What's the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions '80s alternative pop band Guadalcanal Diary?
While some lucky enough to have grown up, or gone to college, in the musically fruitful Atlanta-Athens, GA area during the early '80s will get a faraway look in their eyes as they speak reverently of the band's early days when they were giving a young R.E.M. a run for their money. that was, many others came to know of the band through hearing their first three albums - Walking in The Shadow of The Big Man (1984), Jamboree (1986), and 2X4 (1987) - on college or indie radio stations.
For the rest, it might be the band's video for "Always Saturday", from their 1989 album flip-flop, which broke into MTV's coveted medium-rotation playlist and then, just like that, was gone.
Upon hearing the album, which saw the band completely deviate from their trademark Byrdsian jangle for a more straightforward, but ill-fitting stadium-rock stance, this writer's first thought was that "The Likes of You" was the obvious choice for first single.
I even called a friend at the band's label, Elektra Records, and demanded that whatever song the label had chosen as first single (because the label hardly ever gets it right) be replaced by "The Likes Of You" immediately.
See, to my ears, the song combined just enough of that arena-ready riffage that Peter Buck from R.E.M. and Jim Babjak and Pat DiNizio from the Smithereens were doling out to mainstream rock audiences at the time. It was obvious Guadalcanal Diary were swinging for the fences on this effort so why not pick the best song to accomplish what it was they and their label were after: a hit?
Six months later, driving cross-country to my band's next gig with the radio blaring, I hear that familiar (to me, anyway,) guitar riff and excitedly perk up, thinking that the fine folks at Elektra finally got around to releasing "The Likes Of You" as a single, only to find that what I'm hearing isn't Guadalcanal Diary, but the Smithereens' new single "A Girl Like You".
My first thought was "Wait, aren't both bands produced by Don Dixon?"
As we cave people of the '80s did not have Google at our fingertips, it would be days before I was able to discern that, while Don Dixon had produced previous Smithereens albums Especially For You and Green Thoughts, Ed Stasium had, in fact, produced the band's latest album (11), including first single "A Girl Like You".
Due to the timing (roughly half a year after "The Likes of You" came out) and both band's mutual association with Don Dixon, I find it hard to believe the Smithereens were completely unaware of Guadalcanal Diary's song. Having said that, beyond the similarity of the intros to both songs, the Smithereens' track is by far the better song.
What do you think?