Mudhoney hit Rock City for their Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge: 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition celebration!!
“When in doubt, fudge it.”
On September 19, 1990, perhaps with an eye on the daily news reports of US forces massing in Saudi Arabia in preparation for an assault on Iraq, Mark Arm recorded a version of Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War,” at Reciprocal Recording studio in Seattle. Mudhoney fans might have been surprised to learn that the voice of such mindblown anthems to oblivion as “If I Think” and “In ‘n’ Out of Grace,” was now taking on the definitive antiwar song. The times were indeed a-changin’ – both for the world, and for Mudhoney.
During the same Reciprocal session with engineer Jack Endino, some further work was done on a recording from earlier that same year. On May 19, Mudhoney had taped five songs at Music Source, a large studio in Seattle’s Capitol Hill district. Endino was behind the desk then – as he had been for 1988’s catalytic debut double-A side “Touch Me I’m Sick”/”Sweet Young Thing Ain’t Sweet No More,” the Superfuzz Bigmuff mini-album and 1989’s self-titled LP – and this session was notionally the start of the next Mudhoney album. But the fact that nothing had been done with these recordings after four months told its own story.
“We decided we didn’t much care for it,” Steve Turner says today. “It didn’t sound right to me, it sounded a little too fancy, too clean. It didn’t have the dirt.”
Mudhoney hadn’t gotten where they were by sounding a little too fancy. “Touch Me I’m Sick” made a virtue of its tactile grubbiness – and in so doing, ignited a generation aesthetically jaded by pop culture always equating sophistication with progress. Yet now Mudhoney were apparently acquiescing to the same principle. During the few months which separated “Touch Me”/”Sweet Young Thing” from Superfuzz Bigmuff, Reciprocal had upgraded from 8-track recording to 16, and it was on this higher spec machine that Mudhoney had recorded both their
mini-album and debut long-player. Granted, in the context of songs like “Here Comes Sickness” and “Flat Out Fucked,” ‘sophistication’ was a relative term. But as Mark Arm subsequently observed: “There was a grittiness to that very first single that never quite got recaptured.”
The Music Source session utilised 24 tracks, distancing Mudhoney even further from their raw essence. Unhappy with the recordings, Steve Turner instigated a change of direction. He noted that Thrillsphere, the cool new album by Tacoma WA garage rockers Girl Trouble, had been released by PopLlama, a record label run by Conrad Uno out of his house in Seattle’s U-District. In the basement of that same house, Uno had a recording studio, named Egg after the cartons pasted on the walls in an optimistic attempt at sound-proofing, which also boasted a ’60s vintage 8-track Spectra Sonics recording console, originally built for Stax in Memphis.
In the two-plus years since Mudhoney’s official inception on January 1, 1988, Turner had become worn down by the routine of what increasingly felt like a career as a professional musician – something he’d never aspired to. One benefit of the band’s frequent visits to the UK in 1989/90, however, had been the ready availability of cheap original era punk singles, which Turner brought home by the box-load. He proposed a twin-pronged palate-cleansing operation.
“My idea was, why don’t we go check out Egg Studios, go in there for a day and record a bunch of punk covers, and see what it sounds like. I called Conrad, and said, ‘This is Steve from Mudhoney. We want to come in there and record with you.’ He started laughing, and just said, ‘Why?!’ I figured that bode well for Conrad!”
Over a couple of days at Egg in October, Mudhoney celebrated their love for punk of all shapes and nationalities, cutting versions of The Adolescents’ “Who Is Who,” Angry Samoans’ “You Stupid Asshole,” The Damned’s “Stab Yor Back,” Devo’s “Gut Feeling,” The Milkshakes’ “She’s Just 15,” and Void’s “Dehumanized.” Loose plans to release a punk covers album were abandoned when it emerged Guns N’Roses were toying with a similar notion – ironically, as GN’R’s The Spaghetti Incident wouldn’t appear until 1993, and turned out more a heavy rock smorgasbord than Mudhoney’s lean’n’lethal concept. Nonetheless the exercise was vindicated, as Uno’s funky basement joint both felt and sounded right.
“We felt instant kinship and friendship with Conrad,” Turner says. “He’s a really laid-back, funny, easy-going, nice guy.”
