Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Remeber Me Well - House of Freaks

This one's a little long, but bear with me. Not too many people have heard of this band, but they formed in Richmond, VA in the mid '80s, and released four full lengths and an EP before they were through. The band consisted of just two guys, Bryan Harvey on guitar and vocals, and Johnny Hott on drums. They were signed by Rhino records after an A&R guy saw them live and couldn't believe the sound created by just two guys. They later formed the blues/rock band Gutterball with Steve Wynn of the Dream Syndicate and Stephen McCarthy of the Long Ryders. Gutterball released two albums. They were friends with fellow Richmond natives Dancing Hoods, which included a young Mark Linkous, who would later create Sparklehorse.

On New Year's Day, Bryan Harvey and his wife and two daughters, aged 9 and 4, were brutally murdered and left in the basement of their home near Richmond. They were discovered by Johnny Hott, who had gone to their home for a New Year's cook-out. The supsects have been taken into custody, and it would appear that this was a random robbery/murder.

[I saw this story and had no idea about the back story, thank goodness they caught the guys- Pinko]

House of Freaks was a band that I first got into because when I was young and impressionable, my brother used to play their debut album, Monkey on a Chain Gang. This was probably 1986 or 1987 when I was in about sixth or seventh grade. As a result, they've always sort of held a special place for me. This was right when I was starting to discover music that wasn't played on mainstream radio for the first time, and to this day, they're still one of my favorite bands.

I was going to write about the song "White Folks Blood" which appears on their second album, Tantilla. It's probably my favorite HOF song. It's a song, like many of their songs, about the south and its connection to pre-Civil War Southern traditions, including slavery:

~Dusting off their fathers' guns
Words like worms crawl through their brains
Sermons fly from a preacher's mouth
But the auction block still remains
Gagged and tied to a tree trunk
After a fox hunt chase with dogs and chains
In a field of white in the broad daylight
The earth was black, black with blood~

But ultimately I chose "Remember Me Well". It's the last track off of their third full length Cakewalk, which is probably their most professional sounding album, and least commercial of their first three. It's more or less a spiritual that begins with Harvey strumming his acoustic and singing the first two verses more or less alone. After a brief interlude, the drums and some backing wind instruments kick in quietly. A clarinet solo separates the fourth verse from the fifth, which kicks up the volume as the full backing complement joins in. It's the type of song you'd expect to hear somwhere in old New Orleans. But mostly, it encourages us to do what Harvey asked, and remember him well.
~In a hundred years hence
With the worms I will dwell

When I'm gone from this world
Please remember me well

You can dance on my grave
You can ring out the bells
After all's said and done
Just remember me well~
House of Freaks are more than just a band that I listened to. They're a link to my youth and to my family and friends of that period. The senseless murder of Harvey and his family has taken a small part of that away. We'll always have his music, though I suppose that's small comfort to his family and friends. May Harvey, his wife, and their daughters rest in peace.

A little more over at my place.