There was only ever one officially released recording by the Luchs Brothers during the life of the group, the 45 single “Kill Me I’m Rotten” b/w “Losing My Lunch Over You” on their own Retread Records label The A-side was eventually rereleased by the German punk label Incognito Recorda on a compilation called Back to Front Volume 3. An alternate version was released by the same label as the 45 single B-side of a previously unreleased track “The Hari Krishna Stomp.” “Kill Me I’m Rotten” was also bootlegged on the underground Killed By Death series of compilations and several others. A second official Luchs Brothers release, the EP “We Are Farmers and Comedians Too,” was recorded and pressed but never released. Most existing copies were destroyed by the group as they decided after the fact that the material was not worthy and did not represent them.
The group wrote a number of short and long works that were never even recorded. They also wrote and recorded many shorter works that remain officially unreleased. A sampling of these are made available here for the first time ever. Listen at your own risk!
“Kill Me I’m Rotten” – The A-side of the first and only single by the Luchs Brothers. Written in about 10 minutes after Mr. Luchs (their father) returned from England in 1977 with a batch of punk 45s including “Anarchy in the UK” by the Sex Pistols, “Orgasm Addict” by the Buzzcocks, and “Ain’t Bin to No Music School” by the Nosebleeds. Kurt thought Johnny Rotten’s singing was one of the funniest things he had ever heard and he wanted to pay homage to it.
“Losing My Lunch Over You” – The B-side to “Kill Me I’m Rotten.” Like most B-sides it is inferior, but still has some modest charms. A nonspecific parody of tender love ballads, the fun kicks in when the Chipmunks-like voices harmonize on the chorus.
“The Hari Krishna Stomp” – Recorded around 1978 or 1979 but not released until 1995. Vocally another punk song, instrumentally a parody of George Harrison, with references to “My Sweet Lord.”
“Kill Me I’m Rotten” (Fake Live Version) – The B-Side to “The Hari Krishna Stomp.” Supposedly recorded live at the state mental home in Elgin, Illinois, but actually a partially rerecorded studio version with new vocals, a new guitar solo by Tom Leeman, and a spoken-word intro and outro featuring the director of the mental home getting broken glass in his eye, courtesy of the lead vocalist or possibly a patient, it isn’t clear.
“Beautiful Dreamer” – An attempt to create a by-the-numbers Freudian nightmare in audio, for comic effect. The most complex recording the Luchs Brothers ever attempted. The original was done on an eight-channel recorder. There were so many special effects and post-production touches that it had to be finished on a 24-track machine. The mixing notes had to be written on a lengthy rolled-up piece of parchment known as “the scroll.” There was much worshipping of the scroll and also much cursing at the scroll in the studio as all hands were on EQ knobs and faders simultaneously trying to follow the Byzantine instructions. Brad: Helmut. Train Conductor: Ernst. Mother (Dialogue): Kurt. Mother (Insane Laughter): Helmut. Doctor: Kurt.
“The Prankster” – A straightforward bit about a prank phone caller (Kurt) who takes things just a little too far for one of his victims (Ernst). Featuring the worst recorded fake gun shot of all time.
“Gramps vs. Satan” – A fanciful tale that attempts to create a funny sound picture about the lies shared between generations. Fairly complicated to record at the time. Originally it was to segue into another piece called “Beef,” a bizarre extraterrestrial takeoff on the Howard Hawks/John Wayne film “Red River” which was never recorded, although vocal out-takes of some portions exist. Gramps: Kurt. Grandson: Helmut.
The Luchs Brothers were pleased and surprised to discover that money could be made by creating funny radio commercials. Their father was one of the original Mad Men, and his horror stories of the advertising world convinced them that they should never go into the same business, but then money changes everything, doesn’t it?
“Torture” – The first of two commercials created for Co-op Records, a chain of record stores with outlets in five Midwestern states (long since defunct). Rather groundbreaking at the time, as it features the lifelike tormenting of a customer on a torture rack. Torturer: Kurt. Victim: Ernst.
