Wednesday, July 6, 2016


Any further posts about off-the-wall 1979-to-1981 music will be found at my "strange music, books, and other stuff" blog, TAD's Back-Up Plan. I'd love to continue this, but my other blog gets all the readership, so see you over there....

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Glass Moon's 1st

Back in 1980, English prog-rock band Genesis was stuck in the morass of an endless, murky, sludgy album called DUKE, from which, surprisingly, two successful singles were released -- the dull, sludgy "Misunderstanding," and the almost-not-bad "Turn it on Again." And those were the album's HIGH points.
Meanwhile, down in North Carolina, an American prog-rock band called Glass Moon recorded and released their first album -- a sort-of more-commercial-sounding Genesis-style album, with catchy songs, a clear, punchy production, and excellent vocals, keyboards and guitar work.
Released on tiny Radio Records, it sold almost nothing. But maybe Genesis heard it, because their next album (ABACAB) was a pretty successful cross between arty stuff and pop....
But Glass Moon's 1st should have been a big hit. Melding the thick keyboards and Phil Collins-like vocals of Dave Adams to a catchy bunch of tunes, the punchy production should have led to lots of radio airplay. But it didn't.
There were at least four potential singles on this album. The opener, "Blue Windows," managed to be happy and upbeat despite a hookline that went "Hey, it doesn't matter at all...." Great keyboards and guitar, too. Could have been Genesis.
But that mega-star band would never have tried something as daring as "Killer at 25" -- which also manages to sound happy, despite the singer bragging (in a rather light, un-macho voice) about what a hell-raiser he was as a teenager and young adult. Maybe it wasn't meant to be taken seriously -- one line goes "Paul Simon loses no sleep over me ... I don't care/ Least I can say that I have all my hair...." Dave Adams sounds positively DELIGHTED to sing this. And there are TONS of keyboards all over this song.
"Follow Me" continues the momentum with some nice group vocals and strong keyboards -- nice chant-like choruses, too. This is followed by a leisurely, laid-back cover of Ian Lloyd's "Easy Life."
Then the obvious single at the end of Side 1 -- the rock-star-love-affair number "I Like the Way You Play," simple as a nursery rhyme. Unlike some singles, it doesn't get tiresome too quickly, despite the simplicity.
Over on Side 2, Glass Moon open with a striking, dramatic cover of Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill," crashing into it with the kind of boomy, splashy, big sound that should have made it a huge hit.
Lots of keyboards and dramatic guitar set this one off. Don't know why it never caught on. Imagine an energetic late-'70s/early-'80s Phil-led Genesis doing this song, and you've got the sound. I'll bet Pete was happy with the results, too....
The middle of the side features the introspective companion-pieces "Only Have to Cry One Time" and "The Dreamer" -- OK, if not as consistent as Side 1. "The Dreamer" features shouted punctuations of "That's right!" in the choruses, which might have helped set it off as a potential single.
But I've been saving the best for last. The closer, "Sundays and Mondays," is a huge, melodramatic lost-love piece at the center of which is an amazing, thunderstorm-like guitar solo by Jamie Glaser that is the absolute high point of the album. After that solo, the rest of the song is kind of an afterthought. But the drama remains....
Despite the strong songs and a first-rate, dramatic production by Raymond Silva, Glass Moon's 1st album peaked at about #150 in the U.S.
In 1982, the band resurfaced on Atlantic Records with an album called GROWING IN THE DARK. The songs were shorter -- five to a side -- and the group's cover of the old Hollies hit "On a Carousel" briefly got some radio airplay.
After that I lost track of them, though Wikipedia says they released at least one more album with a slightly different line-up. Too bad -- the quartet, with Glaser sitting in on star-guitar, made some high-class overlooked music.
See if you can track the first album down. It's well worth it, especially if you're a middle-period Genesis fan. And even if you're not....

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

One-sided wonders

But first....
The more time that goes by, the more stuff comes back to me that I mistakenly left out of my record-store playlist/discography, RECORD STORE DAZE.
Hey, we played a LOT of different music during my three years in the record store. Most of what I've forgotten was stuff I never thought about buying and taking home. Albums that were easy for me to ignore, in other words. Here's a few of them:
Graham Parker -- SQUEEZING OUT SPARKS, THE UP ESCALATOR. (HOW could I have missed the great, angry "Mercury Poisoning"?)
Emerson, Lake and Palmer -- WORKS VOLUME 1: Fanfare for the Common Man, C'est La Vie, Piano Concerto No. 1.
The Foghat and AC/DC albums were just easy for me to ignore, except for Foghat's great "Wide Boy." Believe me, after having The Knack's first album inflicted on me a dozen times a day for a couple months, I somehow learned how to block out the stuff I didn't like.
Not sure why I couldn't hear Graham Parker or XTC -- they just didn't jump out at me back then. And the ELP album was one I bought while hanging out at the record store and just forgot about. I'm told that happens as you advance in years....
Hopefully, this will be all of this forgotten stuff that I'll have to list in the interests of Completeness....

