Barbara Golden's Greatest Hits Vol. 1

Barbara GoldenBarbara Golden's Greatest Hits Vol. 1.
Boner Girl Prods BG13. Duration: 76:56

The Barb page!

1. My Pleasure [8:21]
2. Trashy Girls [6:32]
3. Boner Boys 3:05]
4. Back Burner [3:04]
5. Dreamer [3:26]
6. Tampon Rag [1:58]
7. Flaming Toast [5:06]
8. Baby [5:01]
9. Just Say Yes [1:31]
10. I Wanna Drive [2:17]
11. Ollie [3:33]
12. Clit Envy [3:39]
13. Lap Pool [5:01]
14. Seven Bad Words [1:42]
15. B-B-B-Billy [1:12]
16. Michael Jackson [1:51]
17. Ramon, Maybe[1:54]
18.Tia's Theme [2:48]
19. Pink Pleasure [14:51]

A Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy improbability of down-home suburban housewife cooking, frivolous and kick-ass erotism, Christian Morgenstern poetry, Andrew Sisters style 1940s’ singing, electronic avant-gardism, maddening Frank Zappaish teeny pop sarcasms, freaked-out but delicate sound poetry inside marching, rapping soundscapes, and a social analysis of the contemporary American mind of double standards … and in one friggin’ breath! Try to imagine that… and if you succeed you’ll arrive at the bare feet of Barbara Golden in her good morning kitchen, looking down at you from above the inviting slit of her dressing gown, having you or a cup of coffee black right there on arrival! She laughs the void of existence right in the face! She is a Buddha figure and a Cosmic Freedom Fighter!

A phenomenon like Barbara Golden is such a rare occurrence that some may choose not to even realize her presence! To make another Douglas Adams parable, she may appear to most people like a S.E.B. – Somebody Else’s Problem -, like the spaceship from the planet Krikkit with all those white, evil robots descending on a British afternoon game of cricket, i.e. someone that is so unlikely to ever come into existence that ordinary un-imaginative office Jeff and Gill flatly deny her existence even at face value and look the other way, even though Barbara roughs their behinds up pretty good with all her crushing glimpses of the absurdity of life… Wow, what a woman, what a person, what a being, what a spirit! I’m instantly in love! She’s a female essence of guys like Lenny Bruce and Tom Lehrer with a touch of Danny Kaye and Spike Jones !

The cover ot the book with the CD inserted in the backk

Kyle Gann says in the Village Voice, 9th January 1996 (Read it in its entirety at the Barb homepage (

Barbara Golden is a San Francisco radio personality, a songwriter, a famous party thrower, cook, electronic composer, poet, leader of the WIGband trio, and habitué of the Mills College-centered West Coast circle involving Paul Dresher, Robert Ashley, and other new-music names. […] Golden is a wild woman, a political commentator, a dreamer, a mom, a slut, and hard to get a handle on. […] The song titles alone would give Jesse Helms the apoplexy he so richly deserves--"Boner Boys", "Clit Envy", "Tampon Rag" - and the lyrics aren't totally devoid of references to same-sex fellatio involving the pope. But Golden is also an electronic-conceptualist in a kind of mellow, Bay Area style, she careens from the grossest raunchiness to poetic austerity as if from one access band to the next. […] Thing is, there's no line in Golden's head between innovation and frivolity, art and life. […] The most affecting works are two long, intensely erotic speech pieces "My Pleasure" (with text by the amazing librettist Melody Sumner Carnahan) and "Pink Pleasure". "Once it's in, I know how to keep him there for hours," Golden murmurs as electronic voices echo her, or as percussion and trombone improvise around a long melody. "When I have spent myself, I let him take care of his needs any way he wishes, but quickly, I am tiring of him."
We get precious little erotica in new music, hardly anything that would test the censorship barriers other arts have tripped over, and Golden's version comes from a brazenly confident but politically incorrect feminism. […] … that's what 's really fascinating about Golden, her intact complexity: you have to take her altogether, self-indulgent poems, scalloped potatoes, vacation photos, and stunning synthesizer essays. She has filters on her oscillators, but, refreshingly, none on her personality.

