Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Never Ending Now

It was 1981. KROQ had a righteous habit of playing the music you would never hear anywhere else. They had the pop stuff mostly: The Clash, Devo, The Ramones. That is not what made them, though. It was the never-heard-anywhere-else sounds of Joy Division, The Smithereens, Echo And The Bunnymen, The Church... that defined what this station was all about.

I know...
It's a cliche, but I ain't lying when I say that this period of my life wasn't an easy one. Turmoil at home and troubles outside the home (I had managed to work myself out of allies) didn't leave many options for escape. (Where do you go when there is no where to run to?)

One glorious evening while taking a break from all the bullshit and drama at home, I did what usually seemed to work: I got stoned and went to bed, tried to drift off and was not having an easy time of it, when I heard this song for the very first time...
Instant affirmation.
Everything I was feeling and thinking was finally encapsulated and given voice. Frustration. Hopelessness. Confusion... and the notion that hidden among it all there was something to celebrate, even if I didn't know what it was.
As the song says, "You take your blessings while they're there".
(Right about now, if you're paying attention, you'll notice a connection to the title of this blog. I assure you, it was completely intentional.)

For some reason, this awesome song only made it onto the irregular rotation. It wasn't played very often, nor was the followup second release.
I'm tellin ya... if I was writing songs; if I could write lyrics, compose music and deliver a vibe THIS would have been It.
Undeterred, I fought like mad to get a copy of their album, which had to be special ordered because, like I said, irregular rotation on the irregular showtime for a station with an irregular playlist made them largely unknown. (this was before "Alternative" was synonomous with "everybody is doing it").

It didn't help that the dude at the record store had never heard of them. Sadly, they would stay that way.

The Chameleons would go on to be celebrated as The Greatest Band Ever Ignored By The Masses.

This was the days when if it wasn't on corporate radio, you wren't supposed to know about it. Even Rolling Stone, for all their counter-culture attitude, was/is about as pop-corporate/culture as you could get. They didn't write about The Chameleons, or any other band that I was following at the time. (They didn't even give credence to the Hardcore Scene that now they decide to celebrate 25yrs after it's demise.) In short, Rollingstone is a poser magazine. Fuck them. All of them. And their writers.

The band broke up early on, by 1986 I think. Reformed around 2000. Toured a bit, and dispersed again. Throughout it all, the band mates have always hung around together. They are true life friends, but involve themselves in other projects and don't seem to connect musically very often.

The current incarnation includes the front man, Mark Burgess and the drummer, John Lever. They perform under the name Chameleons Vox. It's actually quite good, still encompassing the brooding spiritually, the darker vibe, the sweet sense of tranquility lying just beyond the turbulence. It's a cleaner, more modern sound. A little less muddied, I'd say.

Hard to imagine how a band that many other 'larger' bands (like Oasis) name as a influence could end up commercially irrelevant. Thanks to the internet, I have been able to acquire everything they've ever recorded.

They got several albums, some several compilations, a few DVD's... all sought after by a small and dedicated fan base. When a latest compilation carries a small notation from the front man thanking all those who continue to buy the recent reorganisation of previous recordings, you know fandom has gone crazy (but he appreciates and thanks us for the new refrigerator he bought with the proceeds),
I would say fandom has reached cult status.
It's unusual I think.

More than once I've been involved in death-match style bidding wars on ebay with some bloke in the UK or Germany.
Strange times, indeed.
Strange how often it's some German dude who keeps trying to buy the shit I want. British, I understand. But German???? Sheesh!
German 80's music must really suck if you feel the need to go all blitzkrieg for a Chameleons limited Edition CD, whose lyrics you may not understand or even pronounce properly. Is it some genetic need to conquer other people and take their shit that drives them? I don't get it.
I'm tellin ya: them Germans don't quit. I hate them.
It's like there's a little music fuhrer inside their soul that needs to dominate others' desire for obscure music. But Germans are assholes, anyway. Who knew?
There is also a noticeable following of Spaniards, a few Portuguese. They fold much too easily. Not a problem for me, really.


Anyway... I'll just wrap it up saying that there has rarely been a day in my life when the Chameleons haven't been supplying the background music to the struggles playing out within my soul.

I am who I am, and no doubt I'd have made my way without them, but I've enjoyed their company and probably always will.

(If you want to take trip into my head, follow the links and don't forget those little astrixy things just a few lines abve this one. It's not a bad place to be.)

*edited... i fixed the broken * link.


Brian said...

Good stuff...thanks for sharing.

German (popular) music is really pretty terrible, for the most part. Though I have listened to these guys a lot lately.

Gino said...

glad you like it.
germany had a pop hit with Nena (99 luftballons). she was given her USA debute by the same late nite dj who gave me the Chameleons.

i'm just a little embarassed to admit that i loved her USA LP.

Gino said...

dude, i just gave that link a try, for the full 8 minutes. sorry, but yeah, now i know why they cant get along with anybody.
but i've heard they used to have a good metal scene back in the day.

Brian said...

Yeah, shoegaze/post-rock/black metal isn't for everybody. But I love it. Usually through headphones.

Gino said...

dont get me wrong, it was musical. i just couldnt find the beat enough to catch the drift. i imagine its better when stoned. everything good is like that.

Foxfier said...

It didn't help that the dude at the record store had never heard of them. Sadly, they would stay that way.

Sounds like when my mom tried to get a CD version of her old "Gilbert and Sullivan" operas at the "we have everything" local record store. No, he didn't think they were Simon & Garfunkel mis-remembered by a middle aged gal with three young teens, he just looked at her like she was out of her mind. She did eventually show him how to find them on his computer....

Unsurprisingly, the store went out of business.

BTW, my eldest seems to have liked the song.

Gino said...

which one?

Foxfier said...

'In Shreds.' Sorry, unclear as usual.