Jonathan with stuff, thanks to the PhoenixBubblegum Man
by Brett Milano
Boston Phoenix

Most rock musicians have experienced one epiphany-like moment, where the will to write and perform songs grabs hard and holds on for life. Jonathan Scott, who makes tapes under the name Butterscott, may be the only one who's ever had that experience while watching the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton in the legendary turkey film, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

"I saw it with my brother fifteen years ago, when I was 15," he recalls. "We knew it sucked, but we liked the raw material well enough to go with the real thing. We started with the Beatles and from there it got more diversified, more eclectic, and more insane."

It's been said (by Woodstock prankster Wavy Gravy, on a Ben and Jerry's ice-cream carton, to be exact) that the '90s are just the '60s standing on their head. Nowhere is that more true than on Butterscott's tape, which wins this month's Demo Derby with the most severely twisted--and in their way, most affectionate--'60s homages to cross the desk in eons. (The homemade tape, currently being sold in local stores, is a C-90 combining two album-length collections, Kitten and Crescendo of Taste. Both were recorded on four-track equipment at Scott's basement in Winchester.)

"I'm your bubblegum man, chew my bubblegum if you can," he announces at the start, and sure enough, this is bubblegum music--designed to be so catchy that you can't get it out of your head for days. The lyrics ("Birds in trees, butterfly bees, dirt and leaves forever/Books on shelves, Christmas elves, play with themselves forever/Jam on bread, Grateful Dead, skipping through the heather") tend to read like a banana-peel flashback. And yet the tunes are so well crafted--flaky vocals, low-tech four-track production and all--that they approach the '60s magic that he's sending up.

His cover tunes go even deeper in the nether regions. He does an obscurity from the Monkees' psychedelic period ("Prithee") and an ode to androgyny from LA madman Kim Fowley ("He Is Very Pretty," about a guy whose girlfriend leaves him for someone who looks better in make-up than he does). Then there's "Peter, Paul, and Manson," which sets these sweet lyrics to the tune of "Puff the Magic Dragon": "I make love to Satan, each and every day/I have sex with 12-year-olds and sell them all cocaine/I strangle baby kittens, every chance I get/I fondle Hitler's picture, til my pants are soaking wet."

"I just figured that if you were Peter, Paul, and Mary and you had to sing that shit for 30 years, your mind must wander to some really evil place when you sing it. So this is what they're really thinking when they sing that song. I was also thinking, 'How much can I offend somebody in a three-minute bubblegum song?' I don't mean any of it, at least I don't think I do."

Scott describes his songs as "sickly sweet, evil bubblegum anthems." He explains, "That's one of the key elements of the Butterscott oeuvre--the middle ground where the deadly serious meets the patently absurd. That place where Steve Martins sings 'Maxwell's Silver Hammer.' Or where William Shatner massacres 'Mr. Tambourine Man.' These things do not belong together but, somehow, like peanut butter and chocolate, they work in a transcendent way."

"I'd say Butterscott is about 60 percent goofy and 40 percent serious. I'm serious about goofiness. I'm not here to poke holes in people's rock'n'roll balloons. Well, actually I am, but I'm very diligent about it. I'm doing this for my gratification and because I want to be noticed. I'm an artiste and cassettes are my canvas; and I know how fuckin' pompous that sounds. But it's the one absolute thing I love. I want feedback, I want to be noticed, and by God, I want to loved."

So who is this guy? As you might guess, he's an insatiable record collector (and former college DJ in the Cape Cod area) who found social salvation through pop music. "I was the archetypical teenage dorkball who got viciously picked on. That experience of being utterly scorned is an inescapable part of my personality that I've been coming to terms with. Like the song says, I had my books and my poetry to protect me. The Beatles were like friends at that age, they were kind of a refuge. That influences a lot of poetry that I wrote when I was 15--all this shit about strawberry tarts and coffee-flavored clouds."

He started making tapes shortly after the Frampton/Bee Gees epiphany, but it's only recently that he's made them available. He still hasn't performed live. "I have drawers full of this stuff. I've made tapes on various crappy mono recorders for 10 to 15 years. It's only in the past year that I've acquired half-decent recording equipment and decided to foist this stuff on the music scene. It kind of happened after I hit the big three-oh; it was time for a serious life change." That's when he made the ultimate sacrifice of selling a chunk of his record collection to pay for a slickly produced tape, only to find he got better results from his cheapo four-track machine.

With Butterscott, he's found his home-made groove, and the encouragement has started coming. His tapes are being sold in collectors' stores in New York; they've even been air-played by legendary LA disc jockey Rodney Bingenheimer (the go-between was Kim Fowley, who heard Butterscott's version of "He Is Very Pretty" and pronounced him "a fucking genius"). Lately, some local clubs have been calling for gigs, which may bring him out of studio hibernation. "Jules from the Causeway called last week and asked if I'd play solo acoustic, to fill out openings in their schedule. I said sure--give me time and I'll go out there with a friggin' flugelhorn and tuba."

