If there’s one karmic upside to late Scruffy The Cat frontman Charlie Chesterman’s battle with the cancer that claimed him in November of last year at the too-young age of 53, it’s that the music and catalog of his best-known, roots-rocking Boston outfit received new attention and a long-overdue reappraisal (via the benefit reunion show Scruffy performed to raise funds for Chesterman’s treatments) — new life, if you will.
When last I talked with Charlie back in 2011 in advance of Scruffy’s live reunion (see my link below for the complete “director’s cut” of my interview feature, which was originally published in The Boston Globe), he was in high spirits as usual. He talked candidly and at length (although always modestly and with the kind of self-effacing humility and humor that marked Charlie’s character) about finally coming to terms with his band’s legacy, re-connecting with his old partners in crime, and rehearsing for the reunion. True to form, Chesterman was upbeat when he broached the subject of hoping to work on some new material with old friends one last time; material and music that he knew in his heart would represent the final batch of songs anyone would hear. Or so he thought.
Not so fast, Chaz. Like that proverbial, precociously resilient cat, Scruffy’s legacy, it appears, has at least a couple of lives left. And it’s ready to pounce. First up is news of an August 19 release of a new digital-only compilation of the band’s entire Relativity Records output, a 38-track affair entitled, “Time Never Forgets: The Anthology (’86-’88),” which is being issued by Legacy Recordings (a division of Sony Music Entertainment). This marks the first time ever that Scruffy’s long out of print catalog will be available digitally — an endeavor that fans and friends in the Scruffy camp have long sought to bring to light, led by producer-engineer-musician Pete Weiss, a close friend of the band who oversaw and painstakingly supervised the project (he talks about these efforts in my Chesterman tribute link below).
The works include two full-length LPs: 1987’s “Tiny Days,” and 1988’s “Moons of Jupiter” (the latter helmed by the late, Legendary Memphis producer Jim Dickinson); and a pair of EPs: “High Octane Revival” (’86) and “Boom Boom Boom Bingo” (’87). All of the recordings have been remastered from the original tapes into one downloadable collection that will be available through all digital outlets.
Then, on Sept. 16, the excellent Los Angeles boutique label, Omnivore Recordings (which last year put out the soundtrack to the Big Star documentary, “Nothing Can Hurt Me“) is set to release “The Good Goodbye,” which Scruffy guitarist Stephen Fredette calls “our first new album in 24 years.”
“It consists of studio and live-in-the-studio recordings made from 1984 to 1990, only one of which was released to the public, and that one only in limited form,” Fredette told me today in an e-mail to “RPM” HQ. “The Good Goodbye” will be released on both CD and digital format and will also feature new artwork created by Fredette, who provided art for all of Scruffy’s records. “Both projects were originally one, the idea being to re-release the Relativity stuff with the unreleased stuff — one big package, a 3-CD set.” Fredette says the band “had made several attempts over the last ten years or so” to gain permission from Sony (which owns the band’s Relativity catalog) to re-release the band’s catalog digitally, along with unreleased material. A recent, renewed push finally yielded permission and paid off, albeit after Chesterman’s death.
“Charlie was aware of the effort to put the stuff out, but he never knew that it succeeded,” Fredette writes. As for revisiting the stacks of tapes, demos, songs, and long-ago moments, he says: “While it’s true there are plenty of old-yearbook ‘regrets,’ there are quite a few pleasant surprises” to be found in the treasure trove of music.
Finally, concerning the possibility of Scruffy The Cat’s surviving members playing some shows to celebrate the new releases, Fredette says, “we’ve been asked to do that plenty of times, and I think we would do that in a heartbeat if it wasn’t for a couple of obstacles, the most significant being the loss of our singer. Getting someone to fill Charlie’s role would be daunting, and at the moment I’m out of ideas.”
(All photos on this page taken and furnished by Wayne Viens).
Read my farewell tribute to Scruffy The Cat frontman Charlie Chesterman and previous articles and interviews here: https://rpmlifeinanalog.com/2013/11/05/king-size-talent-the-scruffy-sweetheart-of-the-rodeo-charlie-chesterman/
Check out the cool trailer for the forthcoming Omnivore release, “The Good Goodbye,” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhT2r3YaKC4&feature=youtu.be
All things Scruffy here at the band’s official website:http://scruffythecat.com/