Instead of some Wikipedia-cut-and-paste description of the LAFMS (The Los Angeles Free Music Society), we figured it would be best to let this blog posting do the talking.
Reprinted from Siltblog:
MONDAY, JUNE 12, 2006
LAFMS: The Lowest Form Of Music 10cd box set (RRR)
As a girl coming of age in a suburb of Cincinnati in the late 70's, I had two things going against me: (1) I was a female & (2) I lived in a very nowhere part of the country. Disco & bad rock ruled the airwaves. In 1977 my brothers had a shitty (also known as "New Wave") band-The Brides Of Bullwinkle-that would play around the university area of Cincy & I'd always tag along, if for no other reason than to shop at the one, good used record shop in the area, Mole's. I couldn't stand the dreck those 2 imbeciles & their idiotic pals spewed out & I knew there must be something else to music besides bad rock & it's various "lesions". I began to impulsively buy records from the 50 cent bin, anything that looked remotely weird & wasn't concerned with having a big cock. Records like the Silver Apples 1st lp, Xenakis, Robert Wyatt's 'End Of An Ear, 'Archie Shepp's 'Pan African Festival' & other like-minded, left-field heaviness became staples for me, almost literally glued to the hand me down record player in my room. I was in heaven, I'd found music that was seemingly made just for me, was cheaper than dirt, went well w/weed & didn't smell like a rotten crotch. Then one day while I was checking out a copy of 'No Pussyfooting' on the store's turntable, this guy Brad started to talk to me. One thing led to another & the next thing you know, we're dating. Brad was also into non-Rock & bought records in the mail from this organization known as the Los Angeles Free Music Society. You remember Richard Dreyfuss towards the end of Close Encounters? That's what I felt like when he showed me those records for the 1st time. I was ready to climb aboard! Airway, Blorp Essette, Le Forte Four, The Pablums, this stuff was fantastic! Sheer contra-rock, absurdo experimentale, art brut concrete, tinkles, blips, blaps, whoosh, radically dilapidated & wonderfully so. I was like a moth headed for the light whenever these records & cassettes were playing & I began to write away for them myself. I can honestly say I was never disappointed by any of it & was turned onto a whole 'nother world of weirdness that was in it's embryonic heyday, most notably records by Half Japanese & The Residents, who were already "established". LA, or at least it's fringe, was starting to look like the place to be. But by '82 or so, the LAFMS was starting to close up shop, the 'Lightbulb Emergency' dbl cassette was the last thing I got & I later found a Doo-Dooettes 'Look At This' lp in a dollar bin in Ann Arbor (where I was going to college). I wrote them a few more times, but got nary a return. I was beginning to concentrate more on painting, then media & video arts, much of it inspired by those musicians, pranksters & freaks & I wanted to thank them for having such a profound influence on my life. Also, sex was best when any one of their records was playing, despite whinings to the contrary from the dorks that I bonked back in those days (I'm a lesbian now & happier for it).
Then in 1985, a fire swept through my studio & home while I was in Europe & I lost everything. And while there were many things gone that were irreplaceable, the thing I pined away most for was my LAFMS collection. It had always been something of a secret society, the "membership" was few & the records & legacy now extinct & obscure. It was a hopeless task trying to track down any of it, no one knew what I was talking about when I mentioned it, so I just shut up. "Maybe it never really existed" I told myself. It's funny what your willing to believe in the name of solace.
But yes by God it had existed & while I was in NYC to curate a retrospective of my work last year I saw this cardboard box in the window of a record store in the Lower East Side w/the letters LAFMS emblazoned in gold across the front. "Jesus Mary & Joseph", I said to myself, "it can't be". But there it was, an entire box set, 10 cd's worth of the entire output-& more-of the finest music to ever exist on any planet in this godforsaken universe. It was all there, all of it, every wonderful second, & now housed in a sturdy, slide-open box with a staggering array of photo & essay documentation letting me in even further to the only world I had ever wanted to know. And for a measly 100$ it was mine & everything was right in the world. Again.
My uncle Lionel has a saying he's fond of. "The 70's wasn't all about ass" he says, "sometimes it was about face too". And to an extent, I agree with him. Listening to this music again-some 20 yrs since I 1st heard it-I realize how timeless it is. And immediate. And most importantly, original. It was music by & for (primarily) non-musicians & while that sentiment is still very much alive in today's underground, it's just not as pure. The LAFMS was a beautiful face full of teeth in the '70's, pearly whites sparkling widely & parading high above the boring chaos in a world of shit-encrusted assholes. And I was there. You better believe it sister.--Francesca Lothario
(reprinted from Opprobrium #5, 1998).