BOB HATE & THE EDDY BAND **** Classic *** Worth owning ** Meh, a couple of good tracks * Waste of vinyl, polymer, or bandwidth
Bad in My Car • Eddy Band (1996) ***
The first Eddy lineup works its way through a stellar collection of songs, especially the title track and “Sin Crowd.” The powerful rhythm section shines.
Better Man Than I’ve Been • Bob Hate (1998) **
A quiet and introspective record. But there is only so much broken heartedness we can be expected to bear. There are several moments when a listener will be encouraged to simply drive into a ditch.
Unplugged • Bob Hate (2014) ***
Coming so closely on the heels of the surprising “Juvenilia,” this disc unfortunately gets a bit lost. Its 12 songs are all rendered achingly in a mostly un-plugged format. (If you consider synthesized conga samples unplugged, well then you’ll be just fine.) But the disc is a winner. It’s an especially idiosyncratic collection of tunes, but the earnest playing holds the disc together. Well known older tunes like “Map of the World” and “Bad in my Car” come off beautifully in stripped down – yet propulsive – arrangements. And the deep cuts like “Love Carlene” and “Marie” shine. The standout tracks are those that have received the biggest overhaul, like “Pontiac,” which was transformed from a comic car ride into a terrifying goodbye letter.
A revelatory collection of 12 re-recorded Bob Hate songs from 1978-1984 was released at the end of February. Features 2014 versions of "Dream Street," "Where is the Love," and "Remember My Name." Recorded in 9 days in ABQ.
William Robert Simmons was born – or so they say – in 1958 in Bossier City, Louisiana, during the hottest summer in history. We know little of his boyhood, and what we do know is likely apocryphal.
As a teenager he started writing songs, and his first musical adventures were with a band called Grand Theft Otto. In his twenties he played in a few more bands, changing his own name as often as his bands changed lineups. He was Bobby Wheels for a time, and then Bobby Arizona. And then when he moved to Dallas in his late twenties, he became – simply – Bob Hate.
The story of those days has been told often, but hardly anybody knows how much of it all was true.
But in his early 40s he disappeared off the map. There were stories that he had moved to Florida, started touring folks at a glass-bottomed boat place. Some said he was dead.
In 2003 the “Like a King” CD got released. It contained some of his solo material alongside mid 90s recordings he did with the Eddy Band. There was a poorly sourced rumor that some of the unreleased tracks on the disc were new. Was Bob Hate actually alive? Did it matter?
Then in 2007 he re-emerged. He was living at the time in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and for about 18 months he began writing with longtime bandmates and pals Chet Hix and Stephen Thomas. Together with Eddy Band alums Dave Lemonds and Buck Rudo, the group re-formed for some Nashville recording sessions.
That period got chronicled earlier this year on “Wreckerman,” a collection of all new material, and “Six Foot Length of Rope,” a 16 track best-of that also collected some old Dallas-era songs from the group.
But the reunion broke up badly – how could it not?
I saw Bob briefly during this time and he looked exactly like Wilford Brimley after Tom Cruise kicked the shit out of him in that Grisham movie.
Months passed and on a whim I drove back to New Mexico to his compound up in the Sandia foothills. He wasn’t there, but an old guy answered the door. He said he was an old friend of Bob’s, and that Bob had suspected I’d come around again.
“He was just here,” the old man said, pointing at the desert floor under our feet. “He said you’d know what to do with this.” And he handed me a box. Some photos, a portable hard drive, and the “Dear God” letter you’ll see elsewhere on this blog
On the hard drive were 45 songs, some in multiple versions and arrangements. They were all solo recordings. Some, like “Romance,” were written nearly 30 years ago, and some, like the beautiful “Silver City,” were written and recorded in his home studio in the past couple of years.
I’ll never know if I’ve done exactly the right thing, but I mixed and remastered these songs into a CD called "Imagine My Disappointment: The Very Best of Bob Hate," and many of those songs will be found elsewhere on this blog. While he was a fantastic eater and singer, he was a bastard about making you guess what was in his head and his heart. I picked the 15 tracks I thought were the best, the ones that captured whatever little magic he found in his years of writing and recording. I know I’ve gotten some of it wrong. I’m sure that if Bob Hate ever resurfaces he’ll kick the shit out of me.
