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Covering the Years 1986 to 1990 or Thereabouts

A Chronology of the Tape-beatles Early Days


SEPTEMBER 13, 1986: Word is sent out in the Iowa City community of an open meeting to be held at the apartment shared by Lloyd Dunn and Ralph Johnson. The intent is to find out if anyone else is interested in forming a musical group with an unusual idea. Four people show up, and The Tape-beatles are founded ‘ … to invent a popular musical form based on concrete music, using the possibilities of tape recording in the composition of the sounds of reality into a new kind of music,’ by Lloyd Dunn, John Heck, Chuck Hollister, and Ralph Johnson.

OCTOBER 1986 to JANUARY 1987: Work begins on a suite of 5-minute audio montages intended for radio broadcast. Influences include My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, Dada and Surrealism, Eisenstein, the Beatles, Monty Python‘s Flying Circus, National Public Radio, John Oswald’s ‘Mystery Tapes’, as well as other underground artists and the ‘home taping’ community.


MARCH 1987: Completion of ‘Listen to the Radio,’ ‘Radio Plays,’ ‘You People are in Great Danger,’ and ‘The Law of Repetition.’ The Tape-beatles begin to consider composing an extended work of LP length (40 to 50 mins.)

JUNE 1987: Iowa City senses a new presence as the Tape-beatles begin their first ‘hypermedia’ campaign, slathering the town with posters. Slogans include: ‘The Tape-beatles: Seriously,’ ‘Not for Everyone,’ ‘Art You can do, too,’ and ‘Art You can Figure Out.’ Chuck Hollister gets a job in Des Moines and leaves the group.

SEPTEMBER 1987: The Tape-beatles 23-minute opus ‘The Big Broadcast’ débuts on KRUI-FM 89.7, Iowa City as the Tape-beatles host a 3-hour air shift, filling it with not only their own work but works by artists influential to them. The Daily Iowan, a local newspaper, covers the event. Various callers voice opinions ranging from disdain to pleasure and curiosity. Some accuse us of being ‘unoriginal’.

OCTOBER 1987: The audio-works ‘Sing Sing Sing’ and ‘Listen to the Radio’ are published on PhonoStatic Cassette No.7: ‘Audio Anxiety and Other Headaches.’ Ralph Johnson pens his manifesto of the Tape-beatles, ‘Plagiarism®: A Collective Vision.’ The broadsides go up all over town. The Tape-beatles begin using ‘Plagiarism®’; as if it were there registered trademark, with the intent of it becoming a de facto trademark after years of uncontested use. After all, it’s our idea.

NOVEMBER 1987: The Tape-beatles are interviewed by Beth Lucht for NEO: The Iowa Entertainer. The Tape-beatles’ first live performance (lasting 40 minutes) takes place at Gabe’s Oasis in Iowa City. The original plan was to open for Fred Frith, who was scheduled to appear, but never showed up. Paul Neff was in the audience. John Heck had the flu, so only Ralph and Lloyd perform.

DECEMBER 1987: The Tape-beatles begin work on their next opus of short audio works, entitled ‘Plagiarism®.’ New posters include ‘Expect More from the Tape-beatles’ and ‘Better Jazz than the Tape-beatles.’ Paul Neff joins the band after the three members offer him an invitation.


JANUARY 1988: The Tape-beatles second radio broadcast takes place on KRUI on January 9. It is entitled ‘Ceci n’est pas une radiodiffusion (This is not a radio broadcast)’ and confounds listener expectations by playing segments of programming from other stations. New work by the Tape-beatles is featured, including ‘Concern About,’ and ‘Recognize, Resist.’ On January 19, all four Tape-beatles appear on the public access cable-tv interview program ‘Twist and Shout.’ They present their video work publicly for the first time, including ‘Video Logo,’ ‘Texas,’ and ‘Tomorrow This Could be Your World.’ Angry callers make a fuss about Plagiarism®. Inaugural issue of Retrofuturism, a hypermedia magazine by the Tape-beatles, appears on the pages of Lloyd’s PhotoStatic Magazine. They liked to think of it as ‘more than a column but less than a magazine.’

FEBRUARY 1988: The Tape-beatles participate in ‘Festivals of Plagiarism’ being held concurrently in London and San Francisco. Reams of posters are shipped for distribution in both cities. Audio cassettes are also sent for air play on local radio.

JUNE 1988: Release of A subtle buoyancy of pulse;, the Tape-beatles first major release. Contains work from all their broadcasts to date. Garners favorable reviews from Option, Factsheet Five, N D, and Neo, among others.

