New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Nashville … Milwaukee? Well, although the beer town wasn’t in that league as a recording centre, it was home to a rich and diverse music scene. Several local acts scored regional hits in the 60s, and a few rose to national charts – the Esquires, the Playboys, the Messengers, Harvey Scales & The Seven Sounds and psych-rockers the Corporation, whose debut LP on Capitol became a regional hit in early 1969 and hung around the bottom of Billboard’s Top LP Chart for four weeks. Although it got no further than #197 nationally, bassist Ken Berdoll recalled it hitting number three in Milwaukee. “Iron Butterfly’s LP was #1,” he said, “and ‘Yellow Submarine’ was #4. There were a couple other parts of the country where it did really well, like Little Rock, Arkansas.”
Perhaps more extensive touring might have propelled that first album to greater heights, but except for Chicago and St Paul, the band remained local. There were no television appearances, and nothing else to build a greater audience. A European tour was in the planning stages, but it fell apart when disagreements with Capitol Records surfaced.
“They treat you like kings,” says founder member Nick Kondos recalling a promo trip to California. “They set you up with the hottest girls; we went to a jam featuring Jimi Hendrix, and then they get the drugs out. But we found out that the album was selling and we didn’t get a penny. We had an argument with Capitol and that’s how the contract ended. Maybe we were a little impatient. You give it everything you’ve got and, if you want to be a star, you have to let them use and abuse you for a while, and THEN worry about the money.”
In 1969-70 the Corporation made two further albums. “Hassels In My Mind” and “Get On Our Swing”, which appeared on Age Of Aquarius, a custom rock imprint of the Cuca label, a Wisconsin recording studio and pressing plant whose prolific output has recently been anthologised by Ace across three volumes. The band broke up soon afterwards leaving a trail of mystery. Besides the break with Capitol, drugs were a contributing factor, and perhaps egos got in the way. “No single person was an angel,” said Kondos. “It was everybody’s fault; everybody screwed up.”
Milwaukee musician Bruce Cole may have accurately summed up the Corporation, “A solid, strong, exciting band. The project was a bit like a bottle rocket – went up high in a hurry and crashed and burned on the way down.”
In the 90s Nick Kondos saw a Corporation poster in the window of a specialist record store in London’s West End. The owner told him that the album sold out every time they got it in. It seems that, although the band lived but 18 months, the music lives on into its fourth decade.
This is the first CD issue of “Hassels In My Mind” and “Get On Our Swing” since the original vinyl releases in 1969-70. Both are rare LPs, as they had only Milwaukee distribution.
Mastered from the original stereo tapes, this attractive package comes with fully annotated booklet notes by Gary E Myers, author of two books on the Milwaukee rock scene of the 1950s and 60s.
By Rob Finnis with acknowledgements to Gary E Myers
Click here for information on our other Cuca reissues.