Now, keep in mind that BARBARA GOLDEN’S GREATEST HITS VOL. 1 consists of a book with a CD. The book is an incredible mix of photos (some of which look like they’re ripped out of my American Jewish ex-in-laws’ photo album with snapshots from the beach at Ocean City…), sketches, drawings, poems, the lyrics of the tunes on the CD plus other texts, recipes and so forth, and a brilliant interview with Barbara Golden, conducted by Dave Bidini on Brave New Waves, CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) in Montreal 1990. The interview is spaced out on every other page (right side of each spread) across the book, in a dark gray rectangle down to the right, sort of giving the book it’s rhythm, graphically speaking.
However, in this review I’ll simply concentrate on the CD that accompanies the book, even though, of course, book and CD constitute an entity.

Barbara Golden in 1983
(Photo: Patrick James Sumner


Sumner Carnahan [text] – Barbara Golden [narrator, back-up vocals & keyboard] – Carla Fabrizio, Barney Jones, Sheila Davies, Ben Azarm [back-up vocals] – Carla Fabrizio [cello]
Recording: Antenna Audio, San Francisco 1984; Barney Jones [recording engineer]

This is one of the longer pieces on the CD, clocking in at 8:21. Barbara kicks of with something really funky right off – or is it just real life as real life is, filtered through some conceptual ideas of Earth life promotions? Is this how some editor of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy over at Ursa Minor would try to promote earthling existence to foreign life forms gathering at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe? Might well be!
The text, as stated in the table of contents, is not, in fact, Barbara Golden’s, but Sumner Carnahan’s, but I’m pretty sure the general outlook on life and sex and food is something the two have in common!

The text and the narration start bluntly: “
In the mornings I eat.” A softspoken, fondling cello joins in, painting garlands of cooking fat across the score.
The story goes on: “
If there’s nothing at home, I go out. There are several good restaurants down the street.

During this laconic beginning Barbara Golden recites the text as were she reading a manual for a video recorder or something, just matter-of-factly and a little absent-minded, as if the main part of her attention was on something else; the smell of what’s boiling on the stove or flashing recurrent daydreams of amorous excesses – but as the enumeration of ingredients start – “
wheat, rolled oats, cornmeal, flax seed and psyllium” – delivered in a permuted, sound poetic guise… well, actually just a two-channeled Barbara slightly disjointed and out of phase – this is proven to be something else altogether. The twin-channeled Barbara ingredients enumeration now loops in the background, as real-time Barbara continues her recitation up front. The recitation glides over into a musical text-sound composition, step by step.
As she gets to the coffee part the ingredient loop subsides, and is replaced by a Barbara 1940s’ style choir (perhaps with the assistance of the other back-ground vocals stated above) or like a barber shop (Barbara shop?) choir, shadowing and repeating what real-time Barbara says; “
skin on my thighs…” – making for a startling and comical effect indeed! Tally-hoe, my lady B!
The barbershop Barbara keeps up in the background for a good while, now doing some wordless doah-doah bebop harmonies, and the text line unfolds in all its secular blandness right in your face. Sick! I love it!
Then, suddenly, the content changes drastically, as she says:

I desire something different in the afternoons [as opposed to food!] – the heavy press of flesh, a man’s body stiff inside me against which I can move. It’s not so easy to find these days, the men are all afraid, they’ve heard about women like me, after our own pleasure. Sometimes it takes a couple of hours, but I usually find someone. He must be taller than me and not too fat. I bring him back here and we fit our bodies together […]. Once it’s in, I know how to keep him there for hours […]. When I have spent myself, I let him take care of his needs, anyway he wishes… but quickly. I am tiring of him, I want some brandy, my best cognac with a side of soda on the rocks.”

