For Charity and the great Scott Miller!
Charity- The Sighs S/T LP
U.S. Girls- Off Broadway Quick Turns
Erica's Word- Game Theory The Big Shot Chronicles
I Do- Randy Gun Shake To Date
Price Of Sex- SVT Extended Play
6 Feet Under- Sugar Stems Can't Wait
Residential Area- Epicycle Cirkle Records Single
Darlin' （And She Called Me)- Elliott Murphy Just A Story In America
^West End Girls- Pet Shop Boys West End Girls
Melody Comes- Spinning Jennies Starstruck
Shake It Up (Ain't It Time)- The Cryers The Cryers
Dance All Night- Free Energy Love Sign
Playing Bogart- Any Trouble Where Are All the Nice Girls?
Best You Leave- The Early Hours Evolution
*Berlin Girls- The Cute Lepers Smart Accessories
*Detroit Girls- Starz Starz
*Liverpool Girls- The Toms The Toms
*London Girls- The Vibrators Pure Mania
*Southern Girls- Cheap Trick In Color
*Tameside Girls- Fast Cars Coming, Ready or Not!
The Man in the Middle- Godfathers Jukebox Fury
Hello Mr. Jenkins- The Finns Yellow Pills Prefill
Roxy Girl- The Radiators TV Tube Heart
>Carolina Girls- Chairmen of the Board Beach Music Anthology
Boomerang- Jim Freeman and the Golden Gate Jumpers Romantic
Crystal Ball- The Nomads Up-Tight
My Life in Rhymes- Phil Angotti Life and Rhymes
Broken Doll- Wreckless Eric Big Smash
Release Me- L.A. Burgers L.A. Burgers
Loud- Richard X. Heyman Hey Man!
Southtown Girls- The Hold Steady Boys and Girls in America
^Power Pop Peak: #1 Billboard Hot 100 3/1/86
*SacroSet: Girls Around The World
>Power Pop Prototype: 1980
I'm not sure why, but when I was first getting into rock and roll as a kid I never thought of the bands I worshiped as music fans themselves. I remember being shocked when I read that Gene Simmons of Kiss is a huge Beatles fan. I thought to myself "but Kiss are so much better than the Beatles!" (An admittedly minority viewpoint that I maintain to this day- seriously, for shear rock and roll abandon I'll put Dressed To Kill up against anything the Fab Four ever released.) Within a few years I'd come full circle and started to seek out the musical influences of my rock heroes. When Cousin Rich showed me a New York Rocker interview where Ross The Boss of The Dictators said the MC5 was his favorite band it made us feel closer to him because we were MC5 fans too. Imagine how awesome this 1981 show in NYC must have been- Ross and Wayne on the same stage! The Dictators were also big Stooges fans, their second album included a cover of "Search and Destroy," so I can only imagine what is going through lead singer Handsome Dick Manitoba's head when he posed for this photo with Iggy back in the day:
|The Handsome One and Mr. Pop|
|Joey should get a refund for that "Punk Haircut"|
Scott Miller, pictured at the top of this post, was also a big fan of rock and roll. I say "was" because sad to say he passed away on April 15th at the young age of 53. Miller's musical career started in the vibrant early 80's music scene in Davis, CA featured in ALL KINDSA GIRLS Show #28. Along with his bands Alternate Learning and Game Theory, this scene spawned The Dream Syndicate, True West and Thin White Rope. While many of his contemporaries moved to LA, Miller chose to remain in Northern California putting out music on his own Rational Records label. On January 27, 1987 I saw Game Theory at The Rat in Boston on the tour supporting their magnum opus Lolita Nation. Throughout the set Miller talked about Boston bands he liked, raving several times about Christmas who had released their debut In Excelsior Dayglo a few months earlier. At one point, and I'll never forget this, he said "Christmas may be the best band in America right now....but then again there is REM." It blew me away that Miller was willing to consider an unknown band from my town alongside REM, who were HUGE at the the time, though I was never really a fan. What's more, about halfway through their set that night, Game Theory covered "Road Runner" by Boston legend Jonathan Richman's first band The Modern Lovers. How cool is that?
|Game Theory On Stage (Scott Miller far left)|
I would definitely put Game Theory on the pop side of the mid-80's college radio spectrum, yet there is a prickliness to their songs (musical, lyrical or both) that seems to deliberately shun REM-like mainstream acceptance. Miller himself later commented: “We were fairly close to both the REM jangle camp and the L.A. psychedelic revival camp but the dealbreaker in both cases was that we had prominent synthesizer. And of course we weren’t within a country mile of synthesizer music that was actually selling, like New Order.” Miller clearly understood the music marketplace he just didn't care about it, choosing to write and record on his own terms. Case in point, when Dan Rather was mugged in 1986 and the phrase "Kenneth, what is the frequency?" became popular lore, Game Theory took it for the title of the bizarre 57 seven second sound collage that leads off Lolita Nation. Eight years later REM appropriated the same phrase with "What's The Frequency, Kenneth?" a Top 40 hit.
After Game Theory imploded in 1989 Miller went on to form The Loud Family who had an "every sound but the kitchen sink" approach I found even harder to follow. (Actually if they could get sound from a kitchen sink they probably would have.) Even so, in the midst of every Loud Family record you'd still hear a couple pure pop gems. That band wrapped it up in the early 2000's and Miller started blogging on the Loud Family website, writing in 2008 that he remained "utterly serious about music, I just respect the buying public’s judgment that it’s not what I should do for a living." Starting with 1957, the columns run down his top 20 songs from each year and have been published as book titled Music: What Happened? As always, Miller's observations are spot on, take this from 1981: "nothing was sadder than watching The dB’s Swiss-watch-precision sense of the progression of music history get lost on a generation that just wanted to dress like Adam and the Ants." Or in the post for 1983, Miller writes "Every Word Means No" by Let’s Active "was my idea of a million-selling hit, and its lack of impact on any but indie circles contributed to my realization that I was getting into the music business at a time when I didn’t have the slightest idea what people wanted." Brother- I know what you mean.
I encourage you to head over to the Loud Family website where you can download all the Game Theory albums for free. See for yourself what a great musician and writer Scott Miller was and I think you'll agree that he was first and foremost a music fan.
Download this week's ALL KINDSA GIRLS with the links below (you may need to pause and un-pause if they get stuck)
p.s. Thanks to Stephen Burt who wrote this great essay on Scott Miller in 2012