Virgin Insanity: Illusions of the Maintenance Man

Virgin Insanity
Illusions of the Maintenance Man
De Stijl

 

There's a large store of classic records that, at the time of their release, were utterly buried--Alexander Spence's Oar, for instance. Yet it would be nearly impossible to make such a case for Illusions of the Maintenance Man, the sole extant recording of short-lived Dallas folk project Virgin Insanity. The album was originally issued in 1971 in a private pressing of 200 copies, only a quarter or so of which were actually distributed. Most copies were unceremoniously destroyed or lost shortly thereafter. Minneapolis's De Stijl has seen fit to reissue Illusions in a vinyl-only run of almost exact reproductions of the hen's-tooth original. Virgin Insanity was the brainchild of Bob and Eve Long, a young and deeply religious unmarried couple who, were it not for their sonic muse, might have found themselves banging their pent-up vestal heads and bodies into walls. Joining the Longs were drummer Jud Chapin and Wayne Boggs, credited in the liners with "vocals and madness."

Despite the obscurity of this 34-year-old recording, the music is familiar--or at least will be to fans of relatively less obscure lo-fi outfits. The earnestly primitive male-female vocal harmonies and plaintive, boxily recorded acoustic guitar and minimal drum setup are reminiscent of Beat Happening (see "Be My Friend"), the songwriting itself somewhere between Olympia and the early recordings of central California's Refrigerator. But such references do little to flesh out the experience of Illusions, essentially a gorgeous collection of spare and forthright folk-rock and proto-punk. The DIY waters were bubbling in 1971, and there were legions of musicians ready to stir them. But it would also be foolish to think that Virgin Insanity, as personal a project as it is, didn't have aspirations of greatness on a larger scale. "Don't Get Down," the album's opener, is a loner classic of bedroom firepower, while "Touch the Sky" incorporates a dissonant bluesy guitar twang that belies Bob Long's musical homework--two years before Illusions he was trying to sell his songs in L.A. It's both a revelation and a shame that tunes like "For a While" didn't get the deluxe treatment of a studio orchestra.

 
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