So once upon a time, a long, long time ago, I was a teenager. I know, I know, I can hardly believe it, either.
I was obsessed with music for as long as I can remember, sleeping with a transistor radio (remember those?) under my pillow until I got my own room when I was 13, a converted den at the front of the apartment, where I could actually keep my clock-radio ON all night and not bother anyone.
It was constantly tuned to WNEW-FM where I could always count on being turned onto new and awesome and obscure bands I’d never heard of before, particularly when my all-time radio hero Vin Scelsa was on air.
I’d keep a pad and pen on the nighttable next to my bed so that if I heard something I loved at, say, 3 a.m. I could scribble it down and track it down during daylight hours.
One night/morning in 1974 or 1975, one of the DJs (and I couldn’t swear but I would bet it was Scelsa) played three songs – “Fundamentally Yours,” “Pinafore Days” and “The Last Plimsoll” — that woke me up and sent me scrambling about for paper and pen. They were the first three tracks from an album called “Pinafore Days” by a group whose name I couldn’t quite understand. Stag Rich? Stack Rich?
I found the album the next day. It was by a group from England called Stackridge and the LP (remember those too?) had been produced by George Martin, who had had a little success with another British band a few years earlier.
I brought home the record, tore off the cellophane, and the vinyl basically did not leave my turntable for the next few months.
To this day, 30-plus years later, “Pinafore Days” (which was released in the UK earlier under the name “The Man In The Bowler Hat” with a few different tracks) remains one of my top 5 “Desert Island Discs.” In my opinion, it is one of the most brilliant, tuneful, innovative and hook-laden pop masterpieces ever.
I lived in New York City and had remarkably tolerant parents when it came to humoring my desire to go to concerts (well, within reason) but as far as I know Stackridge never came through New York, or if they did I somehow missed it in my regular scouring of the Village Voice concert listings.
When Stackridge broke up in the late 1970s, with five albums to their credits, I realized that I would never get to see them play and for the next 30 years that has always made me really sad. From what I heard and read, they were not only remarkable on record, they were one of the best live acts around and had a real cult following in the UK (not unlike my beloved Moxy Fruvous here in the US and Canada).
Two of the original members of Stackridge, however, Andy Davis and James Warren, reformed as a group called the Korgis and had a pretty huge hit with the song “Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime,” which was featured in the soundtrack of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”
In the last few years, however, several of the key original members of Stackridge have reunited – Davis, Warren, Crun Walter and their lead singer and flutist Mutter Slater (on whom I had a huge crush) – and the band has been recording and playing a lot of gigs in the UK. Thanks to the magic of YouTube I’ve finally gotten to even watch them for the first time.
They even have a FACEBOOK PAGE! (I don’t think I can link that here but if you’re on Facebook, just do a search for Stackridge and it won’t be hard to find).
And now, rumor has it, they are tentatively planning to come stateside in the spring of 2009. I don’t know when and I don’t know where (though there is some word of an appearance at Austin’s SXSW festival in mid-March) but wherever and whenever it is, I will find a way to be there.
Now, if I could just find a way to get my other all-time favorite group, Gunhill Road, to reunite for one show, my life will be complete.