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The Surprisingly Strange Story of "Lapti Nek"

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Crawdaddy wrote two posts back in 2011 about Lapti Nek, my favorite song from the OOT. The original hyperlinks are dead, but the articles have resurfaced on a Crawdaddy archive (see the hyperlink at the beginning of this post).

I doubt anyone knows how long this archive will stay afloat, so I've decided to backup both articles here. I don't know if this counts as fair use, so I'll remove them if any copyright issues are raised. Until then... enjoy!

For the record: Both articles are Copyright © 2011 Crawdaddy! - The Magazine of Rock.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Post 102 is worth more.

I’m late to the party, but I think this is the best song. Enjoy!

—Teams Jetrell Fo 1, Jetrell Fo 2, and Jetrell Fo 3

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“Lapti Nek”: The Star Wars Disco Hit That Never Was
By James Greene Jr. on May 4, 2011 @ 12:18 pm

Today is May 4th, which in recent years has become an unofficial Star Wars holiday (MAY the FOURTH be with you, yuk yuk yuk!). In honor of this deliciously nerdy observance, Crawdaddy! has decided to look back at “Lapti Nek”, a vanished musical gem from everyone’s favorite galaxy far, far away. As any Tusken Raider worth his gaffi stick can tell you, “Lapti Nek” is the sleazy disco song Sy Snootles and the Max Rebo Band originally performed for Jabba the Hutt in 1983′s Return of the Jedi before Luke Skywalker showed up dressed like Johnny Cash to harsh Jabba’s sweet Tatooine mellow.

Although their screen time proved fleeting, Expanded Universe literature would later posit the Max Rebo Band as one of the most popular musical groups from Endor to Hoth. In real life, “Lapti Nek” was sung in Huttese by Lucasfilm sound engineer Annie Arbogast, who wrote the phony alien lyrics herself. Famed Star Wars orchestral composer John Williams penned “Lapti Nek’s” backing outer space funk and arranged the entire song with son Joseph and Hardware Wars director/producer Ernie Fosselius. The trio succeeded in giving “Lapti Nek” a grimy feel perfectly suited for Jabba’s dark and foreboding palace.

Arbogast’s spirited, Cyndi Lauper-like take on “Lapti Nek” would never see any sort of commercial release outside Return of the Jedi’s theatrical and VHS runs; Lucasfilm apparently lost that recording’s master reel before it could be included on any corresponding soundtrack albums. Luckily, around the same time, the company commissioned an extended version of “Lapti Nek” by professional session singer Michele Gruska specifically for the dance circuit. That smoother, sexier “Nek” was released on PolyGram in 1983. While Gruska’s anonymous five minute “Lapti Nek (Club Mix)” brought the Max Rebo Band to full fruition outside Jedi, the single failed to blow up disco charts like the Death Star.

Michele Gruska also recorded a version of “Lapti Nek” with English lyrics penned by Joseph Williams prior to Return of the Jedi’s completion. This “Nek” scratch track was inexplicably dubbed “Fancy Man”, even though the official line from Lucasfilm is that “Lapti Nek” translates to “Work It Out” in English (which of course means that famous Public Enemy song could be called “Brothers Gonna Lapti Nek”). “Fancy Man” can be heard below in the background of assorted ROTJ behind-the-scenes vignettes (including Warwick Davis’s never-completed or released movie-within-a-movie Return of the Ewok).

Naturally, Italian disco demigod Meco Monardo—who shot to fame in 1977 with a boogie-oogie interpretation of the original Star Wars main title theme—had to have his own go at making “Lapti Nek” a crossover hit. Strangely, Meco made almost no alterations to the Michele Gruska “Club” version when he got his hands on it, basically rereleasing the same recording with louder drums and some flourished instrumentation. Meco’s “Lapti Nek” stalled at #60 on our Billboard Charts, effectively cooling Monardo’s movie-related music hot streak. In Thailand, however, this “Nek” was apparently one of ’83′s biggest hits.

