Hose – “Hose” (1983)

In a little over a week Life in the Vinyl Lane will turn eight years old. In that time I’ve posted close to 1,900 times (this post will be #1,890). My average posts-per-month has waned a bit over the years, having started out in the low-to-mid 20s to a more reasonable mid-to-high teens, but overall my output has been pretty consistent over the last eight years.

Until, of course, recently. This is my first post in over a month. There are a number of excuses I can provide. My stereo was in the shop for a couple of weeks getting serviced, and my wife and I got a new dog (Trigger, an occasional character in the ongoing narrative of Life in the Vinyl Lane, passed away a few months back, and we were ready for a new pack member). She’s a seven-month old Aussie named Evie who needs lots and lots of attention… lest she grab and chew everything in sight (needless to say the door to the room with my records is always closed). Plus working a ton. But these kinds of life situations never stopped me before. Slowed perhaps, but never stopped.

If I’m being honest, I also lost a bit of the drive and joy. That was a hard thing to admit after all these years, but it was true. For a while I resisted taking a break from the blog, but finally realized that if I’m doing it for me and for fun, which I am because trust me I’m not making money doing this, then I shouldn’t do it if I wasn’t feeling the urge, the passion, to do it. I still had the urge to write, though, so I actually started up a separate blog where I’m posting fiction, something I’d always been afraid to try previously, and I got sucked into how exciting it was to do something new. If you’re interested, feel free to stop by the Defenders of Phandalin Blog and let me know what you think.

All that being said I’m still buying and listening to music and some of it makes me want to write about it. Like this odd little punk EP from 1983 from a came-and-went band called Hose. There are a few interesting tidbits about this record, perhaps the most intriguing of which is it is the first release to ever feature the Def Jam logo on it (see below). In fact, despite the band not being even remotely hip hop, the first two Def Jam releases were by Hose – a 7″ in 1982 and this EP a year later. The reason, of course, is that there was a common element that tied Hose and Def Jam together – Rick Rubin. Yes, that Rick Rubin. The Rick Rubin who played guitar and did some vocals in the punk band Hose was also the hip hop aficionado and soon-to-be DJ for a fledgling outfit called Beastie Boys who co-founded Def Jam. Crazy.

I think I first heard about this record a few months back when Holly and I watched the well-done Rick Rubin documentary series called Shangri-La. As soon as I heard he was part of an early 80s punk band I went to Discogs and ordered myself a copy. Note, this sucker isn’t cheap. A playable copy is going to run you $60+ with a nice one close to double that. Mine is pretty decent and sounds great on the recently overhauled Rega.

Rubin wrote about Hose in the amazing 2010 coffee table book Def Jam Recordings: The First 25 Years of the Last Great Record Label (which I highly recommend).

The first records I made were for Hose. I remember that I didn’t care about the technical side of producing. The engineers were always telling me, “Oh, you can’t push the volume like that because the equipment doesn’t like it.” And I was like, “Well, we’re not breaking anything and I like the way it sounds, so leave it the way it is.”

A bit punk and a bit no wave, Hose feels like it could have only come out of early 1980s NYC. Socially it’s ambivalently raw, the down-tuned “Dope Fiend” having a proto-grunge feel to it, relentless in its pounding beat, the vocals strained. The cover of Rick James’ “Super Freak” is unrecognizable as such, the funkiness of the original obliterated by the pounding rhythm for most of the song – though there is a moment late in the track when you catch a glimpse of the original’s famous bass line. The same goes for their version of Hot Chocolate’s “You Sexy Thing”. Wikipedia only mentions these two tracks as being covers, but I’m almost positive the third B side track “Fire” is based on the version by the Ohio Players.

The entire five-song record was recorded in a three hour stretch, and it more or less sounds that way. There’s nothing fancy going on here at all. Is it good? Well, beauty is in the ears of the beholder. I like it, but I enjoy this kind of stripped down rawness. Is it worth the $60? That’s a different question. Unfortunately Hose never received the CD treatment and the band’s songs aren’t available on Spotify (not sure about other streaming services). However, Hose does have two tracks on the great 1986 comp God’s Favorite Dog alongside awesome bands like Scratch Acid, Big Black, and Butthole Surfers, and four on what appears to be some kind of unofficial German comp cassette called A Drink For Wolfram Wuttke (Trash’N’Cash).