She's Not Worried - 2.6 Mb
Bad Reputation - 2.7 Mb
What's The Matter With Me - 2.3 Mb
The Fight - 2.5 Mb
What I Dig/Espionage - 5.4 Mb
If and When - 2.4 Mb

All files are in MP3 format.

We Came, We Saw, We Recorded
Fred Mills

The ’70s were coming to an end. I was living in Chapel Hill at the time, having skidded somewhat unceremoniously out of law school a year prior. In the aftermath of the Punk and New Wave explosion I’d given my life over to rock ’n’ roll—pogoing at gigs, rabidly collecting records, working on a fanzine called Biohazard Informae—and there really wasn’t anything else that motivated me. Needless to say, the Christmas–New Year’s nexus provided ample excuse (not that I needed any) to party like it was, uh, 1979 by attending back-to-back shows from what was then my favorite band on the planet.

The fact that The dB’s would be performing, prodigal son–style, on home turf in Winston-Salem promised to make things even more special. A number of our Chapel Hill/Durham–area friends who’d actually grown up in Winston and gone to school with the members of the deeBs were already over there doing the family holiday thing. If you’re out there and reading this, hello to Robert, Julie, Chamis, Northcott, Sammy, Kyle, Victor, T.R., Henry…

So on December 28 my girlfriend (later to be my wife) Allison and I packed up my battered old orange Vega (remember them?) and hit the interstate, visions of fun, frolic and Moravian cookies dancing in our heads.

To be honest, my actual recollection of the Philosopher’s Club itself is vague. (Feel free to post to this site’s message board if you can describe the venue.) Regardless, we arrived at the club, hooked up with our friend Jonathan Sharpe (also a Winston native), and scoped out the best spot to record the show. Jonathan had a pro portable Nakamichi cassette deck and a pair of pro mics, so we commandeered a few chairs directly in front of the stage. If you’re reading this, of course, you’re about to hear some of the fruits of Jonathan’s labor from the Dec. 28 show (the 29th was also recorded) and can judge for yourself the general quality of this audience recording.

Turnout was excellent, and enthusiastic. Lots of "new wave" dancing. Solid drunk ecstasy (but not in a bad way…) by the end of each evening. A lot of folks there took definite hometown pride in the band, who were getting written up in national music magazines and would soon sign a deal with a British label. I was proud to know the band too, almost in a kind of new-parent way—the feeling a mom or dad gets when Little Junior goes off into the world and makes something of himself. That may sound sappy, but I think anyone who’s ever loved a band so much it hurts (to nod to Almost Famous) understands the feeling. There’s something special about knowing all the songs so well that you can mouth the lyrics even before they’re sung, about anticipating a little flourish the band only does live and timing your silly little dance moves to that upcoming stage move—about it being your friends who are knocking your socks off and not some larger-than-life, inaccessible pop star.

And you know what? That good feeling doesn’t disappear with age. Here I am, over two decades later, listening to the master tapes of the two Philosopher’s Club shows, and I still get a goofy grin when I hear one of Peter’s offhand, deadpan comments to the crowd, or one of Chris’s intricate fretboard runs, or one of Will and Gene’s room-filling low-end maneuvers that could turn The dB’s into a full-on surf combo and then back again in the space of a few measures. (Not to mention the outright laughter I emit when I hear on the tapes some of my old friends’ voices blurting out kudos, song requests or just plain silliness from the peanut gallery.)

Live, The dB’s had a reputation for being a sometimes-on, sometimes-off band, but in Winston that holiday weekend, they were on for two full sets (plus abbreviated third sets that doubled as extended encores) each night. From ultra-vintage material like Chris’s "Summer Sun" single and Peter’s classic H-Bombs holdover "Death Garage" to (speaking of vintage holdovers) material hearkening back to Sneakers days ("Condition Red," a version of the Grassroots’ "Let’s Live For Today") and covers of "My Back Pages," "Tossin’ & Turnin’," "Boom Boom" and "Suzy Q," well… suffice to say the shows were special. (In introducing the latter, Stamey observed, "Here’s a song we first heard at a Winston-Salem ‘Battle of the Bands’ about 1969, 1970…" and looking around the club, I could see more than one person nodding his or her head appreciatively at what must have been a firsthand memory. At that point all I could think about was how much I wished I’d grown up in this city so I could have the same memories.)

Here’s the full setlist from the 28th—and enjoy the MP3s. I know it was definitely a gas to resurrect the tapes and "pre-produce" them for the band to put up on this site. With luck, maybe there will be more to come.

FIRST SET: Black and White, I Thought You Wanted to Know, Condition Red, Death Garage, Dynamite, Summer Sun, She’s Not Worried, Tossin’ & Turnin’, You Got It Wrong, My Back Pages, Tearjerkin’, Bad Reputation, What’s the Matter with Me, Big Brown Eyes

SECOND SET: The World Keeps Going Round, What I Dig, Espionage, The Fight, If And When, Rendezvous, Let’s Live for Today, Suzy Q, Tearjerkin’

THIRD SET/ENCORES: Black and White, I Thought You Wanted to Know, Condition Red, I’m In Love, Summer Sun, Boom Boom

[Fred Mills is a longtime friend of The dB’s who’s been intensely following music longer than we’ve known him. He writes music reviews and articles for No Depression, Magnet, Stereophile, Goldmine, and a number of regional weeklies, and syndicated music biz/pop life column "Shake Some Action." Fred was instrumental in getting this recording into the hands of The dB’s Online. For that and for these kind words we are extremely grateful. Major thanks also to Jonathan Sharpe, who made the original recording. —Will R.]

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