Harvey Milk’s Debut Gets Released, Over a Decade Late
It's taken over 15 years, but the real debut from the Athens, Ga. purveyors of doom, blues and noise, Harvey Milk, is finally out. Over the years, this self-titled album -- dubbed 'The Bob Weston Sessions' on tape bootlegs and blog download sites -- has attained a legendary status thanks to never being officially released. When asked why their first full-length never made it to shelves, bassist Stephen Tanner told Noisecreep, "Because the guy that paid for it disappeared."
Tanner hesitated to explain further on the album's lost status, but he did speculate on his idea why. "I hadn't talked to the guy in 18 years ... I don't know," the bassist said. "From what I hear, I think he inherited some money so he started doing this s--- and then his dad found out what he was doing and put a stop to it, then we never heard from him again. But that's just a theory. I don't know."
The versions that people have acquired over the years sound like someone held a boom box up to a tape recorder while at a construction site in 'Total Recall.' Hissing and fuzz battle the grit of the songs. Though this new version is properly mastered to be better than the bootlegs, it's still raw in nature. "It's not that f---ing great," Tanner said, admitting he's often confused by how rabid fans still care to have the album. "There's no master recording. It's mastered off a f---ing cassette.
"I don't know where the tapes are. I bet the guy that paid for them has them somewhere. I could have sworn Bob made a DAT tape, but Bob swears that he didn't."
All the songs on the self-titled album have been re-recorded at some point in the band's career and been given homes on full-lengths and singles. "It's still pretty shocking that people even care. I think it's really only for super fans and there is a small group of people that go ape s--- over anything like that," Tanner said.
On one of Harvey Milk's most recent tours, they had a limited edition vinyl version of the album, and to be fair to fans, they only allowed five to 10 records to be sold every night. Even with those merch table rules, the LPs sold out way before the tour was over, giving the album an even more mythical status.
One reason that fans may be so adamant about having a copy of this recording is that it's a documentation of the attitude of a band feeling they were on the cusp of something. Tanner described these early days for Harvey Milk as exciting, saying, "There were so many great bands and great records. We really thought we were on the right path, but of course nothing happened. Shellac were really f---ing cool and took us South for some shows ... but nothing happened."
The songs from the 'Bob Weston Sessions' are very raw, and it almost seems right to not have a proper tape to master them from. The songs bleed with little or no stage time, giving it a 'dirt demo' touch. Back then, the band's goal was a simple one, and they've accomplished that. "Living in Athens, your goal was to open for your favorite band, s--- like that," Tanner said. "Like Jesus Lizard. And now we have gotten to play with the Jesus Lizard a couple of time in England six, seven months ago or however long ago it was."