Nov 302011

Will Your Mystery Date Be a Dream or a Dud?

I’m glad people liked our latest Mystery Date, “I Gotta Know,” an early single by Cleveland underground band Human Switchboard. When I downloaded recently a 21-track collection of their first album, which I regretted having sold years ago to support something of an ephemeral nature, and other releases from their late-1970 through early-1980s career I was pleased by how much I still enjoye their music. Who’s Landing in My Hangar was one of those albums a young me wore as a badge of honor. It felt really cool to not only own and dig that album but a mid-’80s solo album by primary singer-songwriter Bob Pfeifer, the guy who’s voice reminded you of Lou Reed, David Johanssen, Richard Hell, and the like. Long ago I also sold that pretty decent and really obscure album to fund the same ephemeral experience. Sad.

Anyhow, Human Switchboard was a pretty cool little band, if you ask me, that has failed to generate the hipster critical acclaim I would think they have coming to them. Check out these two opening songs from their lone studio album, “(Say No To) Saturday’s Girl,” sung by groovy organ player Myrna Marcarian, and the title track. Right off the bat the band did a great job of sequencing their range of ’60s pop and more biting garage-punk, occupying a place smack in the middle of early Blondie and artsier NYC bands like Television.

[audio:|titles=Human Switchboard, “(Say No To) Saturday’s Girl”] [audio:|titles=Human Switchboard, “Who’s Landing In My Hanger”]

A couple of fun facts, some of which I learned in my few minutes of research in preparation for today’s reveal:

  • Prior to the band’s “I Gotta Know” single they self-released an EP that was mixed by our unfortunate Mystery Date “dud,” Pere Ubu’s David Thomas! (I’ve also been digging those 4 songs, which I never knew existed until the other day.)
  • The somewhat legendary Hoboken scenester Dave Schramm (eg, original lead guitarist for Yo La Tengo) was an original band member.
  • Drummer Ron Metz would later join Schramm in his band, The Schramms.
  • Pfeifer would move from leading underground music projects to becoming a major-label A&R man. He’s also made his bones as a novelist. Smart guy!

  15 Responses to “Mystery Date Revealed: Human Switchboard”

  1. pudman13

    Now I can mention the fact that I first discovered them via one of those Trouser Press flexi-discs, which, if remember correctly, contained the two songs you included here. I discovered several really good artists that way.

  2. pudman13

    By the way, Pfeifer re-made “I Gotta Know” on his solo debut, AFTER WORDS. The original version was way better.

    Also, check out this fascinating tale about Pfeifer’s recent exploits:

    Word has it he had his ex-wife’s phone illegally tapped.

  3. You and Bobby Bittman were all over this track. Congrats, and thanks for playing your mockcarr option!

  4. Creepy! After Words is the solo album I used to own. Why do I always want to call that guy “Jim” Pfeifer? Is it because he looked a bit like Jim Carroll?

  5. BigSteve

    They were a cool little band. The album I had by them came in a paper sleeve held together with staples. Those were the days.

    I was briefly Facebook friends with Pfeiffer, because we knew some people in common. I’m not sure what ever happened with his legal situation.

  6. jeangray

    Man! This Mystery Date made me mad enough to pick on BigSteve.

  7. mockcarr

    I really like Dave Schramm’s work on that first YLT album, but could never find his later albums.

  8. jeangray

    These guys sounded like Jonathan Richman to my ears.

  9. Well, I would have never have guessed these guys simply because I’ve scarcely heard of them. At least I got the year right (1978).

  10. misterioso

    Yes, I feel better, too, knowing that although I thought I must know who this is, in fact I did not. But I still, somehow, think I should have.

  11. I can say, “I saw Yo La Tengo when Schramm was still in the band – and I actually liked them a lot that night!”

  12. Yes, a couple of the songs sound even more like the Modern Lovers’ first album stuff.

  13. mockcarr

    I saw that lineup too, they opened for another band and really kicked their ass to the point where I can no longer remember the band I actually went to see.

  14. They kicked The Feelies’ collective ass when I saw them at Maxwell’s. I’ve probably talked about this before: the Feelies were really boring until the encore, when they played Eno’s “Here Come the Warm Jets” into “It’s All Too Much.” I’ve never been more thankful of hearing major chords in my life!

  15. underthefloat

    To late for this one but I also loved this band. I worked at a used record store while in college and I went crazy over this album. I need to get the download of this!

Lost Password?

twitter facebook youtube