Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Feelies

There's a rather spirited discussion taking place over at Moistworks prompted by a post revolving around the notion of "indie rock" and what that is: an aesthetic, an idea, a model for artists to work outside of the corporate system, or another meaningless title. Within the comments Alex posted a link to WFMU's Beware of the Blog, featuring a TV special I remember seeing in 1985 called "The Hoboken Sound." It's funny to watch now. 1985 was a time when most of the rock music that mattered to discerning young listeners was below the radar of MTV (who at that time still promoted and played music) and was relegated to special programming like 120 minutes. I found out about stuff from searching record stores, zines, seeing bands, and word of mouth. Kids, the eighties in the mainstream were not as cool as you think. It was Ronald Reagan, Madonna, and aging baby-boomers thinking they had to make dance records to stay on top. Look no further than Starship or Stevie Nicks.

Today, everything "indie" or otherwise is supported by something that did not exist then - the very tool that you are reading this post on - the web. So whether it's myspace, Pitchfork, itunes or the Hype Machine, there has been a leveling and democratic effect created by the internet that in the end can be a double edged sword. Too much information and overstimulation. After a while everything starts to feel soulless, and meandering through the onslaught of "special new bands" leaves one feeling empty. That is one of the reasons I retreated to buying old records and posting them here. There are hundreds of blogs promoting whatever is new and it's a great place to hear things in the overcrowded music scene, but in the end, for me there's only two kinds of music: stuff I'm interested in and stuff I'm not. This is purely subjective, and while my taste may run all over the place and at times seem incongruous, it is what I like.

In the mid-nineties, during my brief tenure as a guitar player in bands, my proudest moment came when a ramshackle band called Sidesaddle that I had with my wife got our first gig (at a shithole Williamsburg bar that we took over) reviewed in NY Press by J.R. Taylor who likened our sound the Velvets, the Stones and The Allman Brothers all in one sentence. One of these things is not like the other, right? Wrong, it's all stuff we liked and actually we sounded like none of them, it was closer to a cross between X and the Heartbreakers playing country songs (badly) with some chiming Sterling Morrison rythym guitar. It was a sloppy mess, but a lot of fun. Sadly, I don't have any suitable recordings to present here - you'll just have to take my word for it. The reason I mention this is because in the Hoboken documentary there is some great footage of the Feelies, who for me, a music fan with wide reaching taste, always bridged that gap between The Allman Brothers and the Velvets as well as a handful of other guitar bands that I liked - hard rhythmic and floating guitar lines combined. It may seem preposterous to invoke the name of a biker Southern Rock band, when The Feelies probably had more in common with other Southern Rock bands of their own period (REM for instance) but I always heard something of the Allman Brothers in their sound. I don't know, I smoked a lot of pot back then. I don't anymore, but these records still sound good to me.

Here's a few from The Feelies.


"Slipping (Into Something)" mp3
by The Feelies, 1986.
available on The Good Earth

"The Good Earth" mp3
by The Feelies, 1986.
available on The Good Earth

"The High Road" mp3
by The Feelies, 1986.
available on The Good Earth

"It's Only Life" mp3
by The Feelies, 1988.
available on Only Life
BONUS: on the subject of "special new bands"

"Cut My Hair" mp3
by Pavement, 1994.
available on Crooked Rain Crooked Rain: L.A.'s Desert Origins


Anonymous said...

For me, the indie scene is analogous to minor league baseball. Everyone, including small label owners and now websites, are trying to make it to the majors. In some cases, like a Nirvana, they're successful, but overall, most aren't.

As you write, it's pretty simple - either I enjoy something or I don't. I've been listening to music since I was in a crib, after more than four decades I can tell if I like something within a few bars. I don't mind rummaging around the net for good music, I get to play A&R man - if it doesn't hit me after a few seconds, it's off to the bit bucket.

Anonymous said...

The Feelies never really meant that much over here in the UK and listening to these songs, I'd have to say that was our loss. Disappointingly though, I just headed over to Amazon to pick up The Good Earth to start putting things right but from the looks of it, their entire catalogue is out of print. The used prices are jaw-dropping too. (The cheapest copy of Crazy Rhythms, for example, is a staggering £65.25 on Amazon UK - double that to get a dollar price!)

rogue46 said...

the feelies were an awesome band! they are playing a reunion show this summer on the 4th of July in Battery Park, nyc, and I think at maxwell's in hoboken (date unknown).

Anonymous said...

RIP Feelies, greatest band ever.

Slipping (into something) - Peter Buck produced, best song ever.

woodstockpatch said...

zzzz, snore, zzzz

what about all of those overlooked Marillion records?

music blogs, blah, blah, blah, music, deep inner thoughts...good, better, best, indie, major, blah

get your fingers OFF the letter keys and put 'em on the volume DIAL, yes KNOB, stop writing and get back to listening..."Cut your hair" was a shitty track...It began and ended with "Summer Babe"

Ted Barron said...

thanks for stopping by.

woodstockpatch said...

...My apologies, I was in a bad mood yesterday and kind of fed up with the idea and pervasiveness of "music blogs" BUT alas, I am guilty as sin...

Bobby Sutliff said...

I managed to see the Feelies several times way back when including an amazing triple bill including Yung Wu and the Trypes in their hometown of Haledon, NJ. I hear they're doing a few reunion shows shortly.

GFS3 said...

It's not quite RIP for the Feelies. Glenn Mercer just gave an interview this week and he says the band is back together and in the studio recording new songs for a possible new album. After the gig in NYC, they also might head up to Boston for a few shows. The Music Gods are kind. Here is the link to the Mercer interview:

Anonymous said...

Hi Ted and others,

Great post Ted!

The Good Earth is a great album. Just listened to it (yet again) the other day and had a "blast to the past" to our US of A cross country drive (20 years ago) where we played that at least 14 times.

According to this page:

they are playing a couple of gigs at Maxwell's and Battery Park (with Sonic Youth) in early July!

Will try to pop over for that captain.

Your loving and tender friend in Holland,


Anonymous said...

There's no need for me to go on about the beauty of the Feelies' music, it's all there in the grooves and bits ... but only to say that surely one day some crazy fool's gonna throw profit considerations out the window and put together a four-disc box so everyone can have the pleasure. Meanwhile, a few months back I was rummaging through a very unlikely looking box of beaten up CDs in the back of a Melbourne second-hand shop and lo-and-behold, a copy of The Good Earth, $4!! It was US$150 on Amazon at the time. So you see, miracles do happen.

kate said...

I didn't actually know much about this band until the hype of the reunion and it's I'm wondering how I could've ever missed them. I especially fell for them after we did this interview with the band. Dave is awesome!