Burk Price: Distant Visions (Maya)


I first heard Burk Price’s “Synthezoid Heartbreak” over the phone from Ohio when I lived in London but it was the B-side “Distant Vision” that flipped my neurons when I received it in the mail. For me, it was a downbeat psychedelic masterpiece: the perfect down-tempo meter, heavy skins work, an ambitious arrangement, perfect change-ups and stunning, warbled guitar work; five minutes of sweet morbid bliss. It got me high.

I’d never seen it before and I sought more but it seems to be his only release. From then on, I’d pick it up whenever it came up on ebay (no chance of finding this kind of record in wilds of London, or Melbourne), and passing it on to mates at the cheap price I got it for, or trading it on to those interested. Fast forward two years and I scored another ebayed copy. For some reason I can’t remember, I passed a comment along to the seller about the record, who replied that he was actually the producer of said record, and thanks for the compliment. I had to ask Bob for the history of this record and to ask whatever happened Burk Price. And the story Bob relayed to me deserves to me remembered. Thanks for your story Bob, and thanks for producing on of my favourite records. Wherever you are Burk Price, I salute you.

Thiessen’s run-down:

Maya was Burke’s first band in 1973. It featured the former bassist of Spike (mega shred guitarist David Chastain’s first band in the 1970’s). Also featured a jazz drummer and a vocalist (who’s names escape me right now). Burke and I were best of friends. I handled all of the mgmt, book-keeping, and production/engineering tasks so that he could concentrate on music. We were both in our early twenties at the time. The only time a guitar left his hands was for his job and sleep. Otherwise he was never without it.

He listened intently to every new Lp I would purchase. His favorites were Wishbone Ash “Argus” and Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Lps. He loved experimental guitarists like Hendrix, Fripp, Blackmore and John McLaughlin. He could play a song after hearing it only a couple of times.  His love of Hendrix taught him how to do all the effect laden material, but, he also emulated how subtle Hendrix could be as in “Little Wing”. Burke had extraordinary fingers like Hendrix and Robert Johnson.  Almost like spider legs.  He could barre chords with his thumb just like you see Hendrix doing at Woodstock.

About this time is when Burke developed his “train set” as we called it.  He mounted every known device to change a guitars sound onto a long wood plank.  He ran that into an original tape loop echoplex and fed them into a Sunn head with Marshall cabinets.  He kept that rig for the entire time I knew him.  He was one of the first to buy a Les Paul Custom guitar (so that he could plug directly into the board at any recording studio). He had one of the original hand-made Floyd Rose pieces to keep his guitar in tune so he could slam on the “whammy bar” and produce dive bomb effects by bending the neck at the same time. He was always experimenting with new effects and techniques. He read Guitar Player magazine religiously to learn of any new property to add to his growing arsenal of effect pedals.

Maya’s first record ( a single) was recorded at Jewel Studios in Mt. Healthy, Ohio. Many National acts recorded there in the 1960’s – 70’s. Blues legend Lonnie “Memphis” Mack was a staple at the studio. This first single lead the way to eliminating almost all “cover” songs from their sets. Original material was plentiful and quite exceptional. Totally original in sound and style. Burke plugged his guitar directly into the board at Jewel studio and produced feedback by holding the guitar up to an open pair of headphones.

He always recorded and played at maximum volume.  We even experimented with microphone placement to capture the sound of live drums. We viewed the studio the same way the Beatles did from Revolver on… A playground to use and experiment with. We would rehearse endings and timing. We’d work on a song in different tempos until we found the one that sounded best to us. We’d work on cold and faded endings. Trying to figure out what worked best. We didn’t want to waste money and time in the studio with things we could manage prior to the recording.

Just after the single was released I was hired to be a crew member for a touring band called Phaedra that were based in Atlanta, Ga. This was about 1973 – 1976. Phaedra was the only band I would work for outside of Maya. They were possibly the best “bar” band I had ever heard. The decision to work for them was the easiest decision I had ever made. I could listen to them every night and never find myself drifting.  I could write a whole book about our experiences, but, Cameron Crowe beat me to it with “Almost Famous”. That was us in every way, shape and form. That movie was like looking at a scrapbook of my life with Phaedra.

