Archive for the ‘Polyrock’ Category

Polyrock! And The Night of Announcements!

Friday, November 16th, 2012

Okay, so for months now I’ve been teasing that I have been working on a mysterious something, and now I think I’m finally ready to announce what that something is.

When I first started Lost Turntable in 2006 I had no idea how it would effect my life. Writing this stupid little blog as gotten me several writing gigs, led me to meet people I would have never met otherwise, and led me to discover more wonderful and weird music than I ever thought possible.

I love writing about and sharing all this rare and lost music with you all, and I’m never going to stop doing it. However, in the past few months I have found that writing strictly about rare and hard-to-find music that is A) out-of-print and B) I own, has become someone constricting. I’m more than just rare new wave and pop! (Really, I am!) I want to write about other topics in music, movies and other aspects of pop culture. I want to interview more people, and not just the big names that I cover occasionally in the few print magazines that are gracious enough to pay me for my work. I want to go after the “has beens” and the “never wases,” those who have found themselves on the edges of the pop culture landscape. I’ve always thought that those were the people who have the most interesting stories. Look at my post about Exotic Birds, for example, that dude has lived a life 1000 times more interesting than anyone in Nickleback, I guarantee it.

To that end I am happy to announce that next month I will be launching a brand new website, a companion to the Lost Turntable, if you will, that will have a much broader focus, one that will include music, movies, video games and anything else I feel like writing about. I’m still not comfortable with sharing the name or giving an exact launch date, but it will be soon. Things are finally starting to come together and with my election-imposed depression finally lifting, I’m finding myself writing a hell of a lot more.

But wait! There’s more! In addition to launching my new website, I am finally going to give Lost Turntable a bit of a visual overhaul. I’ve had several complaints from readers over the years that the harsh black-on-white color scheme of The Lost Turntable isn’t exactly easy on the eyes, and that it makes switching back and forth from it to other sites nearly impossible. I’m finally going to do something about this! So sufferers of eye strain rejoice! Your days of Lost Turntable-induced headaches are nearing their end.

A third announcement! One that will probably matter to a lot less of you!

One of the things I’m most proud about with The Lost Turntable is that I don’t make anyone jump through hoops to get music. No Rapidshare or other file-sharing site links. I hate those things. They’re a hassle. I’ve always just bitten the bullet and paid for my own damn server so I can host the files on my own. (And while I’m tooting my own horn, I’d also like to point out that I never ask for donations or stick ads on this site either – no one should  make money off of music they don’t own the rights to)

For several years that server has been hosted by Dreamhost, a cheap, unlimited hosting service that came to me highly recommended. I wish I remember who exactly recommended them to me now, because I’d throw an anvil at them.

Dreamhost is a big wet bag of dogshit. Not a month goes by where I don’t experience some downtime, and typically for things that could easily be avoided if their IT team wasn’t run by brain damaged gerbils. I’m giving Dreamhost the boot this month and moving to a new hosting service. If they end up not sucking, I’ll let you all know who they are. This should not effect how my site runs or is viewed in anyway, I just wanted to give you all the heads up if I temporarily vanish during the transfer.

So yeah, a lot going on huh? And of course I pick the month before I embark on a three week trip to China and Japan to start it all! But hey, nothing motivates me like an unrelenting mountain of deadlines and pressure!

That and obscure new wave music, that usually serves as good motivator as well, and speaking of which…

 

Polyrock – Above The Fruited Plain
Working On My Love
Call Of The Wild
Chains Of Iron
Broken China
Indian Song
It’s a sad fact of the music industry that a lot of great bands simply don’t make it. But it doesn’t make it any less infuriating when it happens.

Take Polyrock, for example. I’ve written about them before, but I keep coming back to them because I find their music so stunning, and their continued lack of mainstream, or even cult, appeal completely mystifying.

No one sounded like Polyrock when their first album came out in 1980, and no one has since. They remain 100% unique, a rare feet in a world where even the most obscure and unknown of musical artists are pillaged and ripped off by lesser acts on a seemingly daily basis.

Polyrock’s continued exile in obscurity is even more baffling when you discover that legendary minimalist composer Philip Glass worked as the producer (and occasional keyboardist) on both of the band’s full-length albums. Glass was one of the most influential and exciting composers of the 70s and 80s, how is one of his only contributions to the pop music landscape is still undiscovered and not talked about?

Both of Polyrock’s two full-length albums, their 1980 self-titled debut and 1981′s Changing Hearts, have occasionally fallen back into print thanks to the re-issue label Wounded Bird Records, but this 1983 EP has never seen the light of day since its original release.

Glass was not aboard for Above The Fruited Plain, and I’m sad to say that his absence is rather obvious. None of the songs on the EP have the same abstract, minimalist vibe that band’s previous work did. It sounds much more like a pop record, although that may have been a conscious effort by the band. This was their only release not on a major label, and I suspect its existence, and slight lean to the mainstream, was an effort to get attention from a major in hopes of getting signed. Alas, that never happened and the band called it quits shortly after its release.

I don’t walk to talk it down too much though. Yes, it may be a little less risky and experimental than the group’s previous work, but it’s still a great collection of songs, and nearly all of the songs on Above The Fruited Plain could stand side-by-side with the group’s greatest Glass-produced cuts. Highlights for me is “Call Of the Wild,” which features keyboardist Cathy Oblasney taking over vocals from guitarist Billy Robertson, and the fast-paced “Broken China,” which gets my vote for best shoulda-been-a-contender song of 1982.