So it was that Mudhoney went back to Egg in the spring of 1991 to record Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge. Turner’s notion to reboot the group’s energy by foregrounding its brusque garage rock roots was collectively embraced. Arm bought a Farfisa organ, belatedly applying the skills acquired from childhood piano lessons: he cooked up a satirical psychedelic storm for opener “Generation Genocide” and added vital garnish to “Who You Drivin’ Now?”, an instant Mudhoney classic that began life as a tribute to the Pacific Northwest’s original garage rock kings. “That was originally written for an Estrus label compilation,” Arm noted. “We were like, ‘Oh we’ll just write them a fake Sonics song.’ And once we did, we thought: ‘Man, this song is too good to give away, this needs to be on our next record.’”
“I’ve always been way into the ’60s garage,” Turner says. “Me and Dan lived together at the time, so I was feeding his interests, while me and Mark had always been into the Pebbles records. I guess something like The Lollipop Shoppe’s “You Must Be a Witch” was a huge thing early on, and it’s not too different to The Stooges. And The Sonics, obviously. To me, it was still in keeping with some of those other mid-to-late-’80s post-hardcore bands that I was into, like Drunks With Guns, who had a real garage rock aesthetic but just put through the blender.”
Dialling down the self-titled album’s heavy wah-wah longueurs brought other deep rooted influences to prominence, most notably Neil Young on “Broken Hands,” a masterful mid-album mood piece which imagined the guitar coda to Young’s “Cinnamon Girl” as the basis for a separate song: Mark Arm’s wracked vocal detailing a doomed love affair, the group’s steady grind building to Steve Turner’s solo and finally a crazed electronic outro that suggested Hawkwind’s “Brainstorm” infecting Roxy Music’s “Out of the Blue.” The closing ”Check-Out Time,” meanwhile, was Mudhoney’s second stellar Spacemen 3 hat-tip, following “When Tomorrow Hits” on the previous album, albeit this time with a bonus sideways nod to “Did He Jump” by Zounds. The quartet’s special personal alchemy meant these fond homages to those who had previously served never slid into pastiche.
“I remember in the early days thinking to myself, I could exactly copy a riff from some obscure record, and by the end it wouldn’t sound anything like that because the other guys wouldn’t know what it was I was ripping off,” Turner says. “Like, OK, now it’s completely different!”
The fifth element was Conrad Uno and Egg’s warm tonal ambience, which lent these trenchant ensemble performances a startling sense of immediacy. “Let It Slide” all but spat slivers of wood and steel at the listener, as the Matt Lukin-Dan Peters rhythm section ploughed headlong into the yammering guitars and Arm’s degenerate preaching: “They own you to the grave, nobody’s here to stay…”
Ultimately, Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge epitomised the very best of Mudhoney: here was a band reconnecting with its purest instincts, and in the process reinventing itself. This 30th anniversary edition, remastered by Bob Weston at Chicago Mastering Service, stands as testimony to the intense creative surge that drove them during this period. The album sessions yielded a clutch of material that would subsequently appear on B-sides – notably the stinging “Ounce Of Deception,” easily worth a place on the main record – or were scattered on various compilations and split-singles. It’s great to have these gathered together here. There’s also: the non-album single “You’re Gone” plus its flipside, the early version of “Thorn,” recorded in March 1990 during the band’s legendary first Australian tour; an unreleased version of “Paperback Life,” the Billy Childish tribute that possibly toppled into wholesale larceny; and a new Johnny Sangster mix of “Overblown,” Mudhoney’s contribution to the 1992 Singles movie soundtrack.
The sweetest gravy for keen Mudhoney anthropologists, meanwhile, is the Music Source session in its entirety. Only one of these tracks has been released before (“Something So Clear,” on a Reflex magazine flexidisc), but now all five are available newly mixed by Jack Endino, offering a fascinating glimpse of an alternate historical path. Or, as Dan Peters puts it: “These are the 24-track demos for our 8-track album.”
By going back to basics with Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge, Mudhoney flipped conventional wisdom. Not for the first time – or the last – they would be vindicated. A month after release in July 1991, the album entered the UK album chart at Number 34 (five weeks
later, Nirvana’s Nevermind entered at 36) and went on to sell 75,000 copies worldwide. A more meaningful measure of success, however, lay in its revitalisation of the band, casting a touchstone for the future. This album is a major chapter in Mudhoney’s ongoing story, the moral of which has to be: when in doubt, fudge it.