I would never dare to call Bob my friend, but I always loved him and his music. I hope that wherever he is, wherever his tired and restless soul has ended up, that he’s happy. I’m not holding my breath.
As I was packing up my car and leaving Albuquerque, the old man at Bob’s house said I wouldn’t find him if I went looking, and I told him I had no intention. “He’s done what he came to do,” the old man said.
Dear God, Okay, I give. It’s been 30 years of writing and recording, and about a dozen years playing in clubs to drunks.
I’m grateful my music career has been a complete failure, because I’d rather be what I am than trade places with an ass clown like Jason Mraz or that poser Daughtry. It sure is great that their magnificence has not been lost to us all.
So I just opened the vaults one last time to make this one last disc for my 9 fans. Some of these are more than 20 years old, and remastered from hissy cassette tapes, and some are things I finished alongside the work I did with the Eddy fellas over the years. (You didn’t think I’d save my best tunes for those bastards, did you?)
They are all songs that reveal part of the misery of being me. And I’m exhausted.
Oh, and thanks for the food addiction and the baldness. It’s a super combo.
1. Bad in my Car This was released on the Eddy Band CD of the same name, recorded in Dallas in 1996. It’s only me on the whole thing. I snuck into the studio in early mornings and worked it up myself. I was always very proud of the acoustic part. It’s about the wife, of course, and every word of it is true. Except I’m not from Oklahoma. Who’d want to be from there?
2. Nowhere I wrote this during the Eddy reunion. In the end, of course, we just went with songs that I co-wrote with the fellas, so this was left for me. It was all recorded at the home studio in Albuquerque. It sounds just like me. That’s why it’s so amazingly good. Like the other songs that come from the Bitter Solo Album, this has been remixed and remastered.
3. About the Moon This song was released in 96 on the first Eddy Band CD, but I was never convinced it was done. When we were talking about the recent reunion, I finally wrote a goddamned bridge for it. We did a demo of it in 2008, I sent off the tracks to Annie Clements (the bass player in Sugarland), who lent me a hand with the duet vocals, and then I finished it on my own. Chet, Stephen, and Dave are all on it, too, I think, though I replaced some kick drum stuff. Because I’m an asshole.
4. Map of the World This is a song I wrote in the mid 80s, and that really got played a lot when Chet and I were in the Blue Hotel band. This recording you’ve picked is a 1990 demo session Chet and I did with the legendary king of the hi-hat, Johnny Lawamba. Chet and I sang ourselves hoarse on those backing vocals. It sounds like we were in a well.
5. Gas Giants Every word of this is true. Except that maybe the car was more gray than silver.
6. Superstition Highway I wrote this in Mississippi in 84 or 85. I’ve recorded it a number of times, but this version comes from 1998, a track I did on my own at the compound in Dallas. We used to do it live a lot because it’s dead easy.
7. Got Lost When I rhymed Fargo, North Dakota, Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Tucson, Arizona, I figured I was about done.
8. Outside Silver City A song for the wife. All true. All from a visit we made to the City of Rocks outside Silver City. “As long as you are beside me.”
9. Every Bad Dream A good friend of mine called me when he heard it to tell me he cried when he first heard it. He knew I’d written it about him and his wife. Then another called to say the same thing. That’s brutal. When do I have time to think about them?
10. Swimming It’s my big marriage song. People love this thing. I played it in Dallas in the late 80s, and have recorded it several times. This is a 2003 version I did with Buck on bass and Paul Tewksbury on drums. I stole the bridge from another song of mine. I couldn’t tell you which one.
11. Romance I wrote this about 30 years ago, and you’ve messed up by not using a 1982 version I recorded in Phoenix. We hired this violinist named – and I’m 100% serious – Stephen Vaughn Esquire. I sang some lines to him that I wanted, high screeching things, and he played it beautifully. I know that version is really hissy and bassy. No amount of EQ would save it, but man, it’s beautiful. It’s about 9 minutes long and a total mess. I fired the piano player halfway through the session. I haven’t heard it in years, but I remember it being a train wreck of epic madness and beauty. (Maybe you can stick it on as a hidden track.) The pedestrian version you chose instead was just a home demo I did in the late 90s. It might have been on the Better Man Than I’ve Been solo disc. The guitar solo comes from Craig Wallace, a famously problematic cat. I believe I paid $50 for the pleasure of having him in my house for an hour (where I had to make him tea twice).
