Friday, January 24, 2020

The single that vaulted The dB's to power-pop glory

The dB's: Black and White

On January 24, 1980 The dB's released their single "Black and White" b/w "Soul Kiss" on New York's Shake Records. The disc earned NME's "Single of the Week" title with editors praising: "This is the sort of single that could make people want to grow up and form a group". 

Originally from Winston-Salem, NC, home of Mitch Easter's Drive-In Studio, The dB's had already become pop favorites in their new hometown of New York City. Holsapple's "Black and White" is a multi-faceted, jangly power pop masterpiece

The B side is Chris Stamey's take on the kind of 60's psychedelia found on the Nuggets compilation. Stamey was earning a philosophy degree from NYU at the time. In his entertaining and very smart memoir, A Spy in the House of Loud, Stamey explains the lyrics:

“Soul Kiss” was a kind of reverse sexual innuendo—I knew that the term was used for French kissing, but after having spent many collegiate hours debating Aquinas, Socrates, Plato, et al., I was thinking more of a connection that was soul to soul, essence to essence. I can’t claim that this is clearly presented in the lyrics, but that’s the skinny. 

London's Albion Records liked what they heard and signed the dB's to a UK recording contract that would lead to the critically acclaimed 1981 debut album Stands for deciBels. A few tracks were recorded at Power Station in NY down the hall from where Bruce Springsteen was making The River. Half the tracks were recorded with Easter at his studio in Winston-Salem. 

I played a lot of dB's on my college radio station and met the Stamey-less dB's during their Like This tour. Always been a fan and always will be.

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