ORIGINAL PHOTO CREDIT: Barbara Boodle
Louis Likes His Daily Dip was recorded as part of Chris Knox and Doug Hood's grand expedition south in March 1982. They flew down with a heavily wrapped TEAC 4-track and I hate to think how much it cost in excess baggage - these things are notoriously heavy. All three of them came down for an extended bout of recording. The now Christchurch based The Clean were ready to record a follow-up EP to Boodle, four young bands were traveling up from Dunedin to record for the first time and Christchurch band the Mainly Spaniards were champing at the bit to get some songs down. The other ex Toy Lover and half Tall Dwarf, Alec Bathgate, had made Christchurch home and this was their first chance since Three Songs to get some recording done.
Three Songs had come out on Propeller Records' sister label Furtive which was home to the Newmatics and overseen by Paul Rose. Despite Chris’s increased involvement with Flying Nun with him now recording other artists on his 4-track as well as running around the central Auckland shops with not inconsiderable amounts of stock it was not a forgone conclusion that Flying Nun would be releasing the next Tall Dwarfs record. But there was a common cause, trust had developed and friendships formed and inevitably this is exactly what happened
PHOTO CREDIT: Barbara Ward
Recorded in various rooms around Christchurch including Alec Bathgate’s bedroom, Jane Walkers kitchen, Paul Kean’s living room, with bits and bobs completed back in at Chris’s home in Auckland the resulting record is a cohesive do-it-yourself masterpiece. The songs range from the majestic melodicism of ‘Maybe’ and ‘Clover’, veer off-balance to the kilter of ‘Paul’s Place’, look back with the 60ish acoustical ‘Pictures on the Floor’ before finishing with the crescendoing Tall Dwarfs' showstopper ‘Song of the Silents’. All of these songs are linked with short sound bites of Chris and others in conjunction with simple musical accompaniment not unreminiscent of Ivor Cutler but not at all unpleasing. It sounds and feels like all the components belong together, that they are a part of a greater whole or concept.
The recording itself is miles ahead of what was achieved with Three Songs. All that mucking around experimenting that is later released on Songs for Cleaning Guppies pays off here. And here we have one of the more complete songs later appearing on Guppies' ‘Song of the Silents’ appearing in its grand fully realised form on Louis. The newly practiced know-how with the 4-track and the confidence that gave Chris and in turn Alec is to a large degree what set them free in the making of Louis.
Louis came as a whole package. The cover is also impressive. Chris’s partner Barbara Ward created “Louis” out of what I believe was a yam and a bean sprout. An exotic and evocatively misty damp environment created for the newly hatched vegetative entity and then photographed and placed on a black background with title “scratched” in the lower corner. It looked good.
Alec Bathgate collaged the back cover with Chris ironically clothed in a yellow Australian ski suit but looking gnomic rather than athletic. Alec casts himself as a foppish psychedelic dandy with the Beatles grotesquely loitering nearby amongst a mass of disfigured and contorted freaks. On second glance there is a strong nod to The Beatles Sargent Peppers album cover here with a collage like transformation into a new DIY reality. Alec was fascinated by The Beatles and Chris absolutely obsessed with them. Chris was usually assumed to be the more out there of the two Dwarfs but often it was Alec’s quiet dark take on the world that most disturbs and unsettles.
There is also an insert that is much more than a lyric sheet. Actually, there are no lyrics at all but notes on when and how the record was made. It’s detailed for the interested listener but is surely of fundamental use to anyone interested in 4-track or home recording. It is another example of Chris’s need to document and explain how things were achieved.
Louis Likes His Daily Dip is a remarkable record, a marker of Tall Dwarf musical ambition and the blueprint of the record making methodology that they would follow over the subsequent years when making their best recordings. It was a clear signal to all of those who wanted to listen and to those who didn’t that ambitious and complex music such as this could be recorded satisfyingly well on a 4-track recorder with DIY imagination and ingenuity. Louis Likes His Daily Dip remains the real deal, a satisfying and complete concept EP masterpiece.