Enjoy! And if anyone out there knows where I can reach anyone in Polyrock, let me know! I’m trying to put something together about them and other bands like them for that new site!

 

A Word From Our Hidden Sponsors – 1980s Radio Interviews

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

I’m a journalist (at least I try to be), so allow me to drop a journalism term on you: Advetorial content.

An advertorial is a paid advertisement that tries to come off like editorial content. You’ll sometimes see them in magazines, they’re the multi-page ads that look like articles but have the word “advertisement” in tiny print a the bottom of the page. Advetorials are deceptive by design, and if you ask me, more than a little bit evil. They’re not made to be intriguing or thought-provoking content designed, they serve no other purpose than to drum up fake news coverage for a product.

In the 70s and 80s (and probably into the 90s and even today) record labels released their own form of advetorial content known as “radio specials.” These were glorified PR kits that were given to radio stations in the hopes that they would play them on the air, passing them off as a special presentation when it was really little more than a 30 to 45-minute ad for a band that the label poured a lot of money in. I don’t know how successful these radio specials ever were at drumming up interest in artists, I don’t remember ever hearing them when I was a kid, but either the radio stations or the labels loved them, because I always see a ton of them in used record bins today.

I imagine that if I stumbled upon something like this on the radio today I would be outraged at the deceptive advertising practices that were being used. But whenever I come across an old one like the ones I’m sharing tonight, I find them oddly charming, and in the case of the one with The Mekons, incredibly entertaining.  I hope you enjoy them as well.

The Dream Academy Talk About Their Debut Album
Lloyd Cole Talks About His Album
These are from a 1985 promotional LP titled “The Warner Bros. Music Show” (Bugs Bunny is even on the label). As you can probably guess, The Dream Academy program starts (and ends) with the band talking about their mega-hit “Life In A Northern Town.” Advetorial content or not, the guys responsible for this record knew not to bury their lead.

Also within seconds, the lead singer name checks the producer of the record, who was Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour. I can’t really blame him though, if I just finished working on something with David Gilmour I would mention it as much as possible as well. Although when he says “when I talked to Paul Simon, who I’ve known for years…” that’s a bit forced.

But at least the people in The Dream Academy are interesting and seem to enjoy talking about their music, which is more than I can say for Lloyd Cole. To be honest, I don’t know much about Lloyd Cole or his band The Commotions, but his interview really didn’t do much to alleviate that problem either! All I picked up from his conversation is that his goal as a popular musician was to make it on The Top of the Pops, and since he had he really had no idea what to do next. Not really enthralling stuff to be honest.

Pete Shelley Interviews the Mekons
On most of these interview specials you don’t even hear the inteviewer ask their questions. All you get are plugged in responses by the artists in question. They don’t sound like proper interviews or conversations, instead they sound like what they really are, which is PR designed to sell records. But this interview is hands and feet above the others, because not only do you get to hear a real, organic conversation between the artist and the interviewer, but the interviewer in question is Pete Shelly of The Buzzcocks.

Pete Shelley is awesome. That’s a proven fact. So hearing him just sit down and shoot the shit with one of the better post-punk bands of the era is really fascinating. The Mekons (John Langford and Tom Greenhalgh) are obviously well-acquainted with Pete, and don’t have any kind of pretense or sense of self-importance around him. If anything, they are overly self-deprecating in their views of themselves, their music, and most entertainingly, the state of music in the mid-80s. It’s a great listen (and hysterical, their riffs on Casey Kasem, Simple Minds and pretty much all of America are great), and it’s made even greater if you do what I do, and imagine Pete Shelley conducting the interview while wearing the white suit from the Homosapien video, sitting with his legs crossed and his hands on his knee.

Polyrock
1981 Radio Special Side 1
1981 Radio Special Side 2
1982 Radio Special Side 1
1982 Radio Special Side 1
Polyrock was perhaps the greatest band of the early new wave era that didn’t “make it,” and the fact that they never broke through to at least some cult level of success int he early 80s has always been a mystery to me. Not only did they sound absolutely incredible, a perfect combination of dance-friendly new wave and dissonant, minimal no wave, but they had a hell of a hook when it came time to promote their albums, Philip Glass (who was super hot shit at the time) served as a producer on the first record, and even played with the band on the second album. But alas, the band never clicked with any kind of audience, and after their two albums, RCA dumped them, leading them to breakup sometime after.

But to RCA’s credit, they sure as hell tried their best to promote Polyrock, I have several magazines from the era that feature Polyrock ads in them, and the label went out of their way to record not one, but two separate radio specials for the group. Oddly enough, no one from the band appears on the first radio special. Instead, Philip Glass and his co-producer Ken Munkacsi serve as the focus of attention. What they say is very interesting though, and doesn’t just sound like PR bullshit. They obviously like Polyrock, and they have unique perspectives on what qualifies as rock music, dance music and the recording process. It’s a fascinating interview.

For the 1982 special,the focus is shifted to Billy Robertson, the vocalist and guitar player for the group. He talks a lot about what exactly “new wave” means, instrumentation vs. lyrics and a lot of other geeky music stuff.

Both these interview specials feature a lot more of the band’s music than the Lloyd Cole and Dream Academy programs, and even include some complete songs. So if you’ve never heard of Polyrock there’s still something here for you to check out if you love new wave, because Polyrock was one hell of a new wave act.