|PRODUCED & ENGINEERED BY WARD CAMP & BAD SNEAKERS|
With its layered vocals, dual-guitar volleys and slick studio veneer, Bad Sneakers' 1982 debut aimed squarely at the pop-rock mainstream. Still, the work bore the fingerprints of five diverse composers, showing stylistic touches from blues to New Wave.
"Sneak Attack" gained modest regional airplay. Some critics sniffed that the band took too few risks musically. But even the mixed reviews hailed the album's glossy production and taut performances.
And the band's mid-Atlantic audiences embraced the album. Readers of Fine Times, a Philadelphia-area arts and entertainment monthly reaching 100,000 in four states, named "Sneak Attack" best album in an April 1983 poll.
Runner-up albums in the Fine Times survey were George Thorogood's "Bad to the Bone" and Robert Hazard's debut EP, which included MTV hits "Escalator of Life" and "Change Reaction."
Readers of the Paper Magazine, a competing regional publication with a similar reach, named "Sneak Attack" top album in 1982 and 1983 year-end polls, and declared Bad Sneakers best band of 1983.Mastering: Dave Moyssiadis Additional equipment: Rob Forman/Feldcom; Jim Greathouse/Wondersound; Whale Accommodations: Charles & Martha Camp Special thanks: Steve Brecker Live sound and lights, funniest guy in band: Greg Mack Graphic design: Dale Dallabrida, Bad Sneakers Video & photos: Mark Daniels Hands: Deirdre Ward, Bad Sneakers Friendly advice: Ed Shockley
The 1983 loss of Ward Camp founding member, multi-instrumentalist and producer triggered a tectonic shift in Bad Sneakers' career. Rather than enlist a new keyboard player, the band had its bassist and guitarists double on synthesizers.
Electronic arsenal in hand, Bad Sneakers streamlined its approach to songwriting and production. Lean, sinewy rhythm tracks and digital washes supported a stylistic palette "from the frantic crunch of 'Anesthesia' to the silky balladry of 'All I Want to Know,'" a band press release said.
A month after its 1984 release, "Beat the Meter" hit number 25 on U.S. Rock magazine's national independent-label airplay chart edging out releases from Black Flag, Billy Bragg and Naked Raygun while nipping at the heels of Husker Du, Sonic Youth, the Minutemen and the Meat Puppets.
To some, "Beat the Meter" was Bad Sneakers' finest moment. "Packed with memorable, danceable songwriting as well as chancy, exciting arrangements," U.S. Rock critic Chris Mehl wrote. "Strong material with an abundance of hooks," New York trade magazine Cashbox reported.
Reviews ran positive from college radio stations nationwide:
TO WARD CAMP FROM HIS FRIENDS
Recorded and mixed at Now & Then Studios, Valley Road Annex
Engineered by Marc Moss and Bad Sneakers
"Anesthesia" recorded live at The Spectrum, Philadelphia, 31 June 1997
Bad Sneakers uses: Prophet 600, Roland Juno-60, Moog Opus, Tama and Simmons drums, Oberheim DMX, SRD Rockman II, Kramer Duke guitars and bass, G-Whiz digital interossiter (well, not really) and large cardboard tubes (really)
Live sound, security head: Joe McFadden Lights: Scott Humphrey
Bad Sneakers 23-hour hotline: (302) 368-5108 Jacket design: Tom McGivney
(Now) Charlie Hill
(And then) Dale Dallabrida
Stylistic differences among band members had lent breadth to previous Bad Sneakers albums. But increasingly, creative conflicts and personality clashes became a source of friction. That discord spawned "Big Ducks in the Basement," the band's final release in 1986.
Bassist Dale Dallabrida, who composed six of the album's 12 songs, left the band while recording was still in progress. "It was either quit or go postal," he said.
The fragmented sound of "Big Ducks" reflects the chaos under which it was created. "I can only hear the sound of our grand experiment ending not with a bang, but with a quack," drummer Neal Tillotson said two decades later.
And yet of Bad Sneakers' three albums, "'Big Ducks in the Basement,' their last, was probably their best," said radio personality Bob Bowersox of Wilmington, Del., pop powerhouse WSTW-FM.
"Although there are those who say 'Beat the Meter' was an excellent album too," Bowersox said in a 1991 broadcast. "They're all good." Listen
Recorded and mixed at Target Studios by Martin LeMaire and Marc Moss
|PRODUCED AND ENGINEERED BY BAD SNEAKERS|
Recorded in 1980 and 1981, these unreleased experimental demos represent musical directions the band considered and rejected. "Great to Be in Love" and "I Just Got to Be Your Man" show a rhythm and blues influence, while "Margie" and "Just Another Pretty Face" are forays into '80s New Wave territory.
Until the last moment, "Where'd You Get That Girl" was a contender for the "Sneak Attack" album.
These songs are included in the bootleg Bad Sneakers anthology "Where's My Pope Hat?" which surfaced on the Internet in 2008.
Recorded and mixed at:
Kern Studios, St. Georges, Del.: Margie (1980)
Now & Then Studios, Georgetown, Md.:
Just Another Pretty Face, Where'd You Get That Girl? (1980)
Now & Then Studios, Newark, Del.:
I Want You Right Now, Burst, Great to Be in Love, I Just Got to Be Your Man (1981)
Pete Mayforth: Saxophones on "Just Another Pretty Face"