Thursday, July 26, 2012

Copper Blue 20 Years On

Twenty years ago, this album changed my life, literally. In 1991 Bob Mould visited the Rykodisc offices on Pickering Wharf in Salem, Mass. with a DAT in his pocket. The twelve of us that comprised the label's East Coast headquarters gathered around John Hammond's office with Bob and sat in stunned silence for 45 minutes as we listened to Sugar's "Copper Blue" from start to finish. I had spontaneous tears in my eyes as the wrenchingly beautiful opening track "The Act We Act" dramatically changed octaves halfway through, like someone making a passionate argument grabbing your shoulders and pulling you even closer. When it was done, we knew we'd heard a masterpiece of rock. We felt a sense of purpose as young music lovers who were amazingly in a job where we would get to take this work of musical art to the world. It sounds overstated, right? But this was real. I was 28. "Jaded" wasn't in my vocabulary. For most of 1992 I quarterbacked a radio promo team that took the album to #1 on the alternative charts. I accompanied Sugar on the initial dates of their first tour. Bob, Dave Barbe and Malcolm Travis played loud, hard, and precisely, and no one who was at those shows doesn't rank them among their top lifetime concerts. I drove Bob around Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle visiting the trades and radio stations. HITS, Album Network, Gavin, KROQ, Live 105. In LA I was overwhelmed and turned the wheel of the rental car over to Bob who knew the sprawling city I had never even visited inside out. Ironically, thanks to Bob, I would become an LA resident a year later. In February of 1993 in San Francisco I won the Gavin Award for "Independent Label Promotion Director of the Year" largely based on Copper Blue's epic run. A job offer from Rhino Records in Santa Monica followed. At 30 I moved to West Hollywood and kicked off an eight year stretch of life that would be hard to match for fun, satisfaction, and growth. Now back in Northampton, as I listen to Copper Blue, it sounds as fresh and new as ever and my eyes still tear up during The Act We Act. My path with Bob crossed again earlier this year when he played a solo show at the Iron Horse and we both shook our (grayer and balder) heads that it was 20 years ago. I still love finding music lovers that haven't heard Copper Blue and turning them on.