ESO in the news

From: "Rev. Ivan Stang" <>

Newsgroups: alt.slack
Date: Tue, Jul 2, 2002 7:24 PM

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer today, 7-02-02

(you might have to cut a line break out of that URL)

CSU lecturer lives the music as a performer, historian, author and
radio personality

Clint O'Connor
Plain Dealer Reporter

Chas Smith's "Roots of Rock and Soul" class at Cleveland State
University is quite popular.

And not just because you get to listen to CDs and watch videos. It's a
hit because students learn about the cultural evolution of rock 'n'
roll from an actual working musician who imparts the wisdom they most
want to hear: Go away.
From Our Advertiser

"I tell students, The best thing you can do is drop out. Go see the
Grand Canyon, see the Grand Tetons, travel. See the country. It's OK,
because we'll be here when you get back.' "

At least one undergraduate has taken his advice. "I tell them to do it
before they get married and have kids," says Smith. "Because then it's
over. Nature is done with you."

Part performer, part philosopher, Smith looks like his punk-rocker
roots. He is razor thin and comes in one flavor: black. Black shirt,
black pants, black boots, black leather jacket, black sunglasses, black

He encourages students to take piano lessons, or grab a guitar or
harmonica just to "have some music in your life."

Smith, 44, whom everyone calls "Chazz," is hell-bent on teaching his
charges that modern music did not begin with MTV videos. Although he is
quick with a joke, a smile and a laugh, he is serious about his role as
a guardian of the authentic, turning them on to 20th-century gospel,
hillbilly, bluegrass, blues, soul and funk.

Exhibit A in the evolution of rock is the Rolling Stones. They aren't
just about Mick Jagger sticking out his tongue and shaking his butt
(though Smith is happy to strut, Jagger-like, about the stage of CSU's
main classroom auditorium). He dissects a Stones album by points of
origin: Chicago blues, Delta blues, country, bluegrass.

To understand the Stones you need to understand Chess Records in
Chicago and Muddy Waters. To understand Jagger's onstage antics, you
must study James Brown. He declares the Stones "the greatest rock and
roll band of all time," then downshifts into a discussion of what he
sees as the beating heart of the aging band: the love between Jagger
and Keith Richards.

"This is really a story about the greatest friendship in rock 'n'
roll," says Smith. "Mick and Keith started in the neighborhood. Yes,
they've had their falling outs, but they're still putting on a hell of
a show and having fun with it. They're saying to all of us, 'The road
goes on forever and the party never ends.' "

Smith's own road is a multilane highway.

By day he teaches at CSU, by night he is a rock dude, fronting his
band, Einstein's Secret Orchestra. He hosts a weekly radio show, "ESO
Radio" on WCSB FM/89.3, Thursdays from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. He has written
a book, the text of his class, "From Woodstock to the Moon: The
Cultural Evolution of Rock Music." In between he is the PR and
marketing director for a software company.

Where is the real Smith in all of this? "I see it all as one thing -
public speaking, public relations, performing," he says. "You're still
trying to reach people. I'm a total extrovert. Getting up in front of a
class is no different to me than playing in rock bands."

And he's been playing in them since he was 14.

Raised in Wickliffe, Smith got hooked on music in the ninth grade,
going to dances at St. Joe's auditorium and seeing bands like the James
Gang and Rainbow Canyon. One night he fell in love with the big-mother
amplifier of an organ and that was it - he became a keyboard player.

He was booted from St. Joe's after two years, he says, for an incident
involving fireworks and the track team. He moved over to Wickliffe High
School where he majored in The Who, the New York Dolls and the Velvet
Underground. His main musical muses were Lou Reed and Frank Zappa.

"The smart-ass side of me was into Frank Zappa," says Smith. "The more
heartfelt musical side of me comes from listening to Lou Reed songs."

In addition to keyboards and synthesizers, Smith sings, plays bass,
theremin, and writes, produces and arranges songs. He has a very
laid-back, non-BS, life's-too-short approach to the world. And for good
reason. At 19, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease. An operation to
remove a tumor in his neck led to months of radiation treatments. He
has been in remission for more than 20 years.

"After that you can't play the game anymore," he says. "You can't
argue; you can't worry about all the petty stuff."

When the punk scene exploded in the late '70s, Smith joined The Clocks
and later The Pagans. After banging around with bands, and 10 years
after high school, he decided to enroll at CSU to study anthropology.
He switched to music composition and picked up a bachelor's and a
master's degree.

As a student he worked for the college radio station and launched ESO
Radio. "There was a book out at the time - 'Extended Sexual Orgasm' -
and I was trying to be a smart-ass, provocative college student, so I
asked the audience 'What is ESO?' "

Somebody guessed Einstein's Secret Orifice. Smith changed it to
orchestra and the name has stood for 16 years, on his weekly radio show
and his experimental, ever-evolving band that is hard to categorize
("Two years running we won the Free Times Readers' Poll for Best
Instrumental-slash-Electronic Band," reports Smith drolly, "though we
are neither.")

ESO (posing as Einstein's Secret Outlaws) recently headlined a tribute
to the late Cleveland punk pioneer Peter Laughner. It was in the Tavern
of the Beachland Ballroom, usually a happening place. But it was a hot,
muggy Sunday night, with some boring bands, and by the time ESO blasted
on stage, it was 12:22 a.m. and only a few of the faithful bothered to
stick around.

"It's hard to get up the energy," said Smith surveying the dwindling
crowd. "When you're playing before 500 you feed of the audience. It's
hard to play for 28 sleeping people."

On stage, Smith wears a smirk, putting the audience at ease and never
taking himself too seriously. Despite the crowd, ESO pumped out some
rock, country, Monkees-cover punk, and some
atomic-sci-fi-outer-limits-cable-access tape recorded pronouncements
from guitarist Dave Deluca ("Lonesome Cowboy Dave" on the radio show).
The evening concluded with a cover of "I Fought the Law," and a male
audience member sprawled on the floor in front of the stage. There was
a full moon.

This coming weekend Smith and ESO travel to the Brushwood Folklore
Center in western New York (about a two-hour drive from Cleveland) for
the fifth annual X Day festival.

Smith's many affiliations include one with the Rev. Ivan Stang, the
"sacred scribe" of the Church of the SubGenius. The church, a sort of
tongue-in-cheek religion and nightclub act, hosts "devivals," and Stang
and Smith are X Day regulars.

Weekend veterans describe the proceedings as a mix of nudists, sci-fi
geeks, pagans, druids, Wicca people, bonfires, hot tubs and music. "I
like the community of the festival," says Smith, who has an elaborate
encampment at Brushwood.

"Chazz is a very well-rounded guy," says Stang. "He values every second
he's up on his feet."

Especially when those feet are bouncing across a stage.

"Teaching is almost like a mission and I love that - exposing the kids
to the music. But compared to being a rock and roll diva for the
night," says Smith, pausing a beat for the big-grin and payoff, "I'll
take being a rock and roll diva."

4th Stangian Orthodox MegaFisTemple Lodge of the Wrath of Dobbs Yeti,
Resurrected (Rev. Ivan Stang, prop.)
P.O. Box 181417, Cleveland, OH 44118 (fax 216-320-9528)
A subsidiary of:
The SubGenius Foundation, Inc. / P.O. Box 204206, Austin, TX 78720-4206
Dobbs-Approved Authorized Commercial Outreach of The Church of the SubGenius
For SubGenius Biz & Orders: call toll free to 1-888-669-2323
or email:

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