Crippled Pilgrims - Down Here: Collected Recordings (1983-1985)
Crippled Pilgrims cover

Artist: Crippled Pilgrims
Title: Down Here: Collected
Recordings (1983-1985)
Catalog#: REACT-CD-004
Price: $10.00

Tracks on this CD:
1. Black and White    10. Sad but True
2. Under The Ladder    11. Calculating 
3. People Going Nowhere    12. Undone 
4. Out Of Hand    13. What You Lost
5. Dissolving    14. Pretend Not To Care
6. A Side He'll Never Show    15. The Sense
7. Down Here   16. Not Good
8. So Clean    17. People Going Nowhere (alternate version)
9. Oblivious and Numb    18. Black and White (alternate version) 
Rings by Absinthe Blind (Mud Records)
When we started Reaction Recordings we wanted to release music we loved but thought had passed by too many people unnoticed. The first Reaction release was an album entitled Rolled Gold by the amazing sixties English pop group, The Action. We followed that with a re-release of the 1956 recording, Songs of the Pogo, by Walt Kelly and Norman Monath. Next up came A Thousand Day Dream by Urbana-Champaign's favorite garage-pop band, The Vertebrats. Now, Reaction Recordings is proud to present the complete vinyl output of Crippled Pilgrims.

Crippled Pilgrims is the perfect example of a band who seemingly went unnoticed during their lifespan, but now sound as contemporary as anything being released today. How and why a band this good somehow managed to sneak under the critical and popular radar during their heyday is difficult to understand. We're not sure it makes any difference, as long the magic they committed to tape is finally available again for music lovers to enjoy now and for years to come.

Although the original master tapes have been lost, we've managed to track down virgin vinyl copies of both their EP and album, and each has been meticulously re-mastered and presented here along with two rare bonus tracks.

If, like us, you love this music as much as anything you've ever heard, please help spread the word. We believe Crippled Pilgrims have gone missing long enough!

Peace and love,
Geoff & Ric
Reaction Recordings

This is the sort of album that you listen to a few times without really noticing what's going on. Then, without warning, things start to happen: you hum along unconsciously, you add your own mental notes when a particularly classic chord progression comes along, you recall certain lyrics later in the day... last year's 6-song mini-album, "Head Down-Hand Out", got the kind of critical raves that are generally reserved for veterans of the music biz, and the new release is certain to follow in it's predecessor's footsteps. Imagine some sort of psychedelic garage combo playing jazz on the side for extra bucks; picture a surreal blending of Televison, Grateful Dead, space cowboy Byrds and Meat Puppets.

C.P. are from D.C. and are led by singer/songwriter/cover artist Jay Moglia; Mitch Parker plays bass, Dan Joseph contributes drums and some great piano playing as well, and Scott Wingo handles lead guitar. Of the latter I cannot begin to curb my praise, for the astonishing clarity with which Wingo unleashes his notes is chilling at times, so fluid and on-the-mark are his offerings. While Moglia’s vocals are never "pretty" or even completely in tune, they seem perfectly suited for his hazy, ambiguous lyrics, recalling at times Lou Reed or perhaps a younger Robyn Hitchcock.

Some of the tunes will sink in before others thanks to the insidious hooks, but I should point out a few of my faves: "Not Good", the heavy rocker, guitar modalities reverberating around a relentless beat; "Undone", which starts off like a midtempo Lou Reed street vignette then romps off in a series of mini rave-ups on guitar; "So Clean", full of clever cops froma lot of songs, riffs plundered with wicked glee; "Oblivious And Numb", a pretty ballad with not-so-pretty lyrics and a healthy dose of that fluid guitar I mentioned. Eventually all of the tunes will sink in - I think some will call this album a "sleeper" - and you WILL be hooked. A fine brilliant album. Look for the bright green cover and electric blue vinyl.
- Fred Mills, Bucketfull Of Brains (1985)

Mitch Parker, Jay MogliaTommy Carr, Scott Wingo

The Crippled Pilgrims Story

After being kidnapped by the savage noise troubadours Death Camp 2000 (featuring the rhythmic styling of Jay Spiegel a.k.a. the Rummager and the not yet famous thrashings of sound impresario Don Fleming), Jay Moglia's path shifted from its idyllic moorings onto an uncertain carousel of melody and mayhem. The 21-year-old Moglia took a crash course in guitar to color his vivid wordscapes and began looking for bandmates. Meanwhile, Scott Wingo sat at home drinking and wallowing in self-pitying gloom. His housemate Charles Steck had recently enlisted as bassist for Fleming's phenomenal pop combo the Velvet Monkeys - a fact that made Wingo's inability to fulfill his adolescent fantasies of rock stardom all the more agonizing.