Phaedra was at work on their first Lp at the Bill Lowery studios in Atlanta when Tim (the original) singer decided to leave. He was replaced by Rex Smith (of Solid Gold, Pirates of Penzanze and commercials fame). A great singer, but, far too much of a pretty boy for me to handle. I couldn’t see any future with Rex, as a singer, and decided to move back to Cincinnati.

Having returned to Cincinnati in 1976 Burke and I reconnected and started working on Desire as our next project. Desire was to be an all original band in the Queen/Deep Purple vein. This is when Burke first came to the attention of Mike Varney at Guitar Player magazine. Mike was going to do a monthly feature article of unknown talents. He picked Burke and David Chastain (coincidentally both from Cincinnati) for his first features.

As a band we wrote and rehearsed with numerous personnel changes until 1981 when we got the perfect band together (or so we thought). We recorded the first album in 1982 entitled Cry At The Sky. It was almost complete when we realized that the singer was not cutting it vocally. We replaced him with our “dream” singer. The new singer was as close to Ian Gillan as we could find. He even looked like him (hair, alcohol and all) and had a son named Gillan. We re-recorded the vocal tracks with Fred Daniels and completed production/mix down. We released the album in early 1983 with the new title “Screamer on the Rocks” due to the fact that the original singer had too much involvement with the title cut of the original mix.

After playing to about 5000 people in about 3 sold out shows in Cincinnati the band broke up. Burke was getting hooked on serious drugs. Cocaine was the drug of choice, but, LSD and other drugs were taken liberally. At the time, no one knew the totally addictive quality of cocaine. His new “friends” were hanging out to get in on the free drug train that followed Burke wherever he went. Ample drugs meant ample “friends”. Burke was getting hooked on a combination of cocaine and bottle after bottle of peppermint schnapps…a lethal combination. His mood swings were tearing all of his old friends apart. We never knew which way his wind was blowing.

He half heartedly tried about 3 suicide attempts in the mid to late 1980’s. I got sick of constantly bailing him out of local hospitals and watching him “total” his van in a cheap attempt to get attention (all of this over a bartender girlfriend who preyed on his money and cocaine). She was always strung out and kept Burke that way so she wouldn’t be alone. Her friends became his friends and everyone else was being shut out.

About 1987 Burke’s mother died and left him about $28.000. He moved to San Francisco to be closer to the new heavy metal music business. By this time cocaine was consuming his life. He was eventually homeless (having spent his entire inheritance in 6 months or less). He even sold off his guitars to get more cocaine when that money ran out. Larry, the drummer for Desire, moved out to San Francisco with him, but, later returned to get his life back together.

I think Burke may have tried to contact me about 6 years later (circa 1990)…I got a call and it sounded like him. His voice was kind of crackling and he just said a broken Bobbbbb and then hung up. I’m still not sure it was him, but, it sounded just like him. I haven’t heard from him since.

If you need any more info let me know…that pretty much sums up the Bob/Burke story.

It’s an amazing album and still gets me mail almost 20 years later from all over the globe. We sold more copies in Germany and Italy than we did in the USA. I’ve seen it in mail order catalogs for $200. All I have left is a couple copies of the Lp and the original test pressings of both versions. The master tapes were mistakenly recorded over at the studio we used. So what I have left is all there is.

Best to you..

Bob

(Robert Thiessen, producer of the Burk Price Maya single)

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24 Comments

  • I remember the first time I heard this 45. Cope came to Milwaukee and we did a weird-gear sesh. I loved it as soon as it bellowed out of the speakers. Finally coped one about two years ago. Great story Cal.

  • Whoa, great song & great story.

  • thats amazing
    i wish there was some way i could atleast download this song

  • you can, just view the source of the page, find the mp3 address, edit it back to url format & paste it into the address bar. This one is http://waxidermy.com/images/burk_price_distant_visions.mp3

  • thanks alot man
    i really appreciate it

  • Hmm, I seem to be too technically studpid to fully understand how to download some of these tunes that just appears as “players”…

    Could someone please explain how to “find the mp3 adresses”? Dying to download some of these weird ones!

