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SKAFISH BIOGRAPHY

Skafish (rhymes with "crAYfish") was one of the quirkiest bands of the 1970's & 80's. Hailing from Chicago, Skafish -- under the guidance of leader and band namesake, Jim Skafish -- was formed in January 1976 and had their first performance in November of that year. Since then, Skafish received international press and media coverage. The debut LP is Mr Bill's favorite slab of I.R.S. vinyl (having worn out two copies already)! A concert review from a 1980 issue of Rolling Stone magazine devoted more column space to the opening act, Skafish, than to the headliner, The Stranglers. Critical response to Skafish ranged from (the obvious) comments about leader Jim Skafish's appearance to raves about the "performance art-style" showman-ship and (Mr Bill's favorite description) "vocal pyrotechnics." Jim Skafish's songs are almost universally about being "different" and "not fitting in." Topics range from suicide and death to failed romance and mental disorders, juxtaposingly delivered with bright and happy (and skillfully played) melodies.

Skafish UK 45The very first Skafish record was a single, (at right) released on the UK Illegal Records label. The versions of "Disgracing The Family Name" and "Work Song" featured on it (and the band line up) are different than the versions on the LP. Skafish's biggest break almost came in 1979 when the tune "Romantic Lessons" was written for Ronnie Spector, purportedly to be recorded on her "comeback" album. Unfortunately, despite Ms. Spector's pleasure in the tune, her manager thought it was a downer and persuaded her not to record it. Instead, Skafish continued touring and recording and opened for The Police on their 1980 European tour. Skafish can be seen performing in one of the concerts in the movie URGH! A MUSIC WAR, released in 1981. Judging from the behavior and jeers of the crowd, the French held no appreciation for the talents of this band.

In 1982 Miles Copeland agreed to let Skafish produce a second LP. The second LP (to have been entitled I MIGHT MOVE IN NEXT DOOR) was so much more shocking in content than the first, that Miles insisted the band return to the studio and deliver a "releasable album." Most of the material was scrapped in favor of more palatable songs (by Miles' standards -- in other words: commercial), though the original title track did survive the revision. The released second Skafish LP, now entitled CONVERSATION, came out in mid-1983. On this outing the band took off in an entirely new direction, with a less than subtle "dance sound." They also toured in support of the LP and a video was produced for the tune "Wild Night Tonight" (also delivered to radio stations), a truly bizarre work with Mr. Skafish -- his entire head now clean-shaven -- zoot-suited up and dancing with a hyperactive nubian beauty.

Jim Skafish Barbie Goodrich Larry Mazalan Larry Mysliwiec Javier Cruz Ken Bronowski
Skafish bandmembers on the first SKAFISH LP. Left to Right: Jim Skafish, Barbie Goodrich, Larry Mazalan,
Larry Mysliwiec, Javier Cruz and Ken Bronowski.

Skafish faded away after that, but reformed in 1987 for a series of performances in their native East Chicago and even produced a third self-released recording. Skafish still performed from time to time up until 1998. Jim Skafish continues to work as a songwriter and jingle composer, and teaches music and works as a psychic. It is rumored that Cheap Trick leader Rick Nielson once asked Jim Skafish to join the band at a time when Nielson was considering adding a permanent keyboardist to the line up. Other Skafish band members (most notably Javier Cruz, apparently now a successful session keyboardist/programmer and Ken Bronowski now of the Nick Danger Band) have web presences that seem to come and go. A truly talented band that was under-appreciated in their day...

Jim Skafish, circa 1985
Jim Skafish, circa 1985, from a non-I.R.S. national tour.


SKAFISH I.R.S. DISCOGRAPHY

This discography will cover only SKAFISH's recordings for I.R.S. Records. Recordings for other labels, other recordings, solo recordings and guest appearances, may be mentioned in the biography or discography, but details can be found by visiting some of the cool links for SKAFISH, below...

Albums & EPs

SP008 SKAFISH
IRS SP 008 (Released 15 May 1980)

Vinyl Only.
Produced by Skafish
Engineered by Paul Serrano & Scott Rowley
Mixing Assistance by Javier Cruz
Mastering Frank Deluna
Recorded at Pumpkin Studios, Oak Lawn (Chicago) Illinois, Summer 1979
Astrological Guidance by Cheryl Weiss
Psychic Assistance by Glinda Harrison
Magickal Incantations by Merlin
Front Photo by Paul Natkin/Photo Reserve
Inner Photos by Bill Sosin/PhotoReserve
Personal Management The Cameron Organisation
Road Manager Jimmy Sohns
Executive Assistance by Miles Copeland & Jean Cameron
Special Thanks David E Webb