As Moglia's embryonic attempts at song emerged, he was lucky to have the Velvet Monkeys help in fleshing them out with background noise. He lived in the room directly adjacent to the Monkeys' rehearsal space and spent many days lurking in the corner hoping for an invitation to jam. In time, whether for the good of rock or just to get him out of their ascending orbit, the Monkeys suggested that Moglia get together with Wingo for a musical chemistry check.

Scott arrived at Jay's house fully expecting to meet a circa 1982 standard-issue punk/alternative type but was instead greeted by a clean-cut young man in a green golf sweater with a stutter on his tongue and a phantom in his eye. This was Jay Moglia.

It wasn't long before the two started blending ideas. Wingo had cut his teeth in the influential DC punk band Trenchmouth, but his musical leanings were as much Beatles as Ramones, and Moglia's meandering yet forceful compositions allowed plenty of space for the outcast guitarist to sharpen his knives. Prominent among these knives was a recently acquired affinity for modal psychedelic noodling. Despite a valiant Punk/British Invasion-hardened resistance to all things Dead, a recent chance encounter with a particular ergot-derived substance combined with a well-timed Aoxomoxoa turntable spin had opened Wingo's ears and fingers to a whole new palette of six-string possibilities. The wide-open nature of Jay's pieces seemed to provide an apt canvas for somehow combining the alcoholic glee of pure hard rock with the lysergically-damaged wanderings of the not-so-distant past. (Whether this was actually achieved is an entirely separate question.)

The duo's joy in their well-meshed "sound" overshadowed more earthly concerns like song structure and length. An early Pilgrims show could easily last an hour as they whipped through their six-song set. It took bassist Mitch Parker, previously with the legendary DC punk outfit Government Issue, to bring some focus and direction to the raw strands of tune. Parker's ability to slice through musical excess coupled with his local scenester par excellence credentials quickly landed the group a slot on Fountain of Youth's compilation LP Bouncing Babies, immediately leading to the recording of their EP Head Down Hand Out (also on Fountain of Youth).

Through all of this, one central question remained unanswered: Who was the Crippled Pilgrims' drummer? The Velvet Monkey's Rummager (who shortly afterward reached heartthrob status as drummer for DC boy band HE) handled some of the crucial early gigs and sessions (including the first Inner Ear demo which yielded the Bouncing Babies track). At other times it was hard-hitting Tommy Carr of the powerful quartet Black Market Baby stepping in at the last minute to rescue the Pilgrims on show night. Ultimately, Dan Joseph, who had been with the group only two weeks before recording Head Down Hand Out, would become the drummer of record. Joseph never became an "official" member of the band due to his commitment with the progressive horror rock ensemble 9353. Though generous with his time, Joseph was reluctant to be affiliated with the Pilgrims. Jay, Scott, and Mitch's "regular guy" personas were no match for the preening charisma 9353 brought to the stage. Plus, Crippled Pilgrims' reputation for flowing melody and the occasional extended guitar solo had burdened them with a comparatively uncool reputation amid the rigid conformity of the then thriving harDCore scene. At 17 years old, Dan Joseph could certainly be excused for downplaying such a potentially credibility-busting association.

The revolving-door drummer status meant gigs for the Pilgrims were infrequent. Shortly after the release of Head Down Hand Out, Moglia, stifled by inactivity and bolstered by the EP's positive reviews and healthy college chart rankings, set out for NYC hoping to expand the group's profile and ultimately relocate the band. Unfortunately, he neglected to tell Wingo and Parker about his ambitious plans and was surprised when they didn't join him in Manhattan. Instead of extending the ranks of New York's rock elite, Jay found himself dazedly wandering the city's avenues carrying a can of blue spray paint and a cardboard "Crippled Pilgrims" stencil. Scott and Mitch were left back in DC with the proverbial question marks hanging over their heads.

Moglia eventually recovered from his spray-painted daze and began laying down tracks for an atmospheric collection of electronic folk songs under the name Geezer Park. The music was actually pressed and was poised to become the first release on Bar/None Records when Jay inexplicably pulled the plug on the project. In the meantime, Head Down Hand Out gathered momentum, garnering notable amounts of airplay in obscure and far-away markets. This came as a surprise to the group as their local DC following was less than massive. In mid-1984, with a fair number of Pilgrims' tunes never given a proper recording and Fountain of Youth pressing for a follow-up to Head Down Hand Out, Jay, Scott, and Mitch tentatively decided to revive the group.

