I’m sure that everyone can name a band or two that shoulda been huge. Someone with tremendous talent, for sure, but who got side-swiped by the recording industry or for some other reason never achieved the recognition that their talent deserved. Here are a few on my list.
The bridge between classic 1950’s rock and roll and 1980’s indie rock, Chesterman whipped out a slew of rock-solid songs, first with his band Scruffy the Cat and then as a solo artist. He always played with a crew of crack musicians who could breath tremendous life into his already lively songs. Don’t believe me? Here is a Chesterman classic, performed by the man himself with Letters to Cleo, plus another gem with his late band Charlie Chesterman and the Motorbikes.
Audio Download: Letters to Cleo with Charlie Chesterman, “You Dirty Rat”
Kevin Salem has always mystified me. He can rock with an intensity that Neil Young would admire all the while crafting songs that are immediately accessible. His solo releases progressed from the rock-tinged power pop of Soma City to the brawny guitar crunch of Glimmer to the sophisticated and brilliant Ecstatic. With nary a bad track in the bunch, Salem should be a staple in any rock collection.
Audio Download: Kevin Salem, “It’s Only Life”
These guys were the quintessential Twangville band – combining attitude with musical acumen. Singer-songwriter Matthew Grimm was a mean cuss with a heart of gold. Most of the time he wrote gems like “I’d Call To Say I Love You But I Don’t Anymore” but every once in awhile he’d deliver a tear-jerker like “Drift.” The band liked to sing “They don’t play no country on the East Side of New York” but I’m not sure that they meant it. By that I mean that these New York-based boys were playin’ it loud and proud.
This is a long-time favorite, social commentary that perfectly balances optimism and resignation.
Audio Download: The Hangdogs, “Something Left To Save”
You want pop hooks? These guys had ‘em and then some. They played the major label game first as Greenberry Woods, but truly hit stride when the went indie and released a couple of power pop gems as Splitsville.
Audio Download: Splitsville, “I Wish I Never Met You”
I’ll say at the outset that these guys became friends before I ever heard them play. After hearing them play, however, I knew why we became friends. Their mantra might as well have been “intelligent songs played with energy and enthusiasm “as that is what they did over the course of multiple albums and countless shows.
Audio Download: Angry Salad, “Stretch Armstrong”
This one came out of nowhere. Charles had been – and still is – kicking around Boston as a studio owner, helping countless artists find their sound. And then this album appeared. Guitars ringing, songs shimmering – this was glorious power pop perfection. I’m still holding out hope for a sequel!
Audio Download: Brian Charles, “Impossible”
3 Pd. Thrill
Rising from the ashes of a band called Uncle Green, this Atlanta quartet hooked up with an early career Brendan O’Brien to deliver an album of raw but melodic rock and roll. The rest, as they say, was history. The band’s follow-up was recorded but never released.
Audio Download: 3 Pd. Thrill, “Something Will Come”
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.