Tuesday, May 22, 2018

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter G, Part 15)

This band takes me back to 1983. I first saw Guadalcanal Diary on MTV's 'Basement Tapes'. Although they didn't win, the video for "Watusi Radio" remained stuck in my brain until I picked it up on debut long player 'Walking in the Shadow of the Big Man' in 1984. The audio for that video clip was a live take of the song taken from a performance at 688 Club, a famous Atlanta spot from 1980-1986. Although the studio version was superb, nothing topped the video version. To this day, I'm still looking for a copy of that show!

There was so much to love about Guadalcanal Diary, but my infatuation with early R.E.M. had much to do with sticking with them through a rather disappointing follow-up album, 'Jamboree', in 1986. Guadalcanal Diary was often compared to their more popular neighbor during this period, but looking back I think it's a rather lazy connection having much more to do with geography than sound. Like many great bands in that era and locale, Guadalcanal Diary were briefly signed to the great Atlanta-based label DB Records, home to Pylon, Love Tractor, and the Swimming Pool Q's, to name a few, but it wasn't too long before Elektra came a callin' and snatched them up after 'Walking in the Shadow of the Big Man'.

My favorite of Guadalcanal Diary's four albums was (and still is) '2 x 4'. Critics and the public seemed to agree. Paste Magazine hailed it as the No. 64 album of the entire decade. The return of producer Don Dixon after the sophomore slump had more than a little bit to do with it. Dixon would return in 1989 for Guadalcanal Diary's final album, 'Flip-Flop', and the single 'Always Saturday' garnered a ton of plays on '120 Minutes'. Sales weren't exactly brisk, however, and the band would commit to family life and other projects shortly thereafter. In a nutshell, if you don't already have them, you should seek out all three of the Dixon-produced LPs. They were a real trip to rip from my vinyl collection today.

Watusi Rodeo (1984)
Trail of Tears (1984)
Litany (Life Goes On) (1987)
Always Saturday (1989)


Anonymous said...

I recently just completed my car listening party of all four Guadalcanal albums. I don't normally do this but for some reason I was just in the mood. (I must say I really like many of the songs on Jamboree). I saw them open for REM long ago and they were great but super loud!
Thanks for your blog man, you have some very similar tastes in music. I'm a bit of a collector (2500 lps; 5,000 cds) and it would be great to talk music with ya!
Kent Warner

Echorich said...

What GD had over R.E.M. was a bigger appreciation for 60's Pop and Rock sounds from both sides of the Pond. If Buffalo Springfield and Love had been bands from Liverpool, they might have approximated the sound that Guadalcanal Diary developed.
Sure there are times they scrape up against R.E.M. - Where Angels Fear To Tread, for example - but the Alt-Anthem of a song like Litany (Life Goes On) or the slow burner Michael Rockefeller showcase their very own sound.

Brian said...

Welcome, Kent. I’m in your neck of the woods and often hit the record stores. I have written about Crossroads a few times for one particular seller that has great stock. If you haven’t been there, you should check it out. I was hard on Jamboree in this post. I’m a big fan of Don Dixon, and this may be clouding my judgement.

Brian said...

Echorich, Your Buffalo Springfield/Love from Liverpool comment is fascinating. I’ll be chewing on that one a while. Never considered we would have this band in common, but I’m glad we do.

The Swede said...

'Walking in the Shadow of the Big Man' still sits on the shelf at Swede Towers. What a fine little band they were. Echorich's comment is one to ponder.