THE TENNESSEAN, Friday, August 1, 1980

New Wave Lives On Despite Uphill Struggle


A YEAR AGO, There were two ways for someone in Nashville to hear New Wave music: turn on Saturday Night Live or go somewhere else.
   When New Wave finally did strike locally, it was in danger of being little more than a ripple, according to Rick Champion, whose Phrank and Steins club has become the center of New Wave in Nashville.
   "THERE were two New Wave bands in Nashville last fall, and one of them didn't go anywhere," said Champion, who also manages Cloverbottom, the other band. "But now there are eight."
   Cloverbottom survived, and is now one year old. The three-man group is celebrating the first anniversary with a party tomorrow night at Phrank and Steins, where they first performed publicly.
   Ironically, Cloverbottom never intended to play for any purpose other than to fill what they felt was a void in music here. "Rock and roll was getting stale all over the world and we wanted to try and play music that wasn't stale or boring," explained bassist Johnny Hollywood. "There was no place to hear the music we wanted to hear."
   FOR personal satisfaction, Hollywood, who came here three years ago from Tullahoma, began playing with guitarist Rock Strata, whom he met along with Rick Champion in the employ of Gusto Records. "We had written some originals and Rick kept hassling us, telling us if we were really serious we ought to play somewhere," Hollywood said. "He said, 'If I get you a gig at Phrank and Steins will you play?' So we got a drummer and had 80 people at the first gig."
   The small club on Broadway became the home base of Cloverbottom and other New Wave bands in Nashville, partly because Champion bought an interest in the club. "They practiced here Monday and Tuesday nights," Champion said, "which was one of the reasons for buying into it--they didn't have a place to practice."
   The band's music vented an angry dissatisfaction with contemporary rock and roll ("technically perfect and perfectly boring," Champion says) and with Nashville's music industry. A crowd favorite is their "attack on Music City," Anarchy in Music City, with the hookline "The South's gonna do it but not with the CDB."
   THE CDB (Charlie Daniels Band) is cited by guitarist Strata as one of his two most hated groups. (The other is a local rock band, The Smashers.
   Another song, Nuclear War, attacks the state of rock and roll lyrics, "how wimpy they are," Champion explained.
   With little chance to break into the record business through Music Row, the group decided, like many New Wave groups, to put out its own record. With only one piece of overdubbing (syndrums on Nuclear War which was intended as a mock disco effect but sounded, to the band's approval, more like bombs exploding) the financial outlay was not as high as it would have been for a larger or more traditional rock band.
   CLOVERBOTTOM took the two tunes already recorded and added two more, Life Is A Game and Cottage Cheese Heads, and put them on an Extended Play disk, a 7-inch 33 1/3 rpm record.
   Just having the record in hand gave the band a boost of confidence. "People were talking about a record deal," Hollywood said. "We could say, 'We have a record label."
   SUPPORT for the record came from unexpected areas. "Radio stations could not believe something like this came out of Nashville," Champion said. "The attitude around the country is we're walking around with overalls and corn-cob pipes sticking up our cowboy hats."
   Cuts off the record were played in several cities--small ones like Hoboken, N.J., and Kent, Ohio, and Olympia, Wash.; large ones like Philadelphia and St. Louis.
   "It's a paradox," said drummer Bryan D'Beane, who, like Strata, is a native of Nashville. "We got airplay in the four corners of the country, but not in Music City. It's supposed to be the biggest music center, but it's not. It's totally controlled."
   ASIDE from two weeks of limited play on WKQB (Rock 106), Nashville radio stations ignored Cloverbottom--leading to a state of war on standard playlist formats, according to Champion.
   "(Nashville radio) is boring as s...," he said. "They play the same thing over and over. They do not in any sense bend to support local music."
   "WHEN Nashville was all singer/songwriters," Champion added, "people were always popping in to the stations with a new single or a new album to play. We feel they should do that for something besides country rock. . ."
   ". . .because people are sick of it," D'Beane finished.
   The impatience evident in conversation as well as in the music of Cloverbottom comes from a "Why sit and wait?" attitude (Champion's description) they've carried from their beginning a year ago.
   Champion sums up the philosophy: "It's better to burn out than to fade away."