When I was a student at Emerson College, I worked at and studied near the campus FM radio station (WERS, 88.9). The radio station took up all of a floor in one of the multiple interconnected buildings. The combination of doing some stuff there and being in the building meant I went by their entrance, often.
At the end of each semester or so, WERS would throw out dozens of records. Most were freebies sent by record companies to get played at college radio stations. A few were sets dropped off by hopeful artists trying to get their name out. They were usually scribbled on, or marked up. They were also often notched, because then the record company could report them as “damaged/discarded”, and then not pay the artists for the distributed music.
I, being who I am, would scarf up way too many of these freebie discards, and one of the discards was a strange album called “Movieland”. The cover was almost pure white except for the name of the band (in Arial Bold or thereabouts) and three people, two guys and a girl, one guy in bright colors and the other in a prim suit. The back of the album was similarly strange, with a list of credits (as one would find in the inner sleeve of a CD) and another odd photo of the three people. It went on the stack with the rest.
So when I finally got it back to the dorm and played it, I was quite struck by it. It turned out to be a combination of pop-synth music, and sample collage! This, for someone who loved Art of Noise, was a big deal; another cool band with off-kilter sample stuff!
And off-kilter it was. While some of the music was not out of place on top-40 radio, other pieces were almost horrific, with cries for help and sobbing punctuated by upbeat crescendos of drumbeats and chords. It was fun, weird stuff and it stuck with me. I couldn’t even tell you one other album I got from the discard pile.
So, years later, it’s 1995 and I own cow.net, my beloved bovine-themed ISP, and on the site I can put anything I want.
So I put up a Movieland Fan Page.
Very basic stuff. I put up a scan of the album, a transcription of the credits, and whatever meager information I could dig up on the members. They didn’t have long pedigrees that I could find online at the time, and the names weren’t all that easy to find. Interestingly enough, some fonts are now huge because I made the site in a text editor on a Sun 3/280 in 1995, utilizing the Netscape browser circa 1995. Not quite as compatible, these days.
So then I left it. I had my little fan page up, I was happy. Occasionally, like, every few years, I’d get some drib of information and off it would go into the page, or I’d find a link somewhere, and add it. It was way in the background. I’m sure in the last 12 years it’s been up, I’ve spent a total of 5 hours on it.
So what’s interesting to me is how it functioned as a beacon, a catch-all.
As search engines got more and more of a grip on things, my page got bundled up into them. As Altavista flattened the world wide web, turning any insanely-addressed page into a findable piece of information, so too did this put me in front of the face of people who were actually looking for Movieland.
Bear in mind that in 12 years, only one person has ever contacted me about the page, purely as a fan. So there’s your one-to-one.
But in fact, I was contacted by one of the recording engineers, a person who knew one of the band members, and ultimately by a student of one of the members… who lived in Massachusetts! This was Richard Lewis, who was one of the songwriters and vocalists of Movieland.
So, I contacted him. And he wrote back!
It turned out that one of his students (he teaches at Salem State College) had told him about it some time ago, but his letter to me didn’t get to me for whatever reason. So he’d known about it too.
He answered some questions for me about the band and the outcome of it (short form, he did some work with the eventual co-member, who got them hooked into the “industry”, they did the album and later a few gigs and then RCA dropped them). And he also mentioned he had a new band, called Machine 475. (Warning: Plays Music)
Machine475, really, is basically Movieland 3.0. It utilizes better equipment, but his vocals are in there, along with a whole range of other cool influences and co-writers making it even more engaging and dynamic. And now they’re doing live gigs!
I went to one last night, limping with gout and woozy from the medicine I’ve been taking. I got some good shots, although I used entirely the wrong lens.
The full album is here.
The songs were great, live. It’s heavily pre-programmed but with a collection of ingredients mixed onstage between the members. Richard Lewis’ wife played the harp for three songs, and he played the Theremin besides a range of samples and keyboarding, as well as vocals.
In between sets, I introduced myself and he knew immediately who I was. And was delighted I’d shown.
I mention all this because of the serendipity of things, finding this album completely randomly, and then a few years later I meet one of the members. My web page, going from a side effort, gains notoriety and linkage into the world, introducing hundreds to this band (I’ve seen the hits go up and down over the years). It’s all very fun, very exciting.
And has a great beat.
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