After working all last week, Friday was my regularly scheduled flex day off, and my first spent at home in compliance with social distancing measures put in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Yesterday could have been the start of any lazy weekend: early morning coffee in a comfy chair with the most recent issue of The Believer Magazine, a leisurely dog walk giving Bolt the opportunity to sniff and pee on every clump of wild onions we passed, an afternoon matinee, cocktails, dinner from the grill, another movie, and bed at a reasonable hour. A nice way to spend the day—even if it is just a warmup for our bizarre routine over the next few weeks! We will, as so many folks like retired Navy Admiral William McRaven have so eloquently stated, get through all this, and “sing again.” I have no doubts. We may even learn a few things about each other along the way, and what it means to be a citizen of this country and an inhabitant of this planet. When all is said and done, I suspect we will even emerge stronger on the other side of this challenge. One thing is for certain, life and our perception and appreciation of it has been turned upside down and changed forever.
Given our current state of affairs and my decision to use the remainder of the month to highlight music by Irish musicians, I had a pretty good idea that I would need to pull out some vinyl this morning and add a little digitizing to my Sunday morning activities. While grooves converted to 1’s and 0’s, I did a little research and made a very pleasant discovery: the band I had earmarked for the Happy Medium Song of the Day had, unbeknownst to me, evolved from another one of my favorite Irish bands. While it’s no surprise that I had been drawn to the unique sound of both bands back in the early 80s, their intertwined history was a revelation that lends itself perfectly to a "twofer."
Formed in early 1984, The Adventures' story can be traced back six years to the Belfast, Northern Ireland power-pop/punk group The Starjets, which featured vocalist Terry Sharpe and guitarist Pat Gribben. My 45 collection is full of Starjets’ singles deliberately sought and purchased in lieu of a full length album which was eventually released (and of course purchased) in 1979. God Bless the Starjets is really just an amazing collection of catchy singles finally compiled so I could retire my 45s. The Starjets relocated to London in ’77, no doubt in an effort to distance themselves from the curfews, bombings and turmoil that made Belfast a lousy place for a band to find steady employment. More pop than punk, and more clean-cut than pierced, The Starjets were an inexplicable commercial failure with little chart success.
Sharpe and Gribben eventually called it quits and put together The Adventures with Gribben's wife Eileen on vocals, Gerard ‘Spud’ Murphy (guitar), Tony Ayre (bass) and Paul Crowder (drums). After eight years and four highly acclaimed albums on three different labels… The Adventures disbanded; demonstrating yet again that talent and critical popularity has little to do with commercial success. For me, the two bands and the musicians common to both, created fantastic music in two different genres of which I am particularly fond: punk and new wave. I am grateful that they remained undaunted in their belief that they had music worth sharing with an audience, no matter how small. Once you hear the Happy Medium Song of the Day’s “twofer”, I think you’ll feel the same way. First up, from The Starjets is the fifth(!) single they released in 1979 on Epic Records called “Ten Years.” Although, one could say the Stiff Little Fingers influence is obvious on this song, I’m more inclined to believe the city of Belfast is the inspiration behind the bands’ mutual musical approach to venting frustration and anxiety through high energy pop music. Compare that with the fuller and more lush approach to the same, timely emotions on “When the World Turns Upside Down,” from The Adventures’ 1985 debut on Chrysalis titled Theodore and Friends. (Please use the comments box to share your thoughts.)