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Skeletons in My Closet: Mambo-X

I pass judgement on other people's music, so I guess it's only right I should share mine.

In 1985, I when I moved to Albany, New York to go to grad school. I worked at a high-end ice cream parlor where I scooped cones and made flavors like Raspberry Truffle and Moonshine. There, I met a co-worker named Mitch Rosen, and we started playing guitar and writing songs. We both liked pop music, new wave and African guitar styles. Mitch was an excellent player, and we wrote a bunch of tunes, trying to find our way. Not long after that, some college students we knew told us about a friend, Erin O'Hara, who had a great voice. When she eventually came in to get a vanilla cone, we asked if she wanted to work together. And so we formed Mambo-X.

Over the next three years we gigged a lot up and down the east coast. Performing about 150-200 shows. We opened for the Tom-Tom at CBGB's, we opened for 10,000 Maniacs (a band we were too damn frequently compared too),and the Feelies in Albany, Billy Bragg in Troy, They Might Be GIants in Binghamton, Dream Syndicate in Ithaca, Gordon Gano in Boston and Fetchin' Bones in D.C. And great bands opened for us, including Yo La Tengo, Miracle Legion and others.

The three of us didn't do it alone. An aggressive rhythm section was a key part of our sound. Drummers Barry Litman, Steve Seney and Dave Pollock kept the beat, synching up with the late Mark Wilken, Seth Walter and Dennis Blaine handled the bass duties.

We also recorded: two singles (one of which was never released), a flex-disc, an eight-song EP and a full album. Our pal Dave Gresalfi made great videos, one of which, "Building Bridges and Bombing Them," is, I submit, world-class, even though I appear in it for less than a second. Of course, maybe that's a selling point.

Mambo-X was about to sign a record deal in 1988 with a fairly big indy label but wound up imploding over a myriad of issues--messy relationships, power dynamics, and whether the deal was the right career move.

Now, many years later, Mitch and I have started putting the recordings we made online. The link above is to our last album, Whirled, which we recorded with Mitch Easter, who produced early REM albums and led his own cool band, Let's Active. Our Mambo-X Bandcamp page has more goodies. We hope to keep adding to it.

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