AUGUST 1988: ‘Despite Good Dental Care’ appears on the ‘MaLLife 15’ cassette from BS Propaganda in Seattle WA. ‘The Ads Become the News’ and ‘Individual Choice’ appear on the ‘It’s Another Iowa Compilation’ Uncharted Territories LP from Southeast Records of Iowa City. The Tape-beatles pay $100 for the privilege.

SEPTEMBER 1988: They perform at the Willy St. Fair Experimental Music Stage, Madison WI, organized by Xexoxial Endarchy’s Miekal And and Liz Was.

OCTOBER 1988: The Tape-beatles with Bonnie Sparling and Trang Tran present audio art and a reader’s theater performance of ‘Popular Culture is the Walrus of the Avant Garde’ at the I-Care AIDS Benefit held at Gabe’s Oasis. They also do Colloquium at the UI School of Art once again.

NOVEMBER 1988: The Tape-beatles present their work on the ‘Curious Music’ program, where they generate ‘Right for the Job’ and three other new improvised compositions. The show was entitled Stress and Desire.


FEBRUARY 1989: ‘Questions and Answers with the Tape-beatles’ is presented at the All-Media Forum organized by Deborah Bordman, at the UI Museum of Art. In addition, they present similar work at Colloquium the previous week, and again at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa. One audience member was overheard complaining that she brought her two kids because she thought it had something to do with the Beatles. Her kids weren’t complaining, though.

MAY 1989: Linda Morgan-Brown receives her MFA from the University of Iowa School of Art. A major part of the thesis work is Morgan-Brown’s video adaption of the Tape-beatles’ piece ‘Sing Sing Sing.’

JULY 1989: The Tape-beatles present work on ‘Curious Music’ on KRUI, and do a live improvisation, scored by Paul Neff. They also perform their work in the form of ‘Wallow’ in the Black Hawk Minipark in Iowa City. It is well attended. A week later, they appear at ‘Sonic Turmoil’ experimental music exhibition held at Manny Theiner’s Sonic Temple in Pittsburgh, PA. Simultaneous release of cassette ‘Steal This Lick’ on Theiner’s SSS label. The Tape-beatles are awarded a grant for the production of ‘Music With Sound’ from Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis.

AUGUST 1989: Lloyd visits Europe and presents the Tape-beatles opus ‘Plagiarism®’ at the Glasgow Festival of Plagiarism, organized by Stewart Home and the Transmission Gallery.

SEPTEMBER 1989: John and Lloyd present Tape-beatle work at Bonnie Sparling’s Multimedia class. John creates a Tape-beatles like work based on ‘Personality’ by Lloyd Price for the Drawing Legion’s production ‘American Nervousness.’

DECEMBER 1989: The Tape-beatles’ work ‘Right for the Job’ appears on the Experimental Audio Directions compilation ‘Anomaly,’ edited by Jake Berry.


JANUARY 1990: Presentation of new work from ‘Music With Sound’ at the Record Collector in Iowa City, Northern Iowa Area Community College in Mason City, and Club Lower Links in Chicago. The Tape-beatles begin videotaping bits of the performance at the Public Access Studios of Heritage Cablevision, Iowa City, with the help of Linda Morgan-Brown. Retrofuturism separates from Photostatic and becomes an independent publication.

MARCH 1990: An extended work entitled ‘Stress’ appears on the ‘Put Down Your Pencils’ compilation, released by the Hall Walls Gallery of Buffalo NY. Part of the Tape-beatles work was excerpted for a radio spot on the tape by an NPR affiliate in the area.

APRIL 1990: The Tape-beatles do a series of performances of their new extended work ‘Music With Sound’ at various locations in Iowa City, and return to Club Lower Links in Chicago, where they do a version of the show. They also appear on Curious Music on KRUI-FM Iowa City once again. Maggie Jensen of KGAN-TV news does a short piece on the Tape-beatles’ performance in Colloquium at the University of Iowa, and it airs the next week. John departs for Europe on his leg of the ‘Bifurcated Tour,’ where he will unexpectedly show up at radio stations and ask them to play Tape-beatle work. Linda Morgan-Brown is invite to join the group as an official member.

MAY 1990: The Tape-beatles find a new studio space at 119 E College St. in Iowa City, abandoning the previous site at 19 Dubuque St. due to property improvements.

JULY 1990: Retrofuturism 13 appears, a huge 90-page issue that included a 7-inch vinyl EP co-released with RRR Records. The issue quickly sold out.

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