Now then -- a good share of the stuff we played in the record store had one GREAT side, and a second side we hardly ever played at all. For some of what follows, I'm not sure I EVER heard Side 2. Check these out....
* The Records: (1st) (1979) -- The standouts by this '60s-throwback English quartet are the silly "Teenarama" (which would get NO radio airplay today -- it didn't back then, either) and the Byrds-y "Starry Eyes," both of which should have been hits.
"Teenarama" is merely about hanging out with an underage girl for a week -- for kicks(!). And it's hilarious. "Starry Eyes" could be a mid-'60s rocker with nice chiming guitars, except for the lyrics about mismanagement and lawsuits -- the Records' Will Birch and John Wicks sure could write 'em.
"Up All Night" is also a lost classic -- more chiming guitars and great group vocals on a little number about insomnia. Anybody who's ever been unable to sleep can relate. "All Messed Up and Ready to Go" and "Girls That Don't Exist" are OK mid-tempo rockers -- they show some promise.
I don't think I ever heard Side 2 of this more than once -- and nothing jumped out at me. The Records went on to record a second album, CRASHES, which included the airy "Hearts in Her Eyes," which was covered by a late-'70s/early-'80s incarnation of the Searchers.

* New England: (1st) (1979) -- Flashy Stadium Rock, managed by Kiss's management company and produced by Kiss's Paul Stanley. The first two tracks are great -- the melodramatic "Don't Ever Wanna Lose Ya" was almost a hit, and "Hello Hello Hello" is a nice splashy opener. Lotsa loud keyboards and guitars, and guitarist/songwriter John Fannon has a good voice. The production is thick.
The requisite ballad, "Shall I Run Away?," keeps all the plusses of the sound and just slows things down a bit. "Alone Tonight" is an OK fast closer. The one clinker on the side is the stupid "P.U.N.K. (Puny Under-Nourished Kid)," which is too dumb to talk about. I forget Side 2.
New England went on to record two more albums. The title song off their third, EXPLORER SUITE, is above-average art-pop. Where are they now?

* Tarney/Spencer Band: RUN FOR YOUR LIFE (1979) -- This solid commercial-pop album runs the gamut from the flashy-guitar opener "No Time to Lose" to the poppy "Won't'cha Tell Me" to the moody "Live Again." Lots of tasty guitar and solid harmony vocals by the duo of studio-pros -- Alan Tarney would go on to produce Tina Turner and Cliff Richard. David Kershenbaum (Joe Jackson, Tracy Chapman) produced this, the T/S Band's second and apparently last album. "No Time to Lose" got some radio airplay, but not enough to break through. Don't think I heard Side 2 more than once.

* Holly and the Italians: THE RIGHT TO BE ITALIAN (1980) -- Imagine the Ramones with a woman lead singer, and you've got Holly and the Italians. Great simple stuff -- the opener "I Wanna Go Home" is a perfect trashy themesong for anyone who's ever been homesick. "Youth Coup" sounds JUST LIKE the Ramones, with repeated shouts of "Hey!" and some nice silly political lyrics. "Rock Against Romance" and "Just Young" are above-average production numbers, strongest on chant power.
But the real killer is the lost classic "Miles Away," which closes the side. This heavy-drama teen-breakup piece is worthy of Phil Spector or the Ronettes. MTV ran the video for awhile, but this crashingly dramatic brokenhearted lovesong sounds best with the sound turned WAY UP. As does the rest of Side 1.
Except for the catty "Tell That Girl to Shut Up," I don't think I ever got through Side 2....
Richard Gottherer (The Go-Go's, Joan Armatrading) produced this one.

* Spider: (1st) (1980) -- More great crashing trash-pop from Mike Chapman's like-minded trebly-production expert Peter Coleman. Spider's album was Chapman and Coleman's first shot on their short-lived Dreamland Records label. The great, crashing, trebly "New Romance (It's a Mystery)" was a minor hit. "Everything is Alright" tried to follow it up, unsuccessfully.
The one that SHOULD have broken through is the great "Shady Lady," which has memorable group-vocal choruses, great lyrics, and more revved-up guitars and keyboards.
"Burning Love" and "Crossfire" are both crashing, angry, in-your-face pop. Not sure I've ever heard Side 2.
This band had a lot of talent -- they did a second album, BETWEEN THE LINES, then vanished. Drummer Anton Fig ended up in David Letterman's LATE SHOW band; songwriter/keyboardist Holly Knight became a "song doctor." Not sure what happened to singer Amanda Blue and her odd, hiccuping vocals....

