March 34... further proof they were ahead of their time. Rough footage of the talent show exists.
THE INIMITABLE RAY SUNSHINE
The story begins with Tapeworm, a punk rock outfit formed when three Connecticut
high school students got together in 1978. The band released a three-song EP on their
own Hermaphrodite label. Two hundred copies were pressed and given away to talent
show attendees and to party-going friends or the handful of people who noticed them
playing in the window of Discount Records for the release party. The boys could not
have imagined that one day a group of collectors would consider their EP the be-all-end-all
of early American punk obscurities.
Only in the mid-1990's did any details of Tapeworm or any trace of their record emerge.
More accurately, it was only then that people other the band members, their friends,
and their relatives (poor Grandma)
had ever set ears on the band. It was a review in OP Magazine (noticed fifteen
years after its original publication) that would rejuvenate interest in these parasitic
punk rockers. The review not only listed the titillating song titles ("Break My Face"
+ "I Wanna Die" + "Blues For An Insurance Salesman") but also a contact name and
address. With a little detective work and a few phone calls, band members were contacted
and few copies of the EP were salvaged from the closet and retrieved from ingrate
relatives. It had been worth the wait... all three songs proved to be full-on punk
rock madness. And recorded in 1978 by high school students? Get out the Pabst Blue
Ribbon, folks... we've got a winner.
What truly distinguishes the record — aside from the great guitar and über-punk
vocals — is the mixing madness on the songs. Side-to-side, back-and-forth...
I'm sure more than one listener checked the stylus and stereo connections halfway
through the first song. When asked about this, the band members had a simple two-word
explanation for the stereophonic effects and defects: Ray Sunshine. According to
Tapeworm members, Ray was a local hippie burnout reputed for his ability to play
guitar while doing acrobatic tuck-and-rolls and was seen, on occasion, sporting
sandwich boards protesting the plight of musicians in their small Connecticut hometown
of Stamford. Ray was also the only person in town who had recording equipment. He'd
put out a single and
an LP. The Tapeworm
entourage eventually headed over to Ray's apartment studio where they recorded the
EP. As band members watched incredulously, the maniacal engineer twiddled the knobs
and assured the teens that everything he did was essential to the songs. The Tapeworm
took his word, and I'm sure glad.
In the summer of 1996, when it seemed most all sources for original Tapeworm EP's
had dried up, I decided to track down Ray. My first phone calls were laughably unsuccessful.
I reached a woman who insisted that Ray did not have a phone (though it was listed
in his name); however, she saw him regularly and could give him a message. With the
phone route being a dead end, I dropped a letter to his address. A few weeks pass...
no answer. Summer had rolled around, and I was heading out on a road trip through
Chicago and onto the Northeast which would eventually take me through Connecticut,
so I figured what the hell, I'll stop by Ray's place. I hit the road having heard
nothing from Ray.
When I arrived in Chicago, I called my house to check up on things, and Ray had
called the day after I left. My befuddled housemate yelled at me... "who the fuck
IS that guy?!" Ray had her on the phone for half an hour demanding to know if she
was my secretary or perhaps some kind of "smoke screen for the recording industry".
When told I wasn't there, he insisted "Tell me where he is! I can call anywhere
in the world! Do you know who I am? This is RAY SUNSHINE!" My housemate hung up
on Ray three separate times, thinking I'd put somebody up to crank calling her.
The Tapeworm guys were right: Ray had gone off the deep end long, long ago, and,
well, I couldn't wait to get to Connecticut.
A few thousand miles later, the day had come... my trusty friend Boris and I set
out for a date with Ray Sunshine. We pulled up to the address around 1pm and knocked
on the door. A teenage girl (Ray's half-sister, it turns out) appeared in the doorway,
and I explained myself and asked if Ray was around. She remembered talking to me
on the phone.
"You drove all the way from Texas to see Ray?!"
"No", I explained, "we were in the area and thought we'd stop by."
"Oh... well, he doesn't live here. He lives next door — in the basement."
So, off we go next door... there are some boarded-up windows leading to the basement.
We knock for a couple minutes and walk around the house. No answer. Some neighbors
across the road, who had been watching us the whole time, eventually holler:
"Who're you looking for?"
We tell them, and they laugh...
"Do you know what kind of a guy you're dealing with?"
"I, uh, guess not?" I answer, wondering what I'd gotten into.
"He'll probably think you're space aliens comin' to get him. You ain't ever gonna
get him up at this hour. He usually comes out around five."
Doh! Apparently one collector found this copy a bit too "tasty"
At this point, Boris and I consider calling the whole thing off but figure we won't
be back in this neck of the woods too often, so we hit some stores and return a couple
hours later. My sick sense of curiosity was eating me alive... the Twilight Zone seemed
just around the corner. We killed some time at the public library checking out yearbook
photos of the band (no mohawks here, folks) and eventually returned to Ray's place.
