One of my brother’s favorite Cleveland bands was a synth-pop group formed in 1982 called The Exotic Birds. He regarded them as a personal discovery and went to see them often when he was in high school. When they disbanded in ’88 I think he wrote an open letter to The Scene, a local music paper, thanking them for years of entertaining shows and great music. Had I stuck around Cleveland after I graduated from college I probably would have championed the band as fervently as Joe did. I am a huge fan of this distinctive ‘80s sound. Unfortunately, The Exotic Birds never really migrated as far east as Washington, DC and consequently they flew completely under my musical radar in the 80s. I vaguely remember Joe talking about the band back in the day, but his enthusiasm never compelled me to add their music to my collection…until last year.
One evening in Joe’s hospital room, as dusk settled across Portland, we let the room slip into the kind of semi-darkness that makes difficult conversations between brothers slightly easier. Eventually we worked our way around to the lighter topic of music and Joe started reminiscing about seeing the The Exotic Birds at the Phantasy Nightclub. I admitted complete ignorance of the band and he was appalled — until I pointed out that he had never made good on his promise to send me some samples of their music. “Even less likely to happen now,” he joked dryly. “Wait, isn’t there a thing called the internet?” he teased, drifting off to sleep again.
I suppose I could have downloaded Equilibrium from Amazon that night, but I didn’t want to disturb the stillness of the quiet room and the aftermath of our conversations by rooting around in the dark for my phone. Of course, the next time The Exotic Birds came to mind I was busying myself with a playlist for Joe’s memorial. In the midst of pestering my sisters for song suggestions I suddenly remembered his favorite local band. A search on eMusic came up empty, but once I convinced Amazon and Apple Music’s search engine that I wasn’t looking for Procol Harum’s album Exotic Birds and Fruit, I found a digitally remastered version of the 1989 album I had been certain only existed on vinyl. In a few clicks I downloaded the album and after a few listens added all 10 songs to Joe’s playlist.
As February heads into the homestretch, there’s still time for a few more heartfelt tunes to commemorate the month of love, including The Happy Medium Song of the Day by The Exotic Birds called “Heartbeat Like a Drum.” This joyous blast of synth-pop is courtesy of the good taste in music my brother managed to cultivate in spite of sharing a small room and a big stereo with me for over ten years. (Please use the comments box to share your thoughts.)