By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon
This week’s 45 Friday is a departure from our usual format, in that it’s a relatively recent release (well- 22 years ago), and was was never released on a vinyl 45 record. It WAS released as a promotional single, though most likely only on CD.
The reason is to pay tribute to long-time Green Jelly member C.J. Buscaglia, who passed away this week.
Green Jelly began their career as Green Jellö in 1981. Composed of youngsters from Kenmore, leader Bill Manspeaker’s stated goal for this group was to be “the world’s worst band”. Playing mostly parodies or humorous songs, the music took a backseat to onstage hi-jinks. But the non-musicians needed some musicians to make it happen as a band, and Kenmore had some excellent ones.
Christopher “CJ” Buscaglia showed promise as a musician from a young age. First on drums, later on guitar, he was willing to learn and practice and equally eager to learn about the Classic Rock and Progressive Rock that were the foundations for Punk, Alternative and New Wave (as they were played in Western New York – especially by the Kenmore part of the scene).
CJ had played for years, on and off, with local Rock’N’Roll revivalists Big Wheelie & The Hupbcaps. But more to the point was 1980s band Future History with fellow Kenmorian Bill Tutton (bass). Along with Jim Laspesa (drums) all would go on to play with Green Jelly (all were part of their major-label recordings) and Tutton and Laspesa went on to work with some well-known bands.
Still known as Green Jellö, as their musical prowess increased their local visibility increased. So too did their stage show and stage antics. Moving on from McVan’s (okay, they were banned!) they set up shop at the Continental and landed a high-profile gig opening for the Ramones at Buff State.
Joey Ramone singled them out as the worst band to ever open for the Ramones, which was not unwelcome feedback for some of the band. But there was always a tension between those who viewed the band as comedy-punk, a vehicle for the show and the jokes; and those who wanted a more.. er.. MUSICAL experience.
With no big breaks forthcoming, the conceptual part of the team (Manspeaker and Joe Cannizzaro) moved to Hollywood around 1985 while others picked back up playing music locally, including Future History. Green Jellö slowly got back up and running out West, gaining a reputation for outrage on the hard-to-outrage Hollywood club scene. Lacking the musicians that could fulfill their vision, calls were made back to Buffalo and the local guys were soon on their way West, CJ included.
As Green Jellö refined their stage age (learning how to make better stage props from their new friends in GWAR) they were ready for the next step. They pitched a new concept to Zoo Records, a video-only album. Although it was mainly a bluff – they didn’t have the expertise or technoloy to make it happen yet – they were given an advance and came back with “Cereal Killer”, an ‘album’ that featured music videos for each song featuring costumes and clay-mation. MTV loved it and forced a released on audio recordings. First as the “Green Jellö Suxx EP, then as the “Cereal Killer Soundtrack” album, they sold millons of copies.
With success came problems. Following a lawsuit by Kraft Foods over trademark infringement they became Green Jelly. Musical differences, personal differences and the Hollywood R&R lifestyle caused CJ and some of the others to be estranged from the band. But his skills were missed – he was an integral part of the team as songwriter, arranger, and producer – and of course guitarist (though he could play all instruments proficiently).
So he was brought back for the “Cereal Killer” followup “333”. The album overall was darker, more cynical and negative than it’s predecessor. Although the tracks can be interpreted as parodies of the heavy metal and alternative rock that were themselves dark and cynical, it seems circumstances surrounding the band and recording were reflected in the music and lyrics. In any case there was a focus on musicianship which had been missing on previous recordings.
The one track which seems substantially different is “Jump”. It stands out as a kind of serious and emotional statement among the (purposely) cliched metal and hardcore themes of the other songs. The main reason is that this track is CJ’s vision. Written, sung and played by him, it sounds quite different from the rest. It has a Classic Rock/Arena Rock ‘Big Guitar’ throwback sound. There’s also an element of the shoegaze genre in the psychedelic guitar overdubs.
“Jump” has been compared also to Jane’s Addiction (some say it’s a parody of them); Green Jelly did have some connections to them. Some have pointed out the strong similarity to the Smashing Pumpkins hit “Cherub Rock”. It’s unclear whether one was the inspiration for the other, or a kind of parody of the other. The Pumpkins record was released first but “Jump” may have existed in demo and live versions for awhile.
The lyrics to “Jump” have a human and emotional element not found in the other works of Jelly. The reasons kids jump (jump for joy) contrasted with adults jumping to their death.
There was a co-existing band project Child which reunited CJ with his old Kenmore friend Bob Mancuso. Though demos were made and L.A. club audiences were highly impressed this project never really got off the ground. The musical skills of the local guys were noticed though, resulting in offers to join or act as touring musicians with Guns N Roses, Tool and a fledgling Foo Fighters!
Conflicting professional commitments, family commitments and personal problems prevented him from capitalizing on these opportunities. CJ subsequently left Green Jelly for good, and the Child project petered out. Bob returned to Buffalo And CJ also eventually moved his young family back.
In his career CJ did some studio work – production and engineering – for bands including Love & Rockets and Goo Goo Dolls. He worked as a guitar tech for some famous rockers. He spent some time in Florida and recorded a new album there, called “Green Jello On My Face Again”. Moving back to Buffalo he worked on recording a new album while teaching guitar at Pro Music Center.
CJ had to balance utilization of his many talents in the music field with fatherhood, and it’s hard making it in the business when you reach a certain age. But there’s a good chance he might have made some noise on a future project, had he not passed way unexpectedly on January 16, 2015.