I knocked and knocked and knocked. Five minutes, no answer. Tired and a bit frustrated,
we say fuck it, let's go. As we turn to leave, out of thin air comes a hushed,
Casablanca-style voice: "Who're looking for?" We turn to find a short, slightly
pudgy fellow with long, curly hair and, yes, a beret standing in the driveway.
This had to be our man.
"I'm looking for Ray Sunshine. He recorded a record with a band called Tapeworm
in the late Seventies."
"Come this way," he said without looking at us.
We follow him next door where we'd begun our day talking to Ray's half-sister, but
this time we take a seat on the patio set.
"First I need to tell you that I'm not Ray Sunshine. I'm his lawyer. Ray's very sick.
He lives on the third floor here. I'm representing him, so whatever you got to say
to him, you can say to me."
Boris and I glance at each other, and I try to hold back a giggle. I ask about Tapeworm
again which, at least for Ray, provides the perfect segue into Freemasonry. Ray
requests a one-dollar bill and asks if we are familiar with the Masonic imagery on
it. Boris seems to know every detail (working at the state hospital DOES have its
benefits), and this endears us to Ray, er, Ray's lawyer.
Suddenly he confesses: "Well, actually I'm Ray Sunshine. You can never be too careful."
This admission would prove to be the first and last... from this point forward, Ray
would once again speak of himself in the third person. The main problem for Ray was
that people were trying to steal his identity, and frankly I could see why... he is,
after all, a LEGEND. Our conversation with our schizophrenic friend took many strange
turns. I'll give you the Readers Digest condensed version... a "best of" if
1) The movie Remo Williams was
loosely based on Ray's life ("Remo" is Ray's given first name). His identity, like
Remo's, was being changed, nay stolen, by forces beyond his control. It was during
this portion of Ray's soliloquy that we discovered that Ray was not, in fact, slightly
overweight; rather, his jacket was stuffed full of papers of all sorts including a
photocopied Remo Williams movie poster,
various land deeds, handwritten affidavits, memos, an American flag, and a Freemason
2) The music industry has been taken over by rap music which is all written with
a beat that is reminiscent of slaves being beaten. Quality music is no longer being
distributed because all of the good Italians and Jews have been kicked out of the
industry. Two guesses on Ray's ethnicity...
3) Ray has a radio transmitter on the third floor. He can send transmissions for a
fifty-mile radius, playing and saying whatever he wants. He has "the key", and, to
make the point perfectly clear, Ray produces the front of a safety deposit box from
his back pocket and unlocks it with a key — THE key.
After a good half hour of listening to Ray and suppressing the urge to leave, I
again attempt to steer the conversation toward Tapeworm and the possibility that
some records might be lurking in the basement.
"Yeah, I remember them. They had a suicidal song, right?" Ray asks.
"Yes, I guess 'I Wanna Die' counts as suicidal."
"You see," he insists "that's not what Ray Sunshine is about. He's about being positive.
Like he's got a song called "Wake Up America" [reaches into jacket and produces an
actual record label from his Blue Skies Forever LP]."
The Tapeworm cause is essentially lost as Ray continues with a series of rhetorical
"Has anyone ever tried to steal
At one point a woman (apparently Ray's mom) walks through the yard. Ray immediately
"Yes, yes, I was just telling these
gentlemen that MY CLIENT Ray was not feeling well and was unable to come down from
the third floor."
Ignoring Ray, she addresses us: "Are you the boys from Texas?"
Yes, we answer. She looks at Ray, shakes her head, and heads into the house. The
collector in me says "time to go, no records for you today," but Ray just won't
stop talking. We eventually defy years of Miss Manners training and stand up to
leave as Ray jabbers on. As we walk to my car, the shadow of Ray keeps pace on the
other side of the fence requesting that we send an experienced lawyer, a private
detective, or at the very least, any prescription medication (offer: $2 a pill).
I, in turn, propose that he find some Tapeworm singles, and I'd be happy to oblige.
A trade has yet to be worked out.
— Ryan Richardson
Sorry, the Discount days for this record are long gone
As of this 2006 BMF revision, I'm STILL waiting for our man Brian "Macho" Beattie
to transfer the Tapeworm EP master tapes sent to him by the drummer, Jason Weinberg,
several years ago. The tape includes an unreleased song "Fuzz Bassolo" which is
presumably an instrumental. I will post an MP3 here when and if the four-track
tape gets transferred. I haven't found any further mentions of Tapeworm since
spotting a 1982 interview with Tom "Fuzzbox" Flynn about he and Brian Beattie's
follow-up band, Fang. That interview was done by Aaron for Cometbus and is
reprinted in DESPITE EVERYTHING: A Cometbus Omnibus.
If y'all spot something new, be sure to send it over!
— Ryan Richardson
CONTACT: Break My Face