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After spending several weeks abroad, The dBs returned to New York and resumed life as a local club-playing and constantly rehearsing young band. Work began almost immediately on assembling the songs for the next album, which the record company was eager to have as soon as possible.
Scott Litt was chosen as producer and, pending Albions approval, the original concept was to record the entire album at Power Station, where Litt was gradually moving from being house engineer into production. (Repercussion was the first album on which Litt had sole production credit.) The dBs were given financing to record one song to gain approval for the plan. "Ask for Jill" and "pH Factor" were recorded in May of 1981 at Power Station.
Albions preference, and eventual decision, was to have the band record in London, where they could more easily keep an eye on proceedings and because they thought it could be done more cheaply that way (which probably turned out not to be true, after travel and lodging expenses which would not have been incurred had the record been made in New York; in fact, this album wound up with the biggest budget of any dBs record). So the Whos old studio Ramport was booked, lodging and transportation arranged, and in early July the band flew over.
The entire band and Litt lived in a basement flat in Kensington for six weeks or so during the recording. A cook was even hired to prepare dinner five nights a week, for which all came back from the studio. Driving themselves on the left side of the road was a big adventure, and it took a while to learn the route through Londons notoriously complicated streets to the studio across the Thames, everyone packed in a four-door Volvo borrowed from one of the owners of the record company. The nearest tube stop was a long walk from the studio, so that inconvenient option was seldom used.
During July of 1981 London and many other cities in the UK were shocked by riots, which gave the country, then in a deep financial recession, an embattered feeling; however, The dBs were also in town for the royal wedding of Prince Charles to Diana, for which London was probably the most jammed (and celebratory, in most quarters) it has ever been. The bands time in London also coincided almost exactly with the beginning and end of a momentous strike by major league baseball players.
Repercussion was mixed at George Martins Air Studios, with Steve Churchyard doing a lot of the work. Other artists in the complex simultaneously were Paul McCartney and Adam and the Ants. Martin, Paul and Linda were occasionally glimpsed. The assistant engineer at these sessions, a very quiet woman named Renata, married Elton John the following year.
The final night of mixing went well into the wee hours of the morning of the royal wedding; that night the fireworks in Hyde Park were watched from the roof of the building Air was in. A listening party for the sequenced album was held a few days later, using the speakers on which Sergeant Pepper was reputedly recorded (and that Martin had taken with him from Abbey Road).
The album cover submitted by the band was designed by Peter, Phil Marino and Chris Nelson. Copies with this cover were pressed in the UK to be sold in the US (albeit still at import prices) to coincide with the first real US tour by The dBs in the fall of 81. This tour was a bare-bones affair, with band, equipment, and road manager Jim Ford all packed into one non-stretch van. The tour went as far west as Kansas City, and most of the East Coast was covered.
The official UK and European release date of Repercussion was not until early 1982. (These were the only markets in which this album was originally released.) The label commissioned Malcolm Garrett to design a new cover and resequenced the album more to their liking, all without the input of The dBs. The only holdover from the cover the band submitted were the photos of band members (and a cursory nod to the shapes on the original front).
Being a British label, Albions main concern was breaking the band in the UK, and an opening slot on Dave Edmunds tour of Britain in late winter was procured. The dBs again spent several wintry weeks in Europe, first on the Edmunds tour, which began in early March and visited ten or twelve English cities and Cardiff, Wales. The Milky Way in Amsterdam again followed, and The dBs this time played several dates in Sweden, plus Oslo. An additional show at Dingwalls in London, the only city in the UK where the band had gained much of a following, probably took place before the return to New York.
Chris had by this point been thinking of leaving the band for a while, and in early April, at a show at the Ritz in New York, announced that it was his last with the group. In addition, it became clear that the bands releases were not succeeding to the labels satisfaction; the lack of success at licensing the albums in the US meant that not only were they available strictly as imports, but that radio play in the States was extremely unlikely. Albion soon dropped The dBs.
As 1982 progressed, The dBs entered a period of relative inactivity. New songs were still being worked on (and demoed for label-shopping) by the remaining trio, but Peter started playing a lot of solo acoustic shows (dubbed the No Nebraska tour), which considerably sharpened his instincts as a performer and included opening for R.E.M. on their longest tour to date. Gene was involved with producing the Individuals and other bands. Will learned how to hang drywall. Chris put out his first solo album Its a Wonderful Life, featuring new versions of some songs that The dBs had been playing before he left.
This low-key scenario continued through much of 1983. Walter Williams, creator of Mr. Bill and lifelong friend of road manager Jim Ford, offered to make a video for "Amplifier." This was in the early days of rock video, and the lack of record company financing made for a tight budget, but the finished product was professional and visually witty. The existence of this video is the reason that the song was again included on the next album.
A recording contract with Bearsville was signed in the latter half of the year; Chris Butler, formerly of the Waitresses and Tin Huey, was chosen as producer. Rehearsals began in earnest in summer 83; recording spanned late fall and early 1984 (not the best time of year to be in Woodstock) at Bearsville Studio. Gene played bass while tracking was done, and overdubbed lead guitar parts.
The band stayed in a rented house (and Butler and engineer Michael Frondelli in another) owned by label head Albert Grossman, ate frequently at restaurants owned by Grossman, recorded at Grossmans studio, and were signed to his label. This meant that, because he was being reimbursed by distributor Warner Brothers for all of the above, no doubt at rates far higher than his costs, Grossman actually turned a profit by recording The dBs, whether or not the record ever came out.
New wave/country band Rubber Rodeo was in the other studio for some of the time, and The dBs borrowed their pedal steel player Mark Tomeo for "White Train;" Pat Irwin of the RayBeats added synthesizer to "A Spy in the House of Love." (Rick Wagners contribution was the single tonic note on keyboard on the second beat of verse lines of "Lonely Is.")
The mixes submitted by Butler and Frondelli were deemed unsatisfactory by Bearsville. After a session with Todd Rundgren (with whom Grossman had a long and tangled business relationship) bore no fruit, Gene mixed the album with the studios manager and chief engineer Mark McKenna. The cover design was again by Phil Marino, with which the band was ecstatic but which was met with indifference by Grossman, who nevertheless gave it his okay. Like This was agreed upon for the title.
After the album was done, auditions for a new bass player were held in the spring of 1984. Although once and future Buzzcock Steve Garvey was a close second, New Yorker (and native of Wilkes-Barre, PA) Rick Wagner got the gig. A fairly long tour of the eastern half of the US took place in the summer of 84, to hone the arrangements for touring after the record came out.
An unusual gig that summer was in New Orleans. Walter Williams put together "The Funniest Man in the World (or at Least the Worlds Fair)," a speculative television production consisting of a talent contest for unknown comedians with celebrity panel of judges and live audience, hosted by Alan Thicke and held on an outdoor stage on the Worlds Fair grounds. Musical guests The dBs performed on a revolving stage, on the other side of which the house band was led by Allen Toussaint. The opening chords of "Love Is for Lovers" were played extra long while the stage revolved. That was the bands first New Orleans appearance. The TV show never aired due to the fact that none of the comedians were funny.
As the intended September release date for Like This approached, The dBs faced a very tough choice: Either have the record come out on Bearsville (and expect little or no support from Warner Brothers, with whom the distribution deal was about to expire) in time to open for R.E.M. on their fall tour; or postpone all record-release and tour plans, let the Bearsville distribution deal expire, and hope that Warner Brothers would buy their contract and album from Grossman/Bearsville. The bands impatience to have the record come out, eagerness to be on tour, and lack of assurance that their contract would be picked up by Warner won the day; the former choice was taken, and proved a fateful one.