If you think the milking of “Lapti Nek” ends with Meco, you’re more mistaken than Han Solo in Cloud City. A 12″ single called “Lapti Nek Overture” was also released in 1983 on Warner Brothers by one-off group Urth. Not surprisingly, Urth was fronted by Joseph Williams, taking a break from his adult contemporary meal ticket Toto. “Lapti Nek Overture” is not only the rarest and funkiest of all “Lapti Neks”, it’s also the most satisfying. Urth was smart enough to mix in snippets of the elder Williams’ beloved Star Wars score as well as a few bars of Lucasfilm sound wizard Ben Burtt’s highly contentious Ewokese “Yub Nub” song. Variety is the spice of “Lapti Nek”!

Still, America balked, and Urth’s version of “Lapti Nek” was the third strike in George Lucas’s attempt to put Sy Snootles on the level of Blondie or Pat Benetar. To Joe/Jane Sixpack, this latest slice of booty-shakin’ space music just did not have the same je ne sais quoi as the first Star Wars film’s much-ballyhooed “Cantina Band”. Yet “Lapti Nek” made an indelible impression on scores of younger, less seasoned Star Wars fans at the time. Check out footage below of a wee Snoot wannabe lip synching to “Lapti Nek” shortly after Return of the Jedi’s release.

Indeed, “Lapti Nek” held a place in our geeky hearts, which is why it was so appalling to see the tune completely excised from Return of the Jedi in Lucasfilm’s 1997 “Special Edition.” In “Nek’s” place was an excruciating R&B exercise called “Jedi Rocks”. The Max Rebo Band was expanded to include a troupe of “sexy”/tacky extra-terrestrial dancers and a squat, furry embodiment of digital annoyance called Joh Yowza. To paraphrase Tom Bissell, “Jedi Rocks” is the most unspeakable sequence in all the “Special Edition” Star Wars films, a moment in history almost too depressing to discuss at any length. Even Greedo shooting first wasn’t this painful.

“Jedi Rocks” has remained in all versions of Return of the Jedi since 1997 (including the just-announced Blu-Ray release), forcing a new generation to come up in a Star Wars galaxy utterly void of “Lapti Nek’s” funky dance floor goodness. Thankfully, the Internet will always be able to preserve on some small scale the genius George Lucas abandoned in favor of pure insanity. Here’s looking at you, Max Rebo. In our world, you’re playin’ “Lapti Nek”—an Apex Award-winning composition(!)—all night long with no gross alien bimbos or hairy CGI abortions cluttering your landscape.

[Special thanks to Eric's Little Black Star, Wookieepedia, and YouTube for helping engineer this post.]

A picture is worth a thousand words. Post 102 is worth more.

I’m late to the party, but I think this is the best song. Enjoy!

—Teams Jetrell Fo 1, Jetrell Fo 2, and Jetrell Fo 3

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Sci-Fi Scandal! Second Sy Snootles Speaks, Claims Lucas Was “Keeping Company” With First Snoot
By James Greene Jr. on May 19, 2011 @ 12:02 pm

Lapti Nek

Two weeks ago, we ran a lengthy article about “Lapti Nek”, the intergalactic disco jam by Sy Snootles and the Max Rebo Band that appeared in the original version of Return of the Jedi (since deleted in favor of CGI nonsense). One of the more curious points uncovered by our research for said article concerned the timeline of the two most famous “Lapti Nek” recordings: While Internet resources generally suggest that the Michele Gruska “Club Mix” of the song was recorded and released after Lucasfilm lost the master tapes of the Annie Arbogast version actually heard in the film, several behind-the-scenes videos that predate Jedi’s completion (all easily found on YouTube) clearly feature variations of the Gruska recording.

If Lucasfilm already had a couple different takes of “Lapti Nek” under their belt by Gruska, including the widely released “Club Mix”, why did they drop Arbogast’s version into Jedi’s final cut? No disrespect to Annie—her “Lapti Nek” is spunky and classic, and she also wrote those delightfully wacky Huttese lyrics—but she was just an in-house sound engineer for Lucasfilm whereas Gruska was apparently an independently contracted professional session musician. An e-mail to Lucasfilm yielded no help (“I apologize, but I do not know the answer to that,” wrote PR person Amy). Intellectual curiosity growing by the minute, we tracked Michele Gruska down (via Facebook, of course) to see if she could drop some knowledge. Did she ever!

