Pee Are Eye, See
Eee Tag. GOOOOO PRICE TAG!
If you have yet gandered at my
discography, you may have wondered, "What is Price Tag?"
If you have searched for my name on the internet, you may have seen one
of my email addresses is firstname.lastname@example.org... and you may have wondered,
"Why Price Tag?" If neither of those, maybe you saw the article
on the left and thought, "I wonder what Price Tag is." I feel
it's now time to address all those questions and more. It's time... for
the Price Tag story, as retold in 2006...
Price Tag performs at the 1997 South Carolina Gifted and
Talented Program's "State Fair"
Price Tag was definitely not my first band. In fact, though
I was only in third grade, I had already had two others. The first was
created with my sister and Joe (you know both of them, they are recurring
folks on this site), and since all of us had last names beginning with
W, we called ourselves The W Band. I very clearly remember walking across
the street to Joe's house and coming up with songs in his hammock. In
fact, before recording, we had four albums completely planned out. Maybe
four of the songs were "written," but we had the titles of all
of them and who was GOING to write them:
Our discography was destined to be Dark Fire, Tree in
the Deep, Stop Away, and Who and What, but we only began to
record some of Dark Fire. I remember walking over to Joe's house
with my sister's guitar and my GE tape recorder with the intent to record
the album. I even remember what Joe's room looked like and where we sat.
What I don't remember... is what I did with the tape we recorded.
The W Band basically never did anything else after that
one recording "session." I moved on to another band called The
Leozards shortly afterwards. Some random girl in my 1st grade class, Kristen,
and I decided we were a band and she came over the afternoon of the last
day of class and recorded some improvised music with me and my sister.
This tape definitely exists. In fact, here's one of the songs:
That's definitely me doing the vocals and bucket drumming.
Do I say, "She was like a shining diamond, like a treasure tropini?"
I really don't know. We called this collection of recordings Fordonin,
though I don't consider it part of my discography.
Strangely, Kristen didn't come back to my school, and The Leozards was
I recorded a lot of myself drumming on buckets, hitting
water-filled glasses, and various other things over the course of the
next year. I also got a drumset and started taking drum lessons. Long
story short, by the time the second half of third grade rolled around,
I was MORE than prepared for a new band.
I used to bring my tape recorder all of the time to school
and record strange things at recess (most famous one, "I have to
pee.") so I definitely would have been taken seriously if I said
I wanted to make a band. I imagine I was always talking about music to
my friends. I don't really know, but I know somehow it came up in conversation
with both Sam Spear and Jonathan Whitaker one day at recess. Sam said
he was making a band with Chris Duffie, one of his friends, and he couldn't
be in a band with me and Jonathan. We didn't care. Jonathan said he'd
be the lead singer, inspired by the great band Green Day, and I'd play
the drums and sing too. That's a pretty good combination even compared
to today's standards...? Before we had a chance to record or plan anything
though, Sam decided he wanted to be in our band after all. He would play
keyboard and sing. Awesome. We were ready.
Within a few days, we had written some song lyrics at school
and rehearsed them a lot. Notice I said we rehearsed them? This was the
first and last time Price Tag rehearsed for years. After this, we just
recorded our rough takes and used those as finals. Jonathan kept bringing
interesting-seeming songs he wrote... but then would admit that they were
actually Green Day lyrics. That bastard! Our first recording session took
place in the span of about 45 minutes. We recorded about 4 minutes of
music, which when edited made about 15 minutes of music.
Jonathan had to leave early so Sam and I recorded an improv piece where
I would yell, "Here comes ______!" and that person would play
a solo on his instrument. Nice stuff to the max. After recording, we had
steak biscuits - Sam's staple food for years to come.
According to Alex from 1996-1998:
edit (v.) - Take a small amount of music (from 15 seconds
to almost two minutes) and use two tape recorders to loop the small
music onto another tape a few times until it seems long enough to
count as a full song.
We felt on top of our game. We played in our third grade
talent show (recorded - stuck on our first album too) and started to advertise
for ourselves amongst our classmates. Eventually, the time came where
we needed to record some new material. Our hits "Nonsense-Noncents"
and "Days" could only take us so far. In school, the three of
us collaborated on some new music. I also continued to push the bounds
with demanding music like... Kitchen Rock, which required guitar and drums
simultaneously - something Price Tag was NOT ready for.
After the smooth recording session for these three hits
and some other improvised pieces and some more editing, we had a LOT of
music. We were definitely destined for greatness... but then, something
terrible happened. Jonathan quit. It was then down to me and Sam.
The Alf Phenomenon: With the
loss of our third member, I came up with absolutely the dumbest idea.
The idea was totally inspired by The Beatles' Paul Is Dead clues. We would
pretend like there was still a third member named Alf, but the catch is...
it was really Sam. That's as much sense as it made. Example? On our second
album, there's a song called "Flaeesi." What's that backwards?
I continued to put Alf clues in album covers and lyrics until Sam was
kicked out for one album.
Either way, with Jonathan gone, practicing no longer existed;
we only recorded. For the rest of our first album, Sam and I switched
instruments a lot, and I played way too much harmonica. By the end of
that summer, we had our first album complete though... and I called it
Before I continue, I will let you know: this music is not
good. We were in elementary school and I only knew how to play the drums,
NOTHING else. Sam sort of knew his way around the keyboard, but that couldn't
make up for the overall incompetency.