With Jay commuting from NY to DC for gigs and recording sessions, Mitch and Scott both unwilling to abandon their relatively comfortable DC existences, and the continuing "who is our drummer" plague, the future did not bode well for the band. However, the trio (along with the drummer of the moment) managed to squeeze out a few more shows--the final being a pairing with LA's Gun Club at DC's 9:30 Club on September 7, 1984.

Recording and mixing of tracks continued sporadically throughout the fall of 1984. When Under Water was released the following spring, it was met with strong reviews and college radio airplay, but Crippled Pilgrims as a performing and recording unit were history.

In the ensuing years, Jay, Scott, and Mitch continued to make music together in various combinations and permutations. Notable among these was the full-frontal, testosterone-drenched stance of CPU (Crippled Pilgrims Unlimited), who, disappointingly, never performed beyond a few private parties. More fortunate in outreach was the crystalline rock perfection of Rambling Shadows whose initial mid-90's stirrings saw Jay and Mitch mining the urban underbelly for inspirational fuel. For reasons that remain murky, Mitch, in early 1996, abruptly quit the project, never to be seen or heard from again. The aforementioned Charles Steck (Velvet Monkeys, High-Back Chairs, Lida Husik) and Scott Wingo stepped in to salvage and retool, adding their own unique marks to the sound. This time around, the drummer was official - the multitalented Davis White (Foundation, Lorelei, Alice Despard Group among many others). Though the quartet never attained the popularity of Crippled Pilgrims, it gigged regularly in the DC area and even managed to have a couple of tunes released on obscure compilation CDs (Welcome to the Big Ring and Bumper to Bumper Hits, Vol. 2), with many other excellent tracks still awaiting release. After a five year hiatus, in early 2004, the Rambling Shadows re-emerged from the depths fully primed for yet another round of amplified truth promulgation - walking hard and thinking wrong.

The music encoded on this CD is the towering pinnacle of 1980's alt-rock. That few realized it at the time of its original release matters not a whit. What matters is that you now listen and know the glorious truths awaiting within.

Clint Vista
Terrain Press

Jay Moglia Scott Wingo

I was a dry sponge

Ever since I was an eleven-year-old kid in Rockford, Illinois, riding my Schwinn Sting-Ray to the local record store to buy my first album (Cheap Trick's At Budokon), finding great music has always been about the thrill of the hunt.

I thought I'd done a great job of schooling myself in the years that followed, but as I descended upon Champaign-Urbana from suburban Chicago to attend college in the mid-80s, my eyes were opened wide. I'd been under the incorrect assumption that I was perched atop the cutting edge with my diet of MTV and an extensive library of U2, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Smiths, and R.E.M. singles only to discover that I didn't even speak the language of underground music.

I was a blank page, a dry sponge.

A girl without freckles is like a night without stars and suddenly I'm there too. Alone. Left wondering what my ears had been doing over the past 18 years.

With this humbling realization, I set out to learn all that I could about the thriving underground rock landscape. I even stopped buying U2 records (The Joshua Tree had just been released and the band didn't seem to need my help anymore anyway) and stopped going to concerts that could accommodate more than 200 fans, missing a great R.E.M. show on campus that year.

The number of new bands that I unearthed each week seemed endless. I developed an addictive desire for finding out about bands like The Replacements, The Flaming Lips, Squirrel Bait, Dumptruck, Big Black, Thin White Rope, The Rain Parade, Cocteau Twins, The Gun Club, Green On Red, Hüsker Dü, Mission Of Burma, Severed Heads, Sonic Youth, Camper Van Beethoven, Savage Republic, The Dream Syndicate, Bauhaus, Minor Threat, Minutemen, Dinosaur Jr., Naked Raygun, Hollowmen, Alice Donut, Descendents, Skinny Puppy, The Judy's, The dB's, American Music Club, Bad Brains, The Silos, Spacemen 3, The Lemonheads, Flipper, and Meat Puppets. Money my parents had intended for an occasional meal outside of the dormitory cafeteria was quickly converted into vinyl at the local record store, Record Swap, along with a box of cassettes from Discount Den, and a visit to That's Rentertainment, a shop that lended out a vast library of albums before being threatened by the RIAA, then splintering into a video store and, later, birthing Parasol Records.

The thing that continues to impress me most about the grassroots music scene burgeoning in the US from the mid-to-late 80s is how varied the artists in the scene were. Breaking Circus and The Crazy 8's, Let's Active and The Butthole Surfers had little to do with each other from a stylistic standpoint. It seems the sole factor unifying these bands was that the originality of their material rose above that of the standard fare.

