There's a good chance you haven't heard of Donnie and Joe Emerson; haven't heard about their album from 1979, Dreamin' Wild. And if you have heard about it there was - until a couple of weeks ago, anyway - a good chance you hadn't heard it.
There's a chance you might love the music, there's a chance the music is worth examining because of the back-story and there's a chance - I'm sure - that some of you will like it simply because Ariel Pink says so.
Even his glowing endorsement couldn't stop me from diving in. What a wee treat this album is.
Donnie and Joe were teenagers when, in 1979, they recorded this album at home. Their father, easily a candidate for the World's Greatest Dad, believed so much in their talent that he built them a studio.
You read that correctly. You see, Don Emerson Snr just figured that's what you do for your kids. He sank $100,000 into building a studio-space for his boys to hang out and jam. They could practise after they'd done their chores around the farm.
The debts of the studio meant that substantial blocks of land had to be sold off; the family farm was quartered, then smaller, then smaller again. It didn't tear the family up. It didn't make them regret this move - Don and his wife loved their children. They wanted them to be happy. They believed in their talent.
So the album was completed. And the kids set about selling a few copies themselves. It never really took off.
And that was that.
Or at least that was part of that.
Dreamin' Wild has this wonderful back-story now that it's been discovered. But it had to have something else to keep it alive - beyond the palpable spirit. And it has a handful of exquisite tunes. And that garish, kitsch album cover. It became a junk-store curio, a record to dig for. It started out, in some cases, that the real treasure was the album cover. This looked like something the kids of Heavy Metal Parking Lot could only hope to one day aspire to.
You could have probably told someone that it contained Dirk and Reed's Feel My Heat and other "hits" from the band dreamed up as part of Boogie Nights. And they might have believed you.
But dig a little deeper. There's the music. This isn't just a thrift-store cover to hang on the wall.
Donnie and Joe Emerson created this music blind to fads, unaware of style - beyond what they heard on the radio. Growing up in a small town, young kids working on a farm, they liked bits and pieces from the radio. They didn't discriminate. Hall & Oates was great, so was Smokey Robinson. But you could have told them that Daryl Hall and John Oates were black singers signed to Motown and that William "Smokey" Robinson Jr was a blue-eyed white-boy wannabe singer. It didn't matter to them - what did matter was the snatch of sound they were able to grab.
Donnie took ideas down in his head, listening to the radio while riding the tractor.
He went away and wrote his own songs.
Now none of this matters if you don't believe in the music - but I've been living with this album for the past month and I'm completely hooked. I adore several of the songs, I love the earnestness, I feel as the listener as though I can bask in the naivety of the performers but there's nothing condescending here: it's a revelation to hear this music, replete with naivety. So pure, so clean - chock full of ideas but sparse in a sense because it's so void of baggage; look again at that cover - not self-conscious at all.
There are moments of psychedelic pop and blue-eyed soul, I almost hear Shuggie Otis at one point, there's a sting of guitar that feels like Sterling Morrison - Donnie probably arrived at that quite by accident/all on his own. I doubt he heard The Velvet Underground out on the family tractor. I'm not sure Shuggie would have been part of their sound-world.
So, check out Good Time and tell me what you think. Any number of hipster-hacks could hope to carve something out that good as they stumble away.
There are eight tracks on this 40-minute album. And I've played it more than any new release across the past couple of months - with the exception only of the new Paul Buchanan record.
So maybe the back-story sucked me in - but I listened to the music first. That cover made me curious. I had to know what it was about. And I'm glad I took that plunge.
If you need more convincing - or would just like to check out some of the back-story for yourself, here's a neat short documentary called The Rock'n'Roll Farmers: Donnie and Joe Emerson. It's about seven minutes long. I reckon it's worth it.
It struck me as very sweet that Don Emerson Snr would believe so strongly - so much - in his kids. It struck me as poignant to read that Donnie and Joe still play music, hacking it out in their own bands after punching the clock and working a week. But most of all I was struck by this music. That and the fact that we have labels like LightInTheAttic rediscovering this magic so that we can hear it for the first time.
So had you heard about Dreamin' Wild? Or had you already heard it? And does it interest you? Will you give it a go?
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