Dec 112015

Townsperson cherguevarra is the chief instigator of “Mystery Date” posts on RTH, and I always enjoy playing, even if I can’t figure anything out. This is my first contribution to the category.

As it happens, my lousy car-iPod integration is simply set to play every song in alphabetical order by song title (which is kind of interesting, since it plays every recording of the same song back-to-back). Over a few months I am now into song titles starting with “S”, and a couple of days ago this song started playing. I couldn’t identify the song or artist, and when the song info popped up on the screen, I thought to myself, in Dana-Carvey-imitating-Johnny-Carson-voice, “I did not know that.”

I wonder if anyone else knows this one. If not, what clues do you hear that would narrow down the time, place, genre, sartorial leanings, or persons involved? Post your thoughts, and I’ll respond to such inquiries with vague hints and opaque references that may lead you closer to the solution.

Standard Mystery Date rules: If you know who it is, don’t spoil it for the rest. Anyone who knows it can play the “mockcarr option.” This option is for those of you who just can’t hold your tongue and must let everyone know just how in-the-know you are by calling it. So if you know who it is and want everyone else to know that you know, email Mr. Moderator at mrmoderator [at] rocktownhall [dot] com. If correct we will post how brilliant you are in the Comments section.

Audio File


  28 Responses to “Mystery Date”

  1. That drumming. It’s gotta be somewhere in the backend of the 80’s. The guitars have a very Big Country vibe. The voice sounds very familiar but I can’t place it.

  2. Yeah, someone just bought the Big Country album. My guess is at least one of the band members was wearing a satin shirt that buttoned up diagonally. The singer, however, sounds like he’s singing from a bigger stage than the song’s “modern” production would suggest, like he was once the lead singer for a big ’70s arena rock band and was now recasting himself as a more contemporary, down-to-earth musician.

  3. BigSteve

    I know who this is. I think geo and Mr. Mod are going to be surprised.

  4. trigmogigmo

    Ah, I hear what you are saying about the Big Country riff resemblance. However, my data indicates that this record slightly pre-dates Big Country’s eponymous debut album! So this is early rather than late ’80s.

  5. Thanks to tonyola playing the Mockcarr Option and writing me offlist, I now know who this is. With my newfound insider knowledge, I will say that Stan Lynch probably had no hand in it. Before I read tonyola’s message I was thinking that the snare sounds like the tone of the snare on “Refugee.”

    I could have much to share, when the time is right, but let’s get listening and sharing your impressions, people!

  6. ladymisskirroyale

    The shouty vocalist sounds like Foreigner…

  7. trigmogigmo

    Yeah, I do think he sounds like he came from that kind of background, but from what I can tell he has no significant credits prior to taking on lead vocalist role at the tail end of this band’s short career.

  8. ladymisskirroyale

    Australian, perhaps?

  9. trigmogigmo

    Strictly English.

  10. Echo-ey vocals at the end cinch it for me. Sounds like it was written by putting U2, Big Country, Simple Minds, and The Alarm into a blender and trying to pour our a hit.

  11. cherguevara

    The drum pattern has a somewhat post-disco feel to it, which dates it, and I agree with the Foreigner comment regarding the vocalist, who has that big rock voice. But the drum sound… reminds me of mid-70’s power pop. I know it’s not the Knack or Cheap Trick, but another similar band of that era, perhaps? I can’t think of any British power-pop bands on this mentally and literally foggy Monday morning.

  12. The lead guitarist, at least, may not see himself as strictly English.

  13. trigmogigmo

    Funoka and cher, I think you are on track in some ways, regarding genres and time frame. I don’t know a lot about this band — if there is much to know — but in researching this post, their timeline as an active recording band is very similar to The Knack in terms of formation and the release of their trios of records (I presume a label contract is why we see 3 albums from bands even as their success dwindles). Of course, The Knack achieved orders of magnitude more success, in its brief time atop the charts.

    Townspeople will know “of” this band and probably a song or two. The part of this song that sounds to me closest to how I think this band sounds in general, is the short break starting at 1:50, which I think you will agree veers a bit away from the “power” pop angle and a little more towards the jangle. Throw that in your blender.

  14. BigSteve

    I don’t think it gives anything away to say that this band got a new singer for this album, and he’s a bit more hard rock than pop.

  15. trigmogigmo

    At this rate I think we need a few more clues anyway!

    Of the records this band released, their debut album was eponymously titled when released in the US, but not so in the UK.

  16. ladymisskirroyale

    I was thinking about The Call but their sound isn’t as tinny and they had more than 3 albums.

    I’m intrigued by the eponymous album clue. I think we can probably rule out REM and Talk Talk.

