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Proof of the Proof? It's in the Record Libe

November 14, 2006 at 12:00 am
By Dan Sugarman

The KRLX Record Library is a small place with a big heart. Nestled in the basement of Sayles Hill, it occupies roughly the same amount of space as an Evans quint, and serves as home for thousands of (often promotional) LPs and CDs that the station has accrued over the years.

Lately I’ve found myself browsing the walls of LPs, glancing over spines in hopes that something will jump out at me—famous names, offbeat names, record labels. Occasionally I’ll come across some pretty awesome out-of-print records, like Opal’s Happy Nightmare Baby, released on SST Records in 1997. SST has never pressed it onto a CD, so it regularly fetches $30 on eBay. Most people have only heard the few MP3 rips of it floating around online.

Opal's 'Happy Nightmare Baby' fetches mad catch on eBay

There’s been plenty of few other great finds, like Swamp Dogg’s Total Destruction to Your Mind (a leftfield soul record without a proper CD counterpart), and Wire’s Pink Flag (has a CD counterpart, but is just a great record to spin). Far and away, though, the best thing I’ve found has been the Proof’s It’s Safe, a fun power pop record released in 1980. In the grand history of rock, the Proof are just another power pop band that caught the industry's eye, released a record and then fell through the cracks, but the band has a different significance for me. Mike Newman, the Proof’s lead guitarist, was my guitar teacher for about two years. Mike’s played in tons of bands over the years, but this was probably the biggest, or at least the one with the biggest record budget. From All Music:

East Coast pop quartet the Proof crawled out from under a rock, recorded a terrific debut in 1980 produced by the legendary John Leckie (XTC, Lilac Time), then crawled back under that rock, never to be heard from again. Possibly one of the finest power pop debut albums of the '80s, It's Safe was conceived and created by the Proof: Tom Cohen (lead vocals, guitar), Michael Hommel (bass, vocals), Michael Newman (guitar, vocals), and Jeff Cohen (drums). Quirky, angular, and inventive guitar riffs sandwiched by melody-enriched songwriting rubs shoulders with a young, spirited attitude (as opposed to a punky attitude),creating an album as refreshing as the first shower of the day. Released on Nemperor Records (home of the Romantics, Gus, and Steve Forbert), the album didn't receive the promotion it deserved, and the LP and band sank without a trace. It would have been nice to hear a second album from this outfit to see the direction they were heading in, but at least their classic debut remains.

Mike had told me the story of the Proof a few times, but I never imagined I would have the chance to hear their record. But thanks to the 1980 promotions staff over at CBS, we have our very own copy right here at Carleton.

Check out the first three tracks here.

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