portrait by Josef Astor
This page contains MP3's (music files) of unreleased Kristian Hoffman music! Need help figuring out how to hear this wonderful stuff? Well, here's the quick tutorial:
The links below are to MP3's (downloadable) versions of the songs. For best results, right click (windows) or click and hold (Mac) the link until a menu pops up, choose the option that saves the file onto your hard drive ("Save Target As..." or "Save Link As..."). Be sure to save the file somewhere you can find it. Then open the file with any MP3-playing software; most likely your computer already has software that will play MP3's, but if it doesn't, there are numerous programs available for free or for a small fee on the internet.
"River of Red" (Kristian Hoffman Four Track Cover)
"I Fell From Grace" (from The Guru Home Demos - 2003)
"Carl Stalling Tribute Am Fam" (from Am Fam Variations) (2002)
Projected hidden track for &: "Little White Lies"
Two Hoffman solo demos - "Devil May Care" and "Shantytown"
Live recording of "Science Fiction" by the Swinging Madisons (1990)
Bleaker Street Incident demos (1985)
Unreleased Swinging Madisons (1982)
Swinging Madisons' "Society's Child" featuring guitarist Allison East (1980)
Kristian Hoffman's first solo demo, "Could This Be Art" (1977)
"River of Red" (Kristian Hoffman Four-Track Cover)
There have been so many songs over the course of my lifetime that I have just LOVED, and wanted to do cover versions of, but whenever I get a chance to record an album, I have so many of MY OWN songs that the space is just too precious (and the studio time too costly) to use it for the masterpieces by OTHER songwriters, never mind that their skills may exceed my own in many ways.
Therefore, I have decided to occasionally do HOME DEMO versions of these songs (although such a treatment is far from the full fledged a-list production value I'd like to lavish on them in a BETTER WORLD) and I will post them here under the title of "Kristian's Four Track Covers."
What follows is the first in a series of "Four Track Covers."
River of Red (MP3) (double click to listen, or right click to download)
River of Red - written by Michael McMahon
From the Album "Twister" by the group "Last Roundup"
Released on Rounder Records. 1987
But at that time you could still tiptoe past the human wreckage on a breezy humid August evening to stand with a crowd of perhaps 11 other initiates in a mouse hole of a club, to hear the unqualified magic of Angel Dean's new/old country delivery when very few others had dared to do the post-punk country pose.
And even if they weren't the first - this was DIFFERENT. Her voice was the REAL THING, and so were their barn raising clothes and their lapsteel, dobro, bass fiddle, and banjo expertise; and the songs by Michael McMahon and his sister Amy (nee Rigby - and how brightly she has shone in her solo career!) were funny, touching, catchy, and in the case of this selection, depressingly prescient.
Their version of "River of Red" was more a driving yelping warning, with an insistent sawing fiddle hook - a timeless despondent cry of outrage at the cruelty man has excused in himself, as he fells his own children and siblings through the ages, even unto our own.
And in keeping with my new policy to be OUT OUT OUT as a POLITICAL ENTITY, I think now is the time to reexamine these songs - they NEED to be heard NOW, and AGAIN, 'til their truth becomes second nature and we learn that, as A.J. Muste said, "There is no way to Peace; Peace is the way!"
I tried to imbue the song with more of the sorrow I feel at witnessing our own current blood bath, and our own reason-free will to uninformed vengeance, our own facility to abstract irreparable human tragedy into numbers and slogans, our seeming incapacity for empathy or identification, and our determined flight from reasoned thought and fear of simple questions. But maybe I better stop the blather and let the song speak for itself - these are the feelings it brought to me!
And if you get the chance, check out the LP "Twister" on Rounder Records, with fantastic cover art by Michael; McMahon himself, who is also a gifted illustrator! Where IS he NOW?
