30.1.13

OUR DAUGHTERS WEDDING : Lawnchairs 7" (Design/EMI America, 1980)

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Simply one of my favourite 7"s ever, purchased with 50p of own, hard won pocket money from Woolworth's' ex-chart bargain bin. Chances are you may already be familiar with it, though perhaps you've not heard it for a - gasp! - quarter of a century, or more? If not... better late than never, eh?

Originally from San Francisco, Our Daughters Wedding - no apostrophe - began making headway as a prototypical synth trio in New York in 1979, playing New York's legendary Hurrahs club alongside James Chance, Mi-Sex & anybody else they could scrounge a support slot with. "Lawnchairs" was their second single &, like the earlier "Nightlife" 7", was initially released on their own Design label in 1980. An instant U.S. college radio hit, & championed in the U.K. by both Smash Hits & Melody Maker, it was quickly picked up by EMI who commissioned a complete overhaul & re-released it themselves the following Summer. Though it only made #49 on the British charts, it became a massive dancefloor hit both here & in the States, eventually breaking into the Billboard run down & racking up a million+ sales along the way. It's not difficult to see why - loaded with hooks while retaining an aloof, experimental edge, "Lawnchairs" appealed to both the acutely commercial & burgeoning "alternative" music scenes of the period, without debasing it's self-reliant D.I.Y. origins. Crucially, the b-side ("Airline") was almost as good, & both songs remain high water marks in synthpop's convoluted lineage. By virtue of EMI's optimistic pressing run - their label was evidently anticipating a far higher chart placing - affordable, original copies are still relatively easy to track down. Incidentally, ODW were also early advocates of Casio's groundbreaking VL-1 keyboard, which endeared them to many enthusiastic amateur synth boffins (me included) at the time. Many a lonely hour was spent secreted in my pre-teen bedroom, tentatively tapping out Yazoo melodies thereupon with a single, hesitant finger.

Sadly, due either to pressure from their label or a paucity of interesting new ideas, ODW ran out of steam pretty quickly. The subsequent Digital Cowboy EP contained 4 decent enough synth-centric rock songs (5 overseas), but 1982's Moving Windows album was a patchy, compromised affair & EMI dropped them shortly afterwards. Their final release, the U.S.-only "Take Me"/"Machines" 12", didn't appear for another 2 years, by which time they'd come full circle & were back on Design.

The only ODW retrospective to date, 2006's exhaustive Nightlife CD, is already highly sought after, with an exorbitant price tag to match. Early copies were accompanied by an original Design pressing of the "Lawnchairs" 45, returned to them by EMI after their 1981 reissue was released, &"given to you from the band as a way to say thanks for the continued interest in the band". It's that original, superior version I'm posting here.

LINK REMOVED - Both sides of this single are now available c/o iTunes & Amazon Digital.

n.b. An earlier version of this post was published in June 2011.

5 comments:

  1. I've got both Nightlife & Lawnchairs on 7", but don't think I ever knew about the CD. Interesting.

    Another highlight of the 1/82(ish ... at some point I'll check the exact date, having had a gig review published in a zine in faraway Ohio shortly thereafter) I described in my response to the 6/11 post was that the between-sets music consisted of the Human League's DARE & I *think* Heaven 17's PENTHOUSE & PAVEMENT. Neither had come out in the U.S. by that point (& I guess the H17 only did later in adulterated form), & I remember being especially struck by "I Am the Law."

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  2. The ODW comp CD was in/out of print pretty quickly I think, though you can pick it up digitally - very reasonably priced - c/o Amazon, I think? I'm not sure if it includes this (original) version of "Lawnchairs" though, just the EMI remake from '81 maybe? Though they're very similar, but the original has an edge that the remake definitely lacks.

    I can imagine that "I Am The Law" would still sound v. impressive if you heard it in a club, through a big system, nowadays? Dare is one of the best produced records of it's era, peerless frankly. I think, like Kraftwerk, the process of recording involved a lot of extraneous elements being removed so that only the essential, melodic strands remained. Dare is an amazing record in that it's ALL melody, even the drums!

    So, Penthouse & Pavements was only released in abridged form in the U.S. - I wasn't aware of that? How different is it, is it worth me tracking down an import copy?

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  3. The U.S. version is s/t, with Let Me Go, Who Will Stop the Rain & I'm Your Money replacing Soul Warfare, Let's All Make a Bomb & Song with No Name, & with a different mix of Height of the Fighting. I only just now checked my vinyl & found that I own it; must've acquired it quite some while after Penthouse.

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  4. No "Let's All Make A Bomb"?? That's my favourite track!! The "Height of the Fighting" remix is the UK single version, with added horn section, bet?

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  5. I'll have to give my Height 12" & the respective LP versions a spin to check that out as soon as I"m sufficiently alert to navigate my vinyl room (strewn with obstacles, I fear, like several hundred VHS tapes & 1,000+ comics, etc.) & also operate the turntable without threating life or (cats') limb(s) ...

    Agreed about Let's All Make a Bomb. Perhaps the record company stupidly feared it might be taken as overly militaristic, or something ... though why that would've been a concern during Reagan's presidency, I haven't the vaguest idea.

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