When I started Lost Turntable my goal was to shed light on lost music, but I was primarily concerned about lost songs by well-established bands. But over the years some of the most fun I’ve had writing has been when I’ve covered acts that have fallen through the cracks completely. Sometimes they were acts that were big for a minute in their native countries and then vanished. Other times they were cult acts with a few minor hits before calling it quits. But every once in a while I’d find an act that seemed completely lost in time, having never scored a hit when they first formed and never found any sort of following since.
I’ve always been most interested in these acts. We all know what life for mega-huge rock stars is like, that’s been covered to death in film, TV and even in songs by mega-famous rock stars (thanks Joe Walsh). We also have some idea as to what life is like for the has-beens and one-hit wonders of the pop world. If it wasn’t for them, the entirety of the British reality TV landscape would dry up overnight.
But we never hear about the never-wases. Makes sense I guess, no one wanted to hear about them when they were attempting to be around, why on earth would anyone care about what they had to say now?
Well, I care! I want to know. I wonder how many people from failed bands manage to parlay their broken dreams into something at least tangentally related to the music biz. A lot of one-hit wonders and cult acts end up working as song-writers. The dude from Semisonic helped write Adele’s 21, y’know. But what about the guys in Radioactive Goldfish or anyone who was in a group like Spizz or Fischer-Z? Maybe they have hella interesting stories too. I bet the saga of nearly making it, while not as personally fulfilling for those involved, is probably more interesting than a lot of the rags-to-riches stories we usually here.
Here are songs by people and bands who never made it, or made it for about five minutes. May they one day be well-known enough to be forgotten.
When I first posted this track back in 2009, I wondered aloud, “What ever happened to Apollo Smile?” The “real life anime girl” was a mainstay of my teenage years, I frequently would see her name on the guest lists of comic-cons, and she would occasionally pop up on Sci-Fi Channel to host some random anime show. In the late-90s she even made her way to video games, lending her voice to Ulala, the groovy protagonist of Sega’s Space Channel 5 games.
And then she seemingly vanished without a trace. No more anime specials, no more comic cons and no more video games. The scene that she helped to cultivate had seemingly outgrown its need for her. But I wanted to know what the hell actually happened to her. So much so that I even tried to track her down for an interview a few years back.
Thanks to her Wikipedia page, that was actually shockingly easy, as it listed her last-known place of employment as a dance teacher for a small private school. Emboldened with a sense of journalistic desire to share the world the story of what happened to Apollo Smile (I mean, c’mon, this could totally get on A.V. Club today) I sent out a few emails inquiring about the chance of an interview.
Never before had I been shot down as hard for an interview as I was for that one. I’m not going to go into details. But for anyone out there wondering, Apollo Smile does not want to be found.
If she had agreed to that interview, I definitely would’ve asked her if she got clearance to use the Led Zeppelin sample that’s in this song. I bet the answer would’ve been no.
Lisa Dal Bello
I’m kind of cheating here, because Lisa Dal Bello was moderately famous in her native Canada, but for the rest of the world she’s probably a complete unknown. Fucking shame.
When I wrote about Dal Bello back in 2011, I focused on her 1984 powerhouse whomanfoursays, which was produced and co-written/performed by Mick Ronson of Ziggy Stardust fame. I still stand by that record. It’s great, and now that you can get it digitally on Amazon and iTunes, I suggest you do. It’s an amazingly unique record. And while parts of it sound dated, some of it still sounds remarkably ahead of its time. Her voice is really off the charts, and the songwriting is top-notch.
Whomanfoursays was a bit of a re-invention for Dal Bello. In the late-70s Dal Bello was a pop star with a disco/dance bent, kind of like a Canadian proto-Madonna. She had some success with that formula, got a Juno Award (Canadian Grammy) for her first record, but didn’t have much success in terms of sales. And by the early-80s I suspect that she was getting fed up with the pop world, letting her dissatisfaction manifest itself in this blistering track that takes aim on the facets of the music industry that screwed her over hardest. I hope someone sends this track to Kesha.
As I said before, Dalbello managed to salvage her career with whomanfoursays. It wasn’t a massive smash, but songs from it got covered by Queensryche and Heart, and she went onto record two more very well-regarded albums before moving on to what is no doubt the much more lucrative commercial jingle market. Utterly fascinating, and anything of hers you can find is totally worth checking out.
Havana 3 A.M.
Blue Gene Vincent (Live)
The big Clash side-project/off-shoot is of course Big Audio Dynamite, and I’ll be writing about them sometime this month. But there was also Havana 3 A.M., the oddly-named project featuring Paul Simonon, bassist for The Clash. Havanna 3 A.M. only released one album, and I’m going to level with you right here, it’s not particularly good. It’s not bad, but it sure as hell ain’t memorable.
Except for this track, a tribute to the late-great Gene Vincent, which is about as perfect an amalgamation of rock, country and rock-a-billy you’re likely to hear. The album version is good, but this live rendition is even better, and injects an intensity and energy that the studio version is lacking. I found this on an I.R.S. Records promo cassette tape, a find so incredible that it single-handedly made buying that cassette deck worth it.
And it’s sure as fuck better than The Good The Bad and The Queen.
Slow Bongo Floyd
More Than Jesus (SBF Mix)
More Than Jesus (Irresistible Force Mix)
Open Up Your Heart (11 O’Clock Mix)
Open Up Your Heart (Piano Mix)
So far the acts I’ve featured tonight have some sort of following. Apollo Smile may be nearly forgotten today, but there’s a “nearly” there. Someone out there still cares about her. Lisa Dal Bello had a live album come out last year, so however small, there’s still a market for her work somewhere. And sure, Havana 3 A.M. might be the lesser of Clash off-shoots, but they’re still a Clash off-shoot, a fact that will forever grant them at least the curious Google search from time to time.
But Slow Bongo Floyd? No one gives a shit about Slow Bongo Floyd. They have a poorly-managed Facebook page, and it has a single, solitary “like” that was no doubt given by the person who created it. Slow Bongo Floyd is about as forgotten as a band can get.
And that’s a real bummer. While their album isn’t great, their singles sure as hell should’ve been more popular than they were. “More Than Jesus” is an especially awesome tune, and how it didn’t manage to at least be a minor hit during the time of The Stone Roses and the Happy Mondays is anyone’s guess. It’s a great psychedelic dance/rock tune, madchester all the way. It’s groovy as fuck, and “I Love you more than I love Jesus” is a hell of a line to build a track off of.
From what I can gather, Slow Bongo Floyd was really just one guy by the name of Michael Patrick Jones. As that’s about one step away from “John Smith” in terms of name popularity, I can’t find a single thing on the Internet about his post Slow Bongo Floyd work, so if anyone would like to enlighten me I’d be forever grateful.