Sunday, September 29, 2019

"The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades" by Timbuk 3

Song#:  2906
Date:  10/25/1986
Debut:  85
Peak:  19
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Alternative Rock, Folk-Rock

Pop Bits:  In 1978, musician Barbara Kooyman was getting herself established in Madison in order to attend the University of Wisconsin. She happened to walk into a coffee shop where Pat MacDonald was performing. She loved his songs and it wasn't long before they were dating and each was maintaining and performing with their own bands. Eventually, Kooyman (her stage name was Barbara K) decided to break up her band and she joined up with MacDonald's outfit. Along the way, the two got married. After MacDonald's band called it quits, the couple came up with the idea to perform together and create their own rhythm section without hiring other band members. They moved to Austin, Texas, and soon began to get gigs around town as Timbuk 3. They got a break when the MTV show The Cutting Edge came to town. The monthly program showcased new talent from a few regions of the country. It was a joint venture between MTV and I.R.S. Records. Scouts for the show liked what the duo had to offer and they got on the show. They were also invited to perform at an event for the show in L.A. It was there that the head of I.R.S. heard the duo and decided to sign them. Work began on a debut album with little expectations to become a major success. In fact, just a few thousand vinyl LPs and cassettes were pressed for release. The final product was titled Greetings from Timbuk3 and it was decided that this song would be the first single. Promos got pressed and passed around while the duo hit the road to perform. Unexpectedly, DJs began spinning the promo and the song started to catch on. The label had to quickly get singles, LPs and CDs pressed as demand began to grow for the duo's music. By the end of '86, the single made the Pop Top 20 while getting to #14 at Rock. A second single, "Life Is Hard," got to #35 at Rock, but failed to make the Pop chart. Still, the album did well getting to #50. All together, it was enough to capture the attention of the Grammy folks and the duo got a nomination for Best New Artist. The duo certainly hit the big time, but keeping their audience proved to be difficult. Their second album was far less successful peaking at #107 with no singles charting at Pop. They would record two more albums for I.R.S. that didn't chart followed by two indie LPs and one EP. By 1995, Timbuk 3 called it a day professionally and personally with the pair getting a divorce.

ReduxReview:  Yeah, this just wasn't my cup of tea. It's like some goofy tune from the Woodstock era that despite its frivolous sunny disposition had a cynical dark side. Come for the hippie-ish, hooky, folk-rock...stay for the deceptively smart lyrics that most people didn't get (or really want to)! I've seen acts like this before. Quirky musicians that perform locally and gain a solid following. Sure they may have higher aspirations than playing the local venues, but sometimes their music just doesn't translate to a wider, mainstream audience. I think Timbuk 3 were like that, however what they had over other similar artists is this song. Even though I didn't much care for it (I smelled one-hit wonder from a mile away), I did recognize that it was a cute little jam with a hooky, quotable title that would play well to a lot of people. The problem was that offbeat acts like this don't tend to last long. They were not going to be commercially viable like other pop artists. They were not going to purposely write a hit song and were not going to let others write for them, so their shelf life was limited before this hit was even off the chart. Still, they had their moment in the sun and even got a Grammy nod.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Pat MacDonald would go on to record some solo albums, but he also collaborated with a few high-profile artists. Songs he co-wrote showed up on albums by Night Ranger, Peter Frampton, and Alannah Myles. He also co-wrote a few with the legendary Cher. These were songs that Cher had lyrically started at a songwriter's workshop and via connections, MacDonald was brought in to flesh out the tunes. These songs plus others that Cher co-wrote created an album she wanted to release, but her label deemed it uncommercial and refused to put it out. The project sat around for several years before Cher just decided to release it digitally on her own. It was issued out on Cher's website in 2000 as  2) This song's sound and title certainly made it one that had a lot of appeal to advertisers. Yet it's never been heard in any commercial or featured in any ad campaign. Why is that? It is because both MacDonald and Kooyman have refused to grant the rights for use. They have their own reasons why, but it kind of boils down to them not wanting their artistic vision commercialized or used to sell masses of products. The companies they have turned down are not minor players - Ford, Ray-Bans, and even the US Army have come calling to no avail. It was even reported that they turned down an offer of $900,000 from AT&T. Like they say, money can't buy everything.


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