Butterscott live, thanks to the NoiseButterscott: Everything You Wanted to Know about Butterscott, and Then Some
by M.A Ricciardi
The Noise

In January 1994, Brett Milano's column in the Boston Phoenix featured an unknown suburbanite named Jonathan Scott, who won his Demo Derby for a collection of 3-minute pop ditties about candy, sex, and toys. Upon reading the article, schmoozehound Mikey Dee realized that this was the same Jonathan Scott (nee Pressman) who lived next door to him in Chelsea when he was a boy. One phone call later, Mikey and Jonathan decided to take Jonathan's songs out into the clubs and set about recruiting members. Jonathan's friend Stevie Crater was pulled for guitar chores, along with local celeb/playboy James Apt (who has since gone on to weirder pastures in Six Finger Satellite), and Pete Sutton plays bass. Since Pete plays in two other well-known bands, his seat is sometimes filled by Joel Simches, better known as the drummer for Curious Ritual. Their influences range from '60s bubblegum pop to Brian Wilson in his more or less lucid moments to the world of Sid and Marty Krofft. The band's simple, sometimes sloppy songs have gained attention from many local music fans, whose reactions range from bemused to bewildered. Crackpot [Notion] genius Tim Robert has recorded a 7" of "Bartleby"/"I Wannit Bad" on Dahlia Records, which will be released, well . . .soon. Who's your favorite member? Clip-n-save these bios to get to know them better!

Age: 32
Sign: Aries
Instrument: Vocals, assorted percussion, Happy Meal prizes
Favorite food: Ben and Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie Frozen Yougurt
First record purchased: A Bozo the Clown Record
Most recent record purchased: Tommy Jones' latest solo work--it's an auditory experiment, his version of Mike Nesmith's The Prison, sort of.
Perfect first date: Record shopping, a really stupid movie, some Chinese food, then pounding, pummelling, baroque sex.
Pet Peeve: Yobs
People say that I am a/n: Clean
Addams Family Vs. The Munsters: Munsters: Bigger house, better car.
Paul Williams Vs. Elton John: Paul. He's short, he's a great melody writer, and his lyrics are so full of hate.
If I were king of the world I would pass a law decreeing: I would control the charts and make myself the greatest rock star in the history of the world, forever and ever.
Why I play in Butterscott: It keeps me off the streets.

Age: 29
Sign: Virgo
Instrument: Guitar
Favorite food: Hamburgers
First record purchased: Sammy Davis Jr.'s "The Candyman." Someone bought it for me.
Most recent record purchased: The Clueless soundtrack
Perfect first date: A sail around Boston Harbor on my private yacht, then hamburgers and football at Sports Depot.
Pet Peeve: People who sing along to the radio and mess up the words
People say that I am a/n: Nice guy
Addams Family Vs. The Munsters: I have no idea.
Paul Williams Vs. Elton John: Elton, definitely.
If I were king of the world I would pass a law decreeing: I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.
Why I play in Butterscott: Because I have to.

Age: 28
Sign: Pisces
Instrument: Bass
Favorite food: Anything barbecued.
First record purchased: Cheap Trick Live at Budokan
Most recent record purchased: The Sixths Wasps' Nest
Perfect first date: Drinks at the Plough and Stars, perferably with Ray Corvair playing
Pet Peeve: People who don't return my calls.
People say that I am a/n: Someone said I was manipulative the other day; I was shocked.
Addams FamilyVs. The Munsters: The Munsters, because only Al "Grandpa" Lewis admits to any involvement with the show. All the others completely disowned it.
Paul Williams Vs. Elton John: Paul, because he appeared on The Muppet Show more often.
If I were king of the world I would pass a law decreeing: All shitty bands have an expiration date, after which they would break up.
Why I play in Butterscott: Mikey Dee!

Age: 33
Sign: Virgo
Instrument: Drums
Favorite food: Anything that's not good for me.
First record purchased: Ringo Starr's "Photograph" single.
Most recent record purchased: The Tindersticks CD for my sweetie, and Permanent Green Light for me.
Perfect first date: A double feature at the Brattle, followed by the Double Dog Deal at the Beehive. Two hot dogs, $2.50!
Pet Peeve: College students!
People say that I am a/n: Hypochondriac
Addams Family Vs. The Munsters: Addams Family, but both shows had great theme songs.
Paul Williams Vs. Elton John: Both!
If I were king of the world I would pass a law decreeing: All major cities would be open 24 hours a day, like in New York.
Why I play in Butterscott: I'm practicing my chops.