And a little further on in the same text:

I desire something more… opium, the taste of century old flower petals, tomb-ripened, revived for an instant with spit and fire.”
And towards the conclusion:

Headphones clamped to my skull, I strip off my clothes and lie down on the floor wrapped in fur. I caress myself, curl up around my own soft center, prepare myself for the dream: It will be lovely it will be true it will be infinitely repeatable and nothing can disturb me nothing can disappoint me nothing will interfere. It will be lovely it will be true it will be infinitely repeatable and nothing can disturb me nothing can disappoint me nothing will interfere” and so forth…

As the section above begins, a sound scene also becomes part of the audio, with a panting breath and bubbling water, suggesting something steamy and horny, like a woman’s bubble bath masturbation sequence of general housewife boredom.
At the penetration phase in the text a male voice repeats or precedes Barbara’s text, and counterpoints it in a male-female little duet. The bubbling water, which could also be the waves splashing over the pebbles on a shore, continue until the female gets weary and tired of the man, which is when Barbara is alone on stage for a while, until bellish synthesizer sounds enter the sounding space with their tiny, descending trajectories.
A dreamy choir harmony of gone-by decades adhere to the general direction of where things seem headed, and Barbara enters the opium part of the text. The concluding mantra “
It will be lovely” is superimposed on itself and repeated in an opiate calm of floating, hovering bliss.


Barbara Golden [text & vocals] – Johanna Poethig [vocals] – Todd Manley [percussion] – George Brooks [saxophone] – George Tingley [piano]
Recording: Hyde Street Studios, San Francisco 1986.

It begins in a romantic, semi-jazzy saxophone figure with an accompanying piano letting those prayer beads of ebony and ivory hang out New York-smoky-bar-lazily in a steady, safe rhythm, easing out like an introduction to… well, what? Well, it’s portrayed as an old-time cabaret or musical song, but TRASHY GIRLS expresses lines like: “Clothes with tons of cleavage, whips and acting rough, doing it with married men, that’s the trashy stuff”… and so it goes on, through vibrator- and masturbation phases, defining the trashy part of trashy girls’ life… Wow! The traditional, lazy, easy-going musical package with this content is what makes this a sure trash hit, getting under your skin with it’s Dinky Toys sarcasms!


Barbara Golden [text & vocals] – Toyoji Tomita [trombone] – William Winant [percussion] – George Tingley [piano].
Recording: Earwax Studios, San Francisco 1986; Jay Cloidt [recording engineer]

This raunchy little bit get right into business about big dicks and what they can do to a nice girl on the take… while the music is in the style of music hall or early 20th century ragtime piano banging and singing with a slight Latino scent, once again giving this dirty content a traditional, semi-contemporal guise: “When boner boy gives you a poke, you nearly feel it in your throat”. Yessir! The trombone introduces some nice, golden prolongations into the piano and light percussion.


Barbara Golden [text, vocals & piano] – Sheila Davies [back-up vocals] – Larry Polansky [mandolin].
Recording: Center for Contemporary Music, Mills College, Oakland 1981; Jay Cloidt [recording engineer].

Here Barbara is on the floor getting seriously laid, which you can clearly detect through the withheld moans right by the shiny black piano, which plays soothingly as the love-making dies down into a whimper of after-glow, but that’s when the text starts, and it turns out this is the lament of a lady been rejected by her lover, presented in a folksy kind of Woody Guthrie style, or just in the vein of some backwoods front porch Appalachian remorse… and, yes, lovely, this little story of love lost… and how merrily the melody hops around the yard, like a little girl hop-scotching away with braids flying!


Barbara Golden [text & vocals] – Larry Polansky [guitar].
Recording: The Lab, San Francisco 1986 (live).

The content of this song is, on the contrary, about a lady who has to reject somebody; a friend, it seems, who is looking to become a lover, and of course, that hardly ever works, buddies starting affairs…
The sad electric guitar at this live session opens the song, and Barbara delivers her sweet singing in a hall that echoes of the liveness of the recording, achieving a remarkable dance hall or school ball presence – and this is truly a beautiful song with thoughtful feelings directed at someone. Nothing trashy here! I have a feeling of a story unfolding in the reflections of a soap bubble rising over a summery backyard; that’s how elusive the important things in life can be…


Barbara Golden [text & vocals]
Recording: Susan Stone, San Francisco 1983 [recording engineer]

The lyrics say it all: “If you love me will ya buy me some tampons, lifetime supply ‘til the well runs dry, ‘cuz when a gal’s got the curse it’s made much worse to fork out those bucks for plugs rags pads”… which about half of the population will easily sympathize with.
The chorus effect which Barbara’s voice is fed through make her sound like a trio of golden girls from way-back-when, and the song at first hits me like that old tune “
Don’t Fence Me In”, and for sure Barbara has suggested it should have “that ol’ ragtime feeling”. It goes without saying that this text in that musical context once again stands out brightly through the clashing of contrasts. I can picture some old fart hearing this tune, at first just noticing its familiar, down home neighborliness, until the lyrics hit home!