  17. trigmogigmo

    It’s none of those. I only know a couple of songs from The Call and Talk Talk so I can’t speak to comparing their styles. This band was definitely in the tail-of-the-70’s power pop mold, but to me the “power” aspect is softened by dense harmonies and ringing guitars, and a bit blunted by arrangement and production style.

    Here a final clue before we reveal: earlier in this thread, I snuck in the band’s name in plain text.

  18. cherguevara

    Talk talk never sounded anything like this! Their first album is all synths and synth drums, the second still synthy but more tasteful, and after that no synths but still never any straight up guitar pop like this.

    I feel bad criticising the Call, since Michael Been died, but I always found them to be annoying self important, reinforced by seeing them live. But I imagine it’s a good guess, except they weren’t British.

    Were the Babys British? I guess them.

  19. ladymisskirroyale

    Talk Talk definitely never sounded like this – thank goodness! I was trying to be humorous.

    Good call on The Babys.

  20. BigSteve

    Another clue would be that the drummer was the band’s lyricist.

  21. trigmogigmo

    Congrats to BigSteve and Tonyola for knowing this.

    Here is the most well-known tune from this band, from their debut album, which did OK. In the UK it was titled “Shades in Bed”, but in the US it was simply “The Records“.
    Starry Eyes“:

    Interestingly, when looking for that on youtube, I found this version which has slightly worse audio but is clearly a different mix or maybe a different recording. It’s slower and has more guitar lines filling in the blank spots.

    Probably their next best known song is one that is pure sweet power pop, which belies the lyrics which are … hmmm.

    I also found an earlier demo of that, which is interesting because you can see how it was fully formed but a little harder, and then got dressed up for the later album:

    From what I’ve read, after a fairly successful first album and tour, it was all downhill for the band. One band member stayed behind in the US afterwards, and then the second album didn’t do well, and for the third album they brought in another guitarist and a lead singer — as presented on the mystery track — and it all really went nowhere.

  22. misterioso

    The Records! All I’ve ever known by them is “Starry Eyes,” which I love. But this I didn’t love, so much so that I, too, was reminded of The Alarm by this track, and I loath The Alarm. Sometimes one good song is enough.

  23. “Starry Eyes” b/w “Paint Her Face” is one of the landmark singles I took a chance on and LOVED when I was in high school. Before I could buy that first album, my close, personal friend andyr bought it, and I thought the album as a whole was boring.

    Skip ahead a few decades…when andyr, chickenfrank, and I put together our Stiff Records tribute album, The Stiff Generation, Records’ lefty guitarst Huw Gower, a Welshman, I believe, signed on to contribute a cover of Ian Dury’s “Hit Me WIth Your Rhythm Stick.” Huw was a very good guy, providing good stories for the liner notes and playing at the really cool record release show we did at Maxwell’s, with Amy Rigby and other contributors, including Graham Parker & the Rumour’s (and the Mekons’) drummer, Steven Goulding, who was part of Michael Shelley’s band, which played “Watching the Detectives” at the show, a song not on our tribute album but that Goulding played drums on with Elvis Costello, on the original, legendary recording. Goulding had the best line of the evening, when he announced that he’d made more money performing that song for our record release show than he made on the original session.

    Getting back to Huw, for a moment, I feel eternally bad that we edited out about 2 minutes of fadeout guitar soloing on his Dury cover. He was bummed about it, but it was pushing the comp’s track time and the soloing wasn’t pushing any musical boundaries. Here was a guy I’d grown up glorifying for that killer hook in “Starry Eyes,” and I had to break the news to him that his solo wasn’t going to fit on our power-packed compilation album.

  24. Same here. One of my college roommates had all this the kind of stuff — I remember him playing The Records, The A’s, The Plimsouls, and Shoes.

  25. trigmogigmo

    Great story, Mod! I think Huw is the one who stayed behind in America after their first tour to continue his career separately.

  26. ladymisskirroyale

    And thanks for a great Mystery Date.

  27. BigSteve

    I was really into this third album by the Records (Music on Both Sides) when it came out. They were trying to break out of the power pop/jangly thing, because it was becoming a dead end (that would never actually die). There’s still jangle on it, but adding a little more hard rock — more power to power pop — was a not uncommon approach at that time.

    They also tried changing the way the drums drove the songs. Remember one member of the songwriting team was drummer Will Birch. I think that’s was what lead people to think more along post-punk lines for this Mystery Date.

    I can’t find much of this album on youtube. Just these two songs that are, I guess, representative:

    Unfortunately the song I really love from this album, Kings of Kings (a song about a businessman having a heart attack), isn’t on youtube.

    Btw the Records albums were reissued in the 00’s in nice editions with extra tracks, and it looks they’re still available.

  28. trigmogigmo

    Avec plaisir!

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