The Dead Of Winter

January 5, 2013

winterI have no idea when I became aware that new albums and cassettes didn’t simply sprout randomly in the bins and racks of record stores but, rather, arrived on a (theoretically) predetermined date – the street date.

As I became a music consumer in the early ’80s, this information wasn’t at your fingertips and was as much rumor and speculation as actionable intel.

At the time, I was frequenting record stores like mall staples like Camelot and Record Bar, cooler chains like Peaches, and a few smaller independent stores like Globe. All of them made some attempt to provide release dates.

Most of the time there was something posted on the counter top by the registers. It might be a list clipped from Billboard. If it was, it would be, maybe, a scant dozen titles and usually limited to major releases.

Other stores would have a handwritten list taped to the counter, often riddled with corrections and dates crossed out or changed. And, still others made use of chalk or dry erase boards.

Often I simply got release dates from DJs on the radio.

Regardless of how the information was disseminated, it was hardly gospel.

And, by the time I reached college, I had definitely learned to expect little in the way of new music in January. It was a barren stretch of a month when the labels often dumped titles for which they had little commitment.

A January release was often the precursor to the act being dropped.

A college roommate called me after we’d parted ways with news of a band whose failed debut we had loved. We had graduated as we were expecting the follow-up and, belatedly, it was finally slated for release.

“It comes out in January,” he told me and we both knew what it meant.

(six months later, Epic dropped them)

1982 was the year that I truly began to devote the few dollars I had to purchasing music. Here are four songs from albums that arrived in January that year…

The Waitresses – I Know What Boys Like
from Wasn’t Tomorrow Wonderful? (1982)

The Waitresses brief career – two albums and one EP – was launched when their debut, Wasn’t Tomorrow Wonderful?, arrived with the new year in 1982. The New Wave band from Akron would have a minor hit that summer with the sassy, saxophone-driven I Know What Boys Like which I was introduced to when the band performed the song on Solid Gold.

Though I Know What Boys Like failed to make the Top 40, the song has appeared on every New Wave compilation issued over the past three decades. Their career might have been slight, but The Waitresses managed two classics with I Know What Boys Like and the seasonal perennial Christmas Wrapping.

XTC – Senses Working Overtime
from English Settlement (1982)

I was certainly unfamiliar with XTC at the beginning of 1982, though I would at least know the name of the English trio by that spring when I took note of the listing for English Settlement and the unusual band name in a catalog for the Columbia Record & Tape Club.

I wouldn’t actually hear XTC until the autumn of the following year when 97X went on the air. The band would be a staple on the station as they would be a favorite amongst the college rock crowd into the next decade.

Hanoi Rocks – Don’t Never Leave Me
from Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks (1982)

Hanoi Rocks was a band that I knew from leafing through the pages of Circus – one of the few music magazines on the rack at the drug store in my hometown. That the Finnish band was in Circus, whose emphasis was on hard rock and metal bands, did little to pique my interest.

(I did dig the band’s name and I still think that Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks is one of the coolest album titles of all time)

After Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite For Destruction broke, I recall the opinion that it might have been Hanoi Rocks having such success had the band’s career not been derailed by the death of their drummer.

Years later, I finally checked out Hanoi Rocks after snagging several CDs in a cut-out bin and it was indeed like hearing some proto-Guns N’ Roses.

Huey Lewis & The News – Do You Believe In Love
from Picture This (1982)

Huey Lewis & The News’ Picture This was actually released at the tail end of January, so, even though the band’s debut had gotten little attention, maybe the label hadn’t totally given up on the band. Maybe they weren’t surprised at the success of Picture This and Do You Believe In Love.

Of course, no one would have predicted how inescapable Huey Lewis & The News would be during the rest of the decade. Reviled by many, the band had stuff I still dig – Workin’ For A Livin’, Heart And Soul, If This Is It, The Power Of Love – and stuff I never did – I Want A New Drug, The Heart Of Rock And Roll, Hip To Be Square

The bouyant earworm Do You Believe In Love ends up among the former group.

Fire In The Sausage Factory

January 13, 2010

I scanned the headlines the other evening and my orbs flitted right past the usual fare – health care, underpants bombers, the economy, Tiger – settling on an item that resonated.

Sausage Factory Burns In Lebanon

Sausage is a fantastic foodstuff, with trusty sidekick bacon, augmenting the goodness that is pancakes…it’s little wonder the headline caught my eye.

I wondered if the air smelled like the parking lot outside a sporting event. It had to.

Fire in the sausage factory…it made me think of band names like Panic At The Disco! and The Arcade Fire.

I could imagine coming across some album, on vinyl, by a band I’d never heard of called Fire In The Sausage Factory. Perhaps they’d be some ’70s punk band from the UK, spitting slogans with a sneer, that made one, two albums, maybe an EP, and a couple singles for a small label to little notice.

I don’t think I would be inclined to buy an album by a band called Fire In The Sausage Factory.

Names were extremely important to me as a kid purchasing music for the first time. I bought three Tangerine Dream cassettes out of cut-out bin simply because I liked the name.

(the music turned out to be a mixed bag to me)

In the three decades since, there have been numerous groups/singers whose name elicited enough interest from me to gamble meager funds on unknown music. But it was early on, when I knew far less and information about bands wasn’t simply a few keystrokes away, that the name of the band was oftentimes the determining factor as to whether or not the album was coming home.

Here are some songs by acts whose names helped earn them a shot at earning my teenaged allegiance…

Hanoi Rocks – Village Girl
from Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks

I’ve noted before that I never really went through a heavy metal phase. However, one of the few music magazines that our hometown drugstore carried was Circus which I would peruse at the rack until the old woman behind the counter would eye me disapprovingly.

It was in Circus that I likely read about the Finnish, glam-rock quintet Hanoi Rocks. Not only did I dig the name, but they were Finnish, and had an album titled Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks.

Actually, by the time I checked them out, the band was already on its fourth or fifth album. A lot of folks predicted that they were ready to break in the States. Instead, their drummer was killed in a car wreck and the band split up.

Bananarama – He Was Really Sayin’ Somethin’
from Deep Sea Skiving

I didn’t buy Bananarama on name alone. I had heard a couple tracks on 97X when their debut finally arrived in the States. Then following autumn, Cruel Summer was everywhere.

But Deep Sea Skiving was fun. The three girls were cute as buttons. And it’s still the only Bananarama I need to own.

Siouxsie & The Banshees – Dazzle
from Hyæna

Like Bananarama, Siouxsie & The Banshees was a personal discovery from listening to 97X when the station gave heavy airplay to their cover of The Beatles’ Dear Prudence in the fall of ’83. It must have been the following spring when I purchased a copy of Hyæna.

As for Dazzle – it was my favorite track on the album and, though I now own most of Siouxsie’s catalog, it remains one of my favorites.

Zebra – Who’s Behind The Door?
from Zebra

During the summer of ’83, several friends were twitterpated over Zebra. They were hardly alone as the trio quickly attracted fans (and detractors) for the heavy Zeppelin influence in their sound.

The comparisons to Zeppelin were irrelevent to me at the time. I knew Stairway To Heaven and not much more by the band (and, at such a young age, I had already been burned out on Stairway).

I did like the name, though – Zebra. It was concise and fun to say. Who’s Behind The Door? began to get some airplay on our local rock stations and I took the plunge, buying their eponymous debut.