By Thomas Conner
© Tulsa World
Plimsouls fans have long lamented the failure of their
favorite band to take over the world. Listening to the band's
pinnacle album, 1983's "Everywhere at Once,'' they certainly sound
like they could have — charged guitars and a hoarse singer that
preceded the height of Husker Du and the Replacements.
Lead singer Peter Case is the first to fess up as to why the
Plimsouls died an early death. They were slackers, he said.
"We didn't have it together at all,'' he said in an
interview last week. "We were talking last night about our
behavior during various tours. We weren't ever focused. You've got
to be willing to sell your grandmother to go far in this business,
and we weren't. We had the music and the drive and the commitment,
but we didn't have any common sense.''
For instance, Case said he hired the band's first manager
simply because the guy had cool clothes. One bad decision led to
another, and soon the band faded away.
But that's not the end of the story. Case — a consummate
songwriter who had polished his sense of perfect pop in another
short-lived band, the Nerves, before charging the Plimsouls — laid
down his electric guitar when the Plimsouls dissolved and picked up
his acoustic. For the next several years, Case painted a portrait
of the artist as a hip, literate troubadour, complete with baggy
suit and felt fedora. His folk approach wowed critics but still
escaped widespread attention.
Now he's back with the Plimsouls. The band reunited two years
ago and rode the same wave of Los Angeles new wave nostalgia that
brought 20/20, a band of Tulsa natives, back together. The revived
Plimsouls now ride that wave across the country, playing to venues
packed with people who claim they've loved the Plimsouls all along.
Funny how that happens.
"Stuff changes through time,'' Case said. "I definitely
remember nobody listened to Big Star when they were out. I had the
third album on tape and took it everywhere. No one knew who they
were. Nobody gave a s--- about the Velvet Underground, either. Now
everyone's realizing how important they were.''
The Plimsouls were sucked up by a late '70s record-label hunt
to find the next Knack. But don't tell Case that.
"We didn't have anything to do with that, with new wave or
anything,'' he said. "The first big Rolling Stone article about us
was headlined, 'L.A. Look for the New Knack.' It's insulting to be
called a throw-off of the Knack. New wave was a polite way of
saying punk at the time — no one knew what anything was called. We
didn't mind being stuck with the label because it said 'new,' which
we liked to think we were, but it still just meant something I
didn't understand, like 'French cinema.' The Clash called
themselves new wave, you know? I mean, let's wait and see what
'alternative' looks like in 15 years.''
After an independent debut that raised a few eyebrows, the
Plimsouls signed a huge deal with Geffen and released "Everywhere
at Once,'' the album that spawned the one song that can truthfully
be called a hit, "A Million Miles Away.'' Case growled on that
record long before Greg Dulli's desperate rasp came along in the
Afghan Whigs, and the band's aggressive spirit recalled the harmony
and power of "Beatles VI'' without losing its independence.
But alas, it was not meant to be. Case said they just didn't
have the gumption to take over the world.
"We were lazy, and we were stupid in terms of career
choices,'' Case said. "We worked hard, but I'm just not able to
connect in that way. Maybe it just wasn't our fate. I mean, Tom
Petty and those guys did 72 takes of 'Refugee.' They killing their
drummer, and it worked. We were really just a garage band. I've had
a great career. I'm not complaining. You can be a great artist, and
that doesn't mean you have to make a fool of yourself on MTV's 'Sex
Secrets of the Stars' or something. But try to explain that to anybody.''
Case didn't really want to walk away from the band, but he
said he felt he couldn't do both — the solo work and the band.
The band finally did reform and start playing gigs again. Case said
he now has the best of both worlds, but he's not so sure how the
Plimsouls fit into the current music scene.
"We played last night at this festival with Jewel and different assorted
alternative rockers. The average age of the crowd was about 12. They were
moshing and jumping around on each other. I don't really see myself as the
spokesman for the 12-year-olds,'' he said.
Drumming for the Plimsouls now is Clem Burke, who played drums
with Blondie. Case called him "the best drummer in the world.''
When: 7 p.m. Monday
Where: Ikon, 606 S. Elgin Ave.
Tickets: $10 at the door
These online "clips" reproduce a self-selection of my journalism (music etc) during the last 20+ years. It's a lotta stuff, but it only scratches the surface. I do not currently possess the time or resources to digitize the whole body of work. These posts are simply a bunch of pretty great days at the office.