In these times the cream of each local scene seemed to rise to the top. While many bands could throw together a local cassette tape to sell on consignment at gigs and shops, it was only the very best bands that released actual albums that made it to store shelves outside of their insular communities. At this point in time, if a band released an album with national distribution that a guy like me could find in a big city or college town, there was almost a guarantee that the music contained in that sleeve was going to be of high quality. Maybe not better than the last record that you'd purchased, but better than the material by the other bands from that town and a worthwhile document of that particular scene.

These were the days before manufacturing technology and the Sub Pop explosion made it feasible and fashionable for any run-of-the-mill band to cut a 45, before the days of affordable home studio gear and CD-burners. The mere existence of vinyl for a band at that time gave them credibility, unlike the current glut of CDs on the market that make you work harder to determine which artists are worthy of your attention.

Of all the exciting recordings from this time period, among my most beloved are those released by Washington D.C.'s Crippled Pilgrims.

I first heard Under Water when a friend brought it back to our dorm from Record Swap. He'd rolled the dice on this band based upon a comparison toward Television and The Velvet Underground, and, after all, six dollars was a small risk to take on the promised greatness testified to by the store's influential record buyer Charlie "The Quaker" Edwards. Greeted by a tangle of guitars and an "in the room" immediacy lent to the singer's cathartic vocals, we quickly knew that we'd both hit paydirt with his purchase. I ran to my room to get a blank cassette, so I could start taping the day's new treasure.

As time passed and there were new bands to uncover, many records became yesterday's news, simple stops along the journey, but month-in and month-out, I returned to the comforts of my Crippled Pilgrims cassette. Over the years, I developed an urgent need to own the actual, hard-to-find LP and scoured record bins religiously whenever I was out of town. I made an outstanding offer to my friend to buy his copy for $50, hoping that someday he'd be strapped for cash and the band's clear-blue vinyl would soon find its way into my collection. Alas, he's no dummy and has held onto the album to this day.

In the late 90s, I finally found my copy in a used record bin in Chicago. It may be the best $1.99 I've ever spent and the most satisfied sigh I've ever exhaled.

In the mid-90s I started working for Parasol Records and invariably brought the Crippled Pilgrims to listen to during the workday. I was pleasantly surprised when owner, Geoff Merritt, chirped up one day, "You like the Crippled Pilgrims?"

" I love them," I replied. " I thought there were only two of us in the world who owned this record."

" Nope, make that three. They were fantastic."

Either Geoff or I would show up at work with a Crippled Pilgrims record every few months. With our grins stretching from ear-to-ear, we would bob our heads around the office, acting like the only people in the world who knew the answers to life's great questions. When Geoff first bought a CD-burner, Crippled Pilgrims were at the top of his burn pile.

Meanwhile, I'd search the World Wide Web every few months, looking for information that I knew didn't exist about the band I cherished… until the day I found a band listing and mp3s along with an email address. I sent an email of encouragement and thanks for the music, expecting no reply.

The next day, I heard from guitarist Scott Wingo thanking me and letting me know that none of the Crippled Pilgrims material had ever made it to CD, and if I had a CD-R copy might I forward one along to him. It didn't take long before a plan for spreading the word about these spectacular recordings through our home base at Parasol and our reissue label, Reaction Recordings, took shape.

Crippled Pilgrims are a band whose influence should have been far reaching, but who have (until now) gone largely unnoticed. To my ears, these songs sound timeless. On one hand, they are a product of a bygone time and on the other they are as current sounding as anything else from today's American rock underground. The band is simply spellbinding, and while their brand of neo-psychedelia conjures influences of the era (like Dumptruck, Television, Meat Puppets, Wire, The Beatles, Ramones, Grateful Dead, The Rain Parade, Green On Red, The Dream Syndicate, etc.), it also sounds very much like music that could have been written and recorded yesterday. It's as current sounding as it is an echo of the past and I think that's one of the band's greatest strengths and one of the main reasons I've returned to them year in and year out.

It's like playing a copy of Slint's Spiderland. Your jaw hits the floor not because it sounds like a terrific record from 1991, but because it sounds like a great record. Period.

I hope that you will enjoy these recordings half as much as I have - now favorites of mine spanning the past 20 years - and, equally, I hope you enjoyed whatever path you took to get here, be it crooked or straight. As any record collector can attest, just when you think the journey is over, something new pops up to take its place. Getting there is half the fun.

Happy hunting,
Bill Johnson

Album sleeve for Head Down Hand Out Album sleeve for Under Water

image from Head Down Hand Out back cover