* Red Rider: DON'T FIGHT IT (1980) -- The production by somebody named Michael James Jackson is pretty thin for a quintet, but guitarist Tom Cochrane's songs grow on you. The title song is pretty great, and gains power with its repeated choruses. "White Hot" was almost a hit. "That's Just the Way it Goes" and "How's My Little Girl Tonight?" are above-average early-'80s mainstream pop; "Way it Goes" is a pretty good side-closer.
Not sure I heard Side 2 more than once. A little more production savvy --  a few more guitars, keybs and backing vocals tossed-in in the right places -- and this could have sold millions.
Red Rider had one almost-hit with "Lunatic Fringe" a few years later -- then Cochrane hit with the solo smash "Life is a Highway" almost a decade later....

* Judie Tzuke: STAY WITH ME 'TIL DAWN (1979) -- This may just be an elaborate singer-songwriter album with a huge production, but it sounds perilously close to art-rock to me. That's probably why I loved it.
The moody, apocalyptic title song (buried at the end of Side 2) got some radio airplay and was almost a hit. The huge production continues at the start of the album -- with grand, sweeping studio jobs on numbers like "Welcome to the Cruise" and "These Are the Laws," and a hushed almost-a-capella performance on "For You." Tzuke had a beautiful voice, and the players really pile it on. When it's good, this album is a knockout.
"New Friends Again" is kind of a weak side-closer -- but the real sleeper is "Sukarita," with swirling keyboards and choruses that build and build. This could have been a hit, too.
Not sure I ever heard the whole second side. Tack "Stay With Me" onto the end of Side 1, and you've got five songs that are pretty tough to beat -- if you can take the huge production style.
Tzuke went on to record a second album, the less-ambitious and even-less-successful SPORTS CAR; co-wrote a couple songs with Elton John (Tzuke's albums were on Elton's Rocket label), then did an intermittent string of albums released in England. But America should have been listening the first time around....

Hey, it's from a couple years later, but so what -- Camel's THE SINGLE FACTOR (1982) is one of the great one-sided albums of all time. In this case, it's Side 2 that should have been minted in gold....
It opens with the gorgeous guitar instrumental "Sasquatch," then moves into an intense and angry keyboard-heavy tale of schizophrenia, "Manic." Camel hardly ever rocked this hard. It's another lost classic.
"Camelogue" and "Today's Goodbye" sound like daily work-notes from Camel leader/guitarist Andy Latimer, who passes on some of the things he's going through as his band slowly falls apart....
The closer is a 6-minute suite, "A Heart's Desire/End Peace" -- I think "Heart's Desire" is just a BIT too sweet, but the gorgeous guitar work that follows (aided by former Genesis guitarist Anthony Phillips) is just perfect -- a marvelous way to end an album.
Too bad that listening to the first side is like plunging off of a cliff....
More soon -- and buy my books, would 'ya...?

Monday, December 23, 2013


Two things:
One -- Through Christmas Day you can still download my record-store memoir GUARANTEED GREAT MUSIC! absolutely FREE at's Kindle Store. I think it's worth it, and you'll have a good time.
Two -- I am an IDIOT. I talked about Todd Rundgren and Utopia's rather good 1980 pop-prog album ADVENTURES IN UTOPIA in the text of GGM! -- it made my "Best of 1980" Top 10 list that I posted in the record store -- then I FORGOT to include the album in the RECORD STORE DAZE playlist/discography. Don't know what the hell I was thinkin'. I THOUGHT it was in there.... At my advanced age, I'm probably lucky I can remember ANYTHING anymore....
So, to counterbalance my guilt and stupidity, here's Todd....

