The Great Unload I: Jeff Barbush/Painkillers

Don’t know about you, but my vehicle’s got a tape player. For playing good, old-fashioned cassettes. And with my iPod seemingly down for the count, I’ve been revisiting some old favorites from the long-disgraced, but suddenly-hip medium of cassettes.

My big, plastic cassette box is really a vibrant time capsule. Whether it’s pulling out an oddball artist (Shellyann Orphan), a long-forgotten bootleg (Pixies, The Cure) or a personal story-maker (a Concrete Blonde live recording, hand-delivered to me the day after the show by the bootlegger), the cassette box has been a giver of great and surprising things of late.

The tape that got the most play in recent weeks is a mixtape of songs by Jeff Barbush, who headed up bands like the Painkillers and the Deadbeats, and who also did a fair share of home recording. The tape was given to me, if memory serves, by Marcia Pandolfi, whose brother Carl was a member of the Painkillers.* That group, as I’ll ramble on about to anyone, is primarily responsible for my caring about pop music, at all, as they practiced two-doors-down from where I spent a chunk of my teens. Just as I was ready to absorb local rock, a local rock band was playing on the block.

Those Painkiller songs are special to me. And, with a bit of time, the entirety of the Barbush cassette is locked into my head.

Of late, I’ve played with the idea of what to do with material like this, in terms of sharing. It’s solid music, still. It extends the life of a musician who passed too soon. It’s classic Saint Louis pop and is deserving on just that level. It really should be heard by more than just myself and the passengers in my truck; or by the other folks hipped into similar cassettes and home tapings.

So, the thought goes like this: start by finding some of the principals behind the music. See if they’re down with a limited-run CD. Talk to folks like Chris King, whose Enormous Richard recently re-released a long-ago cassette onto CD. Locate someone to bump the original recordings into a more digitally-pleasing form. And then drum-up the couple-hundred dollars to run, let’s say, 100 discs, for those who’d be naturally inclined to also fall in love with these songs.

This idea, it seems, could have legs. Or it could not. I’m open to discussions. And, in the meantime, I’ll be humming along to songs so catchy, so sweet, that I’m not the only deserving to hear such treasures. Thanks, Jeff Barbush, for leaving me something so wonderful, a cassette of magic, as much as a cassette of music.

* Rene Spencer Saller also made for me a fantastic mix-up CD of Painkillers tracks a few years back and it’s gotten steady play over time, as well. But, as determined, I’m not blessed with a new-fangled CD player in the car. Some of those cuts, too, deserve a hearing.

4 thoughts on “The Great Unload I: Jeff Barbush/Painkillers

  1. “That group…is primarily responsible for my caring about pop music….”

    To that I’ll add, they’re primarily responsible for me even thinking about picking up a guitar. They played maybe… 2? 3? high school dances, and the were the definition of local heroes to me. Incredible pop sensibilities, great songwriting, and really nice guys.

    I’d shell out for just about anything the remaining band members wanted to put out. It’s the least I could do for everything I got from them.

  2. My older brother tim hit me into good St. Louis pop very early on during my rock infancy. He took me to various band practices over the years with great bands like lydias trumpet, the lettuce heads, and the deadbeats. Wow the deadbeats. Holy shit, the talent in the band and in the room at rehearsal was enough to inspire any young magician to pray to be half as good. I lived with jeff at the rugbarn and jammed with him many times. He is missed. I have worn out one side on the only deadbeats cassete I have. I listen to that tape every day I work in my shop, usually 3 times or so. I am on board to contribute to the cause.
    Chris mcavin

  3. The Painkillers was such a fun band to watch at the Grizzly Bear!

    I would love to get a copy if you have one!

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