The DOVES

 

The Alkleins -- "Blood Southern Streets (In My Town)" Video

“Where have all of the years gone…?”

Here’s a bit of history:

By the mid 1980s, the “Southern Revival” was beginning to flourish in earnest, spearheaded by REM, Mitch Easter, and the Athens scene. Macon’s own nascent Gen X Alternative scene was learning to stand. Remember Vex? Chompfish, Siamese Left…?

There was a TV show on the local access channel at that time that featured local music. I can remember seeing the incredibly talented B. Keith Williams doing a solo version of “Locomotive Breath” on guitar at a local bar, accompanying himself on bass with some sort of foot-switch device.

I had spent a year or so in Raleigh, NC, earlier in the decade, absorbing the bands that surged down from the Boston to NYC to DC corridor, and which played The Pier in the Cameron Village Underground. The Bad Brains, Minor Threat, 999; I remember an all-girl ensemble that no one had ever heard of called The Go-Gos, who’s ebullient and melodic power pop was a welcome departure from the angst-ridden hardcore punk of the time. My attempts to forge a band based on exposure to The Jam, The Clash, Elvis Costello, and others turned out to be premature, however. Back in Macon to continue my lack of education at Mercer and Macon State U., I kept abreast of the music pouring out of the U.K., through visits with my musically astute friends in Raleigh — Echo and the Bunnymen, The Smiths, The Cure, The The, Joy Division, New Order, U2, etc., etc.

I was therefore eager to share the results of my songwriting efforts with the world — and determined to put together a music vid for the show, as part of that endeavor.

My collaboration with Trena is a story unto itself, which will have to await another time to tell. She and I had been stockpiling material, she utilizing her incredible intuition to form bass lines for songs as soon as I presented them to her.

We needed a drummer — and I found one in David Goldberg, a talented renaissance man with Ivy League credentials, who was writing for The Telegraph at that time. The three of us woodshedded in the far eastern reaches of Bibb County, in a storage shed on Bucky McNair’s property, near the Twiggs county line.

I was living on Orange Street in those days, in a cavernous apartment featuring 12-ft. ceilings, but with nary a stick of furniture other than some chairs from the waiting room of a doctor who had retired, a telephone cable spool for a coffee table, and a foam pad for a bed. It was a rather monastic lifestyle, and it suited me quite well at the time.

I would roam the downtown streets and industrial areas of Macon for exercise and inspiration, where I got both the idea for the song, and the imagery for the vid. The song was heavily influenced by my infatuation with The Jam, whose genius I had only lately come to a full appreciation of. But it probably owes as much in its finished sound to REM, though that influence is geographically genetic, rather than intentional.

I contracted the services of legendary producer Paul Hornsby (Marshall Tucker) and his Muscadine Studios. To say I was green would be a vast understatement. After a few questions by him to determine what sort of sound I was looking for, he accurately concluded “you just want everything loud.” Yes! Exactly!

As I recall, a couple of hours was sufficient to arrive at the product — “Blood Southern Streets (In My Town)”. Complete with an impromptu vocal chorus from Trena and David; and, as Paul said of David, “one of your betters ‘huhs’” at the end.

For the video, I am grateful to Mark Storey, a tremendous musician and media entrepreneur, who was working with Channel 24 at that time. By now, the statute of limitations has surely passed on our sneaking the 24 News van out on a glorious spring Saturday, and capturing the images that had accompanied the writing of the song. Editing was done after hours, in the station’s studio.

The vid captures a moment in the history of Macon; from its repurposed antebellum mansions, to its (former) industrial heart, to the public housing of Tindall Heights, to downtown and the Rookery (the tavern where I spent an inordinate amount of my time in those days, and the ones that followed; as well as a considerable amount of my oddjob wages). Along the way, I got a light for a cigarette from a patron of Foxy’s Den on Poplar St. — not far from the back alley where someone had spray painted the graffito “White Riot”. Someone was obviously listening to the early Clash besides me.

It also features an unfortunate fellow who we stumbled upon near the Terminal Building on Broadway. We captured his rigid, prayer-like posture; a solitary figure with a suitcase, waiting… for something. Returning to the same spot a couple of hours later to find him gone, I hit on the idea to assume the same posture, in the same spot. I, too, was waiting for something, I knew not what. Our juxtaposition is something that I think expresses a pensive melancholy that fits the song. I wonder whatever happened to that fellow…

It should go without saying — but I’ll say it anyway — that I no longer think or feel the way I did when the song was written. But the yearnings expressed in it have never gone away. Trena has been reading Bunyan’s “Pligrim’s Progress” — it’s on my “never got around to it list” — which, not coincidental with my decision to make this vid public (“there are no coincidences in God’s Kingdom”) describes Christian’s trek along “the upward path”.

Those yearnings have found their fulfillment in the Person of Jesus Christ — a triadic process that is synchronous with salvation itself: “I am fulfilled; I am being fulfilled; I will be fulfilled”.

David, who puts a wonderfully economical “a-1-2-3-4” signature on the toms for this song (perfect!), played drums with Trena and I for several years following the video project; splitting time with us, and the enormously talented Russ Fitzgerald (The Deadbeats).

We called ourselves “A Loose Coalition” for the project, as in “a loose coalition of states, formed in order to…” from the frequent news verbiage of the time. A subtle tribute to The Clash, who took their name from the verb they most saw in the newspapers (hmmm. That marks their third mention, in this short essay. Yes, you could say they had a powerful influence on this young “skull full of mush”).

Later, we would try other names — The Alkleins; a play on the erstwhile Beatles/Stones manager, and a pun on “alkaline” (as opposed to “acid”) rock. And winding up as The Whales. We were virtually unknown under all our aliases. Along the way, my dear old friend Bill Barton climbed on board, with his tortured-soul, mind-bending lead guitar work; and we became somewhat wild and wooly during those retro-60s days of the mid to late 80s — playing venues like the 40 Watt club in Athens (undercarding our pals The Connells, who were just beginning to climb the ladder of success), the infamous Ball of Confusion Lounge on Cherry St., First Fridays at the Museum of Arts and Sciences, and one especially memorable performance (to me) at O'Leary's Tavern on New Years Day. And compiling miles of self-recorded cassette tape of our product in the process, mainly in the garage on Foster Place.

But that is, perhaps, a story for another time…

The DOVES is our story for this one.

Note: video is unedited, and contains the station countdown before it begins.

View VIDEO

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Guitars and vocals: W. Wade Stooksberry II
Bass and vocals: Trena McRae (Stooksberry)
Drums and vocals: David Goldberg

Engineered and recorded by Paul Hornsby at Macon’s Muscadine Studios, Spring 1985.

Videography by Mark Storey (Storey Communications) -- 

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— W. Wade Stooksberry II (July, 2017)