Sunday, January 06, 2008

Those Jangly Eighties, Vol 2: The dB's

[For the background on this series, see here.]

Today's featured jangly rock band are The dB's of Winston-Salem, North Carolina (in particular, the Peter-Holsapple-era dBs).

The dB's formed in the late 1970s and released four nice power pop albums before disbanding. Key member Chris Stamey departed after two albums to pursue a solo career and produce records. This left a bigger role for Peter Holsapple as the new frontman. Holsapple created a poppier sound that I really enjoy. (He later went on to be part of R.E.M.'s touring band and contributed significantly to R.E.M.'s hit album Out Of Time.)

Read more about the dBs at all music.

My sentimental favorite dB's album is Like This from 1984. Check out this standout track about a hard-luck breakup:

The dB's - Amplifier (buy album).

I love how that one starts.

Similar in style was 1987's The Sound of Music, which is now out of print. Objectively, this album is probably even better than Like This, but I always seem to favor the first album I hear from a band. Try these tracks:

The dB's - Molly Says
The dB's - Never Before And Never Again (Guest vocals by Syd Straw. Also guesting on the album is the legendary Van Dyke Parks.)
The dB's - Working For Somebody Else

These lighthearted, catchy pop songs are what "indie" rock sounded like back in the 1980s. I like it a lot better than most of the dirge-like, self-important indie music we get these days.

Hopefully somebody will reissue The Sound Of Music. It deserves to be heard.

(I've got a vinyl copy autographed by the band at a 1987 show at Rick's Cafe in Ann Arbor. Holsapple wrote "Paul B. Careful" on my copy, which makes me think I might've been drinking at the time....)


Ramone666 said...

Great post about a great band. Their first single Black And White may very well be my perfect pop song of all time. Let me know if you haven´t got that one and I´ll email you the MP3. Who´s next? The Bongos maybe?

Paul said...

Hey thanks! I'm just taking 'em one day at a time. But I'm thinking Guadalcanal Diary next.

I don't have a digital copy of Black and White. I've got the first two records on vinyl, but my turntable has been broken for awhile now. I've been meaning to get a USB turntable for blogging purposes, but cash flow is low right now! (Also, I'm kicking myself because I sold a bunch of vinyl back in the 1990s. Ugh! Probably lots of now-out-of-print stuff. That's what I get for trying to keep up with the "modern" trends. Never saw this USB turntable thing coming!)

Dan said...


Been reading your blog for a little while now, really enjoy it. These jangle posts are especially hitting a nerve with me, in a good way.

I actually have a little radio show that mines this territory quite a bit. Gonna try to fit some dBs into the show this week, most likely something from Sound of Music, used to have that on vinyl. Thanks for the suggestion and the songs.

If you're interested, I've just started recording the shows and making them available online. Have a look if you get a chance:

Beat Surrender

Thanks again,

Paul said...

Dan, Thanks a lot for the kind words. It looks like your shows are pretty good. I'll definitely be checking them out.

Satisfied '75 said...

Guadalcanal Diary! Great call. Almost caught a reunion show years ago back in Athens

Paul said...

Satisfied 75:

Too bad you missed it! They were my personal favorite jangly eithies band and probably one of the bigger culprits behind my lifetime obsession with music. They just happened to come along with the right album at the right time... (But not for most of the rest of America I guess).


P.S. Thank you for the link from your excellent website! It will be a big boost to my little operation here.

frankenslade said...

Man, I'm such a "first two albums dB's guy," but I'm all for keeping their legacy alive and kicking!

Paul said...


I think you are definitely in the majority being part of the first two albums crowd. For me, its probably timing more than anything else. Discovered the third album at just the right time.

Trampus said...

I must be too late! The links are gone! Can you repost the stuff from Sound of Music? I bought it when it came out, and I haven't heard it in probably 15 years!!!!!!

Paul said...

OK, Trampus, just this one time...

Tracks back up for a limited time only. Leave a new comment when you see this.

Anonymous said...

leaving a comment, great blog