most notably on the USA Network’s music show Night Flight and, according to Christensen, some late-night MTV time.

Although the title on the album jacket was It’s Only A Movie!, the title on the album’s label was Let’s Go to the Movies. Like Roping Wild Bears, Let’s Go to the Movies was a short documentary film, this one made in 1949 and featuring John Barrymore and Mary Pickford.

<- Chapter 12     Epilogue ->

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