"I Fell From Grace" (demo recordings released 2003, originally recorded as demos for the 1993 album I Don't Love My Guru Anymore)
When a rock fiend morphs into a lonely troubadour, the transition can be unsettling. Thank God Robert Mache was there to facilitate my journey into the Donovan/McGarrigle nebula. Listen, if you dare, to nakedly acoustic 'virgin' songs, folksy-mopesy to the max! Then brave the 'abused' set, where baby's first 4-track is freed into a hissy quagmire of cheap string patches! -- KH
Here are the "virgin" and the "abused" versions of "I Fell From Grace":
Here is a webpage with more information and ordering instructions for The Guru Home Demos: Record Store
"Carl Stalling Tribute Am Fam" - sample track from The Am Fam Variations
Incidental Music From and Inspired by the PBS Video Vérité Documentary Lance Loud - A Death in an American Family
Kristian Hoffman met Lance Loud in art class at Santa Barbara High School, and their friendship continued for 35 years. Kristian was with Lance at Carl Bean Hospice on the day Lance left this plane for another. Together they helmed the seminal '70s New York City pop/punk band Mumps, called by Andy Warhol "the best band in New York"! Kristian appeared in several episodes of the original PBS series An American Family. The directors, Alan and Susan Raymond, called upon him to "reimagine" the simplistic Brady Bunch-esque burble of an original instrumental theme, apparently culled at the time by PBS from some copyright-free catalog of canned jingles. Even the Raymonds don't know the original authors! So on this CD we offer no less than twelve startlingly varied, whimsical, satirical, ridiculous, and sometimes beautiful versions of the theme, three of which appear in the documentary, plus two bonus tracks!
Here is a sample track from the CD: Carl Stalling Tribute Am Fam (MP3)
Here is a webpage with more information and ordering instructions for the Am Fam Variations: Record Store
"Little White Lies" sung by Peter McGough - projected hidden track for "&." (circa 2001)
One of my dearest old friends, Peter McGough (of the celebrated art/photography duo McDermott/McGough) consented to sing a cappella into my cheap Radio Shack mini cassette recorder an old favorite of his, 'Those Little White Lies.' This was when I was on tour with Abby Travis, and I intended to add instrumentation to the track and make it a 'secret' track on & or one of those mini-between-song segues. But on the Abby tour I managed to imbibe much more alcohol than was good for me (Shirley Manson plying me and Abby with green chartreuse in Madison comes to mind) and I drunkenly recorded something over half of the song (a Kid Congo Powers poetry reading, I believe). I was so shamefully embarrassed I couldn't face Peter -- but finally I called him and had him sing the second half of the song over the telephone! Now, in hindsight, I like the sound of the cassette painfully clicking into "record" and I wish I had included it on the CD. So here it is! - KH
Two Hoffman solo demos from his post-Swinging Madisons solo career
'Devil May Care' and 'Shantytown' are two home four-track demos I came across while trying to archive my old cassettes to CD, and I thought each one, though primitive and lo-fi, had some slight punch missing from the released versions -- so here they are, for those of you trivia obsessives who are interested in this dusty old junk! - KH
[The final versions of these songs appear on "&" ("Devil May Care") and "I Don't Love My Guru Anymore" ("Shantytown"), both of which are available from CD Baby.]
Track (live rehearsal) from Swinging Madisons' reunion, 1990
Speaking of AIDS, Joseph Fleury's condition in that regard was what drew us all together to re-form various bands to do a benefit for his medical costs in 1990. The Swinging Madisons had been broken up for some 4-5 years, a hastily re-formed version of Mumps (Lance Loud, me, and Paul Rutner, with Robert Mache & Ron Gomez from the Swinging Madisons) also played after 10 years broken up, Bleaker Street Incident, Phranc Folksinger, Redd Kross, and what I think may have been the first public performance of Kid Congo Powers & Sally Norvell as a duo called 'Congo Norvell.' We all drew together for Joseph, who had been Mumps', the Swinging Madisons', and Sparks' manager - what a tangled web we weave! It was a fantastic sold out show (see a few pictures from this show at the Swinging Madisons pictures page), but tragically, Joseph died about a year later. Horrific.
