A special guest blog post by Bar/None Records Owner Glenn Morrow
I remember seeing the Feelies for the first time at CBGBs opening up for Richard Hell and the Voidoids probably in early 1977. Their loud high speed rhythm guitars had a punk assault but there were interesting melodies in there that reminded me of Tom Verlaine’s playing. They also had a look all their own, kind of a throwback to the 1950’s.
Years later, at their 40th reunion concert, Bill Million told me their look was inspired by the Modern Lover’s Jonathan Richman, who they saw open for the New York Dolls at the Mercer Arts Center. While everyone else was glammed up to the max, Jonathan went for a clean cut kid look, so Bill and lead guitarist Glenn Mercer decided to develop a throwback look to Buddy Holly and 1950s suburban TV America. That look would inform the image of their classic first album Crazy Rhythms, originally released on Stiff Records, the British indie upstart who launched Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe and the Damned.
As a young musician, my friends and I watched the Feelies carefully from the club Maxwells on the Jersey side. We were suburban kids who had just missed the first wave and the Feelies were like our older brothers, ready to show us the way now that the rave reviews and club crowds were pouring in. Crazy Rhythms became a touch stone for many of the bands that made up the Hoboken music scene and when they showed up at the club they were welcomed with open arms. The Bongos, my band the Individuals, REM who played there often, and later Yo La Tengo all took inspiration from the Feelies.
The Feelies in turn were probably inspired by the incubator that was Maxwells and after more line up changes and various side projects the Feelies again lead the way with an album called The Good Earth, an album that would help define the era’s college rock jangle sound. I never got tired of hearing the Feelies play their fantastic rave up “Slipping Into Something” at that tiny 200 capacity club.
Two more albums followed on Coyote/A&M where a now heavy touring outfit released two more classic discs Only Life and Time For A Witness. And then the band went silent for almost two decades.
I became partners in the label Bar None in 1986. Based out of Hoboken, we had success with They Might Be Giants, Esquivel, Yo La Tengo, of Montreal, Freedy Johnston, and many others.
One winter day in 2007 I was stuck on route 95 in a blizzard in Rhode island when my phone rang. It was Bill Million of the Feelies! They wanted Bar None to reissue Crazy Rhythms and the Good Earth. It seemed like a strange dream come true as I navigated the snow covered back roads of Rhode Island trying to find a way out of the traffic jam.
It was a further dream come true when the Feelies decided to re-form and then made a fantastic new album for Bar None. I finally got to see them up close working at Water Music recording the album Here Before. The cover shot is of the front of Water Music after a heavy rain storm. This was prophetic as the studio had to be completely re-built after Hurricane Sandy.
And now one more glorious surprise from this band that are now old friends with their sixth studio album in forty years. In Between shows them playing quieter at times but also with more fury than ever before. I’m grateful to have been along for the whole glorious ride.