Half-Life — part of the epic Michigan rock scene
that exploded in and around the Motor City
during the late 60's.
The 4-piece band was born in 1969 in Saginaw,
a gritty GM foundry town
90 miles north of Detroit
and about a half hour from Flint.
Wednesday, January 8, 2009: Pop Mattersweb review of A-Square (Of Course) by Doug Sheppard: ..."Wagner got heavy with those three, and so does Half-Life on the best vault find of all, “Get Down”—an explosion of power chords and dirty fuzz that fits nicely beside inclusions by the MC5, the Up, the Apostles (a punky, pre-New York Dolls cover of “Stranded in the Jungle”), and the legacy of Iggy."
"...and "Get Down," by the mysterious Half-Life,
which sounds like
a night at the Grande packed into two and a half minutes."
StonerRock.com review of "A-Square (Of Course):
The Story of Michigan's Legendary A-Square Records":
"Check out Half-Life..a band apparently lost to time
..but the track on this is awesome..totally Detroit high energy rock."
Recorded June 27, 1969 at GM Studios, on 9 Mile between Groesbeck and Gratiot in East Detroit, the same studio where the MC5 recorded "Back In The USA." Recording engineer, Jim Bruzzese, also engineered some of Bob Seger's best work, including, Seven, Smokin' O.P.s, Live Bullet, Greatest Hits, and Ramblin' Gamblin' Man. The 'GM' in 'GM Studios' was studio manager Guido Marasco who told us an amusing story about the Pope's male sopranos "the castrati" and how they got that way...apparently you didn't want to bounce a check off Guido. The bill was for $185 for less than two hours of total studio time.
"Get Down" was recorded in a single take with plenty of rough edges that would never have made it past current recording practices and technologies, which in the end, might be one of the best things it has going for it. Like the times, it was a spontaneous burst of energy—garage rock at its best—and then quickly forgotten. By the end of 1969 we had dropped the tune from our play list.
Jim Nash, 2nd guitarist (above left) created the main riff which he played through a Vox fuzztone, Mark Ode added the vocal line and Fender 6-string bass.
Lead guitarist, Randy Jarrard, added the solo and clean riffing, while Bob Pierson did the drum track.
Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" opens with a similar sounding riff, however, "Get Down" was recorded a year prior to "Paranoid", which wasn't cut until June 1970 (released September 1970). From Wikipedia:
After the release of their debut album in February 1970, Black Sabbath returned to the studio in June that year, again with producer Rodger Bain, to record their second album. The album was recorded at Regent Sound Studios and Island Studios in London, England. The album's eponymous single "Paranoid" was written in the studio at the last minute. As drummer Bill Ward explains: "We didn't have enough songs for the album, and Tony just played the [Paranoid] guitar lick and that was it. It took twenty, twenty-five minutes from top to bottom." The song was written with no intention of it being a successful hit for the band, only to be a filler on the album.
We played the track for DJ Bob Dyer at WKNX-AM in Saginaw who said the song, "was not commercially acceptable." We were pleased. In retrospect, we might have had better luck had we taken it to WTAC (AM) in Flint—probably the coolest rock station outside of Detroit. In fact, there is a fabulous photo on page 14 of the A-Square Compilation CD booklet showing Iggy and Jeep in front of a large WTAC banner.
David Fricke, WFMU, WNMC, JT & Hideelee with 'In The Red' radio show, Alec Palao, George Head, Guido Marasco, Jim Bruzzese, Mike Hahn, Jim Albers, Vince Lutskus, TCW, Jack Gridley, Monte Gase, Fast Eddie Kurth, Johnny Howard, Al Nalli, Frank Patrick, Elmer Ogden, Prudie DiMercurio, The Paupers, Wayne Kramer, Ron Asheton, Jimi Hendrix, Sonic Smith, James Brown, Mitch Mitchell, Johnny Winter, Otis Redding, Iggy Pop, Chuck Berry, Gary Grimshaw, Arizona Carder, LampEyes, Marty Party, Conrad Sunholm, Leo Fender, The Avalon, Steve Horvat, Andrew Loog Oldham, The Yardbirds, R. Crumb (and, of course, Mr. Natural), Wilson Pickett, Alvin Lee....
Half-Life airplay: WFMU (New York City/New Jersey), KFJC (San Francisco)
WFMU has been a long time supporter of Motor City rock:
WFMU, Upsala College's station and one of the first underground college stations in the country. There, Sinclair met Danny Fields, who hosted a show at the station and also happened to be the "house hippie' for Elektra Records." (from The Mansion On The Hill by Fred Goodman)
John Sinclair: "When we released the MC-5's 45 rpm single of "Looking At You" b/w "Borderline" on the A-Square label in the Spring of 1968, Rudnick & Frawley immediately slapped it on the WFMU turntables, where it joined the heady mix of music by Jimi Hendrix, Muddy Waters, John Coltrane, Lenny Bruce, Bob Dylan, Jim Pepper, Larry Coryell and Howlin' Wolf the two scenesters had devised for their listeners."
"The Den" - Saginaw's premier 60's rock club.
photo credit: Tom Novak of The Merseyside Sound (July 1967)
Guitarist Jim Nash - Important Events in Fuzz Guitar History:
Still playing today, with shout-outs to
Tom Dolson, Laurie Middlebrook,
Tim Barakow, Dan Wall, Rick Reittenbach,
Chris Roach, Heath Bain, Mike Laviollette,
Rob Gunther, and also, Brother Tony 'B" and
the Ames Praise Team: Play Hard - Pray Hard.
Randy Jarrard, Guitar & Vocals
"Half Life rocked. The four of us knew each other from high school.
The first time we jammed together I knew we had something unique.
The song "Get Down" proves that fact. We are all still alive and
kickin. Better than that..we are still friends." -RJ