Thinking back on it now, growing up in the Michigan hinterlands as a kid wasn't all that far removed from being stuck in Siberia, I imagine. It was cold and snow-covered for nearly half the year and the complete lack of culture could be downright insufferable at times. When a copy of Trouser Press or NY Rocker managed to somehow land on the shelves of the local drug store's modest magazine rack, it was like an air-drop from heaven. In the pages of those magazines, I came to be quite aware of the dB's existence on the New York scene. Heck, I even ordered one of their records via mail-order along with a Johnny Thunders solo album, only to find the contents of the twisted and mangled package to be unplayable upon its arrival 6-8 weeks later.
It's odd to think that, upon my arrival in Chicago in order to attend college, I could name every song on every dB's album despite having never heard a millisecond of their music. That changed one fateful day when I walked into Wax Trax! Records and came face-to-face not with one of their studio albums, but what appeared to be a hastily assembled UK compilation called Amplifier.
"Good enough for me," I said to myself as I headed to the cashier's register with cash-in-hand before hauling ass back to my dorm room to give this molten slice of hot wax one-high volume listen. Now, this wasn't the first time I'd become overly familiar with a band long before ever hearing a note of their music and not every first listen had confirmed my adoration for said band. So it was with some trepidation that I dropped the needle on my first dB's record.
Thirty years later, I still have that slab of vinyl, as well as just about every other dB's record the band issued during their rocky tenure. I watched as many other admittedly lesser bands flirted with mainstream success while the dB's remained on the outskirts of the musical universe, never quite getting their proper due.
Of course, I find myself more upset by this turn of events than band leader Peter Holsapple, who has every right to hold a grudge, but remains a fookin' saint of a man who, it just so happens, is celebrating his birthday today.
That's as good an excuse as any to drag out my dB's rekkids and assemble this loving list of the Top 5 dB's tunes EVER:
5. Ask For Jill
This jittery, hormonal romp perfectly captures that mix of angst and pent-up frustration that is such a part of storming into manhood. Didn't help that I was still a tad hung-up on my last girlfriend, whose name just so happened to be...Jill.
4. Working For Somebody Else
The year is 1987 and the dB's have been resurrected from the dead for one last album via esteemed I.R.S. Records at a time when the radio can't get enough John Cougar Mellencamp. For those wondering what it would have sounded like if Johnny Cougar had fronted the deeB's, well, this is all the proof you need to know that it would have rocked. Thankfully, Holsapple and company didn't need Cougar's input to come up with a tune that would not have sounded at all out of place next to "Paper And Fire" and "Pink Houses".
3. From A Window To A Screen
This writer has always had a soft spot for the lounge-y goodness of Martin Denny and Sergio Mendez, so it was effortless to fall in love with this wonderfully esoteric mood piece from 1982's Reprecussion.
2. Bad Reputation
"New girl in school/She looks cool/Cool enough to cool you down/Like a summer vacation" is one of those lines that a scholar might scoff at, but anyone who has ever walked the halls of high school can relate to in a heartbeat and therein lies the greatness of Holsapple's lyrical prowess: the ability to relay a universal moment with surgical precision in as few words as possible. For all the accolades tossed in the direction of peers such as Television, Richard hell & The Voidoids, this writer remains absolutely convinced that had either of those bands been capable of this sort of musical dexterity and lyrical genius, they too could be basking in screaming obscurity.
1. Black And White
Is it just a coincidence that the band's first song on their first album remains, to my ears anyway, their finest musical moment? That's not to say that they should have hung it up the minute they finished cutting this song, but there is certainly something to be said for arriving on the scene so fully formed that very few of their peers could compete with this first blast of brilliance. In one fell swoop, they manage to out-jangle R.E.M. and out-jitter The Feelies, all the while creating a sound that remains entirely their own.