Barbara Golden [vocals] – Sam Ashley, Ben Azarm, K. Atchley, Jay Cloidt, John Bischoff, Tim Perkis, Jim Horton [unspecified participation!] (…and what does the K in K. Atchley stand for?)
Recording: Ed Mock Studio, San Francisco 1982 (live).

There is no text included in the book for this piece.
This may be quite natural, since the work starts head on with a Stockhausenesque
KURZWELLEN atmosphere filled with crowding short-wave noise and thumping radio interference.
Pretty soon a rhythmic pattern of percussive nature – either from a synthesizer or from a live drummer – secures the base, but invading bees swarm in at ear level, as cut up vocals swirl all about, bits and pieces of human morphemes stirring like soil particles falling through the warm sunset hour of holy cow dust in Varanasi or Bombay.
A completely mangled and shredded piece of reality is pressed through the hose of events in this magnificent electroacoustic Barbaraism! Play it loud!


Barbara Golden [text, vocals & keyboard] – Carla Fabrizio [bass & back-up vocals] – Will Dithrich [guitar & back-up vocals].
Recording: Center for Contemporary Music, Mills College, Oakland 1981; Jay Cloidt [recording engineer].

This is something that could’ve come off of a record by The Velvet Underground, painting those everyday betrayal occurrences with a Nico pitch and an Andy Warhol look under the hair that keeps falling in the face. “Baby can be beautiful, Baby can be cruel, Baby’s twenty-one, she’s going on to forty”… A lovely tune, New York style, rainy asphalt on Park Avenue outside Max’s Kansas City in the 1970s…


Barbara Golden [text & vocals] – Johanna Poethig [vocals] – Chris Brown [keyboards] – William Winant [percussion] – K. Atchley [guitar].
Recording: Earwax Studios, San Francisco 1988; Barney Jones [recording engineer]

The tune is characterized by Barbara as fast hard rock. It reminds me some of the fast-thudding style of John Zorn on his album Spy vs. Spy, where he plays Ornette Coleman at breakneck, mind-chopping speed.
Barbara’s text is too good to omit here:

White House is the rock house, Uncle Sam’s the pusher man, the White House is the rock house, Uncle Sam’s the pusher man, just say yes, just say yes, just say yes, just say yes, just say yes. […] Ronnie’s in the White House, his smile is like a shark, Nancy’s in the White House, she’s the great white nark. Now Bush is in the White House, such a sitting duck. He kicks the bucket, Quayle gets in, now we’re really fucked. Just say yes.”

This is really a frantic piece, and in addition to the Zorn observation I’d like to add a Zappa association too. It’s a GoldenZornZappa White House freak-out, out of political desperation at the whackos that the voters keep in Office, one after the other… I mean, one gets his dick sucked, no harm done, and almost gets impeached, while the current one wants to start a war, and gets hailed. That’s the kind of situation we have, dear ladies, dear men! The situation is pure poetry, pure verse! Let the troubadours get a hold of it!


Barbara Golden [text & vocals] – Johanna Poethig [text & vocals] – Chris Brown [keyboards] – William Winant [percussion].
Recording: Center for Contemporary Music, Mills College, Oakland 1992; Chris Brown [recording engineer].

Isn’t this Soldier Boy, a song by the Shirelles or some female group like that in the early 1960s? Huh? Well, it’s a short story on gasoline and cars and the oil out of Kuwait and that sort of thing, but I can’t really make out what it really is… I mean, lyrics like “I wanna drive to shop in Kuwait, I won’t be home ‘til very late” and so forth, you see, and “the law you make, I wanna break!”, huh? Yeh man.


Barbara Golden [text & vocals] – Dave Erickson [guitar].
Recording: Walnut House, Berkeley 1987; Dave Erickson [recording engineer].