    Love Waxidermy!

  • go to the “view” menu in explorer, drop down to “source”, it should open as a notepad document. hold down the control key, press “F” to bring up the “find” function. Type “mp3” into the find window, hit “find next”. That should take you to the mp3 address in the source (http%3A%2F%2Fwaxidermy.com%2Fimages%2Fburk_price_distant_visions.mp3). Edit it back to url format so it looks like a web address by taking out the % signs & numbers, then paste that into the address bar, hi enter & it should give you the option to download.

  • interesting comments about Phaedra Band I was the drummer still play partime around Atlanta

  • Hi Bob After reading your article about Phaedra it reminded me how our band mirrored the movie Almost Famous. Its almost like they had stolen the script from us. We certainly could have done a reality show about life on the road, groupies,wild partys,unscrupulous record deals and most of all getting that once in a lifetime shot at making the big-time and the aftermath of just barely missing it.I would love to hear from you. Bill Whitley 678-770-5277

  • I’d like to thank all of you who have responded to the above mini-history. I have heard from dozens of people who have been searching for this and other works I have been involved in.
    I only own one copy of the Maya recording mentioned and don’t have any for sale. I also own the ONLY remnants of the two Desire projects. The Desire records are test pressings and feature two totally different versions of the same Lp.
    I have these available on CDR if anyone is interested.
    Thanks again and thank you for all of the interest from around the world.
    Bob

  • Anyone who would like to contact me can do so via the following address:
    r.theissen@insightbb.com
    I’ve also had numerous writers and editors, I have worked with over the years, write to kid me about all of the grammar and spelling errors in the story above…
    In the words of Bart Simpson…
    I didn’t do it!
    Lottsa luv
    Bob

  • Any more news of what happened to Burk?

  • Bob email me about Phaedra

  • I played drums with Burke and bass player Ray Jackson for a short period of time, believe it or not called ” Space Opera” Burke was a mesmerizing player, a true talent.

  • I played drums for Burke for a short period of time. The bass player formely from Spike was Raymond Jackson who was also part of our trio called Space Opera. Burke was mesmerizing as a player.

  • Well,daaayuumm…this is Burk Skyhorse Price y’all.I’m alive and well in Benicia California playin in a band called CLUSTER PHUNK.As u might guess it is all original material(I seem to be cursed with the need to write and play my own shit lol).Well…umm..we ARE doin Voodoo Chile & Living After Midnight because we love those songs and joke em if they can’t take a fuck lol.Needless to say I was blown away to see all this stuff from Maya online.Ima have to get in touch with Bob Theissen,fosho.Peace out-BURK SKYHORSE PRICE.

  • Dear Burke,

    great to see that you are still out there and alive…!
    Love your MAYA Recording to death for many years now.
    Take good care…

    Miguel Rodriguez, Germany…

  • Hey guys,it’s me again,the subject of this page lol.I would like to clarify a few errors that Bob made in his autobiography of Burk Price.He actually did a pretty good job of getting most of the stuff right;it was,after all,over thirty years ago.
    The main things I wish to clarify are as follows:
    1 ) It was NOT my gf,Elaine,who got me into the drug scene,nor did she sit around sucking up my drugs and money.Elaine was the most awesome woman EVER;totally cool,non judgemental,totally fine.It was ME who fucked up.My increasing moodiness and depression,which led to those suicide attempts Bob mentioned,finally took their toll on her and she left me.
    Two of the efforts were indeed half hearted.One was a full blown,”Fuck you,fuck everybody,I want out!” I should have died but didn’t.It was all rather miraculous,and I decline to discuss it further.It happened.Bob was also right that I was tearing my friends apart with my suicide fuckery.If any of you guys see this,,,man,I straight apologize like a mad bastard.
    Obviously,I survived myself.
    I found out years later that Elaine still cared for me but was just sick of worrying about waking up next to the corpse of the guy she loves.
    As far as Elaine is concerned,I hope she has had an AWESOME life because she goddam well deserves it.