12. If I Knew Then This is also from Better Man. It’s not done very well. There are some awful chordings in the quiet sections. But, man, it breaks my heart to this day. Is it really 7 minutes long? That harp solo left me winded, but then, what doesn’t?
13. No Man’s Friend This is one you have to cut. I know a lot of people like it, but it’s just so damn dull to me. Half of it comes from a song from 86 or 87. The rest I did a couple of years ago. It’s sort of fun to drive on the highway with it, but I’ll never understand why people like it. Is it because you can dance to it? Most of my songs are famously undanceable.
14. Desertland This is Chet, me, and Johnny Lawamba again, from 1990. I’ve recorded this tune a dozen times, and have never gotten it right. It says pretty much everything I’ve ever wanted to say about love, about the highway, and about the desert. There’s a girl with auburn hair in it. Shocker.
15. Be Like Him If it’s any consolation, I wasn’t much of a son either.
And there was the Eddy Band. The Eddy Band started as the Blue Hotel back in the late 1980s. Chet and Bob tried to make that thing work, but it never did. After a hiatus from Texas, Chet came back in the early 90s and the band reformed. Using a variety of folks - and fitting in the occasional gig between endless and soul-killing cover gigs - the Eddy Band occasionally performed to half-empty clubs.
When Chet left Texas in the mid 90s, Bob carried on, and in fact put together a second version of the band that continued to play for a couple more years. But by 1997 it was over, and then it was ten years later that the ill-fated two summer reunion in Nashville happened.
Chet and Bob, along with Buck Rudo, Stephen Thomas, and Dave Lemonds - spent a few days in the summer of 2008 and 2009 in Nashville recording some new songs the fellas had written long distance. The sessions resulted in a 2009 CD called Wreckerman, and then the 2010 "best of" called "Six Foot Length of Rope," which collected the the best tunes from the reunion and from their 1996 CD.
The 1990s tracks also feature the stellar work of steel guitarist Jim Koch, although he was far too smart to take part in the reunion.
It was 4 a.m. when the phone rang. That could only mean one thing.
“I pushed them all away.” It was Bob's voice. He sounded tired. It was no surprise that he was up already, hiding in his small studio well before the sun would come up over the towering adobe walls at his New Mexico compound. “They never understood me. My self-loathing. I made Nixon look like a piker.”
I knew this call would come soon because I'd heard that the band had splintered again. After some stellar sessions in Nashville, Bob retreated with the master tapes to ruin the mixes with reverb and piano.
“They deserved better,” Bob said. “Lemonds. He couldn't even look me in the eye when I left. Stephen at least let me shake his hand. Then he wiped it on his pants. Buck was the first one to go. 'Gotta catch a plane!' Yeah, yeah, we get it. ‘You're the pilot!’ Chet had one more beer with me at the end. That was nice. He just
wanted to know if I still had a KISS t-shirt he left at my place in 87.”
I heard sounds in the background, guitars, drums. Then they stopped. The clicking of a mouse. “I should just erase it all,” he said.
But he didn't. Two weeks later I got a call to meet him at a campsite outside City of Rocks, NM. I found him in a folding chair, the nylon straps buckling under the weight. He was smoking. His face looked puffy, his eyes runny. He gave me 2 master discs, enough songs for one more album. “It's the best stuff, some from the summer, some from a hundred years ago.”
We talked about nothing until dark. After a long time I thought maybe he'd fallen asleep in that chair. I moved closer until I could see his face in the sliver of moonlight. He was smiling. I sensed he would say something, something that would bring it all together maybe something I could bring to the rest of his fans. Maybe he’d just tell me how he loved the fellas, how he’d miss them, how they’d made him a better musician, a better man.
It was dead quiet until he spoke. “You think, maybe, you could get out of here so I could get some rest?”