Throbbing Lobster Records: 1984-1988
An annotated discography rough-drafted by Chuck Warner, owner and "president-for-life." (for a more modern version and links to these records for sale click here).
After 8 years off-and-on in college radio I decided to do something about all
the demo tapes from Boston bands that never made it to vinyl. "Nobody Gets
on the Guest List" took shape in the winter of 1983-4...
V.A. Nobody Gets on the Guest List! LP (Throbbing Lobster Records bisque-1) Summer 1984. Flies [pre-Titanics, Upper Crust], Hopelessly Obscure [Kenne Highland ex-Gizmos; Ken Kaiser ex-Gizmos, Bob Mac ex-GG Allin, Lyres, Mighty Ions++], Prime Movers [pre-Voodoo Dolls, Slaves], Christmas [Combustible Edison], Wild Kingdom [ex-Human Sexual Response, pre-Zulus++], 21-645 [pre-Flies, Scruffy the Cat, Barrence Whitfield], Turbines [ex-2x4s, Charlie Pickett], Classic Ruins [one ex-Real Kid], Johnny & the Jumper Cables [ex-Neighborhoods, Swingers Resort, Outlets, plus Kenne], Chain Link Fence [Dickie Barrett's older brother...], Underachievers [Jim Janota went on to the Bags++], Holy Cow, Noise Pencil [ex-2x4s, Phobia; pre-Turbines] and Baby's Arm [pre-Classic Ruins, Taxi Boys]. Whew. I first met my wife, Sally, when she came to cover the record-release party for the Boston Phoenix (though it took us 15 years to figure out how to stay together). Nobody hit #1 on a bunch of college stations and sold maybe 4000 copies. Spinal Tap fans will recognize a tribute to the banned artwork for Tap's Velvet Glove LP on the back cover.
V.A. Let's Breed! LP (Bisque-2) Fall 1984. Repeat appearances by Christmas, Underachievers, Flies, Prime Movers and Chain Link Fence [still playing punk]; Scruffy the Cat [their debut: ex-Law], Noonday Underground [ex-Psychic Youth, pre-Last Stand], Odds [ex-DMZ and Hooker: still good for an occasional reunion], Outlets, Unattached [ex-Jetsons], Blackjacks [ex-Thrills], Busted Statues [pre-Mindgrinder, Gingerbread Men], The Edge and Dumptruck [ex-Saucers]. #1 on dozens of college radio stations and most folks favorite T.L. LP. We went through about 5000 copies.
Prime Movers -Matters of Time EP (Bisque-3) Winter '84-85. Managed by Joyce Linehan who also did the Smithereens, Plan 9 and the Lemonheads. She was working for Throbbing Lobster at the time... Sloppygreat garage raving live, had some trouble in the studio. Pat Dinizio came in to help rescue the sessions and did a pretty good job. Unfortunately he chainsmoked so energetically that I couldn't stand the thought of signing his band, the Smithereens. There was a national tour, fueled by shoplifted bologna and, um, VERY quick stops for gas... The record got taken on by Closer/Virgin Europe, but meanwhile, Richard Branson's mortal enemy, Jimmy Blackwell had signed another band of the same name from L.A. Our guys had the legal high ground, but no money for lawyers, so Richard and Jimmy battled it out with their lawyers, just to fuck each other. Both bands gave up. The Boston lot split into the Voodoo Dolls and the Slaves.
Chain Link Fence -Fireworks EP (Bisque-4) Believe it or not these guys started off as an unbelievably earnest and sloppy popthrash band, but Billy had his heart set on being a crooner. The results on this one were pretty schizophrenic. Billy's younger brother Dickie Barrett couldn't understand why I wouldn't sign his band, too. I told him every rhythm section should know how to play ska, but no one should be allowed to record it. Heh.
Outlets -Valentine Song / Sheila 7" (Bisque 4.5) February 14, 1985. Sally insists I was subconsciously thinking of her when I put this out but the "A"-side was just an excuse to get "Sheila" onto vinyl: it's brilliant Boston guitar-punkpop. 1000 copies, but hundreds of them got lost.
Blackjacks -Dress in Black LP (Bisque-5) The title track was probably the biggest radio "hit" off Let's Breed. Another problematic trip to the studio... horrifyingly approximate tunings scuttled several more potential hits. But it's great, loose Stonesy Heartbreakers poprock'n'roll, anyway. Their first EP was Homestead Records #1, but when Sam Berger got fired and Gerard Cosloy took over, Johnny Angel and co. were history. Johnny now writes about underworld- and invisible economy characters in San Francisco. Dress in Black made a bunch of year-end top-10 lists: Spin called it "ball-busting."
