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Fred Cole 11/2017

November 9, 2017 – Fred Cole was born August 28, 1948 in Tacoma, Washington and he moved with his mother to Las Vegas where he attended high school. Here he began his recording career in 1964,  with his band, the Lords, at the Teenbeat Club, releasing a single titled “Ain’t Got No Self-Respect. “His next single, from 1965, was a promo-only called “Poverty Shack” b/w “Rover,” with a band named Deep Soul Cole.

In 1966 Cole’s band The Weeds gained notice in garage rock circles, and their only single, a 60s punk track called It’s Your Time (b/w Little Girl, Teenbeat Club Records), has become a collectors’ favorite. The A-side appeared on one of the Nuggets anthologies. The band was promised an opening slot on a Yardbirds bill at the Fillmore in San Francisco, but on their arrival found that the venue hadn’t heard of them.

Angry at management and fearing the military draft, the band decided to head up to Canada, but ran out of gas in Portland, Oregon. There, they started playing at a club called the Folk Singer, where Kathleen “Toody” Conner worked. Cole and Toody soon fell in love and were married in 1967, though The Weeds’ manager insisted they keep the marriage secret.

Another manager required The Weeds to change their name to The Lollipop Shoppe because he also managed The Seeds and thought the names were too similar, and to fit the current bubblegum trend (although their 1968 LP on UNI Records (a now-defunct subsidiary of MCA), titled Just Colour, is more a mix of garage rock and the psychedelia of bands such as Love). The album and its single “You Must Be a Witch” didn’t chart, but remain underground favorites. The band also released another single, “Someone I Knew” b/w “Through My Window,” played many shows in San Francisco with performers such as Janis Joplin and The Doors, and had two tracks on the soundtrack LP to the film Angels from Hell.

The Lollipop Shoppe broke up in 1969, but reappeared as The Weeds with another single in 1971.

Frustrated with the music business and still of draft age, Cole headed for Alaska with Toody and their two young children. They got as far as the Yukon, where they homesteaded for a year. Upon their return, Cole tried unsuccessfully to secure another record deal in Los Angeles. He settled in Portland and opened a musical equipment store called Captain Whizeagle’s. Taking his musical career into his own hands, he formed the hard rock band Zipper and released an LP in 1975 on his and Toody’s label, Whizeagle.

Cole’s next band, King Bee, saw him playing guitar for the first time in addition to singing. A last-minute invitation to open for The Ramones introduced them to the punk sounds of the time. They released the “Hot Pistol” single on Whizeagle in 1978, but soon broke up. In an attempt to find a stable lineup, Cole taught his wife Toody to play bass and they formed The Rats.

“Fred talked me into it,” she said. “He was so sick of male bass players who were flaky as hell.”

Their self-titled debut was released in 1980 on Whizeagle. Intermittent Signals followed in 1981, and 1983 saw the release of the third LP, In a Desperate Red. After losing three drummers, and tired of the macho direction the punk scene had taken, Cole disbanded The Rats and began an old-time country band called Western Front. They released only two singles, “Orygun” b/w “Clementine” and “Stampede” b/w “Looking Back at Me” in 1985, but they influenced many local punkers to develop an interest in country-rock and rockabilly.

Toody, who had occasionally performed with Western Front and recorded a single with them, rejoined Cole for another country-influenced project, The Range Rats, in 1986. Drummer Andrew Loomis auditioned for this band, but it didn’t work out, so Cole and Toody carried on with a drum machine. In 1987, while returning from Reno (their favorite vacation spot), Cole and Toody decided they wanted to play rock ‘n’ roll again. They called Andrew Loomis, who was a better fit for this project, and Dead Moon was born.

Dead Moon’s music is a blend of dark ’60s garage with punk rock; It was described by Robert Christgau as sounding “like the 13th Floor Elevators without the clinical dementia”. Their early records, In the Graveyard, Unknown Passage, and Defiance, appeared on the band’s own Tombstone Records, named for the music store Cole and Toody operated in Clackamas, Oregon. Cole mastered these records on a mono lathe from the 1950s that had been used for The Kingsmen’s version of “Louie Louie”. These releases helped them gain cult followings around the United States and in Europe, especially in Germany, home of their European record label Music Maniac.

After releasing “Dead Ahead” and touring Europe, Dead Moon broke up in 2006, and, with a new drummer, Kelly Halliburton, Fred and Toody formed the band Pierced Arrows.

In 2004 U.S. documentary filmmaking couple (Jason Summers and Kate Fix) produced Unknown Passage: The Dead Moon Story which played at independent theaters throughout the United States, New Zealand, and the Melbourne International Film Fest.

In 2014 Cole underwent open heart surgery and soon again lived his rock and roll lifestyle, dominated by the need for independence of the music industry.

Cole set a standard for do-it-yourself perseverance. He and his wife Toody released records on their own label, Tombstone, with a dark, handmade aesthetic. He even cut lacquer discs, used to make vinyl records, on an old mono lathe at their home outside Portland; according to legend, it was the same machine used to make the Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie” in 1963.

In a scratchy wail vaguely reminiscent of Robert Plant, Cole led Dead Moon in ragged, macabre-obsessed songs, like “Graveyard” and “Dead Moon Night,” that sounded as though they could have been made at any time in the last 50 years.

Fred Cole died at age 69 on November 9, 2017 from liver cancer. Even though most of his musical career was associated mainly with the garage punk genre, he was also influenced by hard rock, blues, country and folk music. He did trust the music industry and elected to self finance the majority of his recorded output which he and his wife independently released on their own record labels.

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