Written by Bevis M. Griffin
If there is no struggle, there is no progress. ~ Frederick Douglass
Between 1982-83, Banzai Kik had played every viable rock-friendly venue in Austin, to no discernable avail. Despite the outward appearances of a band-on-the-rise, we found nothing but utter frustration in the wake of our weekly performance endeavors. We had successfully recorded a bristling 6-song demo tape, produced and engineered by the great John Rollo (formerly of The Kinks‘ Konk Studios, U.K.). The results of which garnered a plethora of rave reviews from the local press and warranted a stellar review in Texas Monthly magazine by Robert Draper, who later became a world-class political journalist for Washington Post, etc.
In 1983, I met a talented young photographer named Stephanie Foxx, who had recently graduated from the University of Texas with a BFA, and who found me to be an intriguing ‘photographic subject. Our relationship flourished for several months before she decided to move to Manhattan later that fall; ostensibly to pursue her education in photojournalism. Fortunately for me, she managed to surreptitiously secure a residential lease from friends of ours who’d also recently moved to Manhattan but were unable to maintain the rental fees. So, with this rare and potentially life-changing career opportunity looming before me, I sold the balance of my earthly possessions via yard-sale and packed my bags for New York City.
It was a rainy winter night in 1983 when I landed at LaGuardia Airport and boarded a shuttle bus to the infamous Port Authority Terminal located in the grimy heart of NYC’s Times Square. The aural onslaught of 42nd Street in the ’80s is most accurately depicted in HBO’s 70s pimp-crime-drama, The Duce. The classic refrain from Stevie Wonder‘s dystopian inner-city epoch, “Living For The City” looped in my head like a mixtape set to shuffle… “New York; Just like I pictured it…Skyscrapers and everything!” The olfactory culture-shock was off-the-charts and the shockingly surreal images of homeless vagrants’ heads & legs dangling from the rows of baggage-lockers conveyed a gut-wrenching message that this city can literally eat you alive!
The fact that I left the band and Austin so abruptly, was predicated on my sense of urgency. There was no guarantee that Steph and I would find our footing to gain stability, especially since the cost-of-living in NYC was three times that of 80’s Austin. For the first couple of years, it was definitely hand-to-mouth and flying by the seat of our pants. I had a pocket full of leads to pursue, but once I got there, promises made in Texas all seemed to evaporate systemically, one-by-one due to unforeseen circumstances beyond my control. For example, I managed to reconnect with Bats’ producer John Rollo, who coincidentally just happened to be working with Little Steven Van Zandt. “Eureka!,” I thought to myself since the combo-gods once again seemed to align our respective paths. But alas, by the time we reconvened, Steve had been slated to re-join Bruce Springsteen to begin work on what would eventually become his biggest record, 1984’s Born In The USA. It’s the right key baby, but the wrong key-hole!
After a few months of hard-scrabble hustling, I began cultivating a fresh new circle of friends. We also had the good fortune of finding a seemingly dilapidated sub-level garden apartment, situated uptown on West 71st Street on ‘tres chic’ upper-westside, between Broadway and Westend Ave. We successfully struck a deal with our landlord for a full-scale interior renovation procedure at a discounted rental-rate for undertaking the grueling manual labor required to start over. Now bolstered by an affordable domicile, we were now prepared to finally focus upon careers.
Between 1984 and 1986 I encountered a perpetual revolving-door of managerial candidates. Gene Gagliardi of the legendary Lieber-Krebs Management firm was one of my initial “false starts”. He was definitely assistive in helping me navigate the NY music-biz landscape until he simply “disappeared” without a trace. Janet Roeg, of Todd Rundgren‘s UTOPIA, made me an offer, but she was reluctant to factor Chris Bailey into my initial strategic equation, and so I passed.
A music writer at the Village Voice named Brad Balfour, was a part-time DJ at a West Village haunt called The Be-Bop Cafe, located nearby Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studios on West 8th. After a brief introduction by a mutual friend, Brad kindly offered to play a few tracks from my demo tape for the patrons in the bistro. A track called “Noisy Music” caught his attention as a young woman in attendance enthusiastically inquired about the song rocking the house.
Turns out her boyfriend was an audio-engineer who worked at Media Sound Studios uptown and she offered to introduce us at my earliest convenience. His name was Tim Hatfield and his position at Media Sound was instrumental in advancing my career by leaps and bounds. After our initial meeting and Tim’s professional assessment of my recordings, we agreed to embark upon a mission to advance our production to the state-of-the-art “world-class” level.