V.A. Claws! LP (Bisque-6) Late summer 1985. Repeats by Classic Ruins, Turbines, Prime Movers, Unattached, Underachievers, plus Willie Alexander, Volcano Suns [Mission of Burma++], Mighty Ions ["Pedro Morales" --their piss-take on "California über Alles"], Primevils [The Real Kids minus Alpo], Vandykes [ex-Unnatural Axe & LaPeste], New Parts form Old [ex-Sorry], Capture the Flag, Actual Size [from Pittsburgh, managed by Joyce, of course: ex-Ground Zero], and Last Stand and Buzz and the Gang [both halves of Noonday Underground]. Spin did a two or three-page spread on us around this time, but you still couldn't buy our stuff in most places. We took on a bunch more distributors, every one of whom ripped us off...
The Edge -Alternative Allston 7" EP (Bisque-7). Two thirds of the Edge moved here from Cincinnati soon after their debut 45 came out. They grabbed a high-school sophomore to play drums and recorded a ton of political popcore at Radiobeat. This was supposed to be a teaser for an LP that never happened, though some tracks appeared on the Johnny Cuba & the Edge LP they did after they returned to Cinci (sans drummer). 500 copies made, no more than two hundred sold. Some went with the band, others may be in the back of a closet, here...
Primitons -EP (Bisque-8) Late '85. Our first out-of-town signing. Four guys from Birmingham, Alabama, by way of Mitch's Drive-In. Great gnarly jangly stuff with really nice artwork, although I wish the band hadn't insisted on coloring in the fish's eye. Most of them were in Jim Bob and the Leisure Suits, who did two early-80s 45s. The college-rock establishment all loved it and even Byron Coley pronounced it "A dandy howl of a disk." Sold maybe 3000 copies. They toured with Carnival Season and later did two more 12"s on What Goes On.
O Positive -Only Breathing EP (Bisque-9) Early 1986. Our best seller...and not surprisingly, our least grateful act. We paid 'em royalties for every one of the 7000 copies that sold, but they thought we screwed 'em anyway. Of course, if they had started off on a major label with this material they'd probably have done okay, but their second 12" was much weaker and they bounced around several major labels before quitting, more or less, in the mid-1990s. Nothing heavyweight, but lots of really thoughtful hooks and grooves. It sold like crazy in Boston.
Lou Miami -Rituals EP (Bisque-10) The voodoo theme was probably a mistake. (Creepy fetishes on the cover, voodoo-doll cut-outs on the insert.) The courier from the mastering lab to the pressing plant got stabbed and bled all over the lacquers for this and the O Positive (natch), so we kept missing deadlines... [The courier survived.] "Ghosts," co-written by Lou and Thalia Zedek [Dangerous Birds, Uzi, Codeine] was a near hit (the video even made MTV) but the tour never came together and commercial FM support fizzled.
Underachievers -Underfoot LP (Bisque-11) This was a press-and-distribute job for friends. I'd always loved them as a sort of goofy/newwavy version of X. Noel and Carmen [ex-Boston Groupie News] were a couple, and Bob and Cilla were another couple, and like John and Exene, it all got worked out onstage... Anyway, after having them on all three of the TL comps, I realized the commercial upside was, um, limited. Bob drummed with GG Allin, the Lyres, the Mighty Ions, Beachmasters and many many others. Sales? Maybe 1200.
Classic Ruins -Lassie Eats Chickens LP (Bisque-12) Frank Rowe is a genius. He's always had a steady day job, plays the clubs on the weekends, and every year he writes one or two rock'n'roll classics. (Lassie contains about five years worth.) These were actually the first recordings by Frank's first "permanent" band --the same trio lasted well into the 90s-- augmented on five tracks by Billy Borgioli [Real Kids]. We sent a photographer into a junkyard of old Cadillacs looking for something with lotsa tailfins, but she came back with a photo of the back of a '57 Fleetwood[?], with a bumper-sticker that said simply "Lassie Eats Chickens." It referred to the episode where Lassie was unjustly sentenced to the pound and certain euthanasia for stealing chickens from the neighbors' coop...so it was up to Timmy to save Lassie's bits, for a change. Apropos of which Byron wrote "If Lassie kills chickens, just imagine what one of the Classic Ruins' songs will be able to do to a shrimp like you. If you ever want to sleep soundly again, you'll buy this little piece of insurance."
