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Two Guys from  Brooklyn Named John

Two Guys from Brooklyn Named John:
They Might Be Giants

February 1990  Greenbelt, MD


Every now and then a band comes along that so shakes the foundations of what you consider to be good, cool music that it takes a while for the realization to set in.  Such was the case with They Might Be Giants. 

Friend and former KiteSiteer, Michael Chapman, first turned me on to TMBG.  Their first album (self-titled) was a 19-track cacophony of sounds, principally guided by accordian and guitar, with musical stylings that (de)ranged from the semi-folkish sounds of "Alienation's for the Rich" to the manically frantic songs "Don't Let's Start" and "Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head."  To someone hip-deep into Bowie, Yes, the jangily 80s guitar sounds of Marshall Crenshaw and Tommy Keene and 80s British New Wave, TMBG was harsh on the ears and wholly unexpected.

Still, there was something both gutsy and catchy about their music.  It was so completely different from anything else I'd heard before but it was also intelligent, smart music with bizarre, offbeat lyrics that were both psychedellic in their stream-of-consciousness style and pretty danged amusing.

Within a few months I was happily singing along with the entire album.  When the second album, "Lincoln", came out, I was right there ready and waiting.

When "Flood", their third album, came out, I was more than happy to do a display for them.  This was a fairly early display, pretty tame and almost boring.  There was only one poster and a series of record flats to work with, so I centered the poster, cut out multiples of the guy in the boat and spiraled them in two corners and then cut out the flower-like Flood logo and made a wave-like line across the whole thing. 

And then I played the heck out of it at the store, much to the annoyance of many of my Top 40-loving co-workers.

So, what's not to love about They Might Be Giants?  They have an amazing website, they give away free mp3 downloads of songs from time to time, their Dial-A-Song is now online, they've done "family-oriented" albums, kid's albums, their song "Boss of Me" is the theme song to Malcolm in the Middle and they're still putting out amazing, twisted music.

If you haven't heard them before, give them a listen.

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March 11, 1990  Washington, DC


[To quote myself from a comment made to [ profile] drood earlier today: "Just remember, these next ones were displays that (a) were manditory and (b) photographic proof that they had been done and were displayed in the store had to be sent to the head office. This meant that the distain I felt and displayed had to be subtle."]

Let me start off by making one thing abundantly clear: I am a music snob.  That having been said, one of the types of music I cannot abide involves 80s Heavy Metalic Hair Bands.  Pure and unadulterated garbage in my book.  All pretense and hairspray, posing and posturing, looking pretty for the MTV swooping camera for the 5 minutes of fame (not even 15) that their one crappy single managed to gain them through payola-ed VJ airplay.

When the word came down from corporate that we had a manditory display due for a new Heavy Metalic Hair Band I took one look at the materials and rolled my eyes.  Big hair from big cans of hairspray, and cover art featuring a scantily-clad woman bound to a board with throwing knives dangerously close to her head.  I remember glaring at the band's name, "Slaughter" and thinking, "Typical.  Oooh, we have a scaryscary name so you know we're, like, really ba-a-ad dudes, man."

That's when my devious mind started gearing up to the challenge. 

Okay, so the "T" in "SlaughTer" is shaped like the business end of a dagger.  Well, clearly it needed to be stabbing at least one of the band.  Front Man with the leather jacket opened the length of his torso would be just a bit too obvious.  Background Guy, with the wider exposed chest area would do just fine.  A quick slit in the poster, just wide enough for the blade of the "T" to fit in and that was that.

Being something of a word-guy I kept looking at the band's name, thinking there was something I was missing.  "Slaughter."  "Slaughter."

Then I saw it.  Take the "S" out of "Slaughter" and you're left with "Laughter."

I was beside myself with joy.

As I recall, the company rep who came by one day to view it did a double-take before giving me a disappointed look.  Being unapologetic I simply shrugged and told her that the band deserved it.

(The original polaroid is pretty dark so I edited the two "Laughter"s to the  point where they're admittedly garrish, but at least they're visible)

This is really the better of the two.  If you're really interested in seeing the other one, just click on through to the other side )

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House of Love

House of Love

May 13, 1990 Washington, DC


A good band display to show for Valentine's Day, I think.

House of Love released one album in the US back in the early 1990s around the time The Stone Roses released their album.  It was the only album of there's that I've seen, but it's still a favorite.

Most display "packs" came with record flats (album cover sized images of the album cover with an additional image on the back) and posters of the band.  This album cover featured a large butterfly, so to draw attention to the display and the album I cut out a bunch of butterflies from the cover and hung them from the ceiling.  The two bottom album cover images also have butterflies with their wings bowed out for a little extra 3-D effect. 

Considering we were given little to nothing to work with -- I had to scrounge to find the stapler and string -- I was intent on doing things differently. 

Must be the long hair.

Record company reps would travel around to all of the stores to (a) verify for themselves that the Manditory Displays were up for the appropriate period of time as well as to see what other of their label's "product" was up on the walls.  Obviously, some of them liked me a whole lot.  Others, well... let's just say I made my opinions known on those bands that I didn't like.

Two of those will be up tomorrow night.

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The Stone Roses Display

'The Stone Roses'
composite image of an in-store display

March 18, 1990, Washington, DC


This image goes out to [ profile] new_brunette, a fellow Stone Roses fan and who was probably still in school when I created this display and took the images.

(The odd distortion comes from this being a composite of two images, each taken from different sides of the display.  I couldn't get it all in one shot, so I did the next best thing.  And, yes, I know I could have messed with the angles in editing software but, really, that was far more work than I was interested in putting into this.  The focus problems, on the other hand come from the original images being Polaroids.  With autoflash)

Back in the early 90s I worked for a while as an assistant manager of a Kemp Mill Records store.  Well, they still sold some records when I first started, but they were well on their way to becomming CD stores.  After my initial training in Georgetown, DC (where, long-time readers will recall I met Seren who kept telling me I needed to meet her mother) I was moved out to the Maryland suburbs for a stretch of several months.  After doing a good job there the district manager asked me to move to a struggling store in DC and see if I couldn't work some magic there during the evenings.

I went to work in music stores to feed my music habit.  (I'd done the same with an ice cream store at one point, but that's another story.  One with a photograph, actually)  While I loved the opportunity to get first dibs on the new music as well as the chance to open and play any new CD that I deemed "interesting" (that's how I found Sarah McLachlan, Toad the Wet Sprocket and The Innocence Mission) what I really liked doing was the in-store displays.  Especially for groups that I liked.

Each store had a polaroid camera and film to send in proof of the manditory in-store displays to the head office.  I did my share of the manditory ones, but I gave the extra effort to the bands I really liked.  (I also ripped through polaroid film trying to get my personal favorites "just right" on film)

I'll post a few others in the coming days.



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