So, I’ll be upfront about where I ripped off got this idea for this mix.Â I was reading the San Francisco Chronicle (Essentially my hometown paper because I’ve tried reading the Contra Costa Times, but found myself going back to “The Chron” time and time again) and they had a pretty good article on a reunion concert featuring artists who were on the 415 label back in the day. Even though I consider myself a serious music junkie, I never obsessed over labels.Â If the song was good, that’s all that mattered to meÂ — well, until I got older and realized what it meant to be on a certain label.Â For those who don’t know, 415 Records was the brainchild of Howie Klein (who’s now doing a lot of political writing), Butch Bridges, Chris Knab and, later, Queenie Taylor.Â The label promoted mostly new wave bands (though some punk bands were on the label, too), and they cranked up their little machine in 1978 to sign and promote bands that would (hopefully) revitalize the music scene in San Francisco — which it did.Â With the success of bands like Romeo Void, the label caught the interest of Columbia records and Bill Graham and 415 acts were able to carve out a niche whereby some new wave musicians living in the “City by the Bay,” could make records, get paying gigs, get airplay on radio stations , and with the interest of Bill Graham, be booked on tours with big selling acts.Â Oh, and maybe have a video or two in rotation on MTV.Â Best of all, the local bands didn’t even have to relocate to New York or L.A.
Alas, all good things must come to an end, and 415 Records (after being in partnership with Columbia) ceased to exist in 1989.Â Boo!
Oh, and I don’t feel so bad about ripping off getting inspiration from The Chron because the day after they published the story about the 415 reunion, they did a story about celebrities who make music — which, to be frank — I scooped them on last year with a mix called “Stars Who Sing.” Okay, so maybe the big boys and girls over at The Chron don’t read Popdose, but I like to think they do!
“Free Again,” Until December (download)
The first time I heard this band was when they performed at The Bay Area Music Awards (“The Bammies”) in 1987. I was a young pup at a radio station in Concord, CA, and we got invited to the Bammies in San Francisco where I briefly met Bill Graham when we were accidentally shown to his table.Â He looked confused as to who we were and why the hell we were sitting at his table.Â My boss walked up to Bill, introduced himself, talked about how we were playing a few of the artists on the 415 label and gave him his card.Â Bill was polite, but knew there was a mistake.Â After all, why would three of the unwashed masses from Concord be sitting at his table?Â About five minutes later someone escorted us to our real seats as Until December took the stage.Â What I remember about their performance was that there was lots of mood lighting, lots of mysterious affectation, but ultimately a really great three-song set featuring “Free Again,” “Heaven,” and “Until December.”Â I bought the album the next dayÂ Â — even though I should have gotten it for free! After the band broke up, lead singer Adam Sherburne started the politically left hip-hop group, Consolidated — which, on one of their songs off their debut album, I’m pretty sure sampled the turn signal noise from a San Francisco city bus.
“They Walk Among You,” New Math (download)
I have a visions, kids!Â I mean, this is money in the bank kind of vision.Â Ready?Â A new wave horror/space invasion flick called They Walk Among You.Â Whaddya think?Â I mean, I have the title track right here, and, except for Repo Man, when was the last time there was a really good/crappy film made with a new wave vibe? And don’t bother with this video, ’cause it doesn’t count!Â Seriously, though, New Math’s “They Walk Among You” came out in 1982, and it’s moody synth vibe has a kind of Joy Division quality to the music with a slight twist: Â Lead singer Kevin Patrick’s vocal phrasing is a cross between Phil Oakey (Human League) and Johnny Rotten. No really, it is!
“Insect Lounge,” Mutants (download)
Before videos became popular, groups like Mutants and the Tubes created their own visual fun with theatrical on-stage performances that kept audiences coming back for more.Â “Insect Lounge” is a snotty little punkish song whose chorus reminds me of “The Monster Mash.”Â I would have loved to seen the Mutants back in the day because their more current performances are, um, lacking that certain youthful something.Â Know why?Â ‘Cause they’re old.
“You’re Everywhere I’m Not,” Translator (download)
MTV did a lot for new wave bands in the early ’80s and if it wasn’t for the video to this song, I probably wouldn’t have known about it because the modern rock/new wave/alt/whatever station in San Francisco didn’t have the wattage to make it to my stereo receiver back then. Translator gigged at the 415 Records reunion, and if you’re a huge fan of the band, you can get a recent album of B-sides, live tracks, and outtakes from Almacantar Records.
“Home Is Where the War Is,” Red Rockers (download)
Another “MTV band” whose hit, “China” was a Bottom Feeder hit back in ’83, and a song that was very atypical for Red Rockers.Â “China” was clearly a calculated move to have a radio-friendly hit that would sound great next to other more mainstream new wave bands like the Cars or U2.Â But if you bought Good as Gold, you’d be hard pressed to find any “China” soundalikes — which is probably why the band was one hit wonder.Â Still, to me, that’s a good thing ’cause I do like the guitar-heavy sound of “Home Is Where the War Is.”
“Never Say Never,” Romeo Void (download)
And the big finish!Â Romeo Void has been covered by David Medsker, in his pre-scaled back White Label Wednesday feature, and by John C. Hughes.Â However, the song “Never Say Never” hasn’t been featured on Popdose (to the best of my knowledge, that is).Â I had the EP that featured this song and seem to remember it being used in a montage sequence in Reckless with Aidan Quinn and Daryl Hannah. But more to the point, this was one of my heavy hitters I would use as a mobile DJ (back in the day, of course) if I really wanted to get people out on the dance floor. Worked like a charm — but only at college gigs. Weddings and corporate parties?Â Not so much.