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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
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.