“I auditioned [in Los Angeles] to sing for Return of the Jedi, then they asked me to sing ‘Lapti Nek’ for the Jabba The Hutt scene,” wrote Gruska (pictured, left), who currently works as a vocal coach in California. “It was both another day’s work and challenging on two counts—one, learning this new made-up language on the spot was not too easy, [and] two, it was unnerving singing for [20th Century Fox music supervisor] Lionel Newman, THE John Williams, and George Lucas.”

Gruska got the job and, ecstatic, shuttled to San Francisco to record the final version(s) of “Lapti Nek” some time before Return of the Jedi was completed. So how did Annie Arbogast’s “Lapti Nek”, which can be assumed was merely a scratch track before Gruska was hired, wind up in the final cut?

“My version was definitely going in the scene,” remembers Gruska. “But unfortunately at the time the rumor was Anne was keeping company with George Lucas. Oh well.”

Scandalous, if true! Perhaps that explains why the Arbogast master tapes were mysteriously “lost” and why George later digitally scrubbed “Lapti Nek” out of every post-1997 Jedi release. Maybe the affair ended badly. On the other hand, there’s just as much reason to believe absolutely nothing ever went on between George and Annie in a non-professional capacity. Maybe George just thought Annie sounded more like an alien than Michele Gruska, so he put the former in the movie and saved the latter for the commercial vinyl releases (where polished, professional singing counts for more). Shame on you, Kevin Burns, for missing this subplot in your otherwise great Empire of Dreams documentary.

But I kid the Schenectady-born director who also helmed Behind the Planet of the Apes. The tales of Carrie Fisher partying all night with Harrison Ford and big handfuls of yay on the set of Empire Strikes Back are admittedly leagues more interesting than any canoodling that went on between the Supreme Beard and one of his underlings. Still, if either party wishes to come forward and refute (or confirm!) this wild accusation made by Michele Gruska, by all means hit us up. This story is sort of the Schwartzenegger love child deal of the Star Wars universe.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Post 102 is worth more.

I’m late to the party, but I think this is the best song. Enjoy!

—Teams Jetrell Fo 1, Jetrell Fo 2, and Jetrell Fo 3

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OK, I fixed the broken hyperlinks. Please let me know if you find any more!

A picture is worth a thousand words. Post 102 is worth more.

I’m late to the party, but I think this is the best song. Enjoy!

—Teams Jetrell Fo 1, Jetrell Fo 2, and Jetrell Fo 3

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Wow ! That's interesting stuff.

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I could swear I've heard the English version of Lapti Nek before but I can never find it anywhere.

Help finish ROTJ: Revisited!

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Tobar said:

I could swear I've heard the English version of Lapti Nek before but I can never find it anywhere.

Well, it serves as background music to part of Return of the Ewok. Have you seen that before?

A picture is worth a thousand words. Post 102 is worth more.

I’m late to the party, but I think this is the best song. Enjoy!

—Teams Jetrell Fo 1, Jetrell Fo 2, and Jetrell Fo 3

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Yeah but wasn't there like a music video that used the English version?

Help finish ROTJ: Revisited!

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^Returning to Jedi. There are snippets of it in there.

A Goon in a Gaggle of 'em

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Some extracts from the English version are also in 'From Star Wars To Jedi' and 'Classic Creatures'.

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Wasn't there a single released back in the day? I think I had it. Maybe the English version was on that.

 

You know of the rebellion against the Empire?

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digitalfreaknyc said:


George's sex life really screwed up the SE's.


I didn't think they had CG porn back then :shrug:

“Happy Halloween, ladies!”

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Erikstormtrooper said:

Wasn't there a single released back in the day? I think I had it. Maybe the English version was on that.

 

Urth (with Joseph Williams, John Williams' son!) released it in English, but it's not "the" English version.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Post 102 is worth more.

