I’ve written before about the handful of albums I got as a result of working for The Daily Orange, Syracuse University’s independent daily newspaper. it always amazed me that record companies routinely sent free records to the lifestyle/entertainment section (which then was called “Focus”), hoping this or that band that no one had ever heard of would be written up in a college paper and generate some kind of local buzz. My recollection is that the Focus writers were more likely to cover major label releases, but some of these smaller artists could get some ink if they were also playing live somewhere. In any event, the freebies were eventually up for grabs, though obviously the Focus staff got first dibs and took anything that was any good.
But if something arrived in the summer, when a skeleton crew put out a little weekly, well, then the dibs worked a little differently. And despite my having been part of that crew for two successive summers, I hardly grabbed any of the records that came in because most of them were straight up garbage. But there were exceptions.
The Laughing Dogs, for example! I had no knowledge of The Laughing Dogs whatsoever before this record arrived in the summer of 1979, but it came with an elaborate press kit including masks that their fans, so-called “Joeheads,” purportedly wore to their shows. The label was major, the graphics slick, and their cred as a regular act at CBGB’s made them worth a listen, so this was one I snagged.
And enjoyed! Not at all what I would have expected of a CBGB act of the time – they’re not really punkish, they’re not as inventive or out there as Talking Heads, they’re certainly not Patti Smith or Blondie (both of whom they opened for). In fact, they’re pretty straight-up power-poppish rock. Apparently they had a bit of a following, and still have a webpage with all kinds of their history. Some of these songs ended up on the mix tapes of the day – although since I was very focused on ’60s music at the time, it wasn’t the smoothest of fits. Still, “Get ‘im Outta Town” is a rouser, as are “I Need A Million” and “Get Outta My Way,” and this album got a good amount of play back then. But like a lot of things, there was no digital reissue, and I never felt the need to record this to digital myself, so it existed primarily in memory and a few random tracks from digitized cassettes for the past 30 years or so.
I still have almost the entire press kit in the record – except for the masks, which Danny and I used to wear to parties because that was a thing we did. Even then, I’m pretty sure I had mine for many years and finally must have decided to cast it off with a bunch of other detritus from an earlier time. No particular regrets.