Rock Formations was a milestone event in the career of Roadside Attraction. And some milestones are both good and bad.
Normally I would give you insights to these songs, but I didn’t write the lyrics for any of them, so I’m honestly not sure what some of them are about. But from a musicians standpoint, I’m really proud of “Flat World”, “Trust The Sun”, and “Secrets”. Be sure to check those out.
Before this release we had put out 3 cassette releases. Yes, it was that long ago… The first two were homemade jobbies known only as “The Red Tape” and “The Green Tape”. Both are now extremely rare, except for the few leftover ones I kept for myself. I’ll probably get those digitized and put in here too. The third cassette was “Time and Patience”, recorded in a marathon one-day recording session.
I wasn’t the singer at this time. Just a guitar player. The guy who wrote the riffs. I would not gain my current attention whore status until years later.
After those 3 tape releases came the big moment… our first compact disc! We’d been playing these 9 songs at shows for about two years to make sure they were as tight as we could muster. We had time booked over multiple days at a cool studio called Final Mix. And we were spending a lot of money. I don’t remember exactly what our budget was. I’m probably thrusting those memories deep into my subconscious for some therapist to yank out later.
The sessions were like most… fun yet super tedious. Recording sessions are a lot of tuning and knob twiddling with brief moments of actually playing music.
So we got our finished baby in our hands after weeks of work. We came up with the brilliantly creative idea to call it Rock Formations and put our heads on Mount Rushmore on the cover. We found an artist who, I believe, we paid $300 to draw that extremely questionable album cover.
Then a club owner looked at it and said, “You know Deep Purple did this same cover idea years ago, right?” Uh, no. We didn’t.
So we started selling it at gigs and sold the first 1000 copies in a few months. Not bad. We got the brilliant idea to do a radio campaign with a radio promoter. Now, if you happen to be in the music business at all, you’re watching that last sentence happen in slow motion and saying, “Nooooooooooo! Stoooooooooooppp!”
We got hooked up with a guy named Paul Loggins. In case you’re wondering, yes, that’s Kenny Loggins’ cousin. THAT Kenny Loggins. Your Mama Don’t Dance, Danger Zone, Pooh Corner Kenny Loggins.
I was doing my due diligence (wrong as my results were) on Paul Loggins and he claimed to have worked some of Kenny’s records to radio. So I found a way to email Kenny Loggins from his website to check out the claim. Assuming I’d never hear back, of course.
Two days later I got an email from KENNY FREAKIN’ LOGGINS! He said Paul had done a pretty good job with his records. But who cares… I got an email from KENNY FREAKIN’ LOGGINS!
So, on Kenny’s word, we did a deal with Paul. Which means I can actually blame Kenny Loggins for a mountain of debt.
The base price for a radio campaign was 3 or 4 grand, I believe. We voted to split the cost among the band members. As we got started, we found out there were other costs we didn’t know about. One of the ways a record gets on the air is the band/label/promoter will buy items for the radio station to give away. So Paul would call me and say, “We need to buy 20 boom boxes for these stations to give away.” This was well before iPods, kids.
The costs were mounting quickly. But stations were picking it up. We decided to go with “Flat World” as the single. It’s still one of my favorite of my own compositions. Reggae, Latin, and Rock all mixed up in a Brian Wilson-influenced pocket symphony. A station in Hilo, Hawaii was the first to start spinning it. Then some Eastern stations jumped in. I was now getting up early in the morning to do phone interviews with morning shows.
I remember one with a station in Louisville, KY. And the guy had such a heavy Kentucky accent, I couldn’t understand a damn word he said.
Keep in mind, we hadn’t thought to get distribution for this record, so if people heard it on the radio, they couldn’t actually buy it anywhere. Buying on the net wasn’t really a thing yet. And, as we found out later, most of these stations were probably very tiny with few listeners anyway.
We needed to get on the road and do some gigs to make some of this money back and capture a new fanbase. We got hooked up with a booking agent named Joey based in the midwest. Joey (a lady) was hot on our record and ready to book us a tour. This is that “Holy shit, here we go…” moment that bands dream of.
The record began to hit some minor charts. Back then, Gavin Magazine was a big music industry trade mag. We hit their Up and Coming chart at #33, smack dab between Brandy and U2. We were on the same chart at U2! And one spot above them!
Then it began… Our drummer, Rafael, decided to leave the band. He couldn’t hang in and didn’t want to tour for some reason. Drummers were the bane of my existence for years until I started playing with Joe Chavez. There were many before Rafael and many after. But this was a horrible time for him to bail.
Then our booking agent’s life began to fall apart. Deaths in her family, illness, financial troubles. And while she swore she was still working for us, nary a gig was booked.
So now we’re at a dead standstill. No drummer, no agent. And the radio promo bills are piling up to a grand total of $10,000.
We eventually had to stop the radio campaign because it was too expensive and we couldn’t fill the drum seat with someone who could hang in for all that goes into being in a band. I regularly harangued my remaining band mates for their share of the radio promo costs, but I eventually ended up paying about $8000 of it myself.
With those kinds of bills and the loss of momentum, we eventually parted ways and I restarted Roadside Attraction, first by myself, then with a new group of guys. After paying off the radio bills, I saved up another $10,000 to sink into my next CD (my first as a singer), Ribbed For Your Pleasure, the album that changed everything for me. And a story for another time….
Interested in hearing the album that nearly killed my career (not to mention my credit)? You can download Rock Formations for free inside the VIP Members Area. Which is also free. And includes tons of other comedy and music tracks and other cool stuff for free download. Did I mention it’s free? Go there now.