Although I thought Todd Rundgren was pretty freakin' great back in the day -- his "Saving Grace" is still one of my favorite songs ever -- I was never able to get much into Todd's prog-rock spin-off band Utopia. And I LIKE Prog.
Ghod knows I tried -- I bought Utopia's first album and ANOTHER LIVE, but it all sounded too mushy, too cluttered, too over-the-top. There was too much going on for Todd's usual crystal-clear production. It was all just too much -- like an album full of Todd's song "Just One Victory," but without the great tune underneath it all. Or maybe there just weren't enough good tunes.
I even tried OOPS, WRONG PLANET, which was supposedly more streamlined. But between the UGLY band photos on the back cover and the silliness inside, I just couldn't get into it. Didn't even try RA -- talk about silliness....
But that all changed with ADVENTURES IN UTOPIA. When I came into work one day, my boss Gary was playing the record, and to me it sounded just like a good, commercial Todd Rundgren album, with maybe a few lyrical-musical proggish-stretches here and there.
I walked in on the opener, "The Road to Utopia," which seemed to me like a good compromise between Todd's pop tunefulness and Utopia's over-the-top cosmic weirdness. I still think so. The difference here is a strong song structure, with some memorable CHORUSES. The vocals are solid, too.
The first-side-closer, "Caravan," is another solid compromise, though not quite as memorable -- not as many good, catchy choruses. More atmospheric.
Then we move into the album's interior. Here Utopia masquerades as a high-tech New Wave band, sort of like a more-human Devo. Bassist Kasim Sulton's lead vocal on "You Make Me Crazy" is thin and New Wave-ish enough, and the song's production is annoying enough, that it could have been a big hit back in '80. Once I adjusted to the archness of it, I thought it was pretty cool and high-tech! A great lost single.
The album's minor hit was "Set Me Free," a pretty standard commercial pop song, which I read later was keyboard-player Roger Powell's plea to Bearsville Records head Albert Grossman to release Powell from his solo recording contract. "Set Me Free" is OK, but it's no award-winner -- it made a middling impression on the charts.
The flip side, "Second Nature," was a standard-issue Toddsong, pleasant and nice, with cool vocals and nice choruses -- it could have been a filler straight off of Todd's great SOMETHING/ANYTHING album. But there wasn't much about it that would have attracted attention on radio.
Flip the record over, and things get a little weird. "Last of the New Wave Riders" was pure cosmic silliness: "The last of the New Wave riders/Will be the first of the New Age ... MASTERS!" ...Uh, OK.
"Love Alone" was a spacey near-a-capella vocal ... thing. I've forgotten most of the rest, to be honest.
But the pick of the album was buried toward the end of Side 2 -- the dramatic, angry, crashing "The Very Last Time," which I hated at first. I thought it was too angry to go with the light pop songs that filled up most of the rest of the album.
Opening with a chiming keyboard-and-guitar phrase and then slamming into a heavy show-offy guitar riff for the choruses, clearly someone here is pissed about a love affair that went bad. And the group vocals on the choruses are great! Some of the lyrics are pretty funny too, in Todd's patented tender-tough-guy vein.
Todd apparently liked "Very Last Time" too -- it ended up on his VERY BEST OF.
So, six pretty-good-to-great songs and one absolute knockout, plus a couple oddities out of 10 -- still scores a solid 65 percent or so on the Spidermeter. Don't know what that is? Look up Spider Robinson's old book-review columns from late-'70s GALAXY science-fiction magazine -- the Spidermeter's a way to grade a multi-part work of art beyond saying "Eh, some were good, some sucked, a knockout or two, what can you do?" Not a utopian outcome maybe, but still the band's best, I think.
Never heard their Beatles-style follow-up DEFACE THE MUSIC more than twice, and heard only "Shinola" off of SWING TO THE RIGHT, which didn't quite seem worth it. Heard at least one more song from later Utopia, "Hammer in My Heart," which was OK in a sort of New-Wave vein. Only heard one song off of Todd's HEALING, the kinda-good "Time Heals." After that I lost track of TR and Utopia until Todd's best-of ANTHOLOGY came out and I caught up on stuff like "Hideaway" and "Bang the Drum All Day."
But back in the day, I thought this version of Utopia could have turned into a pretty good pop band. Don't know why that didn't happen, whether it was because of Todd's eccentricities or what. But ADVENTURES IN UTOPIA is still worth a spin.
More soon, I promise....

