Season 2 — Episode 2 — April 27, 2022
Present Tense — (1977) — Shoes
Shoes are one of those rare bands — the music business hasn’t screwed them.
As Rob Janicke and I talked with Jeff Murphy from the band, we were amazed at how well they got treated by an industry built on the creativity, souls, and money of artists.
Whether it was naivete, savvy, or dumb luck, it would be Shoes curiosity and creativity that led them to record and release their first album, Black Vinyl Shoes, in a manner virtually unknown in the mid-70s — by themselves. While Shoes may not have been the progenitors of the DIY movement, they were indeed there at the beginning.
By today’s standards, recording and releasing an album on your own is no big deal, but in 1977? God damn revolutionary.
Once Black Vinyl Shoes found its way into the ears of folks like the Noam Chomsky of music writing, Robert Christgau of The Village Voice, labels swarmed into Zion, Illinois. Seymour Stein of Sire Records led the charge, but he would come up short. Riding high from the success of The Cars debut album, it was Elektra Records who would sign Shoes.
Sparing no expense, Elektra paired them with producer Mike Stone. The five made their way to Richard Branson’s The Manor Studio, outside of Oxfordshire, England, to record what would become their debut album, Present Day.
They spent four weeks tracking at The Manor at the cost of $2,000/day. In today’s dollars, those four weeks would cost over $250,000.
Can you imagine a label spending that kind of money on an artist these days?
Can you imagine a label spending that kind of money on a new artist these days?
Jeff sheds a lot of light on the recording of Present Tense and what came afterward — no spoilers here; you’ll have to listen to get the details.
And those details MAY include how the band barely avoided being involved in the most significant commercial aviation disasters in history.
Shoes debut album, Present Tense, is a great album, but it’s also a great story about how one band didn’t get fleeced by the music business.
Put your Shoes on, strap yourself in, and get in the Present Tense!