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The music of avant-garde, electronic-oriented collective Tuxedomoon ranged from new wave pop to jazz fusion to more experimental synthesizer soundscapes (usually including saxophone and violin), which were frequently married in concert to performance art shows. The group was formed in San Francisco in 1977 by two electronic music students at San Francisco City College, Blaine L. Reininger (keyboards, violin) and Steven Brown (keyboards, other instruments). Brown's local theater connections supplied equipment and occasional vocalists in Gregory Cruikshank and Victoria Lowe, plus more frequent contributions from singer and performance artist Winston Tong. Punk and new wave were opening up the San Francisco music scene at the time, and Tuxedomoon landed an opening slot for Devo in 1978 at around the same time they cut their first single, "Pinheads on the Move." Lowe quit the band before their first EP, No Tears, which featured off-and-on members Michael Belfer (guitar) and Paul Zahl (drums). Tong and Belfer departed temporarily, and Peter Principle (b. Peter Dachert) joined as a full-time member.
Tuxedomoon signed to the Residents' Ralph Records in 1979, which eventually got them overseas exposure. Feeling that their ideas were more in tune with the European electronic music scene, the group toured Europe after 1980's Half Mute, for which Tong returned with filmmaker and visual artist Bruce Geduldig. After 1981's Desire, the band relocated permanently to Rotterdam, where Reininger began to branch out as a solo artist. Tuxedomoon were also hired to score a Maurice Bejart ballet, the results of which were released in 1982 as Divine. Reininger left for a solo career in 1983 and was replaced by Frankie Lievaart and horn player Luc van Lieshout.
In between side projects and scoring, the band sought an international deal for its forthcoming LP, Holy Wars; it was eventually released in 1985 and became the band's biggest commercial success. Tong left the group for good that year, leaving Brown and Principle the only remaining San Francisco members; multi-instrumentalist Ivan Georgiev was hired to replenish the group's sound for 1986's Ship of Fools album and tour. After 1987's jazz fusion-oriented You, Tuxedomoon significantly slowed their rate of output, but members remained active with outside pursuits. They issued only two albums, The Ghost Sonata (based on a 1982 production) and Joeboy in Mexico (with the name Tuxedomoon nowhere to be found on the packaging), during the '90s. The following decade, Brown, Principle, Reininger, and van Lieshout reconvened to release Cabin in the Sky (2004), Bardo Hotel Soundtrack (2006), and Vapour Trails (2007). A 2007 box set, the elaborate 7707 tm, marked Tuxedomoon's 30th anniversary. Peter Principle died in July 2017 in Brussels, Belgium at the age of 63. ~ Steve Huey
- San Francisco, CA
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