"Of the hundreds of new records unleashed on the public each year, few stand out as truly inspired, literate works of art," began Sparks' Russell Mael in his liner notes to Gleaming Spires' 1981 debut Song of the Spires. "Fewer still go beyond that. Though I have not personally had the time to listen to this, the Gleaming Spires' first recorded effort, two of my bridge partners tell me that this record goes way, way beyond." Sparks' tongue-in-cheek endorsement (to which Russell's brother Ron helpfully added, "This is the best Gleaming Spires album...ever.") inaugurated the discography of the art-rock/new wave pop band consisting of Les Bohem (vocals/bass/guitar/keyboards) and David Kendrick (drums/percussion), later joined by guitarists Jim Goodwin and Bob Haag. Gleaming Spires only released three albums between 1981 and 1985, mostly recorded while Messrs. Bohem, Kendrick, Goodwin, and Haag were serving with the Maels in Sparks, but the albums have grown in stature over the years. Yet none had ever been reissued on CD...until now. It's been worth the wait: Omnivore has given all three LPs the deluxe treatment, with a total of 27 bonus tracks (15 of which are previously unreleased) spread across the individual albums, on CD and digital formats. They're due in stores tomorrow, September 17.
Gleaming Spires emerged from the ashes of Bates Motel which David Kendrick joined in 1979. He had previously served in Continental Miniatures and briefly recorded with producer and Mike Curb associate Michael Lloyd. Bohem and Haag were among the members of Bates Motel, and Bohem's childhood pal Andrew Gold took them into the studio to produce some demos, four of which appear on the bonus material for the Spires' first album Song of the Spires. Bohem and Kendrick were still in Bates Motel when the Maels enlisted them as their band.
The duo's intellectual leanings were evident on the cover, inspired by Kenneth Rexroth and Lawrence Ferlinghetti's 1957 LP Poetry Readings in the Cellar. Bohem and Kendrick were also film aficionados, and a variety of cinematic influences - notably, noir - informed both the music and lyrics. It's natural, then, that their most famous song would be immortalized in the movies. "Are You Ready for the Sex Girls" was featured on the soundtracks of The Last American Virgin and Revenge of the Nerds, giving the band a bit of '80s notoriety. It was joined by eight other songs marrying the frequently offbeat, dark, and wry lyrics (sung in Bohem's supple, flexible croon) with catchy melodies and a crisp, electronic sheen overseen by producer Stephen Hague. Omnivore's reissue adds ten bonus tracks including the four Andrew Gold demos for Bates Motel (among them the lost power-pop nugget "The Way Marlena Moves" and the punk-influenced "Only the Young Die Young") and the Life on the Lawn EP featuring a lo-fi cover of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim's West Side Story anthem "Somewhere."
Following the release of Life on the Lawn, the duo reunited with Stephen Hague for 1983's full-length Walk on Well Lighted Streets. Gleaming Spires, now counting Jim Goodwin and Bob Haag, moved from Posh Boy to the associated PVC label for their sophomore set. Anticipation was high as "Are You Ready for the Sex Girls" was receiving regular rotation on Los Angeles' popular KROQ-FM, championed by DJ Rodney Bingenheimer. But despite the hit-in-the-making, Hague didn't try to change the Spires to fit a more commercial mold. Walk on Well Lighted Streets still featured quirky, sometimes-melancholy, sometimes-mordant lyrics married to accessible melodies and up-to-the-minute production. Once again, the inspirations came from disparate sources from Sammy Davis, Jr. and adult film actress Linda Lovelace's unflattering portrait of him ("Yes I Can") to a 1940s self-help manual for teenage girls ("A Christian Girl's Problems"). The title track was an altogether danceable warning ("There are killers everywhere/And they are waiting, always waiting...") The new reissue adds nine bonuses: the six-track Party EP released after Walk on Well Lighted Streets and produced by Greg Penny (featuring an energetic cover of ABBA's "Does Your Mother Know") as well as the previously unreleased Sparks-helmed "It's Kinda Like the Movies" from the film Bad Manners and Gleaming Spires' two contributions to the Revenge of the Nerds soundtrack (including the full band version of "Are You Ready for the Sex Girls").