Musicians:
Jim Skafish Lead Vocals, Piano, Telephone
Barbie Goodrich Guitar, Slide Guitar, Slide Whistle, Vocals
Larry Mazalan Bass, Vibraslap, Backing Vocals
Larry MysliwiecDrums & Percussion
Javier Cruz Synthesizer, Mellotron, Organ, Clavinet, Backing Vocals
Ken Bronowski Guitar, Bugle, Backing Vocals
Additional Musicians:
Gayle Crowder Vocals

Track Listing:

  1. Introduction/Joan Fan Club (Skafish) :32/3:20
  2. Maybe One Time (Skafish) 2:49
  3. Obsessions Of You (Skafish) 2:52
  4. We'll See A Psychiatrist (Skafish) 3:22
  5. Romantic Lessons (Skafish) 3:31
  6. Work Song (Skafish) 3:38
  7. Guardian Angel (Skafish) 4:09
  8. Disgracing The Family Name (Skafish) 3:29
  9. No Libaeration Here (Skafish) 4:40
  10. Take It Out On You (Skafish) 3:11

This is one of the most unusual albums ever recorded. And one of the most dynamic. This is one of Mr Bill's "Desret Island Discs." From the opening "Introduction", where we hear Ms Goodrich say, "Hi! I'm Barbie. Come on right in. I think we have a LOT of things to talk about. You know, when I was in High School I was a cheerleader and I was very popular. I went on dates, to dances, to parties and I had so much fun. Now, it's a few years later and I'm just waiting to fall in love with the right person. Then everything will be wonderful!" To the last lines of "Take It Out On You" -- "...and just remember... All of this is because of you" -- you know you've got one weird, yet special record on your turntable.

What makes this album so terrific is the solid arrangement. Nothing standard here! In some tunes (" Obsessions Of You", "The Work Song") individual band members sing individual words or even syllables. And they do it flawlessly. Let's take a song by song tour shall we...?

"Joan Fan Club", which roars to life after Barbie's little introduction, is about bullying up on a homely loser in school, at the end of which the band calls her up and abuses her verbally over the phone. One can't help but imagine this tune is one where leader Jim Skafish has turned the table on some girl named Joan who, when Skafish was a boy, rallied the class to make fun of him. A terrific fun tune.

"Maybe One Time" is one of the mellow tunes here. Jim Skafish, somberly playing the piano, begs the question, "how much would it cost to be held... maybe one time."

"Obsessions Of You" was the single off this record. A wise choice, even though it got virtually no airplay. The shining example of the vocal pyrotechnics so aptly described by another critic. Various band members switch off words and even syllables flawlessly in this tune about obsession gone too far. The singer's obsession has poisoned him and he is dying: "You infest my bloodstream you grow roots in my heart (in my heart) You are the disease in me that spreads and won't stop (it won't stop)..." And just gets darker from there.

"We'll See A Psychiatrist" is simply lighthearted fluff about a visit to the shrink ("It's just a check up now!")

"Romantic Lessons" was the tune that almost became a Ronnie Spector song. The singer laments seeing lovers enjoying each other's company every day in the park, but "... Ican't believe, no love for me... I try hard everyday to be hopeful time passes fast, lessons can last all throughout my life..." Ah this sad stuff!

"Work Song" is a catchy song about the struggles of the working class. Again, delivered with that special Skafish zeal and vocal pyrotechnics...

"Guardian Angel" is another of the more mellow tunes but this one's got a pop groove that would make Barry Manilow jealous!

"Disgracing The Family Name" is one of the funny tunes here (along with "...Psychiatrist") about growing up different and basically being a thorn in the family's side. Great layered vocals in the chorus...

"No Liberation Here" is the oldest tune represented here, at least two years older than the other tunes. This ballad about the decay of not just a city but one's own standards is as punk as it gets...

"Take It Out On You" is a more violent and confrontational exploration of the same themes in "Joan Fan Club". Violence you ask? "I will live a short life I won't resolve a thing. I will die suspended, but before I do, I'll jump onto your heart, trampoline on you. All your guts will fly out I cease the life inside of you, jump on your heart -- And remember, all of this is because of you." Javier Cruz' synth playing is well highlighted on this number...

All in all a very satsfying record. Mr Bill strongly recommends it if you can find it.


