The Scruffs • Teenage Tragedies 1974-1979
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The Scruffs • Teenage Tragedies 1974-1979
Powerpop, proto-punk (Memphis, USA). Dans la lignée de Big Star, Chris Bell, Raspberries, Badfinger, Glam-rock… Enregistrements réalisés entre 1974 et 1979.
Powerpop, proto-punk (Memphis, USA). In the vein of Big Star, Chris Bell, Raspberries, Badfinger, Glam-rock… Recordings performed between 1974 and 1979.
☆ “A middle-period Beatles extrapolation in the manner of Big Star, it bursts with off harmonies, left hooks, and jolts of random energy.” (Robert Christgau, Village Voice, 1977)
☆ “The late great Alex Chilton once put ‘Break The Ice’ and ‘Bedtime Stories’ on a compilation tape for me. What a great introduction to The Scruffs.” (Francis Macdonald , Teenage Fanclub)
☆ “If there’s going to be a Scruffs history, that’s it… It really does represent, if not the end, then the beginning of the end of something in Memphis music. After that, nobody even tried to do that again.” (Jim Dickinson, Big Star producer)
☆ “Some tracks may sound like Chris Bell outtakes except they were probably recorded before or at the same time.” (Stephen Burns)
☆ “Are The Scruffs over the top? At times. Heartbroken? I think so. Cool? Ooh yeah.” (Judith Beerman, Back Of A Car)
Synopsis. Hailing from Memphis, Tennessee, The Scruffs are best known for their unique album “Wanna’ Meet The Scruffs?” a power pop classic from 1977, ex-future of punk as envisioned by U.S. pop-rock theorists like Greg Shaw from Bomp! Magazine. You’ve never heard of them? No wonder. Even if Robert Christgau, rock critic in The Village Voice was enthusiastic at the time: “Only a sucker for R’n’R could love this record, and I am that sucker!”, this album, released on a small label (Power Play), only got local airplay and not much more. Soon after, Stephen Burns, the prolific songwriter of the band, worked on a follow-up with John Fry (Big Star etc.) from Ardent Studios, which he intends to call “Teenage Gurls”. Warner Bros Records in New York City seemed interested and, by 1978, The Scruffs moved to the Big Apple, playing CBGB and Max’s Kansas City. Sad but true, of contract with this major (or another one for that matter) there won’t be any. A year later, Burns returned to Memphis and finished the recordings. These will survive for years in his archives and only resurface as a CD in 1998 on Northern Heights, Burns’ private label; they will reappear in 2003 on the Rev’ Ola label in the same CD format. Hardcore popsters consider these tapes as maybe the band’s most accomplished work. Seven of the best tracks are compiled on the A-side of this “Teenage Tragedies 1974-1979” LP.
Flashback. Memphis, Tennessee, late 1974. Big Star, now just a trio, has just released the album “Radio City” on Ardent Records, and soon encounters the wall of indifference of the music press at the time, which raises progressive rock to the rank of art. The young Stephen Burns, 20 years old, is finishing his studies and wants to start his own band. Burns will have some difficulty finding appropriate musicians, y’know those inclined to be hooked up to this pop sound inspired by the Beatles, Badfinger and of course Big Star, which the radio and record companies ignore. His band will be called The Scruffs with the Vanyan brothers, Dave and Rick of their first names, respectively guitarist and bassist plus one pal named Zeph Paulson on drums. Even if Memphis is a R’n’B town (Stax often records at Ardent Studios), there’s still a gang of freaks hooked on this high-energy Anglo-pop that want to keep carrying the flame of this return to simplicity. The Scruffs will soon have a big follow-up. To such an extent that producer Jim Dickinson, who worked notably with Big Star, thinks that The Scruffs will be the next big thing and will imminently invade the airwaves by surprise. About these recordings, Stephen Burns recalls: “If some of the tracks often evoke Big Star and Chris Bell, it’s probably because they were written before or at the same time. In fact, we were part of the same scene from which Big Star and Bell emerged.” This is a 7-track selection from these early sessions, recorded in the same Shoe Studio where Chris Bell immortalised the song “I Am The Cosmos”, which appears on the B-side of this “Teenage Tragedies 1974-1979” LP.
Epilogue. The Scruffs recorded an abundant collection of pop songs on tapes from 1974 to 1979. Jim Dickinson is adamant: “If there’s a story about The Scruffs, this is it. It really represents, if not the end, the beginning of the end of something in Memphis music. After that, nobody even tried to do it again.” The end, as you might expect, was going to take the form of a forced landing on the desert grounds of music business, where all pop dreams fail at the end of the line.