Lucas and Friends Discover a World of Sounds

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When I was a kid, there was a booth in Chicago's LaSalle Street Station where you could make your own records.

Pea Hix and Josh Mintz

Reviewed by Mike Mosher

Thursday, March 11 1999, 9:20 PM

When I was a kid, there was a booth in Chicago's LaSalle Street Station where you could make your own records. I still have some fragile disks from it, where I can hear my young self whimpering Beatles songs and superhero parodies. The New York Dolls were pictured emerging from such a booth, probably on Times Square, about 1972. Now Pea Hix and Josh Mintz have assembled similar, found amateur both recordings, made between 1941 and 1990, featuring children showing off their intrained pipes in a manner only a parent could love.

On my disks I sound just like these kids, swaggering one moment and forgetful the next, adlibbing half-remembered fragments as they sing or tell stories. Some make fart noises with their mouths or, at best, invent odd songs like "Kleenex, My Baby, Kleenex". Beneath a compost of surface noise and skips the kids tackle Christmas carols and show tunes accompanied by toy piano and Magnus chord organ.

In groups clustered around the mic, rarely achieving harmony, you can hear participants vocally out-muscling each other in order to dominate the scene. A simple ukelele twangs along beneath a collective struggle with "Don't Fence Me In." Good-natured adults and happy kids before the mic have some fun and create a personalized gift or souvenir. Even when impersonating professionals, these productions have the simple happiness of non-commodified creative effort. The latest radio pop becomes and un-ownable folk tune carried by scatterbrained and determined populist, pre-punk voices.

A highlight of the Lucas and Friends collection is a very young Latino delivering a kickass 50-second version of "Me Gusto Bailar". The kid who sang "Do Wah Diddy" sent a frisson of fear through me, because it made me remember how co-workers and I sang it an amusement park's karaoke make-a-cassette booth in 1990. I also recall my fascination on that excursion at the sample videotape running on the monitor outside a make-your-own rock video booth, and a chubby Jon Lovitz-like engineer attempting hip-hop dances to a Mariah Carey tune with added special effects swirling behind him in the background.

Though occasionally excruciating, it's fun to listen in on these folks' frozen moments of amusement. Perhaps few record their voices in depths of anguish...but I suppose, with the proper police connections, Hix and Mintz could easily assemble a CD of suicide tapes. In this world where everything ever recorded is turning up on CDs like Lucas and Friends, I keep expecting my old phone-message tapes to resurface in the hands of audio archeologists like Pea Hix.

Lucas and a Vinyl Communications release.

Copyright © 1999 by Mike Mosher. All rights reserved.

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