Friday, December 6, 2013

Split Enz: WAIATA

But before we get to that, a couple of other things....
First off, sorry for the delays around here. I haven't always been able to hook-up to the Internet lately, plus I had a long Thanksgiving week at work, etc. The usual feeble excuses. I shall henceforth try to do better.
Also: If you have a Kindle, you can now download the first 20 pages of my record-store memoir GUARANTEED GREAT MUSIC! at's Kindle Store for FREE! Hopefully this will entice some of you Out There to give the rest of the book a try.
Those first 20 pages are all details that have never been published anywhere before, describing the record store where I worked, some of the great people I worked with, the atmosphere in the place, some of the fun jobs I got to do as The New Kid, and etc. Hopefully after reading that, you'll want to know MORE. Pretty devious, eh...?
And: By listening to the syndicated music-news-and-reviews radio show SOUND OPINIONS, I was reminded that I forgot to include Patti Smith's WAVE album in my playlist/discography RECORD STORE DAZE. The first side of WAVE is pretty great, especially the should-have-been-hit "Frederick" and "Dancing Barefoot," and the intense side-closer "Revenge."
The more time that goes by and the more things surface that I forgot, the more I feel like I should have let the whole book project "cool off" for a couple more months and THEN given it one last look-over. But then, I'm a perfectionist....

Now then, Split Enz's WAIATA (1981). This is an upbeat, goofy, fun album from the New Zealanders who almost had a hit with 1979's "I Got You" off of TRUE COLOURS. There were two should-have-been hits here, both side-openers: "Hard Act to Follow" and "History Never Repeats." Both these are high-speed, with great, catchy choruses and a trebly, high-impact production. Hear either of these and you'll want to hear the rest of the album. That's how it's supposed to work, right?
"One Step Ahead" was almost a hit -- I remember seeing the silly, abstract, colorful, cockatoo-hair video on MTV. But "One Step Ahead" is also the most "normal"-sounding thing here, the least surprising, and it wore out for me a long time ago.
Beyond that, there's hardly a weak song here. "I Don't Want to Dance" and "Clumsy" are almost companion pieces, about why the singer can't dance for various silly reasons. They're both pretty speedy. "Iris" is a sweet love song with some silly rhymes, and "Wail" is another blast of instrumental high energy.
Over on Side 2, after "History," things get moody with "Walking Through the Ruins," "Ships," and the spooky "Ghost Girl." The album closes with the gorgeous romantic movie-soundtrack-music of the instrumental "Albert of India." I loved it, but then I'm a sucker for a good instrumental. It may strike some of you as Not Rock And Roll.
All this stuff is pretty-much lighter-than-air, hard to take too seriously or even get down about -- even the moody stuff on Side 2. For me, this is a stronger, more memorable album than TRUE COLOURS, and it has never worn-out for me over the years. Three tracks from it are included on the Enz's best-of: "Hard Act to Follow," "History Never Repeats," and "One Step Ahead."
Light, bouncy, energetic, upbeat -- you can't go wrong, really. Worthy of at least four stars, for sure.

Coming soon: Reviews of "one-sided wonders" by Spider, New England, the Tarney/Spencer Band, Holly and the Italians, The Records, and more -- plus reviews of albums by The Headboys, The Rollers, Sally Oldfield, Charlie Dore, Grace Slick, Sky, Group 87, Todd Rundgren and Utopia, and tons more from the 1979-1981 period....

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

"Sales" update

Hey, I see that as of 19 November, 50 of You Out There have grabbed free copies of my 20-page detailed playlist of mostly-overlooked 1979-1981 music, RECORD STORE DAZE. And that's flattering.
But only three of you have grabbed copies of the 190-page record-store memoir that goes with it, GUARANTEED GREAT MUSIC! (And I know who all three of you are!)
Thanx for snapping up the playlist. Really. I was happy to put it out there for free. But I'm also hoping the playlist intrigues you enough to buy GGM, which I think is the more important part. And it's easily worth $2.99.
I'll be working with Amazon/Kindle to offer some Christmas freebie deals on GGM for those of You Out There who are as broke as I am. But I'm really hoping you can't wait that long.
Remember that every $3 you spend on these works of art goes to support a really good cause -- my fast-approaching Retirement.
My thanks in advance....
Coming up soon -- a review of Split Enz's excellent overlooked 1981 album WAIATA....

Friday, November 15, 2013

That's NOT on my playlist!

Hey Out There, music fans! I see that so far (as of 17 November) 39 of you have scooped-up copies of my 20-page 1979-81 "great forgotten music" playlist RECORD STORE DAZE since it's available for FREE right now at's Kindle Store. And that's flattering.
But only 3(?) folks have bought the actual BOOK, my record-store memoir from Back In The Day, GUARANTEED GREAT MUSIC!, which is still available for a measly $2.99. And I happen to think it's worth a lot more. But maybe I'll have a Christmas Deal coming up for those of you Out There who are as broke as I am....
Stay tuned....

