VARIOUS ARTISTS  The Now Wave Sampler  (Columbia Records AE7-1187 white-label promo, 1979)

First, allow me to point out that this is a special “33 & 1/3” edition of 45 RPM, as the 7-inch platter I’m dissecting this week plays at the slower speed, for the purpose of accomodating four full-length tracks.  That said, this is an exciting little slab of plastic from a bygone (but very fun) era, when the loose, decadent Jimmy Carter-late-’70’s hadn’t yet slipped into the buttoned-up, tight-assed Ronald Reagan-early-’80’s.  I was old enough to enjoy it, and young enough not to have any serious responsibilities weighing me down, so I spent just about every weekday afternoon, and every Saturday, rain or shine, down at my neighborhood record shop.  (A what what, now?)  Well, sonny boy, I guess you just had to be there.

This local store held frequent concerts, in-store signings, contests and giveaways (usually tied in with area radio stations), and I could smell a piece of promo vinyl a mile away, so needless to say I absconded with many sweet items weekly.  A personal fave of mine is this Columbia Records Now Wave Sampler from ’79, a 4-song EP showcasing the label’s most recent signings from the English and American post-punk power-pop movement, which suburban dipshits like me affectionately called New Wave.  Let’s take it track-by-track, shall we?

1.  THE SINCEROS  “Take Me To Your Leader”

Taken from The Sinceros’ debut LP, The Sound Of Sunbathing, no track sums up British New Wave in its purest form better than “Take Me To Your Leader.”  I fell in love with this song the moment my needle touched this disc in ’79, and I’ve never been able to forget it since.  I’ve also noticed that just about everyone I’ve ever met has a copy of this album in their collection somewhere, but the only thing I really know about The Sinceros is that their keyboardist, Don Snow, was also an on-again/off-again member of Squeeze.  Thanks to the internet, you can read more about The Sinceros here & here, and you can see great footage of them lip-synching a truncated version of “…Leader” on TV in the video below.  And I think you’ll all agree that not only did they sound great, but The Sinceros were probably the best looking band ever.  Absolute perfection.

The Sinceros \”Take Me To Your Leader\” on YouTube

2.  HOUNDS  “Doo Wah Diddy Diddy”

Representing the American Bar-Band side of New Wave, Chicago’s Hounds provide us with a pulsating, beer-soaked reinterpretation of the Manfred Mann staple, “Doo Wah Diddy Diddy.”  They take some serious liberties with the arrangement here, adding some extra instrumental bars in the verses and some ultra-flanged-out guitar parts in the refrain, presumably to give strippers more quality rock to pole-dance to.  The Sopranos really should’ve dug up this track for a scene at the Bada Bing, I tell ya.  Other than a MySpace page that’s very heavy on Smell The Glove-style sex appeal, there’s not much Hounds evidence on the internet, so I had to make my own shoddy “Doo Wah Diddy Diddy” video.  Please pardon the quality, but you’ll get the gist of things.  I must say, though, that as the years have passed, I find that I really miss hairy-chested, hard-working, no-bullshit roadhouse rock bands like Hounds.  Today’s pathetic imitations just do not stack up, in my opinion.  I’m looking at you, Kings Of Leon.

HOUNDS \”Doo Wah Diddy Diddy\” on YouTube

3.  THE BEAT  “Don’t Wait Up For Me”

We rock listeners always get our band names confused.  I can’t tell The Delta Spirit from The Duke Spirit.  But you’d think that a band could just call themselves The Beat and be able to leave it at that, right?  That’s simple enough, isn’t it?  Well, not so fast, Gonzalez!  No sooner did Paul Collins, an L.A. power-pop guitarist and songwriter late of The Nerves (of “Hanging On The Telephone” fame, with Jack Lee and Peter Case), assemble an amazing band and release a stunning major-label debut as The Beat, when a Brit-ska outfit popped up on Sire with the same name.  Well, the American Beat became The Paul Collins Beat, and the British Beat became The English Beat, and that was that.  Now NOBODY had the name.  But 30 years later, it doesn’t matter.  You can learn more here, or just check out the great footage below of Paul Collins’ Beat performing “Don’t Wait Up For Me,” and you’ll see why their little-heard ’79 self-titled debut is now heralded as a modern power-pop classic, in the vein of Big Star and early Tom Petty.  Enjoy!

THE BEAT \”Don\’t Wait Up For Me\” on YouTube

4.  JULES & THE POLAR BEARS  “Good Reason” 

Formed in the late-’70’s by Pittsburgh native Jules Shear, Jules & The Polar Bears released two full-length LPs on Columbia, then split up after the label passed on their third one, which remained on the shelf until the mid-’90’s.  Shear embarked on a successful career as a songwriter, penning hits for Cyndi Lauper, Alison Moyet and The Bangles (and lesser-known songs for the likes of Brian Wilson and James Brown), as well as curating the first season of MTV’s beloved Unplugged acoustic performance show.  Got No Breeding, the Polar Bears’ 1978 debut, is often cited as a contemporary pop classic, but this chugging, synth-heavy track comes from the denser, more oddly-considered follow up, fenetiks.  You can see my home-made video below, and find out what Jules is up to these days at Jules Shear Music.

JULES & THE POLAR BEARS \”Good Reason\” on YouTube

The phenomena of the sampler EP took on a whole new life, and a whole new meaning, once CDs were introduced in the late ’80’s.  Mass-produced and mass-marketed CD samplers of all genres became available at the turn of every corner in the 1990’s, clogging discount bins, cluttering suburban yard sales and littering city streets across America.  The market was over-saturated and the Golden Age was through.  But it’s always fun to revisit that little neighborhood record store in my dreams, where a complimentary 7-inch platter could drop into your life and give you unexpected goosebumps and thrills.

NEXT WEEK:  He was born above the Moulin Rouge in Soho, and went on to become an international multi-platinum-selling artist, but, all the while, he never really wanted to be a star.