The Holy Grail? Perhaps not quite. But this is pretty damned special to me.
When your all-time favorite power pop group was a local Syracuse band that never quite snagged a record deal during its late '70s heyday, your chances of finding vintage video performances of that band in action should rightly range from slim to none to are you outta your freakin' gourd, man?! This is part of the burden long-time fans of The Flashcubes have shouldered for decades. The Flashcubes shoulda been stars. Instead, they broke up in relative obscurity; their audience materialized in time, but well after the fact, too late to propel The Flashcubes on to American Bandstand or Midnight Special or Night Flight or that '80s thing, MTV.
So I'm amazed to see this video for the first time this week: video of The Flashcubes on stage at Hurrah's in New York, a full freakin' set from February 19, 1980. Granted, it's Flashcubes Mark II, after guitarist and founding member Paul Armstrong had been replaced by Mick Walker (an accomplished guitarist whose only real flaw in the 'Cubes was that he wasn't Paul Armstrong, kinda like The Beatles with, say, Mick Taylor in place of John Lennon--interesting, but not quite the same as the original). But it's still bassist Gary Frenay, guitarist Arty Lenin, and drummer Tommy Allen, mere months before that trio left the 'Cubes behind to form the also-great combo Screen Test. This set may, in fact, seem closer in style to Screen Test than the raucous earlier sound of The Flashcubes with Paul. But nonetheless, while the original Flashcubes have my eternal loyalty, this is also really, really cool. I give to you, all you Bright Lights and Boppin' folks alike, a real treat: nearly 50 minutes of The Flashcubes live in 1980:
Man, that was good.
The Flashcubes--Paul, Gary, Arty, and Tommy--are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year. There's a big 40th anniversary party on September 1st at Funk N' Waffles in Syracuse, with Maura & the Bright Lights, The Trend, The Ohms, and two blistering sets from Syracuse's own power pop powerhouse, The Flashcubes. Your on-stage hosts are Dana & Carl, and missing it would be just plain silly. I hope to have ticket information available soon. The 'Cubes have given us the original, long-lost 4-track of their greatest song, "No Promise," for use on our own forthcoming compilation CD This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4, which you can pre-order right now at Kool Kat Musik. There will also be a new 2-CD 40th anniversary collection, Flashcubes Forever, available in time for the big show on September 1st. Is this year of The Flashcubes? Listen: for fans like me, every year is The Year Of The Flashcubes; this is Year Of The Flashcubes # 40. Jump on the bandwagon, friend--there's always room for one more Bright Light.
(Wait. We can't have a Flashcubes post without Paul Armstrong represented. Here's another vintage Flashcubes video, with the original quartet, from the Oswego cable access TV show Up Your Alley in 1978:)
And why stop there? Here's a rare 1979 student project, discussing our 'Cubes. The student who assembled this 8mm treasure back then was one Jackie Lewis, who has now been married to Gary Frenay for 33 years. Who says there are no happy endings in pop music?
Finally, this is a fictional look at how it should have gone for The Flashcubes: A Brighter Light In My Mind Sadly, there is no video to go with this flight of fancy: you'll have to turn to the bright lights flickering in your own mind. Hope to see you in Syracuse for The Flashcubes' 40th on September 1st.
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