Meanwhile, now that it's too late to change -- don't get me started about the hoops me and the good folks at Amazon/Kindle have jumped through together to make these books happen -- I've had some time to think about some items that AREN'T on that long, detailed playlist, but should be. There's a few of them that just sort of slipped past me. Most of them you can live your life without, but a few are definitely worth hearing -- and are identified below with a *. This update is also available to you free, right here (whatta guy!).
Split Enz -- TRUE COLORS: *Poor Boy, *I Hope I Never, I Got You.
20/20 -- LOOK OUT!: *A Girl Like You, *American Dream.
Congress of Wonders -- *REVOLTING.
Hawks -- (FIRST ALBUM). Their "Let Me In" is a gorgeous chimey-guitar classic that IS included in my playlist....
Robert Fripp, etc. -- THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN.
Gary Numan and Tubeway Army -- REPLICAS. The English #1 "Are Friends Electric?" that leads this album off is included in the playlist....
Michael Nesmith -- INFINITE RIDER ON THE BIG DOGMA. Can't remember a thing about it except for that silly song about "Sunset Sam." And I think all the songs have one-word titles....
New England -- WALKING WILD, EXPLORER SUITE. The arty title song of EXPLORER SUITE is included on the playlist, but I get by with the old 45-rpm single just fine....
Russ Ballard -- BARNET DOGS.
Snail -- FLOW.
The last half of these are albums we played only a couple times in the store, and some of them I can barely remember. However....
Split Enz's TRUE COLORS has a couple real classics on it, along with the almost-hit "I Got You." "Poor Boy" is a terrific, spacey, funny love song about the best kind of Close Encounter -- and along with the great vocals and silly lyrics it has some great spacey, eerie, sci-fi sound effects. It's wonderful, and you'll be singing along with the one-line choruses before the song's over. "I Hope I Never" is a melodramatic lump-in-the-throat masterpiece, and one of the few slow ballads the Enz ever did. I'll have a review of the Enz's great overlooked 1981 album WAIATA coming up soon....
20/20's "A Girl Like You" is a moody, bouncy piece of "power pop" with great group vocals, and "American Dream" is more of the same high quality, only artier and more abstract.
If you love the Firesign Theater, you'll at least like Congress of Wonders. They're really silly, and REVOLTING features a hilarious STAR TREK satire, among other things words can hardly describe....
Rockin' Bobby Fripp's LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN has some nice angular guitar sounds, as you might expect -- this time presented in a sort-of New Wave/dance-rock format. But it also includes Fripp's usual fripperies and subcontextual messages. I bought it at the time -- Fripp was my God back then -- but I don't think I played it more than twice. Course I'm more open-minded now....
I think that's about it for the additions, for now. These will all be included in an eventual updated version of the playlist -- and I'll be sure to get them in there if this all becomes a "real" book you can put on your bookshelf -- which is what I've been working toward all along.
I guess this is what happens when you try to write a book -- after a certain point it becomes so big you can't SEE the little details too clearly anymore....
I'm a perfectionist. Sorry for the lapses.

Not in The Book:
There's also a few minor details I somehow left out of GUARANTEED GREAT MUSIC! that I've now had 10 days to remember. Maybe I should have sat on the book and let it "cool off" for another month. Here's a few of those minor details that have since come back to me:
* Me and most of the friends I mention hanging-out with in the book were graduates of Meridian High School in Meridian, Idaho, just west of Boise -- all of us graduated between 1976 and 1978. I was a member of the Class of '77, myself....
* The trailer court that it seemed like we ALL ended up living in sooner or later was the Wheel Inn Mobile Manor on Meridian's east side. It's still there. When we all graduated, there were about 2,500 people living in Meridian -- now it's over 35,000....
* At one point in 1982 when there were NO JOBS in Boise, my friend Bob suggested we apply for a government loan and open our own used book and record store. Now I wish that we HAD. Bob was not the best at handling money, and in the depressed economy back then -- not unlike today -- we probably would have gone down the tubes in a matter of months. But it's been a dream of mine ever since....
* Bob once also suggested that we escape the no-jobs no-future of Boise in 1982 and go somewhere "more enlightened" -- Salt Lake City, for instance. Bob, if you're out there, I don't know about the "more enlightened" part, but escape still seems like a pretty good idea....
* Back in my record store days I used to buy music and books before I ever bought food -- or even gas for the car. I'm not sure if I ever actually came out and SAID THAT clearly in the book, though I'm pretty sure the feeling is there. It took me a few years to get into my thick head that you can't EAT music and books....
...There's a few other things that somehow didn't get into the book, but they're gonna need a little more room to explain, so I'll save them for later....