The Crazy Cat Walks at Midnight (1996)
The next school year, fourth grade, proved very important
for Price Tag. We recorded our second album, The Crazy Cat Walks at
Midnight, very quickly, but Price Tag was about to change...
Chris Duffie, the one Sam originally formed a band with in third grade,
was in our class in fourth grade, and we definitely needed a new member.
Sam and I were in the middle of recording our unfortunate Halloween album,
Boo!, when Chris joined. Strangely, Chris and I continued making
music for the next few months without Sam.
Chris and I became fast friends. He had a similar background in music
to me, and since Sam had to switch classes when they brought in a new
teacher, we were the only two that had easy access to each other. Together,
we finished Boo! and created a terrible Christmas album called
Peace. Chris initially joined as guitar player to fit with my drums
and Sam's keyboards, but I had been playing guitar for a few months and
I was actually better than Chris. Sam also took a lot of interest in the
drums, and Chris found himself right in the middle, semi-capable of playing
either. At this point, the roles switched. I became the main guitar player,
Chris the second guitarist and occasional drummer, Sam the drummer (when
available). With this huge change in Price Tag, more planning was necessary
when writing the music. I crafted a retarded set of musical symbols and
tried to write music in traditional notation for our band. The second
was a failed idea, but the first stuck.... and sucked.
Symbols for music-making
Symbols used in music
Trying to write real music
By the time the three of us finally played together, about
3/4 into the fourth grade year, we suddenly sounded a LOT better. I was
obsessed with Jimi Hendrix, and we were surprisingly moderately able to
play some of his music. It was also around the time Sam and I had formed
the band a year before, so we celebrated our first anniversary
by planning an album entitled, 1st. It took a few months before
we started recording material, partially due to how popular we became
around our school. We played on our school's TV show (though we played
Purple Haze, argg), and then a concert in front of over 2,000 people for
the South Carolina Gifted and Talented Program's "State Fair."
By the time we were ready to record, we wanted a keyboard player...
Early cover for 1st. Notice the "ALF"
on the left.
We started speaking with Lindsay McPhail, a girl in our
fourth grade class who was known for playing the piano. She seemed very
interested in playing with our band, but by the time we had the details
all worked out, it was summertime!
Some of Price Tag's ideas that never came to fruition
Weird cover, strange idea. I guess this idea came about when
I decided to have our albums all be what was on the price tag
that our name came from...? "Paying the price of... The Animal
of the Sunken Ship," doesn't have that sort of sound to it.
I would have liked to see what we could do with this though...
Our third album is not called "Halloweenies," and Chris
and I never made an album under the title "Air Conditioner."
I really don't know what we were thinking when we typed this
I remember coming up with ideas for this movie, including starting
off on a wintry planet (Empire Strikes Back?) and having someone's
hand come off due to frostbite (or by Darth Vader's lightsaber?).
Half of this was done with marker, the other half with MS Paint
on my Windows 3.1 computer at the time. Why did I put Jimi Hendrix
Click for larger picture
An album completely based on the nine planets? That sounds exactly
like one of my ideas. Never happened though.
Not yet giving up on the idea of making a movie...
here's a movie set in space!! The only difference is, there is a
script (or at least the first three pages) for this one and it's
a musical! It's absolutely horrible. There was no way I knew how
to make "jazzy" music then. No way.
That summer, Price Tag played a concert during a two-week
art program and got paid $30.00! Also, we invited Lindsay up to the stage
(she was in the program) to play with us for our last song and Chris walked
around the audience with his acoustic guitar. We were masters of entertainment.
We recorded a lot of Jimi Hendrix and Creedence Clearwater Revival that
summer, with a little original music to boot, and eventually put together
the mish-mash of recordings into 1st.
Though the next album in our line sounded much different,
it was a logical extension of 1st. We had started recording some
material onto a karaoke machine so we could use microphones (up until
then, we had used my GE cassette recorder with built-in microphone), and
I got a 4-track cassette recorder before we were finished. Also, Chris
decided he wanted to play the drums full-time, so I allowed him to kick
Sam out of the band... Why? I don't know. After finishing our next album,
Shofuda (Japanese for Price Tag), full of more original material
(though Purple Haze was recorded MANY times for it), things started to
After performing at our elementary school's Fall Festival,
Lindsay quit the band. Also, after a few more months under the new band
name New Clear NRG (Nuclear Energy, get it?) and then Toadstool, Chris
and I had difficulties. He kept saying he was gonna quit and then change
his mind. Eventually he did... Price Tag was dead.
But there was one kink in the death of Price Tag: we were
scheduled to have another concert at that art program for a second year.
Chris, now officially NOT my friend, said he'd still play, he just didn't
want to be in the band. Sure, buddy. That works. I talked to Sam and told
him the whole story, and he was more than happy to rekindle that old Price
Tag flame for another show and maybe even a few albums.
With my sister helming the keyboards, Sam and I got to work
on our next album, Toadstool (guess where that came from), which
had a lot of new material with some covers of ELP and Shawn Phillips.
It didn't take too long to record, and we played our show that summer.
We stayed under the radar for a while, that is until sixth
grade came to town. We were going to different schools, but I tried to
keep the Price Tag spirit going. We cranked out one more album, Funktified,
in a month or two and played quite a few more small concerts, but
we realized that we were milking a dead horse... Price Tag had to be shut
Of course, a few more "unreleased" collections
came about, like Price Tag: Live and From the Vaults Vol. 1,
but Price Tag was done. For good.