This weekend marked the 30 anniversary of Bar/None Records shipping its first release, catalog number Ahaon 001. This was the self-titled debut album by Rage To Live a band led by label founder Tom Prendergast’s good friend Glenn Morrow, formerly of the Individuals one of the first bands to call Maxwell’s home base. (Watch the band’s first music video here.)
Rage To Live managed to get on MTV for a moment and garnered some commercial radio support but never got out on the road because of family and day job commitments. Instead, Morrow managed to bamboozle Tom into making him his partner. His first contribution was a band he’d discovered in a wild and woolly Brooklyn neighborhood with the quaint appellation “Williamsburg,” the act having an even more unlikely name: “They Might Be Giants.” Strangest of all, the band were a huge, immediate success and Bar/None was off to the races!
In the three decades since, the label has maintained an active roster of veteran and newfound artists, and is currently celebrating the longevity of the Feelies and the burgeoning popularity of the Front Bottoms. A lot of great music has appeared on Bar/None throughout the years, including the initial releases from Of Montreal and Freedy Johnston, the breakthrough albums for Edwyn Collins and Yo la Tengo, returns to active duty for Alex Chilton, Luka Bloom, Juliana Hatfield and 10,000 Maniacs. Bar/None sparked the lounge music revival with their re-issues of Esquivel!’s “space- age bachelor pad music.” The vintage recordings of a grammar school kids’ choir performing dark, visionary rock of the times – Bowie, Klaatu, Wings – touched listeners with its unsettling blend of “innocence and despair” (which came to be the album’s title), selling 40,000 copies overnight.
In the past 30 years, Bar/None has often thrived and at other times barely survived. Something always seemed to turn up to get the label through times of crisis and back debt would duly be paid up in times of prosperity. Through it all their greatest pride is in the consistent quality of the artists they’ve worked with and the music they’ve made. Bar/None recordings tend to be singular and surprising and always contain powerful songwriting. Simply put, as a body of work, the Bar/None catalog stands the test of time.
To celebrate its 30 years of existence, Bar/None will be digging into its vaults for various goodies to share with music lovers, so stay tuned. For more on Bar/None, head to their website here.