Brainy, wacky pop concoctions
by David Wildman
Boston Globe

Butterscott Mach 2, courtesy of the GlobeJonathan Scott never really expected much when he put together a cassette compliation of his brainy-but-goofy pop concoctions four years ago, but the low-budget recordings launched a series of events that began with a writeup in Brett Milano's Demo Derby column in the Boston Phoenix and eventually led to the formation of Butterscott, one of the wackiest live acts in the city.

"I had never played out, never even been on a stage, not even in a school play," says Scott. "When I wrote all those songs, I didn't have a life."

Scott's childhood friend Mikey Dee, who is well known as a DJ on college radio station WMFO and as host of a local band showcase night at the Kirkland Cafe, saw the article and called Scott to congratulate him. Scott promptly asked Dee to play drums for him and, with the addition of Steve Crater on guitar and Joel Simches on bass, Butterscott was formed.

The group quickly gained a reputation for wackiness and fun with Scott's bizarre, surreal imagery and an anything-goes approach that involved a lot of spontaneous between-song patter from extroverted showman Dee and Simches, and the ritual throwing of toys, lollipops, candy and cupcakes.

"It is all visual and edible audience bribery," confides Scott.

But now, after four years on the club circuit, Butterscott has jelled as a band, and is starting to take its music a little more seriously.

"Joel urged us to start practicing more, and we became a more rocking band," says Dee. "We have done away with a lot of the schtick we do live, and it is now evolving into something a bit more serious."

But don't expect that Butterscott will ever lose its sense of humor.

"There is still as much crazy satire as there ever was," says Simches, who, in the past, has been known for his keyboard work with goth-rock bands such as One of Us and Curious Ritual {drums, actually}. "The satire now extends musically as well as lyrically. We will have nods and winks and references to other songs, coming from the drum kit or the guitar."

While much of the material is now being written within the group, Scott sees to it that the spirit of the early four-track recordings remains.

"It is still the same three chords," he says, "although I'd like to think my lyrics have gotten a little bit more sophisticated and honed. In the early stages, we were compared to a jet powered tricycle. Now, I think we are more like a gas-powered Huffy bike."

Low-tech pop doesn't get any lower-tech than God Is Odd, the latest cassette album by Winchester-based popster Jonathan Scott, who records as Butterscott. The 20-song a cappella album was made largely in his downstairs bathroom; the only frills are overdubbed harmonies and handclaps.

Total cost of production: about five bucks.

A cult hero in the making, Scott has turned out hundreds of songs in the past five years, most of them insidiously catchy and diabolically funny -- often with the poignancy that comes when real life doesn't measure up to pop-inspired dreams. The tape includes a few songs inspired by a romantic break-up, the perpetrator of which is mentioned by name.

As ever, his work is informed by his obsessive love of pop trivia. The title God Is Odd is a nod to another guy who makes albums by himself, and the Todd Rundgren reference is by no means his most obscure in-joke. That would be either "Sticky Sticky," a rewrite of a 1910 Fruitgum Company B-side, or "Magnificat," which he wrote after realizing nobody had done a mini-opera about a cat since the Monkees' "Shorty Blackwell." The Monkees figure highly in Scott's musical universe: the tape includes a bonus track recorded in the parking lot after their show at South Shore Music Circus last summer.

Scott's greatest assault on pop culture may be the one that almost took place last year: he snagged the opening slot for a show at Mama Kin by original Beatles drummer Pete Best, who was sacked in 1962 to make way for Ringo Starr. For that show Scott instructed his band (the members include WMFO's Mikey Dee on drums) to learn an entire set of Ringo covers. Alas, the gig was canceled when Best got held up in England.

But Scott's become comfortable with his fringe-dweller status. He recently heard that a tape of his music had been played for Creation Records president Joe Foster, who was sure it was LA eccentric Kim Fowley and Teenage Fanclub in disguise. "Someone else I know heard me on a college station down South. They said, 'Here's this mad genius from Boston who does all the wacky tapes.' The difference between me and other mad geniuses is that I'm pretty physically and mentally grounded. Maybe that's what puts off the labels who approach me; they want me to be really fucked up like Daniel Johnston. When they meet me they start thinking, 'You can't be Butterscott, you're too normal.' " [Review of God Is Odd]
Number 8 in Butch and Brenda's Top 20 Outstanding Performers of the 1990s:
Butterscott/Milkfinger: From 1992 to the present day, Jon Scott has been peppering us with his chewy pop confections, all short, all sweet, and none of them a major drag. He is easily the most fluent master of the pop idiom currently on the scene. And funny! (Check out his shortest song ever, "Interstellar Overbite.") If you crossed the Monkees, the Turtles, and the Bonzo Dog Band, you might summon up some approximation of his friendly, witty, mocking corpus. Butterscott was even more prolific than Instant Folk Death, with more than 150 recorded songs over he last 7 years. See also JUMPROPE, THE PEE WEE FIST, and GRAVITRON.

Aaaaaaand a link to AllMusic's review of Throwing Meatloaf At the Sun

Get me out of here!