Cowboy Mouth -Cowboys and Indians LP (Bisque-13) In which we learned not to sign bands where the lead singer was independently wealthy. David Liechtenstein, son of the late Roy Liechtenstein, was determined not to let anyone know about that. So as Dave Laredo, he made sure that even the cover photo was discreetly credited to "Dad?" Anyway, he was a really nice guy who wrote really cool, twisted, twangy cow-pop songs with a wistful pre-adolescent sense of awe and potential, then twisted them some more with a temperamental antique Roland synthesizer that had to be patiently warmed up but not too warm or it wouldn't play on-key. We had a dozen commercial FM stations playing "Hurricane" and the band was on tour headlining a Friday night in Chicago... when Dave and his drummer had an argument and, well, Mr. Laredo decided it wasn't any fun anymore and pissed off to dad's condo in Maui to go surfing. Adding insult to injury, Stiff Records had signed them and picked up the album but they needed us to spend a bunch more money remixing and remastering it... and then Stiff folded. In a weird little bit of synchronicity, however, it turns out that Mike and Myke from Screaming Urge were playing in Cowboy Mouth when they cut all the demos that I first heard. I'm hoping Dave will let one of them showing up on Homework someday.
Chain Link Fence -Positive EP (Bisque-14) Lotsa great hooks, louder and more consistent than the first, but still a surreal pop mix of maybe Wham and the Buzzcocks.. .without, um, quite the musical chops. On tour they opened up a couple times for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who amused themselves by feeding Billy ALL their drugs and waiting around for him to maybe fall off the top of a building in I think it was Kent, Ohio. Not for the squeamish, but Teenline fans might rather enjoy it...
Bill Lloyd -Feeling the Elephant LP (Bisque-15) Nashville, '87. Actually it's a collection of demos that Bill recorded over a three year period, and some of the finest poprock ever. The Sweethearts of the Rodeo had already had a hit with a song by Bill and Radney Foster, however, and RCA wasted little time signing Foster and Lloyd to a nice country contract that produced two popular and essential alternative-country LPs and some okay padding. Unfortunately the RCA deal called for Bill to cease and desist all activity in his alternative rock career and ALL support for his LP on Throbbing Lobster. So the "Elephant" record-release party was the last gig Bill played of this stuff. But the whole town turned out for it: everyone from George Hamilton the fifth to Minnie Pearl. "Feeling the Elephant" got reissued on DB a while later and it's still available, along with lotsa great 1990s pop: see Bill's website at billlloydmusic.com. Bill's earlier pop band Sgt. Arms is on Teenline #1.
Unattached -EP (Bisque-18) The last thing that we released. Jaime Sever had started out in the Jetsons, and helped run the legendary Gulcher collaborative/ cooperative back in Bloomington, Indiana. He moved back to Worcester, MA where the Unattached recorded some demos (Volume insists there was a 19822 Unattached cassette in circulation). Jetsons fans have some idea, perhaps, of how great "Genetically Stupid" was, live. They played Boston on occasion but they were superstars in Wormtown...they just never thought about putting out a record. Oh yeah, and they broke up all the time. I got them to re-form for the Let's Breed! record-release parties (10 bands, two nights at the Rat) and again for the first Chain Link Fence record-release party, I think, but it wasn't til '87 that they stayed together for any length of time. Anyway, the EP is sorta over-polished and over-raw at the same time, and it might have launched a very profitable career, except that Alice Cooper heard one of their demos and loved it --though he wanted to write new lyrics for it. He even invited Jaime and Mark to come and play on "Trash", which was of course a big hit and re-established Alice's career, but Jaime and Mark celebrated this brush with fame by firing their long-suffering rhythm section and that was the end of them. And Throbbing Lobster.
Two compilations never made it "out of the can" however. Maybe we'll get them onto CD someday (we did pay them all an advance).
V.A. Lobster Quadrille LP (Bisque-16) Queers [an unreleased Ramones song], The Five, Dredd Foole, Moving Targets, Bags, Nova Mob, Keepers [coming soon on H2D/Teenline CD] Thrills, Blackjacks, Black Cat Bone [Jeri Rossi's band: she's on Homework #9 and...], Buzz & the Gang, Chapter 12, T. Blade and Capture the Flag.
V.A. The Stomp of Approval LP (Bisque-17) This was going to be the comp of national bands. I can't remember most of them any more, though many tended toward the jangly side. The master-tapes should surface by-and-by...
Lest any of you get the idea I'm blaming all this on the bands, 't ain't so. I never really figured out how to ask anyone to pay on time, and it was the golden age of the indie-distribution scam. You know, get a zillion bands and labels to front you records on supposedly sixty-day terms, sell to stores C.O.D., never pay anyone, and when you can't sell anything any more because no one will send you fresh stock til you've paid for the earlier stuff they sent you, go out of business. The worst was when Greenworld went out of business and Jem West bought all their Throbbing Lobster records for pennies on the dollar and THEN proceeded to return them to us in lieu of payment for the stuff they'd actually sold. Then of course Jem West went under, too. By the time it was all over, six or seven different distros had taken us for tens of thousands of dollars...