That said, this little rehearsal tape reminds me of what rockin' fun the Swinging Madisons could be. Our silly medleys, Robert's incredible guitar, our willingness to be so skilled at the art of ridiculous overkill and Bobby Rydell-like excess. - KH
Bleaker Street Incident Demos (c. 1985?)
Bleaker Street Incident was my folk parody band that became something of a nightclub sensation in N.Y. and L.A. These demos were recorded late one night at the behest of none other than Giorgio Moroder (!!!) at his private L.A. studio. I guess he didn't hear the cash register ring of a new Donna Summer - but at least we have this record of some of the concert faves. The band was me and Ann Magnuson, and Robert Mache (Swinging Madisons, Steve Wynn, John Wesley Harding, and for the past 4 years or so, Continental Drifters). As usual I wrote all the songs, although Ann wrote her own 'trigger-happy' rant. - KH
[Lyrics to "How Deep Was My Nothing" and "Trigger Happy" are on the lyrics page.]
Unreleased Swinging Madisons - (c. 1982)
The Swinging Madisons tracks were all 'finished' - that is, intended for release - but the nibbles from the various major labels never turned into bites, and the collegiate 'indie' circuit was on its post-punk pre-grunge hiatus - so these tracks have languished in my closet since about 1982. As the band progresses you can hear a weakness for some of the more embarrassing aspects of 80's recording convention - fat synth, drum overdubs, etc. But I'll stack my Thompson Twins 12 inchers against your Pearl Jam live bootlegs anytime, anywhere! - KH
Personnel on the above Swinging Madisons tracks: Kristian Hoffman (vocals), Robert Mache (guitar), Paul Rutner (drums), Joe Katz (bass).
[Lyrics to "Belinda" and "Spitting Image" are on the lyrics page.]
Swinging Madisons' recording of "Society's Child" with Allison East on guitar - 1980(?)
I've always loved Janis Ian's 1st album. I think it's a severely underrecognized minor masterpiece - and the Swinging Madisons made what little of a career they had by re-examining well-intentioned protest/pop songs of a more innocent era - at once sending them up, and mourning the gumption of goofy past minstrels who actually believed a song could make a difference. (Too bad I haven't got a copy of our fuzz-bass version of 'Abraham Martin & John.') But the real point of this chestnut is: it's one of the only recordings of guitarist Allison East. I met her at CBGB's at a Cramps concert, liked the way she looked, and asked her to be in my planned 'joke' band - but the joke was on me! This chestnut haired, shag-headed, white tux be-clad bon vivant was a glam-metal genius on guitar. So much better than I deserved! She single-handedly lifted my 'joke' into the realms of 'rawk'. She was so good, she turned the Runaways down! (Didn't want to relocate.) My band got popular so quick she started to get leery - it was just supposed to be a goof, a side project. She was already about to quit, and Robert Mache, my second guitar god, was being groomed to take her place, when she was stricken with cancer, and died at age 19! What a tragedy! We were so young, it was so unexpected - we all went into shock - not like a few years later when AIDS rendered the death of a youthful cohort routine - if no less painful. -KH
A track from Kristian Hoffman's first solo demo - 1977
Our then manager Joseph Fleury thought I should have a solo career concurrent with the Mumps, or write songs for other people. All I can say is I listen to these wildly unwieldy compositions and I know a song is trying to emerge, but whether it did or not is another question entirely. What were we thinking? I was in a strange Sparks- and Kinks-damaged cul de sac, and that coupled with my absolute first recorded vocals - scary!!! - kept this in that crowded, dusty closet till now. The sound quality is so bad, and my performance so questionable - although I love the song 'Could This Be Art' and it did become a Mumps concert staple. - KH
[Lyrics to "Could This Be Art" are on the lyrics page.]