27 April 2015
From Acid Archives book: One of the most dearly beloved discoveries within this "private pressing" field comes from a band called "Virgin Insanity". Even among a wealth of unlikely idiosynchracies this album stands out, due not just to the timeless nature of its music, but also because of its unlikely origins. It's hard to imagine a locale less appropriate for intimate basement folkrock than Dallas, Texas, 1971.
The "Virgin Insanity" was created mainly to record the album, although it turned out to exist beyond that escapade. The main engine behind the group and album was "Bob Long"; songwriter, arranger, guitarist and coordinator, who after an unsuccessful attempt to break into the West Coast music business had returned to Dallas determined to produce something tangible. Living under meagre conditions the financing of an album, even a budget custom pressing, was difficult. "Bob Long" made ends meet by working as a department store Santa Claus in late 1970, which is where he met his future wife and future Virgin Insanity member, Eve. Unemployed after the Christmas holidays, Long was offered another job in the glamorous sewage and wastewater business, which would prompt the LP title, "Illusions Of The Maintenance Man".
In early 1971 the couple rebuilt their Plano apartment into a makeshift recording studio, using stacked chairs and draped blankets to create a "soundproof" tent-like structure. A Radio Shack tape recorder was on hand to capture the music, which was put together via "bouncing" tracks in classic do-it-yourself fashion. Apparently unconcerned about the audio deterioration with each subsequent track bounce, every instrument and vocal was recorded by itself. Fortunately, the album is relatively sparse in its instrumentation. Apart from guitar, bass and vocals courtesy of Bob and "Eve Long", two college student friends were brought in to play second guitar ("Wayne Lamar Boggs III") and drums ("Jud Chapin").
The 10 songs that form "Illusions Of The Maintenance Man" (Funky Record Co. 72411, 1971)had been written over a 2,5-year period; "Livin' Lives" was written when recording was already in progress, while "Touch The Sky" and "Time Of Sorrows Gone Soon" had been composed shortly before. "Charity", the earliest song, was written by Bob as an 18-year old in 1968. "Don't Get Down" refers to the frustrating experience of trying to get into the music business, while "Once" is an anti-Vietnam War song; apart from these the vast majority of the material is personal love songs.
One of the album's assets is the strong consistence it displays, due partly to the distinctive sound created by the home studio, but also from a deliberate effort to create a concept album, with songs selected to function both as single pieces and as part of a greater whole.
While each listener will come out with a different experience, certain keywords keep recurring when the album is discussed; such as "warmth", "atmosphere", "purity". Comparisons to the sparse, nocturnal moods of the third "Velvet Underground" LP have been made by more than one listener, no doubt prompted by a similarity in instrumentation as well as a certain resemblance in the male/female vocal styles. As is often the case, this was a coincidence rather than a case of inspiration, and when asked recently Bob Long confessed never even having heard the VU album: "...Off the top of my head the most influential musical folks at the time we made the recording were; "The Beatles", "Moody Blues", "George Gershwin", "Woody Guthrie", "Carlos Jobim", "Hank Williams", "Sergio Mendez", "Crosby Stills and Nash", America -- pretty well pop stuff at the time. I'm not sure I can peg another group or album that we sounded like, the attempt was to create something truly original".
After a master was cut in Dallas in mid-1971, 200 copies were pressed by a custom operation, a small run even for a vanity pressing, where 500 is the usual minimum. Furthermore, an actual printed sleeve exceeded the Virgin Insanity budget, and the band opted for rubber-stamping their monicker and album title manually onto the plain cardboard sleeves, making each copy unique. Sales were confined to friends and family, although "Bob Long" managed to get scattered local radio stations in Texas interested, no mean feat under the circumstances. Nevertheless, the 200 copies took some time to sell out...