This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 23, 2012 12:46 PM. The previous post in this blog was From China, a familiar tale. The next post in this blog is And your bird can sing. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

E-mail, Feeds, 'n' Stuff

Friday, November 23, 2012

Rock me tonight

We love estate sales. We're always finding cheap treasures at them -- neckties, books, gadgets, and especially music. A sale we hit last weekend yielded this incredible find, a 45 RPM record which was a mere 50 cents on half-price Sunday:

We remember it so well. Johnny Koonce with an early version of his band, the Distractions, including the phenom Bill Feldman on lead guitar. Kip Richardson was on drums, before Johnny swapped drummers and picked up Kevin Jarvis from the Odds. This was the lineup we used to catch in places like the Last Hurrah and Eli's at the end of the '70s. In fact, one of the proprietors of the Hurrah is listed as the "executive producer" of this single.

Johnny actually made it to the big time, even faster and further than Billy Rancher did. By '81, he and the Distractions had an album on A&M Records and were touring with J. Geils. Here's the album, with the back showing the revised personnel list:

For some reason, it fell apart pretty quickly. A friend of ours who was in the record industry at the time reported that the Distractions were booted off the Geils tour, and the story then circulated that the record company was interested in Johnny without the rest of the band. Koonce continued to play around Portland and the region, which we think he's still doing today, but his shot at international fame had come and gone.

It's interesting that we stumbled on this single now. As you can see, it was recorded 33 years ago this Monday. And this week, Bruce Springsteen, obviously Johnny's hero, will be in town.

Anyway, it's a fine piece of Portland rock music history, and we're grateful to the spirit to whom it once belonged. For 50 cents, we revived a lot of memories. We've uploaded the songs to YouTube; you can hear them here and here.

Comments (7)

Amazing. And you have a 45 turntable? Astounding.

I'm going to ask to be buried with it.

Thank you for sharing those. I listened to both and was impressed. They have that "sound" of the music from that time which causes a little twinge in my heart. I'll be 52 in February. Looking back on those bittersweet days they seem like a hundred years ago.

Bill Feldman was also an amazing solo performer at the old P,C & S tavern at 11th and SW Morrison -- his show stopper was Little Feat's "Dixie Chicken."

Johnny Koonce just played in Portland, I believe earlier this month. Can't find the email announcement - came from David Stenson, bass player in Geezer - some of whom used to be Foothill Diesel. Dave's website: http://www.gungadave.xbuild.com/

I live out in Hillsboro in a house that John used to live in about 10 years ago. I see him from time to time in Hillsboro from time to time and I assume he still lives out there. He is filling in on bass for a Rockabilly band named the Twangshifters as well as gigging solo at Rock Creek Tavern and other places around.

Sadly, that game played by record labels of wanting a lead singer separate from the rest of the band was an old one, and it tore apart a lot of bands that could have gone places. Here in Dallas, that tore apart our nascent music scene in the late Eighties, when David Geffen discovered an interesting little band called New Bohemians. David really only wanted to sign the band for its lead singer, Edie Brickell, but by the time he was done, half of the bands in town were signed with one label or another, local idiots, erm, music critics were talking about "the Dallas sound" (with one critic famously telling a VERY influential local musician that he wasn't going to cover her any more unless she slept with him), and you had such insanity as a local community radio DJ swearing that a movie producer saw her at a New Bohemians show and was working on a movie about her life. Well, that was 25 years ago, and it's still "in development".

The real shame about a lot of this was that nobody learned anything, because they thought it only happened to someone else. Two years after signing New Bohemians, Geffen put out one album, emphasizing that this was now "Edie Brickell and New Bohemians", and that godawful "What I Am" song rivaled Quarterflash's "Harden My Heart" as one of the whiniest songs of the Eighties. The band broke up, Edie married Paul Simon and tried for a solo career, and most of the other contracts fell through when the other labels realized that there was no actual Dallas sound that could be used as an example. Five years later, the process repeated, with Geffen once again responsible, in Seattle, only this time he insisted that the whiner rock sound WAS Seattle. (Three years after that, after Kurt Cobain killed himself, the syndicated Z-Rock network actually dedicated a Saturday block to "the Seattle Sound", and promptly grunted out Stone Temple Pilots's "Plush". When I called the station to note that Stone Temple Pilots was from Los Angeles, the DJ whimpered "Well, they SOUND like they're from Seattle, which is why we're playing them." This time around, the pay-for-play paid by the major music labels was all on the same message.)

Clicky Web Analytics