    2 )Bob was not the producer of the Maya stuff.That was done by the band and by Junior(only name dood used),the engineer.The members of Maya were-myself-Burk Price,as if u didn’t get that- on guitar,Greg Whalen on bass,Chris Clow on vocals,and the irrepressible Jim Vassil on drums.And air raid siren.Yes,air raid siren.Jim had one hooked up to a car battery,and at the end of our shows,we’d just pummel our gear;I’d be doin the Hendrix howls,Greg was flogging his bass…I would throw my guitar down and let that biatch howl at God,while Jim kicked his drums over and then set off that siren.That shit was unearthly blended with all the feedback goin on.

    3 )Bob WAS the producer and manager of Desire,the band we sat and created at Zachary’s,the local rocker hang in Sincinnasty where he and I went religiously every Wednesday and Friday.We had the whole band format worked out,and the first to join was drummer Larry Sexton,with whom I moved to California and did both music and construction work for years.The other members of Desire were:Dave Geiger,now known as Dave La Fave(look him up on FB,he now plays with Swan),and Doug Bertram.
    After we had recorded our album,a switch was made and we recut everything with David Svach on bass and Fred Daniels on vocals.That band broke lots of ground in the Cincy area.We were one of only two local bands to get radio airplay and sell out shows at Bogart’s,the other being Spike,David Chastain’s band.

    4 )I never did call Bob all bummed out.I have no doubt that someone did,but it wasn’t me.I got to Californis,pissed through my money,and then got serious about life.I worked construction with Larry Sexton(Our first gig was as yacht remodelers,right on Pier 39 in San Fran,and THAT is the subject for an entire book in itself)and later we did second story room additions.Made pretty goddam good money too.
    Larry and I had another Desire project in which we went into Tres Virgos studios and redid the title track,Cry At the Sky.I had a whole new setup by then,including a guitar synth,so I recut all the guitar tracks and Larry and I did the vocals.That song was played on the mahor FM station in SF at the time, KRQR.

    5 )Bob and I also wrote our own comic book,featuring our hero,Cyclon.We did a lot of cool shit yo.

    6)Finally,my life now is good.I am still playing music and writing music.I have a band,Cluster Phunk,with Jim ‘Wingman’ Wingfield on bass,keys,and vocals.Wingman and I also have another project,Captain Backfire,which we are working on now.And lastly,I am finally getting ready to record my own solo stuff,which as you might imagine is reminiscent of the Maya and Space Opera shit.

    7)About Space Opera.THAT is the band I formed with Ray Jackson of Spike fame.We were,believe it or not,a prog rock trio in 76,just before Neal Peart joined Rush and they went the same route.We had some great drummers man,Tom Shively,who had a foot on single kick drum like John Bonham;Keith Elsbernd from Swan who is still awesome,check out Swan online;;Brad Casebolt;Roger Gage.

    8 )I have also discovered a writer living inside me.I am starting the third book of a trilogy;all publishing is handled by my literary agent in the UK,Lauren Williams.I might call her my writing muse,for without her encouragement I would never have actually dared to write a book,let alone three.
    A’ight,fellow babies,that’s it for now.Would like to give a shoutout to my friend,Miguel Rodriguez,known as Mig,for bein awesome and keepin my music alive.

    The most important thing in life is to stay free.So stay free yo.
    Peace out–Burk Skyhorse Price.

  • Good to read the update on this saga

  • Good to hear an update on this saga

  • Further update on this.
    Reissue of this lost masterpiece coming out on Friday 26th February 2016.

    Fully restored and remastered with liner notes from Maya’s Burk Skyhorse Price and more…

    http://touchsensitiverecords.com/

  • Burke how do I get a hold of you? I have so,e lyrics of yours I believe …. Came from Debra porter could you let me know how to get a hold of you.?

  • Hi Chelsea,

    Sorry for the very late reply. I’m not even sure if you’ll see this but I can put you in touch with Burk.
    email info (at) touchsensitiverecords (dot) com

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