10,000 Maniacs – Pit Viper
This is a curious tape I listened to on my way home from work for Tape Deck Tuesday. I had obviously whited out the track listing but the title (or spine? what would you call the part you can read when they’re all stacked up?) retained the original for side A but whited out side B. It now reads: “Secrets of the I Ching” with “Human Conflict Number 5” underneath that then a bracket spanning both and “Hope Chest” at the end.
Secrets of the I Ching and Human Conflict Number 5 are both very early recordings by 10,000 Maniacs. Even back in college in the 80s these were sort of lost albums. But a CD came out in 1990 called Hope Chest, which combined the two. I have a copy, a reissue, of Secrets of the I Ching from 1988. This was a really difficult album to get a hold of. I have a very vague memory of having to send away for it through the radio station in college or something like that. I just pulled it out and inside was a purple piece of paper with information about “an Evening in Torpor.”
Wow. Here’s where the internet is a weird and fantastic thing. My memories of the Evening in Torpor recording are soooo vague and I don’t have the album. Maybe my best friend has it? We often used to split things up and tape them for each other. But I have the piece of paper with the track listings for it and somewhere I must have a tape because I knew all those songs. Maybe I’ll find it but until then, there’s always YouTube.
Here’s what I figure I must have done, as I have no recollection of doing this. I must have taped Secrets of the I Ching off of the album, then a couple years later, Hope Chest was released which contained that album plus the EP Human Conflict Number 5, so I taped over the original recording and whited out the track listing in favor of what was on the CD. Why I didn’t just tape the songs I didn’t have and leave the original recording alone I have no idea. CDs were thought of as being “better” so that probably factored into it somehow.
The Latin One
Poor De Chirico
National Education Week
Death of Manolete
(unlisted but Wildwood Flower is tacked on the end here)
Anthem for Doomed Youth
My Mother the War
(lots of dead space)
There’s another video for Pit Viper with Natalie Merchant, John Lombardo, and Steve Gustafson in Dennis Drew’s student film made in Jamestown in 1982 that you should totally check out if you’re remotely curious to see how they all looked way back when.
Some of this early stuff sounds really different from what people normally associate with 10,000 Maniacs. I have to give them credit for introducing me to De Chirico and the metaphysical art movement with this album. Back in those pre-internet days, if bands I liked mentioned things in interviews or if I figured out some lyrics, I’d head over to the library to learn more. No, I didn’t have much of a social life, why do you ask? I sometimes think I learned more during those four years of college by following my curiosity about what influenced the bands I loved, than I did in the classroom.