Monday, June 06, 2005

*insert cool JPG of Tiny Light's debut LP cover here*

This week I shall tell you, dear readers, of a great band from Hoboken, New Jersey. I will also tell you of their sad fate at the hands of three consecutive bankrupted labels. Let us begin...

I don't believe any of the folks in Tiny Lights had previous musical history in terms of being in bands that released albums. They formed in Hoboken in 1984 or so, and at one point my Indiana roommate Ian Brewer lived with one of them. When they first toured Bloomington in the summer of 1988 Ian put them up in our shared house, and we became friends. But at that point they already had two albums out, so for today I'm going to back up a little.

As is common among the artists we deal with here at Mystical Beast, there is no current website for the band. I was able to find a semi-complete fan discography, a 1997 bio of the band written when they signed to Bar/None, and a glowing Trouser Press review that really says it all in the first line:

"Tiny Lights were a perfectly lovely jumble of plaintive pop, Close to the Edge-style epics, jazzy forays and neo-hippie lullabies that, if not for a procession of label failures, might have found an audience as broad as its tastes."

So the first thing they released was a 7" single on their own Uriel label, "Flowers Through The Air" b/w "Zippity Do-Dah". Typical small pressing, even I don't have one. An LP (Prayer For The Halcyon Fear) soon followed, also on the Uriel imprint.

This first version of the band was something to be reckoned with. Augmenting the standard guitar, bass, and drums was Donna Croughn's electric violin and Jane Scarpantoni's cello. Drummer Andy Demos would come out from behind his kit to play soprano sax and tabla, and bassist Dave Dreiwitz also played trumpet. All of them sang, with Croughn and guitarist John Hamilton taking leads. This allowed a fairly vast sonic palette and made for quite the live show.

One of the people impressed by their live set was Fred Gianelli, then of Turning Shrines and later in Psychic TV. If I remember correctly, his enthusiasm was what resulted in Temple Records reissuing the first single (as a 12") and LP (in a different cover, both remastered) in the UK. As I was a huge PTV geek at the time I met the band, I quizzed them extensively about this. I still remember their tales of going to a grim tenement block somewhere in England, in the grey rain with the locks and the dogs, watching TV and smoking lots of pot and wondering when these weird people were going to talk business.

I wouldn't include Temple in the list of failed labels that has plagued the band, but I doubt these records were ever repressed, and I don't think Temple has been active since Genesis P-Orridge was forced to flee to the US on trumped-up charges in the early 90's. They did do an incredible job on the remasters (something I also confirmed with the band) so all of these here MP3's are from those pressings.

from the debut single:
"Flowers Through The Air"

from Prayer For The Halcyon Fear:
"Sweet Solution"
"Blue Dot Cleanser"

By the way, all of these MP3s this week are designed as an alternate version of their collection A Young Person's Guide To Tiny Lights (we'll get to that on Friday). The week's total tracks will (just barely) fit on one CD.

Tomorrow we'll talk about the second album, the tours, and the first label downfall...

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