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Daily Record 1/11/11: No Time Like Now-Translator (1983)

In 1980s, 1983, new wave, rock on January 11, 2011 at 5:34 pm

I don’t mean to drop names here, but I am Facebook friends with Steve Barton, one of the guys in Translator, a band with its roots in the early 1980s that continues to periodically reunite to play the occasional gig. Here is how this particular Facebook friendship transpired.

Cliff Hillis, an excellent musician/songwriter/producer who happens to live in the same town as me, mentioned to me awhile back that I kind of, sort of  remind him of his friend Robbie Rist, an excellent musician/songwriter/producer (who also happens to have played Cousin Oliver the last batch of Brady Bunch episodes).

So, I became Facebook friends with Robbie Rist. When I asked him to answer “Seven Questions About Creativity” for my other blog, he provided great, thought-provoking answers and suggested some other people who I ought to talk to, including excellent musician/songwriter/producer Steve Barton. Robbie directed me to Steve’s MySpace page (link below) on which I heard several Barton songs, including the evocative “Kinks On Vinyl,” which I would now list very high up on my list of favorite songs from the last 10 years, were I to make such a list. Incidentally, “Kinks on Vinyl” features some explosive drumming from Robbie Rist.

Steve’s current work is great (more on that tomorrow), but as it happens I had first seen and heard Steve as part of Translator back in 1982 and ’83.

A song called “Necessary Spinning,” which I heard on legendary Philadelphia new wave station I92 was my first exposure to Translator. I probably heard it in the summer of ’83, one of the brief periods in my life in which I was actually enthralled by a radio station. I92 was playing stuff that no one else was playing that summer, including some songs that were probably rarely played on the radio again.

It was an exciting time for me to be listening to such a station: I had just graduated from high school and was looking forward to moving on to new experiences in college. Some of those new experiences probably didn’t quite come to pass in exactly the way I was imagining they would while listening to I92 that summer, but no matter. I had my dreams of change and excitement and the music was so cool.

Just a few months into my new life at Temple University, the B-52’s came to play at the school. Translator was the opening act. I’m pretty sure I snapped up tickets the moment they were available.

I don’t remember details of Translator’s set, though I do remember liking it. The B-52’s were memorable, of course, and I appreciate the fact that I was able to see them before guitarist Ricky Wilson’s illness and passing in the mid-’80s. (I used to have a poster from this concert; if I still have it, I’ll post it here sometime.)

As much as I liked Translator, I have to admit that I didn’t follow-up by buying the album they were touring for at the time, No Time Like Now. In fact, Translator fell into that category of “bands that I’m going to get into soon.” As much as I did keep up, there were many of those bands I didn’t quite get to back in the heady 1980s.

Fast forward 27+ years and here I am acquainted with one of Translator’s members via a “social network” that none of us could have imagined in 1983. Clearly, as the album title indicates, there is no time like now for me to rediscover Translator.

The rediscovery process was facilitated by the great Princeton Record Exchange, where I found three Translator records a few months ago, one of which is today’s randomly chosen Daily Record, the aforementioned No Time Like Now. All three of the albums had the same former owner, as each of them have the last two numbers of their release year written in black Sharpie somewhere on the album cover.

No Time Like Now is an intriguing album that I clearly would have enjoyed had I picked it up after the B-52’s concert back in ’83. However, like my favorite album from that year (R.E.M.’s Murmur), I’m not sure that I would automatically fallen in love with No Time Like Now. It’s a grower, but lots of great records are.

The song that most strikes me on No Time Like Now is “Simple Things,” which sounds like it may have served as a little bit of a blueprint or template for “Kinks On Vinyl.” “Kinks on Vinyl” is by no means a rewrite of “Simple Things”–the former song is, to me, deeper and more genuinely enigmatic, than the latter–but I hear elements in “Simple Things” that show up 25 years later in “Kinks on Vinyl.” It is fascinating to me to see Barton’s creativity in action, playing out over a quarter century’s worth of time.

Being able to appreciate “Simple Things” and the rest of No Time Like Now retrospectively, as being part of what led to Barton’s more recent music, almost makes me happy I never caught up with Translator back in the ’80s. Though, of course, it would have been nice to support to band.

Every third day here at this website, I have been intentionally picking the Daily Record, rather than letting the gods of randomness do it for me. Tomorrow is my next third day, so, as a follow-up to today’s entry, I’ll be writing about Steve Barton’s recently released new album, Projector.

Until then, go listen to “Kinks On Vinyl”: http://www.myspace.com/stevebartonmusic .

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