“Glom & Geekus” – In the second Co-op Records spot, two alien invaders examine the record store to see if it deserves to survive. Although they agree it is worthy, they still decide to turn their death ray on it. Offhand I can’t think of any other retail businesses whose commercials depict their establishment being obliterated by aliens. Glom: Kurt. Geekus: Ernst.
“The Scream” – When The Luchs Brothers’ End-of-the-World Party Book was published, the group recorded a number of radio spots to promote it. This one depicts the terrifying effects of too much reading of the book. Husband: Ernst. Wife: Helmut.
“Guru” – In this spot for their book, the group turned their attention to the spiritual fakirs – er, make that fakers – from the Far East. Guru: Kurt. Seeker: Ernst.
“Prowler” – The Luchs Brothers recorded several spots for The Prairie Sun, the Midwestern alternative newspaper that carried their humor column. Woman: Kurt. Patrolman: Ernst. Spooky: Ernst.
“The Prairie Sun March” – This brief spot for the newspaper was conceived as one of those idiotic marching songs that recruits sing when they’re in basic training.
“Rave-On Records” – The only record store in Wheaton, Illinois, needed an instrumental spot over which they could announce that week’s latest releases. We think we may have invented acid house but we’re not sure.
“A Computer Rental Odyssey” – One of three spots recorded for the Chicago company Computer Rental Corporation of America (CRCA). This one is obviously based on 2001: A Space Odyssey. Astronaut: Ernst. HAL 9000: Kurt.
“Voicemail” – Another CRCA commercial, this one keying off what was then the relatively new and annoying technology of voicemail. Caller: Kurt. Voicemail: Ernst.
“Godfather & Joey” – The final CRCA spot is a direct parody of The Godfather. There is also a filthy out-take of this that no one will ever be allowed to hear. Godfather: Kurt. Joey: Kurt. Victim: Ernst.
RADIO FREE LOVE
“Radio Free Love” was a half-hour series intended to be syndicated on college stations. It was the last recording project the group worked on together during their initial incarnation. Four episodes were completed and a fifth one got as far as the opening before the group dissolved. Existing Luchs Brothers studio recordings were mixed with improvisations and readings from their weekly humor column, as well as a few stray live bits and other odds and ends. Along with their own material, the group wanted to highlight funny songs by (mostly) obscure artists they admired, such as the Residents, Nervous Norvus, and others. The licensing issues for this were completely beyond their feeble understanding and were only one of many reasons why the series never saw the light of day.
RADIO FREE LOVE SHOW #2
“Gort’s Rage” – A studio improvisation based on the film Day the Earth Stood Still and featuring Bernard Herrmann’s memorable music in the background (one reason this cut could never be released). The phrase that the poor doomed character (Ernst) is trying to remember to keep the robot from annihilating him is, of course, “Klaatu barada nikto.”
“Hold On to My Talon” – A very unprofessional studio improv as we kept cracking each other up and trying to continue. Our producer Jim Youker was creating some weird synthesizer effects and adding the same effects to our vocal mics, sparking us (Kurt and Ernst) to spontaneously play several alien creatures having a mysterious conversation about matters of cosmic import.
RADIO FREE LOVE SHOW #3
“Crisis in Space (Part 1)” – The heart of the third radio show was an extended improv with two astronauts on Mars (Kurt and Helmut) talking to ground control (Ernst) back on Earth. We broke it up into three parts that made narrative sense when played in this order.
“Opening Theme (Episode 3)” – Jim Youker recorded a special version of “Pop Goes the Weasel” as the theme for the radio series. Each episode had its own vocal opening.
“Crisis in Space (Part 2)” – More trouble on Mars.
“Crisis in Space (Part 3)” – Those Cloud People sound like real friendly folks, as long as you let them suck your neck and control your mind.
RADIO FREE LOVE SHOW #4
The fourth episode of the radio show was recorded after Helmut had left the group to get married and start a family, reducing us to a duo.
“Opening Theme (Episode 4, plus How to Talk Like a Human)” – The final complete episode of “Radio Free Love” was the first to follow a single more or less coherent storyline, in this case about alien invasion. The samples from on instructional record on how to take dictation struck us as sounding like they were made by aliens, not native Earth speakers.
“Our Heavenly Reward” – A spaceship crash lands in farmer Wadlow Yackley’s field.
