Welcome to my Astro-Man archive

This site is meant to be a visual archive of every variation of every Man... or Astro-Man? 7" single ever released. Most of what you'll see here comes from my personal collection. As information pours in I will post it, so please comment if you think you have something to add. I have no intention of posting MP3s here. I'm sure you can find the music elsewhere. This is just an attempt to collect information about the band's prolific creation of singles into one spot. If you can get past the fact that I rarely clean my scanner, I think you'll enjoy what you find here.

Use the Table of Contents on the sidebar if you are looking for details on a specific 7".

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Test Specimen Identification & Missed Shows . . .

Sometimes I forget that I spent much of my early life in the Phoenix metro area. We were by no means a big tour stop for anyone, but we often benefited from being on the way to somewhere else. Still, there was a fiercely loyal Man… or Astro-Man? following in Arizona, and this was mostly because of a record shop called Eastside Records. In addition to carrying everything MOAM? and helping to drum up support for their live shows, Eastside went on to put out the Haystack/Needles in the Cosmic Haystack 7-inch and also released the Servotron single Celebration Of Annihilation. The store went through several changes over the years, expanding and contracting in size, widening and then narrowing their sales focus. It recently closed its doors permanently—effectively bringing to a close an awesome chapter in Tempe, Arizona music history. This post cuts across Eastside Records in a couple of different ways. Let me explain.

Eastside was where I first met Ryan O’Sullivan. We met in 1997, the week after I had returned home from serving an LDS church mission to France. This was also just a few days before I saw MOAM? play for the first time. At this point I had already started to stockpile Astroman records and I was coming in to the shop to see exactly how far behind I’d fallen by cutting myself off from society for two years. It took me a decade to track down everything that came out while I gone. Ryan’s band the Stamens was set to open for MOAM? on that tour stop. Even though he was a younger guy, Ryan had already gained some local notoriety by playing with Greg Sage in a rebooted version of the Wipers. After a few years playing surf rock with the Stamens he would start a garage-y, almost Gang of Four-like band with fellow Eastside employee John Minardi and former Stamens drummer Zeke Howard (of Love As Laughter fame). That band was called the Thundercats (later the Tri-City Thundercats). He would also start a small record label called I Don't Feel a Thing that would put out music by the Lottie Collins, the Sun City Girls and Digital Leather, among others.

It came as a bit of a surprise this past week when, after searching non-stop for my old Astroman Test Specimen ID card (pictured above), I would receive it in the mail. It was sent to me along with a letter from Ryan detailing how he had ended up with it and kept it for more than a decade. Apparently I had lent it to him to take along to an Astroman show I had to miss and then I'd never bothered to get it back. When he stumbled upon it recently while cleaning his garage, he immediately made sure to send it back my way.

The Test Specimen Identification card was proof that you were a member of the MOAM? fan club. When you signed up you got one in the mail with your name on the back, a listing of the city where you lived and the date when your member in good standing status would expire. You had to re-enroll every year. Doing so got you a limited edition t-shirt, a handful of stickers and notification in your mailbox whenever the boys were on tour or were dropping a new record. So why had I lent mine to someone else? Because if you flashed a card at the merch table when they were playing your town you got 10% off whatever you were buying. On the front side of the card, among the field of green atoms, you can clearly see a small red graphic promising the percentage off.

Also with this letter, Ryan enclosed a flyer from an earlier show that I had missed while overseas. Here’s a scan:

Man… or Astro-Man? had played that time with the Hi-Fives and the Fells. The Fells were a Tucson, AZ-based garage band that signed to Estrus Records in the mid-1990s. Their one consistent member, a guy named Heath Heemsbergen, worked at a southern Arizona record store called Toxic Ranch. He would also go on to play in Tyvek. And, of course, the Hi-Five had their own previous Astro-connection. They had also recorded a surf record as thee Shatners, and MOAM? had covered their tune “Green-Blooded Love” on the single The Sounds of Tomorrow.

What stands out to me even more than the bands, though, is the flyer itself. The flyer was done by a Tempe-based artist named Brian Marsland. Brian did a lot of show flyers in the ’90s for events in and around Phoenix. His free-hand illustrator style of graphic design was incredibly effective and did much to help get the public out to see bands. I remember on more than one occasion going to see a band I’d never heard of just because Brian had made the flyer. That was usually a sign that the show was going to be good.

Brian had also designed the flyer for the very first show MOAM? ever played in Arizona – a 1993 (?) gig at a fly-by-night Phoenix club called El Rancho De Los Muertos. Here is that flyer:

I did not make it to this first show either – if I remember right I had just gotten back from Lake Powell with the worst sunburn I’d ever had. I heard about the show from everyone in the days that followed. It was because of this performance that I bought my first MOAM? records. The splash made from this show continues to cause ripples in my life today. You’ll notice that the Fells also played this first show, and that Eastside Records helped to put it on.

Brian Marsland was more than just a black and white flyer designer, though. It was also Brian who designed the cover for the MOAM? Haystack single shown below:

That single had been produced by Eastside Records. Around the same time he designed the cover for the Polvo / New Radiant Storm King split single put out by local label Penny Farthing, as seen here:

And to bring this rambling Ryan O’Sullivan / Eastside Records / Brian Marsland post to a close, here’s a shot of the cover Brian designed for the Wipers' 1993 release Silver Sail, followed by a YouTube video of Ryan playing bass with the Wipers in Arizona in late 1996:

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