The Mystery Machine

Under Appreciated


The blog entry on the Crawdaddys is headlined:  “In a Ché Underground exclusive, Ray Brandes offers the first comprehensive history of San Diego’s original retro-visionaries.”  Ray Brandes was previously a member of the Mystery Machine, which contributed a mind-bogglingly great song called “She’s Not Mine” (written by Carl Rusk) to a Voxx Records garage rock band “competition” called Battle of the Garages, Part 2  


Members of the Crawdaddys went on to populate many other California bands; I have already mentioned several of them.  The future UARB (probably by year’s end) and another like-minded San Diego band called the Tell-Tale Hearts (named after a famous Edgar Allan Poe story, “The Tell-Tale Heart) has numerous connections with the band.  Former Crawdaddys bass guitarist Mike Stax was a founding member, as were Mystery Machine alumni Bill Calhoun and Ray Brandes (I praised and heavily borrowed from Brandes’s fine biography of the Crawdaddys in preparing this post).  Another past CrawdaddyPeter Miesner contributed guitar on two tracks on the Tell-Tale Hearts CD that I have, High Tide (Big Noses & Pizza Faces), with the name adapted from that of the first Rolling Stones retrospective album, Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass) (1966)


(January 2015/2)


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Although Mike Stax moved to California from England specifically to join the Crawdaddys, their musical vision could be rather doctrinaire and was often at odds with the strains of music that he was trying to bring into the band’s recordings.  On his 21st birthday, as I related previously, Mike Stax quit the Crawdaddys on the spot after having his birthday present, a valuable garage rock record, thrown at him from across the room by another bandmember who hated garage rock.  While commiserating about the state of the San Diego music scene with several friends who had been in a short-lived though well regarded band called the Mystery Machinethe Tell-Tale Hearts were born in the summer of 1983
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The Mystery Machine was formed in 1982 by veterans of several other like-minded bands like the Hedgehogsthe Crawdaddys, and Manual Scan.  Bandmembers included Ray Brandes (vocals), Carl Rusk (acoustic and electric guitar), Mark Zadarnowski (bass guitar), Bill Calhoun (keyboards, saxophone), and David Klowden (drums).  The band stayed together only about one month, but that was long enough to create one of my long-time favorites called “She’s Not Mine” that was included on three different Bomp! Records/Voxx Records compilation albums:  Battle of the Garages, Part 2The Roots of Power Pop, and Destination: Bomp!
Mike Stax joined with Ray BrandesBill Calhoun and David Klowden of the Mystery Machine in creating the Tell-Tale Hearts, along with Eric Bacher who had been in a band called Freddie and the Soup Bowls.  Their first gig was in September 1983 at a yard party; Gravedigger V made their debut at the same event, though they were known as the Shamen at that time.  The Tell-Tale Hearts seemed to hit San Diego at just the right time and quickly became a fixture in several local clubs, serving as the house band for Studio 517 for a time. 
(September 2017)
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So far I have had some good bands and artists to talk about over the past two dozen months.  They have all been bands that I love, first of all; and they have had a fair amount of recorded material to their credit.  There are any number of unknown garage rock bands that I could talk about who have only recorded one or two 45’s (and it might come to that in a few years).  In fact, one of my favorite power pop songs, She’s Not Mine” – with enough musical ideas to fill an entire side of an album – is the sole recording by a band called the Mystery Machine; it was included on a compilation album in the mid-1970’s as the power pop movement was just starting to take hold.  For now though, I am trying to find artists with at least a full album of work to talk about. 
(Year 2 Review)
Last edited: March 22, 2021