R. Stevie Moore - Amateur Hour by the Card Charts
We were thrilled to obtain a rare bit of R. Stevie Moore (and DIY) history when we procured a rare RSM "trading card". This card accompanied the self-release of Stevie's Amateur Hour by the Card Charts cassette tape, so we figured it was a good opportunity to revisit the music itself in addition to learning more about this unique gem of music history.
Originally released in 1983 by Moore himself, and re-released in 2016 on cassette by Gnar Tapes, the collection consists of (in grand RSM style) a formidable twenty-nine songs. A mix of covers, Moore originals, and re-workings of previous RSM songs, Moore apparently recorded Amateur Hour at home in three days, using portacassette decks.
Well-versed RSM fans will recognize stripped-down versions of songs previously released, including "Caffeine Boy" (originally on Delicate Tension), "We're in Vietnam" (Play, and also on later releases, including the curated collection Ariel Pink's Picks Vol. 1), "New Girl", and "I Never Know" (both appear on Swing and a Miss).
Amateur Hour also showcases Moore delving heavily into material penned and/or previously performed by other artists, including The Beatles, The Doors, Ray Price, Brian Wilson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Public Image Limited, and even his father Bob Moore, the prestigious Nashville bassist and bandleader. The last-mentioned cover ("Acapulco") is especially interesting and characteristic of this particular collection, as RSM takes the flawless sheen of his father's original Tijuana Brass-tinged work (fine in its own right) and makes it completely his own statement, complete with falsetto vocals, angular guitar strumming, sparse percussion (handclaps?), and healthy amounts of tape hiss. The younger Moore even introduces his take with the spoken explanation, "Here's a little something my old man wrote!"
The minimalist Amateur Hour, which Stevie recently described for us (specifically for this writeup) as "only a homemade dubbed cassette quasi-release," is a worthy addition to R. Stevie Moore's immense canon, which now consists of hundreds of self-releases, label releases, reissues, and compilations. Though Moore has authored dozens - if not hundreds - of genre-spanning pieces of music that display his mastery as a composer and recording artist, it could well be argued that his single greatest work is actually everything he's every done, acknowledged as an-ever evolving statement. A seemingly incessant composer and recorder (almost exclusively at home, with rare exceptions), Amateur Hour - with its audible button-pushing, tape hiss and warbles, and endearing rough edges - overtly draws us into his process and home for that weekend back in 1983.
And what about the trading card itself? We'd heard rumors that there were only about fifty ever made, with certainly far fewer floating around today. And though we'd seen a picture of one on the internet (the image also graced the cover of the Gnar Tapes cassette tape reissue), we had little reliable info, so we went to RSM himself for Moore insight. Stevie shared the following background with us:
"No idea how many were made - fifty? One hundred? [It was] merely a cheap send-away offer advert; not a conscious order placed to have them manufactured for any purpose. Only early acquirers of the tape got the card included inside the case. And the card itself had no direct reference to Amateur Hour anyway, so basically Nothing about the baseball card was 'planned'."
Planned or not, we're grateful for - and delighted by - this bit of DIY and RSM music history. You can listen to and purchase Amateur Hour here.