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I'm the co-host of THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO with Dana & Carl (Sunday nights, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org).  As a freelance writer, I contributed to Goldmine magazine from 1986-2006, wrote liner notes for Rhino Records' compilation CD Poptopia!  Power Pop Classics Of The '90s, and for releases by The Flashcubes, The Finkers, Screen Test, 1.4.5., and Jack "Penetrator" Lipton.  I contributed to the books Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, Shake Some Action, Lost In The Grooves, and MusicHound Rock, and to DISCoveries, Amazing Heroes, The Comics Buyer's Guide, Yeah Yeah Yeah, Comics Collector, The Buffalo News, and The Syracuse New Times.  I also wrote the liner notes for the four THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO compilation CDs, because, well, who could stop me?  My standing offer to write liner notes for a Bay City Rollers compilation has remained criminally ignored.  Still intend to write and sell a Batman story someday.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

TIRnRR # 4, Track By Track: Stepford Knives, "Her Reputation"

This is part of a series of short pieces discussing each of the 29 tracks on our new compilation CD This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4The CD can be ordered at Kool Kat Musik.

12. STEPFORD KNIVES: "Her Reputation"

As noted previously, Jamie Hoover was the first member of The Spongetones with whom I ever had any contact. This was probably in the mid-'90s, during the period between the sudden demise of the short-lived first Dana & Carl radio series We're Your Friends For Now in 1992 and the kickstarting of whatever the hell it is we've been doing on This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio since the end of '98. (What the hell are we doing here anyway? Where are my damned glasses? And why doesn't any radio station play The Ramones and George Jones and The Spinners and The Partridge Family? Oh, wait--that is what we're doing. Carry on....)

I think Jamie and I were in some sort of communication before or after the release of Letters From The Desk Of Count S. Van DeLecki, the debut release by The Van DeLecki's, which was Jamie with Bryan Shumate, and which was really, really good. By the time we got around to doing This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio compilations in 2004, Jamie was working with Bill Lloyd, and they gave us a track ("Screen Time") from their joint effort Paparazzi to use on TIRnRR # 1.

We've continued to play Jamie's various combos and incarnations on the show, from The Spongetones through Jamie & Steve (with fellow 'Tone Steve Stoeckel) and solo projects. Jamie's most recent nom du bop is Stepford Knives, a partnership between Jamie and Otis Hughes. They've only released one song so far, a winnin' little number called "I Don't Want Her (Anymore)," but we jumped on it immediately for airplay on TIRnRR.

As we went through the process of slappin' together TIRnRR # 4, with very few slots remaining, we decided we wanted Stepford Knives on the album. We contacted Jamie, with the presumption that we would use "I Don't Want Her (Anymore)." However, use of that track was complicated by a question about the publishing--the song was written by the late David Enloe, with whom Jamie had played in a band called The Woods--so we needed an alternative.

Jamie had another Stepford Knives track, "Her Reputation," which he co-wrote with Otis. Jamie warned us that it was "more FM in nature. It may or may not fit." It was indeed a bit different from the pop-rush stuff we often favor, but it had a groove, a style. It had possibilities.

Remember a few entries back, when we said how the decision to switch from Irene Peña's uptempo "Not From Around Here" to the slower, more seductive sound of her track "Must've Been Good" changed the course of this compilation? "Her Reputation" follows that change in direction. The track wouldn't really have worked in the context of our original plan. But now? Man, it sings. We'll talk later about the importance and meaning of specific sequencing in building a better pop compilation, but I'll tell ya now: the thought of moving from Irene's sad but luxurious "Must've Been Good" into Michael Oliver's swoon-worthy "You Won't Do," The Rubinoos' crime drama "Nowheresville," and the simmering, despondent desperation of Stepford Knives' "Her Reputation," and then flowing into the jangly catharsis of The Grip Weeds' "Strange Bird"...!

Well, thinking of that sequence just made me giddy. We had to have "Her Reputation" in that precise place. Book it, lads--Stepford Knives are on This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4 .

I confess that I was not at all familiar with Jamie's partner Otis Hughes. His credits apparently include a stint as bassist for a metal grunge group called Animal Bag, and more recently with M4 Messenger (a group which deserves props for writing a song called "The Da Vinci Co-Ed").  An eclectic mix, combing this c.v. with that of a Spongetone? Awrighty. It works out just fine, and Otis' simultaneously impassioned and world-weary lead vocal on "Her Reputation" delivers this sumptuous tale of sin and elusive salvation. On June 4th of 2017, This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio became the first radio station anywhere to play "Her Reputation," and we're proud to have it on TIRnRR # 4. You other stations? Get on the ball now. Your reputation's at stake.

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