Do you remember Oliver North, Reagan’s loyal scapegoat of the Iran – Contras scam, if you recall that? He’s the most famous loyal American scapegoat since lieutenant Calley, proprietor of the infamous Song My massacre in Vietnam. Well, this about Ollie North. Some of the lyrics typically go:

Here’s a tale about the U.S. of A, it all happened one fine day, President didn’t like a law that Congress passed to stop aid to the Contras, such good guys, how’ll we stop them, Ronnie cries, circumvent that amendment, Oliver North was heaven sent!
Ollie Ollie Ollie Ollie Ollie yr the All American boy, Ollie Ollie Ollie Ollie, America’s pride and joy, with your clean cut looks and yr blue blue eyes, yr earnest voice and yr sincere lies

Well, the description of Ollie flatly fits the upholder of the position in the highest office as of right now, it seems to me. I mean, who has the weapons of mass destruction? It’s not Saddam Hussein. You have one guess…
Barbara sounds like she’s working herself up to sing ally ally oxen free, but of course it’s good ol’ Ollie Ollie Ollie… It’s almost too easy to make a satire on these dull-eyed idiots…


Barbara Golden [text & vocals] – Johanna Poethig [text & vocals] – William Winant [percussion] – Chris Brown [keyboards] – Sofie Siegmann [castanets].
Recording: Center for Contemporary Music, Mills College, Oakland 1992; Chris Brown [recording engineer].

With an electronic music start, this introduces the most hilarious staccato rhythm in a long time, and probably constitutes the most catchy melody on the CD; CLIT ENVY! The text is similarly outrageous enough, when Barbara describes the advantages that females have over men when it comes to masturbation:

It’s worth it to find it, creamy and small, moans of relief, short girl or tall. Whenever you want it, it’s always on call, masturbation on the sly, oh gals we got it all

Yeah, what a commodity!


Barbara Golden [text, vocals & synthesizer] – Johanna Poethig [text & vocals].
Recording: San Francisco 1987; Susan Stone [recording engineer].

Waves rolling in, gently over the pebbles… then spacey synthesizers in curly, winding ins and outs, weaving this bulging tonal tapestry, beautifully wavy, many-colored, floating on the swell near the shore… fishes nibbling… and then suddenly a makeshift Slavonic Dance, the way Antonin Dvorak wrote it, but in the whining interpretation of Golden and Poethig… but just for a very short while, because then comes the praising of and longing for… a lap pool! Yeah, Miss Golden and her associates know how to pick on middle class America, in catchy little tunes that can find their way into anyone’s mind without making too much fuzz, until the actual content of the songs dawns on the listener – and then it’s too late. The musical disguise of these messages makes them Trojan horses, entering and then… whoopee!


Barbara Golden [text, vocals & keyboard] – Johanna Poethig [text & vocals].
Recording: Center for Contemporary Music, Mills College, Oakland 1992; Chris Brown [recording engineer].

Sultry Hawaiian feel is what Barbara Golden indicates here, and she gets it, waves and all, and the warmth of sunshine throughout, but… this is another nasty case of a Trojan horse, ‘cause the lyrics of SEVEN BAD WORDS, wrapped in this flowery, elastic Hawaiian surge goes:
Breasts and bottoms, thighs and ankles, vulva penis testicles balls, mouth and tongue, eyelids, cervix, scrotum, anus, clitoris, vagina” and so on, in an anatomic poetry of the morgue, it seems…



Barbara Golden [text, vocals & keyboards]
Recording: Walnut House, Berkeley 1991; Dave Erickson [recording engineer].

