Tuesday, November 2, 2010

TVD Label Spotlight | Frontier Records

Frontier Records founder Lisa Fancher is with TVD all week celebrating the label’s 3oth Anniversary which culminates this Sunday night (11/7) with a 30th Birthday Party at LA’s Echoplex.

In the meantime, ever wonder what it takes to get a label off the ground?

Fools Rush in Where Wise Men Never Go…
Some people start out in the mail room at William Morris, I got my big toehold in the "Biz" by doing inventory at a hippie record chain called Licorice Pizza, where they provided busted spring couches and gave away FREE red licorice so customers would hang out. Nightmare. I was failing Cal State Northridge fast because I had to go see bands play two sets at the Starwood, Whisky or Rox, therefore morning punctuality was a non-priority. When Greg Shaw called me up and asked if I wanted to work at the soon to be opened Bomp! store, I said yes knowing I was really never going to crack the books. And when I'm right, I'm right!

No thoroughly unqualified 18 year old could have asked for a better gig… I mean DESERVED! Even before the store opened, I bought "I'm Stranded," "New Rose" and "Anarchy in the UK" there (Greg was tight with Sex Pistols' artist Jamie Reid as well as Stiff's Dave Robinson. What was the only U.S. store with Stiff promo material, then?) as they had already stockpiled records and fanzines for the spring '77 opening. Rodney Bingenheimer spread the word and suddenly the Bomp! store was the place to shop. Devo, the Cramps and any other band that mattered personally dropped off their self-released 45s. People drove from all over the southland to shop here, including every member of every punk or wave band whether they'd formed yet or not, from Stan Lee (Dickies) to Chris D (Flesheaters) to Craig Lee (Bags). I collated my wildly unpopular fanzine, Biff! Bang! Pow! on the counter as if there were no customers, goodness knows I wasn't cramming for finals. (Paul Weller visited so I gave him a copy, later to find the back cover—a Xerox of my own Creation 45 on Planet—on the inner sleeve of ALL MOD CONS!)

I quit Bomp! to try (and fail) to "make it" in London in mid- '78 but upon returning Danny and I were hired by Michael "Jett" Compton to slave at the cursed and hated Licorice Pizza in North Hollywood. Steve Hufsteter (The Quick), writer Don Snowden, Cliff Roman (Weirdos) and Kid Congo (Cramps) soon joined the surly bunch. Hey, valley slobs with no taste—you want some attitude with that free licorice I restocked with my FEET? You got it! After a disastrous Licorice Pizza Christmas party we were fired en masse and I returned to Bomp! in the mailorder department. Sure, you would expect Wildman Fischer to talk into your record store, but mailorderers? Comic book times baseball card collector… I hold dear Jello Biafra in the greatest esteem for releasing Zolar X's TIMELESS but I knew my record wrapping skills would never make him happy.

I wrote LP reviews for the LA Times but was unable to curb my enthusiasm for milestones like the Ramones' debut album. AND WHY WOULD I??? Ken Tucker then gave me the chance to review live shows for the LA Herald Examiner, a fantastic way to get free records, get paid to go to punk shows I would have gone to anyway, and also shoot at clay pigeons like Styx. (Dear GLEE, There is nothing funny, cute or ironic about having kids sing Styx, Journey, REO Speedwagon songs that will ALWAYS SUCK. If you're humiliating them on purpose, then that is cool.) I still worked for Suzy in Bomp mailorder too. Greg unfathomably appointed me accountant for a while and—knowing I was certifiably Bobby Fuller touched in the head—gave me the plum assignment of going to El Paso to pick up all of Bobby's master tapes (contents mostly unknown) from his parents, Lorraine and Lawson, as well as meet and interview his former bandmates and tour manager, Rick Stone.

Though I was rather proud of being a college drop out, I still had a nagging feeling I needed to DO something, so I decided to release a record. I already knew the various steps and how much they would cost from being at Bomp!. I decided upon the Flyboys—I interviewed them for the Herald and knew they could use a benefactor.

Click to enlarge!

So, somewhere in 1979 I booked some time in Leon Russell's studio on Magnolia Ave where Johnette Napolitano (Concrete Blonde) was the receptionist and Jim Mankey (Bearsville era Sparks) was the house engineer. I had Bomp!'s Mick Toohig design the Frontier logo and Diane Zincavage design the Flyboys EP package, which I insisted "must JUMP off the rack." Frontier Records and FLP 1001 began just like that—no trust fund, no partners, no business plan… don't have one yet.

You remember that Desperate Bicycles B-side that ends with "It was easy, it was cheap. Go out 'n' do it"? It's far from truthful but it's a hell of a slogan.

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