The Los Angeles Free Music Society is not one group per se but rather a loose collection of several like-minded noise anarchists from the mid-’70s who found commercial rock too boring, slick, and predictable, and set out to reinvent improvisation and sound experiments with a DIY ethic. Inspired by Zappa, Captain Beefheart, John Cage, the Residents, and free jazz, the LAFMS was an underground avant-rock movement and a record label that presaged everything from punk to plunderphonics, while their utterly unconventional approach denied them any chance of mainstream success. As their movement spread, they became a lightning rod for art-damage, weird-music lovers everywhere.
In the summer of 1973, the threesome of Rick Potts, Joe Potts, and Chip Chapman started to record material under the name Patients in East L.A. These were tape experiments and improvised playing mixed with early sampling from television cartoons as well as Chapman’s extensive record collection. By 1974, they changed their name to the Los Angeles Free Music Society to do the album Ka-Bella-Binski-Bungo, however by the time the album came out, in 1975, it had been renamed Bikini Tennis Shoes and the group was now Le Forte Four with the addition of Tom Potts. Unbeknownst to them, during this time another gang of semi-musicians with a similar experimental bent gathered in the evenings at the Poo-Bah Record Shop in nearby Pasadena. Tom Recchion, who worked at the store, had formed Two Who Do Duets with Harold Schroeder in March of 1975, and later that year the group transformed into the Doo-Dooettes with the addition of Juan Gomez. Others of the Pasadena crowd included Ace Farren Ford and the Professor (who performed as the duo Ace & Duce), Dennis Duck, Richard Snyder, Fredrik Nilson, and Billy Bishop. Members of the avant-rock group Smegma, who had already been around for a couple years, were also part of the Pasadena crowd before they moved to Portland, OR, near the end of 1975. When Recchion arrived one evening with Le Forte Four‘s Bikini Tennis Shoes LP, the impressed Pasadena contingent realized they were not alone, and immediately joined the LAFMS umbrella as a way to get their own recordings released, and soon Le Forte Four and the Doo-Dooettes were double-billing live.
In 1976, Joe Potts decided to put out a various-artists compilation with an open invitation, selling space on the record at two dollars for every 15 minutes as a way to allow others who couldn’t afford their own record to release material. This compilation, I.D. Art, featuring both LAFMS artists and others, came out later that year. This led to several Blorp Essette compilations set up along similar lines in 1978 and 1980, further widening the LAFMS web and their attitude that anyone should have the right to be on record. New projects were also formed out of the pool of LAFMS compatriots, from Joe Potts’ live noise-overload project Airway, formed in 1977; to John Duncan‘s CV Massage a couple years later; and even more groups in the 1980s like Solid Eye, Monique, Human Hands, Dinosaurs With Horns, Foundation Boo; as well as solo efforts by John Duncan, Joe Potts, Tom Recchion, Dennis Duck, Fredrik Nilson, and Chip Chapman. Though nothing has been released on the LAFMS label since the mid-’80s, many of the participants carried the spirit of the movement onward. It can’t be denied that their influence has carried forward through punk in the late ’70s to the cassette-tape trader movement of the ’80s, while much of their own music is still as unsettlingly weird as it was in the mid-’70s. ~ Rolf Semprebon, Rovi
from “The History of Rock and Roll” (online)
The Los Angeles Free Music Society, formed around Tom Recchion in 1972, was a collective of underground artists loosely inspired by Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart (but also all jazz and classical avantgarde movements). Le Forte Four, who released four lunatic electronic-folk albums starting with Bikini Tennis Shoes (1974), Doo-Dooettes (two albums), Smegma (one album) and Airway (one album) were some of the performers devoted to free improvisation, abstract cacophony and demented chanting.