Acid Ranch: The wild and secret pre-Guided By Voices project that was never meant to be heard
08:22 am

Photo shoot for the Guided By Voices album ‘Sandbox,’ 1987. (Courtesy: Robert Pollard)

Robert Pollard, majordomo for Guided By Voices and a host of other projects, isn’t just a prolific songwriter, with over 2,000 published tunes; he’s also one of the best. Pollard’s greatest songs are up there with the finest rock-n-roll ever committed to wax. I’m convinced the Dayton, Ohio, native will one day be called a “national treasure,” but for now, he’s a cult artist with a fanatical following that gobbles up everything he produces—which includes over 100 albums. But it was a long road to respectability and success for Pollard. It would be years before very many people heard Guided By Voices, and along the way, nearly everyone close to him said he should quit fooling around with this music thing.

One of Bob’s early, pre-Guided By Voices undertakings was dubbed Acid Ranch, an endeavor that also included future GBV members Mitch Mitchell and Bob’s younger brother, Jimmy. The trio recorded stealthily in Bob’s basement studio, which he named “the Snakepit.” They had the freedom to do whatever they wanted—both musically and otherwise—and shit did get wild.

Acid Ranch is a key element in Robert Pollard’s development as a songwriter, but it hasn’t been recounted in much detail. That’s about to change with the upcoming biography, Closer You Are: The Story of Robert Pollard and Guided By Voices. Dangerous Minds is happy to have the Acid Ranch section of the book to share with you.

“The most interesting, spontaneously creative, and psychotic, moronic thing we did, we labeled Acid Ranch,” Bob recalls. “You know, secretly. In the lab.” It was the secret part that allowed them to experiment so freely. “Acid Ranch was fearless and ridiculous, because we knew no one would ever hear any of it.”

Recording sessions in the Snakepit circa 1981–1982 were extemporaneous, marathon affairs accompanied by copious amounts of beer, pot, and coke. “We’d go to the point of semi-exhaustion.”

They turned on all the amps, started the tape rolling, and recorded everything—song, interview, or fart. The plan was total creativity, and beyond that there were no further rules. Bob experimented with vocal delivery, falsetto, harmonies, wordplay, and accents ranging from British to a carnival barker’s brassy tone.

Pollard brothers
Jimmy Pollard (left) and Bob Pollard (right), 1982. (Courtesy: Robert Pollard)

They got the name Acid Ranch from Spahn Ranch, the Manson’s Family’s hideout, but it was also a play on acid rain. It was only one of the band names Bob and Mitch—and Jimmy once he was back home—recorded under, but it was a favorite. (They were Mailbox when a drum machine was included. “Mailbox was a little bit more refined,” Bob says. “We were influenced by the Smiths and shit.”)

They played whatever was at hand: someone would bang out a rhythm on the clothes dryer or a plastic bucket, Bob played an acoustic guitar or Mitch played bass, they warbled a cappella barbershop harmonies, or even used squeaking squeeze toys—as in the song “Mongoose Orgasm,” a frantic blood relative to the Residents’ Duck Stab and Pink Floyd’s “Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict.”

Continue reading after the jump…

Posted by Bart Bealmear
08:22 am
Guided by Voices’ Robert Pollard: College baseball stud pitches no-hitter
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Robert Pollard
Ohio rock god Robert Pollard is primarily known for two things: writing roughly one rock ditty per day and consuming appalling amounts of brewski during every Guided by Voices gig. Not as well known is that Pollard was once an ass-kicking baseball hurler for Wright State University in his hometown of Dayton—indeed, one time he threw a no-hitter, made the newspapers and everything!

The date was presumably May 11, 1978, the opponents Indiana Central. The score was 9-1. It was the first no-hitter in the history of the Wright State baseball program.

Magnet Magazine‘s Matt Hickey caught up with Pollard and ran him through a brief no-hitter catechism. Amusingly, Pollard (quite credibly) claims that he didn’t realize he had a no-hitter going until his teammates mobbed him after the final strikeout. Furthermore, his dad recently tabulated Pollard’s finest pitching performances stretching back to childhood, apparently he had 12 no-hitters over the years! We’ll want to get a fact-check on that pronto!

Magnet also found time to mention that GBV has a record coming out on February 18 called Motivational Jumpsuit.

I’ve known for years that Pollard is a closet jock. Pollard and I have friends in common, most notably his former bandmate and current Cobra Verde frontman John Petkovic. I can’t believe that this interview is still online (enjoy the ridiculous 1998-ish HTML!), but here’s a lengthy sports-obsessed interview with Pollard and Petkovic conducted by “Chin Music” (whatever that is). Based on the references to Marquis Grissom and Paul Assenmacher, I’d put this interview right after the 1997 season, but I could be wrong.

Robert Pollard: So the singer’s the pitcher?

Chin Music: Yeah, like Johnny Rotten, or even Mick Jagger.

RP: Well I did have a live arm. In college I had a 95 mph fastball.

CM: (incredulously) Oh c’mon! 95 mph? Oh, cut it out.

RP: Really, I could throw a football 70 yards. A baseball 95 miles an hour. Honestly, my dad thought I had a golden arm. He used to milk it down every night like (in crusty old Burgess Meredith voice) “You got the golden arm…” (much laughs all around) That’s why he was so disappointed when I went into rock. He was like “Ya’ bleeeww it!...Ya’ had a golden arm, but YA’ BLEW IT!!!”

(big laughter action)

CM: ...But did you have a breaking ball?

RP: Seriously, I did throw 95 miles an hour in my senior year in high school, and in my summer of Legion ball I popped a tendon in my elbow, but I still continued to pitch in college, for Wright State in Dayton. I threw a no-hitter at Wright State. I never threw as hard, I bet I threw only 85-88. I used to warm up before games—my brother used to catch me, he’s five years younger than me—and I warmed up with a croquet ball.

CM: (laughs) That’s a mean thing to do to a little brother!

It goes on from there at some length.

A cursory search of the Internet yielded this obscure GBV song about baseball, appropriately titled “Look, It’s Baseball”:

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Guided By Voices Database celebrates ten years by giving away a classic GBV concert

Posted by Martin Schneider
11:42 am