I’m late to the party, but I think this is the best song. Enjoy!

—Teams Jetrell Fo 1, Jetrell Fo 2, and Jetrell Fo 3

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 (Edited)

Hey there, I'm James Greene, Jr., the author of those two articles (and longtime lurker here at OT.com). Thanks for drudging them up, AntcuFaalb! I worked pretty hard on the "Lapti Nek" saga as presented. Glad someone feels like preserving it all. As for the whole fair use/copyright issue, I hereby use my power as the author to say go ahead and post 'em where ever---just don't profit off 'em. The powers that be like to pretend Crawdaddy never even existed anyway. The site's owner really mistreated it, eventually folding us into Paste Magazine, after which we (Crawdaddy writers, editors) all basically lost our jobs and the website itself was transferred to that awkward CrawdaddyArchive.com web address to collect dust. It's sad. Red-headed stepchild stuff.

At least I have all those versions of "Lapti Nek" to comfort me!

http://jgtwo.wordpress.com

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jturd said:

Hey there, I'm James Greene, Jr., the author of those two articles (and longtime lurker here at OT.com). Thanks for drudging them up, AntcuFaalb! I worked pretty hard on the "Lapti Nek" saga as presented. Glad someone feels like preserving it all. As for the whole fair use/copyright issue, I hereby use my power as the author to say go ahead and post 'em where ever---just don't profit off 'em. The powers that be like to pretend Crawdaddy never even existed anyway. The site's owner really mistreated it, eventually folding us into Paste Magazine, after which we (Crawdaddy writers, editors) all basically lost our jobs and the website itself was transferred to that awkward CrawdaddyArchive.com web address to collect dust. It's sad. Red-headed stepchild stuff.

At least I have all those versions of "Lapti Nek" to comfort me!

Thanks, James! It's awesome that you're a member here.

I appreciate you letting me preserve your articles. They're excellent!

A picture is worth a thousand words. Post 102 is worth more.

I’m late to the party, but I think this is the best song. Enjoy!

—Teams Jetrell Fo 1, Jetrell Fo 2, and Jetrell Fo 3

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AntcuFaalb said:

jturd said:

Hey there, I'm James Greene, Jr., the author of those two articles (and longtime lurker here at OT.com). Thanks for drudging them up, AntcuFaalb! I worked pretty hard on the "Lapti Nek" saga as presented. Glad someone feels like preserving it all. As for the whole fair use/copyright issue, I hereby use my power as the author to say go ahead and post 'em where ever---just don't profit off 'em. The powers that be like to pretend Crawdaddy never even existed anyway. The site's owner really mistreated it, eventually folding us into Paste Magazine, after which we (Crawdaddy writers, editors) all basically lost our jobs and the website itself was transferred to that awkward CrawdaddyArchive.com web address to collect dust. It's sad. Red-headed stepchild stuff.

At least I have all those versions of "Lapti Nek" to comfort me!

Thanks, James! It's awesome that you're a member here.

I appreciate you letting me preserve your articles. They're excellent!

Aw shucks, thanks. I wrote at least one other "Star Wars"-related feature for Crawdaddy about my quest to find an album that synchs up with the original film a la "Dark Side of the Moon"/"Wizard of Oz": 

http://www.crawdaddyarchive.com/index.php/2008/07/09/dark-side-of-the-death-star-or-how-i-wasted-eleven-months-of-my-life

It also goes without saying that I'd love to hear Annie Arbogast's side of the "Lapti Nek" saga (especially how she felt being wiped out in favor of "Jedi Rocks").

http://jgtwo.wordpress.com

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 (Edited)

jturd said:

AntcuFaalb said:

jturd said:

Hey there, I'm James Greene, Jr., the author of those two articles (and longtime lurker here at OT.com). Thanks for drudging them up, AntcuFaalb! I worked pretty hard on the "Lapti Nek" saga as presented. Glad someone feels like preserving it all. As for the whole fair use/copyright issue, I hereby use my power as the author to say go ahead and post 'em where ever---just don't profit off 'em. The powers that be like to pretend Crawdaddy never even existed anyway. The site's owner really mistreated it, eventually folding us into Paste Magazine, after which we (Crawdaddy writers, editors) all basically lost our jobs and the website itself was transferred to that awkward CrawdaddyArchive.com web address to collect dust. It's sad. Red-headed stepchild stuff.

