Swim Herschel Swim Skeleton 9: Fuz

Swim Herschel Swim Skeleton 9: Fuz

We wrote this song in the late winter/early-spring of 1990. This was the first song we wrote after the initial creative burst that got me thinking we could write more than just a few songs. I believe we debuted this song at a show at a dance club called Jillymax (formerly called Plastique) that was above a Mexican restaurant in downtown Provo. I mention those names merely for the handful of people likely to stumble onto this post… Also: Plastique! Very 80s name for a club.

The week prior to that show there was a bit of drama behind the scenes. Jeff, our bassist at the time, had a kidney stone that he had removed or had to pass and was hospitalized the Sunday before we were scheduled to play. I remember visiting him in the hospital and asking him if we needed to cancel the show. He said he’d see, but he was going to try to do everything he could so we could play the show. It was insane to expect him to play, but he wanted to. He was released the day prior to the gig and said he’d do it, but his doctor told him to play sitting down. We got him a couch to play on, which he did, but when we played this song, he stood up and the dancing got so heavy that we had complaints from the restaurant below that pieces of the ceiling were falling on dining patrons and into their food. The story was that the club had to be closed after that show due to structural damage to the beams. The restaurant is still there, I think.

I have three distinct memories of this song, all of them good. The first was watching Jeff arise from the dead and stand up to play this song after seeing the crowd response that first time we played it live, despite doctor’s orders and despite any fatigue. The second is that the horn line always sounds like the first warm day of spring and you feel like anything is possible. Third, of all the horn lines we did that first year, this one is probably my favorite. After we took the summer of 1990 off and had our first rehearsals with Sam, our first sax guy, hearing these notes got me very stoked to start playing again and also relieved me because I was worried we’d be able to keep it going after a summer off. BYU was a hard place to keep a band alive. We had two marriages in the band that summer and you never knew if the spouses of your bandmates would be down with their new spouse playing in a band. Once it was clear that we’d get together again to rehearse, this song represented the renewed hope that we could go further with the band.

My memory is foggy about this, but I believe the inspiration for the lyrics was Rod getting his haircut and his stylist started asking about male butt hair patterns. The conversation turned awkward when the subject turned to his butt hair. Amongst the Mormons, I believe this song’s content allowed people to be mildly shocked as well as express a kind of micro-rebellion on their personal stereos. “He’s talking about butt hair! He said ‘butt’!”

Production notes:
As with the rest of the Raygun tracks, I’ve added a ton of bass and tried to open up the sound a bit. Sam had been with the band less than three months when he recorded the sax solo. I missed the session where Sam overdubbed his solo, but I believe that he was unduly pressured into playing outside of his normal Paul Desmonesque zone. I’ll leave it at that.


Direct download – Swim Herschel Swim – I Wish I Had a Raygun – FUZ – Remastered, MP3, 320kbps constant

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Cover illustration & concept: Merkley. Design and font design: Jon Armstrong

As a comparison and companion piece to these posts, I’ve toyed with the idea of remastering the tracks we put on our CD, Burn Swim Burn, which we released after Swim Herschel Swim broke up. In the spring of 1993, we were gigging every weekend; we’d travel to Los Angeles (played the Whisky! played the Roxy! Opened for No Doubt in Anaheim!), San Francisco, southern Utah and wherever we could to make money for our album and to tighten up. In the middle of all the travel, most of us were working demanding day jobs and rehearsing three times a week. At that point, we’d lost Rich (drummer), Rick (guitarist), Jeff (bassist then guitarist) and Sam (sax), leaving Rod and me as the sole original performing members of the band.

We picked up some great players along the way. Pat (drums) joined in early 92. Matt (trombone) joined the fall of 1991 after he introduced himself to me in a computer lab. Kent (bass) joined after Rick (original guitar) left and right before Pat joined) and Jeff took over guitar full-time. We added Andy (sax) after Jeff and Sam left the band simultaneously and also added Lou (guitar) in the summer/fall of ’92. We broke up in June of 1993 after 14 weeks of shows where we performed upwards of 22 times. Not exactly grueling, but we were recording and rehearsing as well. I think we pushed it too hard. I recall a rather heated exchange over the CB radio coming out of Los Angeles late one Sunday as we caravanned back to Utah about whether or not we were going to rehearse in less than 18 hours that Monday night. We should have taken a month off, but we all wanted to do something big so badly at the point that there was an urgency to get something solid under our belts with this lineup.


After we broke up, our last guitarist Lou worked at the same studio we recorded I Wish I Had a Raygun and offered to donate his time to finish recording the CD. Since we’d broken up and had never released a CD of the cassette tracks, we decided to take some of our favorites and redo them as they sounded when we broke up.

The CD we released (in late 1994, I believe) was produced by Lou and Merkley. The mastering job always sounded super thin to me and flat. The performances are polished and we have a harder, heavier sound thanks to the full-time horn section and Lou’s American Metal pedal. We often joked that Lou had two guitar sounds; clean and death metal.

Here’s the same song, Fuz, as it was mastered on the CD. You only need to listen to about 10 seconds of the song to see why I’d want to remaster it:


I love the energy of the performance from the horns (especially the solos), the change in Rod’s singing style, my buzzyclunked keyboard sound and the triple-tracked super metal guitars, it all sounds dead. Even when you turn it up, it still sounds like it was recorded in a closet. After messing with the track and hearing how full the horn sounds could be, I further monkeyed about with it and after a half hour or so, got here:


Direct download – Swim Herschel Swim – Burn Swim Burn – Fuz – Remastered, MP3, 320kbps constant

If there is enough interest, I’ll try my hand at the rest of the tracks on the CD.

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I can’t imagine my life without those years of fun, arguments, road trips, drama and music. Thanks to Rod, Rich, Rick, Russ, Jeff, Sam and Merkley for sticking it out longer than a semester. Thanks to Pat, Kent, Matt, Andy and Lou for working to help take us to the next level. We spent a lot of time together back then. I’ve never experienced anything like it and I probably never will again.

Here’s to college bands everywhere. Play on, people.

UPDATE: I’ve been informed that my dates are off on when people left and joined. I’ve edited them above. Merkley just informed me that he and Lou didn’t do the mastering. I’ve edited the post to reflect this info.