Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Various Artists - Attack Of The Killer B's, Vol. 1
Okey dokey, gang - here's a real rarity for you . . .
I got this one at the old Strawberries record store in Downtown Crossing, Boston during the summer of 1984. I was in the midst of my Naval Academy summer cruise, travelling up and down the East Coast in a small flotilla of YP (yard patrol) craft with several other classmates. The first place we stopped on our journey that summer was Bath, Maine - not high on my list of places to visit, needless to say. The locals there were jazzed to have actual Annapolis midshipmen within their midst, and pretty hospitable, throwing us a pretty lavish Independence Day picnic party. But it was one of the coldest Fourth of Julys I've ever experienced - we had to wear pretty heavy jackets during the outdoor festivities that afternoon. And the drinkers in our group (which were many, but did not, at the time, include myself) were grumbling under their breaths, because the only suds made available at the party was watery, cheap-ass Red White & Blue beer (it pains me to point out this egregious example of Boat School snobbery and entitlement - hell, it WAS free beer). Other than that, there wasn't much for us to do up there. With that grim combination of boredom and chilliness, we were all ready to move on to the next destination as soon as possible.
Boston was to be the first big-city stop on our journey; we arrived there a couple of days later, and docked in Charlestown, close to the berth of the historic USS Constitution ("Old Ironsides"). I had spent some time in Boston in earlier years, when I was a high school student in a small town on the South Shore. But this visit was the first time I really had the opportunity and freedom to do pretty much what I wished. I rode the T all over the city, went out to Cambridge to visit some friends attending Harvard, hung out on the Common and at Fanueil Hall Marketplace. It was all pretty fun.
One night during our stay, a couple of shipmates and I decided to head out to catch the recently released Indiana Jones & The Temple Of Doom at a theater in Park Square (now long gone, replaced by a huge parking garage and a couple of upscale restaurants like Fleming's Steakhouse and Legal Sea Foods). We took the T to the Downtown Crossing station, and started walking.
Back in the mid-80s, even though Downtown Crossing was a major shopping area in Boston (the late, lamented Filene's and Jordan Marsh department stores were going strong then), it was still a sketchy area. It was sort of dirty and disreputable, especially as the evening hours came on - after all, the Combat Zone, the city's old red light district, was only a couple of blocks away down Washington Street. It wasn't the sort of place you thought about hanging around once the sun started going down. But that's where we were, on foot, with the Combat Zone between us and our destination. I wasn't worried - just a little leery. But that leeriness dissipated when we came upon Strawberries, a big music store that used to stand in the area right across from the big department stores. We had to sidle by a couple of gangs of toughs hanging out in front of the place, but no matter - back then, I'd walk over hot coals to get inside a decent record store!
The movie didn't start for a while, so we spent some time going through the stacks at Strawberries. The store was built on a deep but rather narrow plot, so it was sort of hard to get around its multiple levels, most of which were accessible only by elevator. There weren't a lot of CDs available in 1984, so the majority of wares available were records and cassette tapes.
I stumbled across Attack Of The Killer B's in the vinyl racks almost by chance; at first glance, it looked like nothing more than a chance for Warner Brothers to make a few dollars off of old rags and bones from their vaults that they didn't deem worthy enough to release on proper albums. But then I looked at the song list, and the first one that hit my eyes was "Love Goes To A Building On Fire" by Talking Heads. I had long been a big Talking Heads fan, so of course I had heard of this legendary unreleased song, but at that point had never actually heard the tune. So seeing it finally available here was pretty exciting to me. I started looking over some of the other songs on the compilation, and noted that almost all the them were hard-to-find rarities by some pretty big-time bands. Here's the lineup:
1. Marshall Crenshaw – You're My Favorite Waste Of Time
2. The Pretenders – In The Sticks
3. The Blasters – What Will Lucy Do?
4. The Ramones – Babysitter
5. John Hiatt – Take Time To Know Her
6. Roxy Music – Always Unknowing
7. Peter Gabriel – Shock Den Affen
8. The Time – Grace
9. Talking Heads – Love Goes To A Building On Fire
10. Gang Of Four – Producer
11. T-Bone Burnett – Amnesia And Jealousy (Oh Lana)
12. Laurie Anderson – Walk The Dog
To my chagrin, the album didn't appear to be available on cassette. But I was damned if I was going to leave it behind. So I purchased the vinyl copy, which I carried around with me for the rest of the night in a red plastic Strawberries bag. It sat on my lap during the entire movie as well. Since there wasn't a record player on board the YP, I had to wait several weeks until we got back to Annapolis to listen to the record, and I was not disappointed. Every song on the album was superb, and as such, Attack Of The Killer B's was a great addition to my collection.
[I still kick myself about one thing from the evening I purchased this record. As we were coming out of the shop and headed to the movies, I noticed a flyer attached to a light pole, advertising the only Boston appearance - that very same evening - of Gang Of Four on their 1984 "farewell" tour. I wasn't as big a fan of Go4 then was I would be later, so I didn't really consider blowing off Indiana Jones and checking them out that night. Looking back, I wish that I had - I've seen the band a couple of times since their reformation, but it would have been awesome to have seen them live in their heyday. Oh well.]
This album was released only on vinyl, and to date has never been released on either cassette or CD. I honestly forget that I had this disc until just recently, when I was going through some boxes in the basement and stumbled over it. As happy as I was with my find, I wasn't very happy about the condition I found this record in - I like to take care of my stuff better than this. As such, the burn from vinyl to MP3 was not without its challenges - you'll find that the quality on the Roxy Music song is pretty scratchy. And I finally just gave up with the Peter Gabriel song, and replaced the vinyl version with an identical one I had on CD. Otherwise, the burns are pretty good and cleaned up, and every song is here.
I hope that you all enjoy this album as much as I have over the years. Check it out, and let me know what you think:
Please use the email link below to contact me, and I will reply with the download link(s) ASAP:
[22 Oct 2013 - Well, it appears that I was incorrect about this album never appearing on cassette - I received the following picture today from a new visitor to this site:
Thanks for the update, John! And welcome to the blog!]