SP70038 CONVERSATION
IRS SP 70038 (Released 20 Sep 1983)

Vinyl & Cassette.
Produced by Skafish
Engineered & Co-Produced by Gary Loizzo
Engineering Assistance by Bil Rascati & Jim Popko
Recorded & Mixed at Pumpkin Studios, Oak Lawn (Chicago) Illinois, 1-12 Nov 1982 & 25 April-5 May 1983
Mastered by Ted Jensen at Sterling Sound, NY
Cover Concept & Design by Glinda Harrison & Dan Winner
Photography by Paul Natkin/Photo Reserve
Art Direction & Graphics by Carl Grasso
Personal Management The Cameron Organisation
Executive Producers Miles Copeland & Scott A. Cameron
Special Thanks Debbie Moore, Ted Evanic, Jimmy Sohns, Gerre Edinger, Luis Alonso, Eddie Borowski, Henry J. and Pat Carotto

Musicians:
Jim Skafish Lead Vocals, Piano, Vocoder, Synthesizer
Barbie Goodrich Vocals
Lee Gatlin Bass, Backing Vocals
Larry MysliwiecDrums & Percussion
Javier Cruz Synthesizers, Programming, Backing Vocals
Ken Bronowski Guitar, Backing Vocals
Additional Musicians:
Marie Goodrich Vocals
Violanda Skafish Vocal Soprano Solo on *

Track Listing:

  1. Secret Lover (Skafish/Harrison) 3:42
  2. Wild Night Tonight (Skafish) 3:09
  3. Made Up In The Dark (Skafish) 3:03
  4. Victims Of The Night (Skafish/Harrison) 3:58
  5. She Lives For Love (Skafish) 4:02
  6. Mother Is Waiting* (Skafish) 1:29
  7. Lover In Masquerade (Skafish/Harrison) 3:15
  8. She's Taking Her Love Away (Skafish/Cruz) 4:47
  9. I Might Move In Next Door (Skafish) 3:02
  10. Bad Feelings Have Died (Skafish) 2:55
  11. In Another Time In Another Place(Skafish/Harrison) 3:27

In a completely different direction than the previous LP, CONVERSATION is more disappointing than satisfying. The special Skafish magic is present only on "I Might Move In Next Door" and less so on "Wild Night Tonight". The rest of the LP is mellow fluff with a heavy disco "taint" to it. The tune IRS selected for airplay (as indicated by the promo record) was "Secret Lover" a song blatantly about masturbation (a new, yet fitting subject for Skafish to sing about) with decent lyrics that fit neither the disco presentation nor Skafish's voice.

"Made Up In The Dark" is the standout "mellow tune" here but ends prematurely at only two verses. "She Lives For Love" segues into a piano-accompanied soprano operaticvocal solo ("Mother Is Waiting") by Violanda Skafish (Jim Skafish's mother). Well delivered, but awkwardly out of place on an LP trying to find an identity as powerful as its predecessor... Worth finding if only for "I Might Move In Next Door!!!


Singles

9011 Sleeve "Obsessions Of You"/"Sink Or Swim"
IRS IR9011 (Released 11 Jun 1980)

Produced by Skafish
Sleeve Photo by Bill Sosin/PhotoReserve


Musicians:
Jim Skafish Lead Vocals, Piano
Barbie Goodrich Guitar, Slide Guitar, Backing Vocals
Larry Mazalan Bass, Backing Vocals
Larry MysliwiecDrums & Percussion
Javier Cruz Synthesizer, Mellotron, Clavinet, Backing Vocals
Ken Bronowski Guitar, Bugle, Backing Vocals
Additional Musicians:
Gayle Crowder Vocals

Enough praise has been heaped on the A-side (read the LP review above) but the non-LP B-side is truly the strangest tune from Skafish over either album. Strongly hi-lights Javier Cruz's keyboard and synth skills. Song seems to be about "dropping babies in the water" to make them conform to universal ideas or something. A statement about abortion? Pro? Con? Weird, man. Weird!


70967 Sleeve "Wild Night Tonight"/"Secret Lover" & "Lover In Masquerade"
IRS SP 70967 (Released 1983)

(PROMOTIONAL 12" VINYL)



Produced by Skafish



12" Radio station promo containing the three songs off CONVERSATION that IRS was hoping would get some airplay. Alas it never happened and this was the last commercial record release for Skafish.


Compilations & Soundtracks

IRS GREATEST HITS VOLS 2 & 3 (SP 70800): features "Disgracing The Family Name"
URGH! A MUSIC WAR (A&M SP6019): features "Sign Of The Cross (Live)"
THESE PEOPLE ARE NUTS (IRS 82010): also features "Sign Of The Cross (Live)"


SKAFISH LINKS AND OTHER COOL STUFF

After an overly long absence to his fans and virtually no web presence, there is (at last!) an official SKAFISH website. It heads the list below, along with a few other websites of interest.
Return To The I.R.S. CORNER HOME PAGE
Return To The I.R.S. CORNER ARTIST ROSTER
Return To The I.R.S. Records A&M Era Discography
Discuss Skafish in The DISCUSSION FORUM
This Page Last Updated 16 October 2002

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