dB’s – Black and White ….Power Pop Friday

The Db’s were a great unknown power pop band…who would influence many bands but not sale many records. The band members were Peter Holsapple, Chris Stamey, Will Rigby, and Gene Holder.

All of the members are all from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, but the band was formed in New York City in 1978. They never broke through to the masses but they were heard on college radio in the 80s. 

“Black and White,” is the leadoff track to The dB’s debut album Stands for Decibels, and it is pure power pop. The dB’s were signed to the U.K. label Albion, which had trouble licensing the record for American distribution…. and subsequently went un-promoted in radio and only received sporadic play from college radio stations.

The Stands for Decibels album was ranked at number 76 on Pitchforks list of the 100 best albums of the 1980s. The dB’s would released 6 albums in all. The last album was released in 2012 when the members reunited. 

The dB’s broke up in 1988 and Peter Holsapple would go on to be an auxiliary guitarist and keyboardist for REM on the Green tour. He then helped in writing and recording their Out Of Time album. Holsapple subsequently worked with Hootie & the Blowfish as an auxiliary musician.

The dB’s worth checking out. 

Good story on two of the members meeting two Big Star members:

In May of 1978 two members of the dB’s Will Rigby, Peter Holsapple, and future R.E.M producer Mitch Easter made a pilgrimage to Memphis. They were about the only people in America who, while attending high school in the early ’70s, were under the impression that Big Star was a major band.

Their first stop was Danver’s…a restaurant that former Big Star’s Chris Bell worked at and his father owned. They passed a note to the server to talk to Chris and out he came. He was shocked that fans would track him down. It had been 6 years since the Big Star debut album was released.  They were impressed by how nice he was to them.

Bell invited them to join him after work at a ferny bar-café called the Bombay Bicycle Club. Here, while Bell played backgammon with a buddy, the three guys peppered him with questions: What kind of guitar did he play? How did he get those great sounds? 

Bell wondered if the boys were up for maybe checking out a Horslips (local rock band) concert. They instead decided to go over to Sam Phillips Recording Service to visit Alex Chilton, Bell’s former Big Star bandmate, then making his experimental album Like Flies on Sherbert. Bell and Chilton exchanged quiet hellos before Bell went home. 

A few days later Alex Chilton drove Easter and Rigby (Holsapple had already left) around Memphis, showing them the old Sun Studios building (which had a Corvair parked inside it), and taking them up a bluff overlooking the Mississippi. He pulled out a cassette and played a song on a junky little cassette player that took his visitors by surprise.

Chilton played the guys a Chris Bell song. He was raving about it saying it was Chris’s best song and it was the ultimate “Big Star song “…the song was I Am The Cosmos which the public had not heard at this point. 

Chris Bell would die in a car wreck on Decemeber 27, 1978…only 7 months after this happened. 

Chris Stamey on Big Star:“They were my favorite, and as far as I knew they were popular all the way across America. At least for that moment, I forgot about Emerson, Lake, and Palmer.”

Peter Holsapple on meeting Chris Bell and I Am The Cosmos:  “that the person who made all that beautiful music was a right-on kind of guy, too.” “It’s that kind of rife-with-sadness record, but it’s realized with the same imploding beauty that Big Star had. I mean, I Am the Cosmos-it’s just wry enough to make you turn your head and do a double-take, you know, the first sixteen thousand times you listen to it.”

Black and White

I, I never would hurt you
But even if I did you
You never would tell me
Oh, we are finished
As of a long time ago
As of a long time ago
I stop
I don’t enjoy you anymore
Well I guess I just don’t enjoy you anymore
Well I guess it’s all laid out in black and white
You don’t like it at all

Love
Love is the answer
To no question
But thanks for
Oh, the suggestion
I know I don’t care at all
Yeah, I know I don’t know anything at all
But I stop

I don’t enjoy you anymore
Well, I guess I just don’t enjoy you anymore
Well, I guess it’s all laid out in black and white
You don’t like it at all
You don’t like it at all
You don’t like it at all
(In black and white)

Author: badfinger20 (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

37 thoughts on “dB’s – Black and White ….Power Pop Friday”

  1. Nice song and yet another band that’s completely new to me. I guess I start sounding like a broken record. 🙂

    The tune has a good melody and I like the singing. I feel the instrumental parts could need a bit more pep, but it may be my crappy laptop loudspeakers playing a trick on me here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No man I’m picking some rare ones recently…so I get it. This band is really good but like many of the power pop bands…it took a while to get noticed…although college radio played them.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. When I started reading it, I thought right away , “Peter Holsapple’s name I know…but how?” which of course got explained later in. Another band I remember seeing the name of quite a bit, but not hearing anywhere. That one sounds quite good- seems like it would’ve fit in with stuff like Nick Lowe and Rockpile back then.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Those are good comparisons… they did influence a lot of bands. He does have a pretty cool connection with REM.

      Like

  3. Those first two albums are really good – I don’t know the later stuff as well but I’m planning to go through and review it sometime. I didn’t know about the Big Star visit. Rigby is a good drummer – he’s great on stuff like ‘Amplifier’.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would like to check their newer one out also.

      That visit was in the Chris Bell book…I didn’t know about it either until then…Alex was right…I Am The Cosmos would have been a great Big Star song.

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    1. I had to include that story…to them they were someone like The Beatles but much more accessible. They do have some good songs.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love the story of them meeting Bell and Chilton. Unreal how cool that is. I like the song and this line is so great:
    “Love is the answer
    To no question
    But thanks for
    Oh, the suggestion”
    Sheer poetry.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Omg Max the dBs were another band I was going to suggest to you and here we go 😀. I really liked their 87 album Sound of Music – checked it out of the library when I was in grad school and taped it (did that a lot in those days). Like the tune you posted as well. Crazy that an American band could get a distribution deal in US and had to go to the UK

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When I first got into power pop…it was Badfinger, Raspberries, Big Star, and then the dB’s…I do like them a lot…one band you suggested is coming Monday.
      It is sad they couldn’t get a better deal. If promoted they could have had some hits.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve always liked music before my time so to speak….don’t know why…at 8 I bought my first Beatles album…long after they broke up lol.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Ok so now you have me looking up videos from The Sound of Music on YouTube – it’s not on the streaming services I use. Taking me back like 35 years!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good! they were a very good power pop band…plus any members that tracked down Big Star has my approval

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    1. I know some of them from the 80s…but some have come from my recent journey into 80s alternative music….this weekend I’m posting Beatles and Stones…I thought I’d better or I’ll turn into an alternative music blogger completely lol.
      It is a cool story…they thought of them as I do The Beatles…the attention at that time must have shocked Chilton and Bell…but later on Chilton was hounded by Big Star fans.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I had to add that. I’m reading a book about Big Star and that was in it…I do like stories like that also.

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  7. I have one album by these guys. ‘Sound Of Music’. It’s real good. No idea why I never continued. Listen to ‘I Lie’ drinking from the same well as the Replacements. I guess the Big Star influence. Holsapple did go onto a band called the Continental Drifters who I like. Good stuff as usual Max.

    Liked by 1 person

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