There is a really nice drawing in the book of Billy; the guy who gets all this praise, when he’s lying back, his head resting on a tilted TV set, when he’s reading a magazine called Electronic Musician
Starting out as a sound poetic, cut-up permutation, the tune swiftly moves into a sweet honey-suckle teenager in sudden love type of idiom… and that’s about it; simple, straight, nothing out of the ordinary… except that lurking beginning, which lets on the suspicious origin of the song, i.e. the frivolous mind where it sprung…


Barbara Golden [text & vocals] – Johanna Poethig [text & vocals] – William Winant [percussion] – Chris Brown [keyboards] – K. Atchley [guitar].
Recording: Earwax Studios, San Francisco 1988; Barney Jones [recording engineer]

The Michael Jackson track seems to deal with the ordeal of having your face fucked-up by a plastic surgeon, like MJ has had a number of times, and of late his looks seem to have deteriorated because of too many incisions, and when Barbara says she wants the Elephant Man, it could either mean that she wants the deteriorated MJ, or perhaps in opposition to the manic seekers of facial beauty instead wants to go the opposite direction and find something exceedingly ugly.
This tune has a very specific, thudding staccato rhythm too, like
CLIT ENVY, but not quite as hilarious. The atmosphere has a lot in common with the Lou Reed of the album Transformer, which sported issues like New York Telephone Conversation and Vicious, stuff like that. In fact, lots of the stuff herein has characteristics in common with the world of Lou Reed’s albums, the slightly deteriorated world of shadowy outcasts and obsessive libertines of the urban circuits.


Barbara Golden [text, vocals & keyboard] – Carla Fabrizio [cello & bass] - William Winant [percussion].
Recording: Center for Contemporary Music, Mills College, Oakland 1981; Jay Cloidt [recording engineer].

The story is one of looking back, wondering what could have happened if you’d acted differently… and Barbara’s song deals with an eleven years old encounter in Acapulco, when she met someone who maybe was called Ramon… and she thinks of this when she’s stuck in a marriage, where her job is to feed the kids and please the man… and the story unfolds in ever-changing musical expressions, rhythmically, melodically…
It’s a very beautiful and touching episode; a glimpse into a life on the brink inside an objectively secure and stable situation.

TIA’S THEME for the movie by Helen Prince:

Mike Marshall [guitar & mandolin] – George Brooks [saxophone] – Prairie Prince & Todd Manley [percussion].
Recording: Earwax Studios, San Francisco 1992; Barney Jones [recording engineer]

The only purely instrumental piece on the CD is a pretty little tune, and it doesn’t raise any eyebrows, but simply provides a moment of rest, sounding like many a Swedish softspoken semi-folksy town’s ballad of light summer morning walks through the streets as the sea gulls circle above the rooftops…

WIGband in 1992
(Photo: Bobby Neel Adams)

PINK PLEASURE for multimedia piece by Barbara Golden & Bill Thibault:

Barbara Golden [text & vocals] - William Winant [percussion] – Toyoji Tomita [trombone] – Bill Thibault [computers & electronics].
Recording: Center for Contemporary Music, Mills College, Oakland 1993; Tom Erbe [recording engineer].

This is by far the most extensive piece on the set, with its almost 15 minutes’ duration. As indicated, this is a part of a multimedia performance. Barbara Golden indicates the following for the performance: “Sparse, light, airy, breathy. Duration of each part = 30 seconds. Notes must be played in order. Rhythm, dynamics, phrasing, and octave placement are left up to the instrumentalists.”

I feel this is a more serious work of art, and very worked-through in a compositional manner. I come to think of certain long, rambling numbers of a late 1960s’ album by Joan Baez, like that one album which I can’t remember the name of, but which contained a song called
Children of Darkness, in that period when all the folk musicians started using classical instrumental ensembles. Even guys like Phil Ochs did this on his album Pleasures of the Harbor.

Barbara Golden’s PINK PLEASURE also, stylistically, reminds me of John Cage’s and Kenneth Patchen’s theatrical staging of The City Wears A Slouch Hat, first recorded in 1942. This Golden piece is also more of a play, where the monologue of the narrator is countered, stressed and accompanied by the sounds of the instruments, achieving a very attentive perception in the listener. The way in which Golden tells the story, narrates her monologue, also comes close to Frances-Marie Uitti’s rendering of John Cage’s text Lecture On Nothing… but in the end, this is Barbara Golden’s work in it’s own right, and this serious work at the end of this outstanding CD puts the rest of the track list in perspective, confirming that only a very seriously thinking person could come up with some of the hilariously humorous stuff that has stunned me more than once as I’ve drifted through the sound currents.

Thank you, Barbara!