|Fifty Foot Hose are one of those bands that once heard leaves the listener in a state of awe and excitement. They are unforgettable. Thus the search that many undertake to locate their history. Luckily my search ended up in San Francisco, the place of their conception, in contact with one of the original members Cork Marcheschi. But there were many events that led up to this crucial point.
Back in 1988 when I was living in Washington, D.C., I was introduced to Fifty Foot Hose, an amazing, obscure 60's experimental/garage/psychedelic band with a female vocalist, by my friends Tim Green and Seth Lorinczi, who at that time were in the Vile Cherubs. They'd gotten the record "Cauldron" from our friend Mitch Parker, who had gone to college in San Francisco and was involved in the punk scene there in the early 80's before moving back to D.C. Mitch gave the record to Tim and Seth, not knowing how much it would influence the Vile Cherubs' sound (and possibly their later bands, Nation of Ulysses and Circus Lupus? One can only speculate...)
Anyway, Tim and Seth decided to take a road trip across country that ended up being the Greyhound journey from hell (but that's another story) and when in San Francisco searched the city far and wide for that elusive, memorable Fifty Foot Hose record so that both of them could own a copy. Or at least get some information on what the hell the band were all about. But to no avail. No one could even tell them when exactly they existed.
Soon thereafter I found myself living two blocks away from Tim & Seth, and many an evening we would sit around the turntable listening to the power of the Hose. We even got a band together and almost did a cover of "Red The Sign Post." I begged George at Vinyl Ink Records in Silver Spring, Md. to locate a copy of the record for me, knowing he'd support the spread of Hose fandom since he himself loved way out psychedelic music. He obtained the record for me in 1989 and I spent the next year transfixed whenever I played it.
Picture this: a female vocalist screaming over a fuzzed out, feedback drenched guitar. Or whispered, spoken words over a repetitive, discordant drone. Or agony filled singing over melodic lead bass lines, syncopated drums and an array of electronic noises including a theremin, oscillator and something called an echolette. Sometimes they sounded like a straightforward garage band with a jazzy feel. Other times they invoked some sort of eerie, hallucinatory movie soundtrack. Like maybe the scene in "The Trip" when Peter Fonda loses it. Or maybe an accompaniment to Godard's surreal science fiction classic "Alphaville." Above all, though, they rocked as hard as any punk band currently around. They even did a beautiful cover of Billie Holiday's "God Bless The Child."
Tim and Seth's jaunt to San Francisco inspired me to take one of my own which resulted in my subsequent move. For four years I lived in the birthplace of Fifty Foot Hose without even thinking of locating any of the original members...until one night I had some pals over for a late night card game and played a tape I'd made with a Fifty Foot Hose song on it. They were blown away by the song, of course, so I proceeded to play them the album. There we were: me, Gail Butensky, Cathy Fitzhugh, and Nils Bernstein all elated at hearing such great music. When I told them they were from SF, Nils grabbed the record cover and excitedly suggested we look in the phone book to see if any of them still lived around here. Of course! Why hadn't I ever thought of that before? It took Nils, the only non-San Franciscan among us, to come up with such a brilliant idea. So Nils grabbed the record cover and looked up the names. And there it was...Cork Marcheschi. Right in Potrero Hill, just 10 minutes from my Mission apartment. Nils jumped up and down shouting, "Cork Marcheschi, Cork Marcheschi!" It was pretty absurd, but by that time we were fueled with the motivation to make the call to see if it was indeed the same Cork Marcheschi that had been the electronics mastermind behind Fifty Foot Hose. I mean, the likelihood of it being anyone else was pretty slim, but still we just had to know. I mustered up the courage to phone him and got a sleepy sounding woman on the other end (this was about midnight after all.) I said, "Uh, sorry to bother you, but is there a person at this number who used to be in a band called Fifty Foot Hose?" She responded politely, "Yes, but why don't you call back tomorrow?" I hung up the phone and we all shouted with joy and glee. Now the truth behind this powerful band would become known.
The next day I talked to Cork and he was nice enough not to even think it odd that some stranger would call his house at 12:00am, let alone want to interview him for some band he was in over twenty-five years ago. After all, he was now an internationally respected, successful sculptor it turned out (doing neon art and even featured in the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts opening exhibit.) We talked in Nov. 1993 and I found him to be very inspiring. Not only was he friendly, intelligent and sincere, but after all this time he had not lost his enthusiasm or passion for music and was in fact starting his own record label, Weasel Disc. Since then we have talked a few more times. As of this writing he has just re-issued the Fifty Foot Hose album "Cauldron" as a CD on Weasel Disc. It includes three songs not on the original record (demo versions of "If Not This Time" and "Red The Sign Post," and a 1966 recording of "Bad Trip," Cork's very first single.) He has just gotten a band together and hopes to create music that's just as different sounding today as Fifty Foot Hose was in its time.