COMING SOON: Reviews of "one-sided classics" by The Records, New England, Spider, Red Rider, Tarney/Spencer Band, and more -- plus reviews of great forgotten albums by Glass Moon, Sky, Group 87, The Headboys, The Jam, The Rollers, Camel, Split Enz, Squeeze, Bruce Cockburn, Sally Oldfield, Judie Tzuke, Charlie Dore, Grace Slick, and many more....
Thanks for reading, and score a copy of GUARANTEED GREAT MUSIC!, would ya?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


...But before we get to THAT....
The 20-page playlist/discography that goes along with my record-store e-book memoir GUARANTEED GREAT MUSIC! is now available at's Kindle Store -- it's called RECORD STORE DAZE, and I'm trying to set it up so that if you grab a copy between Nov. 14th and 18th it'll be FREE! The least I can do, since it's just a LONG, detailed list of (mostly) overlooked great music from the late '70s and early '80s....
This is all depending on if I haven't confused the Kindle folks, who have been wonderful to me. Anyway, that's the plan. I'll have more on this soon....

Now then: The Shoes' PRESENT TENSE (Elektra Records, 1979) is one of the great overlooked "power pop" albums of that era, mostly breathy broken-hearted love songs with lots of chiming, jangling guitars.
The Shoes were a quartet from Zion, Illinois -- the three Murphy brothers and a friend -- and almost every one of the dozen songs they do on PRESENT TENSE is a winner.
Course I'm mostly a sucker for the breathy, chimey stuff -- the one that sucked me in was the first single, the should-have-been hit "Too Late," which has great singalong choruses and those jangling guitars that hook in immediately.
Other greats include "In My Arms Again," the dreamy and resigned "Every Girl," the rockin' "Now and Then," the rockin' opener "Tomorrow Night," the laid-back "Listen," and another rocker, the closing "I Don't Wanna Hear It."
Every one of these has hooks that will GRAB ya, great group vocals, lotsa great guitar work .. they all should have been hits.
Even the songs where the hooks don't kick in as fast work pretty well. If you prefer stuff more upbeat, you might get sucked-in by "Somebody Has What I Had" or the spare, basic "I Don't Miss You," or "Hanging Around With You." Even the really dreamy stuff like "Your Very Eyes" works. Just some songs work better than others, to me -- are more immediately catchy.
These guys were even ambitious -- "Three Times" is a four-minute three-part suite, combining the various phases of a love story: "See Me," "Say It," and the wrapper-upper "Listen."
Recorded at The Manor in England and produced by Mike Stone, PRESENT TENSE should have been a big hit. But the sounds were a little out of time for 1979 -- this wasn't a disco record, and it certainly wasn't very heavy. Most of us who worked at The Musicworks bought copies -- especially those of us who were suckers for good pop music. But we couldn't turn the public on to The Shoes. God knows we tried -- we played the album to death in the store....
A couple years later, the fledgling MTV played a couple of Shoes videos -- I remember seeing the video for "Too Late" on the channel -- but by then the album was out-of-print and had already had one run through the cut-out bins. We sold a couple more copies of the album as cutouts, but the album never caught-on like it should have. Too bad -- it was high-quality stuff.
The Shoes had one more album released on Elektra, TONGUE TWISTER, one or two others on small indie labels as the '80s unrolled, and then another album STOLEN WISHES came out around '89 with the group reduced to a trio. Their first album, 1978's BLACK VINYL SHOES, recorded in their garage (apparently) and released on their own Black Vinyl label, is rated a garage classic by some fans.
There's also at least one Shoes best-of on CD out there -- also on the Black Vinyl label.
PRESENT TENSE is a forgotten classic, whether you prefer the dreamy side or the more rockin' stuff.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

So, how'd it happen?

