Audio Lore

A Positive Music Blog

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Feelies - Time for a Witness (Out of the Vaults #25)

Every once in awhile ..well you know the drill

Where as most 14/15/16 year olds may have written fan letters to their sports players, actors, or pop music idols, I wrote letters to members of indie rock bands. Yeah, my music geek roots run pretty deep.

I would get the addresses of the LP jackets or cassette inserts, write out carefully handwritten letters, seal them, send them out and wait patiently for replies.

I can't remember exactly how I first heard of the Hoboken,New Jersey band  The Feelies but it probably has to do with R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck co-producing their 1986 The Good Earth album. Soon The Good Earth and 1988's Only Life, the only two Feelies records I was aware of at that time, were two of my favorite albums,always in heavy rotation.

Along with The Feelies, at the time two of my favorite indie rock discoveries at the time were Boston's Galaxie 500 who had just released the awesome On Fire album, and New Zealand's The Chills. One day I decided the three bands would be the next victims of my music geek letter writing.

I never heard back from Galaxie 500 or The Chills, I chalked it up to the
former being busy on tour and the latter's letter getting lost somewhere overseas en route to New Zealand.

But The Feelies actually wrote back. The letter was written by drummer Stanley Demeski  He said that when he joined the band it was decided he would be the one responsible for all the fan mail the band received. He said my letter was their very first one.

In the letter he expressed how thrilled he and the rest of the band were that someone had taken the time to write to them. He included a Coyote Records press release for the band. It was in the press release that I first learned the band was taken from a device in Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I made a mental note to pick up a copy at the Crown Books next to the Kemp Mill Records store in town. I also had no idea the band had actually all but split up in the early 80's , playing together in various musical project, before reforming and recording The Good Earth This was about when Stanley Demeski joined on drums,

The Feelies perforning in "Something Wild"
The press release also talked about the band's close affiliation to director Jonathan Demme. Their song “Too Far Gone” had appeared on the soundtrack to his movie Married to the Mob. The band even made an appearance in Demme's Something Wild as “the Willies”, playing live during the high school reunion. They preformed a couple songs including David Bowie's “Fame”. I would go on to look for an actual recording of that song for years

One of the most important thing the press release informed  me (and plus radio stations and live venues the release was intended for) of was that The Feelies actually had another album. Their debut album Crazy Rhythms was originally released in 1980 but at the point the press release was written it was long out of print. Even then the album was considered a classic. I would go on to try and find a decently priced copy. Finally in 1990 A&M rereleased it on compact disc 

In 1991 I had the opportunity to by my first "new" album by The Feelies when they released Time for a Witness,

The music found on the disc really broke no new ground but
"Sooner or Later" promo 12"
it was by far a disappointment either. Time for a Witness has some awesome revved up songs toward in "Waiting" at track 1, with it's smooth guitar groove during the chorus, "Time for a Witness" with a slight jangle added track, and "Sooner of Later, containing one of my favorite lyrics ("I don't know what's up ahead, Don't think too much, it'll hurt your head") at track 3. 

The band also continues paying tribute to their music
forefathers with the Velvet Underground influenced "Decide" at track 5 and early Rolliug Stones inspired "What She Said", as well what I thought as their totally own sound on "Invitation", a song that would fit perfectly right on The Good Earth

One big surprise of the album is "Doing it Again" at track 6. The song sound very similar to the Jackson Browne classic "Somebody's baby". I'm not sure if this was intended buy the band or just an accidental coincidence. I'm also surprised in all these years no one besides me has ever called the band out on it. 

Continuing to pay tribute to their influence (they covered The Velvet Underground's "What Goes On" on the previous album) The Feelies close the album with a amped up cover of The Stooges "Real Cool Time", which may have been the first time I was aware of hearing the classic but at the time pretty unavailable band 

Unfortunately Time for a Witness would be the last album the band would release, The band went on hiatus, Later reforming for post 2000 to play sporatic shows (I caught them in Battery Park opening for Sonic Youth on July 4th 2008) before releasing their Time for a Witness followup Here in 2011.

But The Feelies hiatus did not leave this now 18 year old music geek too upset because right around the same time both Galaxie 500 and The Chills called it a day too. Galaxie 50 's singer/guitarist Dean Warhem would form a new band with The Chills bassist Justin Harwood,  my old pen pal Stanley Demeski on drums. 

Years later Dean Warhem would retweet a tweet I made about an upcoming Luna concert. I consider it my long overdue reply.

The Feelies performing "Doin' it Again" on David Letterman in 1991