Radioland: The Elektra Annex Sessons

by Sumner

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Sumner Mering: Guitar, Vocals
Novi Novog: Viola, Keyboards, Vocals
Larry Treadwell: Guitar, Vocals
Robert Louis: Bass, Vocals
Mark Sanders: Drums

Produced and Mixed by Stephen Barncard
Engineered by Bobby Thomas

The A&R climate in LA reached a fever pitch in 1979. The talent-search lizards who frequented the clubs from the major labels ( like myself ) fell all over themselves in competetion for bands like the Knack, The Motels, Oingo Boingo and the Stray Cats. Deals were made in the dressing rooms of clubs like the Whiskey and Troubador as record companies searched for the Next Big Thing. It was almost a repeat of the feeding frenzy that happened in 1967-69 when the majors were blindly signing all the San Francisco acts.

In this atmosphere Sumner Mering appeared under the Elektra/Asylum radar with a band that included Chunky Novi and Ernie veteran Novi Novog and future Thomas Dolby guitarist Larry Treadwell, along with bassist Robert Louis and drummer Mark Sanders.

At the time, I was itching to get away from the desk to produce and mix, which is what I was doing before this A&R gig. I had a lot of sonic ideas to add to the group and had booked them into a 'funky' studio in the Valley dubbed the Elektra Annex for some demos. In those days, it was hard to get professional sounding results at home and a band couldn't even demonstrate unless somebody realized their potential and gave them some time. It was all part of the talent search business and was a great way to check out a band. So after meeting the band, I assigned myself to the task.

The Annex wasn't much to look at. It was a large ranch-style house in the middle of the valley that the company had purchased for artist development, and it had a pool! The former owner was Monkee Peter Tork.

It took about 30 minutes to get there from Hollywood. The control room and studio were carved out of a three or four car garage. The caretakers lived in some other part of the house and were totally weird. A 3M M56 16 track machine and a 32 input API board comprised the main hardware, and was topped with a pair of giant JBL Malibu monitor speakers. Outside of a few pieces of outboard gear and a headphone system, that was it.

It was by far one of the most productive and best sounding studios I've ever worked in. Consistently, demo and pre-production demos often ended up sounding better than the records that were created later with much greater time and expense. Perhaps the funky interior (and isolation) helped foster a feeling of looseness and serindipity in the performances.

These "Demos" - the best chosen recently by Sumner are presented here - were created during speedy sessions, sometimes 3 or 4 songs a day. I never had the philosophy that calling a session a demo would change my approach to recording. I just approached the sessions as if we were making a real record, quickly. Sumner, being a very well rehearsed road band, exploded with performances chalked with goofy hooks, passionate vocals, and inspired solos.

The rest is history. Sumner got signed (presumably on the basis of these tapes), got a big manager and a bigger producer and did the 'real' record in a resort studio far away.

Years pass and I still possessed the two track masters of those demos long ago. A Facebook reunion with Sumner led to me playing the old tapes for him here at my studio in SF and the result is the collection you see here.

Stephen Barncard


released August 27, 2012


Robert Louis: Bass, Vocals
Larry Treadwell: Guitar, Vocals
Novi Novog: Viola, Keyboards, Vocals
Sumner Mering: Guitar, Vocals
Mark Sanders: Drums

Produced and Mixed by Stephen Barncard
Engineer: Bobby Thomas
Mastered for digi at the House of Cubes

Recorded mostly live 8/19/79
at the Elektra Annex LA
(formerly Peter Tork's)

Thanks to Laura Plotkin



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