Greg Penny stayed on board to produce Gleaming Spires' third and final album, Welcoming a New Ice Age. This time, the LP was released on another L.A. label, Tabb. The band began experimenting with new sounds (prepared pianos, bagpipes, brass, cello, background singers) for this set taking in yet more diverse inspirations (Big Country on "Mercy," Roy Orbison on "Unprotected") and film references ("Bigger Than Life," titled after director Nicholas Ray's 1956 melodrama). Welcoming a New Ice Age sounds very much like the work of a band still progressing, but it wasn't meant to be for Gleaming Spires. When Bob Haag unexpectedly dropped out of a tour, it was called off. Sparks, too, was morphing back into a two-person duo. Gleaming Spires soon dissolved; David Kendrick joined Devo in 1987 and remained with the group until its breakup in 1991. Both Kendrick and Bohem also successfully moved into television. Happily, Omnivore has added eight bonus tracks to the band's swansong including the subsequent Eleven Blue Men session featuring Kendrick, Bohem, and Paul Cutler as well as four previously unreleased songs from the soundtrack of School Spirit, a low-budget 1985 comedy from Roger Corman's factory featuring B-movie queen Roberta Collins and Larry Linville of M*A*S*H fame. Among these rarities are covers of Mark James' "Suspicious Minds" and Bob Dylan's "It's Alright Ma, I'm Only Bleeding."
All three Gleaming Spires titles, produced by David Kendrick, Chaim O'Brien-Blumenthal, and Cheryl Pawelski are housed in four-panel digipaks containing thick booklets with photos, essays, interviews, and lyrics. Michael Graves has restored and remastered all audio. While there's plenty here for fans of Sparks to savor, all three albums are hidden treasures for fans of power-pop, new wave, and the sound of L.A. in the early 1980s. You'll find the track listings and order links below. Look for these titles tomorrow!
- Going Hey Hey
- Are You Ready for the Sex Girls?
- While We Can
- When Love Goes Under Glass
- The End of All Good Things
- Watch Your Blood Beat
- How to Get Girls Thru Hypnotism
- Talking in the Dark
- Big Hotels
- The Way Marlena Moves - Bates Motel *
- Real Time - Bates Motel *
- Only the Young Die Young - Bates Motel *
- Dedication - Bates Motel *
- Unexpected Overnighters - Bates Motel *
- Real Love - Bates Motel *
- Walk Right
- Life Out on the Lawn
- Passion Pit
Tracks 1-9 released as Posh Boy PBS 125, 1981
Tracks 10-15 previously unreleased
Track 16 released on "How to Get Girls Thru Hypnotism" single - Posh Boy PBS 14, 1982
Tracks 17-19 released as Posh Boy 12" single PBS 1036, 1982
- You're Right
- Big Surprise
- Walk on Well Lighted Streets
- Fun Type
- A Christian Girl's Problem
- Happy Boy
- At Together
- The Making Love Project
- Yes I Can
- Funk for Children
- Does Your Mother Know?
- Brain Button
- Funk for Children (Part II)
- Brain Button (Part II)
- It's Kinda Like the Movies *
- Are You Ready for the Sex Girls? (Full Band Version)
- All Night Party
Tracks 1-10 released as Posh Boy/PVC 8916, 1983
Tracks 11-16 released as The Party EP - The Vodka Label VDK 5002, 1984
Track 17 previously unreleased - from the film Bad Manners
Tracks 18-19 released on Revenge of the Nerds: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack - Scotti Bros. BFZ 39599, 1984
- Welcoming a New Ice Age
- No One Coming Over
- Your Secret Room
- Bigger Than Life
- Things I Have Done to Our Love
- Blowing Up My Life
- What's Coming Next
- Here Comes Mr. Funhog *
- Dedication *
- I Want More *
- A Boy and a Girl *
- Suspicious Minds *
- It's All Right Ma, I'm Only Bleeding - Eleven Blue Men *
- Crumbling - Eleven Blue Men *
- That's It, Forget It *
Tracks 1-11 released as Tabb Records TGS-2, 1985
Tracks 12-19 previously unreleased