“It’s Just a Big Plate from the Sky” – Farmer Yackley (Kurt) and his son Tater (Ernst) discuss the situation.
“Monty Banks” – Fake commercial by Kurt for a clothing outlet.
“Hungry for Power” – The alien speaks, sounding quite a bit like the instructional record sampled in the opening. Alien: Kurt.
“Welcome to Mosesville” – A selection from the Luchs Brothers’ weekly humor column, this one written and read by Ernst. Temp-tracked to Bernard Herrmann’s score for Psycho, which we couldn’t bear to change and so this too made the program impossible to release. Note the reference to Dr. Helmut Fink, a swipe at Helmut for abandoning the group.
“Let Me Moisten My Lips a Little Bit” – Farmer Yackley is questioned by Officer Hogan (Ernst).
“Mexican Radio” – A brief radio dial twist from south of the border.
“Give Me That Bottle” – Normally Officer Hogan doesn’t drink on duty, but today is different.
“The Effect of Light on Maggots” – One of the only remaining recordings of the Luchs Brothers performing live. This was from a comedic poetry reading, not their regular sketch comedy show. It’s Ernst’s material.
“Spider & the Fly” (obscure sixties garage punk song by the Monocles) – An example of the kind of funny outsider musical interludes we wanted to use to add variety to the series. Not knowing the legalities of licensing made this difficult to follow-through on. The song is a takeoff on the classic fifties horror film The Fly with Vincent Price.
“The Examination” – Studio improvisation based on and intended to follow the above song. A patient consults with his doctor about why he dreams of being a giant spider. Patient: Kurt. Doctor: Ernst.
“The Prisoners” – Not sure how this relates to the rest of the show, but two prisoners (where and for what they are imprisoned is never stated) enjoy some conversation and the recitation of a poem by one of them, who is apparently named Percy. The nonsense poem, “When Men Were Men,” is by Kurt.
“Closing Theme (Episode 4)” – The dictation record voice makes its final appearance.
“A Farmer’s Prayer of Thanks” – Farmer Yackley submits to the mysteries of the divine will.
RADIO FREE LOVE SHOW #5
“Opening Montage (Episode 5)” – All we ever managed to complete of the fifth episode of “Radio Free Love” was this evocative montage derived from a US Marine Corps recruitment and training LP from the late fifties or early sixties.
PHONE ANSWERING MESSAGES
Remember those cassettes of funny phone answering machine messages from back when phones sat on your desk or hung on your wall? Well, we thought we could do better. Whether or not we did is for America to determine.
“Chainsaw (Achin’ Banana Mix)” – Chainsawer: Kurt. Chainsawee: Ernst.
“Fluffy (Fluffy’s Eating It Mix)” – Turkey Slayer: Kurt. Fluffy: Ernst.
“Electric Chair” – This was based very closely on Steve Railsback’s portrayal of Charles Manson in the made-for-TV movie Helter Skelter. Charlie: Kurt.
“Smoker’s Hotline” – We hated cigarettes almost as much as the American Lung Association did. Smoker: Kurt.
“Getting the Fear” – The title comes from a phrase of Charles Manson’s, used to describe the feeling he got when he would invade someone’s home without their knowledge, walking around quietly before committing mayhem. Stalker: Kurt.
NOT SAFE FOR CHILDREN OR WORK
The Luchs Brothers almost always worked clean. The following bit is an exception.
“Please Displease Me (George Martin Records the Beatles)” – This foul-mouthed bit owes its genesis to the original American releases of the first four Beatles albums, with electronically processed stereo that allowed us to split the vocals from the instruments for karaoke purposes. There was an in-house argument about which Luchs Brothers could sing better. The truth was, none of us could sing at all, but producer Jim Youker arranged this recording to show that some could sing slightly better than others. It purports to be from the sessions for the song “Please Please Me,” with George Martin (Kurt) recording vocals by the Fab Four in pairs: John and Paul (Kurt and Jim) versus George and Ringo (Helmut and Ernst). Along the way, Sir George loses his cool and starts cursing like a sailor, something we’re sure he never did in real life. We distort, you decide!