At least I have all those versions of "Lapti Nek" to comfort me!

Thanks, James! It's awesome that you're a member here.

I appreciate you letting me preserve your articles. They're excellent!

Aw shucks, thanks. I wrote at least one other "Star Wars"-related feature for Crawdaddy about my quest to find an album that synchs up with the original film a la "Dark Side of the Moon"/"Wizard of Oz": 

http://www.crawdaddyarchive.com/index.php/2008/07/09/dark-side-of-the-death-star-or-how-i-wasted-eleven-months-of-my-life

It also goes without saying that I'd love to hear Annie Arbogast's side of the "Lapti Nek" saga (especially how she felt being wiped out in favor of "Jedi Rocks").

Cool article!

Do we actually know anything about Annie Arbogast besides the facts that (1) she was a Sound Engineer at LFL, (2) wrote and recorded Lapti Nek, and (3) later worked at Pixar?

I'd love to track her down. Would you be willing to work with me to do so?

A picture is worth a thousand words. Post 102 is worth more.

I’m late to the party, but I think this is the best song. Enjoy!

—Teams Jetrell Fo 1, Jetrell Fo 2, and Jetrell Fo 3

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Well, according to Gruska, we know Arbogast was once possibly the apple of George's eye. I'd be willing to track her down if it were for a larger project...I don't just want to cold call her as a fan, without any kind of backup. Maybe I could start compiling an oral history of "Jedi" for its thirtieth anniversary next year. You feel what I'm sayin' here?

http://jgtwo.wordpress.com

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jturd said:

Well, according to Gruska, we know Arbogast was once possibly the apple of George's eye. I'd be willing to track her down if it were for a larger project...I don't just want to cold call her as a fan, without any kind of backup. Maybe I could start compiling an oral history of "Jedi" for its thirtieth anniversary next year. You feel what I'm sayin' here?

I see what you're sayin', so what's the next step?!

A picture is worth a thousand words. Post 102 is worth more.

I’m late to the party, but I think this is the best song. Enjoy!

—Teams Jetrell Fo 1, Jetrell Fo 2, and Jetrell Fo 3

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The following is from the 6-Mar-1984 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle. It is reproduced here without permission, but doing so is believed to be protected by fair use.

Jabba The Hutt's Favorite Singer
By Peter Stack

I should have figured that Jabba the Hutt in "Return of the Jedi" was punk. But then I only met Annie Arbogast the other night. She's a punk rocker whose voice can crush dachshunds. She wrote and sang Jabba's favorite tune, "Lapti Nek," a sort of weird hit.

Arbogast's swirly blonde hair almost stabbed out my eyes when I met her the other night at Berkeley Square, a dumpy nightclub on University Avenue.

The place was a zoo of people wearing spikes, black leather and white-face. Annie was performing with her four-piece band called Smear. It was louder than a train wreck, and punkers with hair gelled into wrought-iron heaps and machetes for earrings were slam dancing.

I wanted to be in South City at the truckers' brawl, but I'd made this date to meet Arbogast, 23, on account of her "Lapti Nek" fame. It seems she's riding it to a kind of career.

In the movie, the tune is performed by alien vocalist Sy Snootles, the character with slurpy lips at the end of an elephant's trunk. Snootles is the main warbler in Jabba's court, a place to avoid unless you've got a submachine gun for a dance partner.

Annie Arbogast got the "Jedi" gig by being in the right place at the right time - a Hollywood type of story played out in San Rafael. At Lucasfilm Ltd., where she's a computer technician, she was standing in a cafeteria line when a honcho working on "Jedi" noticed her gun belt of thirty-ought-six bullets and her dog collar bracelets. He asked her who she was, and she said she was a rock singer.

