I just passed Debbie and Nina of the X-plicit Players, slowly sauntering down Telegraph Avenue, side-by-side, just like old times. Aside from the fact that they were fully clothed for once. . . I don’t think I’ve seen them up here since Duncan’s memorial back in 2009.
They must be close to 70 by now. But they didn’t look much different than they did back in the day, aside from their hair being gray. They were clad in brightly-colored pastel-colored hippie clothes. Long flowing skirts, the layered look, etc. . . I don’t know if they recognized me as I passed by. They didn’t acknowledge me and I didn’t acknowledge them (long story). . . Ladies and gentlemen, the X-plicit Players.
Someone asked me about my “falling out” with the X-plicit Players.
Well, boys and girls, it all started in 1993. Me and Duncan had decided to prominently feature the X-plicit Players in the Telegraph Avenue Street Calendar that year. So Duncan spent much of the year following them around with his trusty $30 Kodak Instamatic camera taking photos of them. As they frolicked around in public in the nude. So I had many interactions with them over the course of that year. The X-plicit Players. And they were always super friendly and super positive whenever they related to me.. They always had big smiles and plenty of hippie good vibes.
Then in 1994 I decided to record a CD — a compilation album of Berkeley street musicians. And I wanted a song by the X-plicit Players on the CD. So I had many more interactions with them. And again, they were always super friendly and super positive. Total grooviness all the way.
Then when the CD came out they all instantly turned on me. They HATED what I had done to the recording of their song on the CD. In fact they were righteously outraged. And now whenever they saw me, they were no longer super friendly or super positive. In fact they literally turned their noses up at the sight of me. Like I smelled like shit or something. They hated my guts.
And it really wasn’t even my fault.
When I recorded the X-plicit Players playing their music, they had two songs that I liked. This one song called “Let Them Be, Breast Free” (or something like that) (which was sort of their anthem advocating public nudity, an anthem for a generation yearning to expose their breasts in public — which was like their big Cause — with a capital C — they were going to save the world by liberating humanity from their body hang-ups — they REALLY believed that stuff, and it was a nice pleasant little ditty). And then they did this other song where they’re all blowing away on these diggery-doos. And it had a cool hippie vibe to it. So I wanted to use both songs.
The problem was: I only had space on the CD for one X-plicit Player song (like I said it was a compilation CD with 22 other street musicians). So I decided to combine the two X-plicit Player tracks. I’d use the first half of the “Let Them Be, Breast Free” song. And then fade it out. And then fade in the second half of the diggery-doo song. Wonderful.
The problem was. The guy who was my studio engineer for the recording of the CD, HATED the X-plicit Players. He was this 21 year old heavy metal kid who had put together a home recording studio in his apartment on Telegraph in Oakland. He had all this great recording equipment and actually knew how to use it. So I had talked him into collaborating with me on this CD project and using his recording equipment and recording expertise to record my damn CD (and to his credit he did a great job — the CD is well recorded, professionally recorded, and we jerry-rigged the whole thing together on a shoe-string budget).
But the problem — like I said — was that he had an intense dislike of the X-plicit Players. I’m not sure exactly why. He was offended and disgusted by their nudity. And he thought their music sucked too.
So the day came when we were going to mix all 22 tracks that we had recorded onto the master tape. Which we would then send to the company that was going to press up our CD. And we had to mix all 22 tracks in one afternoon.. Because I had rented out this big and expensive piece of recording equipment that we needed for the job from a local music store. And I had to return it at the end of the day.
So me and this 21 year old heavy metal kid are mixing down all the tracks on the master tape and laying them down in the sequential order that they’ll appear on the CD. One after another. And things are going fine. Until we get to the X-plicit Players track.
“I hate that track,” he said. “They suck. I don’t think they should be on the CD.”
So I have to talk him into mixing the track. But he’s dead set against it. Thinks it’s going to despoil the whole CD. But I was adamant. I really wanted the track on the CD. But he’s got me over a barrel. I have no idea how to use the recording equipment. So if he decides not to do it, there’s nothing I can do about.
Finally I talk him into doing it. So he mixes the two tracks together. But instead of artfully fading out and fading in the two tracks, he just makes an abrupt and artless cut from one track to the other. I ask him to re-do it so it sounds better. But he refuses. It was hard enough to talk him into doing it once. Let alone talk him into re-doing. And frankly, it was just a novelty track basically. It wasn’t like it was genius music or anything. It was just a little ditty. So what the hell.
But when the X-plicit Players heard the finished CD they were outraged. From their perspective I had butchered their masterpiece — “Let Them Be, Breast Free.” And they hated my guts ever after.
I’ll never forget when the guy who was the head of the X-plicit Players angrily confronted me. I tried to explain the situation to him. But he didn’t buy it. He felt it was inconceivable that I couldn’t get the 21 year old metalhead to do it the way I wanted. “But you’re ACE BACKWORDS!!” he said. Like I was some kind of great man, some kind of big hot-shot, who could just snap my fingers and get this kid to do my bidding. Sheesh.
The whole CD project was like that. Dealing with these crazy street musicians. All 22 tracks had weird back-stories to them, dealing with all of them. It’s a miracle I even managed to finish that project. Ha ha. Fucking musicians.