I never would have thought of writing a record-store memoir if I hadn't read Brian W. Aldiss's THE BRIGHTFOUNT DIARIES, which is all about Aldiss's experiences working in an Oxford, England bookstore in the 1950s.
Even though BRIGHTFOUNT masqueraded as a novel, it was clearly a memoir, as Aldiss explains in his much-later autobiography BURY MY HEART AT W.H. SMITH'S. Aldiss didn't even keep himself out of his lightly-fictionalized bookstore -- the sales clerk who narrates the novel has the last name of Aldiss!
BRIGHTFOUNT was light and pleasant and enjoyable enough, even though nothing Heavily Dramatic happened in it. And as soon as I finished reading it, a big light bulb went on over my head. And I said "Well, hell, I can write a book where Nothing Much Happens, too...." And a couple of days later I got started, just in time for my birthday. Aldiss made writing a book look easy.
The words seemed to pour out. I'd been sitting on all these record-store stories for 35 years and I'd never even THOUGHT of writing a book about them. After a couple of days I had 10,000 words. After three weeks I was 30,000 words into the book -- halfway through. Every time I thought I was running out of memories, more stuff came back to me, as clearly as if it happened last week. I started making notes each day, so I wouldn't forget anything.
At one point I woke up at 2 a.m. and stumbled to the laptop to write down a scene that had popped into my head in my sleep -- it was like I was being ordered to get it written before I forgot it all.
Incidents ended up in the book that I haven't thought about in 35 years. Stuff that I have never written about anywhere before and that I never told anyone ended up in the book. As a memory exercise, it was a pretty interesting experience. I haven't been forced awake in the middle of the night to write something in a LONG time.
Only in one place did I have to reconstruct an incident that I couldn't remember -- that in fact I have NO MEMORY OF, though I have journals from back in the day that should have helped remind me. Everything else in the book comes from experiences I had and that others lived through with me -- and it was as easy to write as any newspaper story or blog post I've ever written. Way easier, in fact.
About halfway through writing GGM, I read Linda Lou's memoir BASTARD HUSBAND: A LOVE STORY, which I recommend -- Linda's book showed me how someone else handled a memoir, and gave me some guidance on structure and pacing and privacy issues. Plus, her book was funny as hell.
(Sometimes I wonder how memoirs ever get written, considering some of the material they grapple with -- Linda's book is about how her marriage fell apart, and despite that, there's a big laugh on almost every page. And Linda later advised me to "Just go for it!" and get GGM published on Kindle -- without her nudging, I'd probably still be hesitating....)
Maybe half a dozen sections of GGM were first written and published in much shorter form on my blog, TAD's Back-Up Plan. I shamelessly recycled those and expanded them and tossed them into the book. And I posted three more short sections of the book at The Back-Up Plan as I pulled it together.
I stopped writing when memories and incidents stopped coming to me. Then I let the book "cool off" for awhile as I slowly read through it twice and proofread it. When nothing new popped into my head after three weeks, then I thought maybe it was OK to publish.
And naturally, since it's now too late to correct, since the publication date I've thought of a couple very minor little details I could have squoze-into the book, and a couple albums we played a few times in the record store that I could have squoze into the playlist/discography. Nothing earth-shaking, though.
And that's it. Now I'm shamelessly publicizing the book every way I know how, getting ahold of old friends who lived through those times with me, and notifying newspaper co-workers of mine over the years who I think might enjoy reading it.
Next time we'll start looking at some of the music from that period that I still love and still listen to.
GGM is dedicated to all the people who lived through those times with me, all of whom are mentioned in the book. And to Leona Fitzgerald-Spencer, who gave me a warm, quiet, comfortable place where I could write it....

Hi there!

Welcome. My record-store memoir GUARANTEED GREAT MUSIC! was published as an e-book on Nov. 11, 2013, and is available now at's Kindle Store for $2.99.
The book is a close-up look at my experiences working for Boise, Idaho's four-store Musicworks record-store chain from 1979 through the end of 1981, and includes some funny record-store stories; portraits of the smart, clever, funny music fanatics I worked with; reminiscences about Good Times from Back In The Day; and stories about the good friends I hung-out with and all the stuff we were all going through back then.
I think it works pretty well as a nostalgia piece. I definitely think it's worth $2.99.

This blog is intended to celebrate the mostly-overlooked music of that time -- so much really good stuff was overlooked back in those days when Disco ruled the radio, New Wave was on the way up, and those of us who worked at The Musicworks couldn't GIVE AWAY copies of the first U2 album.
So I'll be focusing a lot on mostly-overlooked late-'70s/early-'80s musical acts like the Shoes, the Records, New England, the Tarney/Spencer Band, Group 87, Sky, Manfred Mann's Earth Band, 1994:, Holly and the Italians, Red Rider, Judie Tzuke, Sally Oldfield, Bruce Cockburn, Golden Earring, and tons more.
Now that the book has been published, I'll probably be mentioning some things I FORGOT to get into the book, and some music I somehow forgot to squeeze into the accompanying playlist/discography, RECORD STORE DAZE, which is due to be e-published in the next day or so.
Right this second, I'm just hoping people can find the book, that they read and enjoy it, and that my old friends from Back In The Day aren't too offended by seeing some of the things they did 35 years ago put on display like this. Hey, I exposed myself in public, too. In fact, I exposed myself WAY MORE...
Welcome aboard, and I'll be back soon with more....