One thing led to another, and Arbogast was given the chore of creating "Lapti Nek" for Sy Snootles. She made up the "Huttese" lyrics by spilling pieces of Scrabble and Perquacky on her kitchen table in East Oakland, and picking them up at random.

"They wanted a sound that was a cross between Captain Crunch and Olive Oyl and a parrot stuck in an elephant's trunk. I figured I could handle that," Annie told me.

"Now the song's very big. They made a video of it for MTV," she said. What she's earned has enabled her to buy a new Toyota.

Arbogast's steam-engine singing voice is one thing. When she talks she's shy like a farm girl, blushing and self-conscious. At our meeting in a cold backroom at Berkeley Square she was wearing her rock and roll costume - a metal junkyard over a mini-dress that would raise eyebrows even in the Tenderloin.

"I'm not really a punker," she said, a little blush in her painted eyes. She tore the filter off a Winston and lit it like a sailor in the wind.

"I been with this band Smear for seven months now. I don't know what you call our music, exactly. Somebody said it was modern rock, or acid power pop. I don't really want to be a computer tech all my life. I think my future's in music.

"I write lyrics all the time. I get these ideas, and I write 'em down. I got into poetry after I got kicked out of St. Leo's in Oakland in seventh grade. Then I went to Maybeck, the alternative high school. It's for people that have adjustment troubles. But they encourage you to learn poets."

She got into computer technology following a brief career as a stage hand for various local bands.

"I was fascinated with wiring stuff, so I finally went to Merritt College and took electronics courses. I got my job at Lucasfilm when I met this guy who works there, at a science fiction convention. It was weird. I sent them a resume, and a year later they called me."

Arbogast's rock and roll lyrics aren't exactly Byronic. But her songs have a certain jagged appeal, as if you were staring at a jackhammer blade.

"Nude Boy" is one of her favorite creations, "Sad Bitches" another, and a skewed, half-yelled thing the calls "Twisted." One titled "Burden of Proof" she wrote while on jury duty in Alameda County Superior Court.

"I voted to send a guy up the river. The judge kept talking about burden of proof, and it kept running through my mind," she said.

Arbogast and her band, which plays so loud it sometimes buries her singing, don't have a big following yet. Mostly they do opening acts at punk clubs, and their friends show up. They opened the other night for Fade to Black and Necropolis of Love.

About midnight, I slipped out a side door of the club, and looked back once at the dancers bashing each other. As I drove towards the Bay Bridge, I thought to myself: There are people in the world who make Jabba the Hutt look normal.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Post 102 is worth more.

I’m late to the party, but I think this is the best song. Enjoy!

—Teams Jetrell Fo 1, Jetrell Fo 2, and Jetrell Fo 3

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OK, so she would either be 51 or 52 now, depending on whether or not her birthday is before or after 6 March.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Post 102 is worth more.

I’m late to the party, but I think this is the best song. Enjoy!

—Teams Jetrell Fo 1, Jetrell Fo 2, and Jetrell Fo 3

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 (Edited)

There's a 52 year-old Anne M. Arbogast residing in CA*, now known as Anne M. van Blaricom who is or was married to a Douglas van Blaricom, a guitar player on 1984's Dotted Line vinyl (genre: Rock) with Robert Seidler.

*Notice that the Berkeley Square club mentioned in the article is on University Ave. in Berkeley, CA.

Edit: Her birthdate is 13-Jul-1960.

Edit 2: The Facebook image of Anne van Blaricom (https://sphotos-b.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-prn1/60401_116361755087357_1960055_n.jpg) looks a lot like the woman in the bottom left of the Pixar image I linked to in one of my earlier posts in this thread.

Edit 3: More information on Douglas van Blaricom...

Doug performs device-side software engineering for CrowdOptic and served as Technical Manager for ITK USA, a subsidiary of ITK Telecommunications, AG. Doug is a lifelong Bay Area resident, studied at a music conservatory in southern California and played lead guitar in the semi-famous 80's band Robert Seidler.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Post 102 is worth more.

I’m late to the party, but I think this is the best song. Enjoy!

—Teams Jetrell Fo 1, Jetrell Fo 2, and Jetrell Fo 3