The million-dollar record

Four years after its debut, Slowpoke makes its major-label bow on Geffen

But Wind-Up sat on Virgin Stripes once it was completed. By then, Wind-Up was still in turmoil--another Dallas band, Baboon, would be similarly caught in the tumult and forced to delay the release of its second record, Secret Robot Control. The label was also demanding that Slowpoke sign a five-album deal before it would release Virgin Stripes.

To make matters more complicated, Geffen Records and one of its imprints, Outpost Recordings, also had begun expressing interest in Slowpoke. Luke Wood, an A&R man at Geffen, wanted to sign Slowpoke immediately and release Virgin Stripes in its entirety. But Wind-Up refused, demanding an unbelievable amount of money for a record it wasn't even going to release.

"Wind-Up didn't want to sell it," Gibson says. "They wanted an ungodly amount of money."

"A million dollars," Guest adds.
Pardon? A million dollars?
"They just made insane demands, and honestly, I had a hard time believing that they were going to do any kind of deal with Geffen," Gibson says. "It was their record. They funded the record. It was a $10,000 record, and they wanted a million for it. It wasn't that they really wanted [the money]. It was kind of a way to say, 'Fuck you.'"

In October 1996, the band ended up singing with Geffen--and writing off any hopes of ever releasing Virgin Stripes. Gibson had a hard time dealing with that--imagine raising a child and then having someone steal it from you in the middle of the night. But as soon as Gibson began coming to grips with the loss, he began writing new songs--great new songs, he says now, big and wonderful new songs--for a third record. He'd show Wind-Up, taking his record like that.

Then came word Wind-Up was going to release the album without any promotion or even the band's permission; it was going to piss away Gibson's songs without his say-so. It was also a real possibility that someone over at the label was going to erase the album altogether, keeping it from everyone's hands.

But over dinner in Fort Worth one night, Geffen's Luke Wood informed the band that Geffen had indeed purchased Virgin Stripes from Wind-Up--which actually upset Gibson, perhaps to his own surprise.

"My instant reaction was, 'I don't want the record; we're writing the new record; I'm over that record,'" Gibson recalls. "I didn't want there to be any chance that, due to the bureaucracy of labels, that the contract takes forever to go through and we get excited about it and have to wait that much longer. Luke was like, 'I think it's a great idea to do this. We'll get it done right away. You'll have your record out by summertime [of 1997].' So at that point we had a decision to make, so I don't know..."

Gibson pauses, then begins again. "I love the record, and it being the record it is, we have a real personal attachment to it. I wanted the record out. I was just trying to be as practical as possible."

It would take another year before Geffen would release Virgin Stripes. Gibson went into the studio and recut a lot of vocal and guitar tracks, and then there was a matter of finding a suitable spot on the release schedule. So here it is, two years late--no worse the wear, but a record that could never live up to the expectations created by the drama that surrounds it. Gibson knows this, which is why he's not too thrilled about telling this story.

He knows you will expect a great record, not a second record; he knows you will expect a million-dollar gem instead of a $10,000 jewel. But so be it: Virgin Stripes contains its share of memorable moments ("Lorraine" is a sweet, catchy tune as psychedelic as it is pop, and "I Can't See You Anymore" recalls the sort of song that should have made Funland stars), and it will likely be followed within a year's time by Slowpoke's third record. A record made now instead of then.

"We haven't been in the studio as a band in a couple of years," Gibson says. "Morale-wise, we need some momentum. I would like to be in the studio by the end of the year and have another record out next year. We need that mentally to keep ourselves going after this long phase."

Slowpoke will perform April 10 at Trees.

Necessary angel
There are few local records ever released that were as cherished as Sara Hickman's 1989 debut Equal Scary People; vulnerable, charming, quirky, sad, funny, and utterly innocent without being naive, almost a decade later it still feels brand-new. Much of that was because of the sparse, simple production; Hickman and Brave Combo's Carl Finch, who released the album on his Four Dots label, never let the song get in the way of the songwriting--meaning they left the record wide-open, full of silences and bereft of clutter. For a while, Hickman would forget the very thing that made her so special. Her Elektra Records debut, Shortstop, and the record Elektra refused to release, Necessary Angels (which Hickman bought back for $40,000 and released through the Santa Monica-based Discovery), were so overproduced, the songs were almost irrelevant; they sounded as though played on cash registers, with Hickman's wonderful melodies and lovely voice buried somewhere beneath the bills.

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