2:56 p.m. - August 19, 2006
Why that preface? Well, this is about tunes, and a band that I often put on some mix CDs that is (shock, shock) obscure, yet magical. My current project of watching each video from the first 24 hours of MTV also got me thinking about this band, since four of their videos were played on that very first day of the cable channel.
Oh, great, old AND obscure. Geez, Smed….
Not to fear, I think you will dig them, and you can get their stuff online as well.
Who is this band?
This was a group led by two brothers and a close friend from Zion, Illinois that got together in their living room and wrote and recorded a great album filled with power pop hooks and harmonies. They released it themselves on a label they called Black Vinyl Records (a great name – one that should have been taken sooner).
No big story now, right? Well, it kind of was an odd thing to do back in 1976, but the Murphy brothers (Jon and Jeff) and Gary Klebe did it. The album, Black Vinyl Shoes was later picked up by a small distributor and given a wider release.
That record generated some buzz and soon, Shoes was signed to Elektra records. They released two pretty nifty albums, Present Tense and Tongue Twister. Some of the press, notably Ira Robbins from Trouser Press celebrated them in print and they became critics’ darlings – not unlike, say, Yo La Tengo is now.
However, as usual for power pop bands in the 70s and 80s, they were an anachronism, and out of step with the times. Their sound was light and airy with great harmonies and strong melodies, yet also had a guitar crunch and some muscle behind them as well. They used some synthesizers but as a flourish and accent only early on in their career. The records didn’t sell, no one played them on the radio, and they were dropped.
They released some more albums that they recorded themselves, and reacquired the rights to their Elektra albums, and put together a great compilation called Shoes’ Best that was my introduction to the band.
Any band that can have songs called both “Too Late” and “Too Soon” and they both are worthy is OK by me.
I’m sure that in a perfect world, a song like “Tomorrow Night” would have been a big smash sensation that swept the nation. But it didn’t and that’s life sometimes.
Don’t believe me? Here is news about Shoes that has links to where you can hear snippets of their songs. Plus, they are now available on iTunes for your purchase and enjoyment.
They are still kicking around up there in Illinois, doing what they want to do and enjoying themselves when they do it. They are getting some more airplay on VH-1 Classic thanks to the unearthing of their videos, so perhaps some of us will go drop a few dimes on their timeless songs. Because it’s the right thing to do.