Sunday, September 04, 2011

A long time ago in a bar far, far away....Rock Wars

This 1980 album is the result of an extensive battle of the bands conducted by Knoxville AOR station WIMZ-FM 104.5 (formerly country station WBIR). The winner (The News) got a full side (five songs), while the runner up (Balboa) got three songs and the third-place finishers (Spellbound) got two songs, all recorded, presumably at the radio station's expense (or trade-out) at Thunderhead Sound Studio in Knoxville.

Based on their sound and photo, The News appear to be a run-of-the mill bar band picking up a few affectations of the nascent new wave (primarily in the band-naming department) while basically churning out generic blues/boogie.

Spellbound doesn't get a lot off room to show off their variety with only two songs, but there's enough of an experimental element in their songs that I'd be interested in hearing more from them.

Balboa, on the other hand - well, what could I possibly write about Balboa that hasn't already been said? They are in many ways the foundation upon which 30+ years of a lively music scene has been built. Two of their songs on this album appear to be the same recordings that appear on their self-titled EP. [Edit: Hector informs me that I am incorrect, and a quick examination of the Balboa EP shows that there are no songs repeated. I'm not sure what I was thinking, particularly since I had the EP on the turntable within the last few months.]
(I like that they included the booking agent in the band picture).

Side One
The News
1) Now and Then
2) Just Treat Me Right
3) It's Gonna Come Back On You
4) Babe, It Ain't No Use
5) By The Tracks

Side Two
1) Single Sound (T. Hill)
2) I Can't Stand It (H. Qirko)
3) Is This It? (T. Hill)

5) Shady Lady

Recording Engineer: Ron Passmore
Mix Engineer: Ron Passmore except Balboa mixed by Terry Hill

Rock Wars (TH 1075)

John Sewell gave a nice remembrance in Metro Pulse back in the day.
"For those of you who have had your head under a rock for the past 20 years or so, Balboa is the Big Kahuna of local indie rock, the founding fathers who blazed the trail for all Knoxville rock bands of any importance to follow. The group is universally revered by all longtime Knoxville scenesters, and rightly so.  The brainchild of local mad scientist guitar guru Terry Hill, Balboa also featured the guitar artistry of Hector Qirko, bassist Richard Battaglia and drummer Steve Housewright. The combination of Qirko's blues and country swing techniques with Hill's more avant garde guitar mangling created a unique mix, and the rhythm section hammered it all down into a precise and even logical sound. It made perfect sense, and still does. Back in the day, Balboa was considered to fall somewhere under the nebulous umbrella of punk rock, a genre that wasn't nearly as stilted and regimented in the late '70s as it is now. The band's independence, idealism and freeform artistry definitely fit into the punk aesthetic, which was—at the time—about creative and political freedom. The first wave of punk was inextricably linked with the art world (see the Velvet Underground, Patti Smith, Television, et. al.) and Balboa was an art-rock band that purposely steered clear of pretension. What makes the tunes on Live Like This (plus) sound so classic is that they are not bound within a time-specific context. To this day, the songs sound urgent and modern. I could go on and on about how great this (music) is and all the accompanying memories it conjures—about how the band sounds like King Crimson meets Richard Hell & the Voidoids, about how cool it was to sneak into the legendary Cumberland Avenue cesspool Bundulee's Lounge and hang out with all the other underage skinny tie new-wavers, about the legion of Knoxville rockers who took their inspiration from the band... Hearing these great old songs brings back the innocence of a time when it seemed like things really were gonna change. That sense of optimism and "we can do whatever we want" is what transforms garage rock into high art. Balboa had all the right ingredients at the right time and it was sheer magic. 



Blogger Ghick56 said...

Thanks for the write up! Hey, Hector, my brother! I miss you! I have a couple of these albums downstairs...
Love, Georgann (Terry Hill's sister)

10:26 PM  
Blogger senormedia said...

FYI, this is not Hectors blog. KC is in charge of this mess since 2005.

10:34 PM  
Blogger senormedia said...

Sadly, when the Knoxville News-Sentinel purchased the Metro Pulse, they then cancelled it, so Sewell's article no longer exists on the internet. Bastards.

2:07 PM  

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