8.18.2005

SPOON: Out of Print

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Things were looking a little rocky there for Spoon in the late 1990s. While they've always been a great band, mixing the noisy punk of influences like THE PIXIES and WIRE with an obvious love for barroom ready arena rock like THE ROLLING STONES, they stumbled into a bit of record label trouble that has seen them jump between at least 4 labels over the course of 5 albums (their last 3 released on Merge Records, finally giving the band a bit of stability and support).

Back in 1996, Spoon recorded its debut album, "TELEPHONO," for Matador Records after attracting the label's attention through a self-released 7" single called "NEFARIOUS." Matador tested the new band out with a few of its own 7" records prior to it's debut full-length. "Telephono" was released to a minor bit of fanfare, and the buzz about this Texas trio began to spread. Later that year saw the release of the "SOFT EFFECTS" EP, and soon major labels began their inevitable scouting.

The A&R man who eventually caught the band's attention was a man who worked for Elektra Records named Ron Lafitte. He gave the band a big smiling handshake and a list of promises that a major label could only provide... big tours, great distribution and a ton of money for promoting the band's second record.

If you happen to remember hearing a huge crashing THUD around 1997, that was the sound of Spoon's "A SERIES OF SNEAKS" flopping on arrival. The budget for promotion that was promised? Nowhere to be found. Ron Lafitte was fired after four months and soon the label turned its back on the band. Their major label experience lasted as long as most junior high relationships. Pissed, the band snuck over to Saddle Creek records to release a 2-song single mocking Mr. Lafitte on the hilariously titled "The Agony of Lafitte" and "Lafitte Don't Fail Me Now." Britt Daniel nails the guy with lyrics like, "It's like I knew two of you, man / The one before and after we shook hands," while telling him he's no better than label head Sylvia Rhone.

And the worst part of it all? Almost all of that music is out of print now. You can't order "Telephono" from the web without paying at least 50 to 100 dollars for it. I just sold my copy for $40, and that guy got it at a steal. I've heard rumblings that Merge may re-release the CD in the next year (they recently released a new version of "A Series of Sneaks," featuring the Saddle Creek songs as bonus tracks). As for the "Soft Effects" EP or anything else? Your guess is as good as mine.

If you find yourself in a used CD store in the next couple of months, and you happen to see a copy of "Telephono," pick it up. Burn yourself a copy. And then immediately head to the Internet and sell that son of a bitch off.

For now, here are a few tracks from the aforementioned releases. Happy hunting.

TELEPHONO
"Don't Buy the Realistic"
"Dismember"
"Idiot Driver"

SOFT EFFECTS
"Mountain to Sound"
"I Could See the Dude"

THE AGONY OF LAFITTE
"Agony of Lafitte"
"Laffitte Don't Fail Me Now"


For more on SPOON:

- An old Austin Chronicle article where Britt Daniel discusses the agony of Lafitte.
- Spoon's official site
- Download demos of "I Summon You" and "Sister Jack".
- Listen to the band play on KCRW.

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4 comments:

mike said...

I got my new copy of "Telephono" for $1 in a bargain bin at a certain CD chain store here in Canada. Thank god for employee ignorance. Btw, thanks for the mp3 links! I'm almost embarassed to admit that I only discovered Spoon with "Gimme Fiction", after having heard the band's name float around for years. "Gimme Fiction" is a stupendous album.

Janine said...

I saw Spoon in concert a few months back and actually met most of the band. Good show, good guys.

Niclas said...

Awesome band!

mkudlacz said...

great post, bro. you really fucking nailed the context of the post-sneaks period. it always felt to me like they were just as surprised as their audience that elektra pulled them so quickly. which is silly, b/c we're talking about the label of motley crue, so really nobody should have been surprised. anywiz, you keep